“The reason there was so much opposition to Jesus’ ministry is because his gospel got to the heart of matters. He wasn’t giving a muddled dry exposition, his goal wasn’t the dissemination of information, or simply to create controversies about how to correct human behavior. Jesus had one great goal: the salvation of people.”
(Christopher J. Gordon – Abounding Grace Radio) Years ago I remember hearing an elder say that if my sermon could be accepted in a Jewish synagogue then it is not a distinctively Christian sermon. I’ve thought a lot about that over the years. What makes Christian sermons distinctively Christian? What damage could be done in the life of the Christian church if our sermons lose their distinctively Christian character? To answer that, of course, one would need to understand and appreciate what makes a gospel message distinctively “gospel”.
To be sure, the word “gospel” is used differently in the Scriptures. Robert Godfrey provides a helpful observation:
Sometimes the word gospel refers broadly to all aspects of the salvation and new life that Jesus gives His people, and sometimes it is used narrowly to refer to what Jesus does for us outside of us. In other words, sometimes the term gospel refers broadly to Jesus’ work of justification and sanctification for and in His people, and sometimes it refers narrowly to Jesus’ work of justification.
Godfrey also makes the case that sometimes the word “gospel” refers more broadly to all the New Testament fulfillment of what was promised in the Old Testament. It is in this sense that Mark uses “gospel” when he says in chapter 1, “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Mark is explaining the gospel as the person and work of Christ in fulfillment on behalf of his people.
This is crucial for understanding the overall theological intent and purpose of the gospel of Mark.
The presentation of the gospel of the “Son of God” is pressed with urgency upon people to repent and believe this gospel. Mark uses the word “immediately” an astonishingly forty-two times throughout the book. This is not intended to impress upon us the need merely for ethical change, but to receive by faith, all that the Son of God has come to fulfill for us in our place. It’s a gospel of Jesus’ whole work for us. That, according to Mark, demands immediate response.