Mark 1:9-20 (ESV)
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” 12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him. 14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” 16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.
Mark turns from John the Baptist to Jesus. We read of Jesus’ baptism by John, Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, the beginning of Jesus’ preaching and Jesus’ calling of his first disciples: Simon, Andrew, James and John. Mark’s account so far is brief and to the point, yet there are many thought-provoking facts worth noting. For one, right after Jesus’ baptism, Mark records that the Holy Spirit immediately drove him into the wilderness. The Greek word we read in English as “drove,” means just that. It is a term of force and can be translated as “drive out, expel, or send away.” The Spirit empowered Jesus at his baptism and then drove him out to test his obedience. Would he use his power to serve himself or to serve God? It is also interesting to see what Mark records as the content of Jesus’ preaching in Galilee. In verse 15, we read, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Jesus preached two responses to the gospel: repent and believe. It has been said that belief and repentance are like two sides of a coin. We cannot separate the heads from the tails, and if we did, we would no longer have a full coin. In the same way, we cannot separate belief from repentance. Both are necessary components of the proper response to the good news that Jesus brought. This was the message of John the Baptist, and it was the message of Jesus.
Because the kingdom of God is at hand, those who want to follow Jesus must repent and believe. Another way of saying this would be “turn and trust.” To follow Jesus we must choose to trust in what he has accomplished to make us right with God. We cannot, for one minute, think we are qualified to access the Father without the Son. We must also choose to turn from living for ourselves and instead live for him. This means we stop doing the things that displease God and in their place do the things that are consistent with his will for us. Can you say you have truly turned and trusted? Would those who are closest to you say you have? If not, what’s keeping you from a proper response to the gospel? The verbs used for repent and believe are present imperatives, meaning keep on repenting and keep on believing!