The PREACHER’s Primary Message — 1:14-15

The starting point for this expositional series can be found here.
The previous entry can be read here.

Jesus Christ.

There’s no more precious name in existence. And i’d rather hear any curse word other than Jesus’ name inserted where four letters would do the job just as well.

You can’t find any more beautiful lyrics in the world than these:

  • Joy to the world, the Lord is come
    Let earth receive her King.[1]
  • What can wash away my sin?
    Nothing but the blood of Jesus.[2]
  • “Man of Sorrows!” what a name
    For the Son of God, who came
    Ruined sinners to reclaim.
    Hallelujah! What a Savior![3]
  • No guilt in life, no fear in death—
    This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
    From life’s first cry to final breath,
    Jesus commands my destiny.
    No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
    Can ever pluck me from His hand;
    Till He returns or calls me home—
    Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.[4]

Don’t those lyrics just make you want to scream from the highest rooftop, “Jesus is beautiful! He is all I need!”?

Unfortunately, it often seems that i am alone in my desire to put ALL of the emphasis on the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, the fact that Christianity is ALL of grace, and the fact that He paid it ALL. If it weren’t for Jesus, i’d still be seeking ALL of my satisfaction elsewhere; i’d still be cursing God for giving me a stroke when i was two years old; i’d probably have ended up in jail for my formerly apathetic attitude toward the sin in my life. But because of Jesus—and nothing i did—i have life and freedom and increasing godliness, increasing love for God, and increasing levels of contentment.

But i will never be content with hearing about what Christ has done. How can someone ever get enough of that message?

According to our text today, even Jesus was not too good to preach the gospel.

Today’s Text

Mark writes, “And after John was given over, Jesus went into Galilee preaching the gospel of God and saying, ‘The time has been fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has drawn near: repent and believe in the gospel!’”

Where we’ve been…

The last time we were together in Mark’s gospel, we saw John. He baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. Then Jesus went away to be tempted for forty days. Now, one verse later we read, “After John was given over.”

Simply put, he was arrested. Mark 6 will tell that whole story so i will save it until Mark wanted us to know it. But here it only says, “John was given over.”

Who gave him over?

This is why your English teacher takes red pens to your papers when you use passive voice. It’s weak writing. It would be much stronger, active writing to tell us who handed John over. Which sentence sounds better:

  • “The book was read by me.” (passive voice)
  • “I read the book.” (active voice)

The second is easier to read, it is punchier, and it propels the action forward instead of backing up to explain where the action came from.

However, the biblical writers are no fools. While they might fail our modern English classes, it doesn’t matter because they didn’t write in English. Also, they wrote exactly what God wanted them to write. If Jesus can prove resurrection from the present tense verb “I am the God of Abraham …” in Exodus 3:6 (cf. Mark 12:26-27), then there is a reason why Mark uses a passive phrase in 1:14.

God was the agent who handed John over. But why did He hand John over?

John’s mission had come to an end. It was time for the gospel to appear.

Jesus Enters the Scene (1:14)

Jesus preaches the gospel. The is the first task of His public ministry. In Mark 1:14b, Mark writes, “Jesus went into Galilee preaching the gospel of God.”

There is so much that could be said on this verse. I’ll limit myself to answering three questions. First, why does Jesus come in preaching the gospel? Second, what does any of this have to do with the fact that John was given over? Third, what is the gospel?

Jesus conquered Satan in Satan’s first assault

First, why does He come in preaching the gospel?

Jesus can burst on the scene preaching the gospel because He just emerged from the wilderness victorious over Satan. The desert was by no means his final temptation, but He stood firm against Satan’s assault. When Adam was tempted the first time, he fell. Jesus stood strong. Satan will try, and Jesus will be tempted, but Jesus never succumbs to Satan’s temptations. This is why He can proclaim the gospel. Satan’s doom is sure. Satan cannot touch this Man.

And there is grace for us in this truth. We are all descended from Adam physically. When we are tempted, we will often fall. However, if we believe the gospel and trust Christ—the victorious One—His victory counts for us, and God will see us as having lived the perfect life Jesus lived. This is the gospel!

Jesus is the Greater One

Second, what does any of this have to do with the fact that John was given over?

