Good News about Resurrection: New Creation

Easter Pic 3.jpgSo far, we’ve seen that the resurrection of Jesus is good news because it means that this world has a new sort of king and because there is a rival kingdom at work that operates differently from the nations (see here). We’ve also seen that the resurrection of Jesus is good news because it means that there is a coming day of justice when oppressors will be held to account, righteous sufferers will be vindicated, and wrongs will be made right (see here). When we put these truths together we come to another reason that the resurrection of Jesus is good news: new creation.

From the beginning, it has always been God’s plan for this world to be ruled over by human beings—his image-bearers (Gen. 1:26-28; Ps. 8). The biblical storyline begins with material creation and ends with material creation. In fact, when one traces the storyline of Scripture it’s remarkable just how “worldly” the story really is. The great writing prophets in the Old Testament and the writers of the New Testament tell us that this world was subjected to decay due to the inception and spread of idolatry and human rebellion but that one day it will be liberated from its bondage to decay. Of course the first-fruits and key to such cosmic redemption is—you guessed it—the bodily resurrection of Jesus the King. To see why this is and how the story gets to this point we have to return to Abraham.

The LORD’s objective for his image-bearers to reign over this earth got off track rather early, just a few pages into the story, so much so that by Genesis 11 the whole world, it seems, has gathered together in rebellion against him. After God thwarts their rebellion and scatters them, his own answer to human rebellion and terrestrial deterioration is his promise to Abraham. The LORD promised Abraham that from him would come a great nation and that through that nation all the families of the earth would be blessed. In short, God’s plan for his image-bearers to reign over the earth would come true for all peoples through the one people of Abraham. Now on Tuesday, we quickly traced this winding story about Israel—Abraham’s descendants—from the exodus from Egypt to the new exodus from exile. We saw how Jesus became a servant to the people of Israel so that they could be restored and regathered around Jesus himself and be the light of salvation to the nations that God always intended that they be. In King Jesus, the multiethnic, global-people promised to Abraham has become a reality. This people is the new sort of kingdom that I talked about Tuesday. Now, as it relates to new creation, the prophets in the Old Testament as well as Paul and John in the New Testament identify the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham through the Messiah as the time in which new creation comes.

Isaiah, for instance, looks forward to the days when the disorder and chaos still left in this world will be calmed and new creation will be the result. He describes it as a day when the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, the ancient serpent shall be the plaything of children, and nothing will hurt or destroy in all God’s place (Is. 11:6-9). At other spots, he describes the new creation as a day when the ancient serpent is slayed, thorns and briers are things of the past, and death itself is swallowed up forever. He describes it as a day of feasting for all peoples, with rich food and (to the discomfort of many a Baptist) well-aged wine (i.e. the good stuff) (Is. 25:6-7, 27:1, 4). Perhaps the fullest passage in Isaiah about the coming new creation—the goal for which all human history is moving—is Isaiah 65:17-25. The New Testament writers pick this up as well, so we will look at it in full. Isaiah writes:

“‘For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the LORD, and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,’” says the LORD.”

Isaiah looked forward to the redemption coming through the LORD’s Messiah and Servant as a salvation that would include all peoples and even all of creation.

Again, the New Testament looks to Jesus and his resurrection as the first-fruits of this global transformation. Paul writes that King Jesus “is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:18b-20). In Romans, Paul looks forward to the day of justice that we looked at yesterday as the point at which the new creation will come in all its fullness. We see the first-fruits of new creation now in the resurrection of Jesus, and believers have a taste of new creation now in themselves through the gift of the Holy Spirit (more on that tomorrow). However, after the coming day of justice to which Jesus’ resurrection points, this world will be renewed in order to welcome the vindicated people of Jesus. Paul writes that in that day the “creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay” and it will “obtain the glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21). Earlier, I stated that God’s plan has always been for this world to be ruled over by his image bearers. Paul looked forward to the day when that would be a reality through the redemption found in King Jesus.

Finally, the last place in which the Bible looks forward to new creation is in its final chapters—Revelation 21-22. By virtue of the death and resurrection of Jesus, God’s plan for his people and for his creation will be a reality. By this point, John has already had a vision of the risen King and recorded that by his blood, King Jesus ransomed a people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, who will serve as a kingdom of priests and reign forever on the earth (Rev. 5:9-10). Here then, in the final chapters, he describes the coming new creation when that redemption will be made complete. Echoing the words of Isaiah, he writes, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea [a symbol of chaos and disorder] was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away’” (Rev. 21:1-4). Later, John records that the tree of life that once stood in the Garden will produce leaves that will heal the nations and that by the light of King Jesus “the nations will walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory” to him (Rev. 21:24; 22:4). With John then, the Bible ends similarly as it began in Eden. However, it’s not Eden revisited; it’s Eden glorified. Whereas the story begins with one human couple in one place, the story ends with a multitude of nations worshipping the King and properly reflecting his glory to all the rest of creation. Whereas the glory of the King covers a small portion of the earth in the beginning, in the end the King’s glory covers the earth as the waters cover the sea. Death is dead, and blessing and rest has fallen upon the nations. Again, this new creation is what history is moving toward. And, standing in the middle of history, a few thousand years ago, and on the first Easter morning, was a rural man from Nazareth who was dead but is now alive. His resurrection—his defeat of death and the devil—is the sure sign that God’s plans are right on track and that new creation is coming!


Good News about Resurrection: Justice

Easter Blog Pic 2.jpgWe’ve all heard stories about that really important man with the really important job interview with the really important employer whom he has yet to meet in person. The man rudely cuts off another man in traffic because he is already running a bit behind schedule, wants to get to the interview in plenty of time, and is, quite frankly, a bit more important than the guy he cut in front of on the highway. Later, when he pulls into the place of the business, he quickly pulls into the parking spot for which this same man had been waiting. Again, it’s nothing personal. It’s just that his time is important. Where he’s going is important, surely more important than wherever this other, less-impressive-looking man is going. Finally, he walks into the interview, sits down, and looks up to see that same man whom he’d been rude to the entire morning. The man whom he’d walked all over all morning long will now determine his future employment . . . or lack thereof!

We’ve all heard a story or two like that before, and it should make us think twice before we treat another person as if his or her time is less important than our own. However, it also reminds us of more good news about the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection and exaltation of a righteous sufferer from Nazareth as this world’s true lord and king means that one day all those in positions of power will give an account for the way that they’ve utilized their authority. And, when they stand before the judge on that day, they will not find someone who can be bribed or who winks at injustices. Rather, they will stand before one who has known what it was like to suffer unjustly.

