Sunday (January 25): "The kingdom of God is at hand"
Scripture: Mark 1:14-20 (alternate readings for Feast of the conversion of Paul the Apostle: Mark 16:15-18)
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel." 16 And passing along by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men." 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him.19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and followed him.
Meditation:What is the Gospel of God which Jesus came to preach? The word "gospel" literally means "good news". When a king had good news to deliver to his subjects he sent messengers or heralds throughout the land to make a public announcement - such as the birth of a newborn king or the victory over an invading army or occupied force. God sent his prophets to announce the coming of God's anointed King and Messiah. After Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan and anointed by the Spirit he begins his ministry of preaching the Gospel - the good news that the kingdom of God was now at hand for all who were ready to receive it.
God rules over all
What is the kingdom of God? The word "kingdom" means something more than a territory or an area of land. It literally means "sovereignty" or "reign" and the power to "rule" and exercise authority. The prophets announced that God would establish a kingdom not just for one nation or people but for the whole world. The Scriptures tell us that God's throne is in heaven and his rule is over all (Psalm 103:19). His kingdom is bigger and more powerful than anything we can imagine because it is universal and everlasting (Daniel 4:3). His kingdom is full of glory, power, and splendor (Psalm 145:11-13).
In the Book of Daniel we are told that this kingdom is given to the Son of Man (Daniel 7:14,18,22,27). The Son of Man is a Messianic title for God's anointed King. The New Testament word for "Messiah" is "Christ" which literally means the "Anointed One" or the "Anointed King". God sent us his Son not to establish an earthly kingdom but to bring us into his heavenly kingdom - a kingdom ruled by truth, justice, peace, and holiness. The kingdom of God is the central theme of Jesus' mission. It's the core of his gospel message.
As soon as John the Baptist had finished his testimony, Jesus began his in Galilee, his home district. John's enemies had sought to silence him, but the gospel cannot be silenced. Jesus proclaimed that the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus takes up John's message of repentance and calls disciples to believe in the gospel - the good news he has come to deliver. What is the good news which Jesus delivers? It is the good news of peace (restoration of relationship with God - Ephesians 6:15), of hope (the hope of heaven and everlasting life - Colossians 1:23 ), of truth (God's word is true and reliable - Colossians 1:5), of promise (he rewards those who seek him - Ephesians 3:6)), of immortality (God gives everlasting life - 2 Timothy 1:10), and the good news of salvation (liberty from sin and freedom to live as sons and daughters of God - Ephesians 1:13).
Two conditions for the kingdom - repent and believe
How do we enter the kingdom of God? In announcing the good news, Jesus gave two explicit things each of us must do to in order to receive the kingdom of God: repent and believe. When we submit to Christ's rule in our lives and believe the gospel message the Lord Jesus gives us the grace and power to live a new way of life as citizens of his kingdom. He gives us grace to renounce the kingdom of darkness ruled by sin and Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44) and the ruler of this present world (John 12:31). That is why repentance is the first step.
Repentance means to change - to change my way of thinking, my
attitude, disposition, and life choices so that Christ can be the
Lord and Master of my heart rather than sin, selfishness, and
greed. If we are only sorry for the consequences of our sins, we
will very likely keep repeating the sin that is mastering us. True
repentance requires a contrite heart (Psalm 51:17) and sorrow for
sin and a firm resolution to avoid it in the future. The Lord
Jesus gives us grace to see sin for what it really is - a
rejection of his love and wisdom for our lives and a refusal to do
what is good and in accord with his will. His grace brings pardon
and help for turning away from everything that would keep us from
his love and truth.
To believe is to take Jesus at his word and to recognize that God loved us so much that he sent his only begotten Son to free us from bondage to sin and harmful desires. God made the supreme sacrifice of his Son on the cross to bring us back to a relationship of peace and friendship with himself. He is our Father and he wants us to live as his sons and daughters. God loved us first and he invites us in love to surrender our lives to him. Do you believe that the gospel -the good news of Jesus - has power to free you from bondage to sin and fear?
Like fishermen - we are called to gather in people for the
kingdom of Christ
When Jesus preached the gospel message he called others to follow as his disciples and he gave them a mission - "to catch people for the kingdom of God." What kind of disciples did he choose? Smelly fishermen! In the choice of the first apostles we see a characteristic feature of Jesus' work: he chose very ordinary people. They were non-professionals, had no wealth or position. They were chosen from the common people who did ordinary things, had no special education, and no social advantages. Jesus wanted ordinary people who could take an assignment and do it extraordinarily well. He chose these individuals, not for what they were, but for what they would be capable of becoming under his direction and power.
When the Lord calls us to serve, we must not think we have nothing to offer. The Lord takes what ordinary people, like us, can offer and uses it for greatness in his kingdom. Do you believe that God wants to work in and through you for his glory?
Jesus speaks the same message to us today: we will "catch people" for the kingdom of God if we allow the light of Jesus Christ to shine through us. God wants others to see the light of Christ in us in the way we live, speak, and witness the joy of the gospel. Paul the Apostles says, But thanks be to God, who in Christ Jesus always leads us in triumph, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing (2 Corinthians 2:15). Do you witness to those around you the joy of the Gospel and do you pray for your neighbors, co-workers, and relatives that they may come to know the Lord Jesus Christ and grow in the knowledge of his love?
"Lord Jesus, you have called me personally by name, just as you called your first disciples, Simon, Andrew, James, and John. Help me to believe your word and follow you faithfully. Fill me with the joy of the gospel that your light may shine through me to many others."
12 What shall I render to the LORD for all his
bounty to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD,
14 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.
15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
16 O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your handmaid. You have loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD.
18 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem.
"Reflect on the nature and grandeur of the one Almighty God who
could associate himself with the poor of the lowly fishermanís
class. To use them to carry out God's mission baffles all
rationality. For having conceived the intention, which no one ever
before had done, of spreading his own commands and teachings to
all nations, and of revealing himself as the teacher of the
religion of the one Almighty God to all humanity, he thought good
to use the most unsophisticated and common people as ministers of
his own design. Maybe God just wanted to work in the most unlikely
way. For how could inarticulate folk be made able to teach, even
if they were appointed teachers to only one person, much less to a
multitude? How should those who were themselves without education
instruct the nations?... When he had thus called them as his
followers, he breathed into them his divine power, and filled them
with strength and courage. As God himself he spoke Godís true word
to them in his own way, enabling them to do great wonders, and
made them pursuers of rational and thinking souls, by empowering
them to come after him, saying: 'Come, follow me, and I will make
you fish for people' (Mark 1:17, Matthew 4:19). With this
empowerment God sent them forth to be workers and teachers of
holiness to all the nations, declaring them heralds of his own
teaching." (excerpt from PROOF OF THE GOSPEL 3.7)
Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers.
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