Did Jesus preach the gospel?

By Mike Ratliff

1 When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them. (Mark 2:1-2 NASB) 

A few weeks ago a friend contacted me with a question that came up because of a theological disagreement between him and his pastor. The disagreement centered on the necessity of repentance as part of our salvation and as the discussion continued the pastor insisted that Jesus never taught that nor did he preach the gospel because He had not yet gone to the cross. Here is part of the quote from our conversation.

“He asserted that he (Jesus) did not preach the gospel because he had not yet died or had been raised from the dead so therefore there was no gospel to preach at that point. I then asked him from what then and why did Jesus asked them to repent and why and what did he ask them to believe in. He did not really answer this question but went on another line of thought.

He is heavily influenced by the writings and teaching of Tim Keller and NT Wright CS Lewis. He told me to reread the gospel and that I would never witness Jesus preaching the gospel.”

I must admit that this took me by surprise so I am sure my response was not adequate for my friend.  However, this has been bothering me since then. Today at church our interim pastor preached on Mark 2:1-12 and he actually spent some time on v2 which is what this post is going to be about.

Here is v2 from the NA28 Greek text: καὶ συνήχθησαν πολλοὶ ὥστε μηκέτι χωρεῖν μηδὲ τὰ πρὸς τὴν θύραν, καὶ ἐλάλει αὐτοῖς τὸν λόγον.

Here is my translation: And many were gathered together so that there was no longer any room even at the door, and He was speaking the Word to them.

We will concentrate on the last part of the verse, καὶ ἐλάλει αὐτοῖς τὸν λόγον, especially the words ἐλάλει and λόγον.

The KJV translates ἐλάλει as “he preached.” The NASB translates ἐλάλει as “He was speaking.”  The ESV translates ἐλάλει as “he was preaching.” The Greek verb ἐλάλει is the Finite, 3rd Person, Singular, Imperfect, Indicative, Active case of λαλέω (laleō). The following is from Bill Mounce’s Expositority Dictionary on Old and New Testament Words pertaining to λαλέω (laleō).

The dominant word used in the NT for speaking is legō (see say). laleō appears one- tenth as much, mostly in Luke and Paul. In the majority of the texts this verb describes the communication process, such as what is spoken is the gospel (1 Thess. 2:2), words of wisdom (1 Cor. 2:6), the truth (Eph. 4:25), or the word of God (Phil. 1:14). The word can mean “to give forth sounds or tones,” as in Rev. 10:3- 4:“When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke.” Elsewhere, John relates a “voice speaking … as a trumpet” 4:1).

The writer of Hebrews uses the term strikingly as an image of the “sprinkled blood [of Jesus] that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Heb. 12:24). What is spoken is one of the sterling qualities of Jesus’ death:after Cain killed Abel, the latter’s blood cried out from the ground harshly for judgment (Gen. 4:10), but the shedding of Jesus’ blood speaks tenderly for forgiveness and reconciliation.

laleō is used in contexts where speech is restored after a muting demon is driven out of a person (Mt. 9:33; 12,22; 15,31; Lk. 11:14). This verb is a key term in 1 Cor. 14, where Paul is discussing the two speaking gifts of tongues and prophecy as well as not permitting women to speak 14:34- 35). Paul’s goal in both situations, which appear to be sources of contention within the fellowship, is for the building up of the body of Christ. Where this is not achievable, he opts for silence. James links profession and action by indicating that Christians should regulate their conduct, knowing full well that the manner of speaking and acting will both be judged by the law of liberty (Jas. 2:12)

( MED)

What does all that mean to us? It is not the same word used in the Word of God for preaching, but is the word used to describe what Jesus was doing with those people in that house speaking the Word to them. What was He doing? He was reasoning with them.  He was telling the truth. He was talking about the same things John the Baptist talked about.  He was trying to convey to them that no one could keep the Law, no one was perfect, no one could do what God could do except God Himself. We know all this because he was speaking the λόγον to them.  This noun is the Accusative, Singular, Masculine case of λόγος (logos).

