Summary: The Gospel about Jesus christ, the Son of God, is good news for a world filled with bad news.
“What’s Christmas All About? Good News for a Bad News World”
The beginning of something is often a time of joy and anticipation. Breaking ground for a new building or church, a wedding, the birth of a child, the first 90 days of a new President’s term, the opening of an athletic season – all hold excitement, anticipation, joy, and hope. New beginnings are the fertile ground where hope is born and dreams arise.
It’s no wonder, then, that Mark chose to begin his Gospel by writing, “The beginning of …” He was STATING A FOCUS. What he was writing was exciting, cause for anticipation and joy, because it communicated that something new and different had broken into his readers lives. God’s people were accustomed to new beginnings. God had provided plenty of them. Their Scriptures began with the words, “In the beginning, God…” Then after the flood of judgment God began again with just Noah and his family. Then, after He judged the world for their attempt to build a tower in Babel that would reach the heavens, God provided another new beginning (Gen 12): “The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." God was saying to Abraham “There is a better world and better life out there. Go to it.” The message was, and still is, that NEW BEGINNINGS START WITH GOD. When God breaks in, things will not be the same. Life will be better. To travel with God is to go to a better place. So walk with God.
With that background, we fast-forward to Mark’s day. For 3-400 years there had been no prophets, no strong, earthly voice of God, no evident activity of God. But then something happened. So Mark wrote, “The beginning of …” His readers would know that Mark was really saying, “God is breaking in. Things are different. Life can be better. We can have a fresh start.” God was acting again, breaking into the life of the world. Mark was announcing that God was up to something. And what was He up to?
“The beginning of the gospel…” Mark wrote that GOD’S NEW BEGINNINGS ARE GOOD NEWS. The word ‘gospel’ was frequently used in the Roman world. It pertained to a mighty ruler, or to an event that introduced something new, or announced something of special significance for the future. It represented good news. So Mark borrowed the word. What he was about to relate would be good news. God, he said, had broken in with some good news that would impact the future significantly. Are you ready for some good news? I am. I guess I’ve always liked good news. When I was a student at Central College in Iowa, I worshiped at our Campus Church. Each week there was a pretty heavy prayer of confession that was usually preceded by recounting some really bad news stories of the previous week. Eventually a group of us approached the Chaplain and complained that we were feeling overwhelmed with all the bad news. When he indicated that our world was full of bad news so we should feel overwhelmed, we protested that there was also a lot of good news. So he challenged us to gather up the good news stories each week and he would provide time in the service to give thanks for the good news in the world. It was quite a challenge – but we worked hard at finding it. It’s still hard to find good news, isn’t it? We want to stop reading the newspaper and listening to the radio and watching television – because we’ve simply had enough of the bad news. I understand that. We want to hear good news. So did the Roman Christians. They were persecuted for their faith. Living for Christ was not an easy road to travel. So Mark told them to focus on the good news of God’s new beginning.
And just what was the good news? “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” “Jesus” – the name comes from the common Hebrew name Joshua, which means ‘Jehovah salvation.’ But Mark makes it uncommon by adding “Christ” – ‘the anointed one.’ In other words, this Jesus is not common – He is the anointed one, chosen one, of God; He is the Messiah. GOD’S NEW BEGINNINGS ARE GOOD NEWS BECAUSE THEY ARE CENTERED IN PROVIDING OUR SALVATION. The Jews were used to the anointing of kings, prophets, and priests; but they knew that those were only temporary anointings, that they only pointed to a greater one to come. That’s why Mark records that John the Baptist predicted that “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.” Jesus Christ, Mark wrote, is “the Son of God” – Jesus is different. In the appearance of Jesus God is doing more than just acting again in history; He is breaking in by sharing Himself. God even gave His own announcement. After Jesus was baptized, God proclaimed (vs. 11): “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Jesus is God in the flesh! And remember the Roman soldier at the foot of Jesus’ cross? Upon Jesus’ death he confessed, “Truly, this man was the Son of God.” Our good news is centered in Jesus; focus on Him.