The Good News of Jesus Christ the Son of God
The Good News of Jesus Christ the Son of God
Main Idea: The gospel is the good news that God has kept His promise to send a Messiah, who is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
- We Can Trust God to Keep His Promise (1:1-4).
- God kept His word to send the Messiah (1:1).
- God kept His word to send His forerunner (1:2-4).
- We Can Trust God to Send His Preachers (1:4-8).
- Like John we should be faithful (1:4-5).
- Like John we need to be humble (1:6-8).
The Gospel of Matthew is written to Jews telling them that Jesus is the Messiah King who fulfills Old Testament prophecy. Mark is written to Romans telling them that Jesus is the Suffering Servant who actively ministers on our behalf and gives His life as a ransom for many. Luke is written to Greeks telling them that Jesus is the perfect Son of Man who came to save and minister to all people through the power of the Holy Spirit. John is written to the world, telling that Jesus is the fully human, fully divine Son of God in whom we must believe to receive eternal life.
The Gospel of Mark is fast moving and hard-hitting! By the far the shortest of the four Gospels, it is noted as much for what it omits as what it includes. In Mark there is no genealogy of Jesus, no miraculous birth narrative with Bethlehem and shepherds, no childhood at Nazareth or visit to the temple, no Sermon on the Mount, and few parables.
To summarize, Mark recorded, in rapid-fire succession, specific events from the life and ministry of Jesus to prove to a Roman audience that He is the Christ, the Son of God, who served, suffered, died, and rose again as the Suffering Servant of the Lord depicted by the prophet Isaiah.
As we prepare to walk through this powerful Gospel narrative concerning Jesus Christ, two questions need to be raised and answered. First, who wrote this Gospel? Second, how should we approach any of the Gospels?
The early church agreed unanimously that a man named John Mark wrote this Gospel. His mother was Mary, whose home in Jerusalem was a meeting place for believers of the early church (Acts 12:12).
The Hebrew name John means “God’s gift.” The Roman name Mark means “polite” or “shining.” John Mark, though never mentioned by name in the Gospel, may be the naked boy of Mark 14:51-52. John Mark and his cousin Barnabas accompanied Paul on his first missionary journey (Acts 12:25), but Mark turned back before the journey ended (Acts 13:13). This irritated Paul and led to a parting with Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41). Later Paul and Mark were reconciled, and Mark was “useful” to Paul (2 Tim 4:11).
Finally, the early church affirmed Mark was the apostle Peter’s interpreter. He recorded Peter’s experiences with the Lord Jesus. Mark’s account being especially vivid when it involves incidents with Peter supports this view.
Some Basic Presuppositions Concerning Our Gospels
How do we approach the four Gospels and, in particular, the Gospel of Mark? What presuppositions should we bring to our study?
(1) Gospels are historical and not mythological accounts. What they record really did happen. (2) They will vary because they are written by four different men. However, because they were inspired by God, all they wrote will be true. (3) Gospels are more than thematic biographical studies. They are not biographies in the modern sense. They are historical theologies of the person and work of Jesus Christ. (4) Portions may be summarized and not given as exhaustive accounts. (5) Gospels are more concerned about Christ’s death than His life (more than one-fourth of each deals with the final week of His life). One scholar said Mark “is a Passion Narrative with an extended introduction” (Stein, Mark, 33).
As we begin an exciting journey through this Gospel, what does Mark want us to understand concerning the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
We Can Trust God to Keep His Promise
Jesus said in John 5:39, “You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me.” God had promised to send a Savior, a Deliverer, a Messiah. Mark says the time has arrived, and He has appeared, as well as the one God called to prepare the way for His arrival—Jesus Christ and John the baptizer.
God Kept His Word to Send the Messiah (Mark 1:1)
Without wasting any words, Mark gives the introduction to Mark 1:1-15 as well as the theme of the entire book: it is about good news of Jesus who is the Christ, the Son of God.
The word beginning recalls Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1. Something new and exciting has occurred. The word gospel means a message of good news or of joyful tidings. It speaks of the coming Savior who would provide salvation promised by the prophetic word. The time of God’s salvation has arrived! God has kept His promise to send a Messiah.
This Messiah is “Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” “Jesus” is the Greek name for the Hebrew Joshua: “Yahweh is salvation.” “Christ” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Messiah: “the anointed one.” Initially a title, “Christ” would become a common part of the name of our Lord. “Son of God” is a crucial title for the promised deliverer. It takes Christology to a higher level. Bob Stein says, “Son of God reveals Jesus’ unique and unparalleled relationship with God. It is the favorite title of Mark for identifying Jesus (1:11, 24; 3:11 [cf. 1:34]; 5:7; 9:7; 12:6; 13:32; 14:61-62;
15:39), and when Mark was written, it conveyed to the Christian community the idea of both preexistence and deity (cf. Phil 2:6-8; Col 1:15-20)” (Stein, Mark, 41). One cannot avoid the inescapable conclusion that Jesus is indeed God!
And of all Jesus’ titles, the title “Son of God” in particular appears at significant points in the Gospel and sometimes in the mouths of some interesting personalities! Perhaps most striking is that the disciples never recognize Jesus as the Son of God in the Gospel of Mark. The demons get it right (3:11; 5:7). Even a Roman centurion understands it (15:39). Yet not until after the resurrection did the disciples get it. If Jesus’ disciples failed to see it, there is hope for those who seem the furthest away from seeing it today.
There are four strategic confessions in the second Gospel: (1) Mark’s assertion in 1:1: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (2) Peter’s confession in 8:29: “He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ And Peter answered and said to Him, ‘You are the Christ.’”
(3) The Messiah’s affirmation by the nation through the words of the high priest in 14:61-62: “Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, ‘Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?’ Jesus said, ‘I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.’” (4) A Roman (Gentile) soldier’s recognition of Jesus as the Son of God in 15:39: “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” This is how the Gospel of Mark unfolds. It begins here with the declaration that this is the “gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
TITLES OF JESUS IN THE GOSPEL OF MARK
- Jesus Christ, Son of God (1:1)
- Jesus, Son of the Most High God (5:7)
- Jesus, Son of David (10:47-48) 4. Christ (1:1; 8:29; 9:41; 12:35)
- Christ, the Son of the Blessed (14:61)
- Christ, King of Israel (15:32)
- Son of Man (2:10, 28; 8:31, 38; 9:9, 12, 31; 10:33, 45; 13:26; 14:21, 41, 62)
- Holy One of God (1:24)
- Lord of the Sabbath (2:28)
- Lord (5:19; 7:28; 10:51 [Gk]; 11:3; 13:20 [16:19-20])
- King of the Jews (15:2, 9, 12, 18, 26)
God Kept His Word to Send His Forerunner (Mark 1:2-4)
Before the Messiah, God promises to send a forerunner. Mark 1:2-3 combines three texts, a common practice in that day, evoking the themes of the wilderness, a new exodus, and the forerunner Elijah.
The first reference is Exodus 23:20: “I am going to send an angel [messenger] before you to protect you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared.” Next he pulls from Malachi 3:1: “‘See, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. Then the Lord you seek will suddenly come to His temple, the Messenger of the covenant you desire—see, He is coming,’ says the Lord of Hosts.” The last reference is Isaiah 40:3: “A voice of one crying out: Prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness; make a straight highway for our God in the desert.”
Mark simply references the most significant and well known of the three texts, the prophet Isaiah. God has promised to send His messenger, who will prepare the way; make the road ready ahead of “You,” the Messiah. He will loudly proclaim his message where God has continually met His people calling them to repentance: the wilderness. His message is simple and clear: Level the roads, make them presentable and safe, for the Lord is coming! God kept His word to send His forerunner to prepare the way for the Messiah.
We Can Trust God to Send His Preachers
The sending of John the baptizer was a fulfillment of biblical prophecy signaling a new day in “redemptive history”—which is the series of events by which God redeems His people from sin and death. The culmination of redemptive history is the cross of Christ. Three observations about John the Baptist elsewhere in Scripture are worth noting. Matthew 11:7-12, 14 says,
Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft garments? Look, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and far more than a prophet. This is the one it is written about: ‘Look, I am sending My messenger ahead of You, he will prepare Your way before You.’ I assure you: Among those born of women no one greater than John the Baptist has appeared; but the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.... For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John; if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who is to come.”
John was greatly esteemed in the eyes of our Savior. John was the Elijah to come, the one who would announce the coming of the Messiah. He was truly at a turning point in redemptive history.
While John prepared the way for the Messiah, he rightly understood his role in God’s plan of redemption: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, emphasis added). His ministry was not about himself; it was rightly centered on Jesus Christ.
The message John declared about the Messiah was true, and many came to believe in Jesus. “Many came to Him and said, ‘John never did a sign, but everything John said about this Man was true.’ And many believed in Him there” (John 10:41-42, emphasis added). He was not the Savior, but he pointed many to Him.
Chuck Swindoll says these verses concerning John the Baptist give us the “profile of a strange evangelist!” Indeed! In John the Baptist we see a character and life worth emulating. The great thing is that when we do start living like John the Baptist, we end up looking a lot more like Jesus Christ in our own lives.
Like John We Should Be Faithful (Mark 1:4-5)
Mark records with his usual brevity, “John came baptizing in the wilderness.” He suddenly appeared. He was “baptizing,” but he was not concerned about mere ritual or ceremonial rite. The message he preached was “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” This baptism was preparation for the forgiveness Christ would accomplish by His death and resurrection.
In short, John’s message was, “The time is now to get right with God!” Popular with some and unpopular with others, John was faithful to God! He truly lived by the dictum, “All that matters in life is that I please God.”
How did the people respond? They came from everywhere to hear him, even Jerusalem! Rich and poor. Rural and urban. They responded to John’s preaching by repenting (turning from sin), confessing (acknowledging their sin), and being baptized (an outward sign of humility giving evidence of the inward change of their hearts). He called people to prepare their hearts for the coming of the Messiah.
Like John We Need to Be Humble (Mark 1:6-8)
Our tendency is to want to make John’s character like that of a modern man. That will not work. He was not the kind of man to be a presidential cabinet member; rather, he was a wandering preacher who lived in the wilderness. God chose a forerunner entirely different from the type we would have picked. Mark helps us take a straight and honest look at this man. Not only does he appear unusual by today’s standards; he was unusual by the standards of his own day. He had no credentials, had not studied in a formal school with Pharisees or rabbis, and wore funny clothes and ate weird food!
Humble in appearance? He wore a camel-haired garment with a leather belt. Sounds like Elijah in 2 Kings 1:8.
Humble in home? He lived in the desert.
Humble in diet? He ate locusts (a clean animal; Lev 11:22) and honey. At least it was high in protein and minerals.
Humble in message? John effectively said, “One greater than me is coming [v. 7]. He is so great, I am not worthy to do what only a Gentile slave would do [v. 7]. My baptism is outward with water: a symbol. His baptism is inward with the Spirit: the real thing [v. 8]. The One who is coming is mightier than I am! He is more worthy than I am! He is more powerful than I am! I have touched your body with water. He will touch your soul with the Holy Spirit! I know who I am in God’s plan. I know who He is in God’s plan too!”
John would not live to 35. He would be imprisoned and beheaded. The world, no doubt, scoffed at this crazy man. Heaven, however, would smile.
J. C. Ryle rightly demonstrates the implications of John’s life:
The principal work of every faithful minister of the gospel, is to set the Lord Jesus fully before His people, and to show them His fullness and His power to save. The next great work He has to do, is to set before them the work of the Holy Spirit, and the need of being born again, and inwardly baptized by His grace. These two mighty truths appear to have been frequently on the lips of John the Baptist. It would be well for the church and the world, if there were more ministers like him. (Ryle, Mark, 4)
Early Christians used one symbol to mark the tombs of believers or to designate secret meeting places because of Roman persecution. It was sometimes signed in sand to distinguish a friend from an enemy. Further, it captured beautifully the evangelistic intent of Jesus’ ministry and the essence of who Jesus was. It also summarizes well the theme of Mark’s Gospel. I do not speak of the cross, but of the fish! The Greek word is ICHTHUS (ΙΧΘΥΣ). It is a perfect acrostic for Iesous Christos Theou Huios Soter, or in English, “Jesus
Christ, God’s Son, Savior!” Here is the essence of Mark’s Gospel. Here is the essence of the good news about Jesus.
Reflect and Discuss
- What is the advantage of having four Gospels, all telling essentially the same story?
- How might Mark’s consciousness of having a Roman audience affect his selection and presentation of the facts?
- How did Mark’s missionary work with Paul and Barnabas and his association with Peter prepare him to write this Gospel?
- What are the implications of Jesus’ title “Christ” in the lives of His followers? What are the implications of His being “the Son of God”?
- Why did the demons and the Roman centurion recognize that Jesus was the Son of God before the resurrection, but His disciples did not? How does the disciples’ slowness give hope for us and our loved ones?
- How does John the Baptist function as a transitional figure from the Old Testament to the new covenant?
- How do John and his preaching style compare with current notions of how to gain a following and grow a church?
- Why do you think John gained a large following? What was his message? How did that message contribute to his popularity and to his death?
- How is John’s humble message about Christ similar to what we should tell others about Christ? How is our message different?
- God fulfilled His promise to send a messenger and send a Savior. What are some of the other promises of God that have not yet been fulfilled? How does Mark 1:1-8 encourage you concerning these promises?