January 21, 2024|Revealing the Kingdom|Mark 1:14-20
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As we continue in what is known in the church calendar as the Epiphany season, which focuses our attention on the revelation of who Jesus is as he is revealed for us in the Scriptures.
Three weeks ago, we began with his baptism in Mark 1, where we saw him revealed as the son of God through the triune witness of the Father, the Son, and The Holy Spirit. This week we continue looking at the revelation of who Jesus is, particularly as it pertains to the establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth.
We will pick up in Mark 1, skipping his temptation following his baptism for now, which we will pick back up at the start of the Lenten season.
But for this morning, we will jump back into the action recorded to us by Mark.
John the Baptist appears as the one crying out in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord. Jesus comes to be baptized by him, he is immediately driven by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted. Mark picks up the story with the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. We find this in Mark 1, at verse 14. In these verses we find Jesus, the king, beginning to establish the kingdom. As we read Mark’s account, we are going to look at three details concerning the establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth, by Jesus.
The first detail is…
The Revelation of the Kingdom
Mark 1:14-15 (ESV) 14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
This message did not begin with Jesus, rather John the Baptist was the first to begin proclaiming that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. We know from our previous study of John the Baptist that his role in proclaiming the nearness of the kingdom was to prepare the people for the arrival of the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.
In John, we see that their ministries overlapped for a time in the area of the Judean wilderness, with John calling people to repentance and pointing them to Jesus, the one who would take away the sin of the world.
It is John that says of Jesus’ growing ministry, John 3:29-30 (ESV) Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Why? Because the king had come, the kingdom was being established, the herald’s job was done.
Mark ties the beginning of Jesus ministry in earnest after the arrest of John. He journey’s from the Judean wilderness to Galilee and begins proclaiming the gospel of God.
The gospel of God- The word gospel means good tidings or good news. Jesus was preaching the gospel of God in that he was proclaiming the good news that God was in the process of doing everything that he had promised, from Genesis on. This is Mark’s way of summarizing the message of Jesus during this time, but in verse 15 he goes on to explain what proclaiming the gospel of God included. Let’s briefly examine each one so that we can better understand this revelation by Jesus.
The time is fulfilled- the word fulfilled carries within itself a few different ways for us to understand this.
One, the time is full, in the idea that the time between God’s promises and his fulfillment have been filled up, the waiting is over.
Second, the time is realized, in the idea that the time we are now in is the time promised by God in which he will accomplish his purposes.
Either way, Jesus is pronouncing that God is doing the very thing that he promised and that the people were waiting for. Jesus is the one who ushers in the kingdom of God into the lives of men.
Paul picks up on this and reminds his readers frequently of its truth.
Galatians 4 (ESV) 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son,
Ephesians 1:9-10 (ESV) making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
We know this is what Jesus is talking about because of the second part of his pronouncement.
The Kingdom of God is at hand- Where John’s announcement was that it was near in time, Jesus’ announcement as its king, is that it is near in reality and experience, because it is with him.
Where the king is, the kingdom exists. This is huge in our understanding.
There are some that read the New Testament and say that since the Jews rejected the king and his kingdom, that it has been set aside for a future fulfillment. And while I love them, on this we disagree. I stand by the statement, where the king is, there is the kingdom. Where we agree is, that in its current state, it is not all that it will be, but in my opinion, it is all that it is supposed to be during this time. Jesus revealed that the kingdom of God was near because he had arrived. But, regardless of your viewpoint, we can agree that Jesus is revealing here that the kingdom of God has come in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the son of God.
How else do we explain Jesus when he says this in response to the question regarding the coming of the kingdom of God?
Luke 17:20-21 (ESV) 20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” or when challenged by the religious leaders about his ability to cast out demons being given to him by satan.
Matthew 12:28 (ESV) 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
So the kingdom as Jesus revealed it is not a physical location and it’s evidence is that the Spirit of God is working, then it follows to say that wherever the Spirit of God is working then there is the kingdom, which leads us to acknowledge that if we are born again, if we have been made alive by the Spirit of God, and we are told that the Spirit of God dwells within us, then we who are born again, are in fact, in the kingdom of God at this time. Has it been fully revealed, fully consummated yet, no, this is what we await for in the second coming of our Lord, but it is nonetheless a present reality for his children.
Which leads us to the last portion of Jesus’ message. How does someone enter the kingdom of God if it has not come in physical form yet? How do we experience life in the kingdom of God?
Repent and believe in the gospel-
Repent- at its core, this Greek word means to think differently. It is a radical change in the way we think. It is reflected in the response of the crowds to John the Baptist’s preaching, which we find in Matthew.
