As I’ve explained in my series on Mark, the NT writers did not coin the term “gospel.” The word “gospel” (euangelion) means “good news” and it had been around for several hundred years before Jesus ever showed up.
About 50 years before Mark wrote his gospel, a Greek city called Priene established a small temple shrine at the entrance to their city that praised the “gospel of peace” that Caesar Augustus brought; “Never will another gospel surpass the gospel that was announced at his birth. He is not only Lord of the Empire but Lord of the Earth and of the calendar and of time itself” (from the Calendar Inscription of Priene).
So, we need to understand that in the first century the term “gospel” was used to describe the good news of a new king and his kingdom’s recent victories. With a new king came new citizens, new rights, new obligations, new privileges, new loyalties, and new enemies. So, for Mark’s Roman readers, the term “gospel” was not a literary genre, but a proclamation of the good news of salvation that had irrupted into history through the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
I imagine it would have been difficult for the average Roman citizen to believe the Jesus that Mark presented. In believing Jesus they’d be stepping away from their pagan culture that was steeped in sexual excess through the worship of multiple Roman gods. They would be stepping away from their professional guilds and probably their jobs and even families. They would be stepping away from all that had previously defined them.
They’d be faced with a question we are faced with: Who am I? How do I define myself? Should we define ourselves by our job? Our family? Or our nation? Or by our faith in Jesus? There’s nothing wrong with supporting a great country, but the question is: What defines us? Jonah was so nationalistic that he did not want the Assyrians to be forgiven. Do you desire Islamic extremists to be forgiven? Or does your desire for national security place them in a column of destruction?
How does your support of your nation complement or impede your love for brothers and sisters in Christ who happen to be from Iran, or China, or wherever?