As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’ ”
In my last blog I mentioned that eunagellion/ gospel was used within the imperial cult. When Mark uses the gospel he is perhaps challenging the empire. However, the word gospel also has significance within the Judaic worldview. The Greek translation of the Tanack/Old Testament into the LXX uses the verbal form of the word in the book of Isaiah. euangelizomai Is 40:9; 52:7; 60:6; 61:1). Isaiah, particularly chapters 40-66, contains a message from God, via Isaiah, to his people. This message is of the imminent return to exile which will occur. God is punishing Israel fro her sin (Is 1-39) but this punishment will soon be over. Sins will be forgiven; YHWH will return to his people, gentiles will be welcomed. IN the midst of the fulfillment of these promises the herald will arrive ‘proclaiming the gospel’ and declaring that YHWH reigns and the exile is over.
Yeshua does not simply preach a timeless message, an existential call to decision. Instead Yeshua comes as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah., he comes to restore the fortunes of Israel, to bring the spirit, to bring in the gentiles.
The writer of Mark brings in a number of texts. He prefixes the old testament saying that they are from the prophet Isaiah. This is not strictly true as Mark draws from Mal 3:1, Ex 3:20, and IS 40:3. In a nutshell these verses look to a time when God will act in history; he is sending a forerunner who will be preparing the way for YHWH’s appearing. If we did not know more of the Marakan narrative we would be led to think not of the arrival of Yeshua but of YHWH himself. Yeshua is the embodiment of YHWH, it is in him that the glory is revealed.
To summarise what we have studied in these opening verses.
1) The gospel of Jesus is a challenge to empire
2) The gospel of Jesus is the announcement of a historical salvation. It is tied closely with the message of Isaiah. It is not timeless but has to do with the restoration of Israel.
3) It si possible that Mark’s gospel sees the arrival of Jesus as the arrival of YHWH.