“1The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” – Mark 1:1
When first century readers heard that word “gospel,” it did not mean a type of book like we think. That word would have meant something different for Romans and Christians. When a Roman heard that word, it meant “joyful tidings”. When a new emperor was born or rose to power, Romans would send “Evangels” into the town that would proclaim to everybody: “Gospel!” “Gospel!” We have an inscription from 9 B.C of the emperor Octavian that says, “The birthday of the God was for the world, the beginning of the gospel that has been proclaimed on his account.” For the Roman it meant that a historical event has occurred and it changes everything. Mark takes that word and says, “This is the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” In other words, an event has occurred that changes everything. If you were a Jew, this is what you have been waiting for your entire life. They knew a day was coming when the king was going to show up!
For the first century reader, the statement “the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” is a bomb to their ears. The God who was before time has just stepped into time. The impossible just became possible. God has become a man. The Gospel of Jesus Christ changes everything.
“2As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
3the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.’’”
By quoting Isaiah’s prophetic passage, Mark asserts that John the Baptist is the fulfillment of the “voice” calling out in the desert.” Since Mark equates John with the one who would “prepare the way for the Lord,” by clear inference it means he is equating Jesus with the Lord himself , with God Almighty. The Lord God; the long-awaited divine King who would rescue his people; and Jesus— they are somehow one and the same person. In making this audacious claim, Mark roots Jesus as deeply as possible in the historic, ancient religion of Israel. Christianity, he implies, is not a completely new thing. Jesus is the fulfillment of all the biblical prophets’longings and visions, and He is the one who will come to rule and renew the entire universe.
We celebrate a God who didn’t let us sit in our sin and rot away, but rather He came to us. He didn’t look at us and say, “Well, if you work really hard, then maybe I will forgive you.”No! He came from “perfect heaven” to “broken earth” to purchase us out of death and into life.
Does the incarnation bring you to your knees? Does it put you in awe of a God who comes from heaven to save you?
The wilderness has deep meaning throughout the entire Bible. The wilderness is a place we go out to and that we come into. In the Old Testament Moses leads the people of God out of Egypt and into the wilderness. Hundreds of years later Israel begins worshiping idols, and God says, “If you love these gods so much, I will send you to the capitol of gods: Babylon. It’s there that they realize these gods don’t satisfy. In an act of repentance they go back out to the wilderness. To walk out into the wilderness was to repent, it was to walk away from the gods you have been serving, and walk to the true God. Part of coming to Jesus is moving out, out of Egypt, out of a land covered with different gods, and into a place where the true God dwells.
If you look throughout the Old Testament, God meets his people in the wilderness. Why? Because it is only in the place where all the shiny things of the world are gone that we truly see the truth that we were created to live in.
Some of us have been obsessed with a system that says, “If you do this, you will be satisfied,” and it is a lie. The purpose of the world is to convince us that it is better than Jesus. The call for us is to walk out into the wilderness in an act of repentance, and go to the only one who can truly satisfy. A necessary response to the gospel is walking away from all the things that we have counted more worthy than Jesus, repent, and turn to the only one who is truly worthy of all our thoughts, passions, and actions. This can be the approval of people; it can be certain sins, or it can even be indifference to the things of Jesus.
What things have you counted as more worthy than Jesus?
6“Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 7And he preached, saying, ‘After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.“
In the book of Hosea God says Israel is like a prostitute. God is offering complete satisfaction and they keep rejecting it for things that have no life. In Hosea 2:14 we get this beautiful text:
14“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.
15And there I will give her her vineyards
and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
- Hosea 2:14-15
When we come to God empty, offering nothing but ourselves, he speaks tenderly to us. He gives us vineyards and hope. John says, “I baptize you with water, but the one who is coming, He baptizes you with the spirit.” He takes your empty soul, and He fills it with life.
Isaiah says it this way:
14For the palace is forsaken,
the populous city deserted;
the hill and the watchtower
will become dens forever,
a joy of wild donkeys,
a pasture of flocks;
15until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high,
and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,
and the fruitful field is deemed a forest.
-Isaiah 32:14-15 ESV
He says Israel is empty; there is no life left. This is the state of our soul. We are dead. All hope has been lost, but when the Spirit is poured out on us life is breathed back into us. Our hope is found in him.
This is the gospel of Jesus. He came from “ perfect heaven” to “broken earth.” He has called people to step out into the wilderness and offer up their empty souls. It is only in that place that the Spirit breathes life into us.
Where will you seek satisfaction? Will we seek the emptiness of this world or in the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ?