Old Sunday School Lessons

Sunday School Lesson

June 19

A Day of Joy for the Remnant

 

Devotional Reading:Hebrews 11:29-39

Background Scripture:Zephaniah 3:9-20

 

Zephaniah 3:9-14, 20

 

9 For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent.

 

10 From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, even the daughter of my dispersed, shall bring mine offering.

 

11 In that day shalt thou not be ashamed for all thy doings, wherein thou hast transgressed against me: for then I will take away out of the midst of thee them that rejoice in thy pride, and thou shalt no more be haughty because of my holy mountain.

 

12 I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord.

 

13 The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.

 

14 Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.

 

20 At that time will I bring you again, even in the time that I gather you: for I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord.

 

Key Verse

 

Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. —Zephaniah 3:14

 

Lesson Aims

 

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

 

1. List characteristics of “the remnant of Israel.”

 

2. Describe specific qualities that people who are part of the remnant should demonstrate daily.

 

3. Suggest a specific way that he or she will demonstrate at least one quality from that list in the coming week.

 

 

Introduction

 

A. Saving the Remnant

 

Pieces of leftover fabric on bolts of cloth are often called remnants. When I checked the dictionary definition of that word, I found the following: small, fragment, scrap, unsold, unused, trace, and vestige. Some of these words have rather negative connotations or imply that a remnant is something that few people would care to have. Yet those who are skilled in sewing can find such pieces of cloth very useful. My wife used to make puppets with them; the youth in our church then used those puppets to present Bible-themed plays.

 

The existence of a remnant is a very important concept in God’s redemptive plan. The remnant is made up of those who remain to carry out His plan after His judgment has been administered.

 

B. Lesson Background

 

The prophet Isaiah states the crucial nature of the remnant of God’s people: “And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward: for out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this” (Isaiah 37:31, 32). At the heart of the concept of a remnant lies the grace and mercy of God. He is the one who takes the “leftovers” or “scraps,” people who might be considered of little or no value in the eyes of the world, and uses them to fulfill His grand design.

 

I. Purified People

 

                                                              (Zephaniah 3:9-14)

 

Today’s lesson begins immediately after the final verse of last week’s lesson. That study concluded on a note of judgment not only on God’s people but also on all nations. Even so, God promised His favor on “the remnant of the house of Judah” (Zephaniah 2:7). With today’s lesson, the focus shifts to a promise of hope.

 

A. Unified (vv. 9, 10)

 

9a. For then will I turn to the people a pure language.

 

Isaiah, when confronted in a vision with the holiness of the Lord, confessed himself to be “a man of unclean lips” and that he was living “in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5). One may consider the unpleasant words James uses in describing the untamable tongue: “It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). How different is the scene presented by Zephaniah: he pictures a people who speak a pure language. That phrase does not refer to proper grammar and syntax, but to holiness in what one says.

 

9b. That they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent.

 

To call upon the name of the Lord suggests turning to Him for the help that He alone can provide. Numerous passages of Scripture encourage this (compare Psalms 86:5; 145:18; Jeremiah 29:12; 33:3; 1 Peter 1:17; contrast Psalms 14:4; 53:4; 79:6). The prophet Joel links calling on the Lord’s name with deliverance or salvation (Joel 2:32). To call on a deity other than the one true God is idolatry (1 Kings 18:25).

 

The word people in verse 9a is plural in the Hebrew text, as in “peoples.” Thus Zephaniah pictures individuals from many nations calling on the Lord’s name in order to serve Him with one consent. The prediction conveys unity—those representing a variety of nations and languages engaged in a single purpose of serving the one God.

 

We may reflect on how this is a reversal of what transpired at the Tower of Babel. Until that arrogant effort, there was “one speech” of “the whole earth.” But God decided to “confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech” (Genesis 11:1, 7), because those building the tower were united against his purpose.

 

How to Say It

 

Babylon Bab-uh-lun.

 

Deuteronomy Due-ter-ahn-uh-me.

 

Diogenes Die-ah-jin-eez.

 

Ezra Ez-ruh.

 

Isaiah Eye-zay-uh.

 

Jeremiah Jair-uh-my-uh.

 

Sinope Suh-nawp.

 

Zephaniah Zef-uh-nye-uh.

 

What Zephaniah pictures here may be compared with the scene that John witnesses in Revelation 7:9: “a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues” gathered before the heavenly throne. It may be viewed as a prophetic glimpse of the “new Jerusalem” witnessed by John as “coming down from God out of heaven” (Revelation 21:2). Such a diverse gathering calls to mind God’s intent that His church reach and teach all nations with the gospel of His Son (Matthew 28:18-20).

 

What Do You Think?

 

What can you do to promote Christian unity?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding unity of purpose at the local level

 

Regarding unity of purpose beyond the local level

 

Regarding unity of practice

 

Other

 

10. From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, even the daughter of my dispersed, shall bring mine offering.

 

Zephaniah’s prophetic vision includes pure-language people from beyond the rivers of Ethiopia. This location is also known as Cush (example: Isaiah 11:11) and refers to the territory of African Sudan on a modern map, not the area that is modern Ethiopia. Any lands beyond this territory are likely unknown to the ancient Israelites. This is therefore another way of saying that even from the most distant and unfamiliar realms, people who have been dispersed will take part in the worship of the Lord by bringing an offering to Him. The word suppliants is another way of describing these worshippers; they are looking to the Lord to “supply” their needs.

 

The reference to those who are dispersed brings to mind again what occurred at the Tower of Babel. The Lord “scattered” the people from that place after they had determined not to scatter (Genesis 11:4, 8, 9). In the chapter immediately following that account, God called Abraham and made a covenant with him that included this promise: “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (12:3). With that statement, notes Paul in Galatians 3:8, God “preached before[hand] the gospel unto Abraham,” declaring His plan to bless “all nations” as He draws the scattered peoples of the earth back to Him.

 

The fatherly relationship God desires is seen in the word daughter. The phrases “daughter of Zion” and “daughter of Jerusalem” are used in the Old Testament to picture the fatherly relationship God has with the people therein (see Zephaniah 3:14, below). For dispersed peoples to be labeled this way says something about the special status the Lord bestows on them.

 

B. Trusting (vv. 11, 12)

 

11a. In that day shalt thou not be ashamed for all thy doings, wherein thou hast transgressed against me.

 

The Hebrew word translated ashamed is in the feminine singular form, indicating that Zephaniah is addressing the city of Jerusalem. (See comments in last week’s lesson on Zephaniah 3:2 concerning the use of the feminine gender to refer to cities.) That city has been the prophet’s primary concern in this chapter since verse 1. Previously he had called attention to those in Jerusalem who knew no shame for their sinful actions (3:5). But when one experiences a sense of shame or guilt for one’s actions, such a person is then in a position to receive the good news of God’s forgiveness. In Christ the shame can be replaced by the joy that accompanies the awareness of that forgiveness.

 

“Have You No Shame?”

 

A generation ago, the question above, when voiced, was often successful in changing bad behavior. The same question today would largely fall on deaf ears, as evidenced by all the shameful pictures and videos that people post of themselves on the Internet. Truly “the unjust knoweth no shame” (Zephaniah 3:5; last week’s lesson).

 

But there is another extreme to this issue of shame, as seen in certain countries and communities where an honor/shame culture predominates. From these we hear reports of “honor killings” in which family members murder one of their own for having brought shame on the family in some way. The murdered family member is often a woman, perhaps killed because she dated or married outside her religion or embraced Western values in some way. Even more shocking, she may be a rape victim who is victimized again (by being killed) to restore “family honor.” How tragic!

 

The United Nations reports some 5,000 honor killings in the world each year. These occur mostly in Islamic countries, but a small percentage also take place in Western democracies. We have sound biblical reasons for opposing strongly such an extreme view of honor/shame. But when we point fingers, we risk having more fingers—even our own fingers—point right back at our own culture’s seeming inability to feel any shame whatsoever for various behaviors.

 

The inhabitants of Jerusalem in Zephaniah’s day should have been ashamed of their unfaithfulness, but they were not. They mistakenly assumed God would not judge them in that regard. Western culture should take heed!—C. R. B.

 

11b. For then I will take away out of the midst of thee them that rejoice in thy pride.

 

A separation is to take place, similar to that which will occur on Judgment Day as the sheep, separated from the goats, are welcomed to share in the kingdom prepared for them “from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:31-34). One may look back to Zephaniah’s earlier description of those within Jerusalem who stubbornly refuse to obey or trust in the Lord and accept discipline from Him (Zephaniah 3:2). Pride is at the root of such behavior. Lack of humility and misplaced priorities always seem to go hand in hand.

 

11c. And thou shalt no more be haughty because of my holy mountain.

 

My holy mountain is another way of referring to Jerusalem (compare Isaiah 66:20; Daniel 9:16; Joel 3:17; Zechariah 8:3). Those who have taken pride in residing where the temple is situated and who see its presence as a guarantee against any kind of divine judgment (Jeremiah 7:1-15) are in for quite a shock. Haughtiness and holiness do not mix. This is why the prophet has already pleaded with the people to “seek meekness” (Zephaniah 2:3).

 

What Do You Think?

 

Where are Christians most in danger of becoming haughty? How do we address this problem?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Concerning church affiliation or membership

 

Concerning an area of service to the Lord

 

Concerning personal accomplishments

 

Other

 

12. I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord.

 

After the haughty are removed, the ones left are the afflicted and poor. Those whom society considers as scraps or rejects will be part of God’s remnant, because they shall trust in the name of the Lord. Such individuals are highlighted by Jesus in the first of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

 

James has the cure for pride: “Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness” (James 4:9). Such an attitude is counter to what modern culture promotes as the path to “fulfillment” or “self-actualization.” Indeed, those who live by the principles of the Scriptures may be despised by the world and considered fools according to its standards. But to humble oneself before the Lord is to possess a wealth that the world cannot take away since the world is not its source.

 

C. Unafraid (v. 13)

 

13. The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.

 

The first half of this verse is echoed in Revelation 14:5: “And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.” God has great plans for His remnant! In the place where they will reside, there will be plenty to eat and absolute safety. This means that the oppression that existed before (Zephaniah 3:1) will be no more.

 

How can such a perfect, ideal state exist? It cannot exist in this broken, sin-cursed world; it can come only by God’s initiative in creating “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13). Nothing impure or corrupt will be present in that place, for God will have eliminated the very source of evil: Satan and his cohorts. God will confine them for eternity in “the lake of fire and brimstone” (Revelation 20:10).

 

No threat of any kind will disrupt the harmony of God’s new creation. The scene calls to mind the picture of God as the shepherd of His people, caring for their every need and protecting them from danger. Perhaps Psalm 23:2 provides the best description: “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.”

 

Christians possess this assurance because Jesus is “the good shepherd” (John 10:11). For now, His presence sustains us through the brokenness that we experience in this world. But someday we will be in His home where the brokenness will be gone “for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

 

What Do You Think?

 

How can we keep from letting fear of the world control our attitudes and actions?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding ungodly influences on family members

 

Regarding national trends

 

Regarding financial security

 

Other

 

Looking for an Honest Man

 

Diogenes of Sinope (died 323 BC) was one of the founders of the Cynic school of Greek philosophy. He believed it was more important to live by one’s principles than to proclaim them. His ideas made his hometown citizens uncomfortable, so he migrated to Athens.

 

Diogenes challenged established customs and values with his questioning attitude. He argued that most people accepted established values unthinkingly when they should be questioning the true nature of the various evils in Greek life and culture. Perhaps the most famous anecdote about Diogenes’s life concerns his walking through the streets of Athens at midday carrying a lighted lantern. His explanation was that he was looking for an honest man!

 

Although not a person of the Bible, had Diogenes lived in Jerusalem in the days of Zephaniah, he might well have sided with that prophet! As Zephaniah walked the streets of that city, he saw only a remnant that was true to God. Only a remnant lived by the law that God had ordained. In both Old and New Testaments, the biblical writers challenge us to do more than give lip service to truth. Our Lord still looks for honest people whose godly lives confront the evils of a culture that ignores Him. Are you such a one?—C. R. B.

 

D. Glad (v. 14)

 

14. Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.

 

What is the appropriate response to the promises described thus far? Consider the imperatives in the verse before us: sing, shout, be glad, and rejoice. Such reactions result from a situation that stands in stark contrast with the pictures of judgment found at the beginning of this book. There only the sounds of howling and bitter cries are predicted (Zephaniah 1:10, 11, 14).

 

What Do You Think?

 

Who is an example of the kind of joy of which the Scriptures often speak? How does this individual’s example help you discover joy?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Biblical examples

 

Personal acquaintances

 

Christians about whom you’ve read or heard

 

Other

 

II. Precious Promises

 

                                                                  (Zephaniah 3:20)

 

Verses 15-19 (not in today’s text) offer additional encouraging words to the remnant. Verse 17 describes the Lord as singing, a beautiful way to picture the joy the Lord himself experiences as He blesses the faithful remnant. The coming day of the Lord will be a day of joy, not only for the remnant but for the Lord as well! The Father will take great delight in blessing His beloved daughter, His faithful people.

 

A. Gathered by God (v. 20a)

 

20a. At that time will I bring you again, even in the time that I gather you.

 

Once more we note a contrast between the conclusion and the beginning of this book. The prophet’s opening words relay God’s promise to “consume all things from off the land” in judgment (the verb consume appears three times in Zephaniah 1:2, 3). The prophet now closes his book with God’s promise to gather His faithful people. The “woe” with which chapter 3 begins is gone.

 

Certainly the return from captivity in Babylon, described in the early chapters of the book of Ezra, will fulfill this promise in part. God had previously given His people such “homecoming” promises (Deuteronomy 30:4; Micah 4:6, 7), but there is a wider, global impact in this chapter, as we have already seen. This impact is further highlighted in the second half of verse 20, next.

 

B. Praised by People (v. 20b)

 

20b. For I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord.

 

Zephaniah’s prophetic ministry takes place about 40 years before Jerusalem is destroyed in 586 BC, resulting in the people’s being exiled to Babylon. That captivity will end when Cyrus the Great of Persia decrees that any of God’s people who desire to return from captivity may do so (Ezra 1:1-4). But being released from Babylonian captivity will not mean the Jews are free of foreign domination, as history shows (compare Daniel 2:31-45; 7:1-8:25).

 

Zephaniah’s words may thus point to a deliverance more significant than one that is only political or national in nature. Just as the prophet speaks of a global day of judgment to come, so also here he may be viewing the future recognition of God’s people on a global scale at the final gathering to take place when Jesus returns. The release from the ultimate captivity of sin will be complete at that time, and God’s people will truly be home—not in an earthly sense, but home with the Father forever.

 

This promise forms another noteworthy contrast with the somber picture of the “day of the Lord” that is found back in Zephaniah 1:14-16, which was part of the text for lesson 1. There that day is characterized by gloom and doom. God also states, “And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord” (1:17). Now, however, God declares His intention to fulfill His promises of blessing before your eyes. It will be a sight to behold indeed! Jesus’ first coming was also a sight to behold, but not everyone had eyes to see (Matthew 13:13-15; 23:16-19, 24, 26). His second coming, however, will be seen by everyone, even by those who do not want to see it (Revelation 1:7).

 

What Do You Think?

 

What are some ways to improve your church’s witness among all people(s) of the earth?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Steps individuals can take

 

Steps families can take

 

Steps the congregation as a whole can take

 

Other

 

The phrase saith the Lord is a most encouraging way to conclude Zephaniah’s picture of the joyful future awaiting God’s remnant. We are assured that the prophet’s words are not the product of his own creativity. They do not reflect his personal hopes and wishes for things to turn out right in the end. His words are nothing less than the very words of Almighty God. Zephaniah’s hearers both then and now can rest assured that the Lord will bring His promises to pass in His time.

 

Conclusion

 

A. “When Are We Going Home?”

 

When I was 4 years old, my family moved to a house in the country that has remained “home” to this day. Although I was too young to remember it, my mother tells me that when she began to tuck me in bed on the first night in the new house, I suddenly sat up and asked, “Hey, when are we going home?” Mom assured me that I was home, that the house we were in was where we would be living. I had to adjust my thinking to that new reality.

 

When a person becomes a Christian, he or she “comes home” to God in a very real sense. Even so, we are not yet fully home with the Lord until Jesus returns. In the meantime, we take care not to get too attached to the present world, which is destined to pass away (2 Peter 3:10-13). If we have not yet adjusted our thinking to this future reality, we must do so! A greater homecoming awaits us, a homecoming that Zephaniah’s concluding words foreshadow.

 

B. Prayer

 

Father, it is at times so frustrating to live in a world in such constant turmoil from the curse of sin. We become impatient to be home with You and free from the brokenness of sin, dwelling in a place where all things are made new. We thank You that through Jesus there is a promise of such a place. Help us, we pray, to live patiently and faithfully until the time for our “homecoming.” We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

C. Thought to Remember

 

Homecoming day is not yet, but will be.

 

 

 

Kid’s Corner

God Will Make the World Right Someday

Zephaniah 3:9-14, 20

Sunday, June 19, 2016

 

Zephaniah 3:9-14 & 20

(Zephaniah 3:9) “For then I will give to the peoples purified lips, That all of them may call on the name of the LORD, To serve Him shoulder to shoulder.

Through Zephaniah and other prophets, God warned His people to repent or suffer devastating consequences. In ways similar to our day, the vast majority in leadership and those ruled by them refused to repent and trust in the true God. But Zephaniah concluded with words of encouragement for those who repented and the faithful who sadly suffered in a godless and unjust nation. No matter how decadent Judah became, some (a remnant) continued to call on the name of the LORD exclusively and worked side-by-side with other believers. God would purify the lives and lips of those people who knew they were imperfect but trusted in God, even as Isaiah saw himself as a sinner, but God cleansed his lips and made him a prophet (see Isaiah 6:1-7).

(Zephaniah 3:10)  “From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia My worshipers, My dispersed ones, Will bring My offerings.

Prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, some righteous Jews had moved to Egypt and elsewhere, but many righteous and the unrighteous Jews fled the city and went to Egypt after Jerusalem was destroyed in 587 BC. Zephaniah prophesied that those who were faithful or their faithful descendants would return to Jerusalem someday and truly worship God with their offerings. This was fulfilled the first time with the Jews return from exile in Babylon and other Jews returned from elsewhere (as the many Jews from many nations who celebrated the Festival of Booths on the Day of Pentecost also illustrates).

(Zephaniah 3:11)  “In that day you will feel no shame Because of all your deeds By which you have rebelled against Me; For then I will remove from your midst Your proud, exulting ones, And you will never again be haughty On My holy mountain.

Jerusalem was put to shame when the Babylonians destroyed the city in 587 BC, but their shame would only last during their 70 years of exile. During this time, God removed the boasters who gloried in themselves, and through Nehemiah and others God restored the city. Jerusalem’s sinful history repeated itself before and after Jesus was rejected, and Christians were martyred until the Romans destroyed the city in 70 AD. Even though Jerusalem is a city rebuilt within a restored nation of Israel, we await the Second Coming of Jesus Christ for the perfect fulfillment of God’s word through Zephaniah.

(Zephaniah 3:12)  “But I will leave among you A humble and lowly people, And they will take refuge in the name of the LORD.

After the fall of Jerusalem, Babylon took the surviving religious and political leaders into exile and left the meek and humble who trusted in the LORD in the city. These were a remnant, a small portion of people, who obeyed and worshiped the LORD even though the temple had been destroyed.

(Zephaniah 3:13)  “The remnant of Israel will do no wrong And tell no lies, Nor will a deceitful tongue Be found in their mouths; For they will feed and lie down With no one to make them tremble.”

This prophecy will be made completely true after Jesus Christ returns as He promised. It became partially true after Jesus sent the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost to indwell all who will believe in Him. It remains true today, but only partially among all true followers of Jesus Christ. By obeying the Scriptures as the Holy Spirit leads and empowers, believers in Christ are freed from slavery to sin and compulsion to sin; though true believers will sin sometimes until Christ returns. They will find their peace and security in Jesus Christ through all the trials of daily living, evil, and temptations.

(Zephaniah 3:14)  Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!

Zephaniah’s prophecy includes these words of hope for the faithful in the future. When Jesus the Messiah returns and separates the sheep from the wolves (or goats) His followers will sing in Jerusalem (Zion). They will be glad and rejoice with all their heart. Today, the followers of Jesus rejoice in their knowledge of Him and the promises that He made about His return when He will make all things new.

(Zephaniah 3:20)  “At that time I will bring you in, Even at the time when I gather you together; Indeed, I will give you renown and praise Among all the peoples of the earth, When I restore your fortunes before your eyes,” Says the LORD.

Many Jews scattered around the world today will continue to come to faith in Jesus the Messiah. When Jesus returns, faithful Christians will be gathered by Christ and believing Jews will be gathered together in Jerusalem, their ancestral home. Believing Gentiles from people groups around the earth will also be gathered there with Christ. God promises that everything believers have lost in this world for their faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to Him will be restored, and they will be given even more in their lives to come.

 

 

God Will Make the World Right Someday

Zephaniah 3:9-14, 20

Sunday, June 19, 2016

 

 “They will do no wrong; they will tell no lies. A deceitful tongue will not be found in their mouths. They will eat and lie down and no one will make them afraid” (Zephaniah 3:13).

