The gospel writers often described the coming of the kingdom, as proclaimed by Jesus Himself from day one of His ministry, as good news. “Jesus was going throughout all Galilee teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom…” (Mt 4:23). To whom is the coming kingdom good news and how do we get in on the good news?
Jesus consistently taught that the coming kingdom was good news to the needy; and the requirement of its citizens to acknowledge their need. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit (i.e. those who recognize their spiritual poverty), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5:3). Good news for the needy is a recurring theme in Jesus’ explanation of the kingdom of heaven.
“And He also told this parable to certain ones who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer. The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.” But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up His eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.’ ” (Lk 18:9-14).
Who went home “justified,” in right standing with God? The sinner. Why? Because he recognized his spiritual poverty. We see over and over in the gospels that the kingdom message is good news for the needy, the lost, the sinner. And in a way, it is bad news for the self-righteous. Jesus chief complaint in his interactions with the scribes and Pharisees was their religious pride, their self-righteousness.
The first line of the story really sets the stage for Jesus’ point. There is nothing in the coming kingdom announcement for the self-righteous. It adds nothing to what they believe they have already obtained. But it means everything to the lost who bring no self-righteousness to the table, only their need. The arrival of God’s kingdom, announced and initiated by Jesus Christ, is indeed good news for the needy.