Jesus went into the water (Jordan), then he was thrown into the wilderness, and finally he went into Galilee. Mark structurally highlights this movement with the use of the preposition into (εíς). Each of these events has multiple layers of significance and meaning.
At one level, they are rehearsals of the life of Israel. Jesus, as the faithful remnant of Israel, went through the water like Israel in the Exodus, went into the wilderness as Israel did for 40 years, and entered Galilee with hope and promise just as Israel occupied the promised land under Joshua. [Matthew draws the analogy between Galilee and a light coming into the darkness in Matthew 4:12-17, quoting Isaiah 9.] Jesus is reliving the life of Israel in his own life. This includes his ministry in Galilee and ultimately Judea as well.
Jesus’ ministry continues the ministry of Israel. Just as Israel was a witness to the presence of God in the world as a light to the nations, so Jesus inaugurates that mission by serving Israel and ultimately sending his church among the nations. Israel came out of the wilderness to minister among the nations, and Jesus comes out of the wilderness to minister in Israel as he prepares a people to minister among the nations.
At another level, the church follows Jesus into the water, follows Jesus into the wilderness, and embraces his work (mission) as its own.
|Israel||Baptized in the Sea||40 Years in Desert||Light to the Nations|
|Jesus||Baptized in the Jordan||Trial in the Desert||Light to the Nations|
|Church||Baptized into Christ||Desert Experiences||Light to the Nations|
Once John is in prison, the way is clear for the ministry of Jesus to emerge as the primary focus of the kingdom of God in the world. Jesus heralds (announces) the good news of God. What is the good news? The headliner of the Gospel of Mark (1:1) says it is related to Jesus–belonging to him or about him. Here Mark specifies the good news.
When Jesus heralds the good news of God, he says: “The kingdom of God has drawn near.” This is the time of God’s visitation; the time of God’s in-breaking. “The time is fulfilled.” It is now.
As we read through the Gospel of Mark, we will see more clearly what the “kingdom of God” is and how its appearance is good news. Simply, the reign of God has made a new appearance in the fallen world to redeem what is broken. God’s justice will set things right, God’s mercy will heal the broken, and God’s peace will reign in the world. This comes in the person of Jesus who is the reign of God embodied.
This gospel announcement calls for a response: repent and believe, or reform and trust. Some theologians have based a technical point on the order of “repent and believe” in Mark 1:15. But this is overreading. The function of “repent” here is the same as it was for John the Baptist. It is a call for reformation on the part of Israel. The people must align themselves with the purposes of the gospel, the reign of God, through repentance and reformation of life. Penitent, they trust the good news; they trust that God is really going to bring his reign to the earth. So, the response is repent in preparation for the coming kingdom and trust that it is really going to happen.
This text calls the church into ministry as well. Just as we followed Jesus into the water and followed him into the wilderness, so we follow him into ministry. We, too, herald the coming of the kingdom of God, calling people to repent and believe, reform and trust. The ministry of Jesus is our ministry.
Through reading the Gospel of Mark, we learn from Jesus and embrace his mission. We follow him by heralding the good news and practicing the good news in our lives and among the nations.