Photo by Scarletina on Morgue File.
Our walk through the opening chapter of Mark has now led us to the pericope dealing with Jesus’ first sermon. In yesterday’s post, we looked at Jesus’ time in the wilderness as he was tempted by Satan. Today, we will look at the first words uttered by Christ in Mark’s gospel. Here is today’s pericope:
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mk. 1.14-15)
Mark clues us in that John the Baptizer has been arrested. We know from the gospel accounts that John was arrested and eventually would be beheaded. Thus, John’s wilderness ministry has come to an end. He had served his purpose. He was faithful to God’s calling on his life to prepare the way for Messiah and now that the Messiah has come, John’s ministry was done.
Now, Jesus takes up the mantle of his own ministry and begins preaching repentance. In Mark’s account, we see Jesus proclaiming the gospel message first in Galilee; that is, his home region. Mark says specifically that Jesus was proclaiming the gospel of God. The term gospel comes from the Greek euangelion and simply means good news. It was often shouted in the ancient world by heralds bringing good news.
The use of the term gospel here is telling and fitting. First, to truly understand the good news we must understand the bad. If we do not see ourselves in need of good news we are likely to pay it no attention. For the gospel to truly be good news, it must be proclaimed against the backdrop of bad news. What is the bad news according to Jesus and Scripture? The bad news is that we as humans have sinned and fallen far short of God’s glory. We are sinners by birth and by choice. The bad news is that on our own we are unable to save ourselves. We are hopeless and helpless, lost in the dark night of our sin and rebellion against a holy, righteous God.
But, the good news (i.e. the gospel) is that this very God, against whom we have sinned and rebelled, has so loved us that he has sent his own Son into the world for our salvation and redemption! This is grace; that is, God’s unmerited favor toward us. We do not deserve such love. We do not deserve his help, his salvation and redemption. But, God of his own good pleasure chose to give his love and grace to us. So that, all who believe in the name of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God, will be saved/rescued from their sin and be made right with God. Amazing grace indeed!
Jesus comes preaching that very message there in Galilee. It is an urgent message. It is a message of immediacy. Jesus proclaims, the time is fulfilled. The time of the coming of the Messiah has arrived. The Messiah is here. No longer must people wait for his coming: it is here! The Messiah (i.e. Jesus) has come and he has brought the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God, Jesus says, is at hand. The time has come. This message is one that demands a response.
Jesus makes this plain enough when he says, repent and believe in the gospel. The idea of repent is to change direction or change one’s mind. It is the idea of doing a 180: that is, heading in one direction and then changing and going in the opposite direction. When a person repents, he or she turns from their sin, by God’s grace, and turns to God. They have a new direction in life. Repentance and faith go hand in hand. When we repent, we believe the gospel. Again, we must see the bad news before we accept and believe the good news or the gospel.
There were many in Jesus’ day that did not believe the bad news. Since they did not believe the bad news they would not accept the gospel. It is no different today. Today there are many who refuse to believe the bad news. For these people, the gospel is nonsensical. But, for those who hear and believe, the gospel is liberating and redeeming.
There is no hocus pocus here. Our believe is in Jesus Christ. He is the gospel message. He is the good news. He came into the world to live a perfect life, to give that life freely for our sins and then, on the third day, to be raised from the dead. We find hope and grace through the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus, in his first sermon recorded by Mark, preached the good news of the gospel. He preached to the people the need for them to be made right spiritually with God. Jesus knew the bad news. Jesus knew the only hope for humankind was the gospel. He preached it and lived it. And because of his life, death and resurrection we can live it too.
The message is still the same today: repent and believe the gospel!