Jesus as Lord of History: Or, a Demand and a Blessing of Discipleship
“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mark 1:14-15)
This is the first record of the content of Jesus’ preaching: this, here, is the message of Jesus. What I want to look at in this devotional is Jesus’ first phrase and what it says about who and what Jesus is: “The time is fulfilled,” and what that says about Jesus’ lordship over history.
So, what does Jesus mean – “the time is fulfilled?” Look at the very beginning of the passage. When did Jesus begin preaching? After John was arrested. Actually, the ESV paraphrases this here. In the original Greek, it literally means “the delivering up” of John. It’s passive – that means, it describes something done to John. This is what we call a “divine passive.” The Jews in Mark’s day were extremely superstitious about using the name of God. They were so scared of breaking the third commandment and accidentally using the Lord’s name in vain that they used euphemisms and oblique references to refer to God’s actions. One of these roundabout ways of talking about God was to refer to an event in the passive voice. That means, instead of saying, “God delivered up John,” they would say, “John was delivered up.”
What Mark is saying here, with this odd word, is that John’s imprisonment was no accident. John had done what he came to do – he heralded the Messiah, Jesus. And now it was time for John to move aside and Jesus to come forward. So in God’s time, Jesus arrived right when John’s ministry came to an end, because God had appointed the time when John would be arrested. God delivered John up, because his time had come to an end.
The time is fulfilled, Jesus is saying: all of human history, all the events of Scripture, all the acts of God have now culminated in Christ. The time is fulfilled: all history hangs on this moment. Jesus Christ has come. The Messiah is here. The time of waiting and watching is over. He’s here.
Look at the passage as a whole for a moment: its broad theme is about the demands of discipleship. Mark is displaying Jesus preaching a costly message and demanding a costly response. Only a God who is sovereign has the right to make such an astounding demand! Only the God who has measured out each moment of our lives, who has given us each of our days as a gift from his hand, is entitled to ask us to make such a sacrifice! The Lord of history, the Creator of time itself, is well within his rights to demand from us the most precious things we have—including our time, and everything else.
And note that Mark describes Jesus’ message as “the Gospel of God.” This implied declaration of God’s lordship over history, then, which follows that statement, must be critical to our message as Christians. It’s no coincidence that the Great Commission in Matthew, too, begins with such a statement: “All authority on heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).
God’s sovereignty is the foundation of the Gospel. Only a sovereign God, who is the Lord of history, could arrange our salvation. And so there’s a blessing in the cost. The God who delivered John up to prison and death to bring his purpose to pass, the God who arranged the whole flow of history and every element of the story of the world to culminate in Christ – this God will not treat our sacrifices lightly. We can be assured that whatever the cost, it will be worth it. Whatever we sacrifice, it will be used to build God’s Kingdom and bring him glory. Because God is sovereign, everything works to the glory of God, and to the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).
One demand, and one blessing, of discipleship is the authority of a sovereign God.
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