Summary: A consideration of the hope and good news contained in Mark 1:1
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God
Have you ever had some news that you have been absolutely bursting to tell someone? Something good had happened and you were not able to rest until you had told somebody, perhaps it did not matter who you told, anybody would do? Maybe you had discovered that you were going to be a parent or a grandparent, or you had got a new job.
It could be something for which, before it could be understood, some background had to be explained, which you rushed over to get to the main point as quickly as possible. Reading Mark’s gospel gives the feeling that Mark is in just such a rush. He seems to want to get down to the point as soon as he can. It is the shortest of the four accounts of the earthly life of Jesus in the Bible, with only sixteen chapters, of which the last five are concerned with his last week of his earthly life.
The other three gospels give a gentle introduction, setting the scene before they bring Jesus onto centre stage. Matthew gives Jesus’ family tree, tells us how Joseph was informed in dreams what would happen, the visit of the wisemen, Luke tells of Mary being visited by an angel, the census, Jesus’ birth and the shepherds, while Mark starts abruptly. His gospel is a helter-skelter to Calvary, where Jesus was crucified. He blurts his main message out in his very first sentence. The first few chapters of the book have as the main question, “Who is this?” but Mark cannot keep it secret and leave us in suspense, he blows the gaff in the first sentence – “…Jesus Christ the Son of God”
It is interesting to note that it is believed by most scholars, and there is evidence for this from other sources, that Mark’s gospel is really Peter’s account of the life of Jesus, that is based upon information given to Mark by Peter in Rome, in the lead up to his martyrdom. We often see Peter blurting things out, rushing about and jumping to conclusions – this seems like just the commencement to a gospel that Peter would have had, as does the rapid movement and the frequent use of the Greek word ‘euthews’, meaning ‘immediately’ or ‘straightaway’.
The very first phrase of the gospel is ‘the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God’. At first glance this seems like just being a way of starting his account, and that he is referring to the beginning of his book, something akin to ‘once upon a time’
However, it is far more likely that he is in fact referring to the whole of what follows in the book as being the beginning of the gospel and of the work of Jesus. He saw the earthly life of Jesus as just being the start of the gospel. In a similar way, Luke wrote a two-volume work, Luke and Acts. He saw the books of Acts, the record of the beginning of the early Church, as being just as much part of the life and work of Jesus as his time in Galilee, preaching to the crowds. He starts Acts with:-
The former treatise have I made unto thee O Theophilus of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach.
After Jesus was crucified, resurrected and ascended he remained active in the world. It has often been suggested that ‘the Acts of the Apostles’ should be called ‘the Acts of the Holy Spirit’, others have said, referring to the opening of the book, that a more accurate title would be ‘the continuing Acts of the resurrected and ascended Christ’. The growth of the early Church was through the power of Christ and his Spirit, in heaven. He still is active today.
That is why the gospel is still relevant today, because we do not preach stories about a dead man, or meet to discuss the ideas of a teacher of the past, instead we have a living Lord, who has risen from the dead. Other religions have dead teachers; we have a living Lord! The empty tomb is our guarantee of eternal life.
But he goes back further than the birth of Jesus. The gospel really started in the mind of God, before time began, before he had created the universe, he had planned the gospel. Mark tells us that he then told his people through the prophets. Then came John the Baptist, just before Jesus started his earthly ministry. I am sure that you have met people who are very what is politely referred to as ‘spontaneous’. People who will do things on a whim, make decisions based on passing feelings without thinking of the long-term ramifications and consequences, who will take on responsibilities and start hobbies, make promises, then quickly tire and get bored of them and drop them. The gospel of Christ was not a spur of the moment decision by God; it was a total, planned, commitment that he will not backtrack on.