“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)
How is it that so many of us have missed this central message of Jesus—that the kingdom has come near? These were the very first words of Jesus recorded in the very earliest gospel. It is first an announcement of an astonishing new development (the kingdom of heaven has come near) followed by the response required (repent and believe the good news).
Just five verses earlier Mark tells us that immediately after John baptized Jesus “he saw heaven being torn open” (Mark 1:10). In a very real way God demonstrated that he was breaking into human history in a literal as well as spiritual sense; the kingdom of heaven was now accessible, torn open, and his Son, Jesus, was making this possible.
Jesus’ call to repent was more than merely a call to feel remorse or regret for our sins; it was a call to change our minds, to exchange our agenda for his; it was a call to reorder our lives in the face of God’s dramatic news that his kingdom was now available to all. Eugene Peterson paraphrases Mark 1:15 this way: “Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message” (MSG). Jesus called us not just to believe but also to change our lives.
And he spoke about it incessantly, illustrated its characteristics using multiple metaphors, and literally declared that the main mission of his incarnation and death on the cross was to open the way for men and women to gain access to God’s kingdom. Then before he left, he commissioned his disciples to take his kingdom message to the four corners of the earth, to make more disciples, and to establish kingdom outposts called churches wherever they went.
So why is it that the kingdom of God plays so small a role in the thinking of twenty-first-century Christians? In all my years as a Christian, I have listened to thousands of sermons, and I can’t remember even one that fully explained to me that the central mission of Christ and the purpose he gave to his church was to proclaim, establish, and build God’s kingdom on earth. Nor have I ever heard that the sole purpose of my life as a follower of Jesus is to join him in this mission; that this is the very reason I was created.
What do you see as your mission or purpose in life? How does this view of God’s kingdom affect that?
Lord, thank you for bringing your kingdom to earth and including us in its construction. Please help me to be open to whatever role you want me to play in that mission.