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Jesus Came

Jan 21, 2018

Passage: Mark 1:14-15

Preacher: Rev. Dr. Alfonso Espinosa

Category: Sunday, Epiphany


In the Name of Jesus. Amen. Is anyone coming? The scene of John the Baptist in prison is disturbing. He was a faithful prophet of God, truly, a holy man filled with the Holy Spirit. But he was seized for preaching the truth against Herod Antipas, he was bound in prison (Mark 6:17). What went through his mind while in prison? His situation only grew dimmer. Darkness was apparently winning. Herod had to save face, so he ordered that John be beheaded. This was John’s terrible predicament. No one was coming to help him. He would not be rescued. He was alone. No one came. He was executed, and it appeared that evil had its way with a good man; an innocent man; a faithful servant of God. When the Lord Jesus received the news, He withdrew from there in a boat to a lonely place apart (Matt 14:13). Surely, He grieved for John.

And yet, John had not been alone, and this, this man of faith must have known. Someone had already come. John knew Jesus had come. It was John who baptized Jesus. It was John who pointed Him out as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. How much this must have meant for John. On- account of Christ, John had someone come after all. And even prison -- even the blade upon his neck -- would not and could not take away His life in the Messiah/Christ. John faced what was happening in His life through this simple-truth: Jesus came. This is the Savior who would rip open the graves. This is the Lord who would repair, reconstitute, and heal bodies. This is the Lord who forgives sin. This is the Lord who conquers death. This is the Lord who taught, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” (NIV Matt 10:28a) All that mattered for John; all that truly mattered for John was one thing and it made all the difference in his life: Jesus came.

So, when St. Mark first mentions Jesus in his gospel, he uses these simple words, “Jesus came (verse 4).” Jesus came. Jesus came in-the-midst-of sin in the world; in-the-midst of oppression; in-the-midst of devilish attacks; in-the-midst of deceit and controversy; in the midst-of-hatred and strife; in-the-midst of sickness and loss; in-the-midst of anxiety and fear; in-the-midst of those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness (Isaiah 9:2), Jesus came. Nothing was holding Him back. Nothing could. This is how the Gospel begins. Everything hinges on this: Jesus came.

How do I illustrate the magnitude of His coming? There is no other life situation I can describe that comes close to the amazing significance of the fact that Jesus came. But there is one I will share that at least helps us begin to know how important it is. During the horrific mudslides in Montecito, one of the reports that came out was that of a man who heard the cries of a two-year old girl. He dug through four feet of mud. Try to imagine: a little girl, a toddler, buried in mud; totally helpless. She was alone. I don’t think we can describe the terror. But then, someone came, someone came, someone came…her cries were heard, and someone came.

And there you are and there I am, helpless in the mudslide of our sin and death. What do we do? What can we do? And then someone came. The only One qualified to do anything about it. Jesus came. 

When He came according to St. Mark’s gospel, there were two things that He proclaimed (and as He proclaimed them, He did them or added them along with His coming): First – according to Mark 1:14 – Jesus was proclaiming the gospel of God. I will get to the second thing in a minute.

The “gospel”: it is one of those words that we know we should clearly know, but if we don’t clearly know it, we just might be embarrassed enough or shy enough to never clarify it. It is a word that many people know, but don’t necessarily really know. So, you hear “gospel.” What comes to mind and what was it exactly that Jesus was proclaiming and while proclaiming effecting or causing in the hearts and lives of people? We try to translate this word “gospel” and a common translation is “good news.” But while that is a good translation, it doesn’t exactly get it done so-to-speak. I say this because there’s lots of things that we consider good news. You might consider that it is good news that your favorite hockey team won their game last night; it might be good news that your best friend is coming over; it might be good news that you don’t have to go into work today. You see what I mean.

