Come after me: time of fulfillment

tn_2013 Easter 2“The Time of Fulfillment” This phrase is only in Mark. The word for time is kairos; it is used in 11:13 and 12:2 to refer to the “time of harvest” – an image that usually refers to the time of judgment. It is also used in when “The Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” Yet this is something liminal about the moment. There is a part of us that wants an “epiphany” with the kingdom clearly present; there is a triumphalistic part of us that wants the kingdom to conquer all – here and now. Yet the world still seems very much intact. Instead of a kingdom epiphany, the second act opens with Jesus wandering by the sea, bidding some common laborers to accompany him on a mission. Still, here in Mark’s gospel we know when the time is. It is now – and yet we pray “Your kingdom come….” I appreciate Martin Luther’s explanation to the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer. “God’s kingdom comes on its own without our prayer, but we ask in this prayer that it may also come to us.”

The Gospel of God. What is meant by “the gospel of God” is defined by the summary of Jesus’ proclamation in Ch. 1:15; each element clarifies God’s decisive action in sending forth his Son at this particular moment in history. The emphasis upon the fullness of time grounds Jesus’ proclamation securely in the history of revelation and redemption. It focuses attention upon the God who acts, whose past election and redemption of Israel provided the pledge of his activity in the future. Jesus declares that the critical moment has come: God begins to act in a new and decisive way, bringing his promise of ultimate redemption to the point of fulfillment. By sovereign decision God makes this point in time the critical one in which all the moments of promise and fulfillment in the past find their significance in one awesome moment. In comparison with John’s preaching, the distinctive note sounded by Jesus is the emphasis upon. Its exact nuance is clarified by the phrase which follows.

The Kingdom of God. What Jesus meant when he affirmed that the kingdom of God had drawn near is nowhere explicitly defined. The emphasis upon the “kingdom,” however, links his proclamation to the self-revelation of God in the OT and stresses the continuity between the new and older revelation. In announcing “the kingdom of God,” the accent falls upon God’s initiative and action. The kingdom of God is a distinctive component of redemptive history. It belongs to the God who comes and invades history in order to secure man’s redemption. The emphasis falls upon God who is doing something and who will do something that radically affects men in their alienation and rebellion against himself.

The kingdom may be proclaimed as near, if God’s decisive action in its realization has already begun. John’s ministry had centered upon the urgent demand for repentance because God was about to act decisively in bringing among the people “the Coming One.” Jesus then proclaims that the kingdom has drawn near, and while his proclamation is veiled, Mark clearly understands that it is Jesus’ own appearance which is the decisive event in the redemptive plan of God. The coming of the kingdom remains future, but it is certain precisely because God has begun to bring it to pass in the coming of his Son. The announcement that the consummation is at hand affirms that the decisive events in its approach are under way. The Anointed One is already present among the covenant people, and through him the royal act of God in redeeming his people has begun. The kingdom has drawn near, spatially in the person of Jesus who embodied the kingdom in a veiled way, and temporally because it is the only event which takes place prior to the end. In the person of Jesus men are confronted by the kingdom of God in its nearness. A faithful response to the proclamation of the gospel is imperative.

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