By Harris Franklin Rall
For one who has not simply read but has studied such a course as this, a review is a task of equal pleasure and profit. It is not necessary that it shall cover the whole course, or that we seek to recall everything we have learned. It is a great satisfaction, however, to call to mind the outlines of our work, to gather up its chief results, and to see how much we have gained. Such a review fixes results and assures us of permanent profit. But it does more. Now that we have covered the whole, we have gained a knowledge which lights up each single lesson and shows us its meaning more clearly than we could possibly see it at first.
The Plan of the Life
Before we review the events of Jesus' life, let us ask first as to its purpose and plan. Jesus came to bring the kingdom of God upon earth, and to make men ready for its coming. But how was he to do that? John's work was very simple; he announced that the Kingdom was at hand and called the people to repentance. Jesus saw a larger task.
1. It was his task to teach. The people did not know what the Kingdom meant. How could they know what the rule of God would mean when they did not know God? He must, therefore, show them God and what the life in the Kingdom meant.
2. His second task was to lead men into this life, to prepare them for the coming of the Kingdom. To this end he must call men to repent, and to turn to God in humility and trust.
3. He was to serve men and to save men. The Kingdom meant the overturn and overcoming of all evil. That was still in the future, but his presence meant a beginning of this. Such beginnings could be seen in the overthrow of physical and mental ills, in the cure of the sick and the demoniacs. It could be seen in the forgiveness of men, which meant their deliverance from the rule of sin. Healing and forgiving were therefore to be a part of his work in bringing in the Kingdom. It was a quiet beginning, like the hidden leaven or the almost invisible mustard seed, but it meant a real presence of God's rule.
4. He must train a group of men for the future work in the Kingdom. These men must be his special companions and receive his special instruction.
5. He must show himself to the people as Messiah, and call upon them to accept him and to follow him. He could not do this at first, for the people, with their earthly and political ideas of the Kingdom, were not ready. When and how he should proclaim himself was one of his problems.
Such, it seems, was the work to which Jesus looked forward at the beginning, and to these ends he remained true. We have seen how he looked to the Father for guidance as to the way by which he should reach these ends. Following that way, he saw that the road led to Jerusalem and death and that his death was to be his last and greatest service. From this study of Jesus' purpose and plan we turn to the life and note the great steps by which these were carried out. The numbers in parenthesis refer to the chapters.
The Beginnings — Chapters IV to VI
John. —Down by the Jordan a great prophet begins his work. He rouses all Israel by announcing that the long-looked-for Kingdom is at hand. Then, in searching word, he calls them to repent as the necessary preparation (IV).
The Baptism and Call. —In northern Galilee the boy Jesus has grown up in perfect fellowship with the Father, his heart full of God and the thought of the promised deliverance. He hears of this prophet John and of his call to repentance. He goes and listens. He knows this man is of God and offers himself for baptism. In that hour he receives a new baptism of the Spirit of God and the assurance that he himself is the looked-for deliverer (V).
The Wilderness. —Moved to the depths of his being, Jesus withdraws from men that he may face his great task in meditation and prayer. The question of how he shall do his work is the occasion for temptations, but also for his great decision. He will not win recognition by working wonders, such as casting himself from a temple pinnacle. He will not make any compromise in order to win power, for that would be worshiping the prince of this world instead of God. And he will not try to save himself from any peril, even from death by hunger. He will simply do his Father's will and trust (VI).
The Galilean Ministry — Chapters VII to XI
Not in Judaea, but in his own Galilee, Jesus begins his public work. We may ask two questions about this work in Galilee: What did Jesus do? What was the result?
Preaching. —Jesus begins his work simply and quietly as a traveling preacher, with headquarters at Capernaum. From village to village he goes teaching men about God and the Kingdom and the true life, and calling them to repent (VII).
Healing. —He takes up his work of service, especially to the sick and the demoniacs. While this stirs great enthusiasm, Jesus refuses to become a mere healer, or to perform wonders in order to win followers (VIII).
Forgiving. —At the same time Jesus carries on his ministry to the sinful. Among those who turn to him are social outcasts, like the tax gatherers and harlots, as well as many common folks who had given up trying to be religious because of the burden of endless rules imposed by the scribes. His association with these people rouses bitter hostility with the scribes and Pharisees (IX).
The Twelve. — To his teaching, healing, and forgiving Jesus joins a fourth work—training. He chooses a few men that they may go with him and that he may prepare them for future work (X).
