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A New Beginning (Mark 1:1-8)

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The Bible tells us that, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1 NIV) After God completed His work of creation, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good...” (Genesis 1:31 NIV) Unfortunately, man soon destroyed the perfection of God’s creation. Adam and Eve chose to disobey God. Through their disobedience sin entered the world. Sin brought death, misery and ruin with it.

God could have wiped out mankind as well as all that man has disfigured. Instead, because of His great love for man, God decided to provide us a new beginning. Mark begins the inspired Gospel which bears his name this way: “The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1) It is appropriate for Mark to begin his book this way because the new beginning God gives man centers around the person of Jesus Christ.

Who is this person through whom God grants us a new beginning? His name is Jesus. The name “Jesus” means the “salvation of God.” It is through Jesus that God brings salvation to all of us.

Jesus is not only God’s salvation, Mark declares that He is also the Christ, that is, the Messiah. This is not Jesus’ surname, but a title. It means “the anointed One.” In Jewish tradition prophets, priests and kings attained their positions by being anointed with sacred oil. We know from other Scriptures that God appointed Jesus to all three of these roles. Jesus is God’s prophet because He received His message directly from God and spoke on God’s behalf (John 14:49-50). God appointed Jesus as His high priest to offer the ultimate sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 10:11-12). Jesus is king because God has given Him all authority (Matthew 28:18). Instead of using sacred oil, God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and with power (Acts 10:37-38).

Mark not only calls Jesus the Messiah, he also refers to Him as the Son of God. How can Jesus be God’s Son? Jesus clearly possessed a body of flesh and blood while God is spirit. Therefore, Mark cannot mean the term “Son of God” in a physical sense. In fact, the Scriptures never use it in that way. Instead, Scripture uses the word “Son” to describe Jesus’ spiritual relationship to God. Jesus is the embodiment of God’s character. In another place Scripture says that Jesus, “ the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being...” (Hebrews 1:3 NIV) It also says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible...” (Colossians 1:15-16 NIV) Jesus displayed God’s character and attributes so perfectly and exactly that He could say, “...Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father...” (John 14:9 NIV) Therefore, it is entirely appropriate to call Jesus “God’s Son.”

It is also worth noting that Jesus did not have a physical father. For this reason also it is appropriate to say that God is His Father.

Why is the message contained in Mark’s Gospel “good news”? It is good news because it declares that people truly can have a new beginning. We can be saved from the consequences of our sins by means of the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Peter said to the religious rulers of his day, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12 NIV) For those oppressed by sin it is certainly good news that Jesus can deliver them!

How did this good news come to us? In chapter 1, verses 2 through 8, Mark writes, “As it is written in the prophets, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you: the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord! Make his paths straight!’” John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching the baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins. All the country of Judea and all those of Jerusalem went out to him. They were baptized by him in the Jordan river, confessing their sins. John was clothed with camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. He preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and loosen. I baptized you in water, but he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.””

John prepared the way for the coming of Christ in two important ways. First, he baptized people. This means he immersed them completely in water. The Jewish people had practiced ritual cleansing for thousands of years. For example, before worshiping at the Temple in Jerusalem people would immerse themselves in a ritual bath. However, the baptism John gave was different. Instead of a person immersing himself, John immersed him. By doing this, John taught that salvation is not something we can obtain by our own efforts. Salvation comes from outside ourselves.

Also, John for the first time, associated this ritual cleansing with death. This is evident from the Greek word “baptism” itself. The Greeks associated this word with such things as drowning or a ship being swallowed by the waves (see Brown, Collin, Editor, The International Dictionary of New Testament Theology Vol. 1, Zondervan Publishing House, 1975, Baptism p. 144). This association with death is also evident from the purpose for John’s baptism. It was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. To repent means to turn away from a course of action and go the other way. If we want God to forgive our sins, we cannot continue as before. We must die to our previous actions and way of life. Those who repented and submitted themselves to John’s baptism had open hearts, ready to accept the Savior.

The second way John prepared people for the coming of Christ was to proclaim His coming. As great as John was, someone much greater was about to make His appearance. For many hundreds of years, God’s prophets proclaimed that God would send a Savior. However, their prophecies always pointed to some time in the distant future. John, however, proclaimed that the Messiah was near at hand. No doubt this message gave hope to many. It made them eager to listen to Jesus when He came. The Apostle John describes an incident toward the end of Jesus’ ministry, “Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. Here he stayed and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true.” And in that place many believed in Jesus.” (John 10:40-42 NIV)