Posted by Kevin Megill on Wednesday, 9 September 1998, at 9:31 a.m., in response to For DAYS -- no one has ISSUES? Would anyone like to discuss how to teach a Gospel?, posted by BWSmith on Tuesday, 8 September 1998, at 9:22 a.m.
I read something really interesting recently about the book of Mark. Let's see if I can get this straight. The scholars out there can correct me where I'm wrong. (I'm not a pastor, I've never been to Bible school, I just like to read a lot.)
First, Mark probably got his information mainly from Peter while staying with him in Rome just before his martyrdom (Peter's). Peter had been preaching for years about the Lord -- His earthly ministry and the gospel in general -- and Mark presumably wanted to get that information recorded, especially if Peter was in danger of death.
The gospel of Mark itself sounds like Peter! It moves quickly and impulsively from one scene to another. It is centered around action, rather than musing over meanings like the book of John does. It concentrates on Jesus from the outside, so to speak -- it simply reports what he did and said, with no particular slant.
Here's the really fascinating part. Up until this century, many scholars tended to see Mark as a collection of important stories of Jesus' ministry with sort of "filler" material gluing it all together. But this "filler" material apparently has recently taken on new meaning since C.H. Dodd published a paper on it in the 1930's.
As background, I have to mention the kerygma. Scholars recognize that even before the written NT there must have been a somewhat standardized body of oral teaching that the apostles and early church leaders followed. Understanding what the specific content of this oral teaching was would help us to place the NT writings in historical context more accurately, and so many scholars have worked hard to piece it together from hints in the NT and other writings. This teaching has come to be called the kerygma, and it apparently centered around the birth, baptism, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.
Well, C.H. Dodd apparently did a study of all that "filler" material in Mark and found that it was a brief outline of the kerygma! This makes it look like what Mark and Peter did was to take the basic oral teaching (the kerygma) and fill in each point with illustrations from the life and ministry of Christ based on Peter's experiences.
Personally, I think it's kind of neat that even the so-called "unimportant" material in Mark was significant. Of course, we should have expected no less from inspired Scripture ...
Anyway, I got excited about this discovery in Mark and spent a few days planning out a hypothetical year of teaching through the gospels, one gospel a quarter.
Here's the way I'd do it:
Quarter 1: Mark.
Emphasis: Present the facts of Jesus' ministry.
Mark doesn't attempt to explain the mystical meaning of what Jesus said and did (like John), he doesn't emphasize the motivation and heart of Jesus (like Luke), he doesn't connect it to Jewish prophecies (like Matthew). He just presents the facts of Jesus' life, short and simple and sweet.
In Mark we see the following ideas:
-- The gospel is historical.
Sometimes we get wrapped up in introspection, trying to understand all the subtle nuances of the heart, of faith, of surrender to Christ, but the essence of Christianity is not found in the heart of believers but in the historical facts of Jesus' life, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection.
-- The gospel is simple.
Sometimes we get wrapped up in abstract theological realms (election/free will, for example), but at its essence the gospel is extremely simple, even children can understand it.
-- The center of the gospel is Jesus.
Sometimes we think the center of the gospel is a set of theories about the atonement or the precise meaning of grace or faith, but at its heart the gospel is about a person.
Quarter 2 -- Luke
Emphasis: the humanity and compassion of Jesus.
Luke wrote his gospel for the Gentiles. He emphasizes throughout the humanity of Jesus, his character -- he shows his compassion, his heart for the lost (for example, Luke 15). He probably got a lot of his information from Mary.
Luke presents Jesus' character -- he shows us how attractive he is as a person -- he draws us to him by letting us see his kindness and tenderness.
Quarter 3 -- Matthew
Emphasis: Jesus for the Jews.
Matthew places the coming of Jesus in the context of the promises of the Messiah and the coming kingdom of God for Israel. Almost everything mentioned in Matthew presents Jesus as inaugurating the gospel of the kingdom of God.
In Matthew, we see the bridge between Old and New Testaments (and that bridge is Christ).
Quarter 4 -- John
Emphasis: Jesus from the perspective of heaven.
John doesn't just tell us what Jesus said and did -- he explains what it all means. He draws aside the curtain of heaven and lets us see the earthly events with spiritual eyes, giving us insight into the spiritual battle from heaven's perspective. In John, we see Jesus in majesty and power as the Son of God; we also see his humanness as the true fulfillment of deep spiritual principles.
The quarters would progress naturally like this:
Quarter 1 -- Mark -- Jesus from the outside. Here is the introduction to the basic facts of Jesus' life and ministry.
Quarter 2 -- Luke -- The character of the man Jesus. Here we look behind the actions and words of Jesus to understand his heart, to see his love and compassion.
Quarter 3 -- Matthew -- The meaning of Jesus in historical context. Here we get more complicated, connecting this man Jesus with the OT prophecies and promises, understanding how His coming fits in with the overall plan of God through history.
Quarter 4 -- John -- Finding deeper meaning in Jesus' ministry. Here we take another look at all that occurred and learn to see it from heaven's perspective.
Each one builds on the knowledge of the previous quarter.