We saw this in a verse that we looked at yesterday. In the first recorded Christian sermon, Peter warned the powers in Jerusalem that the Jesus whom they’d crucified had been vindicated and exalted by God as this world’s rightful lord and king. In other words, he was now to be their judge. Talk about a rude awakening! Paul made a similar connection between resurrection and a coming day of judgment and vindication in one of his sermons. He announced, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all peoples everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he shall judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31). God has set a day upon which he will make all wrongs right. He has proven this good news through the resurrection of Jesus. When Mary received news that she would bear Israel’s Savior, she did not yet have a category in her mind for a crucified and risen Christ. However, contrary to the reservations of one of my favorite Christmas songs, Mary did indeed know that the birth of Jesus meant that a great reversal was coming for oppressive powers and righteous sufferers. She sang, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever” (Luke 1:46-55, italics added). The resurrection of Jesus is good news because it serves as a warning to oppressors and as a promise of vindication for those who entrust themselves to the LORD. Jesus serves as living proof that he vindicates his people.

First, the resurrection of Jesus serves as a warning to oppressors and abusers of all forms. It should grieve the greedy that their judge was once a poor, working class peasant from the hills of Galilee (Mark 6:1-6). It should panic politicians, who turn a blind eye to human suffering, that their judge was once a frightened child and refugee on the run from a tyrannous king (Matt. 2:13-23). It should bother bullies, who love to mock and ridicule, that the one who will judge them was himself once mocked and ridiculed (Luke 22:63-65). It is should matter to those of the majority culture that the one who will judge the world was once a despised minority on the fringe of the Roman Empire (Luke 2:1-7). It should haunt those in power who crush their subjects without warrant that the one appointed to judge the world also suffered wrongly (Luke 23:18-25). All those who abuse their power and who pass freely through worldly judgments with bribes should be terrorized by the fact they’ll one day stand before a king who loves justice and always does what is right. Wife beaters, psychological manipulators, child abusers, dishonest salesmen, corrupt politicians, and greedy businessmen will all give an account before the risen king. Paul writes, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinth. 5:10). The resurrection of Jesus is good news because it serves as a warning to oppressors.

Second, the resurrection of Jesus is good news because it means that vindication is coming for righteous sufferers who entrust themselves to the Lord Jesus. Those who refuse to return violence with violence but instead follow the way of Jesus in praying for their persecutors, loving their enemies, forgiving their debtors, and going the extra mile for those who take advantage of their position, privilege, or power demonstrate that they believe that the steadfast love of Christ is a more effective tool for change than hate (Matt. 5:38-48). They also demonstrate their faith that, whether they win over their enemies or not, King Jesus will provide them justice when he appears from heaven to hold oppressors to account or to vindicate the righteous. Paul puts it this way, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:18-21). That the risen Jesus is this world’s rightful lord, king, and judge frees up righteous sufferers to love and to know that the Lord of all the earth will do right by them.

That the risen Jesus will judge the world also means that we have a lord and king who identifies with us in our suffering. Isaiah looked ahead to God’s servant as one who would be despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and as one who would bear our griefs and carry our sorrows (Is. 53:3-4). The writer of Hebrews explained that the risen and exalted Jesus is sympathetic to us in our sufferings because he too suffered when tempted (Heb. 2:14-18). That the risen Jesus is the coming judge is good news for righteous sufferers. It means that the one on the thrown is one with whom they can identify, and it means that he will set things right for them and for the world on a day appointed by God.

Chris Cooper 

If you’re in the Paducah area and want to talk more about King Jesus and what it means to live in his new world, I would love to sit down with you over a cup of coffee (my treat!). Contact me, and let’s meet! I also invite you to come and worship the King with me at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. We meet for worship weekly at 10:30 on Sunday mornings.

Good News about Resurrection: A New King and a New Sort of Kingdom

Good News about Resurrection 1.jpgThis Sunday Christians around the world will celebrate the bodily resurrection of Jesus the King. In commemoration of Easter, I plan to share four posts that explain some reasons why the resurrection of Jesus is good news and still matters today. These posts will not be exhaustive by any means. Much could be said and has been said about the resurrection and what it means for people and for this world. However, these posts will explain a few of the reasons why the resurrection is good news. I hope you find them encouraging.

First and foremost, the resurrection is good news because it means that this world has a new sort of king and an alternative kingdom that is different from the nations of this world. This is perhaps the best place to start when thinking about the good news of resurrection because this is where the Gospels themselves begin. Jesus’ resurrection first and foremost means that he is this world’s rightful lord and king. In his own way, Jesus claimed that he was Israel’s king, and by virtue of being Israel’s king, the rightful king of the entire world (Ps. 2, 110). Such audacious claims were among the reasons he was crucified. He claimed that the Jewish establishment and nation as a whole had failed in their God-given task to be a light of salvation to the nations, and when they refused to repent or turn from their own vision for what it meant to be the Israel of God, Jesus announced judgment against them and redefined around himself what it meant to be the true people of the LORD. Those pronouncements and claims were enough for the Jewish establishment to seek his execution. At first, Pilate was reluctant to follow through on their plans. When he questioned Jesus, Jesus made it clear that his was a different sort of kingdom—a kingdom that reflects God’s will in heaven and that is not built upon military command or political scheming but through acts of mercy and self-giving love. Pilate didn’t take such claims to sovereignty seriously. A king that operates in such ways was no king at all as far as Pilate was concerned. However, for the sake of political expediency he agreed to execute Jesus as a pretender and a revolutionary.

If the resurrection had not of happened, then Pilate and the Jewish establishment would have been proven right. A crucified king is no king at all. However, the resurrection did happen, and it matters because it served as divine vindication that Jesus was right. He is this world’s rightful lord and king. That is the good news that all four Gospels announce. The most well-known passage where Jesus says this is Matthew 28:18. By virtue of his resurrection from the dead, Jesus said to his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” That is another way of saying, “Look! I am alive. My claims were vindicated. I am now this world’s rightful sovereign. I have authority over this world’s powers whether in Jerusalem or in Rome, and I have authority even among the host of heaven!” Caesar claimed to be lord, but, if Jesus was right, Caesar’s authority was, at best, a derived and subordinate authority. If what the risen Jesus said were true, then Caesar’s powers had been delegated and he would one day be answerable to King Jesus for the way he executed that power.

