A Lesson in Beginning Transition: 4 Tips to Understanding, Communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Mark 1:1-8

Mark 1:1-8 Common English Bible

Beginning of good news

The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, God’s Son, happened just as it was written about in the prophecy of Isaiah:

Look, I am sending my messenger before you.
He will prepare your way,
a voice shouting in the wilderness:
        “Prepare the way for the Lord;
        make his paths straight.”[a]

John’s preaching

John the Baptist was in the wilderness calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins. Everyone in Judea and all the people of Jerusalem went out to the Jordan River and were being baptized by John as they confessed their sins. John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. He announced, “One stronger than I am is coming after me. I’m not even worthy to bend over and loosen the strap of his sandals. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

The 66 books of the Bible include diverse and various kinds of literature, but the Four Gospels may be the most unique literary genre included in God’s Word. 

So how should we seek to handle these four amazing and awesome books?

Please, keep reading to discover a few tips for understanding the Gospels.

The book of Mark begins like this: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

The Greek noun translated “gospel” is euangelion.

The word refers to an announcement of good news or “glad tidings.”

It was in common use in the Roman world when Mark connected it to his account of Jesus.

However, Mark claimed it and redefined it, declaring the ultimate good news to be Jesus Christ and His message of salvation.

(Note: Most scholars believe Mark was the first Gospel written.)

Sometime around the end of the 1st century, the church formally began to use the word “gospel” to identify the written accounts of Jesus’ life.

The Gospels became a new and unique literary genre. 

The Gospels share some similarities with biographies since they focus on the multi-faceted life of one person.

However, the Gospels don’t cover all of Jesus’ life, but instead focus primarily on His ministry, death, and resurrection.

They also feature the teachings of Jesus.

As a literary genre, the Gospels uniquely blend history and theology.

They combine a narrative of Jesus’ life with large blocks of His teachings.

And each is presented from a different eye-witness account. 

4 Tips for Gospel Interpretation

The following tips will equip us for more properly understanding the Gospels!

1. Read Horizontally

Since many of the actions and teachings of Jesus appear in more than one Gospel, we can expand our understanding by reading the different accounts.

Scholars refer to this as “reading horizontally” or reading across the Gospels.

For instance, the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 is recorded in all four Gospels (Matthew 4:13-12, Mark 6:32-44, Luke 9:10-17, and John 6:1-15.)

Keep in mind, that each Gospel writer brings their own distinctiveness to the account. Each chose to highlight different aspects of an event of teaching for a specific purpose. Differences between the Gospels don’t equal contradictions.

For a good resource to help you read horizontally, look for a synopsis or parallel of the four Gospels.  

2. Think Vertically

Each passage must be kept in the larger context of that individual Gospel.

Ancient Jewish writers were more concerned about overall structure and theme than they were strict chronological order.

The Gospel writer strategically placed each event and teaching in a particular order within the book for a reason. Pull back from your primary passage and look for and examine themes and similarities in the larger surrounding context.

3. Keep the Purpose and Audience in Mind

The apostle John ended his Gospel like this: “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25).

None of the Gospel writers recorded the whole story.

Each selected the specific events and teachings to include, arranged them in a particular order, and presented them in such a way to fulfill a writing goal and connect to his audience and their needs.

For instance, John’s purpose was theological. (See John 20:30-31). That’s why John’s Gospel contains more of Jesus’ teachings than any other Gospel.

Matthew’s Gospel is very “Jewish” and Luke’s is more oriented to the Gentile reader. This kind of background helps us better appreciate the author’s intent. 

4. Recognize the Genres within the Genre

As mentioned above, the Gospels uniquely combine historical narrative and Jesus’ teaching. Even Jesus’ teaching includes a variety of styles and literary devices like parables, metaphors, hyperbole, and more. To properly understand a passage, we need to correctly identify and deal with interpreting each style. 

Example: Consider one possible approach to communicating the Gospel.


How would you describe the message of John the Baptist? 

Mark said that John preached “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,” but that his message was, “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

To set the context, Mark cites the words of Isaiah, combining them with a well-known prophecy from Malachi 3:1, about the messenger whom God would send to “prepare the way for the Lord.”

Mark 1:1-8 Christian Standard Bible

The Messiah’s Herald

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.[a] As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:[b]

See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way.[c][d]
A voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
Prepare the way for the Lord;
make his paths straight![e]

John came baptizing[f] in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. John wore a camel-hair garment with a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey.

He proclaimed, “One who is more powerful than I am is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the strap of his sandals. I baptize you with [g] water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

A Logical Series of Questions which might come to your mind and may be asked:

What is the connection between preparing the way for the Lord and repentance for the forgiveness of sins? And what does that have to do with Mark’s statement of John’s message: one more powerful than he would come, one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit?

Let’s begin with the message from God’s Prophet Malachi.

Time to Repent

The prophecy the Evangelist Mark quoted from Malachi warned about a coming day of great judgment against unfaithful Israel and Judah.

In Malachi 2:17, the prophet declared, “You have wearied the Lord with your words … By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and he is pleased with them” or “Where is the God of justice?”

The next verse, Malachi 3:1, is the one Mark used in describing the role of John the Baptist. It is the answer to the rhetorical question just posed by Israel.

