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Posts Tagged ‘good news’

Series: Markan prologue

The literary structure of Mark 1:1-15

We’ve been studying the introduction to the Gospel of Mark and how in accordance with the prophecies of Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1, the messenger comes first, who is John the Baptist, and then comes the Lord, who is Jesus. In our passage today, we come to the end of Mark’s introduction, which gives us some very important insight into what Jesus is all about.

Let’s look at these verses –

Mark 1:14-15

14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the good news.”

Let me first highlight, in terms of the story line, that this is the key transition where John’s ministry comes to an end and Jesus comes fully onto the scene. The baton is passed.

We’ll learn more about what happens to John in Mark 6. But with regard to our verse, I want to point out that when Mark says John was “arrested” it says literally, he was “handed over,” which is foreshadowing of what’s to come. This same word is used in relation to Jesus’ arrest, for instance in Mark 9:31, and also the coming persecution of Jesus’ disciples, in Mark 13:9. So Jesus begins his ministry on a note of persecution that hangs over all that he and his followers will do.

Second, we have in this passage a summary of Jesus’ message that tells us in simple form what he taught, what he stood for, what he was about. The rest of the Gospel gives content to this, but this is where it’s all brought together and so it’s really important to notice and understand this.

If you had to boil the gospel down to just a few words, how would you say it? Or if you had to summarize the whole message of the Bible in a phrase, what would that phrase be? Well, this is exactly what Jesus is doing here. And since it comes from him – this is how he summarizes it all, we should take notice and seek to understand what he’s saying. Which is what I want us to do for the rest of our time together this morning.

Let’s read v. 15 together – “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the good news” – v. 15. (See also Matthew 4:17; Luke 4:43)

First, we look at –

The coming of the kingdom

 And we begin with the question, ‘What is it?’

1. The kingdom of God, to say it simply, is God’s promised salvation. It’s more than this, since it brings together most, if not all of the Bible, but it is this.

Our world lives in rebellion against God and is in misery because of this. But Scripture speaks of a day when the earth will once again be under the dominion and blessings of heaven, where God rules unhindered; a day when all the prophecies will be fulfilled.

For now, the world is characterized by three things:

  • Slavery to Satan, the leader of the rebellion. [The people of God came back from exile but were really still in exile, enslaved to the powers of the nations, or the spirits (demons) behind idolatry, led by Satan.] But the promise is that God will set us free – Isaiah 61:1. That’s what the kingdom is about.
  • It is characterized by condemnation for sin and rebellion. But the promise is that God will forgive our sins and he will be close to us – Jeremiah 31:31-34. That’s what the kingdom is about.
  • It is characterized by subjection to death. But the promise is that God will give us new life – Isaiah 25:7-8. We will be whole and at peace. Death itself will be overcome. This is the reality of the kingdom.

So taking this into account, Jesus is saying here that with his coming –

2. The kingdom has arrived. This is made clear in our verse. Jesus said, “the time is fulfilled.” The word “time” here is not about ordinary calendar time. It’s about God’s providential time. Jesus is saying, this is the moment; the appointed time. The word “fulfilled” has to do with fulfilling the many prophecies that were made. Jesus has come to bring them to pass.

Jesus also teaches us in this verse that the kingdom it is “at hand.” This means that it has drawn near. So something new is happening, something powerful, something long promised, something desperately needed.

3. This is why this is good news. We saw previously that the phrase “good news” in both a Roman and Jewish context (Isaiah) has to do with a royal announcement. And here it’s royal as well. It relates to the coming of the kingdom of God and indeed its king.

We saw how in his baptism Jesus is shown to be “the anointed one” or the Messiah. And he is proclaimed by God to be his Son – a royal designation. The gospel is an announcement that there’s a new king, God’s Son! God’s promised kingdom is here!

4. God’s kingdom and Jesus are intertwined. That’s why the rest of the Gospel is about Jesus – his teaching, ministry, life, death and resurrection. But it is summarized here as about the kingdom of God. That’s why in v. 1 it’s “the good news of Jesus” and here it’s “the good news” of “the kingdom of God.” (The good news of God [v. 14] is that what he has promised, the kingdom, he is bringing about through Jesus.)

 The king and his kingdom are interchangeable. God’s kingdom is where Jesus is, and it’s where he rules.

5. There is more of the kingdom yet to come. Jesus talks about this, for instance in Mark 13:26 when he says the world will see him “coming in clouds with great glory and power.” That is, at the end of all things.

Most of his hearers would have expected the kingdom to come all at once. But Jesus teaches that there is an ‘already, not yet’ element to the coming of the kingdom. As he taught in Mark 4, the kingdom is like a mustard seed that starts out small, but eventually covers the whole world. It’s already here with his coming, but it’s not yet all the way here. That will await his second coming.

