The Gospel of Mark
Jesus was sent to earth to preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the people of Israel. This ministry was twofold: telling parables to the masses; and explaining "the secret of the kingdom of God"1 to his disciples.
Jesus' teaching ministry
Jesus' teaching ministry is summed up at the beginning of the account. His essential message was: "The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"2
He taught people in general using parables: "He did not say anything to them without using a parable."3 I can think of two reasons why he chose to teach in this manner:
- The use of metaphors aids memory retention; and
- Full understanding would require close attention.
Jesus gave the following reason, paraphrasing Isaiah
: "But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, 'they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!"4
It appears he was aware of the importance of his words
, and was not willing to 'throw his pearls to swine'
, so to speak
. Only those who truly desired to hear and
understand would be granted enlightenment
(see reason 2., above). This type of people was well aware that what he was
saying was important, and repeatedly marveled at his authority
Only to his disciples did he teach clearly and comprehensively. He was equipping them to follow him in the ministry - while he was called to minister to Israel, Israel was called to minister to the world (this is how it has always been for God's chosen people).
Jesus' miracle ministry
It appears that Jesus' mission on earth was to preach the good news of the kingdom of God; indeed, he said, "That is why I have come."5 However, he is also seen performing miracles and healing people; there are two reasons for this additional ministry:
- Compassion for the people of Israel; and
- Protection of his identity.
Time and time again, Jesus acted in this manner simply out of compassion. The people to whom he was sent were, like sheep, responding to him in the only ways they knew: they followed him everywhere; they asked him to solve their problems (physical and spiritual); and they delighted in his teachings. Jesus made it clear that, for a 'miracle' to occur, all a person needs is to "have faith in God"6. And while he was all too aware that their faith in God was sorely lacking (mostly due to miseducation), it was apparent that their faith in him was abundant - and he responded to their needs in whatever way he could, even when he was worn out.
Compassion accounts for all Jesus' miracles (physical healing, food provision, walking on water, etc.) except for the exorcism of 'evil spirits'. Although the people of Israel were not clear on Jesus' identity, the demons were very aware of his presence, and seem unable to have kept that knowledge to themselves. Whenever there was a confrontation, the evil spirit would invariably start screaming Jesus' identity (the Son of God) to all within earshot. For some reason, Jesus was not willing, most of the time, to draw attention to who he was in that regard, and so repeatedly cast the demons out of the area in an effort to silence them, thus protecting that information from becoming widespread.