We are going to consider together verses 14 and 15 of Mark chapter 1.
Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
Now, you recall that the gospel of Mark is an action gospel and that Mark gives really a summary of the high points of the ministry of Jesus. I bring that up because between verse 13 (Jesus’ temptation) and verse 14 (the beginning of His public ministry) there is almost an entire year that Mark does not record. I mention all this not just because it is interesting, but because it fits exactly with the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry as it is recorded in the gospel of Mark. Jesus is baptized and receives the Holy Spirit and the commission to do His great work, and He remains off the radar for almost a year. I say that fits with the beginning of Mark’s gospel and what we have in these verses in this way, that in His baptism we have the heavenly announcement that He has come, and then the things that we might expect to happen, especially if we lived in those days, do not happen. We expect action. We expect the Messiah, as it were, to lay out a plan for the establishment of Messiah’s kingdom—perhaps a palace to be erected and the shift of His labors from Galilee (which is in the north and despised) to Jerusalem. But, instead, we have this very small beginning in verses 14 and 15 (our text for today). This very small and unlikely beginning in a place called Galilee. Jesus comes preaching in Galilee.
We take as our theme today: “Messiah Comes Preaching.” Notice, first of all, what He preached; second, what it demonstrates about Him; and third, the response that it demands of us.
What He Preached
That is stated for us in verse 14 and then summarized for us in three points in verse 15.
In verse 14, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel (the good news) of the kingdom of God. That is the statement that summarizes. And in verse 15 we have the three elements of that preaching. First, the time is fulfilled. Second, the kingdom of God is at hand. And then third, repent ye and believe the gospel.
The time is fulfilled. Jesus realizes that He is at an important juncture or turning point in history. The Greek word “time” here refers not to a chronology of events or a period of time, but rather to a particular point in time, an event. They are two words in the Greek, one of them referring to a period or chronology of time and the other to an event. And Jesus uses the word here that refers to a specific event. The time is fulfilled, He says. This is a time that will change everything—an event. Maybe an illustration will help us to understand that. If a man and a woman are in a relationship and that relationship develops over a number of years, there is an event that will change that relationship, and that event would be a wedding. Jesus is saying something like that here: Here is an event. An event is about to take place that will change all things in relation to time. He is saying that His coming, His birth, His ministry, His suffering, His cross, and His resurrection—all these things that are about to take place in His public ministry will shape and change time and history.
So, He says, the time is fulfilled. And that word “fulfilled” has the idea of something being full to the brim, to overflowing. When we pour our coffee in the morning, we do not fill the mug to the top. We leave a little room so that nothing will spill. But now, Jesus is saying, the fulness of time has come. In Galatians we read, “When the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.” The idea is that all of time since the beginning of the world (the creation) has been working toward this point. Jesus said these words, “The time is fulfilled,” against the background of the Old Testament, indeed, against the background of the eternal counsel of God. The time of fulfillment has come. All the promises of the Old Testament, the promise of the seed of the woman that would crush the head of the serpent, the promise of the nations of the earth being blessed in the seed of Abraham, the promise of one being raised up like to Moses or the Son of David sitting on his throne, or the servant of the Lord coming to bear our stripes and carry our griefs and sorrows—that time now has come.
And, if we look at Luke 4, we see Jesus standing up in the synagogue in Nazareth and expanding on this. There He reads Isaiah 61: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel….” And Jesus says to the listeners in the synagogue in Nazareth: “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” The time is fulfilled. He is conscious of this.
Secondly, He says in His preaching: “The kingdom of God is at hand.” Those are much discussed and disputed words. The best summary of those words is this, that the kingdom of God refers to the rule of God over the hearts and the lives of His people. The kingdom of God is not the rule over a place, a geographical place, but it is the invisible rule and the eternal rule of God. Jesus, in Luke 17:21, says that the “kingdom is within you,” and when one has become a citizen of this kingdom, been translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, then that one, forever, comes under the rule of Jesus Christ in His heart. He has an eternal position and citizenship in that kingdom, invisible and eternal.
We see here that Jesus comes preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God. The gospel and the kingdom are not separate from each other. They are not two different things. But the kingdom is established by the preaching of the gospel. And all of Scripture is about the kingdom in the coming of Jesus Christ. It is about the rule and the sovereignty of God in the hearts of sinners by His grace that comes in the gospel.
Now, as Jesus comes and says the kingdom of God is at hand, it does not mean this, that the kingdom comes just partially, that there is kind of a partial reign that increases incrementally. But Jesus comes Himself as the King with all the fullness of His power, with His absolute rule. And that is present in Jesus here. At first, that rule is veiled—it is veiled when He is born in Bethlehem, it is veiled when He goes to the cross and He suffers. But it is there in all its power. He goes to the cross and lays down His life and gives up His Spirit to the Father and rises from the grave.
