CHRIST’S MINISTRY AMONG MEN BEGINS

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Mark 1:14-15 

BRIEF INTRO: In our study of Mark’s gospel so far, we have been introduced to John the Baptist, his message, his purpose, and then his baptism of Jesus (1-11). Mark begins telling his story of Jesus at the beginning of God’s preparatory works for God, the Son, to minister among men, not at the incarnation as Matthew and Luke do. This is only one “obvious” difference from Mark’s message compared to the other gospel writers.

Another striking difference relates to Mark’s lack of any information regarding John the B’s ministry after the baptism of Jesus, so, for that layout, I included this chart to help us with a “timeline” of sorts relating to what we read in v.14 of John being taken into custody. 

In these following two verses (14-15), I have a few things that I want to emphasize. The first is Jesus starting to proclaim “the Gospel of God” and what that is. Second, I want to think through what “time” has been fulfilled and what it means that “the kingdom of God is at hand.” And, lastly, I want to focus on the only response to this preaching of the gospel of God that saves!

Are you ready to jump in with me? Let’s begin!

14 Now after John was [a]taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, [b]preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God [c]is at hand; repent and [d]believe in the gospel.”

FOCUS ONE: Jesus came preaching (v.14)!

Mark doesn’t share anything about John’s ministry. He just moves on to his imprisonment. But what he does share with us is the emphasis of Christ’s ministry: the preaching of the gospel of God (Mark 1:38; John 18:37). For that information, look a John 1:15-37; John 3:22-36; Matthew 14:3-5.

That verse above, Mark 1:38, clearly expresses that Jesus intended to proclaim this gospel in Galilee and other places. Yes, He did perform many miracles, but those, as much as they helped people with physical maladies and removed demons from some, were meant to provide validity of His authority, and also His message. One commentator notes as much: 

“In spite of all the miracles evidenced in Christ’s life, the predominant characteristic of His ministry is described by the words Jesus came . . .preaching.

What did He preach? This is probably a more important question to answer than you might currently think. Why? Because it has implications for us today and all succeeding generations if the Lord tarries! Such as:

  1. Is the gospel of God for the Jew only or gentile as well?
  2. Is the gospel of God the same as the gospel of Jesus Christ or the gospel of the Kingdom or the gospel of the grace of God, and other “gospel” uses throughout scripture (Matthew 4:23; Mark 1:1; Acts 20:24)?

So, let’s begin by addressing these questions in order. Is the gospel only for the Jews or only for the Gentiles? The answer:

“But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for ALL those who believe; for there is NO distinction; for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. . . (Romans 3:21-23; vv. 28-30).

I could cite more references, but I won’t at this time because I want to encourage you to search the scriptures and see if these things are so.

The next question could have severe implications for humanity if the references I cited above are different gospels. Romans alone uses the phrase “gospel of God” approximately 60 times, and its definition is good news! It is the message that God will forgive sins, deliver from sin’s power, and give eternal hope” (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

The next term, “the gospel of the kingdom,” is used often in connection to the Lord Jesus and His work on the earth. We already know from above that the word gospel means good news and hear; the word kingdom (basileia) implies the realm in which a sovereign king rules. “Throughout the New Testament, the word kingdom consistently refers to the rule of Christ in the hearts of believers, since, for the time being, Christ’s kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

So, to sum this definition up with the help of one commentator who is more precise than I could be: “The gospel of the Kingdom is the good-news message of repentance, redemption, and restoration offered by God to all who will receive Christ. It is by grace alone that this offer is available to those who will receive it! Those who accept this offer become part of His eternal Kingdom (John 1:12).”

Our last term to look at (I am aware that I am not citing Paul’s “my gospel” in this section) is the gospel of the grace of God. Excitingly though, we find Paul’s concise definition of that very term my gospel in Acts 20:24. 

2But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of God’s grace.

This makes me reflect on what Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9. It is by His grace that we are saved. He imparts to us the gift of faith to believe in the finished atoning work of the king of the Kingdom, Jesus. And he draws us near the father by His shed blood (v. 13). 

All of these terms speak of the same gospel and its effect on those who receive it! I hope you have.

FOCUS TWO: The time is fulfilled

When we read these words, the question that should arise in our minds is: what time has been fulfilled? How exactly is the “kingdom of God at hand?” So, let’s begin by answering the first question.

