Commencement of the Gospel

The arrival of the kingdom of God began with the ministry of Jesus, beginning with his baptism by John – Mark 1:1-3

Mountain Stream - Photo by Ryan Christodoulou on Unsplash
The gospel of 
Mark begins simply with a declaration derived from the Hebrew Bible, one that provides the scriptural link to the ministry of John the Baptist and sets the stage for the commencement of Christ’s messianic mission. In this way, Mark opens on a distinct note of fulfillment. Jesus is the promised Messiah of Israel - [Photo by Ryan Christodoulou on Unsplash].

Implicit in the opening citation is that, with the appearance of John, the long-awaited “season of fulfillment,” the “last days” had arrived – (Hebrews 1:1, Revelation 1:1-3).

Beginning” is the first word in Mark’s text, and its position in the Greek sentence makes it emphatic. The sudden appearance of John marked the beginning of the “good news” about the kingdom of God.
  • (Mark 1:1-3) - “Beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 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 John the Baptist, for he is the one who “prepared” the way for the arrival of the King and his Kingdom. And in the opening paragraph, “beginning” deliberately echoes the creation account from 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.
  • (Acts 10:36-37) – “As touching the word, he has sent to the sons of Israel announcing the gospel of peace through Jesus Christ, the same is Lord of all. You yourselves know what came to pass throughout the whole of Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed, respecting Jesus who was of Nazareth.
Thus, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus inaugurated the promised New Creation of God, the redemption of humanity, and the Cosmos. His arrival on the banks of the Jordan carried universal implications far beyond the hopes of the Jewish nation, though it was included in them. And thus, for all mankind, it truly was “good news” – (Compare – Romans 8:20-23, Revelation 3:14).

The Greek term rendered “gospel” or euangelion means “good news, glad tidings,” a compound of the prefix eu (“good”) and angelion (“message”).  English words derived from it include “angel” and “evangelist.” In the New Testament, its usage is based, in part, on key prophecies from the book of Isaiah, for example:
  • (Isaiah 52:7) – “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that brings good tidings, that publishes peace, that brings good tidings of blessing, that publishes salvation, that says to Zion, your God has become king.
  • (Isaiah 61:1-3) – “The spirit of My Lord Yahweh is upon me, because Yahweh anointed me to tell good tidings to the oppressed; he has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim to captives liberty, to them who are bound the opening of the prison; to proclaim, The year of acceptance of Yahweh.
The “good news of Jesus Christ” concerned the imminent arrival of the long-promised salvation and the reign of God in the person of His Son. The genitive construction can mean either that Jesus is the content or the herald of the good news, or both.

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

In the Hebrew Bible, two categories of men were “anointed,” priests and kings. The anointing was performed by pouring olive oil on the head of the man, thus setting him apart for a specific office or task. The act signified consecration for office - (Leviticus 21:10-12Psalm 89:20).

Jesus” is the anglicized spelling of the Hebrew name Yeshua or Yehoshua, the latter better known to English readers as “Joshua.” Moses prefixed the syllable Yah to the original name of Hoshea (“salvation”) to form the compound name Ye-hoshua, meaning, “Yahweh saves,” or “salvation of Yahweh” - (Numbers 13:16, Deuteronomy 32:44).

Son of God” among first-century Jews had messianic and royal connotations. It was part of the promise of kingship made to David, who became God’s “son” when he was installed on the throne of Israel. The Messiah was expected to inherit his throne - (2 Samuel 7:14Psalm 2:6-9Hebrews 1:5-14).

As written in Isaiah.” The prophecy cited is a composite of verses from the books of ExodusIsaiah, and Malachi, although the bulk of the text is from 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 is appropriate. Originally, it was a promise to keep Israel safe in the “wilderness,” and to lead her to the Promised Land. Thus, Jesus was the true Israel, poised to traverse the “wilderness” and lead his people to inherit the promised kingdom.

Mark threaded other themes from the history of Israel into his account. But the ministry of the Messiah was far more than a replay of that ancient story, or an attempt by Jesus to succeed where Israel failed, though he certainly did do that. Instead, in his life, death, and resurrection the plan of Yahweh to redeem humanity and even the Cosmos from bondage to sin, Satan, and death began to unfold.




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