Kingdom in Adversity

Jesus began to proclaim the kingdom following the arrest of John the Baptist in fulfillment of Scripture

Dark Day - Photo by Michael Busch on Unsplash
Jesus began to proclaim the Kingdom of God only after the arrest of John the Baptist by Herod. That dark event foreshadowed the opposition that would characterize his own ministry. At the time, Palestine consisted of three territories -
Judea, Samaria, and Galilee, and the latter included a mixed population of Jews and Gentiles - [Dark Day - Photo by Michael Busch on Unsplash].

Unlike John, Jesus began his public ministry in the villages of Galilee, and unlike the prophets of Ancient Israel, his messianic mission did NOT begin or center in the city of Jerusalem - (Matthew 4:13).

Though unsure of who he was, many men responded enthusiastically and flocked to hear him. In contrast, from the very start of his ministry, the religious leaders from Jerusalem were offended by his teachings, methods, and deeds.
  • (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, scribe, nor a member of the priestly class, and thus, he had no direct connection to the Temple. Neither did he have any rabbinical training. Nonetheless, he entered synagogues in Galilee to proclaim the imminent kingdom of God. In doing so, he astounded all who heard him, “for he taught them as having authority, and not as the scribes.”

On his own initiative, he called disciples to leave home and livelihood 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).

The gospel of Mark stresses that he announced the “good news” of the Kingdom. The time to repent and believe the gospel had arrived. While Mark does not define the “kingdom of God,” the phrase summarizes the teachings of Jesus.

The ministry of the Messiah began only after the arrest of John by Herod Antipas, one of the sons of Herod the Great. According to Luke, John 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 gospel:
  • (Matthew 4:12-17) – “And hearing that John had been delivered up, he retired into Galilee; and forsaking Nazareth, he came and fixed his dwelling in Capernaum, which was by the lake within the bounds of Zebulun and Naphtali: that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying, Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the lake-way across the Jordan, Galilee of the nations, The people that was sitting in darkness, a great light beheld, and on them who were sitting in land and shade of death, Light rose on them. From that time began Jesus to make proclamation, and saying, Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.”
Matthew points to the arrival of Jesus in Galilee as the fulfillment of the messianic passage from Isaiah, and so, Christ’s ministry began with a strong note of fulfillment:
  • For there is no gloom to her who had been in anguish, In the former time, he brought into dishonor the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, in the latter time, has he brought into honor The Lake-way over the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. the people who were walking in darkness have seen a great light. The dwellers in a land death-shadowed, a light has shined upon them” – (Isaiah 9:1-2).
In Mark, the Greek verb rendered “delivered up” is theologically loaded (paradidōmiStrong’s #3860). Repeatedly, this gospel account applies it to the “handing over” of the faithful to abuse by religious and governmental authorities, and especially to the later betrayal of Jesus to the Temple authorities.

Likewise, John was “handed over” for arrest, but paradoxically, this was in accordance with the plan 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 the arrest of John, Mark indicates that his public ministry did not begin until the ministry of John had come to its inevitable end. The preparatory work of the Baptist was finished, so the work of the “Coming One” announced by John commenced.

The historical context of John’s arrest meant that the gospel began in adversity. John withdrew to the wilderness to administer a baptism of repentance. In contrast, Jesus traveled to the populous territory of Galilee to proclaim the “good news” to all who would hear.

Upon his arrival in Galilee, Jesus pronounced that the “appointed time” was fulfilled. This rendering represents the Greek term kairos or “season, time, the opportune time, appointed time” (Strong’s - #G2540). The verb rendered “fulfilled” is in a perfect tense, signifying a completed action. His announcement echoes the passage from the Book of 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 time when the saints would be vindicated and possess the kingdom. According to Jesus, that time was “at hand,” which translates the Greek verb engizō, “to approach, draw near,” something that is imminent (Strong’s - #G1448). Hence, the promised kingdom was arriving in the person and ministry of Jesus, which is why, despite opposition from Satan and the religious authorities, his proclamation was and is “good news” – (Daniel 2:44-45, Daniel 7:13-14, 7:27).

The “kingdom of God” means the rule and sovereignty of God and something beyond mere geographical jurisdiction. The Greek word rendered “kingdom” can be translated as “dominion,” “realm,” or “reign,” in short, the dominion or reign of God over all things.

And how should individuals respond to the proclamation of the Kingdom? First, Jesus called men and women to “repent.” Second, he summoned them to “believe” the good news. Like John the Baptist, he proclaimed the imminence of the “kingdom,” and its approach necessitated repentance and faith.

Although the arrival of the kingdom was “good news” for many, it signaled impending doom for others. A person’s destiny depended on how he or she responded to the gospel. To inherit the kingdom required faith and repentance. And “repentance” is a turning away from something, while “belief” is turning to something else – faith in the Gospel and the one who pronounced it, beginning in Galilee.



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