At Last The Time Of Salvation Has Come
February 21, 2010
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
We Need To Hear It As The Words Of The Risen Christ
1. "The time is full, the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the gospel!" In today's gospel reading, Jesus said that. This is the message that was communicated by him as his foremost exclamation, [that is,] when he returned to Galilee and when he began his preaching. Of course, I don't mean that Jesus gave that message only that one time. It is a message he gave repeatedly. I could also make the case that this message is a summary of all the messages that Jesus ever proclaimed. Jesus went around different places and preached many things. But, what he declared in most of his messages, in summary, was "The time is full, the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the gospel!"
2. By the way though, do you know this gospel, which Jesus was communicating in his preaching messages? [Do you know] what the gospel, that he was communicating forth at the very end, was? It is that Jesus was crucified and that he rose again from the dead. On the morning of the resurrection, the stone that was blocking the entrance to the tomb was rolled away. It is the passage which will be read at Easter this year as well. In the tomb, a young man dressed in a white long garment was sitting. The youth said, "Don't be surprised. You are seeking Jesus of Nazareth who has been crucified, but he has been raised from the dead, and he is not here. Look! It is the place where you put him. Now, go and report to the disciples and to Peter, 'He will go ahead of you to Galilee. Just as he told you previously, you will meet him there.'," (16:6-7).
3. And the risen Christ goes to Galilee, meets the disciples, meets Peter too, and tells them once more, "Come and follow me!" So precisely, the gospel goes to the very end, and it ends up back [the way it was] at chapter one. The text was written that way on purpose. What does this mean? It means it is still going on. The work of the proclamation of Jesus continues. It continues via the cross and the resurrection. It continues as the work of the risen Christ. Jesus continues to speak even now and is saying, "The time is full, the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the gospel!" Using "the church" which is the body of Christ, the risen Christ is speaking even now. Thus, we too are now hearing his words.
4. Last Wednesday Lent started. It is forty-six days until Easter. Forty-six days is an irregular number, but it is because there are six Sundays in this period. Forty days and six days is forty-six days. In the Roman Catholic Church they call it the Lenten season, which is comprised of forty weekdays. In other words, Lent itself is a period of forty days. So we can say that the six Sundays are not part of Lent proper. Thus, this is the season we call Lent during which time we consider the suffering of Christ, and when the light of the resurrection shines into it repeatedly [the six Sundays, the Sabbath breaks in the Lenten days]. We worship with the resurrection of Christ in mind. That is what happens on the Sundays during Lent.
5. The disciples did meet Jesus in Galilee again. They met the risen Christ. Not only while he was on earth, but Christ appeared to them as the one who would be with the flock of disciples for ever. Today as well we will be with the Christ who has risen and speaks to us now, and we will be with him for ever.
The King, Who Righteously Judges Sin, Comes
6. With that then, today, we will want to remember the words just ago, as words spoken to us by Jesus. Jesus proclaimed, "The time is full, the kingdom of God is near." At last the time did come. The kingdom of God is near. That's what Jesus says.
7. Well then, we will want to carefully consider this. Is this happy news? "The kingdom of God" means "the reign of God." It is his reign as king. God rules and reigns as king. Therefore, "The kingdom of God is near" means "God the King is here." God the King who holds absolute authority and power has come. He is here. Is that happy news? Some people will say God's name in hard times, "Oh, God!" When they need help, they call on God, "Oh, God!" Some people may have the habit of saying "I don't believe in God or anything," but when they are put in a squeeze, they just may cry out, "God!" But if God were to really come at that moment, if he drew near, what would happen if he came with his unbelievably great power and authority? Would it be a happy thing?
8. No, it would not simply be happy news in and of itself, but I'd expect it would be a dreadful thing. [I say that] because his being "the king" means first that he is "the executor of judgment." Royalty means he has the power to execute judgment. When the king pronounces the death penalty it leads to the death penalty. Even among the kings of this world, that kind of thing takes place. Even more so, when God gives the sentence of guilty and declares destruction, then it will result in a decision that no other person can ever overturn. God has come as that kind of king. That's what it means by "The kingdom of God is near."
9. Furthermore, God executes righteous judgment, [his] is different from human judgment. Humans can be deceptive as much as they want when it comes to the other party. Even after they have actually carried it out, they can hide it when it comes to human parties. Even more so, when it comes to what's inside the heart, they can keep things hidden as much as they want. But they can't do things that way in the sight of God. The Bible states that "All things are naked to the eyes of God and are exposed [to him]," (Hebrews 4:13). As the king who has the power to hand down final sentences, such a God has come. Is that a happy thing? It's not likely to be something you are delighted about very easily. Thus, this message, that "The kingdom of God is near," is not simply happy news.
