Come after me: trust

repent-n-believeRepent and Believe. John Williamson, (Mark, p.43) offers this analogy which “may capture some (not all) dimensions of this summary of the preaching of Jesus.”

In a crowded airline terminal, hundreds of persons are scurrying in dozens of directions. Above the steady buzz of noise a voice booms through a loud-speaker, “Flight 362 is now arriving at gate we. Will passengers holding tickets for New York please check in at gate 23; you will be boarding soon.” Some people, of course, never hear the announcement and continue on their way. Others hear it but, having reservations on another flight, pay no attention. Some, however, who want to go to New York and who have been nervously awaiting such an announcement, look up expectantly, check their ticket for the flight number, gather their baggage, turn around and set out with some urgency for gate 23.

Our openness to hear and believe and act on the proclamation is key. Some act; some don’t.

The summons to “repent and believe in the gospel” is not new, but a fresh reiteration of the word addressed to men through the prophets. But the note of urgency in the summons to repent is sharpened, for now the nature of the gospel is clearer than ever before. The brief parable of the fig tree preserved by Mark in Ch. 13:28 echoes Jesus’ proclamation that the kingdom has come near and clarifies why the nearness of the kingdom imposes radical demands upon men: “When the branch becomes tender and the leaves are about to sprout, you know that the summer has come near”; i.e., the summer is the next thing that comes. Jesus’ action in confronting Satan, sin, disease and death, and subduing nature is the sign that the end stands as the next act of God in man’s future. Provision has been made for men to repent, but there is no time for delay. Only through repentance can a man participate with joy in the kingdom when it does break forth. Jesus accordingly calls men to radical decision. In Jesus men are confronted by the word and act of God; he himself is the crucial term by which belief and unbelief come to fruition. Jesus proclaims the kingdom not to give content but to convey a summons. He stands as God’s final word of address to man in man’s last hour. Either a man submits to the summons of God or he chooses this world and its riches and honor. The either/or character of this decision is of immense importance and permits of no postponement. That is what repentance is all about. The radicalness of Jesus’ kingdom proclamation is well caught in the saying, “He who is near me is near to the fire; he who is far from me is far from the kingdom” (Coptic Gospel of Thomas, Logion 82). Jesus himself, though veiled in the midst of men, becomes the crucial term by which men enter the kingdom of God, or exclude themselves from it. What he does is the work of God.

Certitude or Trust. Douglas John Hall (Bound and Free: A Theologian’s Journey) writes about the necessity of “our becoming and being a thinking faith.” I think it relates to these two commands to repent and believe.

There is a problem today that is found not only in Christianity but in most of the religions, as well as in many nonreligious ideologies. I will call this the problem of certitude. Its corrective is the importance of Christianity’s being a thinking faith – and, more specifically, the importance of doubt in the life of faith.

The people who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, were apparently inspired by absolute certainty with respect to their cause. They found that certainty in their religious belief. Their religion functioned for them as an antidote against all self-doubt, all consciousness of the limitations of knowledge, all awareness of the precariousness of human judgment. … No one religion, and not religion as a whole, has a monopoly on what (for want of a better word) we call fundamentalism. Fundamentalism, whatever the origin of the term, has come to mean a position of such exactness and certitude that those embracing it – or, more accurately, those embraced by it – feel themselves delivered from all the relativities, uncertaintites, indefiniteness, and transience of human existence. They are provided, they fell, with a firm foundation – a fundamentum – greater than their own finitude, greater than any observations of any of the sciences, greater than the collective wisdom of the race. (pp. 99-100)

He then states that biblical religion (Jewish and Christian) refuses to offer such certitude. What God offers as an alternative to certitude is trust. “God reveals Godself as one who may be trusted” (101).

Recognizing that the Greek word for “believe” (pisteuo) has a principal meaning of trust in it, could we then interpret “repent” (metanoeo) = “to change one’s thinking” to be a movement away from personal certitude? Which then leads to trusting the trustworthy One?

Notes

Mark 1:15 the time of fulfillment. This phrase appears only in Mark and makes used of the Greek kairos a word that the Church has typically designated as “God’s time” as opposed to kronos – the time of the world. This phrase renders the idea of an appointed time being fulfilled. In 1:2, Scripture as written by Isaiah is fulfilled; here the appointed and predicted time described by that Scripture is realized. What was written had now come to pass. The conceptual connection forms another bookend between the beginning and the end of the introduction. Owing to this, Jesus’ initial proclamation of the nearness of the kingdom seems to speak of a more advanced point of time than that of John who had not yet mentioned the beginning of fulfillment.” kingdom of God. This is the subject of Jesus’ preaching and of the Gospel. It designates the rule of God in which he enacts his redeeming power and presence as he had promised (basileia,). In Jesus, this reality has drawn so near as to be in the process of coming to pass (engizō). repent. Jesus does not merely repeat the call of the Baptist. He modifies and transcends it by making conversion a fundamental requirement which necessarily follows from the present reality of the basileia (kingdom of God) in His own person. believe in the Gospel: This is the only instance in Mark where pisteuo en, “believe in”, is used. Many believe that ‘put one’s trust in’ seems a better translation than ‘believe in’ [EDNT 3:191] .

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