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.”
There’s danger in the air.
John has just been arrested. We had no indication ahead of time that this was imminent, or even likely. Mark reports it almost matter-of-factly. “Now after John was arrested,…” but that’s an ominous start to his story of Jesus’ ministry, as it doesn’t bode well for itinerant preachers and reformers.
But it’s at just this moment that Jesus starts his formal ministry. He is a preacher with a pretty simple message: the long anticipated reign of God – the time when God would draw near to rescue and redeem God’s people from all that oppresses them – had come near.
After that, his message was strikingly similar to John’s – repent and believe. Each of those words is significant. Repent – turn around, change your mind, alter your behavior, move in another direction, return to God. “Repent” means all those things and more. Repentance isn’t a particularly popular word these days. I think we think of it as groveling, somehow, but the point wasn’t to say how awful you are but simply to change, to go another way, to do things differently. We each have areas of our life we’d like to change. Do it, says Jesus.
And believe. That’s the second thing Jesus says. Except it’s not just believing in general. It’s believing in the good news, the divine message that God is on the move, ready to become involved in the affairs of God’s people and rescue them from what afflicts them. Believe, as in trust, trust that God is actually doing something and wants to involve you in what God is up to.
Repent and believe. Though they sound like two things, I think they’re so closely connected, even intertwined, they’re really almost the same, two heads of the same coin. Because trust leads to change. If you trust that God is at work in your life, it’s easier to contemplate changing. And change leads to trust. As you try something different, move back toward God and see the difference it makes, it gets easier to trust.
So here comes Jesus to Galilee, inviting people to change and to trust, to trust and to change. Why? Because time itself has reached its fullness and God is on the move. This message didn’t work out too well for John. Let’s see what happens now that it’s Jesus’ message, too.
Prayer: Dear God, give us the faith to trust you that we may risk change, and to try to change that we might trust that it is possible. In Jesus’ name, Amen.