John proclaimed the coming of the greater One. Now that the greater One is here, John’s work is over. John’s mission was declared in Mark 1:2-3. “Behold, I am sending My messenger before Your presence who will prepare the way for you. A voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight His paths’” (emphasis added). As is clear in these verses, John was preparing the way for God. When Jesus comes on the scene “preaching the gospel of God,” He is able to preach the gospel of God because He is God. He knows God’s gospel because He brought it from God.

This is why the New Testament writers often refer to the gospel as a mystery in former ages.

  • Romans 16:25 (HCSB)
    Now to Him who has power to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation about Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept silent for long ages
  • Ephesians 3:3-11 (HCSB)
    The mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have briefly written above. By reading this you are able to understand my insight about the mystery of the Messiah. This was not made known to people in other generations as it is now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and partners of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I was made a servant of this ⌊gospel⌋ by the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of His power. This grace was given to me—the least of all the saints—to proclaim to the Gentiles the incalculable riches of the Messiah, and to shed light for all about the administration of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things. This is so God’s multi-faceted wisdom may now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavens. This is according to His eternal purpose accomplished in the Messiah, Jesus our Lord.
  • Colossians 1:25-28 (HCSB)
    I have become its servant, according to God’s administration that was given to me for you, to make God’s message fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to His saints. God wanted to make known among the Gentiles the glorious wealth of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

The gospel is the mystery. John’s gospel message was that someone better is coming. In Jesus, God Himself has come. Jesus says as much Himself in Luke 4:16-21.

Luke 4:16-21 (HCSB)
He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. As usual, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to Him, and unrolling the scroll, He found the place where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. And the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on Him. He began by saying to them, “Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.”

There is no one better! There is no better news! Jesus was the first one to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ explicitly.

We must not miss other aspects of the gospel (e.g., Gentile inclusion; praise God!), but the most straightforward understanding of the gospel is this: Jesus came to earth! Immanuel! God with us! Before Christ came there were hints of the gospel—as early as Genesis 3:15—but the mystery was not revealed until Mark 1:14.

Now that Jesus has revealed the gospel, we should seek out the gospel on every page of Scripture. Our interpretive question must be: “How does this point toward Christ?” Shai Linne—a Christian rapper—explained:

Y’all should be mindful of this devout thesis
All of the Bible is about Jesus
The Old Testament- Jesus Christ concealed
The New Testament- Jesus Christ revealed
This truth of the Lord- Christ boldly proclaimed this
In Luke 24 on the road to Emmaus
The law, the prophets and the teachings of Apostles
All of these point back to Jesus and the gospel[5]

The entirety of Jesus’ Ministry was Gospel

Third, what is the gospel?

In its purest form, the gospel is Jesus. The first four books of the New Testament are called “gospels” because they show us who Jesus was and what He did.

However, when we read Mark 1:14, it is important to note that while Jesus very likely came on the scene preaching the gospel of God, this preaching is what undergirded His entire ministry. It is placed here as an introduction and overview of the main thrust of Jesus’ preaching.

For preachers reading this:

There is no greater message you can preach. The gospel was not too good for Jesus. It should not be too good for you. Preach it! Watch God work in surprising ways when you make the gospel your sole focus! If you need a reminder, keep believing the gospel. Christ did the work. You cannot add to it. Stop trying. Preach Christ! He is the gospel! God with us. The better Adam. The one who gained victory over Satan. I could go on forever. The gospel is amazing. Let’s show this to the people in our churches by preaching it as if it’s incredible. Because it is!

Jesus Preached the Gospel (1:15)

Mark continues by explicitly defining the content of Jesus’ gospel. In Mark 1:15, we read, “And saying, ‘The time has been fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has drawn near: repent and believe the gospel!’”

The first thing to note here is how Jesus preached the gospel. “Saying.” The gospel requires words. It cannot be “lived.” It cannot be assumed. It must be spoken. Jesus spoke it. We must speak it as well.