The resurrection is good news because it means that Jesus is king. This was also the main point of the very first Christian sermon that we have on record. When the apostles and disciples received the Holy Spirit and began to speak languages that they had not studied, scoffers said that they must be drunk. Peter responded with a powerful sermon about the resurrection and the fulfillment of Scripture. His conclusion was that by virtue of the resurrection, Jesus had been vindicated and was now this world’s rightful lord. He announced to them, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and King, this Jesus whom you crucified (Acts 2:36)!”

I will explain in my next post more about why the news that Jesus is this world’s rightful lord and king is good news. At this point, suffice it to say that it is good news because Jesus is a different sort of king. This world has had its fair share of monsters reign over the nations of this world. One doesn’t have to look that far into history to see the destruction that tyrannous dictators have unleashed upon the vulnerable. One doesn’t even have to look into history at all. There are tyrants in this world right now capable and even guilty of monstrous acts against their own people. The world witnessed one such act just last week.

For this reason, it is good news that Jesus is this world’s true Lord, is in the process of taking it back as his kingdom, and will one day hold such people to account for their crimes. Jesus is a different sort of king. He is a king who serves and accommodates the very least and most vulnerable who look to him for aid. He is a king who knows what it’s like to suffer unjustly at the hands of evil doers. And, his own resurrection is evidence that through him God will make the wrongs and injustices of this world right when it is time. The resurrection is good news because it means that Jesus is ultimately this world’s lord and king.

Second, the resurrection is good news because it means that there is an alternative kingdom at work in this world, one that is embodied in the people of Christ. The resurrection was not only divine vindication that Jesus’ claims to royalty were true. The resurrection was also proof that his sacrifice was effective. The night before he was crucified, Jesus shared a Passover meal with his disciples and interpreted his death as a new exodus or a new Passover. The exodus was the founding event for the people of Israel. It was when the LORD god rescued them from slavery in Egypt and chose them as his special people to reflect his goodness to all the peoples of the earth.

In the course of their history, the Israelites failed to reflect the good character of God to the nations. As a result, they were exiled from their land and found themselves enslaved to the nations once again. However, God, in his steadfast love for them, promised that through his servant he would rescue them again from their captors, atone for their sin, and equip them to be what he always meant for them to be, a light of salvation to the nations. Jesus interpreted his coming death as the work of God’s servant. Even before his impending death in Jerusalem, he claimed that the role of the servant was his own as he told his followers that he had not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). And, on the night before he died, when death was certain, he told his disciples that his crucifixion would accomplish a new exodus and would result in the forgiveness of sins and new life for the people of the LORD.

As with his messianic claims, the resurrection was the proof that his claim to be God’s servant was true as well. The New Testament writers point out that through the rescue of Christ’s sacrificial death, he ransomed a people for himself who would serve as a kingdom of priests. This new Israel would be tasked with the work that ancient Israel was meant to accomplish but it would include believing Israelites and people from all the nations. Peter wrote to a mixed-body of Christians, saying, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. . . . Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Pet. 2:9, 11). Revelation records this song about Jesus, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom of priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:9-10).

The people who belong to Jesus—the church—make up a new sort of kingdom in this world, a kingdom not divided along ethnic or socioeconomic lines, not divided by gender or age restrictions but a kingdom in which the least and most vulnerable is considered the greatest. Once again, that may not seem like good news to some. Not everyone who has claimed to follow Jesus over the centuries has brought light to the world, and not every church has been a blessing to the families of this earth. Many times people and churches have forgotten that the good news about King Jesus is just as much a way of life as it is a set of doctrines to be believed. Jesus not only calls people to swear allegiance to him as King but to follow him in the way of the cross. And, as much as the followers of Christ have done that over the centuries, they have made a difference in this world. As much as followers of Jesus sacrifice, risk, and give themselves for those in need of healing, restoration, and good news about forgiveness and new life, the church has been a blessing and a light of salvation. As much as followers of Jesus have turned the other cheek, gone the extra mile, and loved and prayed for their enemies rather than to demand their rights, and as much as they have worked toward the cause of justice, righteousness, and peace in this world, the church has been good news. In short, in as much as the followers of the true King strive toward the new way of life that he calls upon his people to live, they have been good news to a world desperately in need of such news. Overall, the resurrection is good news not only because it means that Jesus is this world’s true King but also because it means that there is a new sort of people who live differently than the rest of the world, and who, if Jesus is right, will one day inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5).

Chris Cooper 

If you’re in the Paducah area and want to talk more about King Jesus and what it means to live in his new world, I would love to sit down with you over a cup of coffee (my treat!). Contact me, and let’s meet! I also invite you to come and worship the King with me at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. We meet for worship weekly at 10:30 on Sunday mornings.

Grilled Venison Steak

Justin's Buck.jpg

My brother-in-law harvested this buck while we were hunting together this past November.

As it is for many rural Kentuckians, deer hunting is perhaps my favorite pastime. And, since I strive to eat as healthy as I can (you can read more about that here) and as well as I can (if a great deal of our lives are spent eating it might as well be enjoyable!), I make use of the venison that my hunting pursuits afford me. Perhaps my favorite way to eat venison is grilled. Below I explain the process that I go through to make my grilled venison steaks as mouth-watering as possible.

Step 1: Vacuum Sealing and Wet-Aging 

Vacuum Seal Pic.jpg

My vacuum sealer is one of my most used kitchen appliances. It keeps my meat fresh longer and saves me a ton of space in the freezer. They’re a little pricey, but mine has been well worth the investment. Growing up, my family would either wrap meats in freezer wrap or freeze them in water. Needless to say, you can only hold so much meat in your freezer when close to half of the space is taken up by the frozen water in which your meat is stored. Along with keeping meat fresh and saving space, I also use my vacuum sealer as a way of wet-aging my meat. Ideally, I would age my deer by hanging it either in a cooler or in a barn, but since I don’t have access to a walk-in cooler and Kentucky weather is not consistent enough to hang meat over a period of a day or two, I wet age my meat by vacuum sealing it and allowing it to set for several days in the refrigerator. This past year I let my vacuumed-sealed meat age in the refrigerator for seven days before freezing. Aging meat in this way allows the connective tissues to break down and results in more tender cuts.

Step 2: Cutting and Marinating

Cut and Marinade Pic.jpg

Following the aging and freezing process, it’s time to cut and marinade. I like to cut my pieces about an inch to an inch and a half thick. Depending upon the shape of the chunk, I usually cut my deer steaks into medallions or longer strips. In the picture above, the medallions were cut from a piece of backstrap (the cut of meat that runs alongside a deer’s spine) and the longer pieces were cut from an inner loin. I also like to marinade my steaks for a couple of hours before cooking. Truth be told, venison steaks are good enough not to require a marinade but this is the general process that I undertake to prepare my steaks. I make my marinade from the ingredients above. For every 1 part of lemon juice, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce, I use 3 parts olive oil. For me, that usually comes out to 6 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons each of the lemon juice, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. When I mix the ingredients together in that amount, I add a heaping teaspoon of black pepper as well.

