daily biblical sermons

Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Sunday, the Third Sunday of the Year, January 21, 2018
Jonah 3:1-5, 10, Psalm 24, 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, Mark 1:14-20

Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted.


"Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel'" (Mark 1:14-15).

Today Jesus begins his public ministry. He has been baptized by John and then fasted and was tempted for forty days in the desert, John the Baptist has been arrested, and Jesus actual ministry now begins in his home province of Galilee, where he is now "preaching the gospel of God" (Mark 1:14). In his preaching he says that the specially appointed time (kairos) is fulfilled, "and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15).

These are densely packed words, rich in meaning. The Son of God and Messiah has finally arrived and is now preaching and announcing God's good news. He is telling the people that the ages have been completed and that we are now in the days of fulfillment. Now is the long-awaited time of salvation, and the kingdom of God is at hand.

The kingdom has arrived in the person of Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior of the world. This is what Judaism has been preparing and waiting for. This was the purpose of the nation of Israel and of Judaism, to prepare for the coming of the Savior of the world. And now he has finally arrived and is here in person, announcing and proclaiming God's good news, God's gospel, the gospel or good news of God.

Since Jesus the Messiah is here, the kingdom of God is here in their midst in him. And what is he asking the people to do? They are to repent and believe in the good news that he is preaching to them. They are not to continue living in sin if that is what they were doing. That is why John the Baptist came first, to get the people to repent and leave their sins behind them so that they would be prepared when Jesus finally appeared. So they are to genuinely repent, immediately leave their sins and their sinful way of life behind them, and believe in the good news or gospel that Jesus is now preaching to them.

This means that the people are to accept Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah, Redeemer, and Savior, and are to reform and amend their life, abandon then and there their sins and put their full confidence and trust in Jesus to renew, redeem, and ransom them from their captivity to sin and Satan, a captivity that alienated and separated them from God.

Jesus' exorcisms were signs of the arrival of the kingdom of God on earth in him. He came to free people, by their faith in him, from the devil and their slavery to sin, and to restore them to God. Sin is what alienated them from God and depressed their spirit. Jesus came to free them from this depression and spirit-crippling guilt that they could not free themselves from. He came to reconcile them again with God by freeing them from the curse that God put on Adam and Eve for their sin against him.

The people that Jesus preached to had lost eternal life with God and died spiritually and physically because of the sin of Adam. Jesus came to free them from this alienation from God and death that was passed down to them. He came to restore eternal life with God in heaven after death to them by taking their place in suffering the just punishment for Adam's sin and for their own sins that they owed God. He came to be "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

Jesus will be the Savior of the world by being our sin offering, our sacrifice for our sins. He will suffer and die for our sins instead of us, thus paying our debt of suffering that we owed God in punishment for our sins so that God might justly forgive us, acquit us, and declare us righteous and fully reconciled with him. He is the victim slain for our sins to atone for them. He is thus the fulfillment of all the Jewish sacrifices for sins.

All of this still lay in the future as Jesus was preaching the good news of salvation in Galilee, but it would all be accomplished within three years, when he would die on the cross for our sins and would be raised again by God. Jesus couldn't explain this in such clear terms as I am now doing, because the people wouldn't be able to understand it, since he had not yet died and risen. Yet he did many times predict his own violent death at the instigation of the Jewish authorities and his Resurrection, and he did preach that he would "give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45) and that his blood would be "poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:28). But even his closest disciples couldn't put it all together in a comprehensible and understandable way until after his Resurrection. Then, on Pentecost, they were given the inspiration and strength to preach this gospel, this good news of salvation, first to the Jews, and then to the ends of the earth.

But this great work of salvation was all contained in Jesus himself who at long last had finally appeared on earth and had begun his public ministry of preaching repentance and faith in his gospel for the forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation. This salvation was all present in capsule form in the person of Jesus, and he was already astounding the scribes and Pharisees by pronouncing people's sins forgiven and by casting evil spirits out of people by a simple word of command.

The days of Jesus' ministry were indeed the days of the fulfillment of prophecy. Salvation was coming to people through Jesus, and sins were being forgiven already, ahead of time, by the merits of his future death on the cross. Lives were renewed and people were being reconciled with God. The kingdom of God was in their midst in him, and after Pentecost it would spread to the ends of the earth by the missionary preaching of his apostles and other disciples. These apostles Jesus called today from being fishermen to being fishers of men.

Today we are still called to preach this same good news, this same gospel of how God saves us in Jesus Christ and calls us to repentance and faith in him and in his good news. To receive this salvation we need to genuinely repent and believe in Jesus Christ and in his saving and redeeming work on the cross for our justification, forgiveness, and eternal salvation.

It is an error to think that faith without genuine and immediate repentance is enough for salvation. If someone believes in Jesus as his Savior but makes no change in his gravely sinful way of life and does not acknowledge him as his Lord and Master whose will he will obey and follow, he can't be saved, justified, or forgiven. Genuine repentance is part of the act of faith. It is contained in the act of faith. Jesus spells it out clearly today, "Repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15).

Contained in a genuine act of faith is the intention to amend our life. One must immediately stop sinning gravely for his faith in Christ to do him any good. Only when we genuinely repent and put our faith and trust in Christ for our acquittal, justification, and eternal salvation are our sins forgiven and are we reconciled with God.

After St. Peter's first sermon on the day of Pentecost, people "were cut to the heart, and they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?' And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:37-38).

The risen Christ told his apostles, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem" (Luke 24:46-47).

This is the same gospel that we are to preach today. We are to tell people what God did for us in Jesus Christ by his death on the cross to atone for our sins by making perfect reparation for them, and we are to call them to genuine repentance and faith in Christ for their acquittal, forgiveness, justification, and eternal salvation.


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