24 January 2021Mark 1:14-20
'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near' (v. 15)
This passage grabs the reader’s attention: it is crisp, sharp, staccato – and memorable. Only key messages are presented and no digressions are allowed. One theme percolates the section – the authority of Jesus.
A line is drawn across John the Baptist’s ministry. Is Jesus’ ministry the next chapter in the mission that John started? Is Jesus launching an independent ministry to the people of Galilee? The answer may be ‘yes’ to both questions. But they do not grasp the main point, which is something much more important is happening. This is God’s moment, like no other has ever been. As the prophets of old had long promised: God would decisively transform Israel’s situation. This is not a threat but a hopeful promise. Jesus brings good news (the gospel). God has chosen to be present with the people to make a dramatic, positive difference to their lives - and to ask of them unprecedented change, loyalty and commitment. (That is contained in the phrase ‘kingdom of God’.)
So here are some thoughts:
- Jesus had immediate need of colleagues he could trust. For them it meant disruption, risk and cost. Four fishermen, two pairs of brothers, had to abruptly leave behind their families and livelihoods to follow Jesus. Traditionally God’s fishers drew people together, to be accountable for their disobedience before entering God’s community (Jeremiah 16.16). So now, under Jesus’s leadership, the four have their part to play (as ‘fishers of people’) in establishing the new, radically purified community of the kingdom.
- Like Jesus' disciples, we have to leave behind all self-seeking and self-promotion. Look inside yourself and all around you – and above all, look to Jesus – to discern the signs of God’s presence. Entrust your very life to the authenticity, truth and life-enhancing potentiality of this gospel.
- We want to know more details about these stories, for example why is so little known about Jesus and the first disciples? But these concerns can distract us from the all-important issue: can each of us hear in the depths of our hearts, Jesus' gospel and his call for change and a new direction? How do we count the cost of repenting and believing?
- The Church all too easily mimics the society around it. But here Jesus hints that his community must be different – in values, in social relationships, and in economic arrangements. What is the change in your congregation that you are most committed to bring about, so that it may better represent the gospel of God?