The Gospel in the Gospel of Mark

This past week The Gospel Coalition wrapped up its 2013 national conference on the Gospel of Luke. I mentioned earlier this week the panel discussion, featuring Keller, Carson, DeYoung and Piper, on the topic question of, “Did Jesus Preach the Gospel?” I reviewed it there and I felt the panel missed on opportunity to really speak to this topic. This topic stems from the discrepancy in language between Matthew-Luke, John and Paul. Matthew-Luke (Synoptic Gospels or Snyoptics) emphasize “kingdom” language. John emphasizes “eternal life” language. Paul emphasizes justification in Romans and Galatians–which are considered to be the primary Pauline texts for some reason (as opposed to Ephesians or Philippians or 2 Corinthians). Since Christianity historically has looked to Paul to frame its gospel, that is that God justifies and forgives sinners by their faith in Jesus and his wrath-bearing substitutional death on the cross. And as I said in my review, the panel became dismissive of the question and believed it to be invalid, not worth their attention.

DeYoung mentioned that their Pauline gospel could be found in the Gospels though. He looked to Mark 1:1, 15 and Mark 2 in the healing of the paralytic. But I felt like DeYoung, as well as the rest of the panel members who looked/listened on in approval, failed to take these texts and stories seriously on their own terms.

I want to briefly look at these texts and see how he failed to take them serious. DeYoung looked at Mark 1:1 and said that the gospel is in the book. He then looked at Mark 1:15 to say that repentance and faith are key components. Then he turned to the healing in Mark 2:1-12 to say that the gospel is forgiveness of sin.

Mark 1:1 reads in the ESV, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” The word “beginning (αρχη) implies a narrative, a story. The gospel isn’t a mere proposition, which is much of the problem the theology adhered to by TGC and conservative theologies. The gospel is a story about Jesus. The titles “Christ” and “Son of God” reflect much more of what this story is about. The gospel story is about how Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God. These are terms of royalty–pushed beyond their Old Testament meanings into Jesus being part of the Trinity–and Jesus being a king. The good news of Jesus is the story of him being the long anticipated king of Israel from the family of David. There is the language of kingdom and kingship and it’s directly linked to “gospel” in Mark’s opening sentence.

Mark 1:14-15 reads in the ESV, “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” “Gospel” appears here and that’s why DeYoung came to this text. Repentance and faith are linked directly to “gospel” language as the way one is to respond to the gospel. But the content of the good news is that the time has arrived and that God’s kingdom, God’s rule/reign is breaking into history. Repentance and faith in the gospel is about moving into the reign of God. DeYoung didn’t address this when he had the chance.

Then in the parable that Mark tells in 2:1-12. When the paralytic is presented to Jesus for healing he says, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (2:5). DeYoung takes this to mean that this is Mark’s good news, thus Jesus’ story is lining up with Paul’s theology. But when we read on in the story the question Mark is posing in the miracle is brought to light. The Jewish leadership who saw this questioned to themselves, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (2:7). The question that Mark is posing with this story is a question of authority and power, tying back into the language of kingdom and kingship. Jesus responds thus, “‘Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, Your sins are forgiven, or to say, Rise, take up your bed and walk? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ —he said to the paralytic— 11 ‘I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home'” (2:9-11). Jesus shows that he has the authority to forgive sins. It’s about authority, Jesus’ authority. The good news of this story is that Jesus has been given the authority to forgive sins. Forgiveness is subsumed under the matrix of Jesus as king/Messiah/Son of God.

Mark centralizes the kingdom of God and Jesus’ authority to his presentation of the gospel of Jesus. Mark’s depiction of Jesus baptism in 1:9-11 Jesus is named the “Son” and the one in “whom [God] is well pleased,” which refers to Isaiah’s servant in Isaiah 40-56 and Isaiah 61 who is to exercise God’s authority over the earth. In Mark 1:27 we see that the people are amazed at Jesus’ authority. Mark tells the story of Jesus calming the storm at the end of Mark 4. The question the disciples are left is, “Who is this who calms the waves?” Mark 5 answers the story by saying that Jesus is Lord who commands demons (even in Mark 1 we read this truth). The disciples confess Jesus to be the Messiah in Mark 8. In Mark 15 50% of Mark’s usage of “king” appear, and in reference to Jesus.

If the book of Mark was originally titled “The Gospel according to Mark” (as the panel rightly pointed out it was), then “gospel” is about Jesus as the one who has authority over creation and his exercising his authority over creation climaxed in his death on the cross and resurrection, according to Mark anyways.

This failure of the panel to really dig into the Gospels and into Paul’s letters shows me how much they want to preserve their theology rather than defend their reading of the text through exegesis and an honest look at the text of Scripture. And this fails the purpose of their panel, to show that Jesus and Paul did preach the same gospel–or I should say that the gospel writers and Paul preached the same good news. In the promo video Piper really worked on Luke 18 to tease that the Gospels do preach Paul’s gospel. Then when the panel arrived the Scripture was surprisingly allowed little time to speak–especially for inerrantists.

~ by hankimler on April 13, 2013.

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