Title: The Gospel
Text: Mk 1.1-15; 15.33-38
Introduction: Thank you, Sam, for reading our text this morning; Today we begin our study in Mark. Question: Why Mark? Why not the marks of the church or some other text?
- Usually, I like to move to an OT book after preaching through a NT book. However, we’re in the OT on Wednesday night – and will be for a while.
- The Gospel. I want to focus on Jesus – His acts, His mercy, His words, His love. I think this will be good for us.
- With 4 Gospels, this one is the shortest, the first, most likely comes from Peter.
As a young man, Mark was my least favorite Gospel. I’ve usually run to the other three gospels when I’m looking for stories. Mt 28.18-20; Luke 23 and the thief on the Cross; John and his alternate perspective. Matthew and John were disciples. Luke had done thorough research. But Mark, Mark always seemed to me to be thrown together and condensed. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason. For me, Mark seemed chaotic compared to the other Gospels.
However, after having studied Mark for some years now, I see the beauty of Mark’s story. I see it all so much clearer. I see organization and deep thought in each section. I understand now that Mark had a purpose in mind. And, what makes it even more incredible is that Mark didn’t have Mt, Lk and Jn to lean on.
No, as a matter of fact, I see that a great debt of gratitude is owed to Mark. He learned what he recorded here from Peter. He traveled with Paul and Barnabas – both together and one on one – and learned from them. His goal and his purpose in writing this book is different than that of Matthew or Luke or even John. He was a trailblazer who saw the need to get this story down in book form for future generations because, before this book, there was only oral tradition being passed along. He saw the need and rose to the occasion.
You’re there in Mark 1.1. Let’s read that together. Rd Mk 1.1; an incomplete sentence. There is no verb! That tells us that it was probably the Title of this little book. Your title probably reads: Mark or the Gospel according to Mark. The Greek text simply reads According to Mark. That Title and the one in your Bible was added later. Verse 1 is probably Mark’s title: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Now, before we look at this title, let’s look at this person, Mark. It would be fun to outline for you all of the evidence pointing us toward John Mark, the helper to Barnabas and Paul. But, we just don’t have time. You’ll have to trust that for nearly 2,000 years, the church has understood John Mark to be the writer. Here is what we’re confident of:
This Mark is the same John Mark who worked with Barnabas and Paul in Acts 13. And he also worked with Peter in Rome (1 Pet 5.13; ). That’s right, that Simon Peter: the one who denied Christ three times; the one who continually put his foot in his mouth. Furthermore, there is strong evidence to suggest that John Mark got his information for this gospel from Peter and his testimony of these things. That should make it more interesting as you read about Peter in these passages.
This Gospel appears to have been written shortly after Peter’s death. Maybe Mark realized there was a deep need for such a book as he watched one of the eyewitnesses to Christ pass from this earth.
As we make our way through Mark, I want to point out to you that I want to focus just on what Mark shares. It is important that you know this. When Mark was written, there were no others with which to compare it. I want you to get that feeling. Sure, I’ll mention the other gospels and relate what you probably already know, but for the most part – we will stick to Mark’s storyline. I want to sort of pretend we don’t have the ‘extras’ in the other Gospels.
Mark was most likely writing this book for the Christians in Rome – and he’s writing from Rome, where he had been working with Peter before Peter’s death.
So, let’s break his title down:
- The Beginning: not like John’s gospel – not that far back. Not like Genesis – that’s not his starting point. His starting point is clarified in the next couple of verses. Malachi and Isaiah talked about this Messiah’s coming. That’s his starting point. He points back to the prophets as the starting point.
- Gospel: εὐαγγέλιον – transliterated is evangelism. εὐ – means well or good. αγγέλοs – is the word for which we get angel – or messenger. αγγέλιον means message. So we have good message or good news. Mark here is the 1st one to use this word this way. His is the 1st gospel.
- Jesus – the gospel, the message of Jesus can be understood in two ways:
- as the message about Jesus. Mark might be saying I’m going to tell you about him.
- the message Jesus proclaimed. Mark might be saying I’m going to tell you what he preached. Both work here, for they are the same.
- Christ – anointed one or Messiah. Your translation could read: Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God.
- Son of God – I think Mark is up to something here:
- Jesus, his earthly name, He was human.
- Christ, the Messiah of the Jewish people, and the world. These messianic implications would go all the way back to the Davidic covenant.
- Son of God – a theological delineation. Yes, fully human, but also – fully God. We’ll see more of that in a moment. We’ll see this is an important element that flows through this book, and is a part of the climax to the story at the end.
Mark affirms for us that this beginning was foretold of by the prophets. He mentions Isaiah here (as it is written in), but he references from both Malachi and Isaiah. Let’s look at these passages:
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 in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. He clearly tells us of someone who will come proclaiming, announcing, and heralding the coming of the Lord. Mark, then quotes from Isaiah to clarify for us this: 40 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
3 A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
John is this ‘voice crying in the wilderness’; we meet him in v. 4; Jesus is the Lord, the Messiah, the Son of God mentioned here; we meet him in v 9; let’s do that; rd v 4-8; rd v 9-11;
At this stage of the introduction, I think it would be interesting to note the different witnesses proclaiming this gospel – that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. I think that is more of Mark’s focus than telling us the whole story – like we see in other gospels. Note:
- Mark tells us in his Title, v 1.
