Before starting this study, take a moment to read Mark 1:14-15. Although I’ll primarily be using the NIV version for the preparation of this study, you can read from whichever version you prefer.
These two verses tell us that after Jesus was tempted, John the Baptist was imprisoned and Jesus began his preaching ministry. Although this section is short, it stands as a bridge between the first half the chapter and the second.
Foreshadowing & Warning
While the NIV translates a lot of things well, it does a disservice in its translation of Mark 1:14. A more literally translation would read “after John was handed over” instead of “after John was put in prison.” Although these two things carry similar meanings, the former more closely matches the language we will see later in Mark, when Jesus is handed over for trial and execution.
These verses don’t just tell us about John’s fate, but give a hint about what is to come. We’ve already been told in the first few verses that John is the one sent to prepare the way for Jesus. Here, we see that John will also precede Jesus in execution for his faith.
The Kingdom of God is Near
Although these verses don’t give us entire manuscripts of the messages Jesus preached, they do tell us the content of his messages. He travels around, proclaiming that the time has come and the kingdom has come near. Because the time has come, people are called to repent and believe this good news.
It would be easy to read verse 14 and think that evil is winning. John is handed over and will eventually die a gruesome death. But even so, Jesus is declaring that the kingdom is near. There is good news, even in the midst of great evil.
During Jesus’ ministry, the nation of Israel lived under the crushing authority of Rome. While they were mostly allowed to practice their religion, the Romans made no secret of their disdain for the people. Jesus appears to this oppressed people, proclaiming that God’s kingdom has come near.
Instead of exhorting them to pick up their swords and fight, Jesus does what they aren’t expecting by calling them to repent. When God’s kingdom draws near, God’s people are meant to repent and believe before anything else.
These verses are very much about the time John and Jesus found themselves in. However, they also serve as a reminder that no matter what circumstances arise, God is in control. Our lives and time itself rest in God’s hands.
It would be easy for Jesus to hear of John’s arrest and decide to abandon the whole ministry thing, going home to be a carpenter for the rest of his natural days. But he doesn’t do that. Instead, he trusts that the message God has given him is true: The kingdom of God has come near.
When you find yourself in the midst of overwhelming circumstances, listen to hear what God is asking you to do. While those bad things won’t go away (and worse things may even come), it’s important for us to see our lives and the world around us through God’s eyes. Only then can we see the Lord’s hand at work.