The following is a reflection on Mark 1:14-20 the Gospel lesson appointed for January 22, 2011, the third Sunday after the Epiphany – according to the Revised Common Lectionary. Also on this site is a reflection on the Hebrew Bible Lesson for the same day, and a version of the Prayers of the People for all Epiphany.
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
In the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus immediately (ahem…) says four quite amazing things. The first two are statements—about how things are going to be as Jesus begins his ministry.
Time (kairos) is fulfilled. God’s Kingdom has come, and it is near.
Imagine living in Jesus’ day. The Roman Empire has taken over everything. The emperor’s hands are into every aspect of society. Herod, the “King of the Jews,” is a hateful man who might kill anyone at anytime. The Temple authorities are in cahoots with the Empire.
And along comes a rabbi who proclaims that the time (kairos) is fulfilled. And, in God’s good time, God’s Kingdom—NOT Rome’s Kingdom—has come near.
Eggizo, to come near, can also mean to join one thing to another. Heaven and Earth are about to be joined together. Everything is about to change. And, the change won’t be a a rearranging. It’s soup-to-nuts.
Change for a people hungry for it. Desperate for it.
And then, Jesus has two directions as this new kairos is being ushered in: repent, and believe in the good news.
Readers of this blog will be familiar with my opinion that the word “repent” needs some convalescence. We’ve made it be a scary word. Something that resembles “feeling bad.” And, probably, the worse you feel, the better.
But, that is not what “repent” means. It means, quite literally to turn around.
When you’re alone and walking down a dark and scary road, turning around is not a bad thing. You turn and run as quick as you can in the opposite direction.
It’s a welcome thing.
“Repent” is part of the poetry of exile, something that the Israelites knew a lot about. Repenting, when in exile, meant going home.
I think if we in the church talked more about “going home” than “feeling bad,” the church would be a healthier and holier place.
And, Jesus telling us that we can go home, and that God will welcome us back, and throw His arms around us is such good news.
And, that’s what Jesus tells us to believe in.
At the beginning of the Gospel of Mark Jesus tells his listeners something wonderful. When we’re able to take-in the fact that Mark is a wartime Gospel—written either in the lead-up-to or in-the-wake-of the destruction of the Jerusalem and the Temple…Jesus’ words are also balm to souls who were frightened for their lives decades after his death and resurrection.
And if those words could speak to Jesus’ audience, and Mark’s audience…can’t they be good news for us to?
It IS time…and it’s time to go Home.