 

Some think that the earth and the universe will carry on as it has forever, or at least for a few billion more years. Optimists think that the earth will get better and better, or can be made better and better with the right leaders and policies. Pessimists think that the earth is going from bad to worse and nothing can be done to stop people from declining into an immoral mess. But too many people, including optimists and pessimists, leave God out of their calculations. As revealed in the Bible, God has the final word in the matter. Zephaniah foretold that a great Day of the LORD would come someday, when those who insist on living in rebellion against God and goodness will be removed from the earth. After that Day, those faithful to God who dwell on the earth will do no wrong, tell no lies, and live unafraid. When Jesus the Messiah came the first time, He forgave sinners, cleansed them from sin, and sent the Holy Spirit to indwell believers. Today, believers can have God’s guidance to live right and His perfect love to help them overcome their fears. Jesus also promised to return after all the conditions for His return have been fulfilled. He will come and make all things right on earth. He will fulfill the prophecies of Zephaniah and others completely. Just as no one does wrong or tells lies in heaven, when Jesus returns and establishes the kingdom of God on earth everyone will love and obey the LORD.

 

Thinking Further

God Will Make the World Right Someday

Zephaniah 3:9-14, 20

Sunday, June 19, 2016

 

1. What did the LORD say He would do before the peoples called on His name?

 

 

2. How did God say the peoples would serve Him?

 

 

3. What kind of people did God say He would remove from Jerusalem? 

 

 

4. What kind of people did God say He would leave in Jerusalem?

 

 

5. When will God fulfill His promise in Zephaniah 3:20?

 

 

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

 

1. What did the LORD say He would do before the peoples called on His name?

Purify the lips of the peoples.

 

2. How did God say the peoples would serve Him?

Shoulder to shoulder — by working together as they served God. Furthermore, they would come and bring Him offerings.

 

3. What kind of people did God say He would remove from Jerusalem?

Arrogant boasters

 

4. What kind of people did God say He would leave in Jerusalem?

The meek and humble who will trust in the name of the LORD.

 

5. When will God fulfill His promise in Zephaniah 3:20?

When Jesus Christ comes again as He promised. We pray and wait for His coming

 

 

Word Search

God Will Make the World Right Someday

Zephaniah 3:9-14, 20

Sunday, June 19, 2016

 

 

D W T N A G O R R A L G Z T Z

C R V U V M A Y L O R D S P R

D O D N J E J Q F B S L V Q C

E N H C A E P Z P I J U I A K

C O S J S K C R G O R D E P J

E H I R C W A I K P E U C L S

I A S V E I G Z O R E O P K A

T U R M S P D R E J F O M U E

F G E E T A I T I F E U P L F

U H T W S M T H E V W R B L A

L T S I G A P R S C E M S U E

J Y A E C L I H K R U R C N O

C I O S V N V L V H O T S M K

M V B J G R W F B S M W K Z O

F T F S E S H O U L D E R U D

 

Purify

Lips

People

LORD

Shoulder

Rivers

Praise

Rejoice

Honor

Worshipers

Scattered

Offerings

Arrogant

Boasters

Deceitful

Haughty

Meek

Humble

 

 

True and False Test

God Will Make the World Right Someday

Zephaniah 3:9-14 & 20

Sunday, June 19, 2016

 

Circle the true or false answers. Correct the false statements by restating them.

 

1. The LORD will purify the lips of the peoples so they can call on the name of the LORD. True or False

 

2. Zephaniah said that scattered peoples will come and bring the LORD offerings.True or False

 

3. Someday, God will punish arrogant boasters and make them praise Him in Jerusalem. True or False

 

4. Zephaniah foretold that someday there will be no place for the meek and humble to live in Jerusalem. True or False

 

5. Zephaniah selected a very large remnant of Judeans who would trust in the LORD in Jerusalem. True or False

 

6. Zephaniah looked forward to a day when no one in Jerusalem told lies or did wrong. True or False

 

7. There will come a day when people will lie down and not be afraid. True or False

 

8. Zephaniah encouraged Jerusalem and told the people to look forward to a day when they would rejoice with all their heart. True or False

 

9. The LORD promised He would gather His scattered people and bring them home.True or False

 

10. Because His people had turned to fortune tellers, God said that their enemies would soon steal all their silver and gold. True or False

 

 

Answers to the True and False Test

Zephaniah 3:9-14 & 20

Sunday, June 19, 2016

 

1.  True

2.  True

3.  False

4.  False

5.  False

6.  True

7.  True

8.  True

9.  True

10. False

 

 

Closing Prayer

 

Father, it is at times so frustrating to live in a world in such constant turmoil from the curse of sin. We become impatient to be home with You and free from the brokenness of sin, dwelling in a place where all things are made new. We thank You that through Jesus there is a promise of such a place. Help us, we pray, to live patiently and faithfully until the time for our “homecoming.” We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday School Lesson

June 12

That Day Is Coming

 

Devotional Reading: Deuteronomy 8:11-18

Background Scripture: Zephaniah 3:1-8

 

Zephaniah 3:1-8

 

1 Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city!

 

2 She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the Lord; she drew not near to her God.

 

3 Her princes within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves; they gnaw not the bones till the morrow.

 

4 Her prophets are light and treacherous persons: her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law.

 

5 The just Lord is in the midst thereof; he will not do iniquity: every morning doth he bring his judgment to light, he faileth not; but the unjust knoweth no shame.

 

6 I have cut off the nations: their towers are desolate; I made their streets waste, that none passeth by: their cities are destroyed, so that there is no man, that there is none inhabitant.

 

7 I said, Surely thou wilt fear me, thou wilt receive instruction; so their dwelling should not be cut off, howsoever I punished them: but they rose early, and corrupted all their doings.

 

8 Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.

 

Key Verse

 

Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey. —Zephaniah 3:8

 

Lesson Aims

 

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

 

1. Identify the objects of the Lord’s condemnation and the reasons for it.

 

2. Explain why the topic of God’s judgment is as relevant today as it was to Zephaniah’s audience.

 

3. Tell specifically how the theme of God’s judgment will influence his or her daily living and message to an unsaved world.

 

 

Introduction

 

 A. A Special Date

 

June 12, 2016, the day on which this lesson is to be taught, is a special one for my wife and me—it’s our 40th wedding anniversary! Now, the reader should keep in mind that when I began work on this lesson it was early 2014, more than two years before the date’s arrival. As I was writing, I had no specific plans for celebrating the day. And of course there is no guarantee that either of us will still be living when the time comes. But there is no question as to when the date of our 40th wedding anniversary should be observed.

 

Getting ready for the day of the Lord is quite different, mainly because we do not know when that specific day will be. The prophet Zephaniah warned of a day of judgment in his own time, but he also prophesied a sweeping, global administration of divine judgment. Jesus provided an unmistakable warning regarding that final day: “Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36). This is not a date that one can circle on a calendar as we would “save the date” for an upcoming wedding. A better word of advice comes from Peter on the Day of Pentecost: “Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40).

 

In truth, the only way one can prepare for the coming day of the Lord is to be a devoted, day-by-day servant of Jesus. To be faithful to Him, even in the little things, is to be making big plans for that special day.

 

B. Lesson Background

 

Last week’s lesson introduced us to the man and message of Zephaniah. The focus of that study was on his opening warning of judgment on the sinful people of Judah. The prophet followed with a series of similar announcements of judgment on peoples and nations beyond Judah’s borders, including the Philistines (Zephaniah 2:4-7), Moab and Ammon (2:8-11), the Ethiopians (2:12), and Assyria (2:13-15).

 

Today’s lesson text refocuses the theme of judgment back on Judah, specifically the capital city of Jerusalem.

 

I. Rebellious City

 

                                                               (Zephaniah 3:1, 2)

 

 

 

A. Defiled (v. 1)

 

1. Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city!

 

Woe is a word in Scripture that often introduces oracles of judgment against individuals or nations. Several decades earlier, Isaiah declared a series of woes against God’s people (Isaiah 5:8-23); several centuries later, Jesus will utter a series of woes against the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23). Here the woe is directed against her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city. But which city?

 

We initially may think the reference is to the city of Nineveh, which is mentioned by name just three verses earlier. But the content and context of what follows indicate that the reference is to Jerusalem. The idealized “holy city” of Isaiah 52:1 is anything but!

 

“What Happens in Vegas ...”

 

Many fine Christians live in Las Vegas, Nevada, but the rest of the world doesn’t seem to be aware of that fact. Most people have been taught to think of Vegas as “Sin City.”

 

That reputation was promoted by the “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas” marketing campaign that began in 2003, as commissioned by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. One of the first video ads featured a sultry woman in a slinky dress inside a limousine as it departed from downtown Las Vegas. She ended up wearing a business suit and having her hair in a bun as she exited the limo at the airport on her way back home.

 

How to Say It

 

Ammon Am-mun.

 

Assyria Uh-sear-ee-uh.

 

Blagojevich Blah-goi-yuh-vich.

 

Ethiopians E-thee-o-pee-unz (th as in thin).

 

Judah Joo-duh.

 

Lamentations Lam-en-tay-shunz.

 

Nineveh Nin-uh-vuh.

 

Pentecost Pent-ih-kost.

 

Philistines Fuh-liss-teenz or Fill-us-teenz.

 

Reuben Roo-ben.

 

Zephaniah Zef-uh-nye-uh.

 

 

 

In other words, the message is that you can “let your hair down” in Vegas and become someone else for a while. But as you depart, you can leave your alter ego behind, no harm done! No one back home will know what wild things you did while in Sin City. When shown the ads, women in certain focus groups said they found them to be “empowering”—whatever that means!

 

In Zephaniah’s time, Jerusalem was a morally polluted city that oppressed its inhabitants in various ways. That was the cause for the wrath of God that destroyed the city in 586 BC. That should make us wonder: How much patience does God have left when He sees all the moral pollution and oppression that exist today?—C. R. B.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What are some ways to address the tragic spiritual condition of modern cities? What will be your part in this?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding involvement with existing ministries

 

Regarding creation of new ministries

 

Other

 

B. Defiant (v. 2)

 

2a. She obeyed not the voice.

 

Zephaniah proceeds with a litany of charges against the city. (In the Hebrew Old Testament, the feminine pronoun she is used of cities because they are considered to be “mothers” of those who live within them; see 2 Samuel 20:19.) The voice not obeyed is the Lord’s voice, the only one to whom His people should be giving their attention. As one of the Lord’s prophets, Zephaniah speaks for Him. But it appears that his words fall on deaf ears.

 

2b. She received not correction.

 

The fact that Jerusalem received not correction highlights the people’s arrogance toward God. They are unwilling to be disciplined by the Lord’s standards. The Hebrew word translated correction occurs 30 times in the book of Proverbs, often translated there as “instruction” (examples: Proverbs 1:8; 4:1). In its sense of “chastening” (as used here), it describes a result of living by the principles of wisdom (compare Proverbs 1:2, 3; 3:11, 12).

 

What Do You Think?

 

How can we discern and accept the Lord’s correction in various circumstances?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

In times of personal struggle

 

In times of family crisis

 

In response to seemingly unanswered prayer

 

When asked by others during their struggles

 

Other

 

2c. She trusted not in the Lord; she drew not near to her God.

 

To refuse to trust in the Lord is to ignore the admonishment to do so that appears throughout Scripture (examples: Psalm 20:7; Proverbs 3:5, 6; Isaiah 26:3, 4; Hebrews 2:13). To fail to draw near to God is to spurn one of His most gracious invitations (Isaiah 55:1-7; Hebrews 7:19). Zephaniah’s list of charges reveals the rejection of some of the most essential and foundational attitudes that are to characterize God’s covenant people. The city’s spiritual condition is tragic indeed.

 

II. Ruthless Leaders

 

                                                                (Zephaniah 3:3, 4)

 

 

 

A. Civic (v. 3)

 

3. Her princes within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves; they gnaw not the bones till the morrow.

 

Here Zephaniah cites a major contributor to Jerusalem’s sad spiritual state: the leadership is corrupt. The phrase her princes likely refers to kings of Judah and their royal sons. After the death of godly King Josiah (see last week’s Lesson Background), none of the four kings who rule Judah until its fall in 586 BC—three of whom are sons of Josiah—are considered righteous (see 2 Kings 23:30-24:20). Here they are portrayed as lions on the prowl, roaring as they seek to pounce upon and devour their prey.

 

Corruption extends to the city’s judges. These men are supposed to be just and fair. Instead they are ruthless, like wolves that stalk their prey under cover of darkness. Such judges consider themselves to be above the law.

 

The phrase they gnaw not the bones till the morrow describes the thoroughness of these judges’ heartless efforts. When they are finished devouring their victims, nothing but bones remain. Jesus will use similar language of the religious leaders of His day, of men who “devour widows’ houses” (Luke 20:47).

 

No Moral Compass

 

For several years, the state of Illinois suffered the infamy of being the only state in America with two former governors serving prison terms at the same time. They were George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich. Ryan, governor from 1999 to 2003, was convicted of racketeering; Blagojevich, governor from 2003 to 2009, was convicted on various corruption charges, including trying to sell President Obama’s former seat in the U.S. Senate.

 

Two other Illinois governors sent to prison were Dan Walker, governor from 1973 to 1977, and Otto Kerner Jr., governor from 1961 to 1968. This isn’t meant to pick on Illinois, however. All states and nations have had leaders who disgraced themselves by misusing the power of their offices.

 

The problem seems to have been even worse in ancient Jerusalem, the city that was supposed to be ruled by the laws of God. Zephaniah’s description of her corrupt leaders boggles the mind. Of all the people who should have known better! With elections approaching, how high do morals and ethics count on your list of criteria regarding which candidates will receive your vote?—C. R. B.

 

B. Spiritual (v. 4)

 

4a. Her prophets are light and treacherous persons.

 

While the previous verse focuses on those who might be termed the civic leaders of Jerusalem, here Zephaniah indicts the spiritual leaders. Prophets should speak God’s truth, but these men do not. The Hebrew verb translated light is rare. It occurs in Judges 9:4, where it describes certain people who lack moral compunction as “light persons,” and in Genesis 49:4, where it characterizes the man Reuben as “unstable.” A closely related word is used in Jeremiah 23:32 to describe the “lightness” of “them that prophesy false dreams.” These usages convey a sense of recklessness. It means nothing to these treacherous persons to trivialize God’s Word.

 

4b. Her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law.

 

The sanctuary cannot remain holy when unholy priests officiate there. The prophet Ezekiel will later describe some of the hideous, disgusting practices that are taking place in the temple (Ezekiel 8). Such activities will eventually result in the Lord’s glory departing from there (8:6; 10:15-19).

 

Using the same two Hebrew words that Zephaniah uses, Ezekiel will also have his say regarding how the priests have treated the law: “Her priests have violated my law” (Ezekiel 22:26). And as Ezekiel will go on to note in that same passage, it is not just the law that suffers from such shameful actions by the priests; the Lord himself is “profaned among them.”

 

The words of the prophet Jeremiah, a contemporary of Zephaniah, offer a fitting summation of Judah’s plight: “A ... horrible thing is committed in the land; the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?” (Jeremiah 5:30, 31). With such leaders guiding God’s people, can His judgment be far behind?

 

What Do You Think?

 

In addition to praying, what can we do when leaders fail to carry out their responsibilities?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding the local church

 

Regarding church leaders on the national stage

 

Within the home

 

III. Righteous God

 

                                                                 (Zephaniah 3:5-8)

 

 

 

A. Every Day (v. 5)

 

5. The just Lord is in the midst thereof; he will not do iniquity: every morning doth he bring his judgment to light, he faileth not; but the unjust knoweth no shame.

 

In contrast with how far God’s people have strayed from Him, God himself has never moved one inch from His own holy standards. The fact that He is in the midst implies that He sees everything that goes on among His people and their leaders. It is similar to how Jesus describes himself as walking “in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks” (Revelation 2:1), which represent the seven churches (1:20). He knows their works and says so at the beginning of each of His seven messages (2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15).

 

Zephaniah’s statement every morning doth he bring his judgment to light is similar to that of Lamentations 3:22, 23, which proclaims that the Lord’s “compassions ... are new every morning.” God works among His people on a daily basis, though admittedly we as finite human beings may not be able to recognize every such instance of judgment or compassion. The final Day of Judgment will be the consummation of what God the righteous judge has been doing all along.

 

Everything about the just Lord stands in sharp contrast with the unjust who knoweth no shame. In their minds, they have outgrown the need for God’s straitjacket of right and wrong standards. Like many today, they do not sin secretly, but rather they gloat and boast over actions of which they should be ashamed. As Jeremiah astutely puts it, “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush” (Jeremiah 6:15).

 

What Do You Think?

 

How can shame be used to honor God today?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

In witnessing

 

In disciplining children

 

In preaching and teaching

 

In holding a fellow believer accountable

 

In standing up for a specific moral issue

 

Other

 

B. Every Nation (v. 6)

 

6. I have cut off the nations: their towers are desolate; I made their streets waste, that none passeth by: their cities are destroyed, so that there is no man, that there is none inhabitant.

 

Thus far this chapter has focused on the judgment that awaits God’s covenant people; the promise to cut off in the context of judgment was seen also in last week’s lesson (Zephaniah 1:4). But by no means is this judgment limited to them. Though the nations have built towers as a means of defense, such efforts are useless in withstanding divine judgment (1:16, 17).

 

A complete desolation is pictured here: their cities are destroyed, and no inhabitants remain. Consider, for example, what the prophet Isaiah declared concerning mighty Babylon, which arose after his day: “And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation” (Isaiah 13:19, 20). Isaiah’s prophecy comes to pass, as does Zephaniah’s.

 

C. Evil City (v. 7)

 

7. I said, Surely thou wilt fear me, thou wilt receive instruction; so their dwelling should not be cut off, howsoever I punished them: but they rose early, and corrupted all their doings.

 

Here the Lord’s words appear to be redirected to Jerusalem, since the pronoun thou is a feminine singular in Hebrew, as it would be if the city is addressed. God expects more from the city of David, the holy city, the home of the temple. Surely its inhabitants will not reach the point where they will have to be cut off in judgment! Surely they will be willing to receive instruction from the Lord!

 

 

 

But no—if anything, they are as determined as ever to refuse to listen. So eager are they to pursue wrongdoing that they rise early to do so. Of course, this will not escape the attention of the Lord, who “every morning” carries out His judgment (v. 5, above).

 

What Do You Think?

 

What place should fear of God have in our daily walk with Him? Why?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding times when we seek His will

 

Regarding times when we carry out His will

 

Considering “do fear” passages (1 Peter 2:17; Philippians 2:12; Revelation 14:7; etc.) in relation to “no fear” passages (Luke 12:32; 1 John 4:18; Revelation 1:17; etc.)

 

D. Extensive Judgment (v. 8)

 

8. Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.

 

Sometimes in Scripture the command to wait upon the Lord is meant to offer comfort and encouragement to those who are enduring an especially trying experience. Two notable examples of this are found in Psalms 27:14; 37:7. Here, however, the command to wait ye upon me is associated with God’s intention to rise up to the prey, that is, to carry out His judgment. Thus individuals such as the leaders of God’s people who have treated people as prey (Zephaniah 3:3, above) will end up finding themselves to be the Lord’s prey in turn.

 

But God’s judgment, as He has earlier stated in verse 6, will also encompass the nations and the kingdoms of all the earth. The language of pouring out judgment is similar to that found in Revelation 16 concerning the vials of God’s wrath that are to be poured out upon the earth.

 

God also speaks in this verse of the fire of my jealousy. God’s jealousy should not be viewed in the same way we think of jealousy as being wrong for people, which implies covetousness. Just as God’s wrath is His holy anger against sin, His jealousy reflects His holy zeal for what is right and His passionate hatred of what is wrong. He is jealous in a positive sense for His people, desiring only what is good for them and despising anything that threatens their relationship with Him.

 

God earnestly desires that His people choose what is right and remain faithful, and He is deeply grieved when they do not. But at the same time, He allows people to choose whether or not they will obey. Judgment awaits those who turn from God and spurn His mercy, but rich blessings are promised to those who remain faithful. We will consider some of those blessings in next week’s third and final study from Zephaniah.

 

Conclusion

 

 

 

A. Preparing for Finals

 

The late comedian George Carlin is quoted as saying, “I was thinking about how people seem to read the Bible a whole lot more as they get older; then it dawned on me—they’re cramming for their final exam.” In the process of receiving certain degrees as part of my education, I learned what it’s like to have to prepare for a major exam.

 

Prior to receiving my Master of Divinity degree, I had to prepare for an oral examination, during which I was to be questioned about various subjects that were part of my field of study. Some years later, I had to prepare for a series of written examinations as I neared the completion of a doctoral program. Believe me, there were plenty of “butterflies,” especially the night before these exams were administered!

 

Even so, things were made easier by the fact that every exam was scheduled for a certain day or a series of days. I knew exactly when each was to occur and could plan my preparation accordingly. I shudder to think what my frame of mind would have been if a test could have happened at any time and I had to live “on pins and needles” knowing that any night I could receive a phone call saying, “Tomorrow’s the day of the test. Be here at 8:00 a.m.!”

