THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS NEAR
"'The time has come,' he said, 'The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good
Mark introduces Jesus as the Messiah servant who came to serve sinners through his suffering on the cross and redeem them to become the children of God. He shows how Jesus trained his disciples to become future gospel workers for world evangelization. The key verse of Mark’s gospel is 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Today’s passage is the introduction of Mark’s gospel and the preparation for Jesus’ public ministry. May God give us spiritual insight to know Jesus so that we may follow him as his disciples! I pray that God may bless Mark’s gospel study abundantly to prepare the way of Jesus for campus students.
PART I. THE PREPARATION OF JESUS’ PUBLIC MINISTRY (1-13)
Look at verse 1. “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” The opening verse stands as the book’s title and theme. The gospel is the good news from God. What kind of good news is it? It is the proclamation of God’s power through Jesus Christ to save all who believe. The gospel is also about Jesus, the Savior and Christ, the Messiah. The title “Son of God” points to Jesus’ unique relationship to God. He is a man (Jesus) and God’s special agent (Messiah), but he is also fully divine. Jesus as the Son of God is able to deliver men from the power of Satan and to restore the kingdom of God to them. Now, let’s look at John the Baptist who prepared the way of Jesus as the forerunner.
There are three events to prepare for Jesus’ public ministry in this passage-the ministry of John the Baptist (2-8), Jesus’ baptism (9-11), and Jesus’ temptation (12-13) Let’s examine the ministry of John the Baptist first. Look at verses 2-3. "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 desert, "Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him."'" Mark began by putting his account in its proper scriptural context using Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3 as the source of John’s ministry. The prophecy provides the authenticity of John’s ministry as God’s plan. God called John as the forerunner of Jesus from the beginning. John was a voice urging the nation of Israel to prepare the way for the Lord (Jesus) and to make straight paths for him (Jesus). In the ancient times when the king passed by, his bodyguard went ahead and prepared the way by saying, “Make way! Make way! The king is coming.” John’s role was to prepare our hearts to accept King Jesus as our Savior in advance.
What did John do as the forerunner of the Messiah? As was prophesied, he prepared for Jesus' gospel work. How? He prepared the way by preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (4). John said to the people who came to him, "Repent!" The core message of John and Jesus is ‘repent.” In this case, "repent" meant, "Prepare your hearts to accept Jesus as the Savior of the world." If they repented, John baptized them with water. It was nothing but the expression of cleansing, so that they might be ready to receive Jesus' baptism of the Holy Spirit for the cleansing of their sins. We learn that repentance is the prerequisite to receive the forgiveness of sins. What is the meaning of repentance? It is not an emotional feeling about our mistakes and failures. It means a deliberate change of mind resulting in a change of direction in thought and behavior. (Matt. 3:8)
How did the people respond when John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins? Look at verse 5. "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’s message of repentance had great impact on all areas of Judea and Jerusalem. We can imagine a continual procession of people who kept going out to hear John’s preaching and to be baptized by him. People were willing to admit their sins and turn to God in order to prepare for the coming Messiah. These days many preachers do not proclaim the message of repentance because it violates people’s privacy. Rather, they preach the message of prosperity and false security. I saw a book in the Adventist book store titled, “Pray and grow rich with it.” It sounds good and attractive. When we hear this kind of message, we feel good and rich. But the problem is that it does not solve our sin problem. People are tormented and depressed due to their sin problem. They need to hear the message of repentance so that they may receive the forgiveness of their sins. It is amazing that John’s ministry grew in number because John did not please people’s itching ears but he delivered the hard message of repentance. The best gift we expect from God is not material blessings but the forgiveness of our sins through our confession and repentance.
What was John’s lifestyle as a prophet? Look
at verse 6. "John wore clothing made of camel's hair, with a leather belt
around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey." John the Baptist
lived in a most simple way as a servant of God. According to Luke 1:80 says,
“And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert
until he appeared publicly to Israel.” Though he was a preacher’s kid, he did
not live in the comfort of his parent’s protection but lived in the desert. As
a result, he became strong in spirit. His parents wished to keep him at their
home but they allowed him to live in the desert to hear the voice of God. They
cared about his spiritual life more than physical comfort. John’s message and
his lifestyle were identical. He did not live a double life. He ate locusts
and wild honey, the common diet in the desert regions. He wore a camel's hair
garment, which served as clothing by day and as a blanket by night. He did not
spend a lot of time buying his food in the supermarket and buying his clothes
in the department stores. He devoted his life to fulfill God’s mission given to
him. He had a mission-centered life. His life itself was a message to the
What was the content of his message? (7-8). Look at verse 7. "And this was his message: 'After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.'" John emphasized the importance of the Coming One and showed his own humility by declaring that he was not worthy to stoop down and untie the thongs used to fasten his sandals. John the Baptist also testified that Jesus is God who baptizes people with the Holy Spirit. Look at verse 8. "I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." John admitted that he was a mere man who could only baptize people with water for ceremonial cleansing, but John proclaimed that Jesus is God who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. John’s baptism with water was limited and preparatory. But Jesus’ baptism with the Holy Spirit means the life-giving Spirit. The Holy Spirit will give us the new birth into the Kingdom of God. God called us to become Bible teachers to introduce Jesus to many students. Our Bible study must always point to Jesus as John did.
