The Kingdom of God is at Hand, So…
The first words of Jesus (red letters) in the Gospel of Mark are, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel (v. 15).” I think if we are honest, most of us hear the word “repent” with an echo of “you wretched sinner.” Undoubtedly, it takes God’s Amazing Grace to save “a wretch like me.” But should repentance in God’s kingdom always carry the connotation of guilt, shame, and scorn? I will argue, not in the way we often think of it.
Repentance is not punitive. Hell and sin’s natural consequences are punishment for sin not the opportunity to repent. “Repent” is a word we should associate with grace more than law. The law is concerned only with actions, penalties. and justice. The condition of one’s heart in the moments after sinning is largely inconsequential to the law.
APPLICATION: Our attitude towards repentance (most likely) comes from the practice of repentance and forgiveness in our homes (current and childhood). If we (and our children) are to hear the Gospel call, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel (v. 15)” as the good news it truly is, then we must enact repentance and forgiveness as the Bible portrays them. If you would like to learn more about this, I invite you to read the Bible study on Psalm 51 and the blog on the role of humility in a Christian marriage.
The Role of Peter in the Gospel of Mark
If you are going to follow the Gospel of Mark, then you must get to know Peter. Mark bailed on Paul in his first missionary journey and was given a second chance by Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41). Later Mark winds up in Rome and records many of the sermons of Peter. It is upon Peter’s apostolic authority that the Gospel of Mark is written.
Consider this quote from second century author Irenaeus about where we got the four Gospels:
Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned upon his breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia (as quoted on page 72 in Classical Reading in Christian Apologetics A.D. 100-1800 edited by L. Russ Bush; emphasis added).
APPLICATION: In the course of this Gospel we will see and hear much from Peter. In this passage he is the first disciple mentioned (v. 16) and it is his mother-in-law who was healed (v. 30-31). As we study Mark together in the coming weeks we will not only learn about Jesus, but how to give testimony about Jesus’ activity in our life without making ourselves the focal point. To foreshadow this point observe what is missing from Mark 6:45-52 that is recorded in Matthew 14:22-33.
Teaching With Authority!
What is it that stood out about Jesus’ teaching? Charisma? Eloquence? Insight? Breadth? Humor? No, it was none of these. What stood out was the authority. Jesus did not talk about what people might do, could do, or offer elaborate context for Old Testament passages. Jesus spoke about what was and what must be done in response to it. Because it had been over 500 years since the last recorded prophet in Israel this shocked people.
We all have a primary authority figure in our life. What made Jesus so divisive is that you could not follow His teaching without Him becoming the ultimate authority (“Lord”) in your life. Jesus managed to be all or nothing without his personality being what turned people away. Many rejected His message, but they could not raise a complaint to His character or treatment of others.
From this I think it most wise for us to consider two sets of questions:
First, how do I know if I am living submitted to Christ’s authority?
- When you are pressed for time or money what gets cut last (or first)?
- When you worry, whose response do you consider most frequently?
- What do you study most frequently and with natural interest?
- Do you assume God agrees with your common sense or consult His Word?
- Are you humble enough to ask real life questions to more mature believers?
Second, how would I know if I have replaced Christ’s authority in the life of someone else?
- Does someone close to you fear crossing your “pet peeves”?
- Are people comfortable giving their opinion if it differs from yours?
- Do those close to you consistently show traits of insecurity?
- When you reference Scripture do you listen if someone brings up other passages that might have greater relevance to the situation or confront sin in your heart?
Hopefully this assists you in living under the authority of Christ in a way that is healthy and balanced.
Introduction to the “Living Our Faith” series.