 

However, we don’t know the day or the hour when we will take God’s “final exam.” Such a day is indeed coming—a Day of Judgment—and no one will be exempt (2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:12). But even though we do not know when that day will be, we do not have to live in a constant state of dread regarding whether or not we will “pass our final.” We know that we can stand before the Lord, the righteous judge, on that day, because Jesus took the penalty for our sins upon himself at the cross (1 Peter 2:24).

 

As 1 John 2:1 tells us, we have an “advocate” to speak up on our behalf, “Jesus Christ the righteous,” so that we will have nothing to fear when we face the ultimate judge. We can rest assured knowing that the “wages of sin” (Romans 6:23) have been paid in full. As Elvina M. Hall (1822-1899) put it in these oft-sung words:

 

 

 

Jesus paid it all,

 

All to Him I owe;

 

Sin had left a crimson stain,

 

He washed it white as snow.

 

 

 

Even so, we are cautioned by the fact that Judah, the nation of God’s covenant people, is the first nation mentioned by name in Zephaniah’s judgment list (Zephaniah 1:4). This calls to mind the truth in 1 Peter 4:17: “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God.”

 

The promise of a coming day of the Lord should never produce a sense of smugness among Christians that all the sinners will get their just deserts in the end. The promise of that day should instead move us to remain continually humble before the Lord and to be more committed than ever to helping others prepare for the day of the Lord.

 

B. Prayer

 

Father, we recognize that Your wrath against sin is real and that our sin is real. But just as real is Your grace demonstrated in Jesus’ payment for our sins on the cross. We praise You for being not only just but also merciful. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

C. Thought to Remember

 

Prepare for the final day every day.

 

 

 

Kid’s Corner

God Dispenses Justice Every Morning

Zephaniah 3:1-8

Sunday, June 12, 2016

 

 

Zephaniah 3:1-8

 

(Zephaniah 3:1) Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled, The tyrannical city!

God described the capital of the kingdom of Judah, which describes the leadership of many in many nations around the world today. God judged Jerusalem in 587 BC, but God will also judge cities and nations that contain leaders who oppress others in a variety of ways, which includes enacting and enforcing unjust laws. God will judge those who oppress people who live outside of a nation’s boundaries. God will judge the rebellious, including those who practice lawlessness and refuse to enforce just laws. The defiled are those who have turned from God to immoral practices.

(Zephaniah 3:2)  She heeded no voice, She accepted no instruction. She did not trust in the LORD, She did not draw near to her God.

God went on to describe Jerusalem, but we can easily think of government leaders in a variety of nations that obey no one and no laws; they only do what others tell them or what is of selfish advantage to them and other leaders or groups. No matter what God does or says, or what the just do and say, they ignore all efforts to influence them to rule justly and lawfully. They do not trust in the LORD, but worship creation instead of the Creator. They do not draw near to God, but try to exclude all references to God in public life and in the governing of the nation.

(Zephaniah 3:3)  Her princes within her are roaring lions, Her judges are wolves at evening; They leave nothing for the morning.

The government in Jerusalem, as in many nations, was filled with people who threatened others and devoured the earnings of those they ruled over instead of shepherding the people as good leaders. Night and day they plotted with others like themselves to steal the lives and livelihoods of those they ruled over. To save the godly, these leaders needed to repent or be removed from Jerusalem, and because they would not repent God removed them and will remove others like them in His time.

(Zephaniah 3:4)  Her prophets are reckless, treacherous men; Her priests have profaned the sanctuary. They have done violence to the law.

God not only condemned and threatened to punish (and did and does punish) secular political leaders; God also did and does the same to religious leaders, especially those who profane God’s name and twist the meaning of God’s laws. An unprincipled person does not follow sound judgment or obey God’s laws or the moral law or natural law, but does what his fleshly nature dictates. They do things that harm others to fulfill their selfish desires. The true prophets of God tried to call the political and religious leaders and people to repent. Instead, false prophets supported lawless political and religious leaders and taught principles and laws contrary to the laws of God in the Scriptures. To do violence to the law is to so twist the law that it no longer means what the lawgiver meant or intended, whether that lawgiver is God in the Bible or a just government that made the law. Priests and religious leaders profane the sanctuary when they practice rituals contrary to the Bible and other immoral practices inside or outside the sanctuary, even encouraging others to do likewise.

(Zephaniah 3:5)  The LORD is righteous within her; He will do no injustice. Every morning He brings His justice to light; He does not fail. But the unjust knows no shame.

The horrible sins of the political and religious leaders in Jerusalem were not because God was not present among His people. Every day God was dispensing justice in the nation; every day God was doing what was right and wise; but the unrighteous continued to abuse His grace and mercy. God was against those who had turned from Him and refused correction, and all God did was righteous; God did no wrong in the city. No one could justly blame God for what evil and rebellious leaders did. God acted justly, but the unjust and immoral showed no sense of shame for their evil deeds and continued down their path to ultimate destruction.

(Zephaniah 3:6)  “I have cut off nations; Their corner towers are in ruins. I have made their streets desolate, With no one passing by; Their cities are laid waste, Without a man, without an inhabitant.

Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire that destroyed the kingdom of Israel in 722 BC. The Babylonians destroyed Assyria and Nineveh in 612 BC, and began the systematic destruction of the neighboring nations around the kingdom of Judah. God used the Assyrians and Babylonians to bring just judgment on His rebellious people and leaders as well as the evil kingdoms around them. Through Zephaniah, God reminded Jerusalem and Judah of previous punishments to lead the people to repent, but they refused to turn back to God and be saved. Therefore, God did what He promised and brought judgment upon them.

(Zephaniah 3:7)  “I said, ‘Surely you will revere Me, Accept instruction.’ So her dwelling will not be cut off According to all that I have appointed concerning her. But they were eager to corrupt all their deeds.

In spite of God’s warnings and what they should have learned from Zephaniah’s teaching from historical precedents, the kingdom’s leaders were still eager to act corruptly in ways similar to the political and religious leaders of many nations today. There is no place of refuge for those who refuse correction and persist in acting contrary to God’s laws in order to enjoy the benefits of their corruption. People today need to heed Zephaniah’s warnings, because God is the same as He was in Zephaniah’s day.

(Zephaniah 3:8)  “Therefore wait for Me,” declares the LORD, “For the day when I rise up as a witness. Indeed, My decision is to gather nations, To assemble kingdoms, To pour out on them My indignation, All My burning anger; For all the earth will be devoured By the fire of My zeal.

Zephaniah not only pointed to a day when Judah and the nations that surrounded her would be judged and punished but also to a day yet to come when the whole world will be consumed by God’s just judgment and God will save the faithful. A coming judgment by fire is often foretold in the Book of Revelation (for examples, see Revelation 18:8 and Revelation 20:9). Between now and the day of God’s just judgment, God tells believers to remain faithful to Him and wait on the Lord to do what He has promised.

 

 

 

God Dispenses Justice Every Morning

Zephaniah 3:1-8

Sunday, June 12, 2016

 

“The LORD within her is righteous; he does no wrong. Morning by morning he dispenses his justice, and every new day he does not fail, yet the unrighteous know no shame” (Zephaniah 3:5).

Zephaniah lived and preached in Jerusalem, a city similar to many cities today. He condemned the city’s leaders as oppressors and the people as rebellious. Because these city dwellers did not trust in God or draw near to God, they had degenerated to the level that leaders and citizens obeyed no one, nor would they accept correction from God or those who sought to promote justice and righteousness. He compared city leaders to roaring lions and evening wolves who devoured all they could from those under them. He condemned religious leaders as unprincipled and treacherous; furthermore, they twisted the law to satisfy their lusts and selfish interests. Imagine living in a city similar to Jerusalem in Zephaniah’s day! Yet, in spite of living in such an unjust and unrighteous place, that must have deeply grieved those who trusted in God and sought to live close to God, Zephaniah gave believers the assurance that despite all appearances God is righteous and He dwelt in the city. Though people might wrong one another, God does no wrong. Though people may not see into the spiritual dimension, each day God dispensed His justice in the city and He would not fail, even though the unrighteous were not ashamed of their behavior. Eventually, God had to destroy Jerusalem because the vast majority in the city “were still eager to act corruptly in all they did” (Zephaniah 3:7). Someday, every city that behaves similar to Jerusalem in Zephaniah’s day will also be destroyed, but those who repent and trust in God will be saved.

 

 

Thinking Further

God Dispenses Justice Every Morning

Zephaniah 3:1-8

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Name ____________________________

 

 

1. What do you think it would be like to live in a city today similar to Jerusalem as described by Zephaniah?

 

 

2. What do you think it would be like to live in a city today where almost all the ministers in most of the churches denied the Bible was true, ignored the teachings of Jesus, and were unprincipled, treacherous and similar to the prophets and priests as described by Zephaniah?

 

 

3. Why do you think the unrighteous in Jerusalem ignored God and the preaching of ephaniah?

 

 

4. Consider the city or town where you live, can you believe that God is righteous within the city or town where you live?

 

 

5. When you think about what you see on television or read in the news, do you see examples of some people who are “eager to act corruptly in all they do”? Without Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior in your life, how might you act?

 

 

 

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

 

1. What do you think it would be like to live in a city today similar to Jerusalem as described by Zephaniah?

It would be like living in a city where most of the residents were oppressed by powerful and threatening people, even by evil business, political, and religious leaders. It would be like living in a city where more and more people openly practiced more and more immoral behaviors contrary to the Bible’s teachings. It would be like living in a city where more and more leaders and people disobeyed good laws, and where almost everyone ignored or ridiculed the efforts and warnings by those who trusted in the true God to change their behavior and turn to an obedient faith in God.

 

2. What do you think it would be like to live in a city today where almost all the ministers in most of the churches denied the Bible was true, ignored the teachings of Jesus, and were unprincipled, treacherous and similar to the prophets and priests as described by Zephaniah?

It would be difficult to find a church to attend or take your children to attend. It would be disheartening to see the ministers and churches simply going along with and/or promoting the decadent culture and immoral leaders in church and government.

 

3. Why do you think the unrighteous in Jerusalem ignored God and the preaching of ephaniah?

They were not ashamed of their behavior (see Zephaniah 3:5). They did not believe that God had really punished Israel and other nations, so God would not punish them. They thought they could do very well ignoring God and those who love God who warned them.

 

4. Consider the city or town where you live, can you believe that God is righteous within the city or town where you live?

Yes. Only because the Bible tells me that was the case with Jerusalem, and our righteous God is everywhere present. I do see some examples of God dispensing justice.

 

5. When you think about what you see on television or read in the news, do you see examples of some people who are “eager to act corruptly in all they do”? Without Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior in your life, how might you act?

Yes. Unhappily, the same or similar. All sinners need Jesus to save them from the consequence of sin and continuing to sin.

 

 

 

Word Search

God Dispenses Justice Every Morning

Zephaniah 3:1-8

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Name ____________________________

 

 

D R O H Q X C G T R N V I F S

S E P T J E R U S A L E M S L

E C L R M O V A U V K Q N V A

Z N I P O C P Z R G M O R F I

I E A J I P S P T A I B L Y C

F L X F A C H Y R L H N S T I

A O D M O K N E E E R Y Q M F

G I X Z P R O I T B S J K E F

L V M H L M P U R S O S C H O

Y R A U T C N A S P V G O D F

X D E F I L E D Y T N F Q R G

T R E A C H E R O U S U M W S

J A H R S E V L O W X L Q D U

S D M C O R R E C T I O N B Z

Z R U L E R S L R B F U K F S

Oppressors

Rebellious

Defiled

Jerusalem

Correction

Trust

God

Obeys

Officials

Rulers

Lions

Wolves

Prophets

Unprincipled

Treacherous

Sanctuary

Profane

Violence

 

 

 

True and False Test

God Dispenses Justice Every Morning

Zephaniah 3:1-8

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Name ____________________________

 

Circle the true or false answers. Correct the false statements by restating them.

 

1. Because the priests could be trusted, the righteous in Jerusalem were happy. True or False

 

2. The people in Jerusalem obeyed all Zephaniah taught them to do. True or False

 

3. The people in Jerusalem needed to draw near to God. True or False

 

4. The leaders in Jerusalem were like evening wolves that devoured everything they seized. True or False

 

5. The prophets in Jerusalem were unprincipled and treacherous. True or False

 

6. The priests in Jerusalem tried to influence people to obey the Law of God in the Scriptures. True or False

 

7. Though most in Jerusalem were rebellious, the LORD in Jerusalem was righteous, True or False

 

8. Zephaniah declared that the LORD dispensed His justice in Jerusalem. True or False

 

9. The unrighteous were ashamed of their behavior before the LORD. True or False

 

10. God will pour out His fierce anger on those who remain rebellious and refuse correction. True or False

 

 

 

 

 

Answers to the True and False Test

Zephaniah 3:1-8

Sunday, June 12, 2016

 

1.  False

2.  False

3.  True

4.  True

5.  True

6.  False

7.  True

8.  True

9.  False

10.True

 

 

Closing Prayer

 

 

Father, we recognize that Your wrath against sin is real and that our sin is real. But just as real is Your grace demonstrated in Jesus’ payment for our sins on the cross. We praise You for being not only just but also merciful. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday School Lesson

May 29

Joyous Faith

 

Devotional Reading:Isaiah 44:23-26

Background Scripture:Luke 19:1-10

 

Luke 19:1-10

 

1And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.

 

2And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.

 

3And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.

 

4And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.

 

5And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.

 

6And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.

 

7And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.

 

8And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.

 

9And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.

 

10For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

 

Key Verse

 

The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. —Luke 19:10

 

Lesson Aims

 

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

 

1. Tell how Zacchaeus came to be declared “a son of Abraham.”

 

2. Suggest how to demonstrate the faith of Zacchaeus.

 

3. Commit to an extravagant act of faith to benefit another.

 

 

Introduction

 

 A. The Bullied Get Revenge

 

The past few years have seen a great deal of attention on the problem of bullying. We all remember bullies from our growing-up years: girls and boys who picked on those seen as weak or shy. Bullies sometimes did this to extort money or possessions, sometimes to gain status among peers, sometimes simply for the perverse enjoyment of tormenting others. A new twist on this in the twenty-first century is the extension of bullying via social media. One tragic result is highly publicized suicides of vulnerable adolescents.

 

The other side of bullying has been the payback factor, with instances of mass shootings in schools attributed to boys seeking revenge for having been bullied. But revenge for bullying can come in other, less violent ways. Sometimes an adult who was bullied as a child will use a position of influence in the business world to exact delayed revenge in various ways. For example, those who were always favored in school because of good looks or athletic ability may become the unfavored ones for career advancement and work assignments.

 

Perhaps that was the situation of Zacchaeus in today’s lesson. Luke 19:3 tells us that “he was little of stature.” Using our “sanctified imagination,” we might speculate that this resulted in his being teased as a child and becoming a target of bullies. So in his adult occupation as a publican (tax collector) for the hated Roman overlords, he was in a position to enforce his will on his fellow Jews. It’s easy to speculate that this little man exacted revenge over and over for his childhood traumas. The bullied boy (again, speculation) had become the oppressive tax man. But an encounter with Jesus changed that situation.

 

B. Lesson Background

 

The site of today’s lesson is Jericho, a city mentioned dozens of times in the Bible. Indeed, this locale had held a prominent place in the history of Israel back to around 1400 BC (Numbers 22:1; Joshua 2:1; etc.). At that time, Jericho was the first city to be conquered by the Israelites after crossing the Jordan River to enter the promised land of Canaan. Jericho’s downfall came about in dramatic fashion when God caused the protecting walls to collapse (Joshua 6:20). Centuries later, King Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, was captured by the Babylonians in “the plains of Jericho,” to which he had fled after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC (Jeremiah 39:5).

 

Jericho was located less than 10 miles north-northwest of the Dead Sea, in a western fringe of the Jordan River valley. The city was an oasis settlement, having been built around a spring of fresh water in an arid region. This resulted in the settlement being known as “the city of palm trees” (Deuteronomy 34:3). Since the city had its own water supply, it did not need to be located near the Jordan River, which was four or five miles away. Archaeologists estimate that Jericho is one of the oldest sites for human settlement in the world, with remains dating back thousands of years.

 

At the time of Jesus, Jericho was both an agricultural hub and a resort city, features that still characterize the area today. Ancient farmers cultivated date palms and profited from the prized dates, a sweet fruit that could be dried and easily transported. Modern Jericho, sited only a mile and a half southeast of the ruins of ancient Jericho, still features date groves. Some wealthy priests of Jerusalem in Jesus’ day maintained homes in Jericho; they could make the 15-mile trip in a day or two when they were off duty from temple service.

 

Jericho was also the last major stop for Jews traveling from Galilee to Jerusalem for Passover and other observances. Indeed, Jesus was headed to Jerusalem for His final celebration of Passover when he encountered Zacchaeus, a publican (or tax collector) in Jericho. (See the Lesson Background for lesson 11 regarding publicans.)

 

I. Two Desires

 

                                                                    (Luke 19:1-6)

 

 A. Place and Person (vv. 1, 2)

 

1. And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.

 

The city of Jericho figures prominently in the pages of the Bible (see the Lesson Background). In a sense, Jesus is passing through an ancestral home, since a person in His lineage—namely Rahab—had lived there centuries before (see Joshua 2; Matthew 1:5; Hebrews 11:31).

 

Arrival in Jericho marks the beginning of the final leg of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and the cross that awaits Him there, a journey that began in Luke 9:51. The route He is taking is the common one for Jews traveling to Jerusalem from Galilee, except for the fact that Jesus does not avoid Samaritan territory along the way as Jews normally would (Luke 9:52-56).

 

What Do You Think?

 

What reactions can we expect when Jesus “comes to town” today through a newly planted church? Why?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

From unbelievers

 

From Christians

 

From ministers in the area

 

From local government

 

Others

 

2. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.

 

In Jericho we encounter a man named Zacchaeus. We conclude that he is a Jew because, among other things, he has a Hebrew name. That name means “innocent one” or “pure,” which is ironic for the fact that he is anything but!

 

Being the chief among the publicans means that Zacchaeus is an achiever. Over the years, he has managed to get himself promoted to an administrative level in the tax collection function so that now he supervises several field employees. At this point in his career, Zacchaeus is likely insulated from the unpleasantness of exacting tax payments personally from the citizens of Jericho and from merchants who must pay tolls to travel through the city with commercial goods. A man in the position of Zacchaeus can let his minions do the actual collecting.

 

The fact that Zacchaeus is rich is no surprise, for this is the usual situation for such tax collectors. He retains a portion of the taxes collected by his underlings, passing along the necessary amount to the Roman governing officials. If Zacchaeus has set up this operation to run smoothly, it likely produces a steady personal income with little effort on his part. He may be among the richest men in the city.

 

B. Problem and Solution (vv. 3, 4)

 

3. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.

 

The arrival of Jesus in Jericho is a major event, for by this time His reputation as a teacher and miracle worker has preceded Him. A crowd follows Him as a result (compare Luke 18:36). People have just witnessed a miraculous healing (18:43), and the excitement is palpable.

 

Zacchaeus is well connected with the news of his city, for his control of the tax situation requires information. He has heard of Jesus and knows that He is in town. Zacchaeus’s desire to see Jesus is more than a mere desire to gaze upon someone who is famous. Zacchaeus wants to know more about the man, perhaps even meet Him.

 

But Zacchaeus finds that his wealth does not yield him a choice viewing position. The presence of so many people—who likely stand shoulder to shoulder, several layers deep—serves to block his view. The fact that Zacchaeus is little of stature means that he is so short that he cannot get even a peek at the famous Jesus. Zacchaeus, despised as he is (see v. 7, below), has no friends here, and no one steps aside to give him a front-row view.

 

4. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.

 

Zacchaeus is nothing if not a survivor (see the Lesson Background). One does not get to the position of being “the chief among the publicans” (v. 2, above) without being able to solve problems! Zacchaeus quickly realizes that fighting the crowd will be futile, so he runs ahead to a place where he assumes Jesus will pass within the next few moments. Zacchaeus undoubtedly is quite familiar with the layout of Jericho, so he knows of a tree suitable for climbing that borders the route.

 

The sycomore tree of Palestine (binomial name Ficus sycomorus) is not the same as the sycamore tree of North America (binomial name Platanus occidentalis), so we take care not to confuse them with one another. The tree familiar to Zacchaeus has branches that spread horizontally before growing vertically. Such trees are valuable for the figs that they bear (see also Amos 7:14).

 

For Zacchaeus to be “little of stature” does not mean he is disabled. So he is able to reach the lower limbs of the tree to have an adequate field of view. For this wealthy man to climb a tree is undignified, so we sense how eager he is to see Jesus.

 

C. Statement and Reaction (vv. 5, 6)

 

5a. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him.

 

We can imagine Jesus walking slowly, greeting and blessing those in the admiring crowd as He goes. He is making eye contact at street level, so what causes Him to look up and notice Zacchaeus? Is the man waving his hands to get Jesus’ attention? The text doesn’t say, but Jesus nonetheless stops, looks up, and sees the little man in the tree. It must be a bit comical, and we can almost imagine a slight smile on Jesus’ face.

 

5b. And said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.

 

Luke intends us to be surprised by what comes next. First, Jesus calls Zacchaeus by name! This is a display of Jesus’ supernatural knowledge, for the text gives us no reason to think that the two have met previously.