Now let’s look at –

How Jesus brings the kingdom

1. In his ministry we see the in-breaking of the kingdom

  • He sets people free from Satan through exorcisms, for instance a little later in Mark 1.
  • He forgives people their sins and gives them a new relationship with God. An example here is Levi the tax collector in Mark 2.
  • He heals people, making them whole, including raising people from the dead. He raised a 12-year-old girl in Mark 5.

In all these ways Jesus is communicating that the kingdom is here! And it is being made known through him. The promises are beginning to be fulfilled.

2. In his death and resurrection he establishes the kingdom

  • He overthrows Satan’s authority over this world. He is now Lord. (Matthew 28:18, which was likely how Mark originally ended)
  • He provides for our forgiveness on the cross – Mark 14:24
  • He defeats death in his resurrection from the dead – Mark 16. Death couldn’t hold him. And he pours out the Spirit to give us new life – Mark 1:8.

3. At his second coming he will complete the kingdom

  • Satan will be judged and destroyed
  • We will have a very close relationship with God
  • We will be resurrected to live forever – Mark 13:27

Finally, in this short verse, Jesus tells us –

How to enter the kingdom

Jesus uses the phrase “entering the kingdom” many times. This has to do with how we receive the promises of God’s salvation, made known with the coming of the kingdom. Jesus summarizes this in two words:

1. Repent – This means to have a change of heart and mind that leads us to do God’s will from now on. We turn away from our old lives and walk in a new path according to Jesus’ teaching and example. For instance we love God with all that we are; we love our neighbor as our self; we honor our marriage vows; we take up our cross and serve others and suffer for this.

 2. Believe – This means that we trust in God and God’s promises. We believe that the promise of the kingdom is here and we believe in Jesus, the king who provides God’s grace to us – freedom from Satan, forgiveness and new relationship with God and new life, which includes the promise the Spirit and culminates in our resurrection.

And these two things, repentance and faith, are two sides of the same coin: For if you believe in the good news, you will do what Jesus tells you to, which is repent. And if you repent you show that you have believed in Jesus.

Some questions for us

Do you know how to communicate the gospel? It’s good to know Jesus’ way of doing this, although he was speaking to people who were steeped in the Scriptures.

How would we say it today? Much of what we can share is our testimony. We say to others in various ways that through Jesus God has given me freedom, forgiveness and new life. The fuller framework can be picked up after someone chooses for themselves to become a follower of Jesus.

How is your repentance and faith? It’s not a one-time thing. It’s lifelong. Are you still believing? Are you holding to God’s promises even when it’s hard?

Are you still turning away from sin to follow Jesus? It’s a lifelong process. We live a life of repentance. We learn more as we grow in life what God wants from us. It’s like peeling an onion. We make progress but there’s always another layer to deal with. Have you stopped along the path? Is God waiting for you back where we went off the path?

Repent and believe is what we do to enter the kingdom both now, and in its fullness on the final day.

Is God making his kingdom known through us? God still sets people free from Satan. Are people being set free here and in our outreach? God still forgives and gives new relationship. Are people coming to know God here? God still gives new life. Are people becoming alive to God here?

Is God working among us in these ways? These are signs of the kingdom’s presence. They aren’t the only ones, but they are important. How are we doing?

 

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We’re back in the Gospel of John today. We looked at the introduction and how the Word, or God’s Son brings light and life, and grace and truth. We also learned a lesson from John the Baptist about knowing our place in God’s plan.

And last week we saw how John the Baptist’s identifies Jesus as the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit, and what this means. And you received a call to be filled with the Spirit.

Today we look at how the good news about Jesus begins to spread. Let’s read John 1:35-49. 35

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Let’s see what we can learn about the spread of the good news from our passage.

1. We learn what the good news is

If someone came to you and said, “Hey, I want to be Christian, can you tell me how?” What would you say? Where would you begin? Do you know how to articulate the gospel??

Well there are lots of expressions of the good news in these verses and they can help us. First we have in v. 36 John the Baptist’s words to Andrew and his companion, “Behold, the lamb of God.” John most likely is referring to Jesus’ sinlessness, just as sacrificial lambs had to be without blemish. [It is unlikely that John the Baptist understood that Jesus would die on the cross.]  And if we allow Revelation 6:16 to guide us, the Lamb is also the judge of the world. He is saying, “look the Messiah is here!”

Then we have in v. 41 Andrew’s words to Peter, “We have found the Messiah.” The same message. “Messiah” is the Hebrew word that means “anointed one”; Christ is the same word but comes from Greek into English. The anointed one refers to the one anointed by God to save and to rule the world.

