“Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” (Mark 1:38)
Mark the evangelist was inspired to magnify the fact that Jesus came to preach. In Sunday’s Gospel Jesus explains that He and the first Apostles had to go to the other towns so that, as Jesus explains, I may preach there also, for that is why I came out [1:38].
Saint Mark’s first recorded words of Jesus indicated that Jesus was… proclaiming (literally “preaching”) the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” [1:14,15]. This preaching involved teaching, and it often included the exorcising of demons and the healing of the sick and maimed. Thus when He preached in Capernaum, the people were astonished at His teaching [v 22], which included healing folks and casting out demons.
This preaching of Jesus can be traced throughout the Gospel of Mark, especially in the initial chapters. In Mark 1:38 Jesus again explains to His new Apostles that preaching was His purpose: Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out. He came out to preach! In Mark 2:2 Christ’s preaching is recorded this way: And He was preaching the word to them. Again in 2:13: …and He was teaching them. Other descriptions: Again he began to teach beside the sea…And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them… [4:1,2]. A final example of Jesus’ emphasis on preaching: And He went about among the villages teaching[6:6].
As Jesus preached, the gospel of the kingdom was unfolding. By His preaching (which included teaching, exorcisms and other loving miracles), Jesus was unfolding His identity, for He is the great King and His Kingdom has come. He also preached, as did every prophet, the centrality of repentance. These are foundational to the gospel: Jesus is truly the King who came to create and distribute forgiveness.
Uniquely, as He spoke to His Apostles, Christ shifted gears with His preaching/teaching. After Peter’s great confession of faith Mark records: And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again [8:31]. As recorded by all four Gospel accounts, Jesus’ goal was to head to the cross, and of this goal He emphatically preached to His Apostles. After unfolding His Kingly identity through the manifold aspects of His preaching Jesus now begins to teach about His climactic kingdom work—His death and resurrection. In His death and resurrection He would create the source of forgiveness and eternal life, foundational elements of His Kingdom.
After His death and resurrection the Lord Jesus Christ was ready to turn over the preaching to His appointed men. These men, like Jesus, would enter communities to preach. They had to preach, for Jesus commissioned them, Go into all the world and proclaim [preach] the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned [16:15,16]. Preach and baptize, and thus distribute salvation by pointing to and connecting people with Christ’s cross and the empty tomb.
Baptism and preaching (teaching) summarize the work of Christ’s pastors, as also emphasized in Matthew’s description of the Great Commission [Mt 28:19,20]. Of preaching it is not surprising that Saint Paul would primarily exhort Pastor Timothy (and all pastors), Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season [2 Ti 4:2]. The Apostles (and pastors after them) are uniquely called upon to preach the gospel of the Kingdom, a gospel and teaching centered in Christ’s death and resurrection.