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Reviews | Jesus: Healer & Teacher

Jesus: Healer & Teacher

W. F. Barling

Paperback or e-book (ePub)

304 pages

Jesus: Healer & Teacher

The Christadelphian review (from January 2006)

The ministry of our Lord

THOSE who have read the late Brother W. F. Barling’s books Law and Grace and The Letters to Corinth will know what a keen analytical mind he possessed and how clearly and incisively he could write. Both those publications started life as addresses which were given to a Bible Study Class in Central London in the 1950s, when Brother Fred was in his 30s, and when he was very busy with many other things.

“Listen, O Isles, unto Me”
The Lord’s assumption of ultimate authority

“Then came Jesus from Galilee”
The antecedents of the Ministry

“Who went about doing good”
The character and significance of the miracles

“What is a man profited?”
Christ’s evaluation of human life

“Except your righteousness exceed …”
The rigours of the Christian way

“I will have mercy and not sacrifice”
The essentials of true worship

“That seeing they might not see”
The parabolic teaching of the Lord

“And he ordained twelve”
Christ’s training of his disciples

“I have a baptism to be baptized with”
Portents of Calvary

“Why tempt ye me?”
Christ and his gainsayers

“Obedient unto death”
The Saviour slain

Epilogue – “The Love of Christ constraineth us”
Shining as lights in the world

It comes as a welcome surprise therefore to discover that the same prolific writer gave another series of twelve lectures between September and December 1952, this time what he described as “A discursive study of the Ministry of our Lord based on the Synoptic Gospels”. They followed on from the “Law and Grace” series and the format was the same. Before each lecture duplicated summary notes were issued and afterwards there was opportunity for questions and discussion. Those notes became quite a collector’s piece and very occasionally would appear in the second-hand book list; but, because they were duplicated and fifty years old, they were not always that easy to read.

Now the notes have been published in paperback format and make a handsome 290-page book, including a scripture index. The twelve chapters are about the same length, as the talks must have lasted much the same time each week, and they deal with the entire life and death of the Lord in an insightful and careful way. The Contents page gives the clearest indication of the scope and coverage of this work (see box on right).

Thematic approach

Just as Brother Fred’s writing on the Law of Moses looks at themes and trends, so this book reviews the life of the Lord step by step through his ministry, with an easy grasp of detail when that is appropriate. And all sorts of little facts and observations come out along the way. It appears that it was customary for mothers to bring their infants to a rabbi for a blessing on their first birthday, which Brother Fred mentions because it shows that the mothers who did just that instinctively recognised the Lord’s authority. He traces many other occasions when Jesus asserted that authority both by the things that he said and did. He did not know the timing of his coming in glory, but he knew who knew and who did not know. That ignorance, he said, was shared by the angels and by the Son: only the Father knew the day and hour. Then Brother Fred adds this comment which is expressive of his keen observation and careful reading:

“The Angels, the Son, the Father – such was the order of ascent, signifying that Jesus claimed to be superior in status to the angels, not in some flamboyant way, however, but as though it was the most natural thing for him to do. The Kingdom was his, not the Angels’; there was therefore no real immodesty in his assuming their inferiority to himself, but a definite fitness that needed no laboured demonstration.” (page 15)

The growing popularity of Jesus is noted, as is the mounting opposition of those who opposed the Lord’s work and challenged his claims. Brother Fred shows the way in which the early teaching of Jesus challenged the outworn and opinion-based views of the Jewish establishment. He traces that clash of views and explains the dangers that beset the Lord from both sides – from followers and foes alike. So it was that Jesus began to teach only in parables: a format he had used early on as part of his teaching strategy now became an exclusive method. Brother Fred understands the confusion of the disciples, recorded in Matthew 13:10, to signify that they could not understand why Jesus had changed his teaching strategy. Why was he now going to teach the people only in parables (as Mark 4;33,34 indicates was the case)? Brother Fred gives an answer (it’s on page 150), and thereafter refers to this change of strategy as “the day of parables”. Whilst chapter 7 deals with the Matthew 13 parables in particular, there are several helpful comments about particular parables from then on.

There are plenty of other things to stimulate a reader in this well-written and carefully thought out book. Have you, for example, ever considered that when Jesus bade a prospective follower to “let the dead bury their dead”, he was calmly likening himself to the high priest (page 168)? Or has it occurred to you that when Jesus was praying at his baptism, he might have been asking his Father for the promised Holy Spirit, to enable him for the work he was about to undertake? Those suggestions are typical of the approach adopted throughout. The book ends with chapters which deal in a devotional way with the death of the Lord and the way in which his life should affect us and our behaviour. Here’s a final taster to encourage you to read and enjoy this book:

“The true faith is a faith that works, not in the bare sense that those who hold it also do their best to lead a life of righteousness conformable to it, but rather in the sense that it is the faith which actually imparts the power to lead such a life – in a word, the faith itself transforms them. Not until a man’s faith has this effect upon him, even though he is able to demonstrate it in every detail to be according to the Word of God, can it begin to be for him, personally, the true faith.” (page 270)

TECWYN MORGAN

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