Step 3: Preparing the Grill

Prepare the Grill Pic.jpg

After I’ve thawed, cut, and marinated my steaks, it is time to prepare the grill. I try to get my coals as hot as possible and have a place for direct as well as indirect heat. How hot is as hot as possible? To be honest, I am not exactly sure since I don’t have a thermometer on my grill. However, I let my coals get good and hot, leave my vents wide open, and place my lid over the top of my coals and grill plate for about 15 minutes before I put on my steaks.

Step 4: Grill the Meat!

Grill the Meat Pic

After the grill is good and hot, it’s finally time to put on the meat and close the lid. First, I grill the steaks over direct heat until each side gets a good char and has visible grill marks. After each side has grill marks, I transfer the steaks to the indirect heat making sure that the whatever side was facing down when it was over direct heat is still facing down when the meat is moved. Throughout the process, I only want to turn the steaks one time. Once the steaks are over indirect heat, I allow them to cook until they are medium-rare to medium. As far as time goes, I usually grill the steaks for around 2 minutes 15 seconds per side over direct heat and then an additional minute over indirect heat. However long it takes your venison steaks to cook will obviously be determined by how thick your cuts are and how hot you have your grill . The most important thing to remember when grilling venison steaks, along with most wild meats, is never to cook the steaks past medium. In fact, the closer to rare your steaks are the better they will be.

As his image bearers, God has placed us in charge of a wonderful world (Ps. 8). The resourcefulness, wisdom, and creativity that it takes to hunt, clean, process, prepare, cook, and enjoy venison is one of the many good gifts from God that gives me pleasure. I most want to reflect his image in the way that I treat my neighbor. However, rural activities such as hunting and cooking can mirror God’s goodness as well when done in thanksgiving. And, when it comes to these things, not much tastes as sweet as venison steak!

Chris Cooper 

If you’re in the Paducah area and want to talk more about King Jesus and what it means to live in his new world, I would love to sit down with you over a cup of coffee (my treat!). Contact me, and let’s meet! I also invite you to come and worship the King with me at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. We meet for worship weekly at 10:30 on Sunday mornings.

Jesus of Nazareth and the God of Israel

Will's Wilderness Marcan Prologue Pic.jpg

Nature Picture by Will Cooper, age 6*

Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence . . . to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence!


Isaiah 64:1-2

 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee . . .

 Mark 1:9a

Have you ever seen a movie whose opening scene starts out full force—100 mph—in the middle of the action? Superhero movies often do this. Instead of starting from the beginning, they first open with a scene that shows the superhero fully clothed in his superhero garb and using all his superhero powers to defeat the villain in some epic battle. Only then, as they give you a snapshot of what’s to come and of what’s really taking place, do they move to the more mundane setting of everyday life that begins the narrative. Only then do they begin to show how this seemingly normal person gets to the climactic point with which the movie starts.

Mark’s prologue in Mark 1:2-13 begins this way.[1] Once we arrive to Mark 1:14, Jesus is on the streets of Galilee preaching and conversing with fishermen and common folk. He heals the sick and brings relief to the demon possessed but there is a sense of naivety among the people as to who this Jesus really is and as to what is really happening. He is disguised. He performs these great works but is also a carpenter from the hill country. He was one of those uneducated, rural folks at whom the Jerusalem elites sneered.

However, in this prologue, Mark begins his story by peeling back the curtain. Mark starts out in the wilderness and uses the voice of God and numerous Old Testament allusions to clue us in to exactly who Jesus is. He does this so that even if the multitudes, including his own disciples, were confused about who Jesus was, we will not be. Mark wants us to know from the outset who this uneducated, rural man was and is, because as I said last week, this carpenter from Nazareth demands our souls, our lives, and our all.

With that, what we should notice from this prologue is that Jesus is to be identified with the LORD, the God of Israel. He is to be identified with the LORD because he is the one who is empowered by the Spirit, who pours out the Spirit, and who brings new creation to the world.


Actually, this story about Jesus doesn’t start with Jesus at all but with his cousin, John. John the Baptist was a desert prophet and another mysterious figure about whom the people wondered. In verses 2-8, Mark tells us about John and the message of repentance and hope that he heralded in the wilderness.

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,’” John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

Mark 1:2-8

Mark begins by connecting the story of Israel and our Old Testament Scriptures to John and his ministry. There are a few things that we should make note of from these links. However, we first need a basic understanding of the story of Israel itself.

God rescued the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt and made them his special people. He did this in fulfillment to his promises to Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3). God promised Abraham that a great nation would come from him and that through this people, all the families of the earth would be blessed. That is why the LORD rescued Israel from Egypt, gave them his law, and committed to dwell with them in the Promised Land as their god. The plan was to establish his saving reign through them. But, tragically, Israel failed to be that blessing-bringing people. They turned from the LORD and failed time and again to reflect his justice and righteousness to the nations. As a result, the LORD judged his people. He departed from them and handed them over to the nations. However, the story of Israel in the Old Testament Scriptures doesn’t end with judgment but with the promise of salvation.

Through prophets like Isaiah and Malachi, the LORD promised to return to Israel as king and to restore, forgive, and empower them to bless the world. On a few occasions, some Prophets foretold that an Elijah-like prophet would precede the return of the LORD to his people. This is the first truth that we should notice from these verses. John is the Elijah-like prophet whose ministry signals the establishment of the LORD’s saving reign on the earth. We gather this from the two passages with which Mark introduces John. In verse 2, Mark states that what he is about to say comes from Isaiah the prophet but he actually conflates two prophecies, one from Malachi and one from Isaiah. The reason why he attributes both prophecies to Isaiah is probably because Isaiah was the first to speak about a messenger who would precede the coming of the LORD.

It would benefit us to look at both passages more fully. Both predict that the LORD would send his messenger before he—the LORD—would return to restore his people and establish his kingdom on the earth. As you read these verses, notice whom the promised messenger prepares the way for.

Behold, I [the LORD] send my messenger and he will prepare the way before ME. And the LORD whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.