 

How to Say It

 

Abraham Ay-bruh-ham.

 

Canaan Kay-nun.

 

Israelites Iz-ray-el-ites.

 

Jericho Jair-ih-co.

 

Judah Joo-duh.

 

Pharisees Fair-ih-seez.

 

Rahab Ray-hab.

 

Samaritan Suh-mare-uh-tun.

 

Zacchaeus Zack-key-us.

 

Zedekiah Zed-uh-kye-uh.

 

 

 

Second, Jesus tells Zacchaeus to make haste, and come down from the tree, which is an invitation for him to meet Jesus personally. Jesus eliminates the barrier of the crowd with just a few words, for the people are expected to part and let the little man through.

 

Third, Jesus announces that He will spend some time at Zacchaeus’s home. Jesus has already been criticized for eating with publicans (Luke 5:27-30; 15:1, 2). Sharing a meal is a strong symbol of acceptance and fellowship, and the scrupulously religious scribes and Pharisees disdain any interaction with people like Zacchaeus. And this man is not just any tax collector; he is the boss of the tax collectors, the chief of all sinners of his ilk in this city! His home is more suitable for prostitutes and drunkards, not respectable Jewish teachers.

 

6. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.

 

Zacchaeus quickly realizes what a great opportunity is being presented to him. He surely has entertained no expectation that Jesus might linger in Jericho at Zacchaeus’s own home! So he quickly does as Jesus bids, receiving him joyfully in the process. This probably indicates a physical act such as an embrace. The effect is to say, “Yes, please come to my home. You are most welcome!”

 

What Do You Think?

 

What are some practical ways the church as a body can demonstrate the joy of knowing Christ? Why is it important to do so?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

To its members individually

 

To members of other churches

 

To unbelievers

 

Other

 

Always a Joyful Response?

 

Paying college tuition doesn’t seem like a “jump for joy” proposition, especially since the cost keeps rising year after year. Educational loans only postpone the day of reckoning when one has to start paying off, with interest, the cost of the college experience. Joy is further eroded if a tight labor market prevents one from getting a job that pays well enough to allow the borrower to make the payments on the loans.

 

One Christian university has developed a program it calls “Joyful Response” to encourage its students to make regular payments while still in college. The idea seems to be to foster the right attitude in fulfilling tuition payment obligations. At least one church also names its giving program “Joyful Response” as it enables church members to fulfill their donation commitments automatically via electronic transfers from congregants’ bank accounts. This is promoted as being “just like most utility bill pay programs.” Many would question whether giving to the Lord’s work should be compared with paying for water and sewer services!

 

Further, some may react with cynicism to the “Joyful Response” naming of the two programs above. But shouldn’t we always react with joy when offered an opportunity to support the Lord’s work? Issues of financial support aside, the Lord invites us weekly to a time of fellowship with Him in worship. Do we always respond to that invitation with “Zacchaeus joy”? If not, why?—C. R. B.

 

II. Three Attitudes

 

                                                                   (Luke 19:7-10)

 

 

A. Crowd Complains (v. 7)

 

7. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.

 

Jesus’ fellowship with people like Zacchaeus has been the source of criticism from the scribes and Pharisees (again, Luke 5:27-30; 15:1, 2). Now it is the common folk who express concern. Zacchaeus has a reputation in Jericho, and it is not a good one. He is labeled a sinner, probably a well-deserved moniker for the city’s chief publican. His home is not a shrine to righteousness, and Zacchaeus is not one to be obsessed with keeping the Law of Moses.

 

Jesus knows all of this. He also knows that the angels of God rejoice over a sinner who repents (Luke 15:10). Jesus can see that the seeds of faith and repentance are in Zacchaeus’s heart. The attitude of the crowd therefore has no effect on Jesus’ decision to go to the home of this man, no matter how many “sinners” He might find there.

 

What Do You Think?

 

Under what circumstances, if any, should we respond to negative reactions regarding the church’s ministry procedures? Why?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding negativity from fellow Christians

 

Regarding negativity from unbelievers

 

Regarding negativity in the media

 

Other

 

B. Zacchaeus Promises (v. 8)

 

8a. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor.

 

We have a scene change to the home of Zacchaeus, probably after a quickly arranged banquet is over. It is the time for speeches and words of blessing. Zacchaeus, as the master of the house, begins. His heart has been convicted by Jesus in ways we are not told. From his upbringing as a Jewish lad, he recalls the law’s demand to care for the poor (Deuteronomy 15:11; etc.). He well knows that tax collecting for the Romans is a shady business at best, with the line between extortion and legitimate taxation often crossed. So Zacchaeus announces a new direction for his life.

 

That new direction includes renouncing greed. He will put his repentance into action by giving half of his goods for poverty relief. This undoubtedly involves an enormous sum of wealth! When carried through, the distribution will have a significant impact on Jericho’s poor.

 

8b. And if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.

 

Zacchaeus takes his repentance further by pledging fourfold restitution to those whom he has cheated (compare Luke 3:12, 13). Perhaps he is recalling the law’s demand for this level of restitution: “If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep” (Exodus 22:1).

 

This does not seem to be an idle promise. Zacchaeus knows there are witnesses in the room who will observe whether or not he keeps his word. His two promises will significantly reduce his net worth! Publicans like Zacchaeus and Levi (Luke 5:27) are assured a comfortable living if they follow the rules and collect only the taxes that are due. Yet their positions allow for broad interpretations of tax rates, and such positions are easily and commonly abused because publicans have the authority of Rome behind them.

 

Greed has a tendency to be insatiable. For some people, being wealthy is never as good as being wealthier. This fact makes the vows of Zacchaeus truly remarkable! His desire to make amends for cheating people is at complete odds with what everyone has come to expect from him.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What outward, visible changes in a person’s life indicate genuine repentance?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Changes directed toward God

 

Changes directed toward other people

 

Changes in personal habits

 

Considering Matthew 7:1 in relation to 7:15-20

 

Other

 

Restitution

 

Child sexual abuse is a horrific problem that is made worse when criminals distribute pornographic images of the assaults. A 1994 U.S. federal law provides that victims of child pornography may sue for restitution from those convicted of producing, distributing, or possessing such images.

 

A case involving this statute came before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2014. The assault that resulted in the pornographic images took place some 20 years earlier, and the now-grown woman was suing for restitution in the amount of $3.4 million to pay for years of therapy, lost wages, and legal fees. In extended arguments, the justices agreed on the principle that offenders should make restitution for their crimes. But they struggled with how to make the law work so that the victim was properly compensated. Upwards of 70,000 people were said to have viewed the images; should they all be made to pay? If so, how could this be accomplished?

 

In the case of Zacchaeus, no court of law was involved to enforce restitution. Instead, it was the presence of Jesus that resulted in that man’s vow to repay. Jesus was not interested in “playing the judge” during His time on earth (compare Luke 12:13, 14), and He did not do so in the case of Zacchaeus. That man’s decision was of his own volition. The Spirit of God working on the heart is a far more powerful force than that of any human effort at law enforcement. In which do you place the most trust?—C. R. B.

 

C. Jesus Blesses (vv. 9, 10)

 

9. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.

 

Those gathered must be reeling from the surprising speech of Zacchaeus. But the surprises are not over yet! Jesus sends out His own shock wave by acknowledging the tax man’s change of heart. He pronounces a type of blessing on Zacchaeus’s house, saying that it is being visited by salvation right then and there. This is a roundabout way of saying that Zacchaeus’s change of heart is accepted by God, and this wayward son has been welcomed back into God’s family. This is a gripping real-life story of a prodigal who realizes his spiritual poverty. The son who had been considered as good as dead is now alive (Luke 15:24; see lesson 8).

 

Jesus reinforces this by reminding those gathered, especially His critics, that whatever they may think of Zacchaeus, he is a son of Abraham, an heir of the covenant (compare Luke 13:16). We are not told the reactions of those gathered. But we can expect that some, like the elder brother of the prodigal son, are furious (Luke 15:28-30).

 

10. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

 

Our lesson ends with one of the most important verses in all the New Testament. In just a few words, Jesus reveals His purpose, His mission: it is to seek and to save that which was lost (compare Luke 15:4-10). Jesus is not satisfied to leave people like the despised Zacchaeus on the outside, lost in sin and without hope of salvation. Jesus’ mission is to restore even the vilest of sinners to His Father. Jesus doesn’t care that Zacchaeus is rich, short, or hated. He loves him and is unwilling to let him perish (see 2 Peter 3:9).

 

 

Conclusion

 

A. Seeking the Lost

 

If we truly seek the lost in our communities, what will we find? What sort of sinners would we be willing to bring into the fellowship of our church? Prostitutes? Drug dealers? Addicts and drunks? Unscrupulous millionaires? All these folks need salvation, whether they live in mansions or on the street.

 

Jesus is no longer among us physically to seek and save the lost. He has given that task to us (Matthew 28:19, 20). We, like Simon Peter, are to fish for people (Luke 5:10), and the fisherman’s net does not discriminate. When cast broadly, the net brings in all manner of fish. We must not withhold the message of salvation from anyone. We must not block anyone’s view of Jesus. Instead, we are to see the unsaved in the unlikeliest of places and invite ourselves, as ambassadors for Jesus, into their lives. And when they respond with joyous faith, we too experience joy as do the angels in Heaven.

 

B. Prayer

 

Father, we are humbled at Your Son’s acceptance of a man such as Zacchaeus! We praise You for accepting us as You did him. We pray in the name of the Son who makes this possible. Amen.

 

C. Thought to Remember

 

Don’t overlook the Zacchaeuses of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

Kid’s Corner

A Heart Prepared to Meet Jesus

Luke 19:1-10

 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

 

 

(Luke 19:1) He entered Jericho and was passing through.

Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land, and the LORD brought down the city’s walls after the army marched around it seven times; then Joshua put a curse on the city: “At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: ‘Cursed before the LORD is the one who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho: At the cost of his firstborn son he will lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest he will set up its gates.’” (Joshua 6:26). During the reign of King Ahab, Jericho was rebuilt, and the curse fell upon the builder’s sons: “In Ahab's time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the LORD spoken by Joshua son of Nun” (1 King’s 16:34). Jericho is located north of the Dead Sea near the Jordan River, east of Jerusalem. Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan who helped a man who was robbed as he traveled from Jerusalem to Jericho (Luke 10:30-36). Jesus was on his way for His final visit to Jerusalem before His crucifixion.

 

(Luke 19:2)  And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich.

The name Zacchaeus means “pure.” He was an Israelite who worked with the Roman conquerors and oppressors of Judea by collecting taxes for them. Other tax collectors worked under him to collect taxes for Rome. Tax collectors were despised by the people, perhaps because they had the reputation of cheating people for excessive personal profit. As a chief tax collector, Zacchaeus had become very rich.

 

(Luke 19:3)  Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature.

Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, perhaps because he had heard about and talked to the blind man, Bartimaeus, whom Jesus had healed in Jericho (Mark 10:46-22). Jesus had been in ministry for three years, so many would have reported in Jericho what they had seen and heard about Jesus. Zacchaeus was short and because he was a tax collector probably no one would let him squeeze between them in order to see Jesus.

 

(Luke 19:4)  So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way.

Just as Jesus had said we must become like little children to enter the kingdom of God, so Zacchaeus ran ahead of the waiting crowd and climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus (see Luke 18:17). Apparently the crowd knew the way Jesus would enter the city as He traveled through the city to Jerusalem, and without waiting for Jesus to come further into the city, Zacchaeus ran to the front of the crowd and climbed a sycamore tree (perhaps to avoid the possibility of others pushing in front of him and blocking his view).

 

(Luke 19:5)  When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”

Probably led by the Holy Spirit (who knew Zacchaeus’ heart), he put himself where Jesus could easily see and find him, and also where the crowd could hear any conversation between Jesus and Zacchaeus. Jesus knew what Zacchaeus needed and wanted, for Jesus knew what was in each person: “But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person” (John 2:24-25). So, Jesus invited himself into Zacchaeus’ home “immediately” without waiting to address the crowd.

 

(Luke 19:6)  And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly.

Zacchaeus did immediately what Jesus asked of him. Zacchaeus also welcomed Jesus gladly. Zacchaeus was a sinner, but he had probably heard how Jesus welcomed tax collectors and sinners. John the Baptist had baptized repentant sinners in the Jordan River near Jericho, and Zacchaeus may have been one of those tax collectors who went to John as Jesus said: “For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him” (Matthew 21:32). Zacchaeus welcomed Jesus gladly because he had prepared himself for a day when he might meet Jesus. He showed that he was a repentant sinner by welcoming Jesus gladly.

 

(Luke 19:7)  When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”

Whenever Jesus spent time with tax collectors and sinners, those who thought they were righteous and looked down upon such people criticized Jesus. But even one of Jesus’ disciples had once been a tax collector. So notorious were tax collectors that when Matthew lists himself among Jesus’ disciples he identifies himself as the tax collector (see Matthew 9:9 and Matthew 10:3). Jesus could have said to some of those who criticized him: “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you” (Matthew 21:31).

 

(Luke 19:8)  Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.”

Zacchaeus proved that he was heart-prepared to meet Jesus, and that is why he welcomed him gladly and stood up and declared to Jesus what he was going to do with his wealth. Zacchaeus was not required to give all of his possessions to the poor, but he was led to give substantially to help the poor. He may not have cheated anyone, but he was willing to obey the law of Moses, make restitution, and repay anyone four times the amount he had stolen (see Exodus 22:1). Zacchaeus showed true repentance and faith.

 

(Luke 19:9)  And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.

Jesus had told His disciples that it was difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, but what is impossible with man is possible with God (see Luke 18:24-27). The fact that Zacchaeus repented and came to faith in Jesus proved that God had made it possible for him to enter the kingdom of God. Salvation came to his house because Jesus had come into his house, and Christ through Zacchaeus would lead each member of his household to saving faith. Peter wrote, “You are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” And Peter preached, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). In the Book of Revelation, we read, “And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:10). Zacchaeus was more than an Israelite, the Apostle Paul explained the meaning of a “son of Abraham”: “Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham” and “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:7; Galatians 3:29). Jesus said, “If you were Abraham's children, then you would do what Abraham did” (John 8:39).

(Luke 19:10)  “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Jesus sought and saved Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus did not save himself. Jesus described how He came to seek and save the lost in the parable of the lost sheep and in the parable of the lost coin (see Luke 15:1-10). In another parable, Jesus also described the faith response of a lost son when he “came to his senses” and returned to his father who received him with love and forgiveness (Luke 15:11-32). Zacchaeus demonstrated his faith response to the grace of God when he climbed the tree to see Jesus. After Jesus found him there and went to his home, in faith Zacchaeus declared how his life would be different. Jesus declared that salvation had come to his home, because Jesus Christ himself is salvation and He came to Zacchaeus house “to seek and save the lost.”

 

 

A Heart Prepared to Meet Jesus

Luke 19:1-10

Sunday, May 29, 2016

 

 “But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount’” (Luke 19:8).

 

Zacchaeus was a tax collector for the Romans in Jericho near the Jordan River, so he may have heard John the Baptist preach. Zacchaeus may have been baptized when John proclaimed “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3). Luke recorded, “Even tax collectors came to be baptized. ‘Teacher,’ they asked, ‘what should we do?’ ‘Don't collect any more than you are required to,’ John told them” (Luke 3:12-13). By previously submitting to John’s baptism,

Zacchaeus may have prepared his heart to meet Jesus, because Zacchaeus welcomed Jesus gladly and told Jesus and the crowd that if he had cheated anybody he would make restitution to them. Zacchaeus rightly applied to his situation the Law of God in Exodus 22:1, “Whoever steals … a sheep … must pay back … four sheep for the sheep.” He may not have cheated anyone, but if he had, he was willing to pay them four times the amount. His willingness to make restitution was a sign he had repented. Zacchaeus also promised to give half of his possessions to the poor, another sign he had faith in Jesus and Jesus had cleansed

his heart. Jesus proclaimed to the crowd, “Today, salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:9). Jesus also told everyone about Zacchaeus’ changed life and faith when Jesus declared that Zacchaeus was a son of Abraham. From the Apostle Paul, we learn what Jesus meant: “Understand, then, that those who have

faith are children of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7).

 

Thinking Further

A Heart Prepared to Meet Jesus

Luke 19:1-10

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Name __________________________

 

1. Compare Jesus’ approach to tax collectors and sinners to the Pharisees’ approach.

 

 

2. If he had heard John the Baptist preach, how might Zacchaeus have prepared himself to meet Jesus?

 

 

3. What clues in this event might indicate that Zacchaeus had probably prepared himself to meet Jesus?

 

 

4. What did Jesus mean when He said salvation had come to Zacchaeus house?

 

 

5. Who is a child of Abraham?

 

 

 

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

 

1. Compare Jesus’ approach to tax collectors and sinners to the Pharisees’

approach.

Jesus sought sinners and tax collectors to bring them the good news of salvation; to seek and save the lost. The Pharisees tried to avoid all contact with tax collectors and sinners.

 

2. If he had heard John the Baptist preach, how might Zacchaeus have prepared himself to meet Jesus?

See Luke 3:3-16 to formulate your answer.

 

3. What clues in this event might indicate that Zacchaeus had probably prepared himself to meet Jesus?

He welcomed Jesus gladly into his house. He said he would give to the poor. He said he would obey the law of Moses and make restitution if needed.

 

4. What did Jesus mean when He said salvation had come to Zacchaeus house?

Jesus had come there and Zacchaeus had responded with faith in Jesus. Because Jesus had come to seek and save the lost, He had found and saved Zacchaeus.

 

5. Who is a child of Abraham?

See Galatians 3:7 and Galatians 3:29 to formulate your answer.

 

 

 

 

Word Search

A Heart Prepared to Meet Jesus

Luke 19:1-10

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Name __________________________

 

H Y B E J N J X R E X Z A K C

Q L S X S M V G M I A C S G H

I F U B C A I T D L T U N S I

J E S L R H D B Y I E D A K E

E E E A O A R L W A T L Z R F

R R J T W R H O H E V O O Q Z

I T K F D B M C T A A M D Y S

C O Y C R A C C T C A L Q A Z

H K G B I A H I V C E O T L Y

O S U D Z E O W Y P S L D H N

Z M P L A N R S I T G Y L Z Y

Y L E T A I D E M M I E P O S

B R E S H O R T O Y X O Q Y C

K D P N X Q S D E M O C L E W

I V F C P C M F C R P M N X Q

Jericho

Zacchaeus

Chief

Tax

Collector

Wealthy

Jesus

Short

Crowd

Sycamore

Tree

Immediately

Today

Welcomed

Poor

Cheated

Salvation

Abraham

 

 

 

 

True and False Test

 

A Heart Prepared to Meet Jesus

Luke 19:1-10

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Name__________________________

 

Circle the true or false answers. Correct the false statements by restating them.

 

1. Jesus was passing through Jericho to go to Galilee. True or False

 

2. Zacchaeus was a wealthy chief tax collector in Jericho. True or False

 

3. Because Zacchaeus was short, he walked on stilts like a child. True or False

 

4. Because of the crowd, Zacchaeus climbed a tree in order to see Jesus. True or False

 

5. When Jesus saw Zacchaeus, He called him a hopeless sinner. True or False

 

6. When Jesus told Zacchaeus that He wanted to stay at his house that day, His angry face almost scared Zacchaeus to death.True or False

 

7. When Zacchaeus came down from the tree, he welcomed Jesus gladly. True or False

 

8. The people were glad that Jesus told Zacchaeus to lower their taxes. True or False

 

9. Zacchaeus said he would give half of his possessions to the poor. True or False

 

10. Jesus declared that salvation had come to Zacchaeus’ house. True or False

 

 

 

Answers to the True and False Test

Luke 19:1-10

Sunday, May 29, 2016

 

1.   False

2.   True

3.   False

4.  True

5.  False

6.  False

7.  True

8.  False

9.  True

10.True

 

 

Closing Prayer

 

Father, we are humbled at Your Son’s acceptance of a man such as Zacchaeus! We praise You for accepting us as You did him. We pray in the name of the Son who makes this possible. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday School Lesson

May 22

Childlike Faith

 

Devotional Reading:Isaiah 11:1-9

 

Background Scripture:Luke 18:15-17; Mark 10:13-16

 

Luke 18:15-17

 

15And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them.

 

16But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.

 

17Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.

 

Mark 10:16

 

16And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.

 

Key Verse

 

Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein. —Luke 18:17

 

Lesson Aims

 

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

 

1. Retell the story of Jesus’ blessing the children.

 

2. Explain why Jesus used children as an example of the ideal candidate for the kingdom of God.

 

3. Examine himself or herself for the absence of childlike faith and make a plan for change.

 

Introduction

 

 

A. The Gift and the Burden of Children

 

The headline of August 14, 2013, read “Average cost to raise a kid: $241,080.” That figure summarized the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s report that estimated the 18-year cost of raising a child born in the U.S. in that year; another projection has costs in Canada to be similar.

 

The USDA’s estimate includes just about every expense one can think of except for college. Adjusted regionally, the costs in some parts of the U.S. can reach nearly $450,000, while dipping to less than $150,000 in other parts. Even assuming the lower figure, a family with three children can find itself being pushed toward half a million dollars in child-rearing expenditures, before even considering the cost of college!

