Mark jumps right in to ministry. No birth narrative. Meet John the Baptist. Moving pretty quickly, only 14 verses in, already Jesus’ Galilean ministry has begun. It is heralded by John the Baptist, who declares, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
Understanding that line from John is key. Notice that the “good news” for John is not what we are used to hearing, like in Paul where the good news is equated with “Jesus came to save sinners by grace through faith.” Here, the good news is simply that the kingdom of God has come near. And the “repent” part is to turn from that negative thinking. You must repent and believe that the time is fulfilled.
In other words, the people were hungry – hungry for a change. Much like our present state in America, I sense that the people of that time were so ready for a change of leadership, they could taste it. They knew that life had to be better than what they had. Some had bought into the thinking that life was supposed to be this bad, that they deserved this life, and that God was punishing them for not following.
John speaks against this negative thinking, declaring that we must believe that a better life is around the corner.
Jesus taps into this hunger. His calling of the first disciples seems to be a snap. He says, “Come, and I will teach you how to fish for people!” And they go.
It got me to thinking this morning – this element of hunger versus action. We so often fall into the traps – we expect our churches will grow if we shame them into seeing their rotten lives – or we expect our churches will grow if we offer some wonderful programs. Only when we are truly hungry will we truly learn to fly.
What God is saying to us today is: Are you hungry yet? Are you hungry for a better world? Because that will motivate you! God is reminding us that our programs will not save us. The church is not saved by pretty buildings, or great sermons, or fun programs, but by a people who are so hungry for a better life, they must move into the future in a different way.
These first disciples were on fire before they even met Jesus. And so the keys to growing a church today come: It is not getting people to say “I came to FPCOKC to be fed” but making people hungry for more. Are you thirsting for justice and righteousness?