Malachi 3:1

 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Isaiah 40:3-5

Malachi and Isaiah both prophesied that a messenger would precede, announce, and prepare the way for the coming of the LORD himself. After this messenger, the LORD would restore his people in a new saving event and establish his kingdom on the earth. Mark begins his gospel by pointing out that John the Baptist is that messenger. John is the desert prophet in the tradition of Elijah and Elisha. His voice rang out in the wilderness, and Mark tells us that all Jerusalem and Judea came out to see him and be baptized.

That John preached in the wilderness is also significant because the prophet Hosea wrote that in the last days the LORD would lure his people into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her words of hope as he had done at the beginning, when he rescued her from Egypt (Hosea 2:14-20). A desert prophet was a signal of hope and restoration for God’s people (Is. 41:18-20; 51:3). And, what this particular desert prophet told the people of Jerusalem to do was to return to the LORD and be baptized as a sign of their repentance. He told them to return to the LORD because the LORD, who promised restoration through Isaiah, was about to intervene in history once more to fulfill his ancient promises. Again, what we see in this is that John is the Elijah-like prophet whose ministry signals the establishment of the LORD’s rule on the earth.

Second, notice with me that John identified the one who came after him as the one who would baptize or pour out the Holy Spirit on God’s people. The background for this is another writing prophet from the Hebrew Scriptures. This time it’s the prophet Joel. What I want you to notice as you read Joel is exactly who the one is who pours out the Spirit.

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I [the LORD] will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young me shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I [the LORD] will pour out my Spirit.

Joel 2:28-29

Joel prophesied that, in the last days, the LORD would pour out his Spirit upon all his people from the least to the greatest. Here, in Mark, Mark connects John the Baptist with this prophecy, so that not only is John the one who makes a way for the coming of the LORD, the god of Israel, to intervene in history, but he also makes the way for the LORD to pour out his Spirit on all flesh.

Now, as we move to the next set of verses, I want you to see what Mark has done. This is very important. He has us anticipating the coming of the LORD himself to establish his reign on the earth and to fulfill his promises to his people. This brings us to verses 9-11. Here, Mark and John remarkably connect these amazing prophecies about the LORD, Israel’s god, to Jesus, a man from Nazareth of Galilee!


Here, I want us to see that Jesus is God’s servant-king, who restores God’s people and establishes God’s reign on the earth.

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Mark 1:9-11

First, I want you to see the remarkable juxtaposition or comparison between what Mark has just told us in verses 2-8 and what he tells us in verse 9. In verses 2-8, he has just stated in a round-about-way that the LORD himself was coming to intervene on this earth by establishing his reign and pouring out his Spirit upon his people. Here, in the very next verse, he connects those grand pronouncements concerning Israel’s god with a man named Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee. Last week, I told you Mark’s gospel is an ancient biography is the vein of other ancient biographies but is, at the same time, intentionally distinct—determinedly different—from other biographies of his day.

This is evidence of just how different Mark considered Jesus to be. From the beginning, Mark identifies this Galilean hillbilly as intimately close to, if not one with, the LORD, Israel’s god. Jesus is a man like us—even like the least among us. He wasn’t from Jerusalem in Judea but from the less esteemed province of Galilee. And, in Galilee, he was from a town so insignificant that many in his own day had not even heard of it, kind of like being from La Center or Bandana.

But, even though Jesus was a man like the rest of us, there was also something different about him, so that when he came to this earth and began his ministry, Mark and John the Baptist both could proclaim that the LORD, the god of Israel and the god of the nations, had come as well. Jesus was a man like us, even the least of us. But, he was unlike us as well because he is to be intimately identified with the LORD of hosts!

Now the main point of these three verses about Jesus’ baptism is what the voice of God the Father declares about Jesus and what happens when Jesus is baptized. What we see is that when Jesus was baptized he was empowered by the Holy Spirit and declared to be the LORD’s Servant-King who would establish God’s saving reign on the earth. Not surprisingly, what happens in these verses is from a few Old Testament passages as well. The most notable are Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1.

I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Psalm 2:7-9

Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice on the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.

Isaiah 42:1-4

These two passages envision that the LORD’s chosen agent will establish his reign on the earth. In Psalm 2, we are given a picture of a conquering King, who brings the nations to submission. However, in Isaiah 42, we see a servant, whose victory appears distinct from the way the world conquers and attains victory. He is humble. He brings justice to the nations and establishes God’s rule on the earth but he does it in such a way that there is no collateral damage. Rather, the very weakest and least of all who long to be included are received by him as he quietly and meekly establishes his justice upon the earth.

These passages present us with a complex figure who brings God’s kingdom to the earth, a figure who is empowered by the Spirit and crushes God’s enemies but who also accomplishes his work humbly through suffering, working simultaneously for the LORD and for the very least among us.

At Jesus’ baptism, Mark and, more importantly, the voice of God connect these figures with Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee is God’s servant-king who establishes God’s saving reign on the earth. Mark is telling us once again that, in Jesus, Israel’s god has returned to manifest his glory and that all flesh will see it! Many would not recognize Jesus. It would take his own disciples a long time to realize exactly who he was and what he had come to do but Mark wants us to know from the outset. Jesus is Lord, and he demands our all!


Finally, from verses 12-13, we see that Jesus battled and defeated the powers that enslave people. Mark has already peeled back the curtain to reveal Jesus’ true identity. He is Jesus of Nazareth, the one through whom Israel’s god has returned to restore his people and to establish his saving reign on the earth. Now, Mark peels the curtain back a little further to show us the battle that was also taking place in the life and ministry of Jesus.

If Jesus had come to rescue people and to restore them as God’s image bearers, and if he had come to take back this world for God and for his glory, then that means that he must’ve been rescuing his people and taking back the world from someone or something. These verses remind us exactly who it was whom Jesus came to defeat. He came to defeat the powers and the ultimate power who stands behind all other evil powers, Satan.

The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.

Mark 1:12-13

Mark has already shown us that through a man from Nazareth Israel’s god was intervening in history to fulfill his ancient promises. Now, he adds that through this same man a cosmic showdown was taking place among heavenly powers for this world and its inhabitants. First, Mark describes the setting for this great battle as the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness. As I mentioned earlier, some prophets spoke positively of the wilderness as the place where God would usher in his new creation. However, in other places, the wilderness had negative connotations. In fact, even in Hosea and Isaiah, it was the negative reputation of the wilderness that made their new creation imagery so much more striking.

