Every so often, during the course of our lives, we encounter circumstances or events that bring about a radically new state of affairs and forever change our existence. Most often, these life-changing moments come through the delivery of short phrases… “Will you marry me?” “We’re letting you go.” “I’m pregnant!” “It’s cancer…” “You’ve won!” “You’re hired.” The affects these moments have on our lives can be quite sizeable, or seemingly insignificant. They can appear to be positive or drastically negative. Just to note, at times, what determines the big and the small, the positive and the negative, is the way we choose to respond.
One such event in my own life occurred on June 27, 2010. At three o’ clock, that afternoon, I was married to my beautiful bride, Susan. From that moment forward, we chose to now live before the face of God, not for ourselves, but each for the other. No longer would our existence be one of independence, but now it would be one of committed, faithful, loving, self-sacrificing service to one another. As people heard the declaration from the front of the church that day, “For the first time, I present to you, Mr. & Mrs. Kevin Fiske,” that news not only affected us, but all who were present that day as well. That day, I left my mother and father and received the hand of my wife from her father, both of us to embark on this journey of marriage together. The relationships we have with our parents, extended families, and friends were all placed in different levels of priority to the marital relationship we now share.
All of that to say this…about two weeks ago, in my own personal time with the Lord, I began to study the gospel according to Mark. Mark begins his account of the life of Christ in v. 1 by noting, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” In one short, declarative phrase, Mark was letting his hearers know that God’s creative work of making all things new, through the long awaited Messiah, was at hand. But there’s even more there in that short verse…
William Lane notes, in his excellent commentary on Mark:
The term “gospel” or “evangel” was not a word first coined among the Christians. On the contrary, the concept was significant both in pagan and Jewish culture. Among the Romans it meant “joyful tidings” and was associated with the cult of the emperor, whose birthday, attainment to majority and accession to power were celebrated as festival occasions for the whole world. The reports of such festivals were called “evangels” in the inscriptions and papyri of the Imperial Age. A calendar inscription from about 9 B.C., found in Priene in Asian Minor, says of the emperor Octavian (Augustus): “the birthday of the god was for the world the beginning of joyful tidings which have been proclaimed on his account” (Inscr. Priene, 105, 40). This inscription is remarkably similar to Mark’s initial line and it clarifies the essential content of an evangel in the ancient world: an historical event which introduces a new situation for the world. In this perspective the Roman world would understand Mark’s proclamation of Jesus the Messiah. Beginning with the inauguration of Jesus’ public ministry, Mark announces Jesus’ coming as an event that brings about a radically new state of affairs for mankind.” (pp. 42-43, emphasis mine)
As I’ve reflected upon the significance of events in my own life, and the Event of the gospel in the book of Mark, truly the occurrence of circumstance and response are of profound importance. Seen within the original Roman context of the gospel of Mark, the initial declaration, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” announces to the world a drastically different “evangel” than they we’re used to…
The world’s gospel says we gain the acceptance of ‘the king’ through what we do for him. However, Mark announces the true gospel to the world, in that the King of kings accepts you based not on what you do for him, but on what he has done for you!
Respond to the true gospel or “evangel” by finding your freedom, forgiveness, and rest in the new state of affairs ushered in through the finished work of Christ. Praise God that he’s saved us not by our works, but through the finished work of his Son in our place!