Again from the MED -> logos means “word, message, report” and sometimes even “deed.” It has similar meanings as dābār in the OT.

(1) The NT uses logos to express many forms of communication, both verbal and physical. This flexibility has its root in the use of logos in Greco- Roman literary culture, where it could stand on its own for the spoken word, “a message,” as well as what one does, “a deed.” The term is used by Paul to refer to all human speech (1 Cor. 1:5). It can be used for any statement (Mt. 5:37), question (Mt. 21:24), prayer (Mk. 14:39), or manner of presentation (1 Cor. 2:4).

(2) It is not surprising to find that the NT uses logos to mean Jesus himself. The Synoptic Gospels identify Jesus’ preaching as the proclamation of the “ logos of God,” reminiscent of the OT use of the prophetic “word” (“ word of the kingdom,” Mt. 13:19; “ word of God,” Lk. 5:1). But in Jn. 1:1, the logos is not only from God, but is God. According to John, this logos was in the beginning, was with God, and was God himself. As the logos, God himself (Jn. 1:1- 2) in his divine glory assumes the flesh of humanity in historical time and space 1:14- 15). Jesus, the logos, signifies the presence of God in the flesh. No religious or philosophical parallel to Jesus the logos has been found. The logos from God is his own Son (Jn. 3:16). Jesus is the fullness of God (Col. 1:19; 2,9).

(3) Paul calls the “message” that is to be proclaimed in the churches the “ word of God” (1 Cor. 14:36; 1 Thess. 2:13). Like the prophetic “word” in the OT, this proclamation comes from God. But even more, this “word” is focused directly on the revelation of the Son of God (Gal. 1:1, 15- 16), with a focus on “the message of the cross” (1 Cor. 1:18). As the author to Hebrews explains, in the past God spoke his “word” through the OT prophets, but now he has spoken through his Son, Jesus Christ, the final “Word” of God (Heb. 1:1- 4).

(4) It common for modern Christians to use the term “word” as a synonym for the Bible. While there is no NT usage of logos for the written OT (the more typical word to use was nomos, “law”), the term does fit well the proclamation of the Bible. Like Paul and the author of Hebrews, when we read the Bible Christians are reading a message from the prophets and the apostles, as well as the final message of Jesus himself. This message of the “word,” therefore, carries the authoritative and living voice of God. That these “words” can be written is especially prominent in Revelation (see Rev. 22:7, 9, 10, 18, 19)

( MED)

Okay, Jesus was sharing the truth about Himself and the Father and the nature of sin and forgiveness and righteousness, etc. with these people. The crowd was a mixture of believers whose faith was real and some who had heard of Jesus and were drawn to Him and then there were the Scribes who were there to check Him out. They did not have this faith that believes.  Their hearts were hardened to all that Jesus taught or “preached.” Then God provided a faith example that these men could not deny.

3 And they *came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. 4 Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. 5 And Jesus seeing their faith *said to the paralytic, “ Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, *said to them, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’? 10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” —He *said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.” 12 And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, “ We have never seen anything like this.” (Mark 2:3-12 NASB)

The four men had faith.  They believed in Jesus and exhibited that faith by opening a hole in the roof and lowering their paralyzed friend down to Jesus. What did Jesus say to the man after seeing the faith of the four men?  “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  Think about that.  Jesus is teaching these men about what? Then this happens. They immediately start reasoning in their hearts based upon their presuppositions that Jesus is not who He claims to be. However, Jesus knows this. Jesus knows that anyone could claim that the man’s sins are forgiven, but what about his sickness.  So Jesus heals the man to show that he is not only forgiven, but also healed physically. Who is this Jesus? Did He preach the Gospel?

Those who claim he did not are nit picking.  They are sifting Scripture.  Of course He did not preach about the Cross because He had not yet been crucified, but it did not matter.  Those who have placed their trust in Him as Lord and Saviour do so because of God’s gift of faith which comes to those who hear the preaching of the Good News. Before the Cross things were not fully understood, but that does not mean lost people didn’t hear about Jesus and then came to saving faith in Him as God’s gift. Yes, Jesus preached the Gospel.

Soli Deo Gloria!