The Gospel Begins

The Gospel of Mark opens with a declaration based on passages in the Hebrew Bible, providing the scriptural basis for the ministry of John the Baptist. Moreover, it sets the stage for the messianic mission of Jesus and his proclamation of the Kingdom of God. Thus, Mark’s account begins on a note of fulfillment. The Man from Nazareth is the Messiah and Savior promised by the God of Israel.

Implicit in this opening declaration is that the long-awaited “season of fulfillment” commenced with the appearance of the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River – (Hebrews 1:1, Revelation 1:1-3).

Aegean Sea Photo by Thomas Summer on Unsplash
[Photo by Thomas Summer on Unsplash]

The term translated as “
BEGINNING” in the passage is the first word in the Greek text of Mark’s Gospel. Its position in the Greek sentence makes it emphatic. The sudden appearance of John by the Jordan marked the start 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 the Baptist. He was the one who “prepared” the way for the Messiah. Moreover, the term “beginning” echoes 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” (See also, Acts 10:36).

Thus, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus inaugurated the promised New Creation and began the redemption of humanity.

His arrival along the banks of the Jordan River also carried universal implications far beyond the hopes of the Jewish nation. For all humanity, his presence and message constituted “Good News” – (Romans 8:20-23, Revelation 3:14).

The Greek term rendered “gospel” or euangelion in Mark means “good news, GLAD TIDINGS.” It is a combination of the Greek prefix eu (“good”) and the noun angelion or “message.” English words derived from it include “angel” and “evangelist.”

In the New Testament, usages of euangelion are often derived from prophecies in the Book of Isaiah. For example, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that brings GLAD TIDINGS, that publishes peace, that brings GLAD TIDINGS of blessing, that publishes salvation, that says to Zion, your God has become king” - (Isaiah 52:7. See also Isaiah 61:1-3).

The announcement of the “Good News of Jesus Christ” marked the arrival of the promised salvation and reign of God. The genitive construction of the clause can mean either that Jesus is the content or the herald of the Good News, or both.

The term “Christ” was not his last name but the designation of what he was - the “anointed one,” the Messiah of Israel.  But, to his neighbors, he was “Jesus, the 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 designated man, setting him apart for a specific office or task. “Jesus” is the anglicized spelling of the Hebrew name Yehoshua, meaning, “Yahweh saves,” or “salvation of Yahweh” - (Leviticus 21:10-12, Psalm 89:20).

Among first-century Jews, the term “Son of God” had messianic and royal connotations. It was part of the promise of kingship made to David, a royal legacy the Messiah was expected to inherit and fulfill when he was enthroned in Jerusalem - (2 Samuel 7:14, Psalm 2:6-9, Hebrews 1:5-14).

The reference in Mark to a passage “as written in Isaiah” describes what is a composite of verses from the books of ExodusIsaiah, and Malachi, although the bulk of the material 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. It was a promise to keep Israel safe in the “wilderness” and lead her to the Promised Land. Hence, Jesus is the true Israel who is poised to traverse the “wilderness” and lead his people to the Kingdom. Mark was not citing one passage but summarizing the Messianic expectation of the Hebrew Scriptures.

The Gospel of Mark has threaded other themes from the history of Israel into its account. But the ministry of the Messiah was far more than a replay of that ancient story, or simply an attempt by Jesus to succeed where Israel had failed, though he certainly did do that.

In his life, the plan of Yahweh to redeem humanity and the creation itself from bondage to sin and death began to unfold. The Messianic mission of the Nazarene was far larger than the nation of Israel, and, in the end, it will encompass land that extends far beyond the confining borders of the Land of Canaan.




No Middle Ground

Abraham's Seed