‘Believe this good news!’
“Believe this good news!”
Once again, a simple, four-word command. Once again, profound truth.
And once again, English simply doesn’t do justice to the original language of the Bible.
To us, ‘believe’ means “to accept something said or proposed … as true.” The problem is that ‘believe’ meant something very different 400 years ago when King James’ scholars were translating the Bible into English. Back then, ‘believe’ wasn’t only about agreeing a statement was true. The word meant “to cherish” or “to hold dear.” It was rooted in a German word that meant “to love.”
The Bible words evoked the idea of standing firm, trusting, being faithful, stable, and steadfast. In the Jewish scripture, they spoke about personally encountering and obeying Almighty God because he had promised to bless those who walk in his ways.
One big difference between English and the Bible’s original languages is that the Bible languages connected ‘faith’ and ‘believe’ in a way that isn’t apparent in English. The Greek noun pistis (pis’-tis), for example, had a verb form, pisteuo (pist-yoo’-o). English speakers might say someone “has faith” (noun), but it would sound odd to us to say someone “faithed” (verb).
King James’ translators needed an English action word that had a similar meaning to pisteuo. They chose ‘believe’ because to them that word communicated heartfelt love and dedication. A better choice for us today might be the word ‘trust,’ which holds much more power for us as an action word than ‘believe.’
It’s one thing for me to say “I believe him.” Saying “I trust him,” however, takes the conversation to a whole new level.
An army general might say, “Our best strategy is to attack the enemy here. We will break through his defenses very easily, with few casualties.” A soldier can easily say, “Yes, I believe that’s true.” It’s an entirely different matter, however, for that soldier to trust the general, pick up his weapon, and head for enemy lines. Before, the soldier was just nodding his head in agreement. Now he is obeying a commander who has told him to take a risk that could well cost him his life.
Trusting Jesus is more than believing a truth about Jesus. Yes, we start by accepting the truth that Jesus was God in the flesh and that the Almighty raised him from the dead. But Jesus also is the one who said the way to find your life is to lose it for his sake. He is the one who said that, even as God in the flesh, he did not come to be served, but to serve others – and to give up his life as a ransom for many.
Jesus “faithed” God so much that he followed God’s command into a situation where he knew he would die in a horribly painful way.
That’s the level of trust Jesus is calling for when he tells us to “Believe this good news.”
And what is the good news he is telling us to give our lives for?
The Jewish people had been waiting for generations for the second Yehoshuah to deliver them from captivity and oppression. Time after time, they allowed themselves to be deceived by attractive lies and fell into one sort of captivity or another.
But Almighty God had promised shalom. In their better moments, the people knew God could be trusted to keep his promise. And they waited.
Finally, Jesus arrives on the scene, announcing that the time has finally come. In his hometown, he stands before a congregation and quotes one of the ancient prophets, saying God has appointed him “to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”
One of Jesus’ closest followers said Jesus fulfilled a prediction of that ancient prophet, that God would put his Spirit on his Beloved Servant “and he will proclaim justice to the nations. … He will not crush those who are weak, or quench the smallest hope, until he brings full justice with his final victory. And his name will be the hope of all the world.”
To broken people waiting for new life, to slaves waiting for the power of captivity to be broken, this was the best news ever!
Jesus says, “Be transformed and trust this good news!”
Think about it
When has trusting someone required you to take a big risk?
How did you decide you needed to take that risk?
True life transformation for impoverished girls
The small, ramshackle “home” sits just feet from the edge of railroad tracks. The house made of corrugated tin, bamboo, plastic tarps and wood is one small room shared by a family of six. The roof leaks when it rains and looks in danger of collapsing. But this home is all 10-year-old Farjana’s family can – barely – afford. Click here to read more.
Next chapter: Our journey toward salvation