The Good News of God’s Love Ends Legalism

Mark 1, the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ!  The goodnews, as told to us by Mark. Who was Mark? (read 14:43-52, and also 1 Peter 5:13).  Peter was his spiritual father, and the source for what he relates to us here.  

The chapter begins with the brief mention of John the Baptist , who belongs to the prophets waiting and preparing the way for the Christ.  

Jesus is the initiator, the mediator, the Revealer who alone reveals all we need to know!  

John knew a lot–God used him to reveal quite a bit to us, see John 1: 19ff, and Luke 3, yet he did not know how Jesus would fulfill all the prophecies.  Here in Mark we see John teaching “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” We see this fully in Acts 1:4-8, but John did not fully understand, neither did John’s original audience.  Like other prophets he was serving the future generations. Later, when in prison, what did he ask his followers to ask Jesus?  

What was Jesus’ response?  John is treated with empathy, and given the reassurance he needs, the knowledge that puts to rest all his doubts and fears.  Our genuine questions will meet the same attitude from our Lord. Jesus replies that the Kingdom is dawning, as shown by the signs attesting it.  Yes John–Jesus is the Christ!

Mark 1:9-12, baptism of Jesus.  Notice here, and in Luke… the words “You are My Beloved Son, in You I am well pleased” are written as though the voice was directed only to Jesus.  Have you ever noticed all the ways God reveals the perfect love shared by the Trinity? This is a glimpse, is it not? A loving Father, reaffirming His Son, at a moment when the Son would be led about by the Spirit into difficult terrain, physically and spiritually.  This is the very love He draws us into.  

12-13, we see Jesus led into the wilderness; and angels ministering to Him after the fasting and temptations.  

Verse 14, makes me think of the Gospel of John chapter one in which John the Baptist says that  He must increase, John must decrease. Mark puts Jesus’ preaching at the same time as John’s arrest. 


Mark 1:15…kingdom,   Jesus ushered in an epoch in which God With Us displayed marvels and miracles that declare the presence of His Kingdom…not in its fulness, for He taught us to pray “Thy Kingdom come…” and He taught about the future of the Kingdom (Mark 9:1, Acts 1:3).

Can you think of any other of Jesus’ teachings on the Kingdom?

 But the prophecy coming beforehand is ended and the time of preparation is fulfilled.  The Kairos is fulfilled, not the word for chronological time.  Remember Acts 1:9, it is not for us to know times and epochs–we know only what He reveals, but the future and how His kingdom is built and how the “end” may happen is not for us to know.  

I have enjoyed Sinclair Ferguson’s “The Whole Christ” and some of these thoughts on verse 15 were spurred on by him:  

Latin Vulgate, Jerome, translated the phrase “do penance and believe”…we can understand then how the catholic church could create a system controlling its people with acts of penance to win forgiveness of sins.

Erasmus later translated this “repent”, and Tyndale followed suit with his English translation, “repent”…

Deeds of repentance follow from a heart of faith; they do not prepare us for faith, earn the gift of faith, open our eyes to truth, change our heart or condition, etc.   

Repentance takes place as our hearts grasp the grace brought to us, by faith.  (See Romans 5:1-5)

Repent and believe…you had set your hearts and minds on imperfect, temporal, fleeting, self-righteous, kingdoms and idols…  Set your hearts and minds on Christ instead. Do not separate repentance and belief, this is the teaching of many forms of legalism.  Only those who repent sufficiently for me to see are accepted? (No!) Only those who start trying really hard get to be “in”? (Again, No!)  Rather this is a call to pay attention, to follow, to unlearn the worldly ways and learn His ways, to stop being ‘king’ of your own made up kingdom, to taste and see His goodness, to believe all that He came to reveal.  If we were German-speaking, we might create a word in their fashion of smooshing together words to create new ones with robust meaning: ‘repentandbelieve’!  

To protect our hearts from legalism, we do not swerve away from law–but rather we make sure we do not abstract the law or the blessings from the person of Christ; we do not create a chronological system of “how” people are saved, or even a system of “how to try harder now that you are repentant.”  We keep the law in the context “in redemptive history as an expression of a gracious Father” and we do not “distort the love of God and the full freeness of His grace.”  

It is free.  We do not “repent” to become worthy.  Do not turn repentance into another law, or a litmus test, or a stage to work through first.  

The questions that follow then include: which Kingdom are you in?  What is His kingdom like now? What is the future of His kingdom?  Who is the King? What is my place in this kingdom? He would eventually answer such questions.  Slowly. And we need the Epistles to inform us as well. The kingdom is first preached in this verse, but cannot be fully understood without the whole of the Gospels, Epistles, and Revelation, and the backdrop of the Old Testament.   

Vs 16-20  Culturally, this was difficult.  You didn’t leave family. God ordains families, yet Jesus is asking sons to leave fathers.  Have you thought through this? He is asking them value His kingdom above tradition and cultural norms.  

21-28  His teaching astonishes, amazes; His authority seen in His words and deeds.  Truly these verses show that His teaching and miracles proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom.

29-31a healing and a meal.  Then, from all over the city they brought many who were in need of exorcism or healing… o what a night!  Can you imagine the apostles thoughts? Can you imagine the weariness afterward?

In the early morning, still dark, Jesus slipped away to a secluded place to pray.  Naturally the others search for him. They find him only to hear it will be time to travel, to preach and cast out demons elsewhere.  41ff focus us in on Jesus’ compassion, willingness, and law-abiding “ness.” And Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. He looks on us with compassion, we pray as He taught and find He is willing.

Jesus’ coming is “the time fulfilled” yet He tells the cleansed leper to do what Moses commanded.  He fulfills the law but does not do away with a jot or title. Remember the Law was glorious, good; and reveals that God has good desires for His people.  Love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13) so speak and act as those who are to be judged by the “royal law of love” or the Law of liberty (James 2:8-12).  Obedience is now possible for us who are indwelt by His Spirit, and have His law written on our hearts. This should lead us to both a “phew!” reaction, and a sense of awe, and gratitude. Are you believing God’s love for you? Are you believing that nothing can separate you from His love for you and care of you and delight in you?

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