November 2, 2004

Mark 1:1

Category: Uncategorized :: Permalink

Mark 1:1
(Sermon notes for August 22, 2004)

If you’re watching a TV show and your wife comes in halfway through, she has to ask a lot of questions before she can understand what’s going on. When we read Mark’s Gospel, we’re coming in more than halfway through. Mark assumes that we know the Old Testament and that we’re familiar with its symbolism.

He also assumes we know Matthew’s Gospel. The earliest evidence we have indicates that Matthew wrote first. Most likely, he wrote a few weeks after Pentecost.

Mark builds on Matthew. Matthew presents Jesus as a new Moses, a priest. Mark presents Jesus as the new David, the king. The books of Moses end with Joshua about to lead Israel into the promised land. Matthew ends with Jesus as the new Joshua sending His new Israel to conquer the world with the gospel and that’s where Mark starts, with Jesus as the king. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is the prince who becomes king on the cross, the son of David who inherits the land and then reaches out to inherit the earth.


Every word in Mark 1:1 is significant. What does Mark mean by “gospel”? He isn’t referring to a book about Jesus (e.g., the Gospel of Mark) or about justification by faith alone. What is the good news?

In the ancient world, “gospel” was the word used to announce an birth or enthronement or victory of the emperor, who was seen as a god. An inscription from 9 BC speaks of Augustus’s birth as “the beginning of the gospel.” Israel used the word in a similar sense. In Isaiah, the word “gospel” refers to the announcement that Israel’s God is coming to be Israel’s king, to rescue and rule and reward His people (Isa. 40:9; 52:7).

By using the word “gospel” to refer to his message about Jesus, Mark is indicating that Jesus is Israel’s God in person, the new world emperor, the rival to Caesar, who is returning to His people and taking his throne to rescue them and give them peace. Believing this message results in forgiveness of sins and changed lives. But the gospel isn’t simply about those things. The gospel is the announcement that there’s a new king, that he’s conquered his enemies, that he gives peace to all who align themselves with him.


We must not let the familiarity of the words in Mark 1:1 keep us from examining them to appreciate what they mean. Mark tells us that the new king is Jesus, the Greek form of the Hebrew “Joshua.” Mark wants us to see Jesus as the new Joshua, leading his people into the Promised Land. In his life on earth, Jesus leads his followers to victory in Israel; now he is leading us to victory in the world.

Jesus is also the “Christ.” “Christ” is a title, not a name. It is the Greek translation of the Hebrew “Messiah.” It identifies him as the anointed one. In the Bible, “Christ” or “Messiah” is a royal title. Samuel anointed Saul and later anointed David. The anointing didn’t make Saul or David king. There was a long interval between David’s anointing and David’s enthronement. But the anointing is the basis for the enthronement (Ps. 89:19ff.).

Here in Mark 1:1, Mark announces that the good news is that Jesus is David’s heir, the Messiah, the anointed king, who would inherit the nations (Ps. 2).

Jesus is also “the son of God.” Jesus is God the Son who is God himself. Everything he does, including his death on the cross, reveals who God is. But in the Bible, “son of God” refers to Israel (Ex. 4:22-23) and then also to Israel’s king and representative (2 Sam. 7:12ff.; Ps. 2; 89:26).

When Mark says Jesus is the “son of God,” he’s identifying him as the king of Israel and he’s summoning us to follow him and trust him and share in his victory.


Mark is giving us “the beginning of the good news of Joshua Messiah, God’s son.” This verse is a heading to the first part of Mark’s Gospel, the story of John the Baptist and Jesus’ baptism. It also serves as a heading for the whole book: the whole story of Jesus is the beginning of the gospel, and the church’s proclamation is the continuation and advancement of that gospel in all the world (16:15).

Mark’s Gospel is the story of how Jesus became king. He did so, Mark says, following “the way of the Lord” (1:2, 3). Throughout the book, Jesus does things “on the way.”

The son on the way to kingship ought to remind us of Proverbs, in which the king teaches his son and trains him to rule as king. The “beginning” of that way is the fear of Yahweh (Prov. 1:7). Throughout Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is being trained by his Father to walk in “the way of the Lord,” the way of wisdom and humility, the way of kingship and dominion.

And throughout this book, Jesus is teaching Israel and us to follow him on that way so that we also can rule as kings. As we learn “the beginning of the good news of Joshua Messiah, the son of God,” we’re learning the beginning of wisdom. We’re learning to follow our new Joshua, our new David, to dominion.

Posted by John Barach @ 5:21 pm | Discuss (0)

Leave a Reply