Prepare to listen. Be silent for as long as you need. Pray: Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening. (1 Samuel 3:9)
Read Mark 1:14-15
14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’
There’s a gap in the story from v13 when Jesus was with the wild beasts and angels, and v14 when he’s suddenly back in Galilee, far from his dramatic baptism and the influential center for Jews, the temple in Jerusalem. Instead, Jesus chose to begin his public ministry on the periphery, with the poor and despised, the marginalized and powerless. Since Mark includes neither a specific setting (where Jesus was) or audience (to whom he preached), we know this is a summary of Jesus’ essential message about the good news of God. In it, we have two claims that demand our response.
The first claim, “The time is fulfilled,” grounds Jesus and his message in God’s long-awaited redemptive plan, promised centuries earlier. The time is finally ‘fulfilled;’ the world is ready for God’s plan to move into high gear. The second claim, “the kingdom of God has come near,” clarifies what that redemptive plan is about. It’s not merely about individual and personal salvation, as critical as that is. It’s about God’s kingdom, that is, about God ruling, bringing all things under God’s supreme rule. And, Jesus says, it has “come near,” not will come one day in the future. As Mitzi Minor states, “God’s new age does not await a future, cataclysmic event to be launched—it has drawn near!” (Minor. 2001, p. 18). This is a revolutionary claim. We know, at the beginning of the story, a new Ruler is in ‘town,’ things will be different. We can boldly live under God’s reign not the local government’s.
Because the kingdom is here now, and not some future date, and because we’re invited to live in it, we must respond. Therefore, Jesus makes two commands. First, repent. This is far more than praying a ‘sinner’s prayer’ to receive personal salvation so we can go to heaven when we die. To repent means to turn around, go in the opposite direction; it means to change our mind now and live now in the world as new people. It’s something we Christians are always in need of. When we discover (and hopefully we will) that our beliefs and behaviors are incorrect or distort the gospel of Jesus, we need to change our minds, turn around and act differently, in thought, word and deed and emotion.
The second command is believe in the good news. Mark has already told us the good news is Jesus Christ, the Son of God (1:1). He will unpack this in the rest of his Gospel and we’ll be challenged to rethink our views of Jesus and change our minds, more than once. Jesus demands that we believe in his version of the good news.
If repentance means ‘changing your mind’ what are you beginning to see that you need to change your mind about to be more in line with the Way of Jesus?
Respond to Jesus in prayer
Lord Jesus, I cling to my opinions even when they are worn out or wrong. Forgive me and teach me the way of repentance so that I live more your way and not my way. Amen.
Go and live obediently in the world submitting to God’s rule.