In Beginning

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. 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.

The long-awaited “season of fulfillment” commenced with the appearance of the Baptist along the banks of the Jordan River and his baptism of Jesus – (Hebrews 1:1, Revelation 1:1-3).

Alpine flowers - Photo by Aneta Hartmannová on Unsplash
[Photo by Aneta Hartmannová on Unsplash]

The term in the passage translated as “
beginning” is the first word in the Greek text of Mark. Its position makes it emphatic. The sudden appearance of John 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, and the term translated as “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).

The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus inaugurated the promised New Creation and began the redemption of humanity. His arrival also carried universal implications, and his activity and message constituted “Good News” – (Romans 8:20-23, Revelation 3:14).

The Greek term translated as “gospel” or euangelion means “good news, glad tidings.” The usages of euangelion in the New Testament 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 Christmarked the arrival of the promised salvation and reign of God in the person and ministry of the man from Nazareth. The genitive construction of the clause can mean that Jesus was 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, though 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 man, setting him apart for a specific office or task. “Jesus” is the anglicized spelling of the Hebrew name Yehoshua, meaning, “Yahweh saves” - (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 fulfill when he was enthroned in Jerusalem - (2 Samuel 7:14, Psalm 2:6-9, Hebrews 1:5-14).

The description of the passage “as written in Isaiah” refers to a composite of verses from the books of Exodus, Isaiah, and Malachi, although the bulk of the material is found in 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.”

Sunrise Scotland - Photo by Raphael Andres on Unsplash
[Photo by Raphael Andres on Unsplash]

The quotation from
Exodus was appropriate, the promise to keep Israel safe in the “wilderness” and to lead her to the Promised Land. Jesus was the ultimate representative of Israel who was poised to traverse the “wilderness” and lead his people to the Kingdom of God. By combining these passages, Mark summarizes the Messianic expectations of the Hebrew Bible.

The Gospel of Mark has threaded other themes from the history of Israel into its narrative, although the ministry of Jesus was much more than a replay of that ancient story.

The plan of God to redeem humanity and the creation from bondage to sin and death began to unfold in the life of Jesus the Messiah. His mission was far larger than the nation of Israel and encompassed territory that extended well beyond the borders of Palestine.

  • The Forerunner - (John the Baptist prepared the way for the Messiah, the herald of the Good News of the Kingdom of God)
  • Rend the Heavens! - (The Spirit of God and the voice from heaven confirmed the calling and identity of Jesus – Son, Messiah, and Servant of the LORD)
  • In Spirit and Fire - (At his baptism, the Spirit of God descended on Jesus, equipping him for his Messianic mission, the One who baptizes his followers in the Spirit)



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