Repent and Believe In The Gospel
Lent 1 Year B
(The First Sunday in Lent)
A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
St. Mark 1: 9 — 15
We rejoice at the opportunity to meditate on the Baptism of the Lord. Of all the people who did not need to have sin washed away it was Jesus. However, as we all know, He chose to be born into this world and to take on the burdens of human life. He also chose to identify fully with humanity. His baptism is therefore all the more powerful for us to meditate on when we behold the Most Holy, for our sakes, “throwing in his lot” with us and signalling to every evil spirit that would trouble us that from this moment on, their days are numbered!
(We draw a considerable amount of text and comment from Augustine Stock, OSB., R. Cole and W. Lane.)
Some Reflections On The Text
It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee
and was baptized in the Jordan by John.
In the ninth verse, Jesus is now introduced. Recall, it was in the wilderness that Israel was first designated as Son by God. Hosea especially pointed forward to a time when God would renew Israel’s sonship in the wilderness. Jesus now fulfils this, and identifies with transgressors. He submits to baptism and so dedicates Himself to His task, and declares He is ready to serve. (Erdman.)
On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open
and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.
In Judaism, the decisive moment in baptism is the coming up. Here, therefore, it is as Jesus comes up out of the water that the decisive event takes place. Jesus sees the heavens open (an open vision of heavenly things) and sees the Spirit descending.
The dove hovers like the brooding of the Spirit over the waters at Creation (Gen.1: 2). This is the start of God’s new work of re-creation — it is the beginning of a new entry into the true Promised Land.
And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son;
with you I am well pleased.”
This verse combines Psalm 2: 7 and Isaiah 42: 1. We can sense Heaven’s excitement! The ritual preparation of Jesus is now completed, and His ascetic preparation follows at once. We are left in no doubt about who Jesus is; He is Son of God, and this remains His pre-eminent title throughout this account of the Gospel according to St. Mark. (Augustine Stock, OSB.)
Verses 12 and 13
At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.
He as among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.
We need to keep in mind that, “it is the same Spirit who descended upon Jesus at His baptism who now forces Him to penetrate more deeply into the wilderness”. (Lane).
This is not so much an external force as a compelling inner urge to fulfill the Father’s Will.
While Israel, God’s child, had failed in the desert, Jesus, God’s Son, would succeed. This is to be a foretaste of the conditions of Jesus’ ministry and a preparation to meet these conditions. But while the wilderness is a place of testing and danger, it is also a place of special graces. Note: Jesus was, at His baptism, already in the desert or wilderness.Immediately after He was drawn forth even more deeply into a place of still further desolation and loneliness. Jesus remained submissive and did not abandon the wilderness.
The forty days are in the tradition of Moses on Sinai, and Elijah in the wilderness as he went to Horeb. There are two special aspects to note:
• The significance of the 40 days continued right through Jesus’
public ministry and was a dominant note. Nor did He cease being
tempted. We do not hear of any victory. The battle was left open ended!
• It will be obvious to readers why this text has been chosen for
our attention during the forty days of Lent: a time of penance and
preparation to ponder and engage in the passion and death of our
Lord Jesus Christ.
The loneliness of the struggle is reflected in the mention of wild animals: the severity in that the angels ministered to him. (There is no reference to this stopping either). Jesus is with four different orders of being (verses 12 — 13): the Spirit, Satan, wild animals and angels. In His ministry Jesus is to be empowered by the Spirit, opposed by Satan, presented as Lord of all creatures, attended by angels. Who could resist wanting to find out all about such a person!
Opening of Jesus’ Ministry
After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee
proclaiming the gospel of God:
Literally, verse 14 begins, “After John had been taken into custody…..”. The theme of being arrested and handed over is a key idea in this Gospel account, emphasising that the fates of John the Baptist, Jesus, and the disciples (then and now) will be comparable.
“This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
The verse opens with a reference to “the time”. This is not just chronological time. Jesus means, “This is the appointed time. — the season, if you prefer, of fulfillment.
(See Ezekiel 17: 12. Daniel 12: 4 to 9. Ephesians 1: 10.) (Bratcher and Nida).
Our Lord presents himself to the nation as a preacher, not first of all as a worker of miracles, but a bearer of a message, “the Gospel of God”. But only after John has completed his divinely appointed task.
The verse closes with our Lord’s call, “Repent and believe in the Gospel“.
Does that mean the same as “believe the Gospel“?
The sentence is a kind of Hebraic construction, calling upon the person who is listening with the heart to believe in the One which the Gospel is all about — the One who, in fact, embodies the whole of the gospel message in His every word and action.
Thus Jesus alone is Messiah, but even more significantly, Jesus alone is the message, the whole message. He is the gospel of God (verse 14); i.e. He is the very essence and contents of the Christian message.
