This Sunday’s Gospel reading tells us a great deal about the early ministry of Jesus. Mark has finished telling about the baptism of Jesus by John. All the gospels agree that it is His baptism that is the starting point of Jesus’s earthly ministry. It is Mark, however, who adds the information that it was after the arrest of John that Jesus begins to proclaim the “good news of God”. John’s arrest, and eventually execution were extremely political acts. Herod, the king, hated John because John spoke openly and loudly against Herod. Herod needed to get rid of John to protect his power. The world in which Jesus began his ministry was a volatile place. In that time and place, where one could be punished for doing or even saying anything not liked by the authorities, Jesus proclaimed: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repentant and believe in the good news.”

Just like the message of John, Jesus calls for repentance. There is, however, a major difference. John called for people to repent to become acceptable to God. Jesus on the other hand tells people to repent because “the kingdom of God has come near”. John’s message seems almost threatening while the message of Jesus is a call to hope. Jesus calls us to repent because the kingdom is near. God’s grace and love are already evident, therefore we repent trusting in God’s forgiveness.

The gospel (good news) proclaimed by Jesus when Jesus calls Simon and his brother Andrew to: “follow me” is such good news that they immediately stop their work and follow. Just after that Jesus called James and John to follow Him and they leave their father in their fishing boat and followed Jesus. People respond to good news, and the news from Jesus is all good. The kingdom of heaven is near, God loves you, Christ has come for you. You are saved!

Jesus calls people to follow in this morning’s gospel. Jesus calls us too! Truly, the kingdom of God has come near.

Pastor Bill