"After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 'The time has come', he said. 'The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!'"
Mark 1: 14-15
I've often wondered what it must've been like to hear Jesus speak as the people in his time on earth did. I think what would've struck me head on is surprise - "Now? The kingdom is near now?!" For those who were hungry for God, who were looking for His power to break through and make Israel free from Roman occupation, that moment was furthest from the right time: "John was put in prison." People all over Judea had gone out to see a man who looked like the survivor of an epic battle, wearing rags and eating survival food. Most seemed to think his message and appearance meant Messiah, God's longed for champion deliverer, was just about to come in military power and destroy the Romans. He would surely be the Messiah of powers advance man! But no; John was put in prison. God wouldn't be coming near anytime soon.
Life is hard; we lose jobs, people disappoint us, we do stupid things and suffer nasty consequences. We look out at the future and see darkness, and we wonder if God really cares. And at that exact moment, if we will listen closely, we'll hear Jesus approaching, and He's shouting the most impossible news of all: at this moment, when we are most convinced heaven is far away, "The Kingdom of God has come near."
"But Jesus", we might say, "I'm not in any shape to focus on that! Let me pull myself together first. I have to figure out a way out of this mess first."
"So what?" Jesus replies, "Repent and believe the good news!" So will I, when the bottom of life has fallen out for whatever reason, do this - repent of my efforts to force my life to work my way, and believe that in spite of how little I deserve it, that God loves me and is already near, waiting for me to surrender to Him once again? Will you? Because when we least expect it, heaven comes near.