Typically, the wilderness was a frightening place where wild beasts roamed and devoured. We often have a romantic view of wild beasts. When we see lions and tigers, we see them behind the constraints of bars at a zoo. That wasn’t the case for those in the ancient world. Wild beasts were ferocious and could take a life in less than a second. For the ancients, wild beasts conjured up images of the most dangerous aspects that remain in this fallen world—images of chaos, disorder, and all else that brings harm to human life. The beasts were also symbols for the nations which devalued and dehumanized their subjects (Ps. 22:12-21; Dan. 7). One day the LORD would cause springs of water and lush gardens to emerge in the wilderness, and he would tame the ferocious beasts of the earth (Is. 51:3; 11:6-9). In the meantime, the wilderness and its beasts were dangerous and despised. By going into the wilderness, Mark wants us to see that Jesus was going into the heart of enemy territory in order to reclaim this world and its inhabitants from the evil powers.

Here, we have before us the ancient serpent and the wild beasts squared off against the offspring of Eve and angels. Mark shows us that Jesus went up against these things and the devil himself in his life and ministry. He opposed the ancient serpent in a battle for our lives and in a battle for this world. Strangely enough, and unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark does not tell us how Jesus fared in this great battle. However, by the end of Mark, it’s clear that he won! The empty tomb is the ultimate evidence that Jesus won. However, even before we get to the empty tomb it’s clear who was in charge. We will soon see that demonic powers trembled in fear before him (5:6-7). He will tell the scribes who are sent from Jerusalem to silence him that he had bound the evil one and was plundering his house (3:22-27). Ultimately, however, we will see the final showdown at the cross.

Mark will show us that it was through the cross that Jesus ultimately stripped the beasts of their power and delivered the devil a mortal blow. At the cross, Satan, Jerusalem, and Rome gave Jesus all that they had—they raged and they plotted, they set themselves and took counsel against the LORD and his anointed, but through it all, Jesus took upon himself our sin and our suffering and unleashed in us a kingdom of priests who will inherit the earth (Rev. 5:9-10). As Paul would later say: If the powers of this age had only known what they were doing, they would have never crucified the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:8). Mark wants us to know from the outset that in Jesus, Israel’s god defeated the powers that stand against his people and the world!

Before we move past Mark’s prologue, I want us to think through some of the implications of what Mark has shown us. In Jesus, the LORD himself visited this earth to bring restoration and new creation. He came to include the very least among us, if we would turn to him from our sin and believe upon his name. That then is the first way that we should respond. We must find our lives in the life of Jesus.

Jesus’ story is not just another interesting story from the ancient world. The significance of his life includes the life of every other person who has ever lived, so much so that if we do not find our life and our story in his life and his story, we have missed out on the very reason that we exist. I pray that you would find your life in the life of Jesus. Turn from your own path and begin to trust and follow him. Mark goes on to show us the path that Jesus took and the way that he summons us to live in this world. But first, he makes it clear who Jesus is and that he is worth our all.

If you are already a believer, continue to trust in and follow him. He has already begun to reign over this world. Right now, he is establishing pockets of righteousness and justice through his new community, the church. All who claim to be the church are not the church. And, even among those who are, the Lord works through imperfect vessels. However, he still desires to work through us. He calls us to be his ambassadors who herald the good news of his victory to the lost. And, he calls us to be his servants who embody his compassion, mercy, and self-giving love to the broken and disenfranchised of this world.

Before the victory of the empty tomb, Jesus first went to the cross. He calls each one of us to do the same. He calls us to follow him with humble lives of service and love. We best reflect his glory to those most in need of his love when we live selfless lives of service toward those who need healing in our community. If the cross shows us anything, it shows us that steadfast love is more powerful than all this world’s defenses and walls. Let us follow him in that love as we find our lives in his.

Chris Cooper 

If you’re in the Paducah area and want to talk more about King Jesus and what it means to live in his new world, I would love to sit down with you over a cup of coffee (my treat!). Contact me, and let’s meet! I also invite you to come and worship the King with me at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. We meet for worship weekly at 10:30 on Sunday mornings.

[1]David E. Garland, A Theology of Mark’s Gospel: Biblical Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015). Garland writes: “The prologue presents the inbreaking of heaven into earthly reality and fleetingly unveils the mystery to the audience” (183).

*This is one of the many “nature” pictures, as he likes to call them, that my son, Will, took a few months ago when I took him squirrel hunting. We didn’t see a single squirrel but he had a ball filling my phone with pictures of every majestic thing that caught his eye. I’ll include more of his pictures in later sermon posts.

Rural Life, Weight Loss, and Steak!

Venison Steak 2Just over a year ago, I made a conscious decision to change my health. The results are that I am now 120 pounds lighter and am off all medications! I took this step for several reasons. One reason was theological. Physical health is only one aspect of our humanity, a part of us that is passing away in this present age whether our lunch box is filled with kale or Big Macs. However, as a Christian, I believe that a new age has dawned in King Jesus and that this new day will include the redemption of our bodies. Just as Jesus was raised from the dead, all those who belong to him will be raised bodily when he appears again from heaven. (1 Corinthians 15:20-28). At that point, all sickness and suffering, disease and death will be subjected to the dust beneath the feet of the King (1 Cor. 15:25). Paul, who explains these truths to us, concludes from this that what we do in the body and with the body while on this earth matters tremendously. As he puts it, “Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58). From this, I’ve determined that taking care of my body now, though it is perishing, is a pointer to the day of the Lord Jesus when it will be raised and clothed with immortality. Pursuing physical health is not nearly as important to me as loving my wife as Christ loves the church, demonstrating the Father’s love to my children, or being an example of self-giving love to the broken in my community, but it is important nonetheless.*

When I decided to live out these theological principles in terms of weight loss, I knew that three factors would be important for my initial and long-term success. First, I would have to undergo a lifestyle change rather than merely go on a diet. Lifestyle changes are permanent whereas diets are temporary. A diet may indeed result in weight loss, but if you return to your old habits after the diet rather than change your lifestyle, the pounds will eventually return (usually bringing a few unwelcome friends along for the ride). Second, my lifestyle change would have to be enjoyable. The best advice that I’ve read about losing weight and keeping it off is that if you enjoy how you lose the weight, then you’ll be much more likely to maintain your weight loss once you’ve reached your goal. Third, my lifestyle change would have to make since within my rural lifestyle. In other words, it wouldn’t make sense for me to follow Jared’s approach and go on a Subway diet when I live in the sticks! It also wouldn’t make sense for me to go the low-carb route when I raise a garden and enjoy fresh vegetables. Likewise, it wouldn’t make sense to eat a strict planted-based diet when I enjoy hunting and have a freezer full of wild game. For this reason, I chose to focus mainly on how best to prepare, cook, and enjoy the lean, protein-packed wild game that was already available to me and the vegetables that I already grew or could easily get at the local farmer’s market. This made sense in my rural setting and involved minimal changes. The changes came when I stopped filling my duck breasts with cream cheese and wrapping them in bacon and when I learned to enjoy my fresh okra roasted and my squash grilled rather than battered and deep-fried. Again, the trick was to make a permanent lifestyle change rather than go on a temporary diet, to learn to enjoy the changes, and to develop those changes in a way that made sense in my rural setting.

