STUDY TWO: MARK 1:14 - 20
© Rosemary Bardsley 2013
Mark tells us that after John the Baptist was put in prison Jesus went to Galilee ‘proclaiming the good news of God.’
If we are listening to what we read we will notice that Mark calls the gospel Jesus preached ‘the good news of God’.
Scholars wonder whether this means ‘the good news from God’ or ‘the good news about God’. [The Greek can mean either.] But both ‘from’ and ‘about’ are actually true. The good news certainly has its source in God, so it is indeed ‘from’ God. But the good news is also ‘about’ God … the great saving love and grace of God, because of which God the Son came into this world, revealed God the Father to us, and died for our redemption.
Note that this phrase ‘the good news of God’ outlaws the perceptions of those people who try to put a division between the God of the Old Testament and Jesus Christ. It makes it impossible to hold that ‘God’ is the angry, vengeful deity who is against us and Jesus Christ the loving deity who is for us. It exposes as nonsense any idea that the Son has to beg the Father to save or forgive us. The good news is God’s good news, and it presents God as the One who planned our redemption before the beginning of time.
Task #1: Check out these references which also refer to ‘the gospel of God’ or ‘the good news of God’:
A. SUMMARY OF JESUS’ MESSAGE
A.1 The good news 1:14-15
Where older translations have ‘the gospel’ more recent translations have ‘good news’. Both translate the Greek ‘euangellion’, which literally means ‘good’ or ‘beautiful’ ‘message’.
As we saw in Study One there appears to be a conflict between what the church commonly refers to as ‘the gospel’ and what Mark and Jesus understood as ‘the good news’. While the church regularly narrows the gospel to the message about Jesus’ saving death, Jesus and Mark give it a much more inclusive and comprehensive content.
Task #2: What are the two elements of ‘the good news’ Jesus preached identified by Mark in 1:15?
A.2 The time has come
Jesus' first point is the time has come. The Greek text is more powerful: the time is fulfilled, or rather ‘has been fulfilled’. What Jesus is saying here is that in his coming all the expectations, all the prophecies, all the plans and purposes of God, all that God promised, have been fulfilled and remain in a state of completion. In the coming of Jesus, God's time has come. The waiting is over.
God planned for this time before he created the world.
Towards this time God moved human history.
About this time the whole Old Testament spoke in anticipation.
For this time all previous revelations of God are preparations.
The waiting, the expectation – all are now over: God’s long-planned, appointed time has come.
Now the promise to the woman in Genesis 3:15 is fulfilled.
Now the promises to Abraham in Genesis 12 and 22 are fulfilled.
Here we see the reality behind the symbolic rituals defined in Exodus and Leviticus.
Here is the eternal King of David’s line, the ‘root’ or ‘branch’ of Jesse.
Here is the child of the virgin, foretold in Isaiah 7:14.
Here is the ‘son’ promised in Isaiah 9:6.
Here we is the revelation of the glory God promised in Isaiah 40.
Here is the ‘suffering servant’ of Isaiah 42, 49, 50 and 53.
Here is the ‘Shepherd’ of Ezekiel 34.
Here is the one who established the ‘new covenant’ of Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36.
Task #3: Check out the eternal plan of God in the verses below. What do they teach?
A.3 The kingdom of God is near.
Jesus’ second point is the kingdom of God is near. Again the Greek text is more powerful, using a verb, not an adverb: the kingdom of God has come, or drawn, near. Jesus is not simply saying that God's kingdom is somewhere nearby, but that with his coming the kingdom of God also comes. The kingdom of God has arrived. Jesus’ coming brings the kingdom of God near to the inhabitants of earth. Why is this? At this point in Mark's record we are not told, but as we read through his reports we realise that this is because Jesus is the King. It becomes increasingly evident that this man Jesus is the divine King who rules over all things with all the authority of God. In him the kingly rule of God confronts every human being.
As we saw in Study One, if we read further in that same chapter of Isaiah which was quoted in Mark 1:2 & 3 we come to these words:
‘You who bring good tidings to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem,
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
"Here is your God!"
See, the Sovereign LORD comes …’ (Isaiah 40:9,10)
Just as the words of anticipation in Isaiah 40:3 speak of the coming of John the Baptist, so these words in verse nine speak of the coming of Jesus Christ. Twice they mention ‘good tidings’, three times they give the command to shout out these good tidings. And what are these good tidings? What is this good news? - ‘Here is your God!’
Here is your God!
God has come to us. In this man Jesus, the sovereign God, the God who is the King, has come. That is the good news. That is the central basic fact of the gospel.
Why is that so wonderful? Why is this something to get excited about? Why should the prophet say to get up on top of a high mountain and shout it out?
Because, if God did what he ought to do to us, if God treated us as we deserve, he would abandon us. He would condemn us. He would do as he did in the days of Noah. But he doesn't. He comes to us. Just as the prophet said ‘Here is your God!’ so Jesus says: ‘The time has come. The kingdom of God is near.’ God is here. In this man Jesus, God is here. Those who stand face to face with this man, Jesus, stand face to face with God. And live! Here in this man, Jesus, we stand face to face with the King, and we are not rejected, we are not destroyed.
