Summary: The Lord calls each of us to be his representatives to the world, sharing his life to those around us in a peculiar way.
“The time has come.” What is this time that has come?
The time that has come is the fulfillment of Israel. From the cut off, burned out stump of Jesse, a shoot arose; from that shoot a single flower blossomed, producing a seed. Which seed fell to the ground, and thence arose a new tree, but not without its forebears’ life—a new covenant, but not without the fulfilled promises of the first.
John was the final prophet of the old covenant and the messenger of the end of the former days; Jesus is the source of the new covenant and the bringer of the latter days. Venerable Bede wrote, “John, being put in prison, fitly does the Lord begin to preach. For when the Law ceases, the Gospel arises in its steps.” When the Law ends, then grace appears.
The time has come for the Lord’s arrival. “Prepare the way for the Lord” (Mk. 1:3). “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mk. 1:7–8).
“The kingdom of God is near.”
The angel blocking the gate to Eden has been dismissed. The pathway to God is again open. This kingdom was prophesied long ago by Samuel. “The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom… I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son” (2 Sa. 7:11–14).
The kingdoms of this world are waning, and their glory is fading. But, as Isaiah prophesied, “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end” (Is. 9:7). Egypt, Assyria, Persia, Greece, Rome, Germany, France, England, and yes one day even the United States—every great kingdom, nation, and rule in this world emerges, rises, peaks, and then collapses. Despite the increase in our government—and I say that tongue-in-cheek—our nation shall one day cease to be, and another empire shall govern this land. But the kingdom of God, from its introduction, knows no diminishment. The setbacks that we see on this earth do nothing to lessen the reign of God. His kingdom is established forever, whether or not men choose to pledge their allegiance to it, or to some other authority. We see clearly the truth in the Psalmist’s words: “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save” (Ps. 146:3). Our salvation does not have its origin among the sons of men, but from the Son of Man, the Son of God.
“Repent and believe the good news.”
The coming of the kingdom of God forces us to react. When a person knows—knows in their knower—that “Now is the time for judgment on this world. Now the prince of this world will be driven out” (Jn. 12:31), then action is required. Surely there will be people, as it was in the days of Noah, who will carry on as they always have, eating and drinking, marrying and being given in marriage, until they are taken away, swept away along with this world.
But Jesus offers us a better response, a salvation. “Repent” and “Believe.” Repentance and belief—faith—are inseparable. We repent because we have sinned and need a Savior. We believe because God is faithful and true. When we repent, we abandon a stronghold in which we trusted. When we believe, we place that trust in a new place, on the Rock who saves us. Repentance sees the coming judgment; belief fastens onto the good news. Repentance is retrospective; while belief looks to the future.
“Without faith repentance becomes despair, and without repentance faith becomes presumption. Join the two together, and the faithful soul is borne onward, like a well-balanced vessel, to the haven where it would be” (Pulpit Commentary).
Okay. Fr. Jon Mark, I see that the kingdom of God is near, and I want to repent and believe the good news. What’s that look like? I’m glad you asked! Because today’s Gospel is filled with riches.
Jesus did not seek his disipcles among the chief priests, or teachers of the law, or kings (nor did he turn them away when they came to him). But he sought out fishermen, normal folk like you and like me.
Well, I’m not a fisherman, and I certainly haven’t had Jesus tell me to follow him while on a boat. Jesus comes to us not only in the extraordinary places, but—as I have found—most often in the seemingly ordinary moments, in the midst of daily life. He calls to me not on a fishing boat, but in a desk chair. He says, “Don’t be blinded by these books and drawings, but come and follow me!” He really likes to get me in the shower, particularly with shampoo in my hair; I suppose the vulnerability of that position makes me more receptive to him. He calls me to be different, but not different. God makes each of us with aptitudes and gifts. He’s gifted me, in addition to the grace of sharing in His eternal Priesthood, with architecture; and he wants me to use those skills to build up a beautiful temple made of living stones—the faithful. He’s calling Dr. Jeff, not only to heal physical hearts, but to bind up the hearts broken by sin and loss. He’s calling Steve, not only to insure people against physical loss, but to tell them that life apart from Christ is hazardous and risky.