 

As a minister, I have experienced many occasions when a young couple told me they were expecting a baby. I first say, “Congratulations!” Later, however, I will tell them, “Your life has changed forever,” and I’m not speaking just about the financial aspect. The differences between a family with children and a family without children are significant. Parents agree that children can bring some of the greatest joy available on this earth; at other times, they can bring some of the deepest heartaches. Rearing a child is not a part-time commitment. It is a serious, long-term responsibility.

 

These and other factors are behind a growing movement among women to choose voluntarily not to have children. Critics see the so-called childfreedom movement as driven by selfishness. Yet there are serious arguments that childless adults are able to contribute more to society because of their lack of family obligations.

 

The idea of remaining voluntarily childless within marriage would have seemed strange to the people whom Jesus walked among in the first century AD. To them, having children was not only the norm but also required (Genesis 1:27, 28). Children were therefore present and prevalent in all aspects of daily life in the Israel of Jesus’ day. He drew on this fact to illustrate what it means to be a child of God in the best possible way.

 

B. Lesson Background

 

Children were valued differently among Jews and Gentiles in the ancient world. Many Gentile households saw children as a necessary nuisance. This is illustrated by the idea that servants and children had the same status in a Gentile household (compare Galatians 4:1). This is not because servants were valued, but because children were not.

 

The main value of a child in the Greco-Roman world was that he or she would eventually grow up and become a productive adult. In that light, children could be treated like assets that would mature at a later date. This was the reason for educating and privileging them in special ways. In particular, male children were valued for their potential to provide for parents in their old age. These cultural assumptions regarding children were “a given” for many of the earliest readers of the Gospel of Luke, which the author seems to have directed toward Christians who came from a Gentile background. Indeed, that probably was Luke’s own status.

 

The Jewish people, on the other hand, viewed children differently. Children were seen as gifts from God to be cared for and nurtured. The future of the nation and the retention of its heritage depended on children. They were to be brought up to appreciate their responsibilities and to be faithful to the covenant they had been given. Children were to be taught Scripture and have its precepts embedded deeply in their hearts (Deuteronomy 6:7; compare 2 Timothy 3:14, 15). Large families were prized (see Psalm 127:3-5), and childless women were disappointed (see Luke 1:24, 25).

 

How to Say It

 

Deuteronomy Due-ter-ahn-uh-me.

 

Galatians Guh-lay-shunz.

 

Gentile Jen-tile.

 

Pharisee Fair-ih-see.

 

 

 

Children were not coddled in extreme ways in Jewish households, however. Early on, they were given work tasks around the home and in a family’s business. We assume that Jesus learned the trade of His earthly father’s carpentry business from a very early age, by both observing and doing (Mark 6:3). Although Jesus himself was unmarried and without children, the fact that He was the Son of God meant that His teaching on the subject of children was and is authoritative.

 

I. Jesus’ Correction

 

                                                                   (Luke 18:15-17)

 

The parable of the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18:9-14, last week’s lesson) is followed by the first segment of today’s lesson text. These stories are connected by the theme of humility, a character trait Jesus finds in little children. (Matthew 19:13-15 and Mark 10:13-16 are parallel.)

 

A. Disciples Forbid (v. 15)

 

15a. And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them.

 

The fact that the children under consideration are infants means that they probably are not yet a year old. The word in the original language being translated is also used for the newborn baby Jesus (Luke 2:12, 16) and even for John the Baptist while he was still in his mother’s womb (1:41, 44). The babes-in-arms of the verse before us are innocent treasures of humanity, as are all other infants.

 

Some have interpreted the parents’ desire that Jesus touch their babies to mean that these infants are ill, in need of healing. But that does not seem to be what is going on here. A touch by Jesus would be an act of blessing, accompanied by prayer. Jesus’ reputation has preceded Him!

 

15b. But when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them.

 

The parents’ plans are temporarily derailed by Jesus’ overprotective disciples. Their rebuke means that they harshly forbid access to their Master. We are not told why they do this, but their motives are likely positive. It is not that they devalue children, but probably because they want to shield Jesus from another demand on His time and energy.

 

The Ultimate Rejection of Babies

 

Roe v. Wade has been a part of the American vocabulary since 1973. That was the case by which the U.S. Supreme Court overturned various federal and state laws restricting abortion. This landmark decision served to polarize a debate that continues to this day.

 

At one end of the spectrum are those who see the issue purely in terms of a woman’s “right to choose”; those in this group use euphemisms such as “product of conception” and “fetal tissue” to deny that a baby is involved. At the other end of the spectrum are those who would prohibit all abortions, period.

 

Most people seem to be somewhere in the conflicted middle on this issue. Many in this block are in favor of the increasing number of restrictions being enacted on abortion processes and procedures. By one count, 70 restrictions on abortion services were adopted in 22 states in 2013. Such regulations address, among other things, parental involvement for their underage daughters to have abortions, limitations on insurance coverage, and bans on late-term abortions.

 

Abortion seems to be the ultimate rejection of babies. Jesus’ disciples were not guilty of anything so draconian in their rebuke of the parents. But those disciples were nonetheless misguided, despite good intentions. It’s easy to point out both the wrong actions and wrong motives of others on various issues, abortion or otherwise. It’s not so easy to recognize our own wrong actions when they are impelled by our good motives. May the Lord give us wisdom to be aware of both!—C. R. B.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What are some ways a church may unintentionally restrict access to Jesus today? How do we prevent this from happening?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding the Elders Generation (those born before 1946)

 

Regarding Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964)

 

Regarding Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1983)

 

Regarding the Millennials Generation (those born between 1984 and 2002)

 

Regarding Generation Z (those born after 2002)

 

B. Children Welcomed (v. 16a)

 

16a. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not.

 

The first line of this half-verse seems to indicate that there is some physical distance between Jesus and the mini-drama involving the disciples and the parents. Jesus is aware of what is happening despite this distance, and He countermands the disciples’ rebuke of the previous verse. The word suffer in this context means “allow” or “permit”; the word has nothing to do with suffering as we normally use it to indicate “pain” or “distress.” The disciples are not to forbid access to Jesus. (The parallel of Mark 10:14 adds that Jesus was “much displeased.”)

 

The word translated little children here is different from the word translated “infants” in verse 15. Little children is a broader term, including both infants and youngsters who are beyond the infancy stage (compare Matthew 11:16; 18:2-5; 19:13; Mark 10:13; Luke 1:59, 66). Jesus is saying that He welcomes all children—whether infants, toddlers, or otherwise.

 

This moment has often been portrayed artistically as Jesus being seated with small children in His lap and at His knees. This is likely very close to what happens as parents stand nearby. Jesus had several younger siblings (Matthew 13:55, 56), so we should not be surprised either at His gentle ease in holding these children or their comfort level with Him.

 

Bringing Children to Jesus

 

The origins of the Sunday school movement are traced to the initiative of Robert Raikes in Great Britain in the 1780s. Sunday schools soon caught on in America, and most children were attending Sunday school by the mid-1800s. The curriculum included religious teaching as well as the “3 Rs” (reading, writing, and arithmetic), with literacy taught through the reading of the Bible. Prayer and hymn-singing were also a part of the educational process.

 

With the advent of universal, compulsory state-sponsored education in the 1870s, the role of Sunday schools began to change. Even so, a large number of children continued to attend regularly. Cultural changes in recent decades have made Sunday school a less significant part of childhood experience, even among Christian families.

 

The secular forces that are at work in modern culture may not go so far as actually forbidding children from coming to Jesus, but they certainly make it more difficult. Participation in organized youth sports on Sunday and parental disregard for their children’s spiritual needs can both contribute to the lessening of the impact Sunday school can have in the lives of youngsters. What solutions can you propose for this problem?—C. R. B.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What are some ways your church can do better at attracting and ministering to families with young children?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Considering staffing priorities

 

Considering funding priorities

 

Considering unwritten expectations

 

Other

 

C. Kingdom Illustrated (vv. 16b, 17)

 

16b. For of such is the kingdom of God.

 

Ever the teacher, Jesus not only receives the children but also uses them to give a surprising lesson. The previous narrative used a publican (tax collector) as an unlikely example of humility, and now children are presented in somewhat similar fashion as ideal members of the kingdom of God.

 

This is not what Jesus’ audience expects. According to Jewish heritage, an ideal member of the kingdom of God is a great leader like Moses, a mighty king like David, or a powerful prophet like Isaiah. The noble Pharisee of the parable of last week’s lesson might be the embodiment of the kingdom of God in the eyes of the common people. But children? What is there about a small child that has anything to do with citizenship in the kingdom of God? Jesus answers this question in the next verse.

 

17. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.

 

Jesus’ brief answer draws us to think of several ways in which children might be presented as examples for adults to follow. First, young children are highly dependent. Without the care and protection of a parent or guardian, a young child will not survive. Kingdom members should depend on the Lord, not on themselves. This is hard, because adults are expected to be independent. But any attempt to deny our need for the Lord will fail.

 

Second, children are receptive to new things and fresh teaching. They are naturally inquisitive and want to learn. They might say No! a lot, but they are not set in their ways and impervious to change. They do not have hard hearts. Kingdom members should be open to God’s leading, even if it is down paths of service that require new ways of thinking. God wants people with compliant hearts, people who will change in response to the teaching of His Word.

 

Third, children are naturally creatures of faith. It is not without good reason that we speak of “childlike faith.” Trust is a natural condition for children. It is “unfaith” that is learned through disappointing experiences. Kingdom members must be people of the deep kind of faith that a child has in his or her parents. Just as children may not always understand when they are called to obey, people of faith obey God’s Word because of their deep trust in the Lord.

 

Fourth, the youngest children (infants) are models of humility. They make no boasts; they have no claim to fame; they live without arrogance. They may cry a lot, but there is nothing evil in this. Babies have no merits or accomplishments to commend them. It would be unthinkable for a baby to act in such a way as to attempt to earn God’s favor.

 

Humility is a companion of innocence, and there is no more innocent human being than a sweet, newborn baby. It is admittedly difficult for an adult voluntarily to become as humble and trusting as a baby, yet this is what Jesus requires. When we hold on to our stubbornness and demand to be in control of every aspect of our lives, we are rejecting Jesus’ gracious invitation to be part of the kingdom of God. By faith we receive the power to become “the sons of God” (John 1:12), and this is not merely figurative. Faith is coming to God as a child.

 

What Do You Think?

 

How do we keep the little-child aspect that Jesus desires of us while not remaining spiritual infants in the process?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Matthew 21:16

 

Luke 10:21

 

1 Corinthians 3:1-3; 14:20

 

Ephesians 4:12-15

 

Hebrews 5:11-6:3

 

1 Peter 1:14

 

Other

 

II. Jesus’ Action

 

                                                                    (Mark 10:16)

 

Our lesson ends by looking at a verse from the parallel account of this incident in the Gospel of Mark. (Matthew 19:15 is also parallel.)

 

A. Holding Children (v. 16a)

 

16a. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them.

 

Here we see the physical aspect of Jesus’ interaction with the gathering children. One by one, He takes the little ones in his arms. The man who has no children adopts the posture of a loving parent holding the precious joy of the family. We can imagine Jesus looking deeply into the eyes of each child, just as a loving, wondering mother or father might do. He is smiling at them, and perhaps they smile back.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What role should physical contact play in ministry to children today? Why?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Considering parental desires

 

Considering church policy

 

Considering cultural expectations

 

Considering federal, state, and local law

 

Other

 

B. Blessing Children (v. 16b)

 

16b. And blessed them.

 

To be blessed is to have divine approval. The children will retain this state of blessedness as they grow in learning to love God with all their hearts, souls, and minds. Jesus’ blessing on the gathered children likely includes a peace prayer for their health and future prosperity.

 

These are moments to remember for the families involved. Surely, at least some of these children grow up to be followers of Jesus after His resurrection. They will grow up with the story told and retold to them (if they were too young to remember it personally) of the day they were blessed by Jesus of Nazareth, the man who proved himself to be the Son of God, the chosen Messiah sent by the heavenly Father. They will have a story to tell and a witness to share that very few experience personally.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What are some ways the church can bestow Christ’s blessings on children today?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

In educational ministries

 

In relationship structures

 

In service projects

 

Other

 

Conclusion

 

A. Jesus Loves the Children

 

One of the first songs I learned in church told me that “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.” This was often paired with another favorite song that proclaimed “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

 

My simple thinking of those formative years connected all this. I figured that if Jesus loves all the children of the world, then I was one of them. And when I was told to sing that Jesus loves me, I couldn’t help but love Him back.

 

What a great truth to teach our children: Jesus loves you! The Son of God loves you! Today’s lesson reveals that Jesus was disturbed when His disciples tried to keep children away from Him. He wanted to be with the children, to hold them, to bless them. This truth has not grown old for me; I have never forgotten it. The Jesus who held and blessed the children so many centuries ago is the risen Christ who held me spiritually throughout my childhood.

 

The love that Jesus exhibited for children is one of the things that endears the human Jesus to us so much. He did not see them as a bother or a nuisance; He saw them as a treasure. The ministries in some churches are tilted overly toward adults because, after all, little children cannot give much in the way of offerings or serve on committees. But those who teach and minister to children are the guardians of one of the church’s greatest treasures.

 

The people of Israel knew they needed to train their children so they could be future leaders. So also Christians need to care for the souls of their children so that the work of the church will continue into the next generation without faltering. Neglecting or shortchanging ministry to children may seem prudent in the short term, but in the long run it is the most unwise plan that any church can possibly follow!

 

We have children in our churches who are the future of the church, but too often we let them slip away. They are not nurtured in ways that result in a smooth transition from the childlike faith of “Jesus loves the little children” to “Jesus loves me forever.” When picking up their children from Sunday school, the parents’ first question should not be “Did you have fun today?” but rather “What did you learn about God today?” May we never neglect the spiritual development of our children!

 

B. Jesus Loves the Childlike

 

In addition to the tender picture of Jesus holding, loving, and blessing children, our lesson has a second focus: we are reminded that we must be like children to be proper members of the kingdom of God.

 

 

God wants our trust. God wants us to be humble. God wants a childlike faith. On some of my darkest days as an adult, I have sung those songs “Jesus loves the little children” and “Jesus loves me, this I know” from my childhood to remind myself that I am still loved by the Savior of the world. I am still a child in His kingdom.

 

If children ruled the world, the result would be chaos. If children led the church, things would be a mess. But if the world and the church were led by responsible, spiritually mature adults who had childlike faith and humble spirits, what a difference we would see! What will you do in the week ahead to make that difference a reality?

 

C. Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank You for loving us when we were innocent children and for not withholding Your love when we became adults. Thank You for showing us how important children are to You and teaching us how important they must be for us. Make us more like children who trust You without reserve. May we rest in Your arms and receive Your blessings in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

D. Thought to Remember

 

Childlike faith makes us fit for the kingdom of God.            

 

 

 

 

Kid’s Corner

Those Who Receive the Kingdom of God

Luke 18:15-17 & Mark 10:16

Sunday, May 22, 2016

 

 “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Luke 18:17).

 

How do little children receive life in the world God created? In general, with happy smiles, with joyful laughter, with an eagerness to learn, with unbounded energy, with creativity, with inventive play, with trust in others, with a sense of dependence, with a sense of right and wrong (especially when another child takes one of their toys), with a desire to express and receive love and hugs; and when they are taught about Jesus, they easily trust Him and enjoy singing songs of praise

about Him. Of course, children are not perfect; they act their age, and loving parents rightly correct them. Jesus said those who want to enter the kingdom of God must receive the kingdom of God like a little child. If we consider some parallels between children and the followers of Jesus, we notice that the followers of Jesus receive Jesus as their King in God’s kingdom. They trust Jesus and they depend on Him for everything. Their sense of right and wrong develops as God’s grace works in them, and what did not seem wrong previously becomes obviously

wrong to them later. They ask for and are open to correction and the discipline of Jesus when needed. More and more, they treat others as they would like to be treated. You can usually see them laughing joyfully and with happy smiles. They eagerly study the Bible to learn more about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. They

use their energy, their intellect, and their creativity to express their love for God, to serve God, and to help others using the gifts God has given them.

 

Thinking Further

Those Who Receive the Kingdom of God

Luke 18:15-17 & Mark 10:16

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Name ________________________

 

1. Think of Jesus and a movie star, a sports legend, and a politician. What are some of the qualities of each that attract people and their children to them?

 

 

2. How do you think the little children felt when Jesus called them to Him?

 

 

3. How do believers in Jesus feel when they go to Him in prayer?

 

 

4. Why does the kingdom of God “belong to such as these”?

 

 

5. Jesus sometimes called His disciples “children.” Do you think of yourself as a child of Jesus? If so, what does that mean to you?

 

 

 

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

 

1. Think of Jesus and a movie star, a sports legend, and a politician. What

are some of the qualities of each that attract people and their children to

them?

Jesus: Kindness, Concern for helping others in many ways. Movie star: fame

Sports legend: physical success Politician: popular with some

 

2. How do you think the little children felt when Jesus called them to Him?

Happy, unafraid, and protected

 

3. How do believers in Jesus feel when they go to Him in prayer?

Happy and with other emotions depending on their circumstances and why they are going to Jesus. Unafraid and expecting help. Knowing Jesus is forgiving and

understanding. Trusting He will ultimately protect them from evil. Knowing they will see Him face to face someday with joy.

 

4. Why does the kingdom of God “belong to such as these”?

The kingdom of God belongs to those who go to Jesus with love and trust to be with Him; they are drawn to Jesus because they know about Him and they want to know more about Jesus personally. The Holy Spirit draws them and they respond to His leading, even though some might try to keep them away from Jesus.

 

5. Jesus sometimes called His disciples “children.” Do you think of yourself

as a child of Jesus? If so, what does that mean to you?

Yes. I am totally dependent on Jesus for everything, even life itself moment-by-moment. I can trust Him as a loving Father. Jesus said, “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” “Jesus answered: ‘Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”?’” (John 14:7,9).

 

 

Word Search

Those Who Receive the Kingdom of God

Luke 18:15-17 & Mark 10:16

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Name_________________________

 

Y U R P Y R K R M R N G B F D

J S V J E B E B A X O T M W X

Q D L D T C A W H D M Z B S Z

H A N P E J S E I B A B L G Y

N I N I C T R E B U K E E N I

H Y V Y R J C F Q K S I S O U

O E Q D O A E I D I U P S L Y

L Y N J I N F Z U N S E G E G

C O T E T S E X C G E L U B A

T H A E R I C N M D J T A I E

K R R W X D A I X O H T Q J S

L B U O J Z L R P M A I A D M

S J Q L H V E I M L J L N H Z

X F W K Y Z H G H S E A P Y K

N A P E O P L E W C H S H I T

 

People

Babies

Little

Children

Disciples

Jesus

Hands

Arms

Hinder

Kingdom

God

Belongs

Truly

Anyone

Receive

Enter

Rebuke

Bless

 

 

True and False Test

Those Who Receive the Kingdom of God

Luke 18:15-17 & Mark 10:16

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Name ___________________________

 

Circle the true or false answers. Correct the false statements by restating them.

 

1. The disciples discouraged parents from bringing their babies to Jesus. True or False

 

2. The disciples encouraged older children to bring their questions to Jesus. True or False

 

3. Jesus strongly reprimanded the disciples for asking questions and encouraging others to ask questions. True or False

 

4. Jesus encouraged little children to come to Him. True or False

 

5. Jesus did not want anyone to prevent the children from coming to Him. True or False

 

6. Jesus gave gum and candy to the children who sat in His lap. True or False

 

7. The dentists in nearby towns encouraged the children to go see Jesus. True or False

 

8. Jesus embraced children and gave them His blessing. True or False

 

9. Many parents wanted Jesus to bless their children. True or False

 

10. When adults come to Jesus He expects them to act and think like grownups. True or False

 

 

 

Answers to the True and False Test

Luke 18:15-17 & Mark 10:16

Sunday, May 22, 2016

 

1.   True

2.   False

3.   False

4.   True

5.   True

6.   False

7.   False

8.   True

9.   True

10. False

 

 

Closing Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, thank You for loving us when we were innocent children and for not withholding Your love when we became adults. Thank You for showing us how important children are to You and teaching us how important they must be for us. Make us more like children who trust You without reserve. May we rest in Your arms and receive Your blessings in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

Sunday School Lesson

May 15

Humble Faith

 

 

Devotional Reading: Micah 6:6-8; 7:18, 19

 

Background Scripture: Luke 18:9-14

 

Luke 18:9-14

 

9And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

 

10Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

 

11The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

 

12I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

 

13And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

 

14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

 

Key Verse

 

The publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. —Luke 18:13

 

Lesson Aims

 

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

 

1. List the attitudes and actions of the publican (tax collector) and the Pharisee.

 

2. Explain the inverse relationship between humiliation and exaltation.

 

3. Examine his or her own approach to humility and make a plan for corrective action.

 

Introduction

 

 A. Society’s Extremes

 

I was recently visiting a church in a medium-sized city and chatting with a friend before the worship service began. A man and his wife walked by; I was introduced, and we shook hands. As the couple went to their seats, my friend whispered, “That’s our chief of police.” My immediate reaction was likely what yours might have been: impressed. I did not know him, but assumed the chief was a person deserving respect.

