Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the Gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.”
When a king comes to town, everything changes. Throughout history, rulers usually arrive in a new territory with a show of force. They announce their arrival by conquering or intimidating local citizens, and they bring the “good news” of their agenda for their new subjects. Kings speak of wanting the best for their people, but history is littered with tales of the powerful exalting themselves and preying upon the weak. Worldly kingdoms always have a transforming presence. Whoever reigns over us has the power to shape our lives for good or ill. Every king brings a message and a kingdom that paint a picture of the good life. When a king comes, it’s a decisive moment that demands a response.
Now imagine being a Jewish peasant living in Galilee around two thousand years ago. As you go about your back-breaking daily grind, you hear talk of a teacher who has come to the area. One afternoon, you see the crowds gathering, and you push just close enough to hear this man Jesus. He opens His mouth and declares, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). Where does your mind run? How does your heart race?
The time is fulfilled—Is this the moment that we’re going to be liberated from Rome? The Kingdom of God is at hand—Is this the End…the day of the Lord? Repent and believe in the Gospel—What’s the Gospel? Who is this man? He doesn’t look like the Messiah who is going to set us free from our enemies.
If we can enter into this scene, perhaps we’ll see that, for all of our progress, the world hasn’t changed much in two thousand years. The kings and queens may look different today, but there are still powerful forces—spiritual, political, cultural, technological—seeking to rule over us. It may be more about market share than military might, but it still feels like we’re subjects in a world that promises so much that it can’t deliver. And yet we struggle to break out of the never-ending cycle of building kingdoms and watching them crumble.
What if the Lord is giving us a moment—or a school year—to take a long look at the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God? As we study Mark’s Gospel, we’ll see that very few people understood Jesus when He walked the dusty roads of Galilee. But the King came, and He changed everything.
Most people missed it because He came with sandals, not swords. He came with good news that went beyond what our itching ears want to hear. He didn’t come to satisfy our physical appetites or play to our political ambitions. His Gospel addresses our deepest problem, the sin that separates us from God and fractures our relationship with self, others, and creation.
Most people missed it because He didn’t come to conquer, at least not like other kings. He didn’t advantage Himself by disadvantaging others. He didn’t come to be served, but to serve. He wasn’t about living His life but giving His life. He died that others might live. He didn’t have a crown, unless you count the one made of thorns. And we don’t remember His castle; we remember His cross.
Have we grappled with how astonishing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God are? Have we been freed from counterfeit gospels and sandcastle kingdoms to live in the transforming presence of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ? Are our lives beginning to look strange like the One we call our King? We have eyes, but have we really seen Him? We have ears, but have we really heard Him? The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom is at hand. It’s a decisive moment that demands a response. Are we repenting and believing in the Gospel?