A.4 Further notes on ‘the kingdom of God’
 The terms ‘the kingdom of God’ and ‘the kingdom of heaven’ are used interchangeably by the gospel writers. We should not therefore try to understand them as two different realities. Jews did not like to mention the divine name; Matthew, writing especially for Jewish readers, thus prefers the term ‘kingdom of heaven’. But even he reports Jesus using the two terms to refer to the one reality in Matthew 19:23-24.
 The concept of the kingdom of God refers more to the actual rule of God than to the area or territory over which he rules.
 The term ‘the kingdom of God’ has Messianic connotations [we will see this in Mark 11]. However Jesus was not the Davidic king of popular Messianic expectations. As he stated during his trial ‘my kingdom is not of this world’ [John 18:36], while at the same time acknowledging that he was a king.
 Although with the coming of Jesus the kingdom of God has come, there is also a future aspect of the kingdom – we are to pray ‘your kingdom come’ [Matthew 6:10], and are looking with eager expectation for that final appearance of Jesus as ‘the King of kings and Lord of lords’ [Revelation 17:14; 19:16].
Task #4: What response to the good news was commanded by Jesus in Mark 1:15?
Jesus commanded people to ‘repent’. We have already looked at the key meaning of ‘repentance’ in Study One. Like John the Baptist Jesus commanded repentance – a change of mind. But his challenge went far deeper than John’s. While John’s call was primarily to do with one’s commitment to God’s commandments, Jesus’ call to repentance went to the very core of a person’s belief in God, or more specifically, to a person’s perception of who and what ‘God’ actually is. Repeatedly Jesus challenged his hearers’ perception of ‘God’. Repeatedly he exposed the errors of their perceptions. His command to ‘repent’ is a radical command to change their definition of God, to discard their erroneous perceptions of God and to embrace him, Jesus, as their God. His call to repent was essentially a call to change the content and focus of their belief.
A.5 Believe the good news
Jesus commanded people to ‘believe the good news’. As we saw in Study One, the ‘good news’ encompasses far more than the death of Jesus Christ and the salvation obtained through that death. As we will learn later in Mark’s gospel the death of Jesus Christ is essential for salvation, essential for our entry to his Kingdom. However, when Jesus said ‘believe the good news’ his death had not yet occurred. The ‘good news’ he preached was that in his coming the time of fulfilment had come, that in his coming the kingdom of God had come.
He, the rightful King, comes to liberate us from the dominion of the Evil One.
He, the rightful King, comes to reverse the impacts of the fall.
He, the rightful King, comes to expose the lies of the Evil One and to make the true God known to us.
He, the rightful King, comes to call us into his Kingdom, and under his rule.
This is the good news we are commanded to believe: that here in Jesus Christ, is our God; here in Jesus Christ, is our King. The King has come.
He calls us to change our minds, to repent, and to believe in him, the King who has come, the one true God.
B. JESUS CALLS HIS DISCIPLES – Mark 1:16-20
Having introduced us to Jesus as the Son of God and the King, Mark proceeds to give us evidence of Jesus' identity. The first evidence is the authority Jesus has over people. In his encounter with the four fishermen by the Sea of Galilee Jesus commands them to follow him and they do so immediately. No arguing. No discussion. No weighing up of the pros and cons. They recognise in Jesus one who has the power to command their obedience (Mark 1:16-20). The same thing happens with Levi the tax collector (Mark 2:14).
Jesus does not hesitate to call Simon and Andrew away from their livelihood. He does not hesitate to call John and James away from their father. He does not hesitate to call Levi, the despised tax-collector and sinner, rejected by the Jews. Jesus stands over and above these human values and considerations. It is his divine right to command both our allegiance and our obedience.
Note that John informs us that while Jesus was still in Judea where John was baptising, Andrew at least had heard the testimony of John the Baptist about Jesus, and that Andrew and Peter had met with Jesus the day after John the Baptist recognised him as the Son of God [John 1:34-41].
Task #5: What are the three elements of Jesus’ command to Simon and Andrew? Explain what each means.
B.1 ‘Come, follow me’
In the NIV Jesus’ call appears as two verbs – ‘come’, and ‘follow’. However, the Greek text has ‘Come after me’, where ‘after’ literally means ‘behind’. It is a command to walk behind Jesus as students behind a teacher, as disciples behind a Rabbi.
B.2 ‘and I will make you fishers of men’
The 2011 NIV reads ‘and I will send you out to fish for people’. This seems to be an inadequate translation, omitting the concept embedded in the Greek text that as they follow Jesus as his students/disciples he will make them, or cause them to become, ‘fishers of men’. It is through learning from Jesus that they become fishers of men. The words ‘I will send you out’ are simply not in the Greek text, although Jesus did, at a later point send them out to the towns of Israel. But that is not here in this verse. What we have here is a Rabbi calling these men to be his disciples, following him around, learning both his message and his methods, and by this learning how to reach out to ‘men’ with the message of their Rabbi.
Jesus’ purpose in calling these men is to prepare them to proclaim the good news and so to bring people into his kingdom.
Task #6: A personal challenge: Is your obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ as prompt and total as that of these first disciples, who knew far less about him than you do, and who at this point of time, had no knowledge of the greatness of his sacrificial and saving love demonstrated on the cross? In what ways should you change?