The call of the kingdom (Mark 1:14-20)

We now begin to see what it means for Jesus to preach about the Kingdom and call people to repentance with a series of examples.

– It means calling people to follow him and leave behind other priorities (1:16-20 and 2:13-17)

– It means calling evil spirits out of people. Captives are set free (1:21-28)

 – It means healing (1:29-34)

– It means time alone with the Father (1:35)

 – It means getting the message out to all (1:36-39)

– It means cleansing (1:40-45) 13

 – It means forgiveness (2:1-12)

– It means reconciliation and restoration as undesirables find a welcome (2:13 -17).

We will return shortly to the themes of cleansing and forgiveness but first of all I wanted to give you a feel for how these sections hold together building up  a theme of what it means for Jesus to proclaim the arrival of the kingdom.

There has been much discussion over the years about whether or not Jesus proclamation is that the Kingdom is near -as in the sense of arriving/on its way or near as in the sense of upon you/arrived. Does Jesus incarnation mark the inauguration of his kingdom reign or the precursor. And if Jesus’ kingdom only draws near at this point then when is it fully present? Does his death and resurrection mark the full arrival of the kingdom or are we still waiting for it when he returns?

I find it helpful here to draw on the example of US presidential elections.  Usually, there is a moment on election night when the rival candidate concedes. In effect he has ceded power to the new president.  However, the votes have not been formally counted and so there is a period of waiting before the Electoral College meets. Technically the college could surprise us and vote differently to how the election pointed. This is pretty much unheard of though.  However, we still have a bit of waiting to do. The President is inaugurated on the steps of the Capitol in January, a few months after the election.  There has been a period of time when people have recognised him as legitimately the elected leader of the free world and with that has come great authority but now he is formally recognised.   There is a now and  not yet dynamic to the time between November and January.

There is a now and not yet dynamic to Christ’s kingdom. You see Jesus is the true king, the ruler of his creation. As soon as he was on earth, creation was seen to recognise his authority, the wind and te waves obeyed him as did illness, demons and even death itself.  Yet there was still something to come.  His death and resurrection signalled Satan’s defeat and so the New Testament points to his resurrection as when he is recognised as the Son with power.  It’s not that he wasn’t the Son beforehand from eternity but now he carries the authority and power of that sonship in a specific way as the ruler over creation.  Yet, we live here in a now and noy yet situation. Many are coming to follow the true king but we still wait that final fulfilment when every knee will bow at his name.

One of the first things that the King does is to appoint his representatives, his ambassadors and so Jesus begins to call people to follow him.  It is striking that he doesn’t start with religious leaders and noblemen but with fishermen.  Now, we can overemphasise the lowliness of these men.  James and John’s family at least are clearly reasonably well off, running a successful family business and able to hire others. However, the fishing ports of Galilee are certainly a long way away from Jerusalem and Caesarea.

When Jesus calls, the fishermen respond. They leave behind their nets and their livelihood.  Now, again, we can over emphasise this as sudden and immediate. The narrative in the other Gospels shows that the two sets of brothers already had been building up their contact with and relationship to Jesus. However, we shouldn’t underestimate the radical nature of their response which is to leave everything behind. They have found something compelling and attractive in Jesus’ call.

Jesus’ call still goes out today. As back then, his concern is not to go for the elites and powerful. He calls ordinary people like you and me to follow him, to receive forgiveness and cleansing, to find hope and to proclaim this hope to others.  This means that the Gospel calls us first to follow him and trust him, to receive from him. However, it also means that we are called to go for him, to speak for him and be his witnesses. What does the call to follow Jesus mean to you? 

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