The Kingdom is at Hand! #1
Isaiah 30:15-18; Mark 1:14-15
Today is the First Sunday in Lent. Lent, these forty days that lead to Easter, have always held a very special place in the Church’s calendar. I thought about what to preach this Lent and I decided the best place to begin this Lenten journey is to go back to the roots, the beginnings, with Jesus in Galilee. In Mark 1:14-15 we read, “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
When Mark sets out to describe Jesus’ public ministry, the first thing Mark does is give us a summary of Christ’s preaching. And so that’s where our attention is going to fall – verses 14 and 15. In verse 15, we actually have the summary of Jesus’ sermon: “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
If you’ll look there with me just for a moment, you will immediately conclude, I am sure, that Jesus was very obviously a committed Presbyterian because this is a three-point sermon and all I am going to do today and next Sunday is outline the three points and then we will work through them together.
Let me give you the headings of Jesus’ sermon and that will be the headings for my sermon today and next Sunday. In verse 15 you can see them. The first thing Jesus talks to us about is God’s perfect timing. He says, “the time is fulfilled.” The time has come. God’s perfect timing. Then in the second point of His sermon, Jesus talks to us about the return of the King “the kingdom of God is at hand.” And then the third thing Jesus talks about is life under new management; “repent and believe the gospel.” So God’s perfect timing, the return of the King, life under new management. That’s the outline of Christ’s very first sermon.
So, as a way of introduction, I would like to say a couple words about why Galilee then cover the first point of Jesus’ sermon ~ “the time has come.”
Galilee: God’s Grace is Manifested in the most Unlikely of Places
Mark 1:14 states, “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee proclaiming the good news of God.” Have you ever wandered why Galilee and how can this event, God’s choice of Galilee, be applied to the church today?
Well, as we know from the gospel narrative, Galilee witnessed the beginning and the fulfilment of the Christian story. In Galilee, Jesus proclaimed the good news of God first. His public ministry took place first in Galilee. It was to be in this same area three years later that the resurrected Christ would spend most of His forty days with His disciples. “He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.” That was the message Jesus told Mary to pass on to Peter and the other disciples in Mark 16:7. “We will meet again in Galilee,” and that is virtually how the gospel ends. The beginning and the fulfilment of Jesus’ story took place in Galilee.
Why Galilee? God’s grace is manifested in the most unlikely of places. God shows up in the most desperate and hopeless situations and places in our lives. He can be glorified not in our strengths, but in our weaknesses. If you and I had been planning where Jesus would do His ministry for its most strategic impact on Israel, surely we would have said, “Lord, go to Jerusalem. That is the center of government. That is the center of power. That is where you find people with money, people with influence, and people with education. They are there in Jerusalem. Go there and do your ministry. Don’t go to the backwaters of Galilee where the simple, the poor, the uneducated and the morally depraved exist. Don’t go there, go to Jerusalem. We can find you financial support for your ministry. We can spread the word of your ministry much faster, if you’ll just base yourself in Jerusalem.”
But God had other plans; He had determined that His Son would minister in unknown places to simple people in Galilee. That is where God would send His Son, not to the aristocracy of Jerusalem, but to the despised, the compromised and largely ignorant masses of Galilee. That is where He would fulfil His ministry. To an incohesive Gentile-Jewish population, there the Father sends the Son. Think of it, my friends. Our Lord Jesus was reared in Galilee, and it would be in Galilee of the Gentiles that He would spend the larger part of His earthly ministry. Not in Jerusalem, not in Judea. God’s grace is manifested in the most unlikely places and before people whom we may think of as the least worthy to receive it.
First: The Time Has Come
In Galilee, Jesus preached His first sermon. “The time has come,” He said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” The time has come ~ Greek has two words for time. The first is chronos. In English we have chronological and chronology. Chronos is the measurement of time. It’s clock time. It’s the answer to the question “What time is it?” The other Greek word is kairos. It’s not clock time, it’s the critical time, the right time, the time you’ve been waiting for, the time of your life. It is a moment of truth, a turning point, a decision time.
A lot of Christians are chronos challenged. Yet, Christians should seize those “kairos” moments. If you put off a kairos time, you will miss a critical moment in your life. It’s your time to make a decision. It’s the turning point of history or, at least, your history. When Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves, it was kairos time. When Rosa Parks took her seat on a Montgomery city bus, it was kairos time. When Germans tore down the Berlin Wall, it was kairos time. And when Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit and began to preach it was kairos time.
John the Baptist proclaimed in Mark 1:7-8, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me... I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” That time had come. The Jews waited seven hundred years for the promised Messiah. That time had come. God’s people longed for the Lord to deliver them from evil, to set the captives free. That time had come. Kairos time: it’s the right time, the critical time, the time for a decision.
The time has come for you. Jesus asks, “Are you in? Will you sign up? Will you follow?” when we hear God’s voice, we can either live in the chronos or the kairos. Oh. Well. Sure Jesus. But first let me drink another cup of coffee. I have to read a little more of the sports section. I’m sorry, Jesus. What were you saying? The kids were fighting in the back seat. I have a to-do list a mile long, my email inbox has 3000 messages, I have that soccer game, a conference call and dinner to make. And by the way Jesus, what are you asking me to sign up for anyway? “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Amen!
First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday March 10th, 2019)
Rev. Dr. Mouris Yousef, Pastor
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