Now, Mark suddenly introduces Jesus. How did Jesus prepare his public ministry? Jesus first prepared his ministry by receiving baptism from John the Baptist (9-11). Look at verse 9. "At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan." Jesus' baptism by John was not a baptism of repentance, for he was sinless (Heb 4:15). Then why did Jesus receive John's baptism? Jesus received John's baptism in order to take over John's work so as to verify that God's work of salvation is being continued. Jesus could have ignored the work of John and started his own work newly. But he humbly received baptism from John in order to succeed him in God's redemptive work and history. Jesus is truly obedient to God and humble to men. There is no one-man show in God's work and history. God's work can be done when all people work together in God.
Most importantly, Jesus' baptism by John was the inauguration ceremony of the Messiah. Look at verses 10, 11. "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.'" We see two important spiritual lessons from this passage. First, God equipped Jesus with the Holy Spirit. The work of God is through the Holy Spirit. It is not against flesh and blood. It is against the evil spirit under the power of Satan. Second, God confirmed that Jesus is the Son of God. The voice of God from heaven reaffirmed the verse that Jesus is the Son of God once again. Jesus was approved by his Father and empowered by the Spirit. All three persons of the Trinity were present at Jesus’ inauguration. In order to serve God, we must be recognized by God and called by Jesus and equipped by the Spirit. This can be achieved through personal Bible study and prayers and proclamation of the gospel.
What was his next preparation to begin his gospel work? (12-13). Look at verses 12-13. "At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him." Jesus had to fight with Satan before he began his public ministry. It was because the first man, Adam, was defeated by Satan's temptation, and then the world was cursed. Therefore, the first thing Jesus had to do was to challenge Satan, who had defeated Adam. In order to fight against Satan, Jesus did not use
his ability, even though he is the Son of God. Jesus depended totally on God through 40 days of fasting prayer. How many days can we fast? Someone thinks that he can fast only one day. Fasting is not an easy thing because we live in a world where everything goes by eating schedule. In order to overcome Satan’s temptation, we must be willing to fast when we have urgent spiritual issues. Jesus said in Mark 9:29, “He replied, ‘This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.’” Prayer and fasting give us the spiritual power to overcome Satan’s temptation. When Jesus went out into the desert, the battle with Satan was not a battle quickly won. This battle lasted forty days—960 long hours. In this we learn that our mission life is a spiritual battle with Satan. Verse 13b says that Jesus was with the wild animals. The power of Satan seemed to be prevailing. Jesus did all his best and was at the point of falling to the ground. At that moment, God helped him through his angels to overcome the temptation of Satan. Here we learn that we should not give up fighting against Satan to the end.
PART II JESUS BEGINS HIS EARTHLY
MESSIANIC MINISTRY (14-20)
This passage shows how Jesus began his early Galilean ministry. (14-15). Look at verse 14. "After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God." Jesus began his gospel ministry when evil men beheaded the righteous (Mk 6:18, 19, 26-29). The times were so evil that it was a most unlikely time for anyone to start any work, much less start gospel work. It was not a favorable time. But Jesus began his gospel work in that terrible situation. Jesus teaches us here that we can do gospel work in any circumstance by faith. We see the spiritual decline in America. Christians are becoming minorities. Campus students reject the Bible study. They believe in themselves. Everyone seems to do whatever they fit best. There seems to be no moral values. But this is the best time to begin the gospel work. Students are tired and frustrated. They are thirsty and hungry for God’s word. They are looking for the good shepherd who will give them life and direction. It is time to harvest souls in America. I pray that God may open our spiritual eyes to see the fields ripe for harvest. Galilee was the most unlikely place to start the gospel because it was despised and rejected by the world. But Jesus called most of his disciples from Galilee. God’s work is possible in any place. College Park is a boring town and the gospel work seems to be impossible. It is an unlikely place but the gospel work is possible here. We see God’s opportunity to raise up many spiritual leaders from College Park. It will be a world mission headquarters where many missionaries will be sent out to all different countries in God’s time.
