In the Lectionary

January 21, Epiphany 3B (Mark 1:14-20)

Jesus wasn't popular.

Repent! Believe! In front of his audience in Galilee, Jesus gives a clearly stated call for action. There is a sense of prophetic urgency in his statement, “The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God has come near”—perhaps because John the Baptist is in prison now. The one who prepared the way for Jesus and baptized him is in jail, and Jesus knows that his own time is near. He wants his audience to know it as well, and to faithfully respond to the reality of the kingdom he came to establish. Driven to communicate such an urgent message to all people, Jesus keeps walking, searching. He finds two fishermen, and later two more. Perhaps he says it again—The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God has come near. Repent! Believe!—before extending the invitation: “Follow me.”

So many seminarians, pastors, and leaders at large want to be prophets. And our world needs prophetic voices, people who can speak up and confront the oppressive powers of our world. We need people willing to say, “Here I am, Lord! Send me!” But we often get so excited about the the idea of being a prophet, so immersed in it, that we forget that being prophetic comes with a cost. We want to be prophets, but we do not want to pay the price. John the Baptist paid the price. He went to jail, and then he was killed. Prophetic ministry is a lifelong ministry, and it comes with a high cost.

Today it seems that being a prophet is often about being a trending topic, the one who makes the news. Or about being the most popular—about the likes or unfriends we get as a result of our prophetic voice.