On New Year’s Day, 1986, in the upstairs of the farmhouse my father grew up in, my father got down on his knees, opened the King James Bible that had long adorned the nightstand there, and in tears, he read aloud Psalm 23.
We were visiting that farmhouse – the place of his childhood, the place where his parents still lived – over some portion of the Christmas holiday. But the merry mood had broken when my grandfather’s progressing heart-failure came to haunt again. In the closing days of 1985, he went into the hospital, and then on New Year’s Day 1986, my grandfather died.
That memory of my father reading Psalm 23 is etched in my memory. Somehow, I can’t quite recall if anyone else was in the room with us or not, but I do remember his tears and the distinct sound of the King James Version. And today, I recount how precious it is to have a Good Shepherd. That Good Shepherd, Jesus, comforted my family at the time of my grandfather’s death. And that Good Shepherd, Jesus, has since comforted my family with the death of my own father just two years ago.
For here in Christ, is the God who enters flesh, and sin, and death. Here in Christ, Jesus is the God made man who innocently died in our place and then broke the bonds of death in his resurrection. This Good Shepherd not only leads through the valley of death but now grants life and peace before the Father, and at his second coming will lead us to life eternal.
“Yea though [we] walk through the valley of the shadow of death [we] shall fear no evil.”
Recently, I’ve been thinking of that King James Version – of a peculiar and beautiful way it translates another word; the word for preaching or proclaiming.
Listen to these several verses, and I’m certain you will pick up on the King James Version’s wonderfully old – and now somehow new and fresh – translation of this particular word:
To the man healed of his leprosy by Jesus, the man who was told to go quietly his way, Mark 1:45 says: “But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter.”
To the man that Jesus cast demons out of, Mark 5:19-20 records: “[Jesus] saith unto him, “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.” And he departed and began to publish in the Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.”
In Mark 13:10, Jesus said, “And the Gospel must first be published among all the nations.”
And finally, we read in Acts 13:49, “And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.”
You caught the word, right? Publish. Or to publish. This is how the King James Version handles the word proclaim or preach, and I, for one, love it.
I love it because it skillfully destroys my notion of what publishing looks like. If you ask me what I associate with publishing, my mind quickly goes to the front pages of countless books over the years. Large firms publish these books in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, London, and other such places. Who are the people behind the activity of publishing? Well, of this, I am not certain at all. But if I had to venture a guess, descriptive words like bookish, pasty, old, and crusty are a few that come to mind.
Yet, the testimonies of the Bible point to a wide range of everyday people in the publishing business. Women. Men. Old. Young. Countryman. Foreigners. The famous. The infamous. Those deemed important. And those known to be lowly.
Of course, you can add my father into that company of publishers. He did it on his knees on that first day of the New Year so many years ago. He did it many other times too. And my mother – she still is a publisher of the Good News in my life, as are my siblings, and as is my wife and our children. “Dad, Jesus loves you.” These are often the last words published from my children’s mouths to my ears as I say good night to them beside their beds.
Pastors publish the Good News of the Good Shepherd, who leads us from death to life by offering himself as the spotless sheep for the sacrifice of our sin.
Churches and Christian people publish the Good News in their communities and within the church by proclaiming and giving to each other the forgiveness of sins in Christ and his certain promises for this life and for the life to come.
And so dear friends, whether on your knees, on your feet, or from the comfort of a chair, I hope this Christmastime affords ample opportunities for you to publish the Good News of Jesus Christ. From your lips to the ears, hearts, and lives of family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and even an enemy or two, God publishes the news that Christ has come, his presence and gifts are with us, and he is coming again soon.
Finally, please allow me the indulgence of one last word: It is the mission and joyful work of 1517, also, to publish the Good News of Jesus Christ. Here at the end of this year, here as we face the New Year to come, we invite your partnership in the Gospel of Jesus the Good Shepherd. With your donations, you become true partners and publishers with us in this joyous work. And so, we invite your gifts and thank you for them as, led by Jesus, the Good Shepherd, we publish his Good News every step of the way!