This brings me, at last, to the picture above: grilled venison tenderloin cooked medium rare with diced eggplant, sautéed cabbage, roasted cauliflower, and black-eyed peas. Are you hungry yet? It makes me want to climb up in a tree-stand and begin the process all over again. Next week, I will share a post about how I prepare and cook venison steaks from the field to the grill. In the meantime, if you are considering a lifestyle change to better your health, then I encourage you to go for it. Just remember, lifestyle change is permanent; diets are temporary. As my father-in-law always says (even when it’s frustratingly inappropriate for him to do so!), “Enjoy the ride.” Enjoy the changes that you make, and you’ll be much more likely to sustain those changes. Finally, implement changes that make sense in your life. A little change will go a long way toward your success.

Chris Cooper

If you’re in the Paducah area and want to talk more about King Jesus and what it means to live in his new world, I would love to sit down with you over a cup of coffee (my treat!). Contact me, and let’s meet! I also invite you to come and worship the King with me at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. We meet weekly at 10:30 on Sunday mornings.

*For an excellent book on our future hope as Christians, see N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (New York: HarperOne, 2008). If you are planning to read a book to coincide with Easter, I would also recommend Surprised by Hope.

The Best Good News That Demands Our All

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Mark 1:1

What is the best good news that you have ever heard, read, or received? Was it a wedding announcement? An anniversary announcement? A birth announcement? When I still looked regularly at printed newspapers, I would look in the Sunday edition for those types of announcements. I vaguely remember when Jessica and I had our wedding announcement in the paper, and I’m sure that we still have that announcement of good news tucked away somewhere in a dusty, old box.

Those announcements of good news are important to the people whom they are about and can be interesting for others, but they are not ground breaking or life changing for those not actually getting married or having the anniversary. It is much more likely that the best news that you ever heard was less formal and more personal. Perhaps it was when your wife told you that she was expecting. Perhaps it was when your doctor called and told you that your test results were negative. Perhaps it was when your new employer called to tell you that you got the job. Or, maybe it came in the form of an admission letter to a certain college. I’m sure there have been a few instances in our lives when we have all received good news of that nature, and we were never the same again.

Well, Mark’s gospel announces good news too. In fact, whether you realize it or not, or acknowledge it or not, Mark’s gospel announces the best good news that this world has ever received. It is a good news that demands more than our attention and acknowledgment. What Mark’s gospel announces is this: a whole new world and a new way of being human has commenced through Jesus the Christ, the Son of God.

Mark’s gospel announces the good news that the restoration of Israel and the nations and God’s saving reign has begun through Jesus, God’s King. Mark’s gospel is the surprising story of how the greatest man who ever lived accomplished more than any other person who has ever lived, not through coercion, oppression, or violence, but through service and sacrificial love. And, what we all must realize is that the good news that Mark delivers demands a response. As the old hymn goes, it demands our souls, our lives, and our all.


That is the first point to recognize as we begin to look at Mark’s good news. Mark’s gospel is a unique ancient biography that demands a response.[1] As an early biography, it is not a biography like we would read today but the type of biography that was written and read in the ancient world about great men who lived, died, and made a lasting impact on their communities.

Mark’s gospel is a biography that was meant to be read aloud. Literacy in Mark’s day was perhaps as low as 10%, so for a man to receive the good news that it provides, he would more than likely have to have had it read to him in a gathering of believers or a gathering of those who were interested in the content of Christianity. For that reason, a good exercise as we make our way through Mark would be for you to read Mark at home on your own time. But, I would encourage you, if you could, not to read it silently, but to read it aloud as Mark intended.

Another way that Mark’s gospel is an ancient biography different from modern biographies is that it is much shorter and to the point. I like to read modern biographies from time to time about historical figures, particularly those from church history. However, those biographies are usually long and detailed. Some can be as many as 700 to 800 pages. However, Mark’s gospel is comparatively shorter and more to the point than our modern biographies.

Mark’s gospel, then, is an ancient rather than a modern biography. However, there is something distinctively different—determinedly other—about Mark’s gospel as well—something which separated it from all other ancient biographies of its kind. I share all this with you because Mark’s original audience would have recognized this. Mark was convinced that Jesus was unlike any other man who had ever lived. For that reason, Mark’s gospel is a biography set apart from other ancient biographies. Mark presents us with a portrait of a person, who, unlike anyone else, emulates more than just admiration.

Several others had their lives recorded and read about in the ancient world, but Jesus was different. His life—his otherness—demands more than our respect, it demands our devotion, worship, and discipleship. Through his gospel, Mark wants us to see that Jesus is unlike any other person who has ever lived, and that his story is more captivating, more life changing than any other story. Mark wants us to see in the life and in the story of Jesus a life and a story so compelling that they capture us so that we find our lives and our stories within his.

Mark is convinced that, unlike any other man, death was not Jesus’ end but his victory over the devil, the forces of evil, and the disorder that remains in this world. Also, unlike any other man whose life merited a biography in the ancient world, Jesus’ greatness was displayed in humility, gentleness, kindness, compassion, and even suffering rather than in the power of coercion, human wisdom, or physical or political force.

Jesus’ power lay instead in steadfast love and faithfulness, love and faithfulness to his father’s will and love and faithfulness toward the people whom he came to save. So, the first thing that I want us to realize and to take away from this introduction to Mark is that Mark’s biography of Jesus is not meant as mere pleasure reading as pleasurable as a read as it may be. It’s not merely meant to inspire you with stories of a great life, as inspiring a life as Jesus may have led. Rather, it demands something more from us. It demands a choice, similar to life changing announcements that we receive today but even more so. When a young husband or a young woman first receives the good news that they will have a child, they are presented with a choice, aren’t they? Will they go on living as they did before, when their time was largely their own and they did not have to worry or feel responsible for anyone but themselves? Or, will they grow up and invest themselves in this new person that is theirs to love, cherish, nourish, and introduce to a harsh world? That’s the choice that the good news of parenthood presents to us, and how we respond to that choice determines what kind of parents we will be.

