Jesus Begins His Ministry
Have you ever heard a history making, life-changing announcement? I’ll never forget being in Mr. Shepherd’s 2nd hour 8th grade science class at Page Middle School when the announcement came over the PA that the school was on lockdown. It was September 11, 2001. I think about the life-changing declarations I’ve experienced. I remember my baptism. That act was a public declaration that I was a member of the New Covenant. I remember standing right here on this platform May 16, 2009 when the preacher announced, “I now pronounce you man and wife, you may kiss the bride.” That announcement changed my life. I remember being in Owensboro Hospital on July 27, 2011. Bethany was giving birth and we kept the gender a surprise. Then the announcement came, “it’s a boy!” I’ll never forget graduating last May. Standing on the lawn at Southern Seminary when they called my name to walk across the platform and Dr. Al Mohler, one of my theological heroes, shook my hand, looked me in the eye, and said, “congratulations, Dr. Loginow.”
We all have those moments – good and bad. The announcement of a message that forever alters your life. And that’s what Mark 1.14-15 is all about, a history making, life-changing announcement. Having moved through the major moments at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry: his baptism and temptation, now we’re off and running. Mark formally begins the three-year ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ with these 2 verses. Jesus begins his ministry to reveal he is the King who is headed to the cross.
Mark begins Jesus’ ministry by reintroducing John the baptizer. Verse 14 starts now after John was arrested. We haven’t seen John since he baptized Jesus and now Mark mentions him in passing. Because he’s writing decades after these events, Mark assumes everyone knows that John was arrested and executed, though he doesn’t tell that story until chapter 6. For now he just nods at it, and he does so for a few reasons.
First he’s cluing us in that John was the forerunner to Jesus not only in his message, but also in his martyrdom. John was arrested. The word in Greek is παραδοθῆναι, which means “handed over.” It’s the same word that Mark will use of Jesus when he’s handed over by Judas, and then the Jews. What has happened to John will happen to Jesus. He will be wrongfully arrested and murdered.
Second, we’re reminded of the setting for the inauguration of Jesus’ public ministry. It begins in the midst of suffering. Here again we see Mark identifying Jesus with those early Christians who were suffering persecution. And the word for us this morning is that Jesus is with us in our suffering. Christianity doesn’t exist in a vacuum of positive spiritual experiences. Often times we will experience joy followed by, or in the midst of, suffering. Jesus’ baptism was followed by his temptation. Jesus’ ministry is preceded by John’s arrest. We see it in the life of the church. A young couple gets married, someone else finds out he or she has cancer. A baby is born, an elderly saint dies. Life isn’t church camp, or a Christian retreat. Life is joy and sorrow, weddings and funerals, community and loneliness.
Thanks be to God that verse 14 doesn’t end there. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God. This October marks 10 years for me as a full time pastor. Two days ago I began my 7th year as one of your pastors. October 2009 feels like yesterday and it also feels like 1,000,000 years ago. Bethany and I went into Bucksnort, Hancock County, KY proclaiming the gospel where we thought God was leading us. Here we see the beginning of Jesus’ three-year public ministry.
Jesus came into Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God. The Bible is teaching us an important kingdom principle here, that God often moves slower, through ordinary means of grace, than we may want. When we first meet Jesus in Mark’s Gospel he’s not exorcising demons, feeding thousands, or miraculously healing, though he will do those things. Jesus doesn’t show up on earth and immediately go to the cross. Jesus gets baptized and he preaches. This is a healthy reminder to us that the Kingdom of God often advances through the ordinary means of grace that Jesus left us – preaching, the waters of baptism, the bread and wine of the Eucharist. May CCC be faithful in the small often-unnoticed things, and trust God to do his will.
Jesus shows up proclaiming the gospel. The word is εὐαγγέλιον, which means “good news.” It’s a combination of the word αγγέλιον, which is derivative of the announcer of news, and εὐ, which is the prefix that means “joy.” It literally means “joyful news.” We’ve rightfully come to identify the word “gospel” with the good news of Jesus, but in Jesus’ day it didn’t have the religious currency that it now does. εὐαγγέλιον referred to history-making, life-shaping news, as opposed to daily news.
In Jesus’ day there was a Roman inscription that read, “The beginning of the εὐαγγέλιον of Caesar Augustus” It was the story of the birth of the Roman Empire. When the Greeks defeated the Persian Empire they sent evangelists to announce, “We have fought for you and we have won. You are no longer slaves, but free!” So when 1st century Christians heard that Jesus was proclaiming the εὐαγγέλιον they didn’t imagine a televangelist giving an alter call, they pictured a king who just defeated the enemy and freed the slaves.
But this isn’t any εὐαγγέλιον that Jesus is proclaiming; it’s the εὐαγγέλιον of God. Though it is used in the rest of the NT, this is the only time this phrase is used in the Gospels. This is the good news that God’s King has defeated the enemy and freed the slaves. This is the message that Jesus has come to preach and the mission he’s come to fulfill.
Verse 15 fills out our understanding of the gospel of God. Jesus says the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. The time is fulfilled. Ever since the garden, God has providentially worked in time to prepare the world for his Son. The story of the OT is the story of God’s people waiting for the serpent-crushing king. Every story in the OT whispered Jesus’ name. But now the time is fulfilled. The word fulfilled is a perfect tense verb, which means something happened with lasting effect even until now. So for example, God called Kevin McGuire to be our pastor 24 years ago. That’s something that happened 24 years ago, but is still true today.
When Jesus says the time is fulfilled he’s saying that everything Israel had been waiting for is fulfilled in him. It was true with his life and it’s still true today. Every promise that was made in the OT is fulfilled in his life, death, and resurrection. The Kingdom of God is at hand. The Kingdom of God – God’s people in God’s place, under God’s blessing and rule – has found its goal in Jesus Christ. There is no promise unfulfilled. All the promises of God find their ‘yes’ in Jesus; he is the amen of God (2 Cor 1.20).
We can’t divorce Jesus’ sermon from his suffering. The fulfillment of time, the Kingdom at hand, is realized in Jesus’ death and resurrection. That’s the story Mark’s telling. It’s of the King’s cross. The victory that has been won to set us free is the victory over Satan, sin, and death. We caught a glimpse of it at Jesus’ temptation. Jesus came to live the sinless life, die the substitutionary death, and to resurrect in power. This is the good news. This is the gospel. This is the history making, life-changing news.
And Jesus doesn’t simply announce the good news, but he then calls for response. Both elements are crucial, and they must be in the right order. Jesus announces the gospel; then and only then does he command us to repent and believe in the gospel. Christianity isn’t good advice or good behavior; Christianity is most fundamentally good news. But it is not run-of-the-mill good news; it’s life-changing, history making good news.
When the King announces that the enemy has been defeated and that you’re no longer a slave, what is our response but to bow down and serve the one who’s freed us? We turn from our former ways. What slave would rather stay with their demonic captor? We turn from that old worldview and we believe in the good news. We trust that Jesus won the victory on our behalf. Jesus did what we couldn’t do for ourselves. Just took our sin and incurred the just wrath of God on the cross. In turn he gave us his righteousness.
This is the call of the gospel that goes out this morning. Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, he was buried, and he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Or to quote Jesus from Mark 1.14-15, the first words that Jesus speaks in the book, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
This isn’t just any good news. This is history making, life-changing good news. This is the declaration that Jesus Christ defeated Satan, sin, and death on our behalf and that we’ve been set free. If the Son has set you free, you are free indeed. Think about all other those life-changing announcements that you’ve experienced, some good, some bad. Have you believed the good news? Have you made the declaration that Spencer and Aaron made this morning? “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”