God’s Word for You
Mark 1:1 The Beginning
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, May 1, 2021
Soon we will begin a long series of devotions on the Book of Numbers. During that series, I would like to spend Saturdays in a Gospel, so we will turn to the beginning chapters of Mark.
1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (EHV)
Would it make sense to you if I begin by saying, “This is the beginning of my devotion on Mark 1:1”? No. It’s more usual to begin by greeting the one you write to (Luke 1:1-4), or by explaining why you begin the way you do (such as with a genealogy, Matthew 1:1), or by saying when a thing happened (John 1:1). But what Mark does here at the beginning of his book is the presentation of a title for the whole book. And that title is, “The Beginning of the Gospel.” The ministry of Jesus, from his baptism (Mark 1:2-11) to his resurrection and ascension (Mark 16:1-8, 19).
At first, it might not be easy to guess Mark’s audience, but the book is full of many clues. He rarely quotes from the Old Testament. He explains Jewish customs. These details strongly suggest a Gentile audience. He also uses some Latin terms rather than Greek. For example, everywhere in the New Testament, the term for a Roman sergeant is penteconter, but throughout Mark, he spells out the Latin word centurion with Greek letters. This isn’t evident from translations, but it’s immediately clear in the Greek text. He uses other Latin terms, such as Praetorium, to define what he means by “palace” in Mark 15:16. So Mark is writing to Gentile Christians in Rome.
Since this book is the Beginning of the Gospel, Mark wants us to understand that the gospel ministry continues now, even though Jesus has ascended into heaven. We continue this ministry. One characteristic of his book is that he tends to balance the writing of each story in such a way that at their center is an important point or theme. For example, the center of the first account, John’s baptizing work, is the statement that the whole countryside was baptized, and they confessed their sins. Baptism is for everyone, for the forgiveness of sins. In the second account, Jesus’ baptism and temptation, we see the three persons of the Holy Trinity.
To be clear, Mark assures us of Jesus’ divinity. He is the Messiah, the Christ promised throughout the ages, and he is the Son of God. God’s Son is also God, just as his Father is God. The Gentiles and Romans would certainly have understood that, and we should, too. Jesus is truly and completely human, in order to fall under the Law placed on all mankind, and in order to be able to lay down his life in death. But Jesus is also truly and completely God, and that means that his death has infinite value. The blood that he shed on our behalf does not need to be measured. For although Jesus shed much blood for us, every drop had the value to atone for the guilt of all mankind. Even yours. Even mine. Sharing this is the beginning of the Gospel in your life.
Pastor Timothy Smith