“Repent and Believe,” part 9 (Mark 13–14)
Dr. Rachel Coleman
Mark’s Gospel begins with the grand invitation to “repent and believe” and the inseparable imperatives, “leave and follow.” In this series we’ve been following the disciples through Mark to see what the real-life implications of “repent and believe” were for them as they left all to follow Jesus. (See the previous parts of the series here.) As we near the dark Friday event on Golgotha, Mark’s focus is squarely on Jesus and the disciples fade into the background, but there are still some glimpses of how “repent and believe” played out in their life with Jesus.
Mark 13 is not one of those passages that offers warm, fuzzy comfort. What Jesus does offer in this sermon is a reality check about four aspects of lived-out repentance and belief. First, it requires intimacy with Jesus—knowing him well enough not to be fooled by the inevitable pretenders or disturbed by tumultuous events (13:5–8). Second, it means accepting that the cruciform path Jesus leads us on will inevitably and inescapably lead to hostility, that such hostility will lead to opportunities for faith-sharing, and that the Holy Spirit will provide any words necessary in those moments (13:9–13). Third, “repent and believe” means standing firm to the end (13:12–19), holding on to Jesus in the midst of internecine betrayal and bewildering, troubling, frightening circumstances. Fourth, living in intimacy with Jesus, accepting his cross-shaped path, and holding tightly to him through the tumult, requires staying awake (13:32–36). Pay attention, stay alert, keep your eyes open, don’t get lulled into passivity or apathy or clouded vision—stay engaged, with a vision sharpened by the Spirit to anticipate and notice the times and places where God is at work through Jesus.
In Mark 14, we catch a couple more glimpses of the real-life implications of “repent and believe.” First, it means doing what Jesus asks, even when it’s something odd, risky, or illogical (14:12–16). That kind of action requires trusting that Jesus has already selected the space and made the necessary provisions for what he is asking us to do. (I’m struck by the fact that when he sends the two disciples off for the audacious takeover of an unknown host’s guest room, Jesus calls it “my guest room.”) Second, in that infamous moment of collective hesitation around the Passover table, immortalized by DaVinci’s painting, we see that “repent and believe” means acknowledging that we are all vulnerable and fallible if we take our eyes off Jesus and try to set the agenda ourselves (14:17–20). Every single man seated around that table recognized his potential to turn intimacy into betrayal.
Questions to consider:
- What are the tumults that shake your faith or threaten your intimacy with Jesus during this season of your life? What keeps you from holding tightly to him in the storm? What holy habits will help you stay alert, engaged, expectant?
- In what odd or risky or illogical thing is Jesus inviting you to partner with him? How will you respond?
- What agendas—yours or those of others—are drawing your gaze away from Jesus, leaving you vulnerable to the power of deception and betrayal? What do you need to do to refocus your attention on Jesus and his agenda?