One of the challenges that many writers have is how to start a literary work. That first sentence is a first impression, and it is important. We know many great first sentences. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” John 1:1, making an allusion to that says, “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.” Borrowing from Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities begins with the iconic, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
Mark, in the beginning of his gospel, doesn’t disappoint. He writes, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). Only nine words in the Greek, his opening words are packed. When Mark says, “the beginning”, he doesn’t begin talking about the birth of Christ as Matthew and Luke do in their gospels. Instead, he reaches back hundreds of years B.C. and quotes Isaiah prophesying about the Messiah. That, to him, is “the beginning of the gospel”.
Now, what does “gospel” mean? This is a word that’s been secularized and overused by some. There’s a book called The Gospel According to Starbucks. But what does this word really mean? Literally, it means “good news”. One usage of it was in war, where a marathon runner would sprint back to the city, and they would watch for him, hoping that he would be bringing the gospel that they were winning the battle. That’s the illustration Isaiah is using when he says, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news” (Isaiah 52:7).
When Mark introduces his work with, “The beginning of the gospel”, he is powerfully introducing the good news “of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”. And what is this good news? We could just wait and see, but we’ll give you a bit of a spoiler. The good news, as we’ll see is that this Jesus would suffer for the sake of His people, so that by His grace, through faith, they could escape the punishment that is due them.
Before we dive into this gospel any further, let’s pause for a moment at these words, “good news”. For the Christian who’s been saved for a while, it can become something that he is as used to as oxygen. When we forget to breathe, we start to choke, and can’t continue until it fills our lungs. But the gospel is even more essential than oxygen. How much more should we be breathing, if you will, this gospel?
Lord, help us to continually remember this good news by which we’ve been saved. Stop us from taking it for granted.