January 21.

 

Mark 1: 14-20.

 

Context is important. It is for understanding the meaning of a word, but it is also important for understanding people. To appreciate and understand people you need to see them in their cultural and historical context. And it is important for understanding ourselves. We each live in our own meaningful environment or context. The Christian Gospel is about offering us a new and different context, one that comes through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. For centuries before he was born, people in Israel had been waiting for a new context in which to live, a context that God would bring in through his anointed Messiah. As they were currently living under the context of Roman occupation this hope often took the form of political independence, but it also included the idea of a realm of righteousness, integrity, peace and justice. The heart of the Christian Gospel is that with Jesus this new context for living has arrived, but it is not just for the people of Israel; it is for all people everywhere, and it involves not just the overthrow of political superpowers but God reigning in the hearts and minds of people. It is a context of right relationships starting with a right relationship with God and that means forgiveness, reconciliation and redemption.  Mark summarized this Gospel in the words: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”  So the call comes to us as it came to certain fishermen on the shores of Lake Galilee to live in this new context – the context of God reigning – and in doing so to draw others into that kingdom. We can go on living in the old, self-centred context where God is a distant figure and heaven way off somewhere in the future, or we can, with the aid of Christ’s Spirit, live in a trusting relationship with God now and taste something of the life of heaven in our relationship with God. Whenever we slip back into the old context we are called to repent, to turn back again to the context that Jesus opened up for us all.

 

  • Can you think of some words where the context is important for understanding its meaning?
  • What does it mean for God to reign in the hearts and minds of people?
  • To what extent do you find it helpful to describe the kingdom of God as a new spiritual context in which to live?
  • Compare and contrast the context for living that Jesus offers with the context that people live in without him?