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Lesson 1: Teacher

The Kingdom of Heaven is not a place, but a state of mind.

– John Burroughs

For several weeks, we will break down Jesus’ ministry into various categories: general teachings, healing, compassionate hospitality, miracles, parables, and relationship with disciples. However, since these categories all intermingle in Jesus’ life, expect the discussions to overlap. Forcing Jesus into neat and tidy categories is never easy!

Devotion: Read Mark 1:14-15. Jesus begins his public ministry with the fundamental teaching which undergirds all his actions: “the kingdom of God has come near” (NRSV) or “the reign of God is at hand” (TIB). In earthly kingdoms, we obey Rulers and their laws. However, “the kingdom/reign of God” is not found in a geographical area. God’s reign is present wherever and whenever people live according to God’s commands and desires (Eph 19; 1 Pet 2:9). Jesus reasserts this idea when teaching us to pray: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Mt 6:10). What happens in heaven? Only that which God desires. Those who live under God’s reign now must only speak words acceptable to God and only perform actions which God desires. That is our calling as followers of Jesus. The Holy Spirit guides and strengthens us to embody God’s reign (Acts 2). Think back over your words, actions, and thoughts over the past week. When were you living under God’s reign? When were you ignoring God’s kingdom and serving another? When we serve God, are any of our actions “neutral?”

Personal Worship Option: Read Colossians 3:1-10. Set your mind on the things of God. What ways of acting do you need to “put to death?” Spend time in prayer becoming aware of God’s presence, asking for forgiveness, and seeking strength to act as you should.

Dig A Little Deeper:

1:14 All three “synoptic gospels” (a term referring to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which are similar in many ways) point out Jesus begins his ministry after John is arrested (Mt 4:12; Lk 3:20).

The “good news” is the proclamation that our Creator is active in the creation, bringing light into darkness, and inviting us to align our lives according to God’s desires. Jesus’ incarnation is the primary manifestation of that action (Is 61:1-2; Col 1:21-23).

1:15 “The time is fulfilled” refers to the belief that God deals with humanity in particular ways in different eras. For instance, a new “age” begins when God calls Abraham and Sarah, initiating a covenant with them (Gen 12). Likewise, God’s gift of the Law begins a new era. In the same way, Jesus proclaims a new Messianic age has arrived and calls followers to respond to the reign of God by repentance and belief. “Repent” means to turn toward God, away from other rulers, and place God’s desires first. Does repentance always have an emotional element? Is it possible to repent and not change? Is it possible to repent and treat people the same way you did before?

“Believe in the good news” does not refer to an intellectual acknowledgement of God’s existence. In scripture, to “believe” in something means to base actions upon it. Therefore, belief in the good news means living as Jesus teaches. The remainder of the gospel is spent spelling out how a believer in this new age of the good news acts. Jesus is our example, the incarnation of God’s reign on earth. What does our culture place before God? What are you personally tempted to put before God (career, family, safety, nation, reputation, comfort, prejudices)?

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