It was after John’s arrest that Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the Gospel of God, saying, “The time has come at last—the kingdom of God has arrived. You must change your hearts and minds and believe the good news.” (JBP)
If we ask ourselves what the basic message of Jesus was all about, we can’t go far wrong in referring to this text. Jesus is saying that the rule of God over all things and all people is being inaugurated on earth. He is the living expression of it. He will demonstrate what living under God’s rule is all about. He will, by his words and works, show that God’s power is greater than all earthly powers.
He doesn’t just announce this walking, talking rule of God in his own person. He urges those who hear him to amend their lives accordingly. By nature, we don’t want to live under God’s rule: we want to do our own thing. Jesus says that we need to change the way we think and feel and live. The traditional word for that is repentance.
It is a mistake to think that Jesus’ primary message was about simply saving us from the guilt of sin in order that we might get to heaven after we die. That is a wonderful truth, but the emphasis throughout the gospels is on the coming of the kingdom of God which he personifies, and the resultant change in the way we live life here and now.
Jesus speaks of the day when God’s rule will be total in the new heavens and new earth, but he also speaks of the need to live under and extend that rule right now. Jesus is concerned, as we are, about life after death. But he is also very concerned about life before death.
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