The Gospel of Mark, the oldest one, presents the beginning of Gospel (good message) of Jesus. It starts with a summary of short and simple sentences carrying the whole message in just four inseparable expressions. “The time has come and the Kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent and believe the Good News.” (Mark 1:15)
The Four Inseparable Messages
In a certain way, the kernel of the great message of Jesus is found in these four short and inseparable expressions. They are: 1) “The time has come,” 2) “Kingdom of God is at hand.” 3) “Repent” and 4) “Believe in the Good News”. These four expressions put the whole history of redemption in a nut shell. These four expressions show the way for liberation from the fetters of sin and from its results--sufferings, sorrow and death. They open the gates of heaven and lead us to a joyful life.
1) “The time has come”
This very first expression about the “time” describes the whole history of Israel which brings out the perspective of the relationship between God and His people. At the heart of it, it tells about the promise about the Messiah and the waiting of generations for its fulfillment. It reminds the journey of the Israel down the ages, passing through various vicissitudes. It brings out their exodus of the Israelites, their negative wars with neighbors, their divisions of Kingdom, their deportations, and also the destruction of their city and Temple and their religious persecutions. Yet, it brings out their never-dying hope in God. It declares that the time has come to an end with Jesus.
2) “The Kingdom of God”
This expression constitutes the main element of the “fulfillment”. It fulfills the earlier expression about time. It is not a question of setting up a new socio-political system in opposition to human kingdoms. Rather it establishes the “Kingdom of justice, love and peace,” linked to the person of Jesus. Origen, an ancient theologian, declares that Jesus Christ himself is the Kingdom (Auto-basileia) and accepting the Kingdom means accepting Jesus in one’s own life.
This single-word expression is clearer than the previous ones. Repentance or conversion is the change that Jesus invites all to undergo. It refers to a change in thinking and judgment. It calls to a change in heart than mere observance of the Law. It is not a mere lip service or observance of rituals. It is a real change that is fulfilled in real love of God and ‘neighbor’.
4) “Believe the Good News”
This expresses the conversion in real practical terms. It is the extension of the third expression ‘repent’. Jesus invites us to open ourselves to the Love of God, which now has a new dimension in a definitive and disconcerting manner. It is not a mere religious ritual. It is a living life os Love. Believing the Good News may seem to be a “sign of contradiction” (Luke 2:34) that lead Jesus to Crucifixion. But it is the basis of love.
The life and preaching of Jesus show us that the four messages are repeated throughout the Gospel. The whole history of Incarnation, life and death of Jesus is hidden in these four initial messages. The parables of Jesus also insist and explain these four messages.