My Dear People,
The end of John the Baptist’s public ministry signals the beginning of that of Jesus. The mission of the precursor—to “prepare the way” for the Son of God—has been accomplished, and Jesus has been anointed for his own mission by the Holy Spirit. Jesus now begins a tour of preaching in his native region of Galilee. His message is not in words only but in deeds of power and authority that will make the kingdom of God an experienced reality.
Mark notes here only that John had been arrested; later he will provide full details about the Baptist’s fate (6:14-29). The Greek word for arrested literally means “handed over” and is the same word translated “betrayed” when applied to Jesus in the passion narrative (14:10-11, 18). The shadow of the cross looms over the beginning of Jesus’ mission, since John’s own suffering in accord with God’s plan prefigures those of Jesus. Jesus’ followers, in turn will share his destiny of being “handed over” to their enemies (13:9-12).
Jesus’ preaching is about the gospel of God, that is, the good news of salvation that is both from God and about God. Verse 15 sums up the core of his message. The time of fulfillment means that now in Jesus, God is breaking into history to fulfill his promises and bring his whole plan to completion. It is a decisive moment, a turning point. This moment, fixed and determined long ago by God, marks the beginning of the definitive stage of salvation history.
The kingdom of God is a favorite theme in the Synoptics and the most characteristic term Jesus uses to signify what he is about. Later he will unfold its meaning in a series of parables (4:1-32). Although this phrase never appears in the Old Testament, it sums up Israel’s yearning for the full manifestation of God’s authority in Israel and in the whole world: “The Lord of hosts will reign” (Isa. 24:23).
Jesus’ announcement that the kingdom is at hand suggests both a present and future quality, like a sunrise below the horizon. The kingdom is already present, embodied in Jesus’ own person. Indeed, throughout his ministry it will become evident that the “foreign occupation” of sin, Satan, disease, and death is being overthrown. Yet the kingdom is incipient and partly veiled; like seeds sown in the ground, it will keep growing until it reaches its consummation (4:26-29).
The arrival of the kingdom calls for a twofold human response: to repent and believe in the gospel. Jesus is taking up a theme of the prophets: God’s continual call for his people to repent or “turn back” to him with all their hearts (Neh. 1:9 Isa. 44:22; Hosea 14:2). The Baptist had already begun to sound this call (v.4), but Jesus adds a new accent with the invitation to believe, that is, trustingly accept and yield, to what God is doing to him. The kingdom is near enough that anyone who so chooses can reach out and lay hold of it through faith.
Yours in Christ,