The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news. Mark 1:15
In my experience, when Christians share the ‘good news’ they almost never talk about the Kingdom. We ignore the first part of Christ’s message at the start of Mark’s gospel, which is the news or proclamation that the Kingdom, or the Kingship of God, has come near (some translators put it ‘is at hand’). Instead, we choose to only focus on the second part of the above verse, the instruction to believe and repent. But, as Tom Wright has helpfully pointed out, that is good advice, not good news.
Why do we do that?
I suspect, sometimes it’s because it doesn’t seem like God’s Kingdom is near at all. We’re all quite aware of how broken the world is. Surely, if God’s in charge, shouldn’t things be going better than they are? I’m sure Jesus’ listeners thought the same thing, after all, their world was just as broken.
However, in time, what Jesus’ followers discovered was that God’s kingdom looks rather different to what they expected. It was radically different from the sort of kingdoms that humans have tended to establish for themselves. For instance, God’s kingdom isn’t expanded or maintained by force or violence (John 18:36). Nor is it advantageous to have money in God’s Kingdom (Mark 10:25). In fact, if we can say anybody has an advantage in God’s kingdom, it is those people who are poor, humble and childlike. (Matt 18:4).
In a world plagued by violence and the relentless pursuit of wealth and power, such a kingdom sounds like Good News doesn’t it? And it will seem like Good News to those who have suffered great violence in their lives, those who are desperately poor, and those who are utterly powerless.
When we invite others to follow Jesus, we’re not just urging them to turn back to God (the meaning of the word repent). We’re giving them the news that God is the King, and that his Kingdom (which the church hopes to demonstrate to the world) is precisely the sort of Kingdom for which we have been longing.
If you have a concordance, or a study bible, or a phone app that lets you do key word searches, search for all the texts in the Gospels that refer to the Kingdom. Learn about the values and practices that define the Kingdom of God.
Can you creatively demonstrate those values in your life? For instance, can you host an inclusive meal? Can you give priority in some way to those who are poor or humble?
Our Father, who is in heaven, holy is your name in all the earth. Let your Kingdom come, and your will be done, here and now on earth, as it is in heaven. Amen
Written by Gareth Banton, an ordinand at Ridley Hall, Cambridge. You can subscribe to get weekly devotionals in your inbox here.