 

Contrast this with another encounter I had in a coffee shop in Los Angeles a few years ago. As I sat working on my computer, a 30-something man came in with two young women who were dressed in a suggestive, immodest fashion. His hands were all over those women. I don’t know what their business was, but my mind assumed the worst. My opinion of this stranger was one of disgust and contempt. I figured that he was using or abusing those young women in ways that I would disapprove of strongly.

 

One-time encounters. Two people I didn’t know. Why the difference in my reactions? Why did I consider one a respectable citizen and the other a contemptible lowlife? We sometimes form opinions of people based on scant information, strong opinions that may be resistant to change. Should we trust the neat and clean man who is dressed in a smart business suit or the young man wearing baggy gang-style apparel and sporting many tattoos? We form quick opinions, but the reality might be that the businessman is a crook while the other man is a youth minister.

 

Today’s lesson is the story of two men from Jesus’ world who were on opposite ends of society’s respect gauge. The lesson that Jesus gives shows us that God judges us by what is in our hearts, not by our perceived reputation or social status.

 

B. Lesson Background: Pharisees

 

The Pharisees were an elite group of Jewish men in the first century AD. They played a prominent role as frequent opponents of Jesus in the four Gospels. We wish we knew more about this group, because some information about the Pharisees from sources outside the New Testament is inconsistent and even conflicting. Although the majority of Pharisees lived in the cities and villages of Israel (see Luke 5:17), they were also located in the Jewish quarters of the cities of the Roman Empire. For example, Paul was a Pharisee (as was his father, per Acts 23:6), although he grew up in Tarsus, a city in the Roman province of Cilicia, about 355 miles north of Jerusalem.

 

The Pharisees were zealous for keeping the Law of Moses with exacting detail. In addition, Pharisees were concerned with a body of unwritten regulations, sometimes called “the tradition of the elders” (Mark 7:5). This was understood as oral tradition that was delivered to Israel by Moses at the time the written law was received, and the Pharisees believed it was equally authoritative.

 

A great concern of the Pharisees was to be “blameless” when it came to the law (Philippians 3:6). Even so, the Pharisees of Jesus’ day were targets of His teaching regarding hypocrisy (Luke 12:1). Jesus knew that while the Pharisees went to great pains to appear to be righteous keepers of the law, the hearts of some were far from righteous (Matthew 23:27). Luke portrays them as covetous (Luke 16:14).

 

C. Lesson Background: Publicans

 

Compared with Pharisees, publicans were at the opposite end of the approval spectrum. Publicans had entered into the employment of the hated Roman overlords to collect various taxes and tolls from fellow Jews. While the Pharisees were held in high esteem by the common people, publicans were universally reviled and hated. They were not seen as civil servants but as collaborators with the enemy—traitors.

 

How to Say It

 

Cilicia Sih-lish-i-uh.

 

Moses Mo-zes or Mo-zez.

 

Pharisees Fair-ih-seez.

 

phylacteries fih-lak-ter-eez.

 

Tarsus Tar-sus.

 

 

 

Their reputation was further sullied by the way they went about their task, for they were known to use their positions of authority to extort, keeping the extra for themselves (compare Luke 19:1-8, lesson 13). The Romans overlooked this corruption as long as sufficient tax money flowed into their coffers. As a result, publicans operated without fear of prosecution or punishment.

 

Like some of the Pharisees, publicans tended to be wealthy (example: Luke 19:2). But unlike Pharisees, publicans had no incentive to give even the appearance of righteousness. Some lived a riotous lifestyle of heavy drinking and keeping company with prostitutes, for publicans had little to lose in the court of public opinion. Jesus received condemnation from Pharisees for consorting with publicans (Luke 5:30; 15:1, 2). Jesus even chose a publican to be an apostle (Matthew 9:9; 10:3; Luke 5:27, 28).

 

I. Parable’s Target

 

                                                                   (Luke 18:9)

 

 

 

A. View of Self (v. 9a)

 

9a. And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous.

 

A parable invites comparison; this is seen clearly here in the story that follows. The immediate context for this parable is Jesus’ rhetorical question, “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). The parable at hand answers this question.

 

A preeminent Old Testament text that condemns the idea of trusting in oneself for attaining righteousness, what we call “being self-righteous,” is Isaiah 64:6: “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (see also Psalms 14:2, 3; 53:2, 3 [quoted in Romans 3:10, 11]). The Old Testament speaks of what we might call being righteous in a relative sense (2 Samuel 22:21-25; etc.). But we cannot make ourselves wholly righteous, for we are all flawed and stained by sin. This means our righteousness must come from an external source (compare Isaiah 61:10). The great truth of the gospel is that we become righteous through faith in Jesus (Romans 1:17; 3:21-26; Philippians 3:9; etc.). We cannot accomplish this by or for ourselves.

 

B. View of Others (v. 9b)

 

9b. And despised others.

 

A mind-set of self-righteousness leads to the equally pernicious practice of judging other people to be unrighteous. Our personal smugness concerning our own sterling behavior causes us to despise them. We begin to say, “Well, I have my faults, but I am not as bad as others I know.”

 

Again, the false underlying assumption is that we are adequate judges of righteousness, whether it be of ourselves or the lives of others. We must leave such judging to God (Luke 6:37). We are to trust that He will find us righteous through faith in Christ, not holding our sins against us.

 

What Do You Think?

 

How do we know when we’ve crossed the line from having a holy God-confidence to having an unholy self-confidence?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

In thoughts

 

In behavior

 

Considering 2 Corinthians 11:16-30

 

Other

 

15,000 Articles?

 

An editorial cartoon a few years back showed two sloppily dressed high-school students looking at a newspaper. Its headline read, “Asian Students Exceed American Students in Science and Math.” The caption of the cartoon had one of the fellows saying to the other, “Yeah, but I’ll hold our self-esteem up to them any day!”

 

The beginning of the so-called Self-Esteem Movement has been traced to the influential paper “The Psychology of Self-Esteem,” published by Nathaniel Brandon in 1969. The movement gained momentum in 1986 when the state of California passed legislation creating “The State Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem and Personal and Social Responsibility” to implement self-esteem principles. The foundation of such principles is that feelings of self-worth are a key to success in life.

 

By 2009, more than 15,000 scholarly articles had been written on the subject. Their conclusions, according to Kay Hymowitz, are that high self-esteem “doesn’t improve grades, reduce anti-social behavior, deter alcohol drinking or do much of anything good for kids. In fact, telling kids how smart they are can be counterproductive.”

 

Jesus noted a similar outcome among many religious leaders of His time: those who had been taught to have the greatest self-esteem with regard to their own righteousness did not, in fact, demonstrate superior spirituality—quite the opposite! The challenge of the apostle Paul still applies: “I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly” (Romans 12:3).—C. R. B.

 

II. Tale of Two Men

 

                                                               (Luke 18:10-13)

 

 

A. Trips to the Temple (v. 10)

 

10. Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

 

The temple in Jerusalem has many functions for the Jews of Jesus’ day. It is a place of sacrifices, a place of worship, a place to give offerings, and a place to pray (see Acts 3:1). Jesus’ parable in regard to the latter features two men, and the contrast between them can hardly be greater for His audience!

 

One of the men is a Pharisee, a man who automatically is respected by fellow Jews (see the Lesson Background). He is a paragon of virtue, a model citizen. He loves the law so much that he makes keeping it his life’s pursuit and obsession.

 

The crowds notice visits by Pharisees to the temple, for Pharisees wear clothing that indicates their status. Such attire includes phylacteries (leather headpieces containing Scriptures) and cloaks with especially showy fringes or tassels (see Matthew 23:5; compare Numbers 15:38; Deuteronomy 6:8).

 

The crowds also notice any visit by a publican. They too are well dressed. Yet their attire is not designed to show piety, but to flaunt wealth. They might be accompanied by servants to attend to their every whim and act as bodyguards. On seeing a publican in the temple, the people might mutter, “What is that snake doing here? He cheated me and got away with it! His very presence makes a mockery of our temple!”

 

Yet the two men are bound together by the need to pray. The wording went up into the temple could indicate that both men are from out of town, having come some distance to the city of Jerusalem, which is at a higher elevation than the surrounding area (compare Luke 2:42; 10:30; etc.). The farther they have come, the greater their yearnings to speak with God and have Him speak to them. But their motives are different, as we shall see.

 

B. Story of Self-Praise (vv. 11, 12)

 

11. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

 

If the Pharisee is visiting from a village many miles distant, the opportunity to pray in the temple is very special for him, since he is not able to come to the temple daily. But whether living locally or farther away, this is an opportunity to parade his righteousness before crowds of admirers.

 

The prayer of the Pharisee is proud and public. He undoubtedly chooses a place to stand and offer his prayer that will give him maximum exposure to the crowd. We are given the impression that his words are more for public consumption than for sincere dialogue with God (compare Matthew 6:5, recorded by a former publican).

 

The Pharisee uses words of thanksgiving, but they are hardly thanks to God. They are self-congratulatory praises for what he has done with his life. He lists three categories of sin that he sees himself as having risen above: (1) he is not one of the extortioners, which can refer to those who use legal maneuvers to steal from others; (2) he is not unjust, reminding his audience that he keeps the law perfectly; and (3) he is not one of the many adulterers, meaning his sexual conduct is above reproach.

 

But most of all, our Pharisee prides himself in not being like the nearby publican, a man whom the crowd may assume to be guilty of all three of the aforementioned sinful qualities. Those listening to the parable as Jesus tells it can imagine easily the disgust in the fictional Pharisee’s voice.

 

What Do You Think?

 

Under what circumstances, if any, is it appropriate to compare ourselves with others? Why?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

At work or school

 

At home

 

Considering Judges 8:1-3; 2 Corinthians 10:12-18; and Galatians 6:4

 

Other

 

12a. I fast twice in the week.

 

Having listed the things he does not do, the Pharisee now trumpets the righteous things he does do on a regular basis. He fasts not once, but twice in the week (compare Luke 5:33). An observant Jew is expected to keep the annual fast on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29-31; 23:26-32), but fasting twice a week is far beyond Old Testament requirements.

 

Ancient sources indicate that Pharisees fast on Mondays and Thursdays regularly. This practice surely began for godly reasons, but had devolved into a way of demonstrating piety (compare Zechariah 7:2-5). Times of fasting are accompanied by public displays to ensure the fasting is noticed by others (see Matthew 6:16).

 

 

 

12b. I give tithes of all that I possess.

 

The Pharisee is also proud to announce his rigorous tithing practices, something the onlookers assume of him. Elsewhere, Jesus condemns the Pharisees’ practice of scrupulous tithing as hypocritical because of their neglect of “the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith” (Matthew 23:23). Tithing is never taught in the New Testament as a way to gain favor with God. We are to give cheerfully as an act of worship (2 Corinthians 9:7), not as a way to receive praise from others (compare Matthew 6:1-4).

 

What Do You Think?

 

How might differences between humility and selfrighteousness be evident as people participate in various worship activities today?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding singing

 

Regarding observance of the Lord’s Supper

 

Regarding the receiving of offerings

 

Other

 

C. Story of Self-Humiliation (v. 13)

 

13. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

 

Unlike the Pharisee, the publican has no sense of self-righteousness. He has sold out to the Romans, but his resulting wealth gives no comfort for his soul. He is without hope, and all the money in the world cannot make up for a life without hope.

 

As such, he does not assume a posture of confident expectation for his praying. No raised arms, no head lifted toward God in Heaven. Instead, he acts with humility bordering on shame. It is almost as if he is afraid to make eye contact with God. He is like the ashamed child who droops his head to look at his shoes when confronted with wrongdoing by a parent. Jesus even pictures the publican pounding his chest, an act of self-humiliation (compare Luke 23:48).

 

The wealthy publican does nothing to justify himself and the sinful lifestyle we are to assume he has been leading. We are told nothing specific about this man. But the condemnation against him in the Pharisee’s prayer is surely the way we should understand him. This is a man who has profited from his nation’s misery under brutal Roman rule, filling his personal coffers with silver and gold extorted from fellow Jews.

 

Even so, he is no hypocrite, and he seeks to hide nothing despite his shame. He prays for one thing: God’s mercy. His only hope for a restored relationship is based on the nature of God himself, the Lord who is merciful to His children even when they sin. If God withholds His mercy, all is lost.

 

What Do You Think?

 

Which of Jesus’ personal actions helps you most to emulate His humility?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Considering Jesus’ service

 

Considering Jesus’ sacrifice

 

Considering Jesus’ prayers

 

Other

 

III. Lesson in Exaltation

 

                                                                   (Luke 18:14)

 

 

A. Different Outcomes (v. 14a)

 

14a. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other.

 

Jesus ends the parable with a conclusion that undoubtedly surprises His hearers. Those listening expect positive recognition of the Pharisee, for he is the one the crowd looks to as a model of righteousness. They also expect a condemnation of the publican, for he is seen to be about as far from being righteous as any Jew they can imagine.

 

But that is not the outcome Jesus gives: the publican is the one who departs justified. This term is the verb form of the noun righteousness. The despised publican is the example Jesus wants to lift up—not for his lifestyle, but for the sincere humility of his prayer. Jesus is teaching that God is merciful. He attends to the prayer of the tax collector, while the self-serving prayer of the Pharisee results in nothing as far as God is concerned.

 

B. Different Life Patterns (v. 14b)

 

14b. For every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

 

Jesus ends this teaching story with a lesson that seems counterintuitive to His hearers and may be equally confusing to many today. Those who seek to exalt self will ultimately find this to be a losing effort. Self-exaltation is the same as self-justification as seen in the self-congratulatory prayer of the Pharisee. Although there may be no fault in that man’s behavior, true exaltation, true justification, can come only from the Lord.

 

God still looks for the humble heart as the publican demonstrated (compare Psalm 51:17). No matter how right our actions might be, if our hearts are wrong, then we are not in God’s favor. “Surely [God] scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly” (Proverbs 3:34; quoted in James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). Even someone with the cleanest, holiest life can be proud and arrogant. Even the worst sinner can find a spirit of humility and recognition of shame.

 

At What? Compared with Whom?

 

“I am the greatest,” pronounced boxer Muhammad Ali in 1964. Boastful athletes and other high-profile individuals before and after him have made similar claims. We see it in the Old Testament (Ezekiel 35:13; etc.). We see it in today’s headlines. In response, such claims can make us wonder Greatest at what? Greatest compared with whom?

 

The Pharisee put himself in the same company as Ali and other boasters both ancient and modern. On the at what? question, he fancied himself to be greatest at avoiding all the negative things listed in verse 11 and in performing the positive things listed in verse 12. On the compared with whom? question, the object of his derision was a despised publican. An interesting thought to entertain is how the Pharisee would have seen himself in comparison with the high priest!

 

That’s the problem of comparing ourselves with others—our conclusions change depending on the standard of comparison that is used. When we compare ourselves with God’s unchanging standards, however, our conclusions should always be the same: we have fallen short of those standards, and we need God’s grace. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9).—C. R. B.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What are some ways a church might unintentionally foster a spirit of self-exaltation? How do we avoid this danger?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

In the area of upreach (worship, prayer)

 

In the area of outreach (evangelism, benevolence)

 

In the area of inreach (teaching, pastoral care)

 

Conclusion

 

A. The Source of Humility

 

While Jesus used polar-opposite characters in the parable to make His point, there is nothing that precludes a person who lives in a righteous manner from being humble. Likewise, there is nothing about a grossly sinful lifestyle that automatically engenders humility. Humility is a matter of the heart and of understanding our relationship with the Lord. We should never presume His mercy, just as we must realize we can never earn it.

 

Any attempt to justify ourselves by pointing out our many good deeds will fall short. Paul reminds us that no one is righteous through personal effort (Romans 3:11, 12). What should we do then? What hope do we have? Our only hope is found in humbly trusting God and His mercy. This is the essence of Christian faith: the recognition that we cannot save ourselves. The best efforts of dedicated people like the Pharisees, people obsessed with keeping the law, fall short. May God be merciful to us, for we too are sinners.

 

B. Prayer

 

Merciful Father, remove from us the impulses to exalt ourselves. May our hearts be humble, trusting, and compliant to Your will. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

 

C. Thought to Remember

 

Be humble in all things.

 

 

 

 

 

Kid’s Corner

God Gives Mercy to the Contrite in Spirit

Luke 18:9-14

Sunday, May 15, 2016

 

Luke 18:9-14

 

(Luke 18:9) And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:

Because they consider their behavior better than others, some think they have earned and deserve acceptance by God. To emphasize their supposed superiority, they look down upon and even put down those who act differently. In Jesus’ day, many religious leaders thought they were especially chosen by God and therefore better than others. They added to God’s law or emphasized different parts of God’s law and ignored other parts according to their self-focused standards. They emphasized who they were as religious leaders and the behavior they approved; instead of pointing people to God and serving as good examples by practicing the behavior God commanded and expected from true believers. Jesus’ parable applies to those who trust in themselves and their behavior instead of in God, and who make their sin worse by thinking they are better than others based on their behavior. They are so confident of their own righteous deeds that they do not think they need God’s forgiveness, grace, or mercy. Their prayers of thanks to God quickly turn into words of self-praise and thankfulness that they do not behave as badly as others.

 

(Luke 18:10)  “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

The Pharisees knew and interpreted the law of God, usually to benefit themselves. They taught the law of God and expected others to conform to their interpretations. Along with their interpretations, they added restrictions and permissions unintended by God. They were well educated and looked down on others as they obeyed God’s law according to their self-centered interpretations. Few people liked tax collectors and most considered them traitors because they collected taxes for their Roman oppressors and were often accused of cheating. Matthew and Zacchaeus were tax collectors who became followers of Jesus after Jesus called them. Matthew became a disciples of Jesus, and Zacchaeus may have continued as an honest tax collector (the Bible does not say).

 

(Luke 18:11)  “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. ... And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full” (Matthew 6:1, 5). The Pharisee in Jesus’ story thanked God that he did not do some of the sins clearly forbidden by God’s law, and he gave himself the credit for his right behavior instead of the grace and power of God that restrained him from doing these bad things. He prayed aloud to be heard by others, and looked down on and condemned the tax collector. He received no reward (no justification) from God. He received what he really wanted; he was “seen by others” and there was no further reward for him to receive. He may have been seen by others, but it is unlikely that he received anyone’s love and respect.

 

(Luke 18:12)  ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’

The Pharisee did not look into the condition of his heart or did not reveal the intention of his heart when he prayed aloud. Jesus warned the Pharisees about the consequences of their hypocrisy: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. … Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:23, 27). It seems this Pharisee did not love his neighbor or felt he was too good to love “sinners”; such as the tax collector. He compared himself to the tax collector instead of what God’s law commanded. If he thought the tax collector was bad, he did not pray for the tax collector to repent and turn to faith in God to be saved.

 

(Luke 18:13)  “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’

By the grace of God, the tax collector saw his true condition before God: he was a man in need of God and God’s forgiveness. Both the Pharisee and the tax collector were sinners, but the Pharisee trusted in his good works and thought he was right (justified) with God; while the tax collector knew that he had not done everything right and could not do anything good to be right (justified) with God. Therefore, unlike the Pharisee, the tax collector called out to God for all to hear that he needed God’s mercy and forgiveness because he was a sinner. He anxiously desired that God would graciously cleanse him on the inside and free him from his slavery to sin (though he may not have known all that he truly needed God to do for him and Jesus did not elaborate about the man’s hopes). The tax collector in Jesus’ parable was in a perfect condition to hear the good news of Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord, and Jesus could cleanse him and free him from sin.

 

(Luke 18:14)  “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Because the tax collector called out to God in desperate need of mercy, he showed that he hated the sins he knew he had committed and he did not want to sin any longer. He wanted God’s mercy to make him right with God and cleanse his conscience; therefore, he went home right (justified) with God. He did exactly what he should have done in the sight of God; he felt exceedingly sorrowful for his sins and too unworthy to even look up to heaven. God extended His forgiving mercy and lovingkindness to the tax collector, and Jesus’ parable declared what those who prayed as the tax collector would receive from God in answer to their prayers. The Pharisee asked for nothing from God because he trusted in the few things he had done right; therefore, he could not go home right (justified) with God. Jesus foretold that a time would come when people similar to the Pharisee would be humbled: people would see the kind of person they truly were and they would see themselves as God saw them. Also, those who feel sorrow for their sins so that they beat their breasts and seek the mercy of God will be seen as right (justified) with God by the grace of God, as blessed children in the family of God.

 

 

 

God Gives Mercy to the Contrite in Spirit

Luke 18:9-14

Sunday, May 15, 2016

 

 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’” (Luke 18:13).

 

As King David confessed his sins, the Holy Spirit moved him to pray and record these words: “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (Psalms 51:17). Through the prophet Isaiah, God declared that He accepted the prayers of the broken and contrite: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15). In

Jesus’ parable, the tax collector prayed in ways similar to King David. He expressed grief and shame because of his sins. He would not even look up to heaven as he confessed he was a sinner and prayed to God for mercy. Jesus declared that this tax collector went home from the temple right with God. If this were more than a parable, we also have the assurance that God would have gone home with him to revive his spirit and heart as He promised through Isaiah. When Jesus came preaching good news, He assured people that God meant what He had promised

through the prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures. If sinners would humble themselves, repent of their sins and place their faith in Him as their Savior, then God would be with them. Furthermore, after His death and resurrection Jesus would fill them with the Holy Spirit so they would be empowered and guided from that day forth to live supremely for God and free from slavery to sin.

