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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Activity

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ACTIVITY.1. The period of our Lord’s activity is, in other words, that of His ministry, in the fulfilment of which His activity was exhibited. Its duration is a matter of dispute, relevant only so far as it compresses into one year the recorded details, or extends them to the traditional three. In any ease the records are in no sense exhaustive. Manifold ministries are expressed in few words (Matthew 4:23-24; Matthew 15:30, Luke 4:43; Luke 8:1, John 4:1 etc.); a complete account is beyond an Evangelist’s scope (John 20:30-31), and would be voluminous (John 21:25). This is said of things done ‘in the presence of the disciples’ (John 20:30), and we cannot suppose they saw or knew all that Jesus did. See art. Ministry.

In fact, we possess no more than specimens of Christ’s labours; but these, no doubt, are so selected as to give us a general idea of the whole. In this connexion the first Sabbath at Capernaum (of which a detailed account is given in Mark 1:21-34, Luke 4:31-43) has well been pointed to as a specimen day. Some details of the Son of Man’s toilsome life—wearying journeys (John 4:6), rising ‘a great while before day’ (Mark 1:35)—may be in themselves not much more than features of Oriental life: others—‘nowhere to lay his head’ (Matthew 8:20)—cannot be so explained. Day to Him meant work. The Father’s work was both a daily necessity (John 9:4) and His very ‘meat’ (4:34). Its substance was twofold: (1) the general work of evangelizing and healing; (2) the special work of training others, the Twelve (Mark 3:14; Mark 6:7 etc.) and the Seventy (Luke 10:1), and superintending their efforts. Similarly we may regard as twofold the conditions under which it was carried on: (1) the normal conditions, ever varying, of the day (Sabbath or week-day), the place (synagogue, Temple or open-air) and the hearers (multitudes or individuals); (2) the abnormal conditions, created by the presence of opponents (Matthew 12:10-14; Matthew 12:24-42 etc.), or of crowds who clung to Him sometimes for days together (Matthew 15:32, Mark 8:2). Under such pressure there was often no leisure to eat (Mark 3:20; Mark 6:31). Night did not mean sleep, but was given largely to prayer (Matthew 14:23, Luke 6:12; Luke 9:28; Luke 22:39-41), till His exhausted nature, finding opportunity for repose, could sleep undisturbed even by a storm (Mark 4:38, Luke 8:23). More than once His disciples (accustomed by their trade to night-watches, Luke 5:5) proved unequal to the strain of wakefulness (Luke 9:32, Mark 14:37; Mark 14:40). His friends, fearing a mental breakdown, came to restrain Him by force (Mark 3:21). It would be hazardous to estimate degrees of spiritual activity by the precarious test of numerical results (John 12:37-40), but it is noticeable that at one time He made more disciples than John the Baptist (John 4:1).

Certain limitations of Christ’s activity are clear and significant. (1) In scope it was confined to ‘the house of Israel,’ more especially its ‘lost sheep’ (John 1:31, Matthew 15:24). A few outsiders (Gentiles and proselytes) came within its range; but these were exceptional (Matthew 8:5-13; Matthew 15:22, Luke 17:16, John 4:9; John 12:20-21). (2) In development it was regulated by the unfolding of a Divine plan, frequently referred to by such expressions as ‘my hour’ (John 2:4; John 7:30; John 8:20; John 13:1 etc.), ‘my time’ (Matthew 26:18, John 7:6). (3) In operation it was morally conditioned by the existence (or otherwise) of a certain measure of receptiveness (Mark 6:5).

In reference to the source of His activity, it must be noted: (1) that it was always and essentially associated with times of retirement and prayer (Mark 1:35; Mark 3:13; Mark 6:46; Mark 9:2 etc.); (2) that its manifestation is directly ascribed to the power of the Spirit (Matthew 12:28, Luke 4:14 etc.); and (3) that, in its miraculous exercise, there is indicated (at least once) a perception that ‘power had gone out’ (Mark 5:30, Luke 8:46).

2. In the Christian course, energy is constantly commanded (Matthew 11:12, Mark 13:33, Luke 13:24). Yet it is worthy of remark that in Christ’s estimate of human character the active qualities seem sometimes to be depreciated in comparison with the passive, contemplative, and devotional. The latter attain to ‘the good part’ (Luke 10:38-42), and find their place in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12). See, further, Character (Christian).

3. Finally, the believer’s view of Christ is not, in the Gospels, primarily directed to His active labours. Such things are the record of an Apostle (2 Corinthians 6:4-5 etc.) rather than a Saviour: accordingly, if with the account of our Lord’s active labours we measure that of His Passion, both as to general proportion and minutiae of detail, there can be no doubt that in the Gospel picture the Passion, and not the activity, occupies the foreground.

F. S. Ranken.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Activity'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/a/activity.html. 1906-1918.

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