‘Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying: “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” And passing along by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew… And Jesus said to them: “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.’ (Mark 1:14-18)
Jesus’ message was about the kingdom of God. The good news is that this kingdom, this sovereign rule of God, is at hand. That is the gospel. (6)
. . .
The whole point of the gospel is that the kingdom of God has drawn near, but it is quite different from what people, and especially religious people, expected. It is Jesus, this man going his humble way from a stable in Bethlehem to a cross on Calvary, who is the presence of the kingdom. The reign of God is therefore no longer something about which we are free to develop our own ideas. It is no longer a doctrine or a programme which we are free to shape as we will. The kingdom of God, his kingly rule, now has a human face and a human name—the name and the face of Jesus from Nazareth. (6-7)
. . .
When we separate the kingdom of God from the name of Jesus, it simply means that we have not done the U-turn that the gospel calls for. We are still defining God and God’s rule on the basis of something other than what is given in the total fact of Jesus—his life, ministry, death and resurrection. And when we do that we end up not with a gospel, but with an ideology, a programme.(7-8)
. . .
But in what sense is it news? The fact that God reigns, that God is king, was not news to a devout Israelite. It is a fact celebrated in prophecy and psalms throughout the scriptures of Israel. One might say that it was the centre-piece of their faith. What, then, is new? It is just this: the reign of God, the kingship of God, is no longer merely a doctrine in theology; it is no longer something in another world; it is no longer something in the distant future. It has come upon you. It is now a present reality confronting you. You have to come to terms with it, to make a decision about it. It confronts you now. That is what is new.
But you don’t see it because you are facing the wrong way. You have to turn round, do a U-turn—the literal meaning of the Greek metanoia, “repent”.
…The TEV translation gives a misleading impression by translating it: “Turn away from your sins.” That might make it look like a traditional call for moral reformation. That is not the point. There is nothing about sins in the text. The point is: “The reign of God has drawn near, but you can’t see it because you are looking the wrong way. You are expecting the wrong thing. What you think is ‘God’ isn’t God at all. You have to be, as Paul says, transformed by the renewing of your mind. You have to go through a total mental revolution; otherwise the reign of God will be totally hidden from you.”
So the call is to turn round and believe the gospel—that is to say, believe the good news I am telling you, namely that the reign of God has drawn near. You will not see it; but it will be possible for you to believe it. (2-3)
. . .
The gospel is this: that in the man Jesus the kingdom has actually come among us in judgment and blessing. It is now the reality with which we have to deal—whether in our most private devotions or in our most public actions in the life of society. (10)
–Lesslie Newbigin, Mission in Christ’s Way