Weekly Reflection - 26 February 2012
Mark 1.9-15; CEB. About that time, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan river. While he was coming up out of the water, Jesus saw heaven splitting open and the Spirit, like a dove, coming down on him. And there was a voice from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.”
At once the Spirit forced Jesus out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among the wild animals, and the angels took care of him.
After John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee announcing God’s good news, saying, “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and believe this good news!”
What is the Gospel?
This is a question that some people think has already been answered and canonized in the Nicene Creed. Others might say it’s, “Christ died for our sins in line with the scriptures, he was buried, and he rose on the third day in line with the scriptures” (1Corinthians 15.3-4; CEB). But what does Jesus tell us in Mark’s Gospel? Jesus tells us that the “good news” is the arrival of God’s promised Realm. Not sometime in the future, but then. But what does that mean – God’s promised realm? I think Isaiah gives us a glimpse:
Isaiah 65.17-25; CEB. Look! I’m creating a new heaven and a new earth: past events won’t be remembered; they won’t come to mind. Be glad and rejoice forever in what I’m creating, because I’m creating Jerusalem as a joy and her people as a source of gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad about my people. No one will ever hear the sound of weeping or crying in it again. No more will babies live only a few days, or the old fail to live out their days. He one who dies at a hundred will be like a young person, and the one falling short of a hundred will seem cursed. They will build houses and live in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They won’t build for others to live in, nor plant for others to eat. Like the days of a tree will be the days of my people; my chosen will make full use of their handiwork. They won’t labor in vain, nor bear children to a world of horrors, because they will be people blessed by the LORD, they along with their descendants. Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear. Wolf and lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but the snake – its food will be dust. They won’t hurt or destroy at any place on my holy mountain, says the LORD.
What Isaiah envisions is nothing short of the complete consummation of the original creation.
St John takes up this theme in the Revealing but adds a new component.
Revelation 21.1-4; CEB. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
But while these two passages show us what the ultimate future holds for our world, the Gospels give us a clue to John’s vision of God’s realm and our realm coming together. In Matthew’s version of the story, we see him interpret the birth of Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah 7.14, “Look! A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will call him, Emmanuel. (Emmanuel means, ‘God with us.’)” (Matthew 1.23; CEB). Now we can finally see what Jesus meant when he said that God’s promised Realm had arrived. It would be made manifest in his life. He would be the embodiment of the Realm of God. But, like so much of Jesus’ life, those promises would not be fulfilled the way people thought they should be happen. It was and is a gradual process. We can see this in the stories he told about God’s Realm. For example:
Mark 6.26-29; CEB. The Jesus said, “This is what God’s kingdom is like. It’s as though someone scatter seed on the ground, then sleeps and wakes night and day. The seed sprouts and grows, but the farmer doesn’t know how. The earth produces crops all by itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full head of grain. Whenever the crop is ready, the farmer goes out to cut the grain because it’s harvest time.”
We see from this story that God’s Realm is the seed planted in the earth, but it doesn’t instantly become the full grown plant. It takes time and seasons to produce it. Jesus is telling us that he is the “seed” of God’s Realm. He tells us in another place, while explaining his coming death and resurrection, that he must be like a seed sown and die or the Realm of God won’t grow (see John 12.23-24; CEB).
Those of us who are followers of the Way of Jesus are the products of the Realm of God. We are the ones growing in to the “full head of grain.” But, also like grain we too must become like seeds of God’s Realm. We, too, must “hate our lives” to “keep them forever.” We must continue to bear the fruit of Christ in our world today. We do this by continuing to do the things Jesus did. We do this by continuing to say the things Jesus said. We do this by continuing to implement God’s Realm in the earth. We do this by continuing to be Jesus in the world.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br Jack+, LC