After John has been imprisoned by Herod, Jesus steps up and says his first words in Mark. Although easy to overlook, His first four words are heavy with meaning and immense implications. Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled,…” What exactly does Jesus mean by this? Personally, I would tend to lean on other things He has spoken about being fulfilled like the law and the prophets when it came to this verse. However, here we see that He isn’t talking merely about laws or prophets, but time itself.
In contemporary terms, I can see it going down something like this, ‘Okay, listen up everyone because I have something extremely important to tell you. You have been enslaved by sin, and I come now to tell you that you have done your time, and it is up. Indeed, the time for your freedom is here, and I am here to set you free.’
Can you see how this loaded statement may have lifted more than a few eyebrows to listeners? In this context, notice that this does not mean we are free, but rather our time to be set free has come. Jesus goes on to say, “…and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.” What an incredible thing to say. What Jesus manages to unload in one short sentence is nothing less than extraordinary. For myself, I have come to expect nothing less from Him.
To illustrate this for further understanding, I would like to tell a story:
Jake, The Man, and The Kidnapper
One night, a young man named Jake wakes up and finds that he has been taken captive against his will. He starts looking for a way out, the door is locked, and cannot be broken down. As he looks around, his heart rate rises, his palms start to sweat and he begins to panic. He starts thinking to himself, ‘How can this be? Am I dreaming? Am I truly trapped? How did I even get here and why?’. Jake realizes he cannot escape. Then he hears a voice over the intercom. All the voice says to Jake is, “I am the Kidnapper.” Terror sets in and Jake begins to demand for answers. Desperate, he screams over and over, “WHY?!, ANSWER ME! WHO ARE YOU?!”. The Kidnapper remains silent for a while, and then says, “You are standing in the very room that you will die in.” Terrified, Jake begins to cry. He is weak, and his Kidnapper is strong. The Kidnapper is not alone either, Jake can hear the murmur of the Kidnappers goons in the background when he speaks. Jake knows he cannot try and make a move for his life. The Kidnapper has a whole army with him to ensure he remains captive. Jake doesn’t know what the kidnapper wants, or why he has done such a thing. As he sits there day after day, chained to the walls and starving, Jake falls into despair. Until one day, everything changes.
Just as Jake is about to let go of hope, a man comes and finds him in secret. He tells Jake, “Hey, listen up. This situation you have going on here, it’s over now. The time of your captivity is coming to an end. So cheer up, and trust me, because I’m here to set you free.”
‘Wait a minute.’ Jake thinks to himself, “Who is this man? Where did he come from, and more importantly how did he find me. How did he get into my prison cell? Is he a police officer? What is going on?” While Jake grapples with his thoughts, the man takes him by the hand and urges him to follow. Reluctantly, he follows the man and they begin their bid to escape. Jake has been given a promise, and indeed his time as a captive has come to an end, but he is by no means free. No, he is still on the run. Broken away from his chains and prison cell of solidarity, but still not free. The fight has just begun.
As they move, Jake realizes they are vulnerable to attack. He is scared, uncomfortable and worried about his fate. He contemplates whether to turn back, but there is no time. In the midst of his panic, he sees the Kidnapper and his goons. Even worse, they can see him. Jake becomes alarmed. No, completely terrified. Completely paralyzed with fear. He knows he is about to die. Then he notices something in the distance that catches his eye. It’s the way out. The only problem is they have been caught, and by the looks of it there is no hope. Jake and the man are unarmed, outnumbered, and weak in comparison to the Kidnapper. He begins to lose hope again, he is ready to give up. Then it happened.
In an instant, he hears screaming, loud shots from all directions. Guns begin to fire. The man that rescued him screaming, “Run, go now, run for your life! You see the way out, don’t take your eyes off it! Just run!” Completely confused and with seemingly no other option Jake listens to the man. He begins running on faith alone. Jake hears what sounds like an army force of weaponry going off behind him. The thundering sound was so horrific and shocking it knocks him to the ground. The Kidnapper has let lose the full force of his power. Jake knows this is it. He knows now that he is going to die. So he stops running, and in complete desperation he looks back briefly to grasp hold of the man who came to rescue him. Only, he is not there. Jake is completely flabbergasted. The man is gone, leaving Jake alone and abandoned to die. The shooting and chaos continue full force. Strangely, Jake realizes he hasn’t been hit by the incoming fire. Not once.
Completely disoriented and with no idea what is going on Jake looks up and finally see’s the man. He was standing between Jake and the Kidnapper the entire time, taking the full force of the Kidnapper’s power upon himself. Taking every bullet that was meant for Jake. Taking it to keep his promise even at the cost of his own life. With agony and anguish in his voice as bullets penetrate his body, he screams to Jake, “It’s okay Jake! Their bullets cannot touch you! Run! Escape! You see the way out now, run as fast as you can and never look back! Listen to me and I promise you will make it!” So, Jake turns back and begins to run with tears streaming down his face. He runs faster than he has ever run before. Finally, he reaches the way out. He has been set free.
Jake knows his freedom came at an enormous cost. The man who rescued him had to die for Jake to live. Jake is greatly grieved and completely exhausted. He begins to weep. He falls to the ground, but right before he is able to touch the dirt, someone catches him, holds him tight and says, “It’s okay, I have you now. You are safe, so do not be afraid.” Confused, Jake looks up to see who has caught him. To his astonishment, he sees it is the Man! The same Man that rescued him from captivity. Still bloody, still scarred, but fully alive. Glowing and radiating with love. Jake weeps even harder than before, only this time with joy. He falls asleep in the Mans arms. He knows as long as he has the Man, he will never be Kidnapped again.
In order to escape captivity ourselves, we would have to take the enemy’s force upon ourselves. The enemies bullets, the pain and anguish, all the torture and suffering. This would kill us and indeed, we would have no hope. Just like with Jake, it is impossible to save ourselves. So, we do the only thing we can do. Hope to be rescued. We may have no reason to believe this will happen, but we have no other choice. We need a miraculous intervention. Someone who can take on that horrific pain and bloodshed for us. We need faith. No matter how big or small.
That is precisely what humankind needed. Every single one of us, being captive to sin with no way out. But thanks be to God, Jesus is our miraculous intervention. Doing for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. Taking on our eternal punishment, so that we wouldn’t have to. Being cast into eternal darkness. So that we may finally be set free.