Right at the beginning of this Gospel account, our Lord is therefore featured by St. Mark as the One who calls on us to:
• listen and believe;
• surrender to God’s Will and Obey;
• live a life centred in God.
All of these things Jesus fulfills perfectly, and He is therefore our model.
When His message reaches our heart and soul, then we will — in gratitude and ardent hope — repent of every short-coming in our lives: whereupon we will recognise the truth that “the Kingdom of God is at hand”.
The call to repent and believe is not new but Jesus sharpens it and gives it urgency: The Kingdom is at hand: there is no time for delay. Jesus therefore confronts His listeners with a vital decision only they can make —
a person submits to the summons of God;
they choose this world with its riches and honours together with
what they bring.
Readers are sometimes perplexed by what Jesus means in His phrase, “The Kingdom of God is at hand”. The meaning is actually an unfolding of the previous sentence: “This is the time of fulfillment.” It is a three dimensional vista of time:
• In a sense we can say that the Kingdom had already come in
the person of Jesus, who was fulfilling God’s Will perfectly.
• We can also say the Kingdom was (and is) gradually coming
in holy lives surrendered to God. (That includes us.)
• And again, we can say that the Kingdom in all its fullness will be
introduced by God universally on the ‘last day’. (R. Cole).
Thus, our whole-hearted response to the call of Jesus renders us an integral part of the unfolding of His Kingdom, as we listen, obey, and live.
It was difficult for the Jewish people to discover that their Messiah was not to be quite what they had so long expected: a mighty conqueror who would overwhelm non-believers, and win back freedom and dignity for His people. Instead, He called for inner, personal repentance, reform and turning one’s life around.
Christians can easily fall into the same expectation and place more emphasis on the power of God overcoming the evils of the world instead of recognising that, according to the teaching of our Lord Jesus, Messiah, the renewal of the world begins with us. It is our sins which must be repented before we put the pressure on others. Humanity always find this a hard lesson, and as a Church, we are still struggling with it as did the Jews in our Lord’s time.
We can help bring this turn-around through our prayers for one another and by doing what the Saviour commanded — repenting and believing in the Gospel (verse 15).
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Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature
(Mark 16: 15)
The real Jesus, is the real answer to the real needs of the world!
Let us remember God’s teaching, contained in His Word and in doing
Repent and Believe In The Gospel
Lent 1 Year B Mark 1: 9 — 15
1. “Jesus came from Nazareth to Galilee.”
We can hardly blame the ordinary Jewish person for not recognising the arrival
We may think we know the Scriptures exceptionally well, but that can be a trap
Only those who believe in Jesus, can be His true followers. Only they can pass
2. “The Kingdom of God is at hand.”
We can easily miss the point that each of us is a link in this long chain of
A third element requires us to believe in and prepare for the Return of the Lord to complete His work, and restore the whole of mankind.
Thus, understanding this, we become more aware how we ourselves are part of
Mark 1: 9 ― 15
Lent 1 Year B
9 It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth
10 On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being
11 And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved
12 7 At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert,
13 and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by
14 After John had been arrested, 8 Jesus came to Galilee
15 “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is
6 [10-11] He saw the heavens . . . and the Spirit . . . upon him: indicating divine intervention in fulfillment of promise. Here the descent of the Spirit on Jesus is meant, anointing him for his ministry; cf ⇒ Isaiah 11:2; ⇒ 42:1; ⇒ 61:1; ⇒ 63:9. A voice . . . with you I am well pleased: God’s acknowledgment of Jesus as his unique Son, the object of his love. His approval of Jesus is the assurance that Jesus will fulfill his messianic mission of salvation.
7 [12-13] The same Spirit who descended on Jesus in his baptism now drives him into the desert for forty days. The result is radical confrontation and temptation by Satan who attempts to frustrate the work of God. The presence of wild beasts may indicate the horror and danger of the desert regarded as the abode of demons or may reflect the paradise motif of harmony among all creatures; cf ⇒ Isaiah 11:6-9. The presence of ministering angels to sustain Jesus recalls the angel who guided the Israelites in the desert in the first Exodus (⇒ Exodus 14:19; ⇒ 23:20) and the angel who supplied nourishment to Elijah in the wilderness (⇒ 1 Kings 19:5-7). The combined forces of good and evil were present to Jesus in the desert. His sustained obedience brings forth the new Israel of God there where Israel’s rebellion had brought death and alienation.
8 [14-15] After John had been arrested: in the plan of God, Jesus was not to proclaim the good news of salvation prior to the termination of the Baptist’s active mission. Galilee: in the Marcan account, scene of the major part of Jesus’ public ministry before his arrest and condemnation. The gospel of God: not only the good news from God but about God at work in Jesus Christ. This is the time of fulfillment: i.e., of God’s promises. The kingdom of God . . . repent: see the note on ⇒ Matthew 3:2.
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised