Photo by gabana on Morgue File.
A couple of years ago, I blogged on the opening chapters of the Gospel according to Mark. I had intended to continue through the gospel, but got sidetracked along the way. Now, I feel prompted to return to Mark. However, since it has been nearly two years, I wanted to start back at the beginning. So, I will edit the former posts and repost them. When I get to the new material, I will pick up there and continue on.
Today, I wanted to rewind and look at the very beginning of Mark’s gospel. Specifically, the opening pericope of chapter one and verses one through three. Here is how Mark opens his gospel:
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I will send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'” (Mk. 1.1-3, ESV)
Mark is a no thrills, no frills sort of writer. He cuts to the chase. He does not beat around the bush. He gets right to it. We see this evidenced in the opening lines of his gospel. Mark, unlike Matthew and Luke, does not give us any details or accounts of the birth of Jesus. He does not give us a genealogy. Mark wants to get right to the start of Jesus’ earthly ministry and pick up the narrative at that point.
He alerts his readers to exactly what he is writing about from the opening sentence: the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Some of the Markan manuscripts do not include the phrase, the Son of God. (Although many consider it acceptable to include it.) I do not wish to get into the arguments concerning textual criticism here; but, whether it was original to Mark, later edited and added by Mark himself or a scribe, the identity of Jesus as the Son of God will be proclaimed in several places in Mark’s gospel (e.g. by God the Father, 1.11; 9.7; demons, 3.11; 5.7; Jesus himself, 12.6-8; 13.32; 14.61-62; and a Roman centurion, 15.39).
This message of Jesus is referred to as the Gospel. The word Gospel comes from the Greek word εὐαγγἑλιον, meaning “good tidings” or “good news”. So the, the message of the coming of Christ and Christ’s message of himself is said to be “good news”. It is not merely news. We are inundated with news. All sorts of news. News about various things. This news is said to be good. As Mark unfolds his account of this good news, he will demonstrate to the reader why it is regarded as such.
For now, it is enough to say that Mark understands it to be good news because Jesus has come: he has arrived.
Mark then sees Jesus as the fulfillment (along with John the Baptizer as his forerunner) of the Messianic prophesies of the Hebrew Bible. The one who would be the messenger sent to prepare the way is understood by Mark (and the other Gospel writers) as John the Baptizer. Christ then is identified as the One who is being heralded by John.
The quotation from Isaiah shows continuity, as well as demonstrating the legitimacy of Jesus’ claims to be the long-awaited, long-promised Messiah. The birth of Jesus was no accident. It was no coincidence. It was predestined and prophesied by God himself. And Mark (and the other Gospel writers), by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, will bear witness to the life and ministry of Jesus as the Christ: the anointed One of God.
So then, what shall unfold from here, in the next few pericopes (and even throughout the entire book) is the Gospel, (i.e. good news) of or about Jesus Christ. Mark will spend a good bit of time in the early part of his Gospel, demonstrating the authority of Jesus, as the Incarnate Son of God, over various things. He has shown his authority in the quotation from the prophets, demonstrating that they speak of Jesus. He will show his authority through John the Baptizer and his testimony of Jesus. Also, through the trinitarian witness at Jesus’ baptism. His authority over the devil and the wilderness dangers. His authority to preach the kingdom of God. His authority over diseases and sickness, over demonic forces and even nature itself.
John, in the Jordan River valley, preached repentance and baptism. His was a ministry of preparation. Preparation for the One who would come after him. He made the paths straight for his arrival. And now, according to Mark, the One has come and we shall behold his glory and authority.
 R.T. France, The Gospel of Mark, p. 50.