“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.’” Mark 1.14-15
I’ve always wanted to. It can be really dangerous—but what isn’t? Yes, people have died doing it, but you can almost say that about anything… Ok, I’m talking about rock climbing. I’m also talking about sky diving. And scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef—and don’t forget about climbing Mt. Everest.
Inside we yearn to be free. To be free from fear, to be free from chaos, and to be free to just do something that makes us feel, well, free!
So why would Jesus get it all mixed up—and take that desire for freedom away? Doesn’t he want followers? And doesn’t he want some kind of marketing appeal? But as we’ll see, Jesus doesn’t do things the way we would expect them to be done—and that’s what makes him, um…Jesus.
Soundbites get people in trouble. You’re walking by coworkers, and they hear you say, “…yeah, she is great disaster” when you really said “she is a great manager”… Politicians have to be especially careful—because the media is looking for that golden soundbite that will boost readership and exposure (and the more scandalous the better!).
Jesus provides a soundbite that sums up his entire message—his singular view point—his holistic ministry. In the Gospel of Mark, it’s the very first thing he says: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent and believe in the gospel.”
Notice a few things about this poignant message.
In verse 14 John the Baptist had just been arrested. The Greek word behind the English translation for “arrested” is paradidomi. It’s a word that means to be taken into custody; perhaps even condemned to die.
It also means ‘to be managed’ or taken care of. It even refers to fruit being ripe, turning itself over into the farmer’s custody (see Mark 4.29). But what’s interesting about this word is that it is used throughout the Gospel of Mark, most often referring to the times in which Jesus will be arrested and crucified.
Here is what we cannot miss. To pair the word paradidomi so closely to Jesus’ soundbite in Mark 1.15 is no coincidence. The Gospel writer is trying to tell us something… Let’s try to decode this for us today.
It’s as if we need to realize that on one hand, really following Christ (true repentance and faith) is allowing God to arrest us and to take us into His custody. This may sound negative, but it’s really bringing us back to where we belong—to what we were made for. Remember, the problem in the Garden of Eden wasn’t our lack of freedom—but in having too much freedom (sort of—this could be another blog entry in the future).
However, the case could be easily made that in turning to God we actually GAIN freedom. We are set free from the power of sin and death—and we gain the freedom to be more human than ever—to be free to become our true selves.
But I think Mark wants us to first realize that freedom is never free—and to have this kind of existential freedom requires us to truly belong to God—in His full custody and care. In keeping with this understanding, Jesus wants us to realize that he must truly be the manager of our lives. He is to be over every detail—not just our “religious side” but over our emotions, our relationships, our hopes, dreams, and yes, even our fears.
But just as a coin has two sides, there is another side to this soundbite being so close to the word paradidomi. Remember the agricultural definition? Mark wants us to realize that when we allow Christ to fully gain control of our lives, real fruit will ripen in us for God’s glory. Fruit of inner peace and deep trust that ripen in no other way.
We can’t manufacture inner peace. We can only trust in things, ourselves, and others to a certain point. But when Christ gains full access, his light shines on us, seeds of faith sprout and bloom, and after a season, fresh fruit is born!
Perhaps this is the key to having genuine repentance and faith in Christ. We must first allow ourselves to be arrested by Christ. And unlike Judas who betrayed Jesus, we have the full assurance that Christ will never betray us. Jesus was betrayed so we would never have to be.
This is how Jesus’ message begins in the Gospel of Mark. The challenge is simple: surrender your life to Christ. It’s a kingdom that is not earned or built by your own power. Instead, it is one in which you are allowed entry when you humble yourself and say, “Yes Lord, I need you. Please take complete ownership of my life.”
Will you take this step today and experience the fruit of inner peace and deep trust that is the true freedom you were created for? What’s holding you back? If you’re not in God’s custody—then to whom do you belong?
1. Do you believe Mark 1.14 is connected to 1.15 as discussed above? Why or why not?
2. Is surrendering ownership to Jesus something you do once? Or is it something that you revisit over and over again as you mature and go through different stages of life?
3. What’s the hardest part about surrendering your life to Christ? What’s holding you back? What would your life look like if you surrendered in every way?