Believe in the Good News!
The first words Jesus says in Mark’s Gospel (1:14-20), are urgent and spoken directly to us. This is because it is astonishingly good news and Jesus doesn’t want anyone to miss it. He says:
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news. (Mark 1:15)
The time is fulfilled, the fulness of time has arrived. It is not historical circumstances, the passage of time, or the way the world is today which are all waiting to be made ready. God didn’t need things to happen in a particular order as preparation for Jesus’ arrival.
God invites us to see the fulness is established with Jesus’ arrival. Then and now the fulness of time is here. Time has changed forever, as it is in Jesus himself we see time upended. All we imagine as normal, understood and accepted, we realise with dawning incredulity, is not so. What on earth has happened?!
Jesus’ purpose as God’s Son in God’s creation, was heralded by angels and agreed by Mary. He was raised among God’s chosen people, baptised and acknowledged by God’s Spirit, confirmed in the wilderness, affirmed by John’s arrest, demonstrating God bringing into view a new era of time, so far reaching in its consequences it can quite rightly and justly be called ‘the fullness of time’. We now live in the middle of the fullness made visible by Jesus, so all our activities, our being and our times are reoriented to express this new era and reality.
The kingdom of God has come near….
In Jesus’ very presence, in his actions and being, we see the kingdom emerging among us. In the healing actions and words, in his prayers, story-telling, life-style and commitment to justice, love and peace for the marginalized and despised, we see the present reality of God’s kingdom here today.
We see glimpses, we catch a look and a moment when we draw breath, a hiatus in the world’s breathing when the numinous breaks through the ordinariness from which it emerges, and like the sun coming out from behind a cloud, the experience reminds us the kingdom has arrived. It is real.
The words Jesus speaks are the light in the darkness which the darkness has not overcome. Jesus invites us to stop, turn, and turn again, and hold on for dear life.
‘Metanoeite’ says our Lord. Things do not have to stay the way they are now! In fact, to follow Jesus means things cannot stay the way they are, because if they do, you’ve missed the way.
Just look at James and John, Peter, Andrew and Levi, the first five disciples, none of whom applied for the job of disciple. These were very ordinary people.
Just look at those Jesus healed, Peter’s mother-in-law, the paralysed man lowered down on his mat through the roof by his friends, the leper, Lazarus, Mary and Martha, the woman hemorrhaging for 12 years. These are ordinary people for whom nothing ever remains the same.
God’s justice, love and peace usher in a new world right before our very eyes whether we like it or not, whether we are ready or not. Nineveh and Jonah’s message from God shows us the truth of this. (Jonah 3)
The kingdom and God’s Son we see emerging in the fullness of time now, show us salvation for the lost and broken, a kingdom where all are welcomed, where our worldly values and priorities are worthless. These have no place in God’s kingdom.
Unfortunately, not everyone sees or hears metanoeite as good news. Some insist their lives will stay the same. They use all their energy to make sure things remain as they are, to suit themselves and reinforce their expectations of life, the economy and society. It is exhausting, sad, broken behaviours and beliefs.
We see this throughout Mark’s Gospel, where the religious leaders are set on maintaining the status quo, looking backwards rather than forwards, and they lose sight of the One for whom life is meant to be lived, with love.
Metanoeite means every old way of living is going to change, every brick in the wall of resistance to God’s future is going to fall, including our own walls of sin. This is why when the paralytic man is told to pick up his bed and walk, Jesus also says, ‘your sins are forgiven.’ In these four words, Jesus announces what every human being and every religious leader needs to know, we are forgiven.
We know our sins are real, they often get the better of us, they reduce and demean us. We find ourselves helpless in the face of the choices and challenges ahead and we choose badly. Such choices make us less than what God intended for us as individuals and as communities, as the family of God.
Yet in these few words, ‘your sins are forgiven’ Jesus speaks what the people see when the paralytic man stands up and the hemorrhaging woman is healed; the walls of sin with which we have shaped our lives, start to crumble. Jesus is crucified on the cross and dies, we see the sin-filled tyranny of death is defeated when Jesus rises on the third day, and we hear, see and experience the wall of sin collapsing.
However, as I reflect on this reading (Mark 1:14-20), I grieve at how we have translated the word metanoeite as ‘repent to meet my standards’. I hear how we have used the word ‘repent’ to make people do what we want.
Repent is a word which has been so weighed down with self-righteousness and hubris on the part of those demanding change in others, rather than themselves. There is not much love evident in these demands for repentance.
When I think about loving someone else and how I express it, and what God’s love for me has taught me, I know love means I will do whatever I can to look out for the beloved, make their life easier, share their burdens, care and support them in difficult times and I feel deep and abiding joy when I see them happy, loving and living well.
This is what happens for us with God’s love which is why we feel so safe. There is no betrayal in God, or manipulation or selfish desire. In God’s love I have the courage to change my life as I know God desires only the best for me and I can trust God’s invitation. We step into God’s kingdom without fear, as we can take the risk of being as God desires us to be. How can we not? How can we refuse such a loving invitation?
However, I know fear often prevents us from making too many changes. Be reassured, God’s love for us never stops. God is ready and waiting for us when we open our hearts and minds to God, and our world is changed forever.
To believe in the Good News means we have a complete reorientation of life, a turning from one direction to another. We become sorry for our past actions and the ongoing movement of our lives towards God and God’s love shift us away from self-centredness, towards a care for our neighbour as a consequence of believing in the good news, the salvation in Jesus Christ.
The rhythm of our lives as Christians is believe and repent, repent and believe. Let God work in our lives, open the door to God’s Holy Spirit and the love of God will forever change your life.
I want to reassure you, now is not the time to be settled in the pew or for you to imagine you have arrived at your destination and all you need to be is comfortable.
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.
Do that and your life will never be the same again!
The Lord be with you.