Matthew 3:5-6 (ESV) 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
There are at least two things that we can infer that they thought differently about from this description. The easier of the two is they thought differently about their sins. They confessed them, that is they went from thinking what they were doing was okay to saying the same thing as God about their actions, they are sinful and against Him, so they confessed them and turned from them.
Two, and the slightly harder to see is that they began to think differently about themselves as Jews. Through the preaching of John the Baptist, and later Jesus, and afterwards Paul, Jews were confronted with the reality that just because they were ethnically descended from Abraham, they were not in right relationship to God. So they submitted to a baptism of repentance which was unknown and previously unrequired of a Jewish person.
If we understand this then repentance is focused on two areas of our thinking.
One, our relationship with God, we go from thinking we are okay with God, or that he is okay with yus to understanding that we are guilty of sin and therefore our relationship with God is broken.
Two, our relationship to our sins, we go from thinking that they are okay, or that they are not that bad, to understanding that they are an affront to a thrice holy God and that because of our willful sinning we are in judgment and headed for eternal damnation
Having changed our thinking, what does Jesus call us to do? Believe in the gospel.
For these first century believers, at this time, it was that Jesus was the promised Messiah, and they needed to follow him to be in the kingdom of God, for those after his death, burial and resurrection, it is that God sent his son as the propitiation for our sins and that he offers us not only redemption but reconciliation through the imputed righteousness of Christ, and that he is the only way to be brought into the kingdom of God that Jesus ushered in with his coming and will one day consummate with his return. We could say much more on this, but for now, let us affirm that Jesus revealed the kingdom of God when he came into the world as its rightful and eternal king.
Immediately after Mark describes Jesus’ ministry in proclaiming the Gospel, he describes for us the calling of the first disciples. Let’s pick up in verse 16, looking at…
The Recruitment of the Laborers
Mark 1:16-17 (ESV) 16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”
Last week we looked at his call to Philip to follow him in John’s gospel. What is interesting about this account of calling Simon and Andrew, is that Mark uses a different word.
There, as we noted, the word ‘follow’ there in the Greek is to ‘accompany someone’. It comes from a combination of two words, one meaning union and one meaning road. We might say, journey with me in the way I am going. The idea is ‘stop what you are doing and come with me.’
Here when Jesus says follow me, he uses another word.
Follow me- Here Jesus uses an imperative form of ‘to go’ joined with an imperative to ‘come here’. Let’s go now!
This makes much more sense in the context of these men’s encounter with Jesus. They had already met him and knew who he was. But now, most likely after His miraculous display of power over the water when they at his command lowered their nets and caught so many fish it almost sank their two boats, he says, it’s time. Let’s go. While it is slightly different from his call to Philip, it is substantially the same, drop what you are doing and join yourself with me on my journey. But, he goes further and tells them what he is going to do with them as they follow.
I will make you become- I will produce in you the ability to become something you are not right now. What are they going to become?
Fishers of men- literally, you will go from catching fish to catching men, better translated ‘human beings’ both male and female.
This is the only place this terminology is used, and oftentimes, I think, we can put too much emphasis on the words he uses here and miss the message he is giving these men. Here’s what I mean, we use the illustration fishers of men and then we apply it to our own call to make disciples, confusing this special call to these men with the general call to follow Christ.
John Calvin notes, that these words, I will make you become fishers of men, teach us, that Peter, and the other three, were not only gathered by Christ to be his disciples, but were made apostles, or, at least, chosen with a view to the apostleship. It is, therefore, not merely a general call to faith, but a special call to a particular office, that is here described.
This is important, because their call was to abandon their lives as they knew them, to leave behind family and occupation and livelihood to become fully devoted laborers in the kingdom of God.
Yes, God still does call men to these kinds of particular offices, specifically after the office of Apostle closed, to the office of Overseer or Pastor. Men who abandon their secular jobs in order to be laborers in the kingdom with all their lives. But, this is not normative in every life of every believer. There are many whose call to follow him is a call to follow him as a teacher, as a hairstylist, as a welder, or accountant, etc…This we will talk about more in our next division, but for now, I want us to fully appreciate what Christ is doing in calling these men.
He is calling them to be laborers in the kingdom, or as Paul puts it later, the foundation stones.
Ephesians 2:19-22 (ESV) 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Again, this imagery is shown to John in the book of the Revelation
14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
After announcing that the kingdom of God has come, he sets about gathering the very men, that by his power, he is going to make become the foundation of his church, the visible manifestation of the kingdom of God on earth.
Don’t miss this, Jesus chose regular, everyday, uneducated men to build his church. He did not go to the temple and recruit the religious leaders, he did not go to the philosophy houses to recruit the sharpest minds, he chose fishermen and tax collectors to be the foundation of the church, to be laborers in the kingdom of God. What an encouragement to each one of us, that when Jesus chose to build his church, he chose men, not who had any great merit within themselves, but men that he would form and shape to be the foundation stones of his church, his body, his bride.
