Today’s reading is Mark 1:14-15:
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (NRSV)
So far in Mark, Jesus has been introduced by the author as the Messiah (verse 1), by John the Baptist as the one who will baptize people with the Holy Spirit (8), and by God Himself as “my Son, the Beloved” (11). He’s also been baptized by John (9), received the Holy Spirit (10), and spent 40 days in the wilderness being tempted by Satan (13). So far, all the action is about Jesus, centering on him. But Jesus himself hasn’t said a thing. Until now.
For the first time, the Word of God speaks a word. Returning from the wilderness of isolation and desolation, he proclaims good news. Fresh off hanging out with the Prince of Demons, he announces the Kingdom of God. After he has patiently weathered 40 days in the barren desert, finally, “the time is fulfilled.”
These two verses are so chock-full of juicy meaning that I couldn’t possibly do them justice, but I want to make a quick observation about this mysterious Kingdom that Jesus proclaims. To wit: The Kingdom is Good News.
If you think about it, there’s no obvious reason why the fact that someone is king should be good news. If I approached you on the street and announced that I was King, you would not think this was good news. More likely, you would think that I was totally insane, especially if I were malnourished, sunburned, and looked like I had been talking to demons for the last 40 days. But this is how we encounter Jesus in verse 14 as he returns to Galilee and proclaims his kingship. So why should we believe that he’s telling the truth? And, even if we believe that this apparent crackpot is in fact King, why should we think that his kingship is good news?
The full answers to these two questions will only become more clear later in the book, but — spoiler alert! — both are centered on Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection (cf. Mk 14:62). Nevertheless, it won’t take long for us to see that the reason the Kingdom is good news is that Jesus is a good King. His ministry of grace and healing begins immediately. By the end of Mark’s first chapter, Jesus will have cast out demons, healed diseases, and cured leprosy (a vicious social stigma) — trademarks of his that will recur throughout the book. Teeming crowds immediately surround him, recognizing not only his power but his mercy and grace in wielding it. Simply put, he is a good king because he uses his authority for good, not to oppress people but to set them free.
Nathan Otey ’15 is a philosophy concentrator in Pforzheimer House, and is a staff editor for the Ichthus.