Third Sunday After Epiphany

Third Sunday After Epiphany (Series B)icon-download-pdf-wp
January 21, 2018

Gospel: Mark 1:14-20
Epistle: 1 Cor 7:29-31 (32-35)
Lesson: Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Psalm: Psalm 62

CLB Commentary – Rev. Ed Nugent

All Jesus says is, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men”, and Simon (Peter) and Andrew immediately drop their nets and leave their small business behind. He says the same thing to James and John and they immediately leave their father in the boat with the hired hands to fix the nets. (Don’t you wish Mark would have recorded Zebedee’s reaction?) What evangelist doesn’t dream of a response like this to his preaching?

Following the fast paced nature of the gospel, Mark quickly moves from the baptism of Jesus to the inauguration of His earthly ministry by calling his first disciples. While the call and response described in verses 16-20 are the most dramatic action in the pericope, the key to preaching this pericope lies in the preached words of Jesus.

As John’s preaching ends, Jesus’ begins. He preaches “the gospel of God” by declaring two things; the time is right (Gal 4:4; Eph 1:10) and the result of this is that the kingdom or reign of God is near. As near as the man speaking these words (Luke 17:21)! The nature of this kingdom/reign will become clearer as the gospel progresses, but we already know that it is good news (εὐαγγέλιον). This is a big deal because the coming of the King does not usually mean good news for unruly subjects. If the King were not gracious a warning would be more appropriate. But this King is gracious, so the unrepentant and disbelieving subjects are called to respond; repent and believe the good news that the King is gracious.

Now to the narrative portion of the pericope. The fishermen are busy working in their lower case kingdoms; trying to make a living, maybe just hoping to have enough fish to feed themselves or maybe hoping to expand their kingdoms by hiring a few more deckhands or buying another boat. Our kingdoms are small, but they are ours and we tend to take them pretty seriously. Along comes Jesus proclaiming the coming of His uppercase Kingdom; the Kingdom of God. Unlike the kingdoms of men, the Kingdom of God is eternal, it will not pass away and will not be thwarted by any man or any circumstance. It is of far more value and significance than our kingdoms, but it is also a little less tangible in the here and now. We must wrestle with this in a sermon. The disciples left their kingdoms to follow the King and bring other people into the Kingdom of God with the good news of the gracious King.


Key words/phrases –

Fulfilled (perfect/passive/indicative) – the time is full/complete, the continuing result is that the ministry and work of Jesus can begin; t/f the kingdom of God is at hand.
Kingdom of God – The word βασιλεία means both the ruling of a territory and the territory ruled. Translated as kingdom it emphasizes the spatial/territorial aspect. Reign better emphasizes the administration or rule over the kingdom. The phrase is used 14 times in Mark.
Repent and believe – the double imperatives to repent and believe are the natural response to the indicative statement; Repent and believe. Why? Because in Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God is near.
Immediately – used 42 times in the Gospel of Mark and only 17 other NT uses. Things always seem to be happening immediately in Mark.


Preaching points –

  • We are all unruly subjects of the King. The news of His coming should make us tremble with fear because none of us is righteous, none of us is pure, and because of that none of us stand a chance. But the news of His coming is proclaimed as good news for unrepentant and unbelieving subjects like us!
  • The tension between our lower case kingdoms and God’s upper case Kingdom is a very real struggle for most of our listeners. If we hope in our own kingdoms with an ultimate hope, we will never drop our nets and follow Jesus.
  • Our preaching is no different than what Jesus proclaims in v. 15. “The time is right at this moment, in Jesus Christ the Kingdom of God is near; repent (recognize your need for forgives) and believe the good news (that everything you need you already have in Christ)!” Remember, Jesus did not proclaim a warning, he proclaimed the good news of God.
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