Mark is emphasizing a point in time of God’s decisive action, in which, in the past, He foretold what would happen and by whom. In this case, the coming of the Messiah, the king of the eternal, heavenly Kingdom! In the gospel of Luke, Luke testifies to an event in Christ’s public ministry, in which He went to Nazareth and into the synagogue, as His custom, and stood up to read. The book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him, He opened it to where He wanted to read from, and read this: (Luke 4:16-21)

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,

Because He anointed Me to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent Me to proclaim release to captives,

And recovery of sight to the blind,

To set free those who are oppressed,

19 To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

Paul rightly understood what was meant by the statement of Mark “fullness of time,” He used it as well. Take a look at what he says: And then, so as not to be misunderstood, He say’s: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (v. 21).

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under [a]the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under [b]the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons and daughters. Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba! [c]Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir [d]through God.

There was a God-appointed time in history for the preparation and expectation of a people to be fulfilled. The Old Testament era was that time. When that appointed time, according to His providence, was complete, Christ came into the world, the incarnation! And He would fulfill all things (Ephesians 1:9-10). Don’t. Miss Paul’s usages of “fullness of the times” in those scriptures as you read it!

Hopefully, the above makes sense to you as you read scripture. But along with that question is another; how is the “Kingdom of God at hand?  The Kingdom is a big slice of Christ’s message, and this statement is a key feature of that message. Remember that word kingdom (Basileia)? We touched on it early on in this study. It means “kingship” or “royal rule.” This term also involves the sovereign authority of a ruler, the activity of his ruling, and the realm and rule, including its benefits (Theological Dictionary of the NT).

The concept of Kingdom was familiar to the Jews of His day. In light of all the Old Testament prophecies they were aware of, they expected a future messianic (Davidic) Kingdom to be established on earth (Matthew 20:21; Mark 10:37). Jesus’ statement in verse 15 informs them that the long-awaited king, the Messiah, has arrived. Jesus, the king of the Kingdom, the one with authority, has come, as John states in John 1:1!

FOCUS THREE: Christ” s imperative: repent and believe the gospel.

Repentance and faith are not as hard to understand as some people make them out to be. Repentance is when we come to understand that we are not as good as we thought we were, which can be very troubling to our hearts. This “acknowledgement” of our sinfulness before God is not merely a cognitive reality but involves the heart and will as well. 

The Holy Spirit convicts sinners of their guilt, danger, helplessness, and the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. When a sinner understands and agrees with God regarding their sin and turns to Christ, the only one who can save them, for His mercy and grace, they receive it because God does not lie or change His mind!

8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and [a]this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

9 “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

10 “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance [a]without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). 

The word believe in this verse is (Pisteuo), meaning to believe or to put our whole trust in something. In this case, the text directs our belief, our faith, to be in the good news of Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith can be seen as two sides of the same coin. They can not be separated. “Both these must go together: we must not think either that reforming our lives will save us without trusting in the righteousness and grace of Christ, or that trusting in Christ will save us without he reformation of our hearts and lives. Christ has joined these two together, and let no man think to put them asunder (break apart).”

This is the message Jesus proclaimed. This is the message Peter proclaimed, Paul proclaimed, and preachers, missionaries, and everyday Christians declare today. 

This work is a supernatural work accomplished by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of sinful creatures. A “new nature” is given by Him a divine nature (John 3:3-8). Genuine salvation is manifested in the lives of those who proclaim faith in Christ. The way they now live their lives, the way they think, talk, and act, will evidence that they genuinely have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit within. And such a walk of faith and obedience will cause the believer to be increasingly like His savior: “conformed to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 3:18)!

But the simple fact remains that sin fallen people cannot respond. In some manner, divine revelation must be made known to us before we can respond to it and agree or reject it. Paul wrote in Romans 10:14-17 of this very truth. God uses people like you and me to share the gospel that saved us with others. Just like us, they need to hear this divine truth before responding to it. And friends, there is only one thing that God uses to do this work of bringing repentant faith into our lives: “So, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (v. 17).

JEHOVAH RAPHA (pt 2)

BRIEF INTRO: 

My last post concluded with this statement: “The moral and spiritual sickness of mankind is an open, running sore. The heart of man is desperately sick, says Jeremiah 17:9. Herein is the hearts fundamental disease–the sin which alienates it from God–the sin which manifests itself in open and secret evil of every kind. How desperately mankind is in need of a healer, a physician!”