So the kingdom of Jesus Christ is not something that has to come incrementally, but we could put it this way, that as His work moves from the cross to the resurrection and glory, and as history moves from the time of Pentecost to the time of the return of Jesus Christ, and as the church is built and gathered, what we see is the unveiling of the power of this kingdom. That is why Jesus says here, “The kingdom of God is at hand,” not “The kingdom of God is future.” But what He means is that the kingdom of God is near, it is within touching distance, close by. And it is that when Jesus comes both in regards to time and in a very physical way. He has come to establish the rule of His kingdom. He is a King. He embodies that kingdom. And He can be touched right there. The Kingdom, He says, is at hand. And He comes preaching the gospel of the kingdom. So, wherever this gospel comes, this kingdom has come.
So, He says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.” And the third element of what He preaches is this (and I want you to see a difference here): “Repent ye, and believe the gospel.” In the first two statements, we have indicatives. That is the gospel. It tells us what God has done in Jesus Christ. But now, following the declaration of the gospel, there are two imperatives. Jesus here issues the call of the gospel to all who hear: “Repent ye, and believe the gospel.”
What is it to repent? Well, repentance is not merely feeling bad or sorry about some sins that you have committed. There are plenty of sorrows that are not repentance. Repentance is, literally, to change—a change of mind. Repentance, then, is a radical turning, a change of mind, of heart, and direction. And the call to repentance tells us that there is something wrong with man, there is something wrong with humanity. And what is wrong is sin. This is what John preached, too. And this is what Jesus is saying, that there is something wrong with the human race. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. And He is telling people: Change, turn from your sin.
You see, our lives are not controlled and lived as they should be in the presence of the King. We all need to change. And we must know that this is not simply a call to unbelievers, but this is a call that comes to us in our condition as believers as well. It is not a call to one-time conversion, but a call that we must hear over and over, and in the church as well, so that there is change, continual change, in every part of our life. We must turn from our apathy toward spiritual things. We must turn from our pride in our relationships; we must turn from our laziness in our work; we must turn from our materialism, in our pleasure-seeking; we must turn and repent from our anger and our discontentment. Repent, turn, change!
Have you repented? Are you repenting? Is there a change in your attitude, your thinking, towards sin? You see, in our Christianity, there is too much pride, too much self-justification, too much defensiveness when we are confronted with our sin. And this is precisely what Jesus targets with the call of the gospel when He says, “Repent, humble yourself before the King.” Every time we see the King and stand before the King, we should say, “I need to change, to repent.”
And the other imperative is: “Believe.” Repent and believe the gospel, He says. Here you see that the gospel, the good news of what God has done in Jesus, demands a response. The gospel is the good news, the glad tidings of God saving His people by sending His Son as a substitute for the sins of His elect. It is the good news of what God has done for us in Christ. That is the gospel. And it is summarized in words like substitution, atonement, satisfaction—what Jesus has done. But the gospel is not just information to be acknowledged. Rather, the gospel is action and a person to depend on. To believe the gospel is to stake your life upon the person and work of Jesus Christ. Whenever the gospel is preached, it must be accompanied by this serious call and demand to all who hear, to turn from their sins and to rest in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
Repent and believe the gospel. Have you done that? Do you believe the gospel? So much of what goes for preaching and evangelism in the modern church is all about man, about happiness and success for Christians who follow a certain plan for living. And it cheapens the grace of God in the gospel. Yes, there is a sense in which we all need moral improvement, but the repentance and the faith that is genuine is a sorrow over sin, a deserting of all trust in self, a dependence for salvation on Jesus Christ alone and a worship of God the King.
Jesus has come as God, the King, and He confronts man with this call: “Repent, believe, or perish.” This is what He preached.
What It Demonstrates about Him
What does this tell us about Jesus? I ask that question because that is the purpose of the gospel accounts. They are not just stories, they are not just a biography. They bring us to Jesus Christ. And they present us with the truth about who He is. That is so important to see when here, in Mark’s gospel, He opens His mouth for the first time, to speak. Today, many come up with their own version of Jesus. But here, in plain language, we learn who Jesus is and we learn why Jesus came. And it is surprising. If we had lived in His day with the Jewish mind under Roman rule (you see this even with the disciples), we might have expected something quite different, a different kind of Messiah. But, instead, He comes preaching the gospel of repentance in Galilee.
And that really teaches us, first, the nature of His kingdom and the purpose of His coming. What do I mean by that? He did not come to be the Jesus that so many today expected and wanted Him to be. He is not the Jesus of prosperity and health, of success and happiness. He is not the Jesus of tolerance and inclusiveness. He is not the Jesus who is going to save this world from poverty and war. He is not the Jesus who comes to set up an earthly and a Jewish kingdom. No, He is the Messiah who comes preaching the gospel. That is His message. He is the Jesus who addresses the sins of humanity, who confronts man in his heart, who calls men and women and children in every age to turn from their sins, who announces the way of salvation and forgiveness and reconciliation to God through faith in His work and His sacrifice, who goes to the cross, who is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows.
