The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Mark 1:1)
Dear brothers and sisters,
Our year really has begun in earnest with our various Bible Study Groups and the launch of our Central Discipleship Groups (CDGs) on Wednesday evening.
I praise God for a terrific start to the latter which I attended with nearly 200 gathering to study Mark’s gospel together.(See below a picture of us gathering in the Memorial Hall for the reading of the passage after dinner before heading to different places on the site). It was also a great answer to prayer that the Hope Explored course had 21 people join, most of whom were guests.
Mark starts his book with a reference to ‘the gospel’ (see above). That phrase is something we use all the time as Christians but it is worth stopping and considering what a ‘gospel’ actually is. ‘Gospel’ is the Old English translation of the Greek (i.e. the language of the New Testament) eu-angellion and means ‘good news’ (Old English: gōd “good” + spel “news”).
But this is not good news like we might say, ‘good news, there are 4 foot waves at Bondi today’ or ‘good news, we got tickets to the AFL final.’ There is nothing small, local or merely personal about a gospel. A gospel is ‘good news’ that is on a large, global and population-impacting level. It is a word that belongs in the first place to the geo-political sphere. It is news concerning an event that brings about regime change which impacts everyone.
In 490 B.C. against all odds the army of Athens managed to defeat the mighty Persian empire at the Battle of Marathon. The herald Pheidippides ran 42.2km (26.2 miles) to deliver the ‘gospel’, the news of victory, to city of Athens at which point he died! (The modern marathon derives from this – I feel no guilt in the fact that I have assiduously avoided ever running one given what happened the first time.) The victory of the Athenians was momentous news concerning who would rule them that radically impacted all of their lives.
If for instance there was a military invasion in North Korea that toppled Kim Jong Un and established a new rule and a new Supreme Leader, the announcement of that to the citizens would be a ‘gospel’, momentous news of regime change impacting all the people.
An ancient inscription found in Priene, modern-day Turkey, referring to the Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus, speaks about the birth of the Emperor in a way remarkably similar to the opening lines of Mark’s gospel: ‘the birth of Augustus has been for the whole world the beginning of the gospel concerning him.’ The arrival of Augustus was momentous news of a new King who brought prosperity and peace of all in Rome.
The ‘gospel’ of Jesus is a news on a scale like no other ever before. It is the momentous news of the arrival of God’s King into our world. It is the announcement of a regime change that impacts everyone. His present rule is a reality. His return to judge is a certainty. Understanding the implications of this gospel news on our lives is what comes as we listen to Mark (and the other Bible writers’) explanation of it. Joining in its proclamation to everyone around us so that they can respond rightly to it is the responsibility and privilege of all of us who have heard the good news.
I so look forward to seeing you on Sunday.
Your brother in Christ,