“We are not sent into the pulpit to show our wit and eloquence, but to set the consciences of men on fire.” -Solomon Stoddard
Now the eternal Word of God made flesh begins His ministry of words. Let’s break this point out into 4 parts: the purpose of His preaching, the timing of His preaching, the location of His preaching and the Message He preached.
First ,the purpose of His preaching. That was His purpose in coming: to preach. It wasn’t to do miracles, to cause a political revolution, to solve social problems, to right all the wrongs going on in the world or to alleviate all the suffering in the world. It was to preach. God is a God who speaks, which He points out often times in contrast with mute, dumb idols “like a scarecrow in a melon patch their idols cannot speak; No one is like you O Lord; you are Great!” (Jer. 10:5, 6) Hebrews 1:1 says, “In the past God spoke through our forefathers at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son” Just like all prophets before Him He was sent by God to proclaim the words of God. Except Jesus was unique among all the prophets in that He was the ultimate fulfillment of the office of Prophet – He was preaching the words of God while at the same time He was that God. The ministry of Jesus is about words – the words of God. This means that if God’s purpose is to speak His intent is that we listen. Do you listen?
Proclaiming. Jesus came to proclaim. The work of the Church is to proclaim. Silence is Satan’s success. The Spirit’s power is seen in proclaiming, speaking, preaching, declaring, heralding. Prophets, apostles, preachers, teachers. God speaks, thus, His servants speak.
Second, notice the timing of the Jesus’ preaching career: it starts after John the Baptist is imprisoned. John was imprisoned by King Herod because John rebuked the king for unlawfully marrying his brother’s wife (Mk. 6:17-27).
Application: Everything in its turn: Jesus’ preaching would succeed the career of John the Baptist. He was “the One coming after” John.
Third, observe the location of the beginning of His preaching: Galilee. This is the northern region where cities like Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown are located. It was also where the Sea of Galilee was located (aka “The Sea of Tiberius or the Sea of Gennessaret). Around this sea in Galilee were cities you may be familiar with such as Capernaeum, Bethsaida and Tiberius. Much of Jesus’ ministry took place in this area, and, his first disciples were called from this location, as we’ll soon see.
Now, my thoughts drifted towards the question: why didn’t Jesus begin preaching in Jerusalem? Whatever the reason, His ministry we know would end there with His crucifixion. Of course, after His resurrection His disciples were instructed to meet Him in Galilee. There they would receive the Great Commission.
Whatever the reason, we ought to remember that every breath and every step of Jesus was planned by His Father. Not one moment, one word, one step, one day was wasted. Everything about Jesus was in total devotion to the will of God for His life. God was in control: the timing, the location, the purpose – all of it.
Fourth, we notice the message of Jesus’ preaching. What was the content of His message? Mark gives us a summary. Let’s observe FOUR main aspects of our Lord’s preaching message.
First, He said He preached the Good News of God. This is the first mention of the Good News in Mark, and, it won’t be mentioned again until the end, in Mark 16:15. Here it is mentioned at the outset of Jesus’ ministry, at the end it is mentioned at the outset of the Great Commission given to the Apostles.
God’s word is Good News. Jesus came with beautiful feet (Rom. 10:15) as the messenger of God’s Good News. This good news includes the eternal salvation offered to man, the grace and mercy of God towards repentant and believing sinners, the justice of God that will come on all evil and wicked people at the end, the establishment of everlasting righteousness on earth, the rule of God forever, and more. In other words this is the hope of man, that God has not abandoned man in his misery, in his evil, in his darkness. But a light has burst upon this world from heaven.
Second, He said the time had come. The eternal One, outside of time, untouched by it, not subject to its effects, is saying that the time had come. God’s pre-planned timetable is happening. We as readers, just like Jesus’ hearers, need to understand there is a divinely appointed moment arriving with the appearance of Jesus on earth. Jesus would appear in God’s timing (Gal. 4:4). He would launch His ministry in God’s timing. He would go and speak and act each day in God’s timing. He would die in God’s timing (“my hour has not yet come”, “my hour has come”). The eternal Creator of time controls everything in His time.
Third, He said the Kingdom of God was near. It was near because the King of God’s Kingdom was right there in their presence. When I graduated high school I went to Aquinas College to play baseball. Earlier in the spring while in my last high school baseball season the coach for Aquinas showed up. I didn’t know him. But, someone told me, “Hey, Aquinas is here”. Scouts or coaches for different colleges would show up at games to see if there was any talent. When they arrived we’d say, “Ferris is here”, or, “Grand Valley” is here. Now, the college didn’t move buildings to the baseball field we were at. That’s silly. There was “Someone” from Ferris, or GVSU, or Aquinas who showed up. They represented the college. They had the power to connect you with that college: athletic scholarships!
IT’s the same with Jesus. The kingdom wasn’t actually moved from heaven down to earth. The kingdom of God was being represented. Someone – the ultimate Someone – was there in the flesh. The King of that kingdom was standing right there, representing that kingdom of God, having the power to give people entrance into it. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me” He said. Even more so: He was calling people to enter it.