FOCUS ONE:  JEHOVAH THE HEALER IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

This brings me to my next point that The Lord is the great Healer of men. He alone has the remedy that can heal the spirits of men. He IS the remedy for the healing of man. And the Gospel is concerned primarily with the spiritual sickness and healing of mankind. Behind all the evils out there and all physical sickness– is sin. The importance of Marah in Israel’s experience is attested by the fact that God gave Himself this new name here—Jehovah-who-heals. 

This incident is intended chiefly as a lesson and warning against that sin and disobedience at the root of all sorrow, suffering, and sickness in the world. The tree cast into the waters is obviously a figure (type) of the tree on which hung Jesus in the New Testament. Friends, Jesus is the (only) remedy for the cure of mankind’s ills–and He alone can sweeten the bitterness of your human experience through that forgiveness of sin and sanctifying of life which is accomplished.

Certainly, God could and did heal physical maladies in the Old Testament whenever it pleased Him. Moses cried out to Jehovah on behalf of Miriam, smitten with leprosy: “Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee” (Numbers 12:13). There are many others!!

Many references to sickness and wounds in the OT are simply figurative expressions of moral and spiritual ills. It is instead in this sense that God is known as Jehovah-Rapha–Jehovah who heals. This is what Jeremiah means when he says: “For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith Jehovah” (Jeremiah 30:17) and again: “Return, ye backsliding children and I will heal your backslidings” (Jeremiah 3:22).

 Isaiah speaks of the day when “Jehovah bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound” (Isaiah 30:26). He predicts the coming of One upon whom the Spirit of Jehovah God will rest in order, among other things, to bind up the brokenhearted ( Isaiah 61:1). The will, and the power, and the longing are present in Jehovah to heal. The only obstacle in the way of this spiritual healing is man himself. The remedy is there–near at hand–as near as the tree at Marah’s waters. “The word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart,” says Moses (Deuteronomy 30:14),

 There is salvation for every sin, healing for every evil. The remedy only awaits its acknowledgment or application. This, man, has often been unwilling to do.

“Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered” (Jeremiah 8:21, 22)?

The remedy was there–in Jehovah Himself–but they went on and on refusing it “till there was no remedy” (or healing) (2Chronicles 36:16). And centuries later, the word of the Lord Jesus to His people was, “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40). 

FOCUS TWO: JESUS THE HEALER IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

The God who heals in the Old Testament is the God who heals in the New.

The ministry of the Lord Jesus began with healing. In the synagogue at Nazareth, having returned in the power of the Spirit from His great temptation, He opened His public ministry by quoting Isaiah 61:1: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind; to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18).

“teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people” (Matthew 4:23). These miracles of healing constantly amazed the people, and He cited them as proofs of His identity and mission.

 But as with God of the Old, so with Jesus of the New Testament, physical healing was only incidental to His chief object, which was the healing of the souls of men. His opening words in the synagogue at Nazareth declared His mission to be to preach the Gospel, to preach deliverance, to set at liberty Cf 8:31,32,3 –

His miracles of healing were proof of His identity and mission–His credentials. Yet many of the sicknesses He healed were truly striking symptoms of that dark, dreaded disease which has- its- roots in the soul of men and not in the body – the disease of sin.

The Lord Jesus consummated (perfected or completed in every way) by becoming that tree that made the bitter pools of human existence, waters of life and healing and sweetness. The teaching of Marah is wonderfully fulfilled in Him. They were taught the corruption and the bitterness of the purely natural waters, which are only an aggravation of the soul’s sickness and need.

Only the tree of God’s provision and choice could purify and sweeten and satisfy. To the woman at the well the Lord Jesus said: “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall he in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13, 14).

Friends, The Lord Jesus is both the tree and the waters. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed.” He is the well of salvation (Isaiah 12:3), the water of life, sweet, saving, and satisfying. In Jesus, the tree of life and the river of life in Eden’s garden are free and accessible to Adam’s sons once more.

 This is the picture presented to us in the closing scene of the Book of Revelation:

“And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1, 2).

What Jehovah was to Israel at Marah, so the Lord Jesus is to all who will receive and obey Him, the Great Physician