Bible Passage: Mark 1:1-8
Mark begins his gospel by setting out the key theme of his book: the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The way he formulates this in verse 1 is modelled on the announcement that was often spoken of Roman Emperors, and an inscription has been found that speaks of Augustus Caesar and “the beginning of the good tidings for the world that came by reason of him.” In choosing to echo this language in how he speaks of Jesus, Mark is making the bold and subversive claim, that it is Jesus and not Caesar who is the Son of God and through whom comes good news for the world
Gospel: The word gospel literally means good news, and Mark is explaining that the story he is about to tell about Jesus is good news for the whole world. In introducing the series, it would be good to take a big picture view of what the gospel is. Jesus entered into our broken world, took our flesh and showed himself to be the Son of God with authority. His purpose was to suffer and die, doing so in our place and for our sins. On the third day he rose again, then he appeared to many witnesses before ascending once again to heaven, where he is enthroned as king of all things. Death, sin and every enemy has been defeated through his work, and he is the true and conquering king.
Repentance and Forgiveness: Mark follows his purpose-statement by introducing his readers to Jesus’ forerunner, John the Baptist. John fulfils an Old Testament prophecy from Isaiah, and his message was one of repentance and forgiveness, calling people to turn from sin and then baptising them in water as a symbol of the decision that they have made. As they do this they will experience forgiveness (as Mark goes on, we will see that this forgiveness was secured by Jesus on the cross). When Peter is preaching his post-Pentecost sermon, he gives a very similar instruction in Acts 2:38. The call to repent, be baptised and receive forgiveness is for us today as well.
Holy Spirit: John’s message was not one that centred on himself, but that pointed away from himself to Jesus, and he was quick to highlight the difference between his own ministry and that of Christ. John baptised with water, and this is a good thing, but Jesus would baptise with the Holy Spirit instead. The word baptise literally means to submerge, drench or saturate, and we see this promise fulfilled on the day of Pentecost as Jesus poured out the Spirit on his people. Now every follower of Christ has the Spirit indwelling them, and the imperative of the New Testament is that we are to go on being filled with the Spirit and experiencing more and more of his presence and power.
- As you will be clearly explaining the gospel message, this is a good opportunity to invite people to respond for the first time, repenting of their sins and finding forgiveness.
- There may be believers present who have not been baptised with water. Encourage them to do so as a symbol of their faith.
- You could have a response time where you pray for people to be filled afresh with the Holy Spirit.