There is something about Jesus’ speaking of the gospel that you must notice. Jesus gives two statements of fact, and He also gives two commands. There are two of each because they go together. Because the time has been fulfilled—because the time is NOW—repentance is mandatory. Because the kingdom of God has drawn near—because the kingdom is in our midst, even though we can’t see it—belief is necessary! From the moment that Jesus stepped on the scene 2,000 years ago until today, the time is now, and the kingdom of God is near. This is the gospel. It demands belief. And true belief implies repentance. One commentator writes,

No minister of an earthly sovereign would ever announce, “So and so has become king! If it pleases you, accept him as your king!” Such a blasé, noncommittal declaration certainly did not characterize the news of a Roman emperor’s ascension to the throne. The very announcement that so and so is king contains an implicit demand for submission. Jesus’ announcement that God is king contains the same absolute demand. The divine rule blazed abroad by Jesus, therefore, requires immediate human decision and commitment: repentance, submission to God’s reign, and trust that the incredible is taking place.[6]

Jesus came into time. Not only that. Jesus started preaching the gospel of God. This was the fulfillment of time. Even 2,000 years later Jesus has wholly altered our world. The distinctions BC and AD are proof that Jesus has changed time (even if we allow for BCE or CE, i call BCE, “Before Christ entered”).

Because Christ entered, He instituted His kingdom on earth. If you want to see His kingdom, find a Christian. A Christian is a citizen of Christ’s kingdom. This is why belief is so important for Christians. We don’t always see proof of Christ’s kingdom here; everything screams that the world is growing more and more opposed to God. Faith, belief, or trust helps the citizens of Christ’s kingdom look forward to the day when Christ’s kingdom will appear in physical form—the day Christ visibly reenters history (His Story).

When Christ says “repent,” it means “turn to Him with every part of your being.” It defines the intensity of the belief that is expected. Faith cannot be merely a mental assent to the claims of Jesus. True belief requires a turning to Christ. Whereas a person used to be opposed to God and the things that please God, now a person desires nothing more than to seek God and discover what pleases God.

While a true believer will desire to stop sinning, that is not the most important aspect behind the word “repent.” If you struggle with sin, it does not mean that you have not repented. If you give in to temptations, it does not mean that you have not repented. Repentance is shown by whether or not it bothers you when you sin. If your sin doesn’t even cause you to shake your head in frustration, then you should question your salvation. Repentance is shown by whether your sin leads you to cling more tightly to Christ. If your sin results in you pursuing even more sin, then you should question your salvation.

Are you repenting?
Are you believing?

A slave is not greater than his MASTER

I mentioned at the beginning that Mark doesn’t actually say that Jesus’ ministry started after John was arrested. It actually says that it started, “after John was given over.” The word translated “given over” is repeatedly translated as “betrayed” in Mark’s gospel, and it usually refers to the precursor to Jesus’ death. John preached the gospel because he preached the coming of Jesus. Jesus Himself is the gospel. John was “given over” in the same way as Jesus. A slave is not greater than his Master.

If Jesus preached the gospel as the primary message of His ministry, then His followers have no excuse not to preach it. Just as it was the central component of Jesus’ preaching ministry, we are not better than our Master. Whether we are mere disciples of Christ carrying the Great Commission or whether we are pastors of churches, we must vocally, explicitly, boldly preach the gospel of  Christ. We cannot ever get beyond the Gospel. The Kingdom of God has drawn near. Faith gets us into it. There is no better news!

In fact, the reason why Jesus was eventually “given over” to be crucified was so that He could die in our place. He lived a perfect life, victorious over Satan’s temptations, and He faced the wrath of God against sin on the cross. When we place our faith in Him, we are saying, “I want Jesus to cover me, so I don’t have to face God’s wrath in hell.” But true faith leads to a commitment to God. You commit yourself to someone who saves you from death. It’s not enough to say, “I believe You died, but it won’t change anything about my life.” That’s not real faith (let alone real repentance).

I beg you today to repent and believe the gospel!

And if you’ve already believed, i encourage you to continue believing and repenting, looking forward to the day when Christ brings His kingdom to earth.

Come, Lord Jesus!

In this with you.

Soli Deo Gloria
Solus Christus
Sola Fide
Sola Gratia
Sola Scriptura

The next post can be found here.

Thanks for reading.

 

[1] “Joy to the World”
[2] “Nothing But the Blood”
[3] “Hallelujah! What a Savior”
[4] “In Christ Alone,” words and music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend, © 2002 thankyou music.
[5] Shai Linne, “Expository Preaching,” The Church: Called & Collected (Lamp Mode Recordings, 2011), MP3.
[6] Garland, David E.. Mark (The NIV Application Commentary Book 2) (p. 60). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

 

 

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