In the ministry of Jesus, the kingdom of God arrived as announced by John the Baptist – Mark 1:1-3.
The gospel of Mark begins with a declaration from the Hebrew Bible that sets the stage for the messianic mission of Jesus Christ. Thus, it opens on a distinct note of fulfillment. Jesus is the promised Messiah of Israel, and with the appearance of John, the long-awaited “season of fulfillment” has begun.
“Beginning” is the first word in the passage, and its position in the Greek sentence makes it emphatic. The ministry 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. 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 John, the one who “prepared” the way for the messianic king. And the term 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.”
- (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.”
The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus inaugurated the New Creation and began the redemption of humanity. His arrival on the banks of the Jordan River carried universal implications far beyond the hopes of the Jewish nation; thus, for all humanity, it truly was “good news” – (Romans 8:20-23, Revelation 3:14).
The Greek term rendered “gospel” or euangelion means “good news, glad tidings.” It is 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 prophecies from 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 liberty to captives, to them who are bound the opening of the prison; to proclaim, The year of acceptance of Yahweh.”
And this “good news of Jesus” concerned the imminent arrival of the long-promised salvation and the reign of God in the person of His Son. The genitive construction of the clause means either Jesus is the content or the herald of the good news, or both.
THE ANOINTED ONE
“Christ” is not his last name but the designation of what he is, the “anointed one,” the Messiah of Israel. And in the Hebrew Bible, two categories of men are “anointed,” priests and kings, and their anointing is performed by pouring olive oil on the head of the designated man. This act sets him apart for a specific office or task – (Leviticus 21:10-12, Psalm 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, and it means “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 would inherit his throne and rule the “nations” from Mount Zion – (2 Samuel 7:14, Psalm 2:6-9, Hebrews 1:5-14).
“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 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 originally referred to the promise to keep Israel safe in the “wilderness,” and to lead her to the Promised Land.
Thus, Jesus is the true Israel poised to traverse the “wilderness” and lead his people to possess the kingdom.
Mark has 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 had failed.
Instead, in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the plan of God to redeem humanity and His Creation from bondage to sin, Satan, and death has commenced. His arrival marked the dawn of the new and final era in salvation history, and nothing would ever be the same again.