The Gospel Begins

The Gospel of Mark opens with a declaration based on passages in the Hebrew Bible, providing the scriptural basis for the ministry of John the Baptist, and setting the stage for the mission of Jesus. In this way, Mark’s account begins on a note of fulfillment. This man from Nazareth was the Messiah and Savior promised by the God of Israel in the Scriptures.

Implicit in this declaration was that the long-awaited “season of fulfillment” had commenced with the appearance of the Baptist along the banks of the Jordan River and especially with the baptism of Jesus by John – (Hebrews 1:1, Revelation 1:1-3).

Aegean Sea Photo by Thomas Summer on Unsplash
[Photo by Thomas Summer on Unsplash]

The Greek term in the passage translated as “
beginning” is the first word in the Greek text of Mark’s account. Its position in the sentence makes it emphatic. The sudden appearance of John marked the start of the Good News about the Kingdom of God.

  • (Mark 1:1-3) - “BEGINNING of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. According as it is written in Isaiah the prophet, Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way. A voice of one crying aloud, in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord, straight be making his paths.”

Other New Testament passages also link the “beginning” of the Gospel to the Baptist. He was the one who “prepared” the way for Christ, the Messiah or “anointed one.” The term “beginning” is a deliberate echo of the creation story in the Book of Genesis:

  • (Genesis 1:1) - “In BEGINNING, God created the heavens and the earth.”
  • (John 1:1-3) – “In BEGINNING was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.
  • (Acts 1:21-22) – “It is needful then that of the men who accompanied us during all the time in which the Lord Jesus came in and went out over us, BEGINNING from the baptism by John until the day when he was taken up from us” (See also, Acts 10:36).

The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus inaugurated the promised New Creation and began the process of redeeming humanity. His arrival also carried universal implications since his activity and message constituted “Good News” for all men – (Romans 8:20-23, Revelation 3:14).

The Greek term translated as “gospel” means “good news, glad tidings” (euangelion). The usages of this word in the New Testament are often derived from prophecies in the Book of Isaiah. For example, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that brings GLAD TIDINGS, that publishes peace, that brings GLAD TIDINGS of blessing, that publishes salvation, that says to Zion, your God has become king” - (Isaiah 52:7. See also Isaiah 61:1-3).

The announcement of the “Good News of Jesus Christ” marked the arrival of the promised salvation and reign of God. The genitive construction of the clause can mean either that Jesus was the content or the herald of the Good News, or both.

The term “Christ” or “anointed one” was not his last name but the designation of what he was - the Messiah of Israel, though to his neighbors, he was “Jesus, the son of Joseph,” or simply, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

ANOINTED ONE


In the Hebrew Bible, two categories of men were “anointed,” priests and kings. The ritual of anointing was performed by pouring olive oil on the head of the man, setting him apart for specific offices or tasks. “Jesus” is the anglicized spelling of the Hebrew name Yehoshua, which means “Yahweh saves,” using the ancient Hebrew name of God or YHWH - (Leviticus 21:10-12, Psalm 89:20).

Among first-century Jews, the term “Son of God” had messianic and royal overtones. It was part of the promise of kingship given to David, a royal legacy the Messiah was expected to fulfill when he was enthroned in Jerusalem - (2 Samuel 7:14, Psalm 2:6-9).

The reference by Mark to the passage “as written in Isaiah” describes a composite of verses from the books of ExodusIsaiah, and Malachi. Most of the material is found in Isaiah:

  • (Exodus 23:20) – “Behold, I SEND A MESSENGER BEFORE YOU, to keep you by the way, and to bring you to the place which I have prepared.”
  • (Isaiah 40:3) – “The VOICE OF ONE THAT CRIES, PREPARE IN THE WILDERNESS THE WAY OF YAHWEH; make level in the desert a highway for our God.”
  • (Malachi 3:1) “Behold, I SEND MY MESSENGER, AND HE WILL PREPARE THE WAY BEFORE ME: and the Lord, whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, behold, he comes, says Yahweh of hosts.”

The quotation from Exodus was appropriate, the promise to keep Israel safe in the “wilderness” and lead her to the Promised Land. Jesus was the true representative of Israel and the Greater Lawgiver who would traverse the “wilderness” and lead his people to the Kingdom of God. By combining these passages, Mark summarized the Messianic expectations of the Hebrew Bible.

The Gospel of Mark has used other themes from the history of Israel in its narrative, although the ministry of Jesus was much more than a replay of that ancient story, or simply an attempt by Jesus to succeed where Israel failed.

The plan of Yahweh to redeem humanity from bondage to sin and death began to unfold in the life of Jesus. However, his mission was far larger than the nation of Israel and encompassed territory that extended well beyond the borders of Palestine. The reign of Jesus would reach all nations and the “ends of the Earth,” and upon him, the Gentile nations would come to place their hope.



RELATED POSTS:
  • To the Ends of the Earth - (The Gospel of the Kingdom announced by Jesus of Nazareth offers salvation and life to men and women of every nation and people)
  • Son and Servant - (Jesus is the son of David and heir to the Messianic Throne, the beloved Son of God, and the Suffering Servant of Yahweh)
  • Son of Abraham - (Jesus is the true Son of Abraham, the heir of the promises, the Anointed One who fulfills and implements the inheritance for his people)

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