Jesus Goes Public
Read Mark 1:14-15 (ESV)
Now after John was arrested, 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.”
How is Jesus' public declaration different from what you hear many popular pastors preach today? How is His message “Good News”?
The word “gospel” means “Good News.” And yet, today’s verses start with what many of us would consider to be bad news—John the Baptist was arrested. But that arrest didn’t just lead to his imprisonment. It led to his death. We know from Matthew 14 that Herod had John the Baptist beheaded. Why? Because the message that John preached exposed the sin of Herod and Herodias, which was incest. John’s message offended them. In fact, it offended Herodias so much to have her sins called out that she devised a scheme to get John’s head on a platter.
John had declared: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). John’s role was to prepare the way for the Messiah and in order for Israel to be ready, John called out their sins and urged them to repent from them. Mark 1:5 records: “All of the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.”
It is interesting that Jesus’ first recorded public proclamation picked up right where John left off: “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). The fact that we need to repent points out the obvious implication of what many of us would not consider good news at all—we are sinners and the kingdom of God is at hand. In other words, we are sinners and we are about to be judged accordingly.
In fact, in our culture right now, many find that message to be incredibly offensive. Like Herodias, it is “off with the head” of anyone who dares to “judge” us. But John didn’t mince words about sin and the need to repent and neither did Jesus. In fact, Jesus even called us to believe this as “good news!”
The good news was that the Messiah had arrived! The good news was that the moment that Israel had been desperately waiting for had finally arrived. Their King had come. The kingdom of God being at hand meant that the time had come for God to begin to restore what had been broken for so long!
It was good news for those who first heard His message and it is still good news for us today. If we repent and turn back to God, He will save us! He will forgive us for our sins. 1 John 1:9 says: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
But the reality is, we have to understand our need for a savior in order to receive our Savior. That is why, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). The Good News, the Gospel of God, is only good news to those who are “poor in spirit”—those who understand that without God they are doomed. The poor in spirit are humble enough to recognize their faults. They are honest about their sins. They know they are spiritually “poor.” They understand that they are bankrupt without God’s mercy and grace. They weren’t offended when Jesus called them out for their sins. Instead, they turned from their sins and turned to God for forgiveness. The poor in spirit gratefully accept His gift of grace.
The world finds the message of the Gospel offensive because it exposes our guilt before a holy God. Repentance calls for a changed life and for renouncing the sin that we are deeply attached to. But the wise are those who know that without Jesus, they are spiritually bankrupt. Blessed are those who listen carefully to Jesus’ very first public teaching and the core message of His entire ministry. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Those who turn from their sin and trust in Jesus get to be a part of it. Friends, believe the Gospel. It truly is good news.
Lord, I confess my sins to You. I know that I fall short in so many ways but I continue to turn back to You. Thank You for the Good News of the Gospel. I know that it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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