Day 20—The Kingdom of God Has Come Near
Read Mark 1:1–20
The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”—
“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’ ”
And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
When we read these words that begin Mark’s Gospel, it’s impossible not to hear echoes of what we’ve been reading so far this month in the Old Testament—a way is being prepared for the Lord, a Son is being announced, and the promised kingdom of God has arrived. This central message of Jesus—that the kingdom of God has arrived—doesn’t strike our ears in the same way when we don’t know the story of the Israelites and the promises God made to them over many generations. But when we have the Israelites in mind, we see how stunning Jesus’ message must have been. The day had finally come and God’s promises were being fulfilled right before their eyes in a man who walked among them named Jesus.
In our time—over 2,000 years after Jesus walked the earth—we recognize that God’s kingdom has not fully come. Our world is still broken, sinful, and disobedient to the ways of God. But Jesus inaugurated God’s kingdom. As scholars explain: we live in an “in-between time.” The kingdom is now—Jesus is on the throne and God is with us and among us in the Holy Spirit, who indwells all those who believe in Jesus—and simultaneously, the kingdom is yet to come.
• What echoes of the Old Testament story do you see in today’s passage, or in other places in the Gospels? What impact does seeing those echoes have on your faith?
• How does Jesus’ announcement that the kingdom of God has come near resonate with you differently knowing the long history of the Israelites and God’s promises to them?
• What does today’s passage reveal to you about God?
Father in heaven, thank You for opening my eyes to the story of Your people so that I can understand the good news of Jesus even more deeply and fully. I can’t imagine being there when Jesus announced the arrival of the kingdom. Fill me with the joy and soul-satisfaction that the arrival and coming of Your kingdom would have stirred in the Jews of Jesus’ day. Give me a way to explain this good news to others with words that convey the beauty and hope of Jesus’ message. Amen.