Results in Galilee. —Such were Jesus' methods in this Galilean ministry. What were the results? (1) Great popularity with the people. This had no real religious depth, however. (2) Misunderstanding from his friends, his townspeople, and even his own family. (3) Bitter opposition from the leaders because he healed upon the Sabbath, disregarded their other rules, and associated with "sinners." (4) The love of many humble folks whom he had healed in body and soul, and the loyal trust of the twelve and other disciples (XI).
Days of Wandering — Chapters XII to XIV
We might call this "Days Apart with the Twelve," for that was the special significance of this period in the plan of Jesus.
In Gentile Lands. —Because of his failure with the people, his open break with the leaders, and the plots against his life, Jesus at last leaves Galilee. He wanders now in Gentile lands, although he does not begin a ministry to the Gentiles (XII).
The Confession. —There follow now weeks of fellowship and training for the twelve, whose fruit is seen in Peter's confession of Jesus as the Messiah. The simple incident is the turning point in Jesus' work (XIII).
Trial and Triumph. —Jesus at once begins to prepare the disciples for that end of suffering and death which he had already foreseen. It is a time of trial and crisis for Jesus. The fate of John and of other prophets has helped to make clear what his own end is to be. The "suffering servant" of Isaiah suggests how his own suffering and death may serve God's end and the saving of men. In need of guidance and strength he goes up into the mountain to pray with his three friends. The mount of conflict becomes a mount of triumph and transfiguration (XIV).
Facing Jerusalem — Chapter XV
The Last Journey. —From the far north Jesus turns toward Jerusalem, with but a brief visit to the old scenes in Galilee. He must offer himself as Messiah in the city of his people, though he knows it will mean death. The disciples protest, but they remain faithful and follow. On his way Jesus carries on his work of teaching and serving as before. He shows his disciples what is the law of life and the demand of the Kingdom: to gain one's life by giving it, to serve instead of ruling, and to count nothing one's own since it belongs to God and his kingdom (XV).
The Last Days — Chapters XVI to XXIV
The last days at Jerusalem cover but a week, from the Sunday of the entry to the Sunday of the resurrection— a week of conflict and suffering between these two days of triumph. But what crowded and momentous days make up this week! Instead of trying to recall the events in order, we will look at the important aspects of this week as it bears upon Jesus' work for the Kingdom.
1. Jesus offers himself to the people as Messiah. He does not do it in so many words, but he makes it clear for any who would see. He declares it in the acted parable of the entry (XVI), in the spoken parable of the vineyard (XVII), and finally before the council.
2. He warns and appeals, pointing out what is in store for the city (XVII).
3. He denounces the false leaders of the people. His attack upon the priests was in the cleansing of the temple (XVI) ; that upon the scribes and Pharisees was in repeated addresses (XVIII). In this again he is simply appealing to the people and trying to save them by turning them from their false leaders to the true Messiah.
4. He prepares his disciples for the future. He warns them of coming trials, urging them to prayer and watchfulness and faithfulness in service (XIX). He tells them again of his death, and tries to show them its meaning. In the symbols of bread and wine taken from the table at their last supper he sets forth how his life is to be given for them, and how his death is to establish a new covenant of God's loving purpose (XX).
5. He seals his devotion to men and his obedience to God in a night of conflict and a day of suffering and death. The struggle in Gethsemane, the injustice and mockery and shame of his trials before the council and Pilate and Herod, the agony of scourging, and the death on the cross, all come within but little more than half a day (XXI to XXIII).
6. He rises from the dead. The Christ whom his disciples remember is the Jesus of Nazareth, and they dwell upon his wonderful words and the memory of his gracious deeds; but they think of him, not as a friend in the past, but as risen Lord sitting upon the right hand of God, giving to men the Holy Spirit, coming again in triumph to reign (XXIV).
Directions foe Study
No chapter will reward study more richly than this review. Together with the next chapter which also looks back over our course, it gives the opportunity to sum up results and conclusions, to fix them in our minds for permanent enrichment, and to see their meaning for thought and life.
Read the Gospel of Mark. It can be done easily in an hour. It is the oldest Gospel, and the shortest. It gives the deeds of our Lord rather than his teaching, and it gives the arrangement of the events in order of time better than any of the others. If you cannot read every chapter, go through it and read the most important.
Make a rough outline for yourself as you read. Note at least the following main divisions: The Ministry in Galilee; Beyond the Borders of Israel (Mark 7. 24); On the Way to Jerusalem (see 10. 1 and 10. 32); and The Last Week. After this review of Mark's Gospel, go back and read this chapter.
Try to answer these two main questions: (1) What was the life task which Jesus set for himself? (2) By what steps did he accomplish his end?