What was Jesus' message when he began his gospel work? Look at verse 15. "'The time has come,' he said. 'The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!'" In this key verse we find two declarations and two commands. The first declaration, the time has come, signals the fulfillment of the Old Testament promise. God promised to send the Messiah to save the world through the OT prophets. Finally, God’s appointed time to fulfill his long-waited promise has arrived. Gal. 4:4 says, “But when the time has fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” The second declaration, the kingdom of is near, presents a key feature of Jesus message. “Kingdom” (basileia) means “kingship” or ‘royal rule.” “The kingdom of God” refers to God’s sovereign activity of ruling over his Creation. At that time the Jews were suffering under Roman rule as a Roman colony. According to the OT prophecy based on Isa. 11:1-9), the Jews were expecting a future messianic kingdom to be established on earth. (Acts 1:6) They expected the political kingdom of Israel but Jesus declared that God’s rule is near. Jesus, the kingdom of God was present among them. This was good news from God. Due to Adam’s sin, the kingdom of God was lost. But Jesus restored the kingdom of God to all men. “Your kingdom come” (Luke 11:2) was a part of the Lord’s prayer. The kingdom of God has two aspects, both centering in Jesus. First, it is here through Jesus as a spiritual reality. Second, it is still future when God’s rule will be openly established on earth at Jesus’ second. At that time Jesus’ kingdom will be the eternal kingdom. There are two kingdoms in this world-the kingdom of Satan and the kingdom of God. Since Adam’s disobedience, Satan ruled the world with his lies. Satan gave men false hope and false security and false promise. But Jesus came to end Satan’s rule and begin God’s rule. The kingdom of this world became the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is a living hope for all humankind. We have inheritance in the kingdom of God when we enter into God’s rule. We will enjoy many privileges as the citizens of the kingdom of God. We have access to God by his grace and claim God’s blessings. We will enjoy eternal security in God.
How can we
inherit the kingdom of God Jesus promised? There are two sets of command,
“Repent and believe the good news!” Repentance and faith are bound together in
one piece. We must stop our lives of sin and turn our hearts to God. There are
many good examples of men and women who left behind their old life believing in
the promise of Jesus for a new life. Levi the tax collector repented by
changing his me-centered selfish life to God-centered sacrificial life. It
resulted in a change of his life direction to become St. Matthew. In our
ministry, Tony Pham, the brother of missionary candidate Tommy, changed his
life direction from darkness to light of Jesus through 1 to 1 Bible study
resulting in a change of his future life. He became a faithful member of the
Mustard Seed fellowship and registered for the Purdue conference fully. I pray
that we all may confess our sins through our sincere testimonies and receive
the gracious gift of forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all
unrighteousness.” What an assurance we have from God! We can have fellowship
with God through our testimony writings each week.
Right after his summary message, Jesus began to call the members of his kingdom. Jesus began his work in Galilee. (16-20).At the beginning of his gospel work, Jesus chose his disciples. Look at verse 16. "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.” Simon and Andrew were fishermen by trade. They were men of action. They were experts in catching. They were hardworking blue color workers. Jesus loves men and women of action. Jesus saw their potential to become his followers. Jesus had vision for them. So he called them. Look at verse 17. 'Come, follow me,' Jesus said, 'and I will make you fishers of men.'" “Come after me” was his command. Unlike college professors, Jesus did not sit at his office but went out to find his followers. Jesus took the initiative and called his followers. We are praying to invite one friend to Purdue international conference. What should we do? Wait for one student to come miraculously or go out to campus to invite one student. Which one is better? We need to take the initiative to find one student. The calling included Jesus’ promise: “and I will make you fishers of men.” This means that Jesus would train and equip them to share his task to become Bible teachers for all mankind. Jesus' calling fishermen as his disciples seemed to be too weak compared with the power of this world. But from the beginning of his gospel work, Jesus called disciples from among fishermen and ordinary men and raised them as future spiritual leaders. Jesus called them to become the kingdom workers. To raise several men would not seem to change world history much. But Jesus believed that God would change the world through them. Jesus should be our standard and principle.
What was their response to Jesus' calling? At once Simon and Andrew left their nets and followed Jesus. They did not calculate but trusted in Jesus. They responded at once. They did not delay their decision. They committed their lives to God. Look at verse 20. "Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him." James and John left their old way of life like fishing boat and nets and prior claims like their father and the hired men and followed Jesus as disciples. Following Jesus requires deep commitment and learning mind. When Jesus determined to raise disciples, God allowed him several people as his disciples. May God help us to have the kingdom of God through repentance and faith and serve others with the message, "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" May God bless us to accept the kingdom of God with repentance and faith. Let’s read the key verse 15.