Mark is the machine gun preacher, his gospel is short and snappy, moving quickly from one scene immediately to another and then another as he proves that Jesus is the Messiah. That’s how Mark begins, no nativity, no genealogy, no sweeping vista of history but 1v1 “The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.” Mark puts the point of his gospel front and centre. Then quickly he proves Jesus coming fulfils the prophetic promises(2-3), shows us Jesus commissioning at his baptism and his testing at his temptation(9-13), all in just 13 verses. Jesus is the Son of God and the Messiah! Jesus is good news. Jesus coming changes everything. But what does it mean to follow Jesus?
The first thing we see is that disciples know and believe the gospel.
After John the Baptist is put in prison Jesus begins his public ministry. He proclaims the good news of God, what is that? “The time has come…the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news.”
The good news is all about Jesus(1). The long promised king, who fulfils the prophetic promises, and is God the Son made man. God’s king come bringing God’s kingdom. That’s the good news. The kingdom Israel have been waiting hundreds and hundreds of years for, the kingdom where rebellion against God is judged and removed and God’s people enjoy living under God’s rule, forgiven, welcomed, at peace with God, glorifying him for ever. Jesus says, it’s near. That kingdom you’ve been waiting for, longing for, hoping in, it’s close to you, it has drawn near to you. All the Old Testaments hopes are fulfilled in the kingdom of God and Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah – anointed king – of that kingdom and he’s here.
Disciples know the gospel, that’s why Mark writes. They know what it promises, they share it’s longing, the good news of the Old Testament that God promises that one day sin will be destroyed, a kingdom of justice and righteousness will be established, with a king who will rule forever, and enable his people to know and enjoy God. Disciples see that Jesus is that king. They know who Jesus is – God the Son made man. The Messiah promised by God come to inaugurate the kingdom. Disciples know Jesus is all of those promises fulfilled.
But disciples don’t just know that, the way we might know 1+1=2 or that or that Nick Stoeberl from California has the worlds longest tongue measuring 10.1cm! Disciples have responded to Jesus. Look at the reaction Jesus calls for; “Repent and believe the good news.” This coming, this kingdom being near is news you have to act on.
Imagine for a minute that we were told tomorrow a vaccine against Covid was available for everyone at DRI. What would it look like to believe that? It would be more than just knowing it was available it would mean going to DRI and getting vaccinated.
Disciples know who Jesus is, they know he is the Son of God and the Messiah. But they also do something with that good news. We repent – part of the good news is acknowledging the bad news. That we are all sinners, we are all alienated from God, our relationship with him isn’t just a bit damaged, we are against him, opposed to him. Even when we try to please him we’re unable to. Our righteous acts are like filthy rags. And that temporary separation from God that we experience now will lead to eternal judgement and separation because of our sin, our rebellion against God. And that is what we deserve, hell. That is God being just and loving!
But the good news is that the bad news isn’t all the news there is. God wants to forgive us, to pay for our sin as the Old Testament promised – God would send a suffering servant to pay for our rebellion, give us his perfect record and give us new hearts and fill us with his Spirit if we confess our need. If we will repent – turning and trusting in his Saviour.
The Kingdom of God has come and Jesus offers us forgiveness and a place in the kingdom because of his love not our record. Disciples hear the bad news and so joyfully embrace the good news and they turn around, they turn away from living their own way, from relying on their own righteousness, they confess their sin and run to God, run to Jesus.
Repentance isn’t knowing it’s a transforming. It is about having a whole new direction of life. Instead of being our own king we bow the knee to Jesus. We believe in him, that he alone can save. That he alone is the rescue from the judgment we face and deserve and also the way into the kingdom of God. And we trust in a person, Jesus, not just a set of beliefs, and we follow him.
Discipleship begins as we repent and believe the good news about Jesus. Let me ask you have you done that? Have you heard the bad news about your sin, your heart, and confessed that it’s true, that you need a saviour? Have you repented, turned away from living for yourself and trusted in Jesus as your saviour? What is stopping you? There is no other means of salvation on the planet, Jesus alone saves, will you trust him?
Discipleship begins here. It’s not knowing a set of doctrines but knowing and believing in Jesus. If we have done that we ought to thank and praise God for his grace and mercy to us, for that good news. But that news also ought to motivate us to tell others, to share the bad news so they can see the sheer wonder of who Jesus is and the salvation he comes to bring.
All disciples, every disciple of Jesus knows and believes the good news. That means we have accepted the bad news is true, not of people in general, but of us personally, and we have repented and trusted Jesus as our Saviour. But that is only the beginning of discipleship, in the same way that your wedding day isn’t all of married life, it is just the beginning of it.