The Gospel is for All People

A sermon by Michael Pahl on August 11, 2019, called “The Gospel is for All People,” reflecting on Colossians 3:1-17.  It is the fourth and last in our summer series on “Colossians: The Fullness of the Gospel.”

Here is a written excerpt from the introduction:

Nearly two thousand years ago a bandy-legged, bald-headed, hook-nosed little man walked from town to town across the rugged terrain south of the Black Sea, in the region we know of today as central Turkey. He was certainly nothing much to look at. His personal presence was weak, not very impressive at all.

It was only when he spoke that you took notice of him. It wasn’t his voice, which wasn’t all that impressive either. It was what he said, and how he said it. He spoke with intelligence and with passion. Yes, with passion, a fire in his belly. There was an intensity about him that could just as easily drive you away from him as draw you toward him.

If you did listen to him, sitting in the synagogue after Sabbath service, or in the market around a half-made tent, you’d probably hear him talking about another man, a man named Jesus. He would tell you the story of this Jesus, as if he were a herald announcing the good news of a king returned from conquest.

That’s what he said he was, actually, an “apostle,” an “envoy,” proclaiming the “gospel,” the “good news” of this Jesus, who was “the Christ,” “the Jewish King” who had come to bring about God’s kingdom on earth, God’s reign of justice and peace and life.

But what a strange king! What an odd kingdom! A kingdom for nothings and nobodies, ruled by a king executed by the powerful, yet raised to life again by God. A kingdom of justice and peace and life for all—not just Jews like Jesus, but even Greeks and Romans, not just men but women too, not just freeborn but also slaves, not just the cultured and civilized but even those barbarians and Scythians to the north, across the Black Sea.

The man, of course, was Paul, also known as Saul. This is how he describes himself: weak in presence, not very impressive in person (2 Cor 10:1, 10). And this is how a biographer a century after Paul described him: bandy-legged, bald-headed, hook-nosed, and small of stature (Acts of Paul and Thecla).

But this is how his message would have been heard: as if Paul were heralding the good news of a conquering king, a king who had conquered the evil powers of this world by being crucified by them, a crucified king who was then vindicated by God who raised him from the dead, a crucified king and resurrected lord who now offers deliverance from these same evil powers to all who will follow in the footsteps of his dogged faith and tenacious hope and long-suffering love.

I know, crazy, eh?

But maybe craziest of all was this claim: in a world where every household had its own lord, where every tribe had its own god, where Jews would trade with Gentiles in the market but could refuse to eat with them at table, where hierarchies and divisions were rigidly established and often strictly enforced, into this world Paul dared to claim that the good news of crucified, conquering King Jesus was for all people, equally, no exceptions.

To be honest, I don’t think even Paul fully realized the audacity of this claim, the earth-shattering, world-upheaving scope of this gospel he proclaimed.

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