14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.” (Mark 1:14-20 (ESV)
“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.”
So Mark gives us a summary of Jesus sermon, his message of grace, good favor, the joyous and good news he preached to the people. News that they received as good, that comforted their souls in the wake of John’s imprisonment. That had to hurt, to see a man of God imprisoned, and everyone knew it was just a matter of time before he was beheaded. Just isn’t the way we expect things to go for God’s prophets. And yet it is the way it goes every time for his prophets! Most dangerous job in the Bible. Jesus calls Jerusalem the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to you. It was a recurring theme. A theme that not even Jesus will escape.
Yet no matter how many times, the natural inclination is, if this person is sent from God it will go well for him, God will protect him from the trials and tribulations of the world. And then it touches home, if a man like John can be thrown in prison for speaking God’s word, if he can be put to death for it, what will happen to me? You can imagine all the quiet of the land who had gone down to the river to hear the man preach. Those who had confessed their sins in the waters. A slap in the face, a knife to the soul as the news was heard. The big question hanging over their heads, “now what?” The confusion, and anxiety, the fear for the future. Their rulers turning on them and shunning their religion. Perhaps they wondered how much more God would take before he abandoned them all.
And then Jesus comes. Jesus comes preaching the gospel. The good news. The time is fulfilled. The Kingdom of God is at hand. The forerunner had gone, he who came to prepare the way had been removed because the way was prepared, and now Jesus was walking it. For John the way leads to a prison cell and a silver platter. He bulldozed the path alright. The path to death, to martyrdom. And now Jesus takes it follows the steamroller straight up Golgotha. Now the one for whom the path was blazed, now he takes it. The kingdom of God is at hand. It’s ready for the taking. The time is fulfilled. What seemed like bad news was good news, because Jesus couldn’t really start until the way had been prepared, and now the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe.
Repent and believe the gospel. See the thing that is being said here, is repent for not believing the gospel. You repent by believing the gospel. You repent by trusting God. You repent by listening to his word, his joyous news, the forgiveness of sins. I mean this is at the heart of repentance, and people hardly ever think of it this way. They always think repentance is making amends for your life, walking the straight and narrow, keeping your nose clean. They almost always think it is about them and what they have to do. Sometimes even believing they aren’t worthy of the gospel until they have managed to do it! That they don’t belong in church, unless they have managed to clean up and walk the straight line. But it isn’t like that. You don’t have to change to become a disciple of Christ, but when Christ calls you your life will change. You may not even notice it at first. But it will happen. No repentance is finally killing that old Adam, drowning him dead in the waters of baptism, letting go of yourself and saying, I’m forgiven. Because the kingdom of God, it isn’t found in what you do. It is found in what God does for you. It is at hand. It is right here, in the church, where his word is proclaimed, where he comes to you in bread and wine to give you the body and blood he broke and shed for you on the cross at the end of the road, John had prepared for him.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.