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Advent Dec 10: The Advent…of the Gospel

• Nathan Sasser

Posted in Advent, Devotions

Advent Reading for December 10: Mark 1:1-15

Reflection: The Advent...of the Gospel

By Nathan Sasser

The word “gospel” appears three times in Mark 1:1-15. First it is used by the narrator as a description of all that is about to follow: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God” (Mk. 1:1). Second, it is used to describe the content of Jesus’ preaching: “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God” (Mk. 1:14). Third, it is used by Jesus himself: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel” (Mk. 1:15).

In our circles, we tend to use the word “gospel” to refer narrowly to Jesus’ atoning death and to justification by faith alone apart from works. This is a fine way to use “gospel,” but is not exactly the way the word is used in Mark 1. So what was the content of the gospel, the good news, that Jesus wanted his hearers to believe?

In the most general terms, he wanted them to believe that a climactic event was about to occur: God would judge the world, saving his people from all their troubles and punishing the wicked. As we learn in the Old Testament, God had acted in this way for his people throughout their history. In the Psalms we find Israel looking back on God’s past acts, and praying and waiting in faith for his further acts, of judgment and deliverance. This hope in God’s future acts of salvation and judgment gains more content, depth, and focus in the Prophetic writings. The news that God is about to act in this way is good news for his people (see, for example, Ps. 98, especially vv. 7-9). But for the impenitent and the unbelieving, the imminence of judgment is a warning that they must get right with God. “The gospel of God,” then, is the good news about what God is about to do.

When Jesus says that “the kingdom of God is at hand,” he means that the climactic judgment and salvation of God is about to occur. “Kingdom of God” does not, in the first place, refer to a realm like “the kingdom of France.” The whole cosmos obviously belonged to God already; it was already his “kingdom” in the sense of “realm” or “domain.” The coming of the kingdom of God refers to the actualization of God’s will: the punishment of the wicked, reversal of the effects of sin, and exaltation of his people in a state of total blessedness. God’s reign would thus be consummately manifested in the world. This is the good news that Jesus begins to preach, and it is good news that calls for repentance by the godless as well as faith.

Mark 1:1 does not merely speak of the “gospel of God” or the gospel of the kingdom, but of “the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” “Christ” and “Son of God” both refer to Jesus’ messianic status as the true heir of the Davidic throne. The climactic salvation and judgment of God comes through the great Son of David, Jesus himself, the one the Baptist calls “mightier than I” (Mk. 1:7-8). When Samuel anointed David and Saul as king (i.e., as the son of God), the Spirit rushed upon them to empower them for calling. So also when John baptizes Jesus, the Spirit descends upon Jesus, and the Father announces that he is “my beloved Son,” as with the Davidic king (2 Sam. 7:14; Ps. 2:7).

So what is the “good news” in Mark 1:1-15? It is the news that God climactically saves his people through his anointed king.

O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, Christ, the Lord.
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