In verses 14 and 15 Jesus summarizes the nature of his mission, the content of his mission, and the response demanded by his mission.
He comes announcing the Gospel of God, or God’s Good News.
What is this good news? What is meant by “Gospel”? It is not a word that is typically used in modern conversation, so it is crucial to define the term, otherwise we may impose a definition on “Gospel” that is not adequate/intended in this context of Scripture.
In the Gospel of Mark, the “Gospel” is Jesus fulfilling promises and expectations related to Israel and bringing God’s Kingship not only to Israel, but through Israel to the whole world, whereby those who respond in belief and repentance may be reconciled to God. This is Good News!
Perhaps further explanation is necessary:
First, Jesus refers to the “Time” being fulfilled and secondly, “The Kingdom of God” being “at hand.” Jesus announces to all who hear, that all of the promises and expectations of the Old Testament have been pointing to this “Time”. Jesus comes fulfilling God’s promises to Israel to bring justice and salvation, but he doesn’t do this quite like they expected, as we will see. He doesn’t establish a Kingdom of God that overthrows Roman rule. However, he does say that the Kingdom of God is at hand. It might be better to understand this phrase as “God’s Kingship has come near”. In other words, Jesus brings God’s authority not a physical, political kingdom. Because of Jesus, God can be seen, touched, experienced and because this happens, everything is now different. Since this happens, since Jesus fulfills God’s promises, and since Jesus brings God’s Kingly authority close, a response is demanded.
There is a difference between the Gospel and the response Jesus requires. (The response is not the Gospel, rather the response to the Gospel. I have found Scot McKnight’s book “The King Jesus Gospel” helpful regarding this matter.)
This response is only appropriate if it is characterized by repentance and faith. Once a person truthfully understands the Gospel – who Jesus is and what he does – there is a call to repent. This means that we stop pursuing our things in our ways, and that we recognize our sin for what it is: offensive to God as rebellion against his Kingship (I know it sounds harsh, but it’s really not, it’s really quite freeing.). There is also a call to believe in God’s Good News, that Jesus has fulfilled his promises and that he does bring God’s rule to earth. This repentance and belief brings radical change in one’s life in conduct, motivation, and pursuits.
This repentance and belief is exemplified in the first four men that join with Jesus in his ministry: Simon, Andrew, James, and John. They leave successful family business to follow Jesus. They don’t even ask, “Where are we going?” Jesus calls them to himself. They turn away from everything they have ever known to follow Jesus and there is no indication that they had much understanding of what that meant. They responded to God’s Kingly authority calling them to follow.
God may not call us to leave family and career to follow him (but he might!), but his call to us still demands the proper response of repentance and belief. We don’t have to understand it all, but we do have to turn from doing our things in our ways and give our full devotion to him.
What one step do you need to take to follow Jesus today? What is he calling you from? He is certainly calling you to himself, and often that requires no change of venue, simply a repentant heart.