Here is what the God of justice is going to do:

“’I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will certainly come,” says the LORD Almighty.”

But, says verses 2-5, the Lord’s coming will entail a harsh, powerful cleansing and purifying of his people. He will come, He will set things right and He will deliver the weak and disadvantaged and the lost from their cruel oppressors.

The Lord Himself declares His intent, sets the stage for future generations:

One day soon, His Judgement will come and who will dare stand against it:

“But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.”

What can this mean, considering God’s unchanging faithfulness, but a call to repentance — a call to turn back to God?

Our God will never turn away from his covenant faithfulness despite Israel’s unfaithfulness, and for this reason Israel will not be destroyed (v. 6).

Therefore God will, in his grace and love, save all who will turn to him (v. 7).

It may have appeared for a time that there was nothing to gain by serving God and that only evildoers prosper (vs. 14-15), but that was never really the case (v. 16). God never leaves nor forsakes those who put their trust in him (vs. 16-18).

Therefore, God says, before this great and dreadful day of judgment comes, he would send them “the prophet Elijah”, who would bring together as one the hearts of the fathers, the children, that is, the hearts of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob unite with the hearts of the generation upon which this judgment falls.


In this righteous way (Psalm 69:9, Romans 3:21-22, Matthew 3:15), through the sudden coming of the Lord, His Zealousness for His House, to his temple in cleansing judgment and forgiving grace, preceded by the voice of preparation crying deep into the wilderness, God would bring together the old with the new.

The Genesis creation would find its redemption in its transition into the new creation in Jesus Christ.

The old covenant would find its fulfillment in its transition into the new covenant in Jesus Christ (see Jeremiah 31:31; 2 Corinthians 3:14).

The prophets of Israel would find their climax in John the Baptist (see Matthew 11:11 and Luke 16:16) and their fulfillment in the transition to the One whose sandals John knew he was “not worthy to stoop down and untie” (Mark 1:7).

And utterly wretched sinners like you and me would find love, forgiveness and redemption in the welcoming arms of the Father as he transitions us into his new creation in Jesus Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Romans 8:38-39).

The “beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ” (Mark 1:1), rooted in creation itself and expressing itself unceasingly throughout history in God’s faithfulness to his covenant promises, finds its grand consummation in the One who is “here walking among us” and “will baptize you with Holy Spirit” (v. 8).

In Christ Jesus, God has brought together all things in heaven and earth and reconciled them to himself in his new creation (see Colossians 1:19-20 and Ephesians 1:9-10).

That is why the Apostle Paul instructed the church at Galatia,

“Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation” (Galatians 6:15).

New Creation

Let’s be brutally honest for a necessary change of pace.

It might be encouraging or even inspiring to hear that we are a new creation, but the truth is, we don’t often feel very much like a new creation.

We usually feel more like a continuously struggling creation, a tired, worried, depressed, bipolar, barely-hanging-on-by-our-toe and fingernails creation.

I encourage you today – PLEASE do not let that get you down.

That is how things are right now, but it will not always be so.

The day will come when the new creation God has already made you to be in Christ will be fully unveiled (Colossians 3:1-4). And when that happens, there will be no more crying, no more pain and no more death (Revelation 21:4).

Even now, our hope lies in this: God has proven in Christ his love for us and his faithfulness to us (consider the much deeper implications of Romans 5:6-8).

He has made our cause his own.

He has taken responsibility for us, sins and all.

He has taken us under his wing, and he will never let us go.

That is why we trust him.

God, who proved himself faithful to faithless Israel, is exactly the same God who is faithful to faithless you and me.

He is the same from the beginning, which means he has and always will be for you, working to help and to heal, and not to condemn (consider John 3:17).

If you have turned your back on God, please do not think nor believe for very long that He has turned his back on you. Quite the contrary. He’s got the porch light on and dinner on the table, waiting for you to come home. (Luke 15:20-24)

Individual Reflections: Begin Pondering “Transition”

  1. How was John the Baptist related to the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ (v. 1)?
  2. How did John fulfill the prophecies about preparing the way for the Lord (vs. 2-4)?
  3. What does Mark say is the connection between forgiveness and judgment?
  4. What about Mark’s opening words – “the beginning of facts regarding the Good News of Jesus Christ , the Son of God” has you thinking about past experiences?
  5. What about the physical appearance of John the Baptist which repels you from Him that draws you unto him, to his message of repentance and return to God?
  6. What does John’s message about a greater one to come mean for you?
  7. Where do you believe God is leading you through these first 8 verses of Mark?

    In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

    Let us Pray,

    God who is my Father, My God of encouragement, there are so many philosophies and conflicting views out there. Give me an understanding of your truth, so I can discern, know what is right. May the Holy Spirit of God guide me into all truth. May I also be taught by Spirit-filled ministers and teachers of your word. I pray that I will, day by day, be purer in heart, soul and mind, so that I don’t hinder or block your truth through my sin and stubbornness. Jesus is my Cornerstone! I know your truth is my foundation for spiritual maturity and for wisdom in all facets, parts of my life. As I walk in your truth, help me better live out your daily purpose for my life. Amen.


    Author: Thomas E Meyer Jr

    Formerly Homeless Sinner Now, Child of God, Saved by Grace.

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