One day during my holidays I thought I might go for a ride on my bicycle. I don’t get to ride it very much and there was so much happening towards the end of last year that my push bike has sat in the shed neglected for a long time. When I pulled it out to go for a ride, I found that the front tyre was flat. I pumped it up and left it to see what would happen, but when I came back the following day, it was flat again.
The tube had a hole in it.
I figured there were a few things I could do. I could put the bike back in the shed and ignore the problem. Or I could pump the tyre up every time I went for a ride and try to get home before it went flat again. A third option was to take the tyre off the bike, find the hole and put a patch on the tube. Or I could change the tube and replace it with a new one.
The options I faced with my bike tyre are similar to those we face in our lives whenever something isn’t the way it’s supposed to be or isn’t doing what it’s designed to do. We can apply these same options to our relationships, our jobs, our church, or any aspect of our lives. When things aren’t right, we can either just ignore it, keep going like there’s nothing wrong, try to patch it up, or we can look for a change that will restore what isn’t working properly and help it become the way it was intended to be.
A lot of theologians point to Jesus’ message at the start of his earthly ministry as a summary of everything that follows in the gospels. We read in Mark 1:14,15,
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (NIV)
Jesus spent the next three years of his earthly ministry explaining what he meant when he announced that ‘the kingdom of God has come near’ and called for people to ‘repent and believe the good news.’ Every time Jesus said, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like…’ he gave us a different perspective on what it means to live in God’s coming kingdom through faith in the gospel. Obviously, I won’t be able to fully explore Jesus’ teachings on God’s kingdom in one message, but there are a few things we can learn from Jesus’ opening announcement.
The first is what it means to repent. Some Bibles translate Jesus’ words as ‘Repent of your sins’ (NLT) which reflects how people can understand repentance a lot of the time. We can hear calls to ‘Repent’ telling us to stop doing bad things and change our behaviours so that we do what is considered to be morally right and good. However, the Greek word for repentance isn’t just about not sinning. It is more about an inner change. As we read the gospel stories, we hear Jesus calling people who were regarded as ‘sinners’ to change, but he also spent a lot of time calling respectable religious people to change as well. In fact, some argue that Jesus showed a lot of grace to people who were on the wrong side of the moral ledger and he was much more critical of the people whose lives looked more morally acceptable but whose hearts were not oriented towards God’s grace and mercy. Maybe Jesus isn’t just telling ‘bad’ people to change their behaviours, but for all of us to change in some way.
In these opening words of his earthly ministry, Jesus called people to ‘believe the good news’ (NIV). Our natural inclination is to find it easier to trust in ourselves than to trust in God – it’s part of our human condition. However, Jesus’ earthly ministry showed why we can trust God and why believing in him leads to a better life. Faith is the essential change God wants to see in our lives. Faith in God, along with the goodness and grace that he extends to us in Jesus through the gospel, makes a significant difference in our lives. It leads us into greater peace, joy, hope and love. It gives us freedom from guilt, fear, shame and worry. Believing the good news of Jesus and the message of his life, death, and resurrection for us makes us new like a new tube in my bike tyre. We don’t have to ignore the problems or struggles in our lives, or pretend that everything’s fine when it isn’t, or try to patch things up when they go wrong. Through the gospel, God changes our hearts, our attitudes and behaviours, our relationships, and our communities. We encounter and live in God’s life-giving grace when we believe the gospel and live like it’s true. Believing the good news of God’s kingdom becomes the fundamental change Jesus calls for in our lives.
I’ve heard someone say that the good news of God’s kingdom is just as much about the life we live here and now as it is about going to heaven when we die. Jesus announced the good news that the kingdom of heaven isn’t just something we look forward to in the future, but it is with us here and now. Jesus said, ‘the kingdom of God has come near’ (v15 NIV). It is as close to us as the word of God which speaks the good news of Jesus to us. When we trust the good news of God’s kingdom which comes to us in Jesus, and we become part of his kingdom of grace, mercy, love, and peace through faith in Jesus, then Jesus becomes our king and we are his people. Jesus spent the next three years helping his followers to see the reality of God’s kingdom so we can have a fuller picture of what God’s kingdom looks like and what it means for us to live in it now. Whenever Jesus told parables or performed miracles, he was giving us a picture of what God’s kingdom looks like and the difference it makes in our lives.
Jesus began his ministry by announcing the coming kingdom of God and calling people to repent and believe this good news. He wasn’t just telling sinners to change their behaviours. He was calling all of us into a deep and profound change by trusting the good news of his coming kingdom and living like it’s already here. It can be hard for us to accept change for a whole lot of reasons. However, Jesus’ call for change means we don’t have to ignore the broken parts of our lives. We don’t have to pretend they don’t exist or try to patch them up ourselves. We can bring our broken lives, relationships, communities, and church to him in the faith that he makes us and all things new through the gospel.
Jesus just asks us to trust the good news of his coming kingdom, which ends up changing us.
More to think about & discuss:
- If you had a puncture in a bicycle tube what would you do: ignore it, pretend it wasn’t there, try to fix it yourself, or change the tube? Explain why you’d do that…
- How do you usually understand the word ‘repent’? To whom do you think it applies?
- Does using the word ‘change’ instead of ‘repent’ help you understand v15 in a different way? Explain why…
- What do you think of when you hear ‘the kingdom of God’? How might you explain what God’s kingdom is like to another Christian? How might you describe it to someone who isn’t Christian?
- How is the coming of God’s kingdom in Jesus good news for you?
- What do you think it might look like to believe in God’s coming kingdom and live like it’s near to us here and now?
- How might this faith lead to change in you? your relationships? your church?
- When you read Mark 1:14-20, what else can you hear about what God wants us to do?
- Is there anything else you can hear about what God has done, is doing or will do for us in Jesus? In other words, is there more good news you can hear in this text?
- What do you hear this story teaching us about how to live as Jesus’ followers in faith, hope, and love?
You can watch a video version of this message at https://youtu.be/WsoTcyUciHI
God bless you with faith in the good news of God’s coming kingdom in Jesus and the changes that brings.