- Malachi tells us in v 2.
- Isaiah tells us in v 3.
- John tells us in v 4-8. This Messiah is mightier than I, his sandals I’m not worthy to even stoop down and tie! John is pointing us to Jesus. And then…
- The Trinity appears to validate this for us in v 9-11.
- The Son comes to be baptized
- The Spirit the heavens are torn open (the clouds don’t just part) and the Spirit descends upon Jesus as a witness
- The Father himself testifies: You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.
This might appear to be the end of the introduction – v 1 – the son of God; v 11 – the Father proclaims him to be his son. But I think there is more here; I think that Satan and the angels also declare who he is by their actions:
- There is Satan’s validation of who he is as he tries to test him – trying to trip him up; rd v 12-13
- He is with the wild beasts – this is unusual; Wild beast don’t usually act this way;
- The angels were ministering to him, giving their validation of who He is.
Listen, while no single testimony stands alone as valid in some eyes, the weight of these combined all scream at us: Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
1.14-15 tell us that Jesus begins his ministry, even before he picks his disciples (1.16-20); rd v 14a; we won’t hear of John again in Mark, (we hear of John’s disciples in 2.18) but we won’t hear from the Baptizer again until we learn of his death in chapter 6. As John records in his gospel – this is something John the Baptist knew was coming – He must increase, but I must decrease.
And the increase of Christ’s popularity is what we see as he begins his ministry. Let’s continue – 1.14b-15; we see this word gospel again – a nice bookend to this section. Maybe this is the end of the Introduction.
This is common for Mark: bookends to sections where he is focusing on something important. Some scholars call this the top and the tail. They bring the story back to the beginning – in a way. I’ll do my best to point them out along the way. I will try, but I’ll forget from time to time.
Caveat: I know you enjoy digging deeper into a text. I do, too. I know you like to be… well, to put it in a negative term… spoon-fed. Hey, I do, too! It is so much fun, it is so enjoyable to sit at the feet of someone who has done the hard work. I know you feel the same way about WEBS. But here is the problem. If we dig down deep into one small passage, we’ll spend forever in one book.
Example: just verse 1; or just v 2-9; or just 11-13; Can you see that if we did that we would be in the book of Mark for 5-7 years? I only want to spend the next 4 months in Mark. It might take 6 months, but that isn’t the plan.
Turn to 15.33-37; Mark is making reference to the O.T. again. Here it is a reference to Psalm 22.1-18; And at his death something happens: rd 15.38 – 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. This is the 2nd time we’ve seen this word torn in Mark. Do you know it doesn’t appear at any other time in this book than the two we’ve seen? Mark uses this word torn only twice: Once when the heaven’s were being torn open and the Spirit descends upon the Messiah and here, when the curtain that separated the people from the presence of God was torn in two from top to bottom.
No man can make either one of those tears. Coincidence? I don’t think so. I think Mark’s goal here is to communicate to the reader that a way into the presence of God has been made. He came from heaven to earth and lived the perfect and sinless life, that he might make the payment of death on our behalf. His death opened a way into the holy of holies – the most holy place, that you and I might have access to God.
And if you’ve missed it somehow, look at v 39; Do you know in Mark, only one human makes this remark? The Centurion. God said it back in 1.15; Angels and Demons will declare it. But it isn’t until this moment that a person says it.
Conclusion: And this is our application – our take-aways:
- The message of Mark is clear: Jesus, is the Christ, the promised messiah, Son of God. That means that God has done what he has promised by restoring the fracture relationship mankind had with him. This is the Gospel message. God is holy. Our sin has separated us from Him. Nothing we could ever do can remove this sin and repair this separation. (You can’t go to church enough; You can’t give enough money; you can’t serve on enough teams, boards or committees; you can’t go on enough mission trips; you can’t do anything to repair this fracture that sin has caused.) So, God, in his infinite, perfect mercy acted on our behalf and sent his Son to repair what was broken – to restore what we could never fix – to atone for our sin. The Bible says that our sin is what separates us from God. Isa. 59.1-2; Isa. 53.6 – we all like sheep have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 1 Corinthians 5.21- For our sake, God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Romans 6.23 – for the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- This information is too valuable to sit on. It demands your response. The response is simple and difficult. It is absolutely free and yet demands your all. Still, there is a moment when you make that decision to surrender your life to Christ. The Bible calls this faith. God says that you deserve death because of your sin. And then he says that if you’ll trust him, that is believe what he says, he will take your sins and consider them paid for in full in the death of his son, Jesus. All of you sin is placed upon Jesus on the cross where it is atoned and paid for in full. And all of his righteousness is placed upon you.
- 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Eph 2.4-7
- He died. He was buried in a borrowed tomb. He rose from the dead three days later. His resurrection gives us hope of our future resurrection.
Invitation: Listen, if you don’t have that hope… I want to give you a chance to respond to this hope I hold out before you now. By responding in faith, you can find the forgiveness of sins you just might have been seeking.