Sermon – Epiphany 3 – January 21, 2018
Mark 1:14-20 ‘The Time is Fulfilled’
CT: The Gospel is the fulfillment of the time of God’s favour; His grace toward you for Jesus’ sake.
Intro: On January 4th, 2006 in Tallmansville, WVA, friends and relatives of 13 trapped miners ended their 40 hour vigil with the news that 12 were found alive. Church bells rang out and people shouted, “Praise the Lord!” and others sang, “How Great Thou Art.” It even made the front page of the papers. Imagine that; good news on the front page of the paper. The problem was it was not accurate news. It wasn’t fake news, as Trump likes to call it, but the mine officials waited several hours before correcting the story to ensure they had all the facts. The truth was, only one survived. The shock of good news turned sour led to rioting and violence in the streets of Tallmansville, as the Governor of WVA said, “We are clinging to one miracle when we were hoping for 13.” Good news can so easily be overshadowed by the bad.
Jesus’ News: Mark’s Gospel has Jesus coming into Galilee proclaiming Good News; not just any good news, but the Glad News of God! “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.” There is no more waiting. The reign or rule of God has broken into our world; in fact, in Jesus, it is starring you in the face! Wherever people are gathered in Jesus’ name and believing in Him—where Christ is at the centre of who we are and what we do; there the reign of God is present.
But how difficult is it for you and I to hang on to this Good News so that God’s kingdom might reign in our lives when so much bad news falls our ears. How often have you been brought to say, “Where is God in this?” And you question God’s goodness and His reign in your life. Yet God’s promise is that “He will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).” You have God’s Word; His Good News for you, even this morning in Jesus’ opening proclamation: “Repent and believe in the Good News.”
Repent: Now, repent hardly sounds like Good News! It speaks of sin and our need for forgiveness; our need to be changed. But that’s the problem isn’t it? There is sin in our world; the reason for all the bad news, and you are right in the middle of it. You sin and you are a sinner, and all of us are helpless before God to change who we are. Everything we do, try, think, and say is tainted by who we are; sinners before a righteous God. Today’s Psalm (62) gets the point across: “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation.” That’s what makes Jesus words today truly Good; the Gospel. The Good News is the time of waiting is over; the Christ is here; salvation has come. God has opened up time to you and me making joyful repentance possible through faith in His Son.
You see, repentance is more than sorrow over what we’ve said or done, or being sorry for getting caught. Standing in the face of God’s wrath over sin, being sorry won’t cut it! But God works His gift of faith in you through the proclamation of His Good News to hear and cling to His Word of forgiveness in Jesus Christ, turning you in joyful contrition toward the cross and the One whose bloody suffering and death appeased God’s wrath for your sin. Indeed Christ has removed the full debt of your guilt and sin; all that separates you from your heavenly Father, both now and forever. The Gospel says that it is complete, finished, for you! That’s the Good News!
We Have Time: With John the Baptist’s voice silenced, Jesus publicly entered the scene as the fulfilment of time. Think of this time as a large vessel, filled to overflowing with all the promises of God toward mankind, now being generously poured out into the world. All of God’s promises find their ‘yes’ in Jesus! (2 Co 1:20) This is the breaking in of God’s ‘age of grace’; a time given for repentance and faith. Jesus ties these two together: “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”
Stop for a moment and think about the importance of time in Jonah’s short, terse sermon: “Yet 40 days and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” The people believed God, not Jonah, because the Gospel was there; God gave them time. 40 days of time in which the king said, “Let everyone turn from his evil way and the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” Their repentance was based on God’s goodness and mercy!
And God has given you time, our whole world time to “Repent and believe the Gospel.” Yet how easily do you and I take for granted the gift of time given us in God’s Word, in worship, the availability of the Sacrament of the Altar? Here, the Gospel is spoken to you, made visible for you in water, bread, wine, and Word in this fulfillment of the time Jesus announced. Through the Gospel the Holy Spirit bestows and strengthens faith; faith that leads to sorrow, contrition, and confession of sin—yes—but by God’s mercy alone, to absolution—the assurance that your sins are forgiven for Jesus sake that you may not perish but have everlasting life.
Ambassadors: God would not let His Good News, the words, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, be left to the whims of a certain period of time in human history. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus revealed His divinity with the power of His words, “Here, after me, and I will make you become fishers of men,” Peter,Andrew, James, and John immediately left their livelihoods and followed Jesus. These men and others would be eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life, suffering, death, and resurrection, and some would record all we need to believe in the words we hear every Sunday. They became the foundation of Christ’s Church, built on the Chief Cornerstone (Jesus Christ Himself), a living body of faithful believers who bear the Glad News of God. This Good News of Jesus Christ is found in Scripture alone, fully supported by the teaching of the Apostles (those men Jesus called to become fishers of men), and is spoken again in your hearing today with the long, hard-fought-for clarity that the Lutheran Confessions bring it. This Good News is spoken to you in the time God has given you that you would hear; that the time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand for you. Repent and believe in the Gospel, having faith and life in Jesus’ name.