Prepare Our Hearts – August 10

A Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church.Find another day here.

Monday, August 10, 2020
Mark 1:14-15

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

When Meagan was pregnant with our first child, I somehow convinced her to agree that we would not find out the gender of the baby ahead of time. Although it seems to be all the rage these days to have a big gender reveal party by cutting into a pink or blue cake or shooting off pink or blue smoke bombs, to me there was nothing more exciting than having the delivering doctor or nurse announce, “It’s a boy/girl!” My reasoning, as explained to my anxious-to-find-out wife, was that discovering the gender of our child would be one of the last few good surprises in life. Almost every other “surprise” would likely be some form of unwanted and/or un-budgeted emergency or diagnosis. By waiting, we could have a few additional months of suspense-building excitement and, either way, boy or girl, we would be over-the-moon upon arrival. Of course, in hindsight, apparently we are only capable of having girls, but we didn’t know that at the time.

As Jesus began His public ministry in the region of Galilee, His message was a simple one: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Beginning with the invasion of Jerusalem by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar in 605 BC, the people of God had spent the past six centuries in one form of captivity or another. Not only were the Israelites subject to a successive series of invading foreign conquerors, but God had been conspicuously silent as well. It had been 400 years since the last authoritative word from the Lord through what we know as the minor prophets, who foretold of impending extended judgement for Israel’s repeated lapses into idolatry. But despite the difficult days ahead, the Lord would not abandon His people. Finally, Jesus was announcing that the period of waiting was over, “the kingdom of God is at hand.”

Since Israel was at the moment occupied by Rome, the greatest military empire in the world, the assumption was that Jesus’ announcement of God’s impending kingdom was geo-political in nature. The people were longing for a return to autonomy and self-rule without the burdens of excessive taxation and foreign soldiers marching through their streets, but Jesus had something completely different in mind. God’s kingdom would not come through a popular uprising or military coup. There would be no swords or chariots, no propaganda or too-good-to-be-true campaign promises. The message of Jesus was not rise up and fight, but “repent and believe in the gospel.” Jesus understood that the real problem facing God’s people was not an invading power but a devastating disease known as sin.

Back in the beginning in the Garden, when Adam and Eve first chose to disobey God, sin entered into the world and into the heart of all humanity. Because of sin, Scripture explains that no one is righteous, not even one; everyone has fallen short of the glory of God; all have strayed away from their God and Maker. To repent means to personally confess our sins and turn back towards God. The image we have is of someone walking in one direction, then making a complete u-turn and heading in the opposite direction. Repentance stops us in our tracks and brings us to our knees. The first movement towards the God’s kingdom was not a raised fist of power, but kneeling in humble acknowledgment that the problem had never been external, but was internal all along.

Jesus said that the entrance to the Kingdom was not performing a ritual act of obedience, but believing the gospel. Gospel means “good news,” and Jesus came to share the good news that God loved His people. Not only did God love the Israelites, but His love extended to the entire human race, to all who would repent and believe. Jesus came to to make God’s love manifest for all to see, hear, and feel.

Just like the Israelites, many of us are hoping for and expecting Jesus to show up and rid us from all of the external problems of life. Regardless of our privileges or circumstance, life is never how we plan or wish that it would be. We need something better, something different, something more. Freedom from sin, reconciliation with God, and everlasting life are the generous gifts of a gracious Father. Jesus offers so much more than we could ever hope or imagine and we don’t even have to earn it. It’s the best surprise ever.

Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, You are the one and only King of kings. We confess that at times we misunderstand Your mission and message. We acknowledge that our sins are greater than we understand, but Your grace is deeper than we could ever hope. Remind us again today of Your goodness and mercy. Empower us to announce the arrival of Your kingdom for all to hear. We ask this in Your Powerful name, Amen.