In v. 45 Phillip says to Nathaniel, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote . . ..”There are a number of prophecies and hints of the Messiah in the Old Testament. Here’s one example from Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15. “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen.” Philip is saying, “he’s here!”

And finally in v. 49 Nathaniel says to Jesus, “You are the Son of God! You are the king of Israel!” The phrase “Son of God” has to do with those who rule. It was a title used for the kings of Israel. So the two phrases here blend together nicely. The promised ruler has come.

[All that is confessed is true for sure. Jesus is the Messiah. But from the point of view of the writer of John, they have much to learn still about the eternal Word made flesh.]

Notice the positive content in all this. It is, after all, good news we are to share. And in each case the focus is on how the promised one has come! He’s here! We’ve found him! The one sent by God. Yes, the world is deeply broken. But the emphasis here is on fulfillment; how Jesus has come to save and to rule.

2. We learn from this passage how the good news spreads

Most basically it spreads though people. And as we go through this you can think about this question – “How does God want to use me to spread the good news?”

First of all, in our passage, it was through the preaching/teaching of John the Baptist that Andrew and his companion begin to follow Jesus. This is the culmination of John’s ministry. God revealed to him who the Messiah was, and here he introduces Jesus to Israel. “Behold, the lamb of God!” And two people began to follow Jesus.

And God still calls people to preach and teach so that through this means others can hear the word about Jesus and come to follow him. Has God called you to do this?

A second way the good news spreads is through sharing with family membersAfter spending the evening talking with Jesus, Andrew, first thing in the morning, goes and finds his brother Peter. He’s very excited. We have found the Messiah! He has good news to share and he wants to share it with his brother.

What family members might God be nudging you to share the good news with this week?

A third way the good news spreads is through sharing with friends. In vs. 43-44 Jesus decides to go to Galilee and it says that he found Philipp. But we also learn that Philip was from the same home town as Andrew and Peter. So it is likely that they told Jesus who he was and that he should speak to him. If Andrew brought Peter to Jesus, here he and Peter bring Jesus to Philip.

Then, it sounds like right away Philip finds a friend of his – Nathaniel and invites him to come meet Jesus. So the message spread through the friend networks of those who responded to him. (Thanks to Dale Bruner for these three points)

What friends might God be calling you to share your faith with this week?

This passage also breaks down some stereotypes about how we share the good news. Yes, we have John the Baptist, who could certainly be a fire and brimstone preacher. But notice in the sharing with family and friends these several things:

  • It’s confessional. You just confess what you believe, what you have found, what you have experienced. It’s not about a debate or who knows the most, or arguments. And its OK if people don’t accept what you say. You are just sharing what you believe.
  • It’s invitational. What does Jesus say to Andrew and his companion? “Come and . . . see!” (v. 39). You’re seeking after me? Come and see. Andrew then brought Peter to Jesus. He wanted him to meet Jesus. Andrew and Peter brought Jesus to Philip and Jesus says to him “follow me” (v. 43). And Philip brought Nathaniel to Jesus. And when Nathaniel wanted to argue about whether anything good could come from Nazareth, Philip doesn’t engage. He just says, “come and see” (v. 46).
  • The key is a personal encounter with Jesus. It’s not about us, it’s about him. And when people encounter Jesus – his compassion, authority, power, holiness – this is what makes the difference. This is when transformation takes place. Sharing the good news is all about people being invited to encounter Jesus truly and fully.

3. We learn from this passage what happens when people receive the good news

1) They confess their faith in Jesus. Andrew said, “we have found the Messiah.” Philip said, “we have found him of whom Moses  in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth . . ..” People confess publicly that Jesus really is the promised one; the Savior and Lord of the world.

2) They become disciples. Andrew and his companion “followed” Jesus. Philip “followed” Jesus. This is another word for being a disciple in this Gospel. In that day you would often literally follow your teacher around to learn from their teaching and example. Jesus says in 8:12 “whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

And Andrew and his companion “stayed with Jesus” (v. 39). This is the same word that is used in this Gospel for “abiding” with Jesus. It is another term for being a faithful disciple. For instance Jesus says in 8:32 “if you abide in my word you are truly my disciple.” And here Andrew and the other disciple are with Jesus and learn from him.

So being a Christian is not a one-time experience. It is about a lifetime of discipleship. These people had a relationship with Jesus. They spent time with him, they learned from him; they were his disciples. 

[Also, I think it is interesting that each disciple received something special from Jesus: Andrew and the other disciple got to spend time talking with Jesus alone, learning from him. Peter received a new name and a new role. Philip received a personal call from Jesus himself. Nathaniel was praised and experienced a miracle.]

 Have you met Jesus? If you haven’t, I invite you to do so this morning. May the words of Jesus reach out of this Scripture to your heart as he says, “what are you seeking?” And as he says, “follow me.” 

William Higgins

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