Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
The quote above is from Mark 1:14, 15. It follows immediately on the heels of the temptation of Jesus. There is much for us to digest in these few words—far more than it may seem at first. Here are some things to think about: First, Jesus has been in the desert facing down the prince of demons. After that test, he turns at once for home in order to bring the message of the gospel to the people he knows best. He heads first to the region where he grew up. In other words, Jesus puts a lot of stock in the souls of those in his community.
Second, Jesus preaches a simple yet profound message. He is bringing to people the “gospel of God.” And what is that gospel? We would typically say that the gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Yet here in Mark 1, Jesus has been neither dead, nor buried, nor resurrected. Jesus here preaches that the gospel has to do with the arrival of the kingdom of God. In the person and work of Jesus (i.e., in his ministry), the kingdom of God is being revealed. What God always intended for humanity in this life is being taught by and modeled by Jesus.
Third, the death, burial, and resurrection that are soon to come are certainly a part of the gospel. Yet here Jesus is calling on people to see in him the kingdom of God, and, based on what they see and experience, to decide to repent and believe. That belief is to continue unto and beyond the cross—the culmination of the gospel. Jesus is inexorably marching to his cross, but along the way he is challenging people to have faith in his provenance, and in the truth of the kingdom. It is a lot to think about.