Mark’s Gospel is not a biography of Jesus Christ. It does not narrate the course of his life from birth to death. Instead, it begins at the outset of his ministry, when he was about thirty years old. This exclusion of biographical material can be frustrating to readers who want to know the innumerable details of Jesus’ life. But Mark’s purpose in writing about Jesus is evangelistic, not merely biographical. Jesus’ ministry is good news that the world needs to hear.
Mark 1.1–20 tells us five things about Jesus. He is
- The fulfillment of prophecy
- God’s Beloved Son
- Satan’s greatest enemy
- The kingdom of God’s best preacher
- A man worth following
First, Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy. In the Old Testament, God promised, “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way”—“a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him’” (Mark 1.2–3, quoting Malachi 3.1 and Isaiah 40.3). More specifically, God promised to send “the prophet Elijah” (Malachi 4.5). John the Baptist was that messenger. He even dressed like Elijah (compare Mark 1.6 with 2 Kings 1.8). But his message was not about himself. It was about Jesus: “I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Second, Jesus is God’s Beloved Son. John prepared the way for the Lord by “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Jesus, who is sinless (Hebrews 4.15), submitted to John’s baptism in order to identify himself with our sinful plight (2 Corinthians 5.21). When he did so, God proclaimed from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
We might suspect that Jesus, being God’s Beloved Son, had an easy life. But Mark tells us, “At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan.” Jesus did not escape the perils of temptation because he was God’s Son. Rather, he was tempted precisely because he was God’s Son. But he overcame those temptations and became Satan’s greatest enemy. As we will see throughout Mark’s Gospel, wherever Jesus goes, the devils flee (e.g., Mark 1.21–28).
Fourth, Jesus is the kingdom of God’s best preacher. The essence of Jesus message is, “The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” God’s kingdom is not primarily a place. Rather, it is God’s authority and power to rule over his creation. Through sin, we rebel against that kingdom, but Jesus has come to set things right. If we want to receive the blessings of God’s kingdom, rather than its judgments, we must repent and believe.
Finally, Jesus is a man worth following. Jesus said to four fishermen, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They responded to his invitation “at once.” As we read Mark’s Gospel and come to a greater understanding of who Jesus is, we too are invited to repent, believe, follow, and fish for souls.