Mark 1:1–8. The Beginning of the Good News

Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project
Rod long XY1 Lm Qm Yq UQ unsplash

The Gospel of Mark opens with the words “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). These words echo the first line of the Old Testament, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). The good news is that Jesus is renewing the entire world—“the heavens and the earth”—according to God’s “very good” original intent (Genesis 1:31). (See the TOW Bible Commentary on Genesis 1:1–2:3.) Jesus has not come to evacuate people from the world before it’s too late. Just the opposite; Jesus has come to fill the world with God’s presence (Revelation 21:3), overcoming every impulse to keep God out. Wherever Jesus goes, God is fully present.

God’s full presence in the world in the person of the man Jesus is news, astonishing news. Yet the prophets had proclaimed it as God’s promise for centuries. When it finally happens, what should people do? Get to work, says the prophet Isaiah. “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Isaiah 40:3 as paraphrased by Mark). Preparing for Jesus’s coming takes work. The way to greet Jesus is not to wait around passively, but to actively take stock and recognize where you have fallen short of God’s good intent.

John the Baptist calls people to repent of the things we do—and the things that we fail to do—that betray the goodness of God’s creation. As Mark tells the story, when John calls people to repent, they are already well aware of their sin. (Luke records a bit more detail; see Luke 3:10–19.) They come from everywhere to repent and be cleansed (Mark 1:5). The same is true today, in work as in every sphere of life. When it comes to your own sin at work, just a few minutes of self-reflection may bring plenty to light. Some may be individual sins of doing something wrong, such as lying or shifting the blame for your actions onto someone else or profiting from others’ misfortunes. Other sins may come from what you don’t do at work, such as not producing quality work, or not helping a coworker in need, or not giving a customer complete and accurate information. Repentance means turning away from sins of doing wrong and sins of not doing right. But repentance is more than changing what you do. It also requires changing your perspective and motivation. For example, if you are only working to earn a paycheck, repentance means also caring about how your work affects other people. If you are only seeking to advance your own career, repentance means investing in the success of the people you work among.

The good news of Jesus, enacted by John, is that God is ready to wash away our guilt and give us the power to walk in the good work he has ordained for us from the very beginning (Ephesians 2:10). We don’t have power on our own to do truly good work, or even to desire it. But God stands ready to give us both the desire and the power (Mark 1:7–8) to do the work he wants us to do in the world.