10. If that is the case, then the words from Jesus that follow it, "Repent and believe the gospel!," might sound strange; because the gospel means "good news." They don't easily come next. They should be the words, "Repent and become a righteous person!," "Repent and do righteous deeds!" In fact, "John the Baptizer," who is said to "have been taken captive" in this text here was proclaiming that kind of teaching. What I read to you today is [from] The Gospel According To Mark, but in The Gospel According To Luke the message of John is recorded with more detail. John the Baptizer addressed the people as follows. "O children of vipers, who taught you that you will escape the imminent wrath of God? Yield forth fruit appropriate to repentance! Stop giving ground to thoughts like, 'Our father is Abraham!' I say to you, even from these stones God is able to build children of Abraham. The axe is already put to the root of the tree. All the trees which do not yield forth good fruit will be cut down and cast into the fire," (Luke 3:7-9).
11. To say it like this, "Repent and become a righteous person!," "Repent and do righteous deeds!," [makes for] a natural flow. [He said], unless you do that, you will be cut down and cast into the fire. -- Because God knows everything. -- Because God is the King who is able to judge righteously. That king has come. Repent and become a righteous person! Since God is the king and he has the ultimate authority of judgment, it is the natural thing [to expect] to be said [next].
12. Yes, it is. It is certainly the natural and the expected thing to see next in the text. Anybody can easily understand and accept this as a valid. But, is there salvation in that!? Is there salvation in [the statement,] "Repent and become a righteous person!?" Maybe we're supposed to wait constantly looking hard at our own righteousness, ever asking, "Is my own righteousness enough? Are my good deeds enough?," and always in fear and trembling over the final judgment of God. You will probably not be all that delighted at the words, "The kingdom of God is near." [We] can't help but come to the conclusion there is no salvation in that.
The King, Who Announces The Forgiveness Of Sin, Comes
13. But, how about it if God pronounced "forgiveness of sin" as the king and as the one who is able to hand down the final sentence? How about it if the king pronounced forgiveness of sin with the authority to grant amnesty? When God is the final judge, no one else can determine the person's guilt again. Not even the person himself or herself can determine his or her guilt again. What's more, how about it if with his absolute authority the king pronounced to that person, "I am making you my own child?" What about it if he even goes on to make the pronouncement, "I am making you a free person. You will never again be bound by anyone?" When God is near as a king like that, then the story is completely different, don't you think? Therefore, it is truly good news.
14. That's right. That is the very gospel itself, the good news, which Jesus had made known. God is coming. He is coming as the king. He is coming as the king who will execute the last judgment. And that same king is announcing forgiveness of sin. God has come as the king who will forgive sin, cut off the shackles of sin, and deliver us from sin.
15. In fact, during his preaching work, Jesus announced the forgiveness of sin with divine authority. A line about that is found in chapter two. Jesus announced to the man with the palsy who was brought up to him directly, "Son, your sins are forgiven." And so when God pronounces forgiveness of sin, no one else can determine that person's guilt again. He had the palsy. He had come seeking to be healed. And he was healed. It is an amazing miracle. But, something much much bigger came upon his own person. The king had pronounced forgiveness of sin [upon him]. Therefore, no one else could ever take it away [from him]. No one else could convict him as guilty. You could say, that kind of king has come. He has come through the person of Jesus.
16. That is the gospel that Jesus has made known. Indeed, it is the gospel that Jesus is still making known now. It is the gospel which the risen Christ continues to speak forth via the cross and the resurrection. Jesus announced forgiveness of sin at that time, and he still speaks it forth now as the one who shed his blood upon the cross as the sin-atoning sacrifice. He speaks as the Lord of the resurrection who accomplished the atonement for sin with his own personal suffering. "The kingdom of God is near. The Lord God is near and has come. He is near with the authority to forgive sin. With that power of his he makes us perfectly free children of God."
17. Therefore, it is not "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and become a righteous person!," but "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the gospel!" That's right. After being persons who did not believe we become believers. That's what to repent and believe the gospel means. After we start "believing the gospel," salvation begins. God has come for us. God has come to save us by carrying in his hands the forgiveness of sin from him. It is near and has come from God. Just as the time is full and Jesus has come upon this earth, the time is full, and now, we too are hearing the gospel. The Lord is speaking to us, too. "The time is full, the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the gospel!"