In Mark 1:15 we read a summary of the good news preached by Jesus: “The time has come. . . . The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
How did Jesus encourage people in his day to respond to this good news? How should we respond to it today?
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we began to consider the question: Can I live in God’s kingdom now, or do I have to wait for the kingdom to come in the future? We discovered that the answer of Jesus to this question is nuanced. Yes, the kingdom has come near, and thus is present. Yet, the kingdom is not completely here, and so we continue to hope for its coming.
Can I live in the God’s kingdom now, or do I have to wait until the kingdom comes in the future? Christians have answered this question differently throughout the years. Some have emphasized the contemporary presence of the kingdom of God. They point to things Jesus said, such as, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21, KJV). Others emphasize the future coming of the kingdom. They underscore other sayings of Jesus, like: “For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (Luke 22:18). Often, the debate among Christians about the timing of the coming of the kingdom leaves us confused. Which is it? Now? Or sometime in the future?
After announcing that God’s time had finally come, Jesus focused the “good news of God” in a few words: “The kingdom of God has come near” (1:15). What did this mean? How can this be good news for us today?
After Jesus’ baptism, he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where he was tempted by Satan. Following his temptation, Jesus began his ministry by preaching “the good news of God” (1:14). Mark provides a succinct summary of that good news: “The time has come. . . . The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (1:15)
If you haven’t experienced it yourself, you probably know someone who has. You get a new job and are excited about what lies ahead. You sense that God is in the process of your job transition and you’re thankful for his gracious guidance. But, almost from the start, things in your new situation don’t go as you had hoped. Perhaps you run into conflict with colleagues or a lack of support from your boss. Or, maybe there is a huge gap between what you thought your job would be and reality. Quickly, your sense of excitement disappears and you begin to feel confused. Discouragement and despair aren’t far away. You wonder where God is, whether you completely missed his guidance, and whether he will rescue you from the quicksand that seems to be swallowing you up.
The fact that we are God’s beloved children can make a difference in our work. In times of discouragement, we can be reassured by the fact that God cares for us. When we face opposition or injustice, we can be strengthened by the knowledge of who we are. When we feel lonely or isolated, we can remember that God is with us and will never let us go. In everything we do, we can seek to give joy to our Heavenly Father, knowing that he delights in us.
The Gospel of Mark begins similarly, with a voice crying out, “Prepare the way for the Lord” (1:3). This voice is identified in verse 4 as John the Baptist. He was raised up by God in fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3-5. He was the one who cries out to Israel to get ready for the coming of the Lord. By calling the Jews to repent and by baptizing them as a sign of their repentance, John set the stage for the coming of Jesus and his announcement of God’s kingdom. Moreover, he pointed directly to the advent of one who would baptize, not with water, but with the Holy Spirit (1:8).
I want to reflect further on the opening verse of Mark. In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I focused on the meaning of “good news” in the statement: “The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God” (1:1). Today I want to draw our attention to the specific content of that good news as he opens his Gospel.
As we begin our Life for Leaders study in the Gospel of Mark, I thought it might be helpful to provide a bit of background to the book we’ll be examining. We know surprisingly little for sure about the writing of the Gospel of Mark.