The Ministry of Mercy
Mark 1:14, 15
Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,

Our text reminds us of the significant fact that Jesus began his ministry in Galilee, and not in Jerusalem, as the Jews might have expected of their Messiah. In the city where the sacred temple stood there was far less of the earnestness and simplicity which our Lord sought for than among the rural peasants and fishermen. Hence his work was begun and was largely continued in a district which was poor and despised. This, however, was only in harmony with much that we know of God's methods; for "his ways are not as our ways." As the Creator of all things, he has placed some of the most beautiful products of nature in obscure spots. We find them in secluded dells, or in the depths of the earth and sea, or they are hidden under the curl of a leaf, or buried in a pool among the rocks. Some of the noblest Christians are to be found in quiet spheres of which the world knows nothing; and some of the highest work has been done for our Lord in obscure villages, or in lands out of the range of tours and trades. Besides this, the selection of Galilee as the earliest scene of our Lord's ministry was an indication of its nature. It was a tacit rebuke to the carnal expectations current among the people concerning their Messiah; and, in giving an opportunity to the degraded and despised provincials, it showed that he had come "to seek and save that which was lost." Several significant facts respecting his ministry are suggested by the text, namely -

I. THIS MINISTRY FOLLOWED UPON A TIME OF TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. The verse immediately preceding this puts in vivid contrast temptation in solitude and ministry in public. Loneliness of spirit is a fit preparation for publicity of life; and our Lord, who was in all points made like unto his brethren, deigned to share this experience. Joseph was a solitary prisoner before he became a ruling prince. Moses passed from the splendours of Egypt to the quietude of Midian before he became a leader and lawgiver. David was a persecuted exile before he was ready for enthronement. Paul was three years in Arabia before he was the apostle to the Gentiles. Our Lord spoke of such inward preparation for outward work when he said to his disciples, "What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light; and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops." Public work is only safe when preceded by private prayer. True teaching can only come from those who are first taught of God. Without personal experience of inward struggles and victories, we shall never speak to others with power or sympathy. But if we would get the benefit of solitude, if we would achieve victory over self and sin in our own hour of temptation, we must be like our Lord, who was baptized before he was tempted, who was filled with the Holy Spirit before he fought with the evil spirit. Then out of such an experience we can speak lovingly and helpfully to others.

II. THIS MINISTRY SUCCEEDED THE SILENCING OF JOHN. Our text very pointedly suggests that the public appearance of the Lord occurred immediately after the ending and completion of the Baptist's work. The words are significant: "After that John was cast into prison, Jesus came." God will never let his work fall to the ground. If one noble witness to the truth is removed, another springs up in his place. If persecution silences one voice, another at once takes up the testimony. So when the disciples of John were most helpless and disheartened, and were beginning to scatter, suddenly the Lord of life stepped down into their midst, and rallying them round about himself, proved that he could do far more towards the victory than any fabled Achilles among his Greeks. Therefore let us reflect that when we or our fellow-workers fail or are removed, God can raise up others to accomplish his purpose; and let us cheer ourselves with the thought that when heart and flesh fail he himself will appear amongst us. It was "when John was cast into prison" that "Jesus came."

III. THIS MINISTRY STRUCK THE KEY-NOTE OF MERCY. We must remember that our Lord came forth amongst the people as one humanly and divinely great, endued with power beyond all others. Yet by that wonderful self-restraint which always characterized him (Matthew 26:53; John 18:36) he brought no immediate retribution on those who were foes both of God and man. Herod, for example, by his imprisonment of John, had done a wrong against conscience and against God, as well as against that faithful servant of the Most High. But Christ raised no revolt against the tyrant, which would have hurled him from the throne he desecrated; nor did he threaten or curse him and his followers. He came preaching "the gospel," proclaiming the glad tidings, calling upon all - ay, even Herod himself - to repent and believe, and so receive salvation. This was 'the key-note of his ministry, and was heard throughout it, even to its last chord; for on the cross he prayed, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."

IV. THIS MINISTRY PROCLAIMED THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A KINGDOM. "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand." The long waiting for deliverance was over. God, in the person of his Son, had come to establish a kingdom, in which the Divine love and power and will would be revealed as never before. The forerunner had been making the way straight, and now the King had come and was ready to rule over all who would welcome him. This kingliness of Christ is one of the special characteristics of the revelation given to us through Mark. Matthew presents the Messiah who fulfilled ancient predictions; Luke describes the Son of man in his pitifulness and graciousness; John proclaims the Divine Word, who was in the beginning with God, and who himself was God; but Mark, instructed possibly by Peter, who dwells so much on the kingdom in his Epistles, begins by announcing "the kingdom of God is at hand." Christ shall reign for ever, over all nations and kindreds and tongues; and each one of us is invited to bow to his scepter and submit ourselves to his gracious rule, that ours may be the bliss of those who shouted "Hosanna!" and not the curse of those who cried "Crucify him!" To enter that kingdom we are called upon to "repent and believe the gospel;" to change our minds and ways, to turn from sin to God, from self to Christ, and to trust and follow him in whom the glad tidings are incarnate. - A.R.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,

WEB: Now after John was taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God,

The Kingdom of God: God Reigning in Men's Hearts
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