Gleaning #6: Read Biblical Introductions Well

Mark introduces his gospel in this way: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  As it is written in Isaiah the prophet . . .”

I think there is a tendency to overlook the introductions to the books of the Bible.  I am beginning to understand that that is unwise, like seeking to build a building without its hermeneutical (interpretive) foundation.  If at any point in the gospel you become stuck as to the meaning of the passage, or perhaps, you begin to wonder what in the world is being communicated, you can always come back to the introduction and see exactly what the author (Mark) intends to communicate as a gloss over everything else that follows.

I would also encourage you to spend time meditating on each verse – yes, even the introductory verses.  By meditation I do not intend the worldwide infatuation with emptying the mind – what possible sense does that make?  Being mindless is generally frowned upon (though ironically, again, most seem to adore the idea when it is attached to “spirituality” of some sort – anyway!).  These first few words of the Gospel of Mark have been extremely sweet to my soul in recent days for at least two reasons:

First, that any man would call Jesus the Christ is absolutely astonishing, and should serve as impetus to the praise of God’s glorious grace.  Having read and studied the Gospel of Luke for the majority of this year, I have noticed a simple framework in the first nine chapters that centers on Jesus as the Christ of God.  At least three times (possibly four), the narrative begs the question through its characters, “Who is this guy?  Who is this Jesus?”  And there is a tremendous build up that peaks at Peter’s confession.  Jesus asks the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?”  And Peter, speaking as representative, replies, “You are the Christ of God!”  And we are meant to explode with joy at that confession!  Why?  Not only because God has given a Christ in Jesus for sinners, but that no human being, that is, flesh and blood, is able to come up or derive or produce or self-reveal that confession.  The parallel text in Matthew 16:17 states as much and presses upon us the reality that only the Father in heaven, the God who sovereignly reveals divine truth, reveals to sinful man that Jesus is in fact the Christ!  If you confess today that Jesus is the God-man, Prophet, Priest, and King, that is, the Christ, the One who reconciles sinners to God by way of His perfect Person and Work, that is the grace of God and your heart ought to soar at the prospect of such mercy!  And here, in Mark 1:1, what is Mark’s confession?  “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”  Thus, in a word, “Christ”, as it is joined to “Jesus”, is highlighted the revealing, and saving grace of God in the life of Mark.

And secondly, that the gospel which Mark espouses is admirably simple, and in a sense, remarkably ancient and radically new at the same time.  For the sake of brevity, I mean to say that Mark is hardly innovative.  How indeed does he begin the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  With an introduction to an ancient text of the Old Testament!  He literally writes 12 words (The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God), and then goes immediately to: “As it is written!”  Mark is no philosophy major.  He is not interested in starting a new religion, beginning a new cult or sect.  He is not moved to display what intelligence he had at his disposal.  He is not all that creative.  Plainly and simply, Mark is concerned with communicating the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and thus, he turns immediately without hesitation to the Word of God.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is ancient!  His beginnings are from of old.  He is the Ancient of Days!  In one sense, the Son of God has been emanating forward from all eternity, to put on flesh, live sinlessly for sinners, die in the place of sinners, be raised and ascended, to accomplish and apply the salvation of God.  Mark makes this plain when he writes, “As it is written.”  And there is a sense in which the Gospel of Jesus Christ is new.  This Mark simultaneously accomplishes by “As it is written,” for what then follows are quotes from Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3, which without the humiliation and exaltation of Christ, would be somewhat ambiguous.  That is, they find their fulfillment and truest meaning in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the work of God so near to Mark’s own day – and in light of eternity, very near to our own!  In this sense, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is radically new – the escalation and fullness of God’s promises, now dispensed through Him to those who repent and believe in Him.  Is this not a word to us in our day?  That amidst American pragmatism, Mark is inclined to go no further than twelve of his own words before he runs immediately to the text of God.  May we be so inclined!  May the Lord grant us to be men and women of the text, to communicate the old (and glorious) Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ; so long innovation, hello Bible.

Summarily, read your introductions well – pray through them, meditate and memorize them, and let them set the aroma of Christ all about your heart.

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