Similarly, but even more so, Mark’s gospel presents good news that requires from us a choice. Mark’s gospel shows us who our God is, who we were meant to be as his creatures, and how we can be restored to God and his purpose for us. Mark’s gospel presents to us a choice. Now that we have this good news, will we go on living half-human lives entrapped by the enslaving powers of this world? Or, will we turn from our own paths, look to Jesus, and live the lives that we were created to live as people who bear God’s image?

Mark’s biography of Jesus also demands from us worship, not worship of Mark or his writing abilities, but of the extraordinary subject of his story. It demands the kind of worship ascribed in Isaac Watt’s hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”:

“When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride. . . . See, from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down, Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown? Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small. Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”

Mark’s good news is a unique ancient biography that demands from us a response. Will we go on living the same when we’ve been presented a life-changing message? Or, will we turn to Jesus and find our lives in his?


Lastly, we need to consider the content of Mark’s gospel about Jesus. Mark’s gospel is the good news of new creation in that it describes restoration for Israel, the nations, and the world. We will talk more about this in the weeks to come, but first I want to talk with you about what we find in this opening verse of Mark’s gospel.

Mark opens his book with the title of his gospel: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” His book is the beginning of the gospel about Jesus. Gospel, as many of you may know, is a word that means good news. This was good news about Jesus. Now, it is important for us to recognize what Mark and his audience would have had in their minds when they used, saw, and read the word gospel.

Gospel could communicate two ideas for Mark and his audience. In its Roman context, a gospel announced the good news that a great ruler, such as an emperor, had arrived or had done something of note in the world. In its Jewish context (and this was by far the most important to Mark and his audience), the gospel was the good news announced by the Prophets, particularly Isaiah.

We often assume that the word gospel is first used in Matthew, the first gospel that is presented in the New Testament. However, the first Christians knew the term gospel before Mark used it, and before Matthew, Luke, or John. They knew it because it was used several times by Isaiah. In fact, for the early Christians, Isaiah was the first gospel. When Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John announced that they were writing a gospel, they were announcing that what Isaiah wrote about had come true in Jesus.

The gospel that Isaiah spoke about was this. Isaiah prophesied that Israel’s story, and by extension the world’s story (since the world was to receive renewal through Israel), would not end in judgment. Israel found herself in exile for falling short of reflecting God’s glory to the nations. However, the good news was that this was not the end. Rather, the time was coming when the LORD God would return and restore Israel, the nations, and the world itself, and the LORD’s servant David—the Messiah—would rule over the new and perfectly ordered world with justice and righteousness. To put it another way, the gospel according to Isaiah, and what Mark would have had in mind when he used the term, was the good news that new creation and salvation were coming to life in this world.

Mark shows that this is what was going on in several ways in this opening verse. The first way is by using the word “gospel.” Again, that term would have reminded Mark’s audience of the promises of God in the prophecy of Isaiah. The words “the beginning” echo the opening words of Genesis where Moses describes God’s original creation. By connecting his gospel to Genesis 1:1, Mark wants us to see that through Jesus there was coming a new creation. God was doing a new creative work in the world on par to his ordering the heavens and the earth.

Mark also calls Jesus “the Christ.” Many people today just assume that Christ was a part of Jesus’ name, sort of like a last name, but that is not the case. Christ was not a name, but a title. Christ is the Greek term for the Hebrew word Messiah, which means Anointed One, or King. For many Jews, the Messiah came to refer to the promised son of David who would defeat God’s enemies and rule over God’s people and this world forever with justice and in righteousness. So, by giving Jesus the title “Christ,” Mark is declaring that Jesus is God’s long promised king, who would crush the head of the serpent, save his people from their enslavement to sin and to death, and bring order, rest, and blessing to his people and this world.

Finally, Mark calls Jesus the “son of God.” Once again, the term “son of God” was a royal, messianic term loaded with meaning for Mark and his audience. However, it was also a term that referred to those with whom the LORD had made his covenants and his plans to bless the world. Adam was called the son of God, and it was intended that he bring God’s blessing to bear in the world. However, he failed through unbelief and disobedience. Collectively, the people of Israel were also God’s chosen son, but Israel, as a nation, broke God’s covenant time and again and also failed to bring the blessing of new creation to the world. In contrast with those who came before, Mark wants us to recognize that Jesus was uniquely God’s son, who would succeed in bringing God’s rest and blessing to the nations. Through him, all God’s plans and promises for human beings and for this world would be accomplished.

Jesus is also God’s unique son. He is both God and man, the incarnate One, who visited this world for us and our salvation. As Mark will show in this gospel, Jesus won our salvation and saved the world not through force or coercion, but through service, love, sacrifice, suffering, and even death. My friend, this is the best good news that has been given or that will ever be given. This is news of new creation, restoration, and salvation. It is news of an eventual end to war, broken hearts, abuse, isolation, oppression, suffering, and death. It is news of canceled sin and peace with God. It is news of a new world and hope. It’s news of a new way of being human.

Do you know what this good news means for us and the world right now? Do you know what it will mean when Jesus appears again from heaven?

Right now, this good news means that we can be forgiven our sins and made right with God. Right now, we can receive the promised Holy Spirit, who will work in us to live in obedience and service to God. My friend, this is the purpose for which we were created and that most fulfills us as human beings. Right now, we can be freed from our slavery to sin and the fear of death. Right now, we can have a foretaste of the rest and blessing of the world to come. Right now, we can share in the life of Christ’s new community. All those things are offered to us right now if we would respond to this news the way that we ought, with repentance toward God and faith in Christ.

When Jesus returns, this good news promises that we will enter that rest for which we have a sample now through life in the Spirit. This good news promises that we will inherit a renewed world and reign with Christ forever. That, after all, is the way Isaiah described the good news of the coming age. He said that it would be a day in which the wolf would dwell with the lamb, the serpent would be the plaything of children, and nothing would harm or hurt in all God’s holy mountain (Is. 11:1-10).

What better news is there than that? That’s a good question, isn’t it? But, an even better question is this: how will you respond?

Chris Cooper 

If you’re in the Paducah area and want to talk more about King Jesus and what it means to live in his new world, I would love to sit down with you over a cup of coffee (my treat!). Contact me, and let’s meet! I also invite you to come and worship the King with me at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. We meet for worship weekly at 10:30 on Sunday mornings.

 [1]For the tricky question of genre, I found Garland helpful and follow his thinking. David E. Garland, A Theology of Mark’s Gospel: Biblical Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), 85-89. See also R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark, in NIGTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 9-11.