SYNOPSIS – The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus commenced the promised New Creation of God – Mark 1:1-3.
The gospel of Mark provides no information about the birth or early life of Jesus. It opens quite simply with a declaration derived from the Hebrew Bible, one that provides a scriptural link to John the Baptist. This sets the stage for the commencement of the messianic mission of Jesus Christ.
Implicit in the opening citation from the book of Isaiah is that, with the appearance of John at the River Jordan to prepare for the arrival of the Messiah, the long-awaited “season of fulfillment” – The “last days” – had arrived – (Hebrews 1:1, Revelation 1:1-3).
“Beginning” is the first word in the story – Its first position in the Greek sentence makes the term emphatic. The appearance of John at the Jordan River marked the commencement of the “good news” about the kingdom of God.
(Mark 1:1-3) – “Beginning of the glad-message of Jesus Christ. According as it is written in Isaiah the prophet—Lo! I send my messenger before thy face — Who shall prepare thy way—A voice of one crying aloud—In the wilderness prepare ye the way of the Lord, Straight be making his paths” – (The Emphasized Bible).
Other New Testament passages also link the “beginning” of the gospel to the ministry of John. While Jesus remains its center and “content,” John is the one who “prepared” the way for the arrival of the King and his Kingdom. In the opening paragraph, “beginning” is a deliberate verbal echo from the Genesis account of creation:
- (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. All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made.”
- (Acts 1:21-22) – “It is needful then that of the men who companied with us during all the time in which the Lord Jesus came in and went out over us, Beginning from the immersion by John until the day when he was taken up from us, that, a witness of his resurrection along with us should one of these become.”
- (Acts 10:36-37) – “As touching the word he hath sent unto the sons of Israel announcing the glad tidings of peace through Jesus Christ — the same is Lord of all, Ye yourselves know what hath come to pass throughout the whole of Judaea, beginning from Galilee after the immersion which John proclaimed, respecting Jesus who was of Nazareth.”
The life, death, and the resurrection of Jesus constituted the beginning of the promised New Creation of God – The redemption of humanity and the Universe. His arrival on the banks of the Jordan carried universal implications for the Universe, not just for the Jewish people – Thus, it truly was “good news” for all:
- (Romans 8:20-23) – “For unto vanity hath creation been made subject—not by choice, but by reason of him that made it subject, in hope That creation itself, also, shall be freed—from the bondage of the decay into the freedom of the glory of the sons of God; For we know that, all creation is sighing together and travailing-in-birth-throes together until the present,—And, not only so, but, we ourselves also who have the first-fruit of the Spirit—[we] even ourselves within our own selves do sigh,—sonship ardently awaiting—the redeeming of our body” – (The Emphasized Bible).
- (Revelation 3:14) – “And, unto the messenger of the assembly in Laodicea, write:—These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.”
The Greek term rendered “gospel” – euangelion – means “good news, glad tidings.” It is a compound of eu (“good”) and angelion (“message”). English words derived from angelion and euangelion include “angel” and “evangelist.” The New Testament usage of the term is based, in part, on passages from the book of Isaiah, for example:
- (Isaiah 40:8-9) – “The grass hath withered, The flower hath faded — But the word of our God shall stand unto times age-abiding! To a high mountain get ye up O herald — band of Zion, Lift high with strength your voice, O herald — band of Jerusalem — Lift it high, do not fear, Say to the cities of Judah — Lo! your God!”
- (Isaiah 52:7) – “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet — Of him That bringeth good tidings, That publisheth peace, That bringeth good tidings of blessing, That publisheth salvation — That saith unto Zion, Thy God hath become king.”
- (Isaiah 61:1-3) – “The spirit of My Lord Yahweh is upon me — Because Yahweh Hath anointed me to tell good tidings to the oppressed, hath 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…” – (Compare – Luke 4:17-21).
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 Jesus is the content or the herald of the good news, or both – (Hebrews 1:1-3).
“Christ” was not his last name but a designation of what he was and is, the “anointed one,” the Messiah of Israel. To his neighbors, he was “Jesus, son of Joseph,” or simply “Jesus of Nazareth,” the latter a reference to his hometown.
Two categories of men were “anointed” in the Old Testament – priests and kings. The anointing was performed by pouring olive oil on the head of the man to set him apart for a specific office or mission. This physical act signified his consecration for office (Leviticus 21:10-12, Psalm 89:20 – “I have found David my servant, With mine own holy oil have I anointed him”).
“Jesus” is an anglicized spelling of the Hebrew name Yeshua or Yehoshua, the latter better known to English readers as “Joshua.” The longer form of the name is the more ancient one – It occurs the most often in the Hebrew Bible. The shorter form – Yeshua – reflects the later Aramaic influences following the Babylonian Captivity. It is only found in the Old Testament books composed after the return of the Jews from the Captivity.
Moses had prefixed the syllable Yah to the original name of Hoshea to form the compound Ye-hoshua – “Yahweh saves,” or “salvation of Yahweh” – (Numbers 13:16, Deuteronomy 32:44).
“Son of God” among the first-century Jews had messianic and royal connotations. It was part of the promise of kingship to the House of David, who became God’s “son” when he was installed on the throne of Israel. The Messiah was expected to inherit the throne of David – (2 Samuel 7:14, Psalm 2:6-9, Hebrews 1:5-14).
In the gospel of Mark, Jesus demonstrated his understanding of what it meant to be the “Son of God,” especially in his sacrificial death. And he revealed himself in unexpected ways. Ironically, the only ones in the gospel account who recognized him as the Son of God were the demons that he exorcised, plus the Roman centurion who was put in charge of his crucifixion – (Mark 3:11, 8:32, 15:39).
“As written in Isaiah.” The prophecy cited is a composite of verses from the books of Exodus, Isaiah, and Malachi, although the bulk of the text is from a passage in Isaiah. Probably, Mark attributed the whole citation to Isaiah because he relied on it for his messianic theology:
- (Exodus 23:20) – “Behold, I send a messenger before thee, to keep thee by the way, and to bring thee into 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 shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant, whom ye desire, behold, he cometh, says Yahweh of hosts.”
The quotation from Exodus is quite appropriate since, originally, it was a promise to keep Israel safe in the “wilderness” and to lead her to the Promised Land. Thus, in Mark, Jesus was the true Israel poised to traverse the “wilderness” and to lead his people to inherit the promised kingdom.
The gospel of Mark threads other themes from the history of Israel into its narrative, in addition to the Exodus from Egypt and the conquest of Canaan. However, the ministry of the Messiah is far more than a replay of the ancient story, or an attempt to succeed where Israel failed. Instead, in his life, ministry, death, and resurrection, the plan of Yahweh to redeem humanity, and the Cosmos from bondage to Sin, Satan, and Death began to unfold.