So Jesus reveals that the kingdom of God is at hand, then he recruits laborers to establish his church, his people in which the kingdom of God is a present reality and a future hope. Finally, this morning let us look at the…
The Response of the Called
Mark 1:18-20 (ESV) 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.
You may say, if their call is different than ours, why does it matter how they responded to it?
What a great question, it’s good to see you have your thinking caps on this morning!
To that I say, while our call is not the same, to be apostles, and our call is not always to a specific office, though some of you may be called or will be called to just that, it is different not in kind, but degree. For a time, in my younger years, I was involved in Crossfit, which for those who might now know, it is a ridiculously hard work-out program. I know, it’s hard to tell from this body, but that is beside the point.
One of the things our coach used to say is that the needs of the stay at home mom and the olympic athlete are not different in kind, but degree. That is to say, everyone needs the ability to perform the task in front of them, whether it is carrying babies and grocery bags or lifting 300 pounds over their heads. Everyone needs endurance to make it through their day or to compete in a triathlon. The needs are the same, but to a different degree. Does that make sense?
In the same way, you may not be called to radically change careers, to leave behind your vocation to pursue full time ministry, but make no mistake, each one of you that is a Christian has been called to labor in the kingdom of God, building the church of God.
So while our calls are different, we can learn much about how we should respond by examining how these first disciples and apostles did. There are three parts of their response I want to highlight. The timing, the cost, and the results.
The timing: Immediately- at once, they dropped their nets and followed him. Not, let us get our business in order, not let me take care of a few things, but at once, dropped their means of livelihood, and set about following him. Again we see it with the next two disciples. It says they…
The cost: Left their nets, left their father- just as Simon and Andrew had dropped their nets in the middle of casting them, these two dropped their nets in the middle of mending them. Their seems to be a family business, which they walk away from, leaving their father with the hired help and follow after Jesus.
The results: Followed him- They left everything and followed after Jesus.
This is a radical response to a radical call. Anything short of this would have been disobedient. Jesus called them to follow him, to come join him now, at this very moment, and they responded in obedience.
Not knowing everything that it meant, not knowing what the future held for them or for Jesus, definitely not understanding everything that it meant, and yet they followed him.
If we acknowledge that his call to be a disciple is not different in kind but in degree, then we can look at their response as a mirror for our own.
In our own following of Jesus, are we ready to immediately obey his words.
When we encounter commands in his word, are we ready to immediately obey them?
When we feel the call of God in our lives, are we ready to immediately obey Him?
To delay is to disobey. I know, because I ran for years from the call of God on my life, and I am eternally grateful that he still chooses to use me, having finally surrendered to it.
There are some here that I believe God is calling this morning.
He is calling some of you to repent and believe the Gospel, he is calling others of you to live your lives in such a way that those around you encounter not only the message of the gospel, but see living examples of it in the way you live, and I believe he is calling others of you to surrender your lives to a specific office or appointment.
But, listen, the response to his call will absolutely mean that you have to leave some things behind.
There are pleasures you will have to leave behind, there are dreams for your life that you will have to leave behind, there are plans you will have to abandon, because you cannot follow Jesus without it costing you, and anyway that tells you otherwise is either confused or lying to you.
It will cost you relationships, it will cost you financially, it will cost you socially, it will cost you emotionally and physically, to be a laborer in the kingdom of God.
But can I tell you, as these men found out, and as I have experienced it, it is worth it.
There is nothing you can give up this side of heaven that can even be compared to the worth of knowing Jesus and being known by him.
There is no satisfaction in this world that compares to walking in obedience to Christ and seeing the fruit of it in your life and what it produces in the lives of others.
Finally, how do you know if you are responding to his call? There will be ongoing evidence that you are following him with your life.
His call is not merely to be saved from your sins, it is not to an experience, but his call is to become followers of Christ, his disciples who make disciples. It is a call that radically changes the course of your life, forever.
As we finish our time this morning, let me just say this.
The kingdom of God is here, Christ is still calling men and women into it, not only as citizens but as co-laborers to build the kingdom of God through following him.
John Calvin said it is the task of the church to make the invisible kingdom visible. We do that by living in such a way that we bear witness to the reality of the kingship of Christ in our jobs, our families, our schools, and even our checkbooks, because God in Christ is King over every one of these spheres of life. The only way the kingdom of God is going to be manifest in this world before Christ comes is if we manifest it by the way we live as citizens of heaven and subjects of the King.
The only question is how will you respond to this precious call to be laborers in the kingdom of God?
Let us pray.