And in this introductory statement here in verse 15, He speaks of the kind of Messiah He is with absolute clarity. The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand, repent ye, and believe the gospel. That is a summary statement, really, of what will follow in the gospel of Mark, all the way from here through the Passion Week. And the gospel He comes to proclaim and the kingdom He comes to establish is a gospel of repentance from sin and of the spiritual and invisible rule of the Spirit, which He establishes in the heart of His own. That is the kind of King and the kind of Messiah He is.
But then, second, this gospel call and the summary of Jesus’ teaching demonstrates to us also His power, how powerful He is. He is the Messiah, the King appointed of God. He has come with all of His power. He confronts the enemy. He will have the victory. He will overcome every obstacle and every foe till His kingdom is perfected. And that power of Jesus is really emphasized as Mark goes on in his gospel account. Just look down to verses 17 and 18: “Come ye after me,” He says. And immediately, straightway, they forsook their nets and they followed Him. And in verses 24 through 41 you see His dominion over the demons, over illness, over the leper and his disease. In chapter 2, in the first verses, He demonstrates His power not only to heal a lame man, but to forgive sins. And they say, “Who is this that forgives sins?” You go on in this gospel account and you say, “Who is this who has such power that even the wind and the waves obey Him?” And this power we must see here in this gospel call and preaching in this way, that we realize and recognize that the gospel that Jesus Christ proclaims is a two-edged sword that always accomplishes what God has purposed. The gospel call, in verse 15, repent and believe the gospel, is not the call of a pleading, weak, pitiful Jesus who leaves the coming and the believing up to the will of the sinner. Rather, it is the command of the King that effectually works obedience in the hearts of all God’s elect to bring them to repentance and to believe the good news.
And you see that when He calls the disciples. He says, “Follow Me,” and immediately they forsake their occupation and family relations to be His disciples. Only the grace of the Holy Spirit can produce that obedience. When Jesus comes with that powerful call of the gospel to His elect, His ministry is stamped with the authority of God, so that every sinner who is confronted by the gospel is confronted by God Himself, is addressed by God Himself, in the preaching. And that gospel preaching becomes a savor of life unto life or of death unto death. It accomplishes God’s purpose in predestination—to bring the elect to faith and to render the unbelieving and reprobate without excuse and to harden them in the blindness of their sin.
The Response That It Demands of Us
There are two ways we want to look at that: personally, and as a church.
Personally, the response is this: First, certainly this, that we, having heard the gospel call of the Messiah, repent and believe. And that repentance must be a matter of lifestyle, a way of life of continual repentance and change and conversion so that we hate sin and submit ourselves more and more to the rule and the word of Jesus Christ. That we abandon all trust in ourselves and our righteousness and depend exclusively on the Savior and His work. And accompanying that repentance must be a heartfelt humility. That is the change of heart of thankfulness to God, a humility that is produced by the realization that, as we face the Messiah, we do not face His wrath but instead His mercy. And we have been brought to repentance in faith, as Paul puts it when he speaks of predestination, “Where is boasting, then? It is excluded.” And it is humility over my sin and a humility over against others, not pride.
But, there is another response, and it is the response of the church. It is the response of the church that realizes the priority and the importance of the preaching of the gospel. Jesus came preaching, first thing. Should not this also be our priority? Should not this be primary? Look down to verse 38, where the disciples say to Him, “All men seek for thee.” And He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth.” The people are seeking Him for miracles and He says, “No, let’s go. I came to preach.”
That is echoed by Paul the apostle. He says in I Corinthians 1, “I came not to baptize but to preach the gospel.” This is the calling of the church. Now, it is not the only calling of the church or of believers, but it is primary. And without it, the church has lost its place as a church. Whereas the church that has a high view of preaching will prioritize this in her worship and in the lives of her members so that our liturgy, our order of worship in the church, will center in this, the preaching of the gospel, because it is in the preaching of the gospel that we expect, we anticipate, Christ Himself to speak to us, to address us with this gospel.
So also as the church we will be careful, when we emphasize the preaching, to choose out men and to train men in the gospel ministry so that the church is equipped with a qualified and called ministry to send forth for this great task of preaching the gospel.
Here, again, there is a personal application to us. Very simply this: as individuals, we will honor the preaching of the gospel when we give ourselves to it, mentally and spiritually, and we will prepare ourselves physically to receive the Word of God, to obey it, and to grow in it continually. May God so help us to love the good news of the kingdom of God.