But this particular-Good News of the Gospel is way different. Consider your total list of good news in life: friends, health, house, home, clothes, food, toys, upcoming vacations, favorite hobbies, valued collections, latest insights and inspirational knowledge, advancements at work, contributions to the field that matter, making a difference in lives for the good of society; and/or for the good of the Church, falling in love, laughing, taking in the joy produced by your favorite pet or pets, looking at or listening to your favorite art, working on and beholding the beauty of the land and its vegetation, and holding those you love…imagine it all. These are all things that account for good news.

But now – with all of that bundled up together – imagine all of it is in danger of being lost. Your whole life. All good…threatened to be destroyed. In fact, something has come called sin that has already brought a spiritual mudslide upon it all…and in sin the good things, the good news things are poisoned, polluted, and pulverized. All of it on the chopping blocks. This sin destroys…and it is as an enemy that takes away and kills all the good, all the joy. And furthermore, you and I are helpless to do anything about it.

So now, let us take notice of THE Good News that is ENTIRELY on a different level. This is the GREATEST of all things good; it is the completely unique “Good News.” It is the announcement, the proclamation, the victorious trumpet blast and triumphant cry that God has sent a Savior -- His Only Son Jesus --to save you from all that would destroy the good in your life, and your life itself.

This Gospel is Christ’s rescuing your life from sin, and death, and the power of the devil. This Gospel/this TRULY Good News is that you now have the forgiveness of all your sins, the gift of life that never ends, and continual rescue from anything that would threaten to take you from the hand of God. It’s not going to happen. Why? On-account of the Gospel! THE Good News. This was what St. Paul was referring to when he wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes… (Ro 1:16).” So, when St. Mark recorded that “Jesus came” …He came bringing this Gospel; this Good News with Him! That which would destroy your good life was destroyed. The threat has been met!

Second, verse 15 of St. Mark chapter 1 records that Jesus also said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” This was a new proclamation. John the Baptist had – prior to Christ saying what He said here – said something similar. John preached for example at Matthew 3:2: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” But Jesus said decisively, “The time is fulfilled.” The Kingdom of God was fully activated if you will. And this is true for one reason: Jesus came! The Kingdom of God is in place. It’s here now. What is this kingdom? It is God ruling and leading our lives. It is when we are truly following the King of Kings: Jesus Christ our Lord. It is when with all our hearts we say, “He is King. He’s in charge. My life is about following Him!”

We pray in the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come.” In the Small Catechism we ask, “What does this mean?” Answer: “The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.” Then we ask in the Catechism, “How does God’s kingdom come?” Answer: “God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.”

This vital answer from Luther is the reason why we can say more about what the Kingdom of God is. Yes, as already said, it is God’s gracious rule and leading in our lives. But, if we are truly know this, then we must have His Word. Without the Word of Christ, it will never happen. So, it is also correct to say that the Kingdom of God through which we know His help; we know His strength; we know our real identities filled with hope and renewal in Him is only known in His Holy Church. Christ came to establish His Church. He came! That’s what He did! And through her ministry of Christ’s Word and Christ’s Sacrament, we are led by the Holy Spirit to repent – to turn from sin and to toward to God – and then to quite simply get back to the first thing all over again: the gospel, THE GOOD NEWS!

And when God rules our lives we are just always, daily, constantly, all the time, rejoicing over and celebrating the Gospel: “For me, Jesus lived! For me, Jesus died! For me, Jesus rose! And now I’m forgiven my sins – all my sins; life – lasting life – is mine; and I am saved and rescued from all that threatens. I live in the hands of God. Through Christ, I know the truth. God says to me as recorded in Isaiah 49:16: “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…”. The Gospel is mine! Life is mine! The power of God unto salvation is mine! The Kingdom of God; His loving rule is mine!”

And why? Because of these simple words that begin the gospel of St. Mark: “Jesus came.” We are no longer alone; we are saved in our helplessness; we were buried and left for dead by a cruel world, but Jesus heard our cry, and He has lifted-up out of mud. He has cleansed us by His blood! Jesus came!