Today we will look at the first recorded time Jesus starts preaching. These events occur after Jesus left Nazareth because of John the Baptizer’s arrest and lived in Capernaum. So let’s read our text for today:
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:14-15).
It’s a short one today but it is packed with good stuff so let’s get started. Jesus was in Nazareth when John the Baptizer was arrested. When he got word about it, he got out of Dodge, quick. So he went to Galilee and lived in Capernaum (Matthew 4:12-13). So let’s think about it. Because of John’s arrest, the gospel was spread to the people of Galilee. It just goes to show that God uses bad things to work for his glory.
“The time has come.” No, he’s not referring to lunch time. Throughout history, the Israelites had been waiting for the Messiah. Everything in their religion (the sacrifices, the ceremonial washing, the prayers and prophesies, the laws, the Scriptures) pointed to the coming Messiah. Humanity waited 4000 years up to this point and now the time had come. Jesus was revealing himself as the long awaited Messiah. Since this is a short passage, I think I will take a some time explaining a little about how some of these things pointed to Jesus.
Ok. I know what you are thinking- How could laws point toward Jesus? Well, they may not specifically point to Jesus the person, but they show a need for a Savior. They reveal to us God’s demand for perfect obedience and our inability to be perfect. They show us that we need forgiveness every time we break one of God’s laws. The Law is the death sentence and Jesus is the pardon.
Prayers and Prophesies and Scripture
The Psalms were the prayers prayed in the synagogues, I counted 32 Psalms that prophesy either directly or indirectly about the coming Messiah. There may be even more. It is important to note that every prophesy that was ever recorded in Scripture, whether in Psalms or elsewhere, about the Messiah (except the stuff about the end times which has yet to happen) was fulfilled in the man, Jesus. There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus is, indeed, the promised one. Maybe after we finish studying the life of Christ we could start a study on the prophesies and how they were fulfilled.
Ceremonial washing involved washing all or part of your body and/or clothes, depending on the circumstance. It was a ritual of purification- a way of washing away uncleaness. For example, if you touched a dead person, you didn’t sin but you became unclean and needed to purify yourself with ceremonial washing. Until you washed, no one was to have contact with you and you weren’t supposed to touch anything that was clean or it would have to be cleansed as well. So after you bury your family member, you would’ve had to purify yourself before you ate a meal or the utensils you used and the table you sat at would have become unclean as well. Once Jesus came and made us pure in spirit, the need for ceremonial washing was no longer needed.
Back in the day people would bring animals to the temple for sacrifice. Here’s why: God demands perfect obedience to his law and when we don’t obey it’s called sin. The penalty for sin is death, both physical and spiritual. Before Jesus came to earth the people needed a way to appease God’s wrath so God set up a system of animal sacrifices. Through ritual and prayer, the sins of the people would be transferred to the animal and then the animal would be killed and burned. Then the person who brought the animal would be deemed righteous again. Jesus ended the need for a sacrificial system by becoming the ultimate sacrifice for us. This is why he is called the Lamb of God. Perfect lambs without illness or defect were often used in the old system of redemption. Jesus becomes the ultimate sacrificial Lamb when he offered himself to die on the cross for our sins. For those who accept this gift of sacrifice, they become forgiven of their sins. The death penalty for their sins has been passed off to Jesus. They may die a physical death but spiritually they will live for eternity in heaven.
Back to the text. Jesus’ message is clear, “Repent and believe the good news!” I have often heard repent described as the act of turning around. It’s as if you are walking in a straight line and do a 180 and start walking in the opposite direction. This is kinda correct. The original Greek word, metanoeo, means to change ones mind. Jesus was walking around and literally saying, “Change your mind and believe the good news!” I think the image of walking and changing direction implies that repenting is a change in what we do, but it is so much more than that; it is a change in the way we think. It’s not the act of going from sinning to not sinning. It’s changing the way we think about God and our need for him. Remember, the Jews of Jesus’ day were set in their ways and thought the Messiah was going to be very different than what Jesus was. They were expecting a mighty King to come in and destroy the Romans and set up Jewish rule. Jesus was saying this way of thinking is wrong. They needed to repent and change their way of thinking because Jesus didn’t come in on a white horse in shining armor. He came wearing sandals, not a sword. They needed to change their mind about what they expected Messiah to be and believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah- that he was the fulfillment of the prophesies, Scripture, law, prayers, and (through his death and resurrection) sacrifices. The same is true today. People who haven’t accepted Jesus need to change their minds about him. They need to stop seeing him as just a historical figure or a make-believe story character or whatever they believe and instead believe in the Good News- that he is the Messiah. This is not to say that all we should do is repent. That may be what gets us into heaven but true joy and peace comes from the process of sanctification- that is the act of becoming holy and like God. That is the act of changing from sinner to saint.
I hope you are becoming more comfortable with the Bible the more we do these. I also hope you are learning some things as we go. I know I am as I study and research. Next we will look at Jesus’ second visit to Cana when he heals the royal official’s son. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us!