Without opening this up into a full-blown study right now let’s just summarize the two aspects of this kingdom. First, the kingdom of God has meaning for individuals. That is, individuals who right now turn to Christ and believe on Him become personal citizens of this kingdom (Php. 3:20). It’s not a kingdom that is on earth right now, functioning over any territory (Jn. 18:36-37). The territory is over the lives of individuals who submit in faith to Jesus as Lord. Each individual, voluntarily choosing God over this world, righteousness over unrighteousness, light over darkness, Christ over self, becomes a citizen of the kingdom of God (Jn 3:3-5).
And second, it referred to the future kingdom that would invade this world and destroy all evil, and see Jesus setup as King of kings over the whole earth. It is the end-times kingdom, the kingdom that will be ushered in at the end of the age.
Which kingdom are you part of? The kingdom of darkness or the kingdom of God? “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves” (Col. 1:13). You are born the first time from your mother’s womb into the kingdom of darkness. You are born again, by the Holy Spirit, into the kingdom of God (Jn 3:3-5).
Fourth, He said Repent and Believe. All biblical, Christ-centered, Gospel-focused, Spirit-filled preaching will demand a response from hearers. This is not tickling ears, petting egos, giving little talks or pushing the air in the room around. This is preaching. And for preaching to actually be preaching it must force the hearer to respond: either yes or no. Either accept or reject. If that is not felt when hearing a Christian sermon it is not a Christian sermon.
Repent and believe. They go together. You can’t repent without believing and you can’t believe without repenting.
Repent means to change your mind. What does it mean to repent? Sometimes we can make it too complicated. Very simply it means you change directions in some manner. Your orientation towards something is reversed. Your course is re-directed. Sometimes it emphasizes the change of mind and heart someone has. Like when they are saved. Their thinking and their attitude towards Jesus changes. They no longer put Him off but receive Him as their Savior. You no longer smirk at the idea you need Him to save you; now you realize that yes you do! Or you no longer put Christ off and think you have all the time in the world before you can come to Him. Instead, repentance means you feel the urgency now to receive Him as your Savior.
Other times we read the word repent and it stresses a change in behavior. Like, when Jesus says “Leave your life of sin” to the woman caught in adultery. Or when Jesus says to the Ephesian Church “Repent and do the things you did at first”.
Repentance is a much disputed word. Some people believe that mental repentance can happen and absolutely no behavioral repentance will follow. This is a very compartmentalized view on one end of the spectrum. On the other end, there is the view that a mental repentance will produce a dramatic repentance in a person’s behavior. Every time. No exceptions. Otherwise that person isn’t saved. In other words, unless a clear behavioral repentance is seen by these folks they cannot believe any true mental or heart repentance could have occurred. Some use the Law as a test. Others use things like reading the Bible going to church, prayer, the quantity of Bible knowledge, or to personally assess the validity of someone else’s salvation. Let me offer 2 cautions here.
Caution #1: We need to be careful not to keep the mental and behavioral repentance unrelated to each other. Saying a change in mind and heart doesn’t effect a change in behavior is absurd. That hyper-compartmentalizing undermines the foundation of Christian living, which is grounded in how we think. Furthermore, for someone to mentally repent from their sins they have to admit that committing those sins has made them guilty before God. Saying that the regenerated person has no new desire to stop sinning, no fresh sensitivity to committing those same sins they’ve been saved from, no cleansed conscience through which the Spirit of God can speak to is tantamount to denying the total qualitative change God performs inside the person when they are saved.
Caution #2: But we also need to be cautious not think the Christian life is so mechanical that a radically sweeping change in behavior always follows a mental change. In real life, as even seen in Scripture, there are disruptions to that connection. The Corinthians were that kind of bunch. Sometimes genuine Christians get caught in sin. Sin is seductive. The world is enticing. Sometimes Christians go without good Biblical teachers to instruct them in the word. They get cotton candy sermons but not even any real milk – let alone meat of the Word. So they get blown around by the winds of worldly things they hear.
Believe. The word believe means to be convinced heart, soul and mind of something being true. It actually presses further in Scripture to mean that when you believe, you are depending on, trusting in, relying on that something you believe to be true. All your money is being bet on this one thing. All your confidence is in that one thing to do for you what it promises. It isn’t simply being aware that something is claimed to be true. It is being fully persuaded it is true and that everything is riding on the truthfulness of this thing.
That is believing in Jesus. You know with all your heart that Jesus is your Savior, that you are no longer depending on you to be right with God.
Repenting and believing cannot be divorced from each other. Repenting means to change your mind on an issue. If you have been convinced that you can save yourself by your own good merit repentance means you change your mind. You no longer trust in yourself. The reason is because you have come to see that you can’t save yourself and you need a Savior. And you believe in that Savior now, depending on Him instead of yourself. Repenting is a stopping of believing in yourself and changing your mind and heart to believe in Jesus. Repenting and believing.
Have you repented and believed the good news? For your own soul’s sake, do so today. You are called on today to believe on Jesus for your salvation. Do so and today the kingdom of God will be yours.