 

Thinking Further

God Gives Mercy to the Contrite in Spirit

Luke 18:9-14

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Name ____________________________

 

1. Describe some of the differences between being confident in your own righteousness and being confident in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

 

 

2. What are some of the ways some people today are similar to the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable?

 

 

3. What are some of the ways Christians can avoid the sins of the Pharisees?

 

 

4. What are some of the dangers involved when people measure themselves by the actions of others instead of living according to what the Bible teaches?

 

 

5. How can it benefit those who pray in ways similar to the tax collector?

 

 

 

 

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

 

1. Describe some of the differences between being confident in your own righteousness and being confident in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

If I am trusting in my good deeds or the belief that I have done more good deeds than bad deeds as the way to be right with God (righteous), then I am not trusting in God or understanding that the damage of my disobedience to my relationship with God, others, and within myself can only be repaired by God’s grace and forgiveness. Because I have sinned, only my repentance and faith in Jesus Christ

can restore my relationship with God; Jesus Christ is the only Way of Salvation that God has provided for me to be right (justified) with God. Believing in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior is the only way God has provided for me to inherit eternal life. I am confident in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, especially because I have read the Gospels. Jesus obeyed God perfectly and became the atoning sacrifice for me so our loving God could be just and merciful every time He forgives a repentant sinner who trusts in Jesus Christ for salvation.

 

2. What are some of the ways some people today are similar to the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable?

They modify the laws of God in the Bible, the moral law revealed by God in the Bible and through nature (natural law). They add restrictions to the law of God or they omit from the law of God what conflicts with their self-centered desires. They look down on those who do not think as they do. They commend themselves for what they do, and they judge others who do not behave according to their standards or their interpretation of the moral laws of God.

 

3. What are some of the ways Christians can avoid the sins of the Pharisees?

By trusting in Jesus Christ for their salvation rather than in their good deeds or in living a law-abiding life (which will never atone for past sins). By humbly praying to God and asking God to forgive them when they sin and for God to give them empowerment and guidance through the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit to obey God when tempted again. By praying for those they see who are disobeying the moral teachings of Jesus Christ and the Apostles in the Bible. By praying and seeking ways to help unbelievers come to saving faith in Jesus Christ and believers live the way God wants them to live.

 

4. What are some of the dangers involved when people measure themselves by the actions of others instead of living according to what the Bible teaches?

They will try to live according to the examples and standards set by others instead of the higher standards that God has revealed in the Bible. They will fall short of

the glory of God and God’s moral standards. They will fail to see themselves as God sees them. They will not see themselves as sinners who need to repent and place their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation and freedom from slavery to sin.

 

5. How can it benefit those who pray in ways similar to the tax collector?

They will be prepared to hear the good news, and God can lead them to hear the good news from someone, from the Bible as they read and study, and in other ways. Through their sorrowful repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit will give them the assurance of God’s grace, forgiveness, mercy, and eternal life.

 

 

 

 

Word Search

God Gives Mercy to the Contrite in Spirit

Luke 18:9-14

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Name ____________________________

 

N F V D J V O W Y S N U M F I

E M Q A E B J N B M E R C Y G

V R E D F I T E R V D W O U T

A I D U E G F Q S G H V M E I

E G E L R A W I O U P F I D T

H H T T P X B S T F S R X E H

E T L E G H Q V G S C G L L E

L E A R B E A Y D O U B R B J

P O X E P Z A R N G A J T M Q

M U E R X R T F I R U D E U R

E S G J P J I H A S L R I H E

T N V W I D V P K Q E Q L O B

J E F R E N N I S N Z E A N B

C S V N Q E V I L D O E R L O

W S T Y V F W H G T S A F B R

 

Jesus

Parable

Confident

Righteousness

Temple

Pray

Pharisee

Robber

Evildoer

Adulterer

Justified

Fast

Tithe

Heaven

Sinner

Mercy

Exalted

Humbled

 

 

 

 

True and False Test

God Gives Mercy to the Contrite in Spirit

Luke 18:9-14

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Name ____________________________

 

Circle the true or false answers. Correct the false statements by restating them.

 

1. Each day people who want to go to heaven should be certain they have done more good deeds than bad deeds so God can forgive their bad deeds. True or False

 

2. People who refuse to do really bad things when tempted should feel confident that when they die they will go to heaven. True or False

 

3. Those who follow Jesus should not look down on others. True or False

 

4. Jesus told a parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector that showed a truth about prayer that is acceptable to God. True or False

 

5. The Pharisee thought he was better than the tax collector. True or False

 

6. The Pharisee thought he should tell God some of the good things he did. True or False

 

7. When he prayed to God, the tax collector expressed great sorrow for his sins. True or False

 

8. When he prayed to God, the tax collector pleaded for mercy. True or False

 

9. Jesus said Pharisees should pray differently than tax collectors because they were very religious and did many good things. True or False

 

10. Jesus warned that the tax collector would be humbled because in his prayer he exalted himself before God. True or False

 

 

Answers to the True and False Test

Luke 18:9-14

Sunday, May 15, 2016

 

1.   False

2.   False

3.   True

4.   True

5.   True

6.   True

7.   True

8.   True

9.   False

10. False

 

 

Closing Prayer

 

Merciful Father, remove from us the impulses to exalt ourselves. May our hearts be humble, trusting, and compliant to Your will. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen

 

Sunday School Lesson

April 17

Recovered Faith

 

Devotional Reading:Philippians 2:1-11

 

Background Scripture:Luke 8:26-39

 

Focal Verses

Luke 8:26-36

 

26And they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee.

 

27And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs.

 

28When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not.

 

29(For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.)

 

30And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him.

 

31And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep.

 

32And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them.

 

33Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked.

 

34When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country.

 

35Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.

 

36They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed.

 

Key Verse

 

They went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind. —Luke 8:35

 

Lesson Aims

 

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

 

1. Outline the sequence of events concerning Jesus’ interaction with the Gadarene demoniac.

 

2. Explain how the text contributes to his or her larger understanding of Jesus’ identity and mission.

 

3. Write a prayer thanking God for the figurative demons that He has driven from his or her life.

 

 

Introduction

 

 

A. So, Where’s My Joy?

 

As a child and into her high-school years, Karen had been a happy and relatively carefree person. Following college, she started a career with a company that placed high priority on speed and success. She managed well through her 20s and early 30s, but hit a roadblock after marrying and having her first child.

 

She became depressed and conflicted after the baby came. Karen returned to work, but felt overwhelmed by the responsibilities of job and family. By the time she turned 40, Karen was experiencing bouts of depression on a regular basis. An underlying sense of guilt magnified these feelings. “I’m a Christian,” she would tell her friends. “I’m supposed to be joyful in Christ. I don’t know why I can’t trust God and stop feeling so anxious.” Sometimes when she felt particularly discouraged or helpless, she would challenge God in her prayers: “So, where’s my joy?”

 

About 18 percent of the U.S. adult population suffers from some form of anxiety-related disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. For Christians, it seems that there should be an inverse correlation between these afflictions and one’s level of faith, but often there is not. Today’s lesson can help us get on the right track in that regard.

 

B. Lesson Background

 

Most modern readers of the Bible are aware that the land of Israel was controlled by the Roman Empire during Jesus’ life. Israel was, however, on the extreme eastern edge of that empire, literally on the frontier of Rome’s influence. Not far east of the Jordan River, one entered the Nabatean kingdom; this was where Paul fled for safety after becoming a Christian (see Galatians 1:17, where he refers to the region as “Arabia”). The Romans did not finally seize control of Nabatean-held areas until AD 106.

 

A bit farther north, an area known as the Decapolis (literally, “ten cities”) was situated between the southeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee and a Nabatean-controlled area (compare Mark 5:20; 7:31). The Decapolis was an independent but unofficial league of city-states. These municipalities were not under Rome’s control but were allies of the empire. This area is where today’s lesson is situated.

 

The heritage of the population of the Decapolis was very mixed: some inhabitants came from native Arabic people-groups; some were Greek and Roman colonists and business people; some had migrated from lands farther east (the old Persian and Babylonian empires); some were Jews who had moved to the eastern side of the lake. Despite the presence of the latter, Jesus had entered Gentile territory as we come to Luke 8:26. (Parallel accounts of today’s encounter are found in Matthew 8:28-34 and Mark 5:1-16.)

 

I. Conquering a Legion

 

                                                                    (Luke 8:26-33)

 

 

 

A. Trip by Boat (v. 26)

 

26. And they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee.

 

The word they refers to Jesus and the 12 disciples, the latter by now also designated as “apostles” (see Luke 6:13). The verses just prior to the one before us make clear that their mode of travel is by boat.

 

The precise location of today’s lesson has long been a point of debate, due to some variations in the naming of the area among the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The text before us says that the group arrives at the country of the Gadarenes, which matches Mark 5:1. But Matthew 8:28 says the area is “the country of the Gergesenes.” Actually, these refer to the same area, with the towns of Gadara and Gergesa (from which come the designations Gadarenes and Gergesenes, respectively) both located in the region. Some students see a historic connection of the region with the Girgashites of the Old Testament, a tribe conquered by Joshua (Deuteronomy 7:1).

 

More significant than the exact designation of the area is its location on the map: being east of the Sea of Galilee, it lies outside the boundary of the Roman Empire and (mostly) outside the traditional borders of Israelite habitation (see the Lesson Background). This is one of Jesus’ rare trips into Gentile territory (compare Matthew 10:5; 15:24).

 

B. Encounter While Ashore (v. 27)

 

27. And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs.

 

Disembarking from the boat, Jesus experiences a strange welcome as He is confronted by a demonized man. Only Luke’s account notes that this man’s condition has existed for a long time. Apparently, there had been a time when the man was in control of himself, a time when he was not yet afflicted by devils. We presume he had lived a normal life in that earlier period, just like anyone else, with his family in the nearby village.

 

But things changed somewhere along the line, although none of the Gospel accounts tells us how the man came to be in the sad state we see him in here. Had he opened himself up to being demonized by participating in occult practices? We simply do not know. Rather than addressing any of that, Luke moves us right to his current status: the man now subsists—somehow—without the basics of clothes and housing.

 

We can imagine that at some point in his torment he stripped himself naked and ran from the town, only to end up milling about in a nearby cemetery. We do not know if he is Jewish, but the Law of Moses establishes that contact with a dead body makes one unclean (compare Leviticus 21:11; Numbers 5:2; 19:11; Matthew 23:27). This makes the tombs where the man dwells the most unclean place imaginable.

 

The social and psychological consequences of the man’s bizarre behavior and lifestyle almost go without saying: the man clearly has no job, no social connections, etc. To be demonized does not always mean that one is driven to the fringes of society or becomes an outcast altogether (compare Luke 4:33, 34; 9:38, 39). But it does mean just that in this particular case. Everyone who knows or encounters the man fears him. He seems to be more animal than human, apparently incurable. He has fallen as low as anyone can. Of course, Jesus specializes in cases of this kind!

 

What Do You Think?

 

What are some ways your church can take Christ to marginalized people in your community?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding the physically infirm

 

Regarding the mentally infirm

 

Regarding the culturally different

 

Regarding the poor

 

Other

 

C. Reaction by Demonic (vv. 28, 29)

 

28. When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not.

 

What the disciples think as they observe the crazed man is not recorded. But whatever their level of anxiety, it certainly does not match the level of distress exhibited by the devils that indwell the man!

 

Here as elsewhere, the cause of their distress is quite interesting: the demons are well aware of Jesus’ power; consequently, they fear what He may do to them. Jesus received a similar reaction in the exorcism of Luke 4:34. It is fascinating that the spiritual forces of darkness readily acknowledge Jesus’ true identity as Son of God most high while the experts in the Law of Moses are unable or unwilling to do so (Luke 5:21; etc.).

 

What Do You Think?

 

What should we do when we witness or experience resistance to the gospel?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

When the resistance involves anger

 

When the resistance involves avoidance

 

When the resistance is based on misunderstanding

 

Other

 

29. (For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.)

 

Exorcisms both ancient and modern often involve elaborate, lengthy rituals that include the voicing of incantations, use of sacred objects and symbols, and applications of herbs and potions. Jesus, however, casts out demons simply by commanding them to leave. Of course, Jesus’ power to heal would be no less miraculous if this man were mentally ill rather than demon-possessed. But a significant aspect of our story relates to the reality that Jesus can resolve even the most difficult problems—including problems that are not of a medical nature.

 

The verse before us offers details similar to those in Mark 5:4. The attempts to bind the demonized man with chains and in fetters should not be seen as acts of cruelty. People apparently have tried to keep him from harming himself and others in the only way they know how. The man’s symptoms of uncontrollable outbursts and a range of antisocial and self-destructive behaviors might be associated today with severe mental illness. Luke is clear, however, that this individual’s problem is supernatural in nature: the man is under the control of the devil. The people of the first century know the difference between mental, physical, and spiritual afflictions (see Matthew 4:24).

 

D. Superiority of Jesus (vv. 30-33)

 

30. And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him.

 

Names are viewed as symbols of identity and power in the ancient world. To know the true name of a supernatural being is thought to have power over that entity. For this reason, ancient exorcisms typically invoke names as a way to gain command over supernatural beings (compare Acts 19:13-16). Jesus, of course, doesn’t really have to ask What is thy name? because He already knows everything about the many devils that beset the man.

 

Jesus’ question forces the devils to disclose that there are in fact many spirits indwelling the troubled man. Legion is the designation of a Roman military unit of up to 5,400 men. As the Roman legions had taken control of the land of Israel and oppressed its inhabitants, so also the devils have assumed total control over this helpless individual. Whether there are literally 5,400 devils or figuratively just lots and lots of them indwelling the man ultimately doesn’t matter because they now meet their match.

 

31. And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep.

 

The word translated the deep is translated the same way in Romans 10:7, but it is also translated “the bottomless pit” in Revelation 9:1, 2, 11; 11:7; 17:8; 20:1, 3. In the passages from the book of Revelation, this is a place where certain enemies of God are temporarily imprisoned. Following release from there, these enemies are defeated and thrown into a lake of fire (see Revelation 19:19-20:10; compare Matthew 25:41). The evil spirits who inhabit the man seem to be well aware of the fate that awaits them!

 

32. And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them.

 

The presence of an herd of many swine is a further indication that Jesus and the disciples are in Gentile territory (see the Lesson Background) since pigs are unclean animals to Jews (Leviticus 11:7; Deuteronomy 14:8; see also Luke 15:15 in next week’s lesson). This older use of the word suffer means “allow” or “permit,” so Jesus grants the demons’ request. They realize that they cannot challenge Jesus’ authority and power, so they bargain for the best possible outcome.

 

How to Say It

 

demoniac duh-moe-nee-ak.

 

Gadara Gad-uh-ruh.

 

Gadarenes Gad-uh-reens.

 

Galilee Gal-uh-lee.

 

Gergesa Gur-guh-suh.

 

Gergesenes Gur-guh-seenz.

 

Girgashites Gur-guh-shites.

 

Nabatean Nab-uh-tee-un.

 

Doubtless the demons prefer to seek out one or more new human victims, but Jesus does not allow it. Their pitiful request to enter the unclean animals—to become a legion of lowly pigs—shows how utterly powerless they are in Jesus’ presence. Despite the impressive level of control over the man that the demons have exhibited, the showdown ends quickly. The fact that Jesus does not here or elsewhere send demons directly to “the deep” is consistent with His current mission not of meting out judgment (John 12:47) but of calling people to repent and warning of what will happen if they do not (see Matthew 13:24-30; Luke 13:1-8).

 

What Do You Think?

 

How do you draw strength from the fact that Jesus is greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4)?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

When facing challenges at work or school

 

When facing family challenges

 

When facing temptation

 

Considering Ephesians 6:12

 

Other

 

33. Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked.

 

The dramatic conclusion to the one-sided battle underscores Christ’s ability to defeat the forces of evil. The new home of the devils turns out to be quite temporary. They seem unable to control their new hosts: the herd immediately stampedes down a steep place into the lake and drowns, forcing the demons to flee to unknown quarters. Mark 5:13 sets the number of pigs at “about two thousand,” so that may indicate that at least that many demons are present if we assume at least one demon inhabits each pig.

 

Remember Who Wins

 

Cutting is self-injurious behavior that primarily affects young people who are trying to cope with problems. The preadolescent and teen years see 90 percent of this practice. Nearly half of those who engage in this behavior have been sexually abused, and females make up 60 percent of self-harmers. Self-injurious behavior may also present itself in a young person (or anyone, for that matter) who engages in reckless driving, substance abuse, promiscuity, etc. Regardless of the form that self-injury takes, the problem is often evidence of intense emotional pain, a poor sense of self-worth, and frustration with seemingly unresolvable life situations.

 

The demonized man of today’s lesson also engaged in self-destructive behavior. In this regard, Mark’s account includes a detail that Luke’s does not: “night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones” (Mark 5:5). Was he cutting himself voluntarily out of frustration with his inability to overcome the demons? Was this something the demons forced him to do? We don’t know; the text does not say.

 

What we do know is that Jesus’ healing of the man proved that God has power over all forces that may align against us, whether natural or supernatural. Jesus is still the one who can save us both from ourselves and from all other forces. “The seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven” (Luke 10:17, 18).

 

Whenever we find ourselves seemingly without hope, the first step back to wholeness is to remember that Jesus wins, not Satan.—C. R. B.

 

What Do You Think?

 

When was a time you saw God’s power at work in a way you did not expect? How do you apply that lesson?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

God’s work in the life of an unbeliever

 

God’s work in the life of a Christian

 

II. Restoring a Life

 

                                                                   (Luke 8:34-36)

 

 

 

A. Reactions by the Herdsmen (v. 34)

 

34. When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country.

 

They that fed the swine are the herdsmen. What they witness makes a profound impression! Whether or not they know the reason for the suicidal stampede is unclear. Mark 5:2 and Luke 8:27 seem to indicate that the exorcism takes place on the shoreline, while Mark 5:11 and Luke 8:32, 33 establish the location of the herd to be on an elevated area that Matthew 8:30 says is “a good way off.” So the two locations may be out of earshot from one another.

 

Even if the herdsmen have not been able to hear the conversation between Jesus and the demonized man, they certainly can see the result! So they depart quickly to report the incident to anyone in the city and in the country who will listen.

 

B. Fear of the Situation (vv. 35, 36)

 

35, 36. Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed.

 

Those who come to see what was done undoubtedly include the owners of the swine. Those owners (who probably are not the herdsmen; compare John 10:12, 13) have just suffered a substantial loss financially, so it’s natural to expect them to be among those who come to investigate.

 

In due course, they and others find Jesus talking with a familiar figure. The man who is now sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind is the very one who “had been often bound with fetters and chains” (Mark 5:4)! The witnesses at the scene, which include the disciples, relate the full story. The man’s new condition, contrasting so markedly from what it was before, testifies to the totality of his cure.

 

Even so, the reaction of the crowd is troubling. Jesus has just offered a remarkable display of God’s power, and at the very least the result solves a problem for those living nearby. The locals, however, are afraid. This is not fear in the positive sense of “reverential awe” of God (see Psalms 22:23; 33:8; 119:120; 130:4; Luke 5:26; 7:16), but rather fear in the negative sense of “apprehensiveness,” of being alarmed to the point of wanting to have nothing to do with something.

 

The result is that “the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought him to depart from them” (Luke 8:37, not in today’s text). If most of the crowd is Gentile, they would tend to view Jesus as a powerful shaman or some kind of sorcerer—able to do great good but also great harm. They see both good and harm side by side in the case at hand: the cure of a man and the loss of a herd. In asking Jesus to leave, they reveal what concerns them more.

 

What Do You Think?

 

Under what circumstances should we investigate personally reports of what God is claimed to be doing somewhere? Why?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding reports involving claims of miracles

 

Regarding reports not involving claims of miracles

 

Considering Romans 1:8-11; Acts 8:14

 

Other

 

Atheist Bumper Stickers

 

Have you seen any atheist bumper stickers lately? Here are just two:

 

Religion: You can’t start a war without it!

 

 

 

Science flies you to the moon.

 

Religion flies you into buildings.

 

The latter connects religious belief with the tragedy of 9/11, of course. Neither of these two bumper stickers reveals any awareness of the distinction between proper and improper application of Christian principles, let alone acknowledging a distinction between Christianity and other religions.

 

We might be tempted to dismiss such sloganeering as mere whimsy. However, such expressions witness to a growing stridency on the part of atheists to overthrow Western culture’s once-strong belief in the divine. An increasing number of people seem to find society’s avowed trust in God to be a nuisance at best and a tyrannical excuse for evil at worst.

 

 

 

 

A similar attitude may have infected those who saw the aftermath of the healing of the demonized man. A great financial loss had been suffered in the drowning of 2,000 pigs. As the people looked at the floating carcasses, the healed man, and Jesus, they seemed to realize that a force they could not control—a force that could inflict further financial ruin—was present. They found themselves face to face with God in the flesh, and they found the situation intolerable. Fear won out. Could that same sentiment be what’s behind the strident atheism of today?—C. R. B.

