Yr B ~ Epiphany 3 ~ Mark 1:14-20
Welcome to the shortest sermon in history!
Don’t get your hopes up. I’m not talking about my sermon – I’m talking about the first one Jesus preached in Mark’s gospel. And even though it’s only one verse long (Mark 1:15) it is jam-packed with massively important theological stuff. Enough stuff to last, oh I don’t know, 18-22 minutes!
Let me set the stage. We’ve been looking at the first chapter of the first gospel, Mark, for the past few weeks. We know that Mark’s gospel is short, matter-of-fact, and that everything happens in a hurry in this telling. Mark’s favourite word is immediately – a word we get twice in this short passage today.
We’re only at chapter 1 verse 14 and already Jesus has been baptized and spent 40 days in the wilderness being tempted. And now we learn about the beginning of his public ministry. We learn that John the baptizer was arrested and that Jesus had made his way back to his home province of Galilee. Mark is so sparse on details that you have to read between the lines a lot – and sometimes that can lead to interesting questions.
For example, some scholars speculate that Jesus not going back to Galilee until John was arrested suggests that Jesus hung out with John for a while, perhaps doing ministry together, maybe even being John’s disciple! In Galilee Jesus began preaching, and his first sermon – verse 15 – sounds a lot like something John might have said!
Here’s the sermon: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
The time is fulfilled.
There are two words for time in Greek – chronos which means clock time, the passing of minutes and hours, and kairos which means a special, opportune, unique, meaningful time. Chronos is an amount of time – Kairos is a quality of time. A kairos moment is one that feels spiritual and energized and holy. This kairos time is full and complete, says Jesus.
And the kingdom of God has come near.
We had proof of that a few verses earlier when during his baptism the heavens were torn open and the supposed barrier between God and humanity was obliterated.
The word translated as near suggests closeness, immediate imminence, and presence.
So, where is God’s kingdom? Right here, all around us, we’re in it.
And when is God’s kingdom? Now! It has drawn near – it doesn’t wait until everything is perfect, or until you die, God’s kingdom has drawn near – right here, right now!
So how does one access or interact with this drawn near kingdom? Repent! Same word John the baptizer used, and it means the same thing. It literally means to go beyond the mind you have, to change the way you understand and perceive the world, to turn from your former way and embrace a new way, Jesus’ Way, God’s kingdom.
It just makes sense. If you feel like you don’t have access to the kingdom now then you need to make a change, turn around, learn to perceive differently.
And believe in the good news.
Too many church people don’t understand the word believe. We think it means to use our heads and agree to a certain list of theological spiritual concepts.
That’s wrong. That’s not what believe is supposed to mean.
Believe actually means to trust, to have faith in – like you’d say to someone who was about to do something big and you wanted to encourage them – you’d say, “I believe in you!” That’s not about intellect – it’s about love, heart, trust.
So to believe in the good news actually means to trust with your heart, to see with your heart. And good news literally translates as gospel.
So that was Jesus’ first sermon. Awesome! A man of few words but every word was epic!
Ok, time for some more speculation into the gaps that Mark leaves. It says that Jesus came into Galilee preaching this good news message.
Where did he preach it? How many times? Who heard it?
Was he becoming known for it?
Were people talking about it at the water cooler at work?
Did the video of him preaching it go viral?
We have to fill in the gap, and we have to imagine that there was a big buzz about Jesus because if we don’t then the next few verses are really hard to believe. Jesus starts to call potential disciples.
1:16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea–for they were fishermen.
1:17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”
1:18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
Imagine you’re Simon or Andrew. You’re at work, doing your thing. Out of nowhere some guy walks up to you and says, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people!”
What’s your reaction? Be honest!
You’d think the guy was nuts! read on