When someone says they have good news for you, what do you typically expect? A raise? The announcement of a new baby on the way? The result you were hoping for on a medical test? Perhaps simply that your car repairs were less expensive than first expected.
In the very first verse of Mark’s account of Jesus’ life it says, “The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.” (New International Version)
Your translation of the Bible might say, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” The word “gospel” was the way they said “good news” in Old English during the Middle Ages and it lingers in some Bible translations even today.
Whether your Bible translates the original Greek word as “good news” or “gospel” doesn’t really matter. The point is that people during Mark’s time used this phrase a lot like we do, but perhaps for more significant things: a message brought home that the army had won the distant battle or that a child had been born or some other news that brought a lot of joy to those who heard it.
So Mark starts his book with the claim that this is the beginning of the good news and that good news is about Jesus. There are two interesting things to notice about this.
First, Jesus is the content of the good news. Jesus doesn’t just bring us good news or tell us good news or make it possible for us to hear the good news. Jesus IS the good news.
Paul says the same thing in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4:
Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place. I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. (New Living Translation)
Paul is saying he passed on to the people in Corinth good news that had been passed on to him: that Jesus died for our sins, was literally buried and then was literally brought back to life.
That is the good news: Jesus made it possible for us to be reconciled to God. Jesus died for our sins.
What is sin? We tend to think of sin as a list of “bad” things we shouldn’t do. Pretty much everyone I have ever met has a list of “bad” things people shouldn’t do. Even atheists have a list of “bad” things. But different people have different lists, so what defines something as bad? What if I consider something bad that you consider good? Who decides?
The short answer is that God decides. He’s in charge. If you don’t believe in God or debate the right of God to be in charge, that’s a different conversation and one well worth having, but not the one we are having right now. Right now we are saying that if the Christian God as revealed in the Bible is the true God and the Bible tells us truth about him, then the God of the Bible gets to say what is good and what is bad, what is sin and what is not. Because he’s in charge.
What does the Bible say sin is? Ultimately sin is simply our unwillingness to submit to God ruling our lives; our unwillingness to let him call the shots. That’s why Jesus had such scathing words for some of the most moral and upright people of his day. Even though they did all the “right” things and none of the “bad” things, in their hearts they really didn’t care about God; they weren’t interested in letting anyone else run their lives.
I feel a lot of sympathy for them.
I like to make my own decisions. I like to be in control. I like to do what I had planned. Fortunately, God is merciful enough to make sure that doesn’t always happen. When things don’t go according to my plan, then I remember that I’m not in charge…God is. The cold, hard truth is that I really don’t have the credentials to be god of my life and I should probably leave that job to the person who does.
But when you and I rebel against God’s right to rule our lives what we are really doing is committing treason against the King, because God rules everything: certainly every human king or world leader. God is the actual King of the world. He is the King of us. And we are traitors.
Traitors are dangerous people. That is why in most places in the world treason still merits a death sentence. As traitors we too stand under that death sentence.
If you were about to write me a nasty comment or email, hold off for a second, because here’s the crazy part.
The really insane thing is that the King…well, I don’t know how to say this, but…Ok, here goes.
The King switched places with us. He took the death sentence for us. He died instead of us.
Nuts, right?! Who does that? It’s not fair. It doesn’t make sense.
Love seldom does.
Mark begins his book by saying that what he is about to tell us is good news. He then leads us through Old Testament prophecy that predicts the coming of a king…only the king who is coming is God himself.
And this God/King died so we wouldn’t have to.
The long and the short of it is that whether you are the sort of person who lives by the rules or the kind that lives to break them, you and I still live and breathe rebellious thoughts and attitudes toward God. We want to be in charge. That arrogance is the worst of all sins. We are traitors. And we’re in trouble because of it. Big trouble.
But Jesus switched places with us. He took the credit for our lousy attitudes and choices. If we want, we can get credit for his perfect choices. His straight A report card becomes ours.
That’s the good news.
Jesus definitely is very good news.
But the other thing to notice about Mark 1:1 is that Mark says his book is the beginning of the good news about Jesus. Isn’t Jesus taking our death sentence for us and then coming back to life pretty much it?
The good news of Jesus, what he does for us, in us, through us, goes on after the events in Mark’s book.
The good news went on through the book of Acts.
The good news went on through all the events recorded in the New Testament.
The good news went on as Jesus’ work went on through all the centuries between then and now.
The good news is still going on.
Because Jesus is still at work.
Now. Here. As you are reading this.
The good news doesn’t end because Jesus’ work and rule as king never end. The good news goes on through all the events of the book of Revelation and beyond. Because beyond Revelation comes the ongoing perfect kingdom of Jesus…and that never ends.
And that’s Mark’s story. The king has come. Get ready. Things are about to change.
And that’s very good news.
Want more? Download a free DIY Bible Study Guide on Mark 1:1-11 and start a journey to discover for yourself the greatness of King Jesus.
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