Kingdom in Adversity

Jesus started proclaiming the Kingdom of God after the arrest of John the Baptist, an incident that foreshadowed the opposition that would characterize his own ministry. Palestine consisted of three territories - Judea, Samaria, and Galilee, and the latter included a mixed population of Jews and Gentiles. His ministry commenced in the villages of Galilee. Unlike the prophets of Ancient Israel, his mission did NOT begin or center in Jerusalem, though it certainly ended there - (Matthew 4:13).

Though unsure of who he was, many men responded enthusiastically and flocked to hear the Nazarene. In contrast, the religious leaders associated with the Temple were offended by his teachings, methods, and deeds.

Dark Road - Photo by Daniele Buso on Unsplash
[Photo by Daniele Buso on Unsplash]

  • (Mark 1:14-15) - "And after John was delivered up, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God and saying: The season is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has drawn near. Repent and have faith in the gospel.”

Jesus was neither a Pharisee nor a scribe, nor was he a member of the priestly class. He had no direct connection to the Temple, and he did not have any rabbinical training.

Nevertheless, he entered the synagogues of Galilee to preach the imminent Kingdom of God. In doing so, he astounded all those who heard him, “For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”

On his own initiative, he called disciples to leave their homes and livelihoods and follow him. Jesus had authority over demons and diseases, and he exercised sufficient authority not only to heal lepers but to remain free of ritual impurities after touching them - (Mark 1:16-45).

To one and all, he announced the “Good News” of the Kingdom. The time to repent and believe the Gospel had arrived. While the Gospel of Mark does not define the “Kingdom of God,” the phrase summarizes the teachings of Jesus in his Gospel account.

JOHN’S ARREST


The ministry of the Messiah began after the arrest of John by Herod Antipas. According to Like’s account, he was arrested for criticizing Herod over his unlawful marriage - (Luke 3:19-20).

In Matthew, Jesus departed for Galilee after John’s arrest. This was not to escape Herod’s jurisdiction - Galilee was part of his domain. The text states only that he went there to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.

His arrival in Galilee was in fulfillment of the messianic prophecy in the Book of Isaiah, and so, his ministry began on a strong note of fulfillment - (Isaiah 9:1-2, Matthew 4:12-17).

In Mark, the Greek verb rendered “delivered up” is theologically loaded (paradidōmiStrong’s #G3860). It is repeatedly applied to the “handing over” of the faithful for abuse by religious and governmental authorities. John also was “handed over” for arrest, though it was per the will of God. The references to Jesus being “delivered up” also allude to the fate of Isaiah’s ‘Suffering Servant’:

  • Because his soul was delivered to death, and he was numbered among the transgressors; and he bore the sins of many and was delivered up because of their iniquities - (Mark 9:31, 10:33, Isaiah 53:12).

By coordinating the start of his mission with John’s arrest, the Gospel of Mark shows that it did not begin until the ministry of John had concluded. The preparatory work of the Baptist was finished, so the work of the “Coming One” commenced. The historical context of John’s arrest meant that the Gospel began in adversity.

Storm - Photo by Bernd 📷 Dittrich on Unsplash
[Storm - Photo by Bernd 📷 Dittrich on Unsplash]

TIME OF FULFILLMENT


Upon arriving in Galilee, Jesus announced that the “appointed time” was fulfilled. This translation represents the Greek term kairos, meaning, “season, time, the opportune time” (Strong’s - #G2540). The verb rendered as “fulfilled” is in a perfect tense, signifying a completed action. His announcement echoes a passage in Daniel:

  • (Daniel 12:4-9) – “Close up the words and seal the book until the time of the end… And I heard but could not understand, so I said, O my lord, what shall be the issue of these things? Then said he: Go your way, Daniel; for closed up and sealed are the words until the time of the end.

Prominent in Daniel is the theme of God’s sovereignty and the promise of the future vindication of His saints. According to Jesus, that time was “at hand.” Hence, the promised kingdom arrived in the person and ministry of the Nazarene. This is why despite opposition from Satan and the religious authorities, his proclamation was “Good News” – (Daniel 2:44-45, Daniel 7:13-14, 7:27).

The term “Kingdom of God” means the rule and sovereignty of God and something more than geographical jurisdiction. The Greek word translated as “Kingdom” can mean “dominion,” “realm,” or “reign.” In short, the dominion or reign of God over all things administered through His Son – (Daniel 7:13-14).

How did individuals respond to the proclamation of the Kingdom? First, Jesus called them to “repent.” Second, he summoned them to “believe” the Good News. Like the Baptist, he proclaimed the imminence of the “Kingdom,” and its approach necessitated repentance and faith. Sadly, many in Israel would react to the “Good News” with hostility as they did to John the Baptist, especially the religious leaders in Jerusalem.

However, although the arrival of the Kingdom was “Good News” for many, it also signaled impending doom for others. A person’s destiny then and now depended on how he or she responded to the Gospel. To enter and inherit the Kingdom required faith and repentance.



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