Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God… (Mark 1:14).
Recently, I was looking at the first chapter of Mark. It starts with the ministry of John the Baptist.
John brought the nation of Israel good news. God was offering them the kingdom of God. And John was preparing the way for the coming King.
Israel had been waiting for this King and kingdom for centuries.
They were a subjected people (under the control of Rome) and with the coming of the kingdom all of that would change. According to the Old Testament prophets, Israel would become the most important nation on earth.
One would think they would have been very excited about the news. At first, it seems they were. Many came out to be baptized by John and to listen to his preaching.
But there was one catch.
Before God would bring the Kingdom to the nation of Israel, the nation had to repent of their sins. God had promised to bless the nation if they lived in a holy way.
The kingdom was the greatest blessing the nation could receive. But the nation as a whole needed to turn from sins in order to receive it.
(We should note that this is not the requirement for a person to receive eternal life. In John’s day a person received eternal life by faith in Christ, just like we do today.)
We see in the life of John that the people did not want to accept this good news. John spoke out about the sin of the king, and the king had him arrested. Then, the wife of the king, who was involved in the sin, made sure John was executed. Mark gives us a hint of what was happening in v 14—John was placed in prison.
We are then told that Jesus preached the same message. He preached about the “kingdom of God.” He also called the Jewish nation to repent in order to receive this blessing from God.
Of course, what happened to John is a foreshadowing of what will happen to the Lord. Those with authority will kill Him. Those with political and religious power will bring this about.
These two men were giving them great news!
And yet, not only did they reject that news, they killed the ones bringing it.
In the final analysis, they did not want to accept this news. It went against what they thought the good news should be. They wanted to keep their positions of power. They did not want to turn from their way of thinking or their way of life. They held fast to their traditional way of understanding things.
Strange isn’t it?
Such good news—news that they had waited for their whole lives was unwelcomed. But in a way, isn’t the same thing true for the gospel of grace?
It is the best news anybody could ever hear. God gives eternal life through faith in Christ alone, and this life can never be lost—what could be better? People search their whole lives to find God, and when they hear the message, they reject it.
The message is not what they expected or what they wanted.
In some cases, pride wants to boast in works.
In other cases, people have a tradition that simply will not allow them to listen to such a message of grace.
In still other cases they are happy with things just as they are.
John and Jesus brought good news to those who heard them. The vast majority did not want to hear it.
When we bring good news to others, we should not be surprised if they respond similarly. In many cases, the good news we bring will be unwelcomed.