 

Conclusion

 

 

 

A. On the Other Side of the Tunnel

 

With Christ all things are possible! The demoniac in today’s lesson had lived in a dark tunnel for a long time; through Christ, he finally came out into the light. Yet his calling was not to forget his past. Instead, Jesus sent him back to testify to the people who had seen his struggles, proclaiming God’s power and mercy in rescuing him (Luke 8:39). Jesus calls us to do the same.

 

B. Prayer

Father, continue to grant us deliverance from the evil that would torment us! Help us also to bear the burdens of others so that they too may be shining examples of Your Son’s deliverance. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

C. Thought to Remember

Nothing can come against us that God cannot defeat.

 

 

 

 

Kid’s Corner

Even Demons Want to Escape Hell

Luke 8:26-39

Sunday, April 17, 2016

 

(Luke 8:26) Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee.

 

Jesus traveled from town to town proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God (Luke 8:1). Before He left with His disciples to cross the Sea of Galilee in a boat to proclaim the kingdom of God there, Jesus told the parable of the sower (Luke 8:4-18). Except for one person that we learn about from the account of Jesus’ visit to the Gerasenes, the people Jesus met in the region were like the “road soil” (or soil beside the path) in the parable of the sower: the devil came and took away the word from their hearts (Luke 8:5, 12). On the way to the Gerasenes, Jesus quieted a storm on the sea, and the disciples expressed their amazement and fear at the display of Jesus’ power (Luke 8:25).

 

(Luke 8:27)  And when He came out onto the land, He was met by a man from the city who was possessed with demons; and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs.

 

Jesus knew in advance where He was going, why He was going, who He would see and what He would do. Previously, Jesus had cast out seven demons from Mary Magdalene, and Jesus would soon show His disciples that just as He could still a storm no matter how powerful, so He would cast out any number of demons from anyone. Jesus was and is the King over the kingdom of God, and He would soon prove that God’s kingdom ruled supreme over Satan’s domain. Luke described three outward problems for the man who lived with demons inside him: he lived among the dead with no clothes and no house. As a home for demons, his inner suffering must have been indescribable.

 

(Luke 8:28)  Seeing Jesus, he cried out and fell before Him, and said in a loud voice, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me.”

 

Jesus crossed the sea and went to the region of the Gerasenes to cure this demon possessed man, which is a demonstration of the value Jesus puts on every person no matter their problems. When in the storm on the sea, Jesus expected His disciples to have faith in Him and not be afraid of the storm. The man possessed by demons could not exercise faith in Jesus when he first saw Him. The man himself did not speak to Jesus, for he was not in his right mind. Just as Jesus’ power and authority alone could still the storm, so Jesus’ power and authority as God and King could cast out the man’s demons without the man first needing to exercise verbally his faith in Jesus. Jesus is not dependent upon the faith of anyone to accomplish God’s work. Jesus has complete control over the natural realm and the spiritual realm (over all of creation) to do His Father’s will. The demons knew who Jesus was, and the demons proclaimed His power over them. Jesus had the authority and power to bring God’s just judgment on the demons, and the demons may have known they deserved God’s punishment because they knew God and God’s moral laws over the universe. They called the just punishment they deserved from God “torture,” which they did not want to suffer in spite of the fact that they had tortured for years the man they possessed. Similar to these demons, many unbelievers think God’s justice and His promised just penalty or just punishment or just suffering for those who rebel against God and disobey God’s laws is unjust “torture.”

 

(Luke 8:29)  For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had seized him many times; and he was bound with chains and shackles and kept under guard, and yet he would break his bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.

 

The demon spoke aloud through the man because Jesus had previously commanded it to come out of him and the demon wanted to save itself. Though the demon had revealed the truth about Jesus as a Person, he misrepresented the character of Jesus by implying that Jesus would torture anyone; therefore, because of their lying nature, Jesus never wanted anyone to listen to demons. An impure spirit cannot be trusted to always tell the truth or reveal all the facts when it can use the truth in a way that spreads a lie. For example, Jesus did not come into the world to torture demons or sinners but rather to save the world and sinners. Casting out demons was a part of Jesus’ saving the world (John 3:16, 17; John 12:47; 1 Timothy 1:15). Obviously, the demon(s) had great power over the man they possessed. Guards and chains could not restrain these demons from harming this man, and he could not save himself, but Jesus showed forth greater authority and power and freed the man from these demons with only a few words.

 

(Luke 8:30)  And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him.

 

Jesus knew exactly what He was dealing with and what He would do. Just as He had prayed aloud to the Father before raising Lazarus from the dead so those who heard Him would believe that the Father had sent Him, so Jesus asked the demon its name for others to hear before casting them out, which would also show that the Father had sent Him (see John 11:41-42). Others needed to know what and how many demons Jesus was going to cast out the man. Others needed to know that Jesus had more authority and power on earth than thousands of demons. Apparently, an untold number of demons have the ability to live inside a person and control their thoughts, words, deeds, and steal the word of God from them, but Jesus has power over them all and can free anyone from demons. Believers do not need to know the names of demons to cast them out, Jesus said demons could be cast out through prayer and faith in Him (Mark 9:29).

 

(Luke 8:31)  They were imploring Him not to command them to go away into the abyss.

 

The demons recognized the fact that Jesus had the authority and power to order them to go into the Abyss. The Abyss is the abode or dwelling place of demons. In the Book of Revelation, John the Apostle wrote about demons and the Abyss: “They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek is Apollyon (that is, Destroyer)” (Revelation 9:11). The demons knew that Jesus was a greater King than their king; therefore, they had to obey Jesus. Jesus described the Abyss is a place prepared by God for the devil and his angels, a place where those who are cursed will be sent: “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’” (Matthew 25:41). The Abyss must be so horrible and so painful a place that it is beyond our human comprehension, because Jesus barely describes it. Jesus did say, “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out” (Luke 13:28).  When Jesus graciously healed the man possessed and tormented by these demons, He must have shown real mercy to these demons when He granted their request and sent them into a herd of pigs. Though delayed, someday all demons will receive the just punishment of God that they deserve and they will never be allowed to afflict a follower of Jesus in the kingdom of God.

 

(Luke 8:32)  Now there was a herd of many swine feeding there on the mountain; and the demons implored Him to permit them to enter the swine. And He gave them permission.

 

According to the law of Moses, pigs were unclean animals and were not to be eaten by the Jews before the coming of Jesus the Messiah: “‘For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body’ (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)” (Mark 7:19). In Jesus’ parable, the prodigal son was reduced to feeding pigs, and wished he could eat what pigs ate. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into these ritually unclean animals, and Jesus gave them permission. Notice: these demons did not repent of the evil and harm they had done previously. They thought only of themselves and remaining on this earth where they thought they would escape God’s punishment.

 

(Luke 8:33)  And the demons came out of the man and entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

 

Jesus’ actions showed that one man, even one who had previously been demon possessed, is more valuable than a whole herd of pigs irrespective of the local economy or animal rights. We do not know if the demons entered the man because of his sins or as a result of his pagan worship of idols, for it is unlikely that he had been a practicing Jew among the townspeople and farmers who raised pigs. On the other hand, he may have been a true to life example of the prodigal son; therefore, Jesus wanted him to go back to his family (see Luke 15:11-32 and Luke 8:39). Whatever the cause, the man was possessed by demons and Jesus came to save people from their sins, free people from demons, heal the sick, raise the dead, proclaim the kingdom of God, and die a sacrificial death to save sinners from eternal punishment. After Jesus freed the man from demons, he came to himself and believed in Jesus. Note: the demons, not Jesus, destroyed the pigs, which demonstrated again the demonic destructiveness that leads to death. Some think the demons were destroyed by the water along with the pigs; consequently, by their decision to destroy the pigs, the demons destroyed themselves and went into the Abyss. Whatever this case, the event showed that they could never harm this man again.

 

(Luke 8:34)  When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they ran away and reported it in the city and out in the country.

 

The keepers of the pigs fled and reported what they saw. Their fear of the man who had been possessed by demons, the destruction of the pigs they kept, their amazement at what they saw Jesus do, their conclusion that Jesus had destroyed their pigs, may have influenced the accuracy of their reports. Maybe what they saw filled them with fear of Jesus, for they probably did not stay around to see the complete healing and restoration of the man who had been possessed by demons — but only saw the tragic (to them) death of the owners’ precious pigs and their responsibility for them as herdsmen. They may have wanted to tell those who had hired them that there was nothing they could do when Jesus killed their pigs! They had fear and no faith. They fled in dread of what Jesus might do next. On the Sea of Galilee, the disciples had faith and fear after Jesus quieted the storm, and Jesus’ power over the wind and waves increased their faith. Imagine how both their faith and fear was impacted by this new revelation of Jesus’ power over a host of demons!

 

(Luke 8:35)  The people went out to see what had happened; and they came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting down at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind; and they became frightened.

 

Based on the reports of eyewitnesses, the people went out and saw the pigs were gone (sunk to the bottom of the sea, where they could not be reclaimed), and they saw the man they knew well who had been filled with demons. They also saw Jesus and mistakenly believed from what they had heard that Jesus had killed their pigs! Their pigs were their most valuable possessions. They saw the man healed, clothed, and most importantly “in his right mind” sitting at Jesus’ feet, but this did not lead them to think of Jesus being a compassionate healer sent by God or lead them to praise God for the man’s healing. Fear of further loss consumed them instead of thanking and praising God and Jesus for this man’s salvation irrespective of the financial cost to them.

 

(Luke 8:36)  Those who had seen it reported to them how the man who was demon-possessed had been made well.

 

Those who saw what Jesus had done included the disciples; therefore, the disciples would have given a correct interpretation about and explained what Jesus had done. Jesus had gone to many towns to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God: so Jesus would have used this opportunity to try to teach them about the true God and proclaim the kingdom of God to them too. But these people refused to listen to the truths they heard from Jesus and His disciples; and they pushed Jesus away.

 

(Luke 8:37)  And all the people of the country of the Gerasenes and the surrounding district asked Him to leave them, for they were gripped with great fear; and He got into a boat and returned.

 

In this situation, their fear was so great they would not come to faith, which may also reveal the influence of many demons in that land and/or their sinful self-centered concern for their financial well-being more than the healing of the man who had been possessed by demons. Their fear overcame them; it overpowered them and kept them from faith in Jesus. Just as Jesus granted the demons their request, so Jesus granted these townspeople their request, and there were consequences (though unstated) after Jesus left them. Those who saw the evidence of Jesus’ love and power, and heard the word that Jesus and the disciples sowed, but asked Jesus to leave them anyway, illustrates Jesus’ parable of the sower (which seems appropriate for that region): “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved” (Luke 8:11-12). Not all of the townspeople were possessed by demons, but no doubt demons did possess some of them less dramatically. If not possessed, many of them may have been strongly influenced by demons to act and speak as they did, especially when sending Jesus away. If they had come to Jesus (as many others had come to Him for healing and the casting out of demons in previous instances, and as the freed man before them aptly demonstrated), then His perfect love would have cast out their fears, any demons, and led them to saving faith in Him.

 

(Luke 8:38)  But the man from whom the demons had gone out was begging Him that he might accompany Him; but He sent him away, saying,

 

The man Jesus freed from slavery to the indwelling host of demons begged Jesus to let him go with Him. In this case, Jesus did not grant him his request because Jesus had more important work for him to do – Jesus wanted him to do God’s work in his own home and hometown where Jesus had just been forbidden to go. Though he could not go with Jesus, he would soon discover that Jesus’ Spirit could go with him. Perhaps this changed man could overcome the fears of those who rejected Jesus and being some of them to faith in Jesus. He had come to faith in Jesus and wanted to spend the rest of his life with Jesus, and Jesus would soon show him that He would be with him in the Spirit (similar to the Old Testament prophets). The Spirit of God could go with him and help him proclaim the truth about Jesus and show the results of Jesus’ compassion. The man could describe his life before and after he met Jesus. The man did not need to fear that the demons would return, because he had seen them destroyed in the sea. Jesus must have taught him much after he was in his right mind before the townspeople came and asked Jesus to leave them. As he obeyed Jesus, and grew to trust more in Jesus as Jesus helped him, Jesus would teach him more and more through the Spirit. He could learn from what he heard about Jesus; and later, perhaps some of the disciples saw him again after God raised Jesus from the dead and sent them forth. By sending the man home, Jesus also saved him from many of the trials His disciples would soon face in Jerusalem.

 

(Luke 8:39)  “Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.

 

Jesus wanted the man to return home and tell others about the true God. By experience, they would already have known much about the power of demons, but very little about Jesus and God and God’s power and love. The man took this step of faith and obeyed Jesus. Perhaps the man had a family that he loved, or a family that had loved him and he had abandoned; Jesus knew that his family needed him and the good news he could bring them. Perhaps, as the Parable of the Prodigal Son illustrates, he had a loving father who had been praying for him and eagerly looking for him to return home, and Jesus’ going to him to bring him to himself was God’s answer to his father’s prayers. He did not need to follow Jesus physically to serve Jesus spiritually, and God’s Spirit would be with him as he served Him. His life was filled with the love and presence of Jesus’ Spirit, so he could tell all over town what Jesus had done for him from the inside out and who Jesus was and what people could expect from Jesus if they trusted in Him. If they had eyes to see, they would experience the love of Jesus flowing forth from him. He could explain the unseen reality of what he had experienced and the Holy Spirit would help him proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God. His possibilities for ministry far surpass our ability to imagine or express in words!

 

 

 

Even Demons Want to Escape Hell

Luke 8:26-39

Sunday, April 17, 2016

 

 “And the demons begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss” (Luke 8:31).

 

Perhaps you have heard someone say that they want to go to hell, but that sounds shockingly strange since the demons, who had seen hell, repeatedly begged Jesus not to order them there. They recognized that Jesus had the authority and power

to save them from hell or send them to hell, where they would be under the authority of the abusive and evil king Abaddon (in Hebrew) or Apollyon (in Greek) which means “Destroyer” (Revelation 9:11). Jesus repeatedly warned people to avoid hell or the Abyss. He revealed that hell had been prepared for the devil and demons. He warned that people would be divided into two groups, and some would be sent to hell — into the eternal fire where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:41; Matthew 13:50). Based on what Jesus revealed and demons know by experience, those who sincerely live to go to hell will discover that they made a sad and sorry choice. Jesus mercifully granted these demons their request, but they refused to repent and destroyed themselves. Since these demons had the power to so possess a man that they drove him out of his mind and he lived naked in the tombs, imagine what life would be like spending eternity with evil beings like that! But people can repent, turn to Jesus, and avoid hell: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16, 17).

 

Thinking Further

Even Demons Want to Escape Hell

Luke 8:26-39

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Name ____________________________

 

1. What truth did the demons proclaim about Jesus and why were they afraid of Him?

 

 

2. What falsehood did the demons proclaim about Jesus and what might that mean?

 

 

3. What are some reasons the Bible teaches people not to talk to the dead or to demons?

 

 

4. From this event, what makes you think the Abyss or hell will be a place of unpleasant surroundings and suffering?

 

 

5. In what ways did Jesus demonstrate His compassion?

 

 

 

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

 

1. What truth did the demons proclaim about Jesus and why were they

afraid of Him?

They called Him “Jesus, Son of the Most High God.”

 

2. What falsehood did the demons proclaim about Jesus and what might that mean?

They proclaimed that perhaps Jesus would torture them (“torture” is unjust) — that possibility is contrary to Jesus’ moral character and a falsehood. They showed that they knew Jesus had power over them, and power to torture them, if He so chose. They used half of a truth to spread a lie about the kind of Person the Son of God is. They showed that they knew Jesus, who as Son of the Most High God, was the greatest King and had power over the king of the Abyss and demons; therefore, Jesus had the authority and power to send them into the Abyss according to His timing.

 

3. What are some reasons the Bible teaches people not to talk to the dead or

to demons?

Jesus is the Son of the Most High God, and we are not divine. Therefore, even as

believers, we can be deceived by demons, the world, and our own flesh (all of which the devil can use to deceive and tempt us). Demons can speak through people, and deceive people into thinking they are speaking to a dead person, that is actually a demon speaking through a demon possessed person. Then, they can deceive them into doing and thinking what should not be done or thought. Demons can afflict and persecute faithful believers; they can indwell and possess unbelievers; therefore, the Bible teaches people to have nothing to do with demons or idols.

 

4. From this event, what makes you think the Abyss or hell will be a place of

unpleasant surroundings and suffering?

The demons wanted to avoid the Abyss where they would be with the king of demons and other demons forever. The king of demons might especially torture them for failing to remain in the man they had possessed. If demons do not want to go there and be with one another forever, neither should people want to go there. It is a place everyone should want to avoid. Demons will do to other demons as well as to those people who will abide in the Abyss forever things that are similar to and worse than the suffering of the demon possessed man. By grace through faith in Jesus, Jesus can free people from demons. Because Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, believers in Jesus can also be freed from the fear of ever going to the Abyss where demons fear to tread.

 

5. In what ways did Jesus demonstrate His compassion?

Jesus showed mercy to the demons by not sending them to the Abyss. Jesus showed compassion to the man possessed by demons by crossing a sea to free him from demons, by freeing him, by putting him into his right mind, by clothing him, by sending him home to his family who probably loved him and needed him, by wanting him to tell his family and others about how much Jesus had done for him. Therefore, the man experienced the joy of obeying and serving Jesus, and many could be saved through his teaching about Jesus. Jesus showed His compassion for those who sent Him away in fear, because through the man’s testimony He might free them from fear and save them.

 

 

 

 

Word Search

Even Demons Want to Escape Hell

Luke 8:26-39

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Name ____________________________

 

 

C D K C P D E D N A M M O C U

Y P E T W V L N Q B N G W H G

V Q W N Z F O K D C U T D J E

S T R K W I T E Q A Y A E P R

O E D T G O N K R S F S S V A

N U C E R I R D T B U X S F S

Y F L T A E W D Z S O N E P E

N J U H X F R J P S H U S K N

I R C A V U S U O N G E S C E

E G N Y G E G L P A O C O I S

K M H P A R I Q L M J M P W Q

D L A T X T G I A O I O E O P

U X N G A O L R N Y M C U D I

D S A R D E U Z D Q J W V C G

A F Y T E F N S S Y B A H T S

 

Gerasenes

Sea

Galilee

Jesus

Demon

Possessed

Son

God

Torture

Commanded

Impure

Chained

Guard

Solitary

Legion

Abyss

Pigs

Drowned

 

 

 

True and False Test

Even Demons Want to Escape Hell

Luke 8:26-39

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Name ___________________________

 

Circle the true or false answers. Correct the false statements by restating them.

 

1. Jesus travelled across the sea (or lake) of Galilee and cast many demons out of a demon-possessed man. True or False

 

2. The demon who spoke to Jesus was named “Legion,” because so many demons possessed the man. True or False

 

3. The man asked Jesus to cast out his demons the moment Jesus stepped out of the boat. True or False

 

4. Legion declared that Jesus was the Son of the Most High God. True or False

 

5. Legion feared Jesus had come to torture them, so it begged Jesus to send them into the Abyss to be with their demon friends. True or False

 

6. Jesus scolded the keepers of the pigs for taking ham and bacon to the Jews in Galilee. True or False

 

7. Jesus gave the demons permission to enter into the pigs. True or False

 

8. Because the demons gave the pigs power to float, the pigs swam rapidly across the lake to Galilee. True or False

 

9. Jesus restored the man to his right mind and told him to go home and tell others what God had done for him. True or False

 

10. The townspeople rejoiced with the man and brought many others to Jesus for healing and the casting out of their demons. True or False

 

 

 

Answers to the True and False Test

Luke 8:26-39

Sunday, April 17, 2016

 

1.   True

2.   True

3.   False

4.   True

5.   False

6.   False

7.   True

8.   False

9.   True

10. False

 

 

Closing Prayer

 

Father, continue to grant us deliverance from the evil that would torment us! Help us also to bear the burdens of others so that they too may be shining examples of Your Son’s deliverance. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

 

 

Sunday School Lesson

April 3

Amazing Faith

 

Devotional Reading: Malachi 3:16-4:2

Background Scripture:Luke 7:1-10

 

Focal Verses

Luke 7:1-10

 

1Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum.

 

2And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die.

 

3And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant.

 

4And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this:

 

5For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.

 

6Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof:

 

7Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.

 

8For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

 

9When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

 

10And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.

 

Key Verse

 

When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. —Luke 7:9

 

Lesson Aims

 

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

 

1. Retell the story of the faith of the centurion.

 

2. Compare and contrast what impressed Jesus about the centurion with what impressed those who spoke on the centurion’s behalf.

 

3. Describe one way he or she will exercise “centurion faith” in the week ahead.

 

 

 

Introduction

 

 A. What Is Faith?

 

Have you ever wished that God would simply prove himself to you—prove that He exists, that He loves you, that He has power over your problems—by doing some great thing that would undeniably reveal His presence? We’ve all felt that way, particularly in times when we realize that we don’t have much or any control over negative circumstances. Perhaps this is why serious illness, either our own or that of a loved one, often brings out both the greatest faith in God and the greatest frustration with Him.

 

Experiences of this kind test not only our faith in God but also our very understanding of faith itself. While we may think that some personalized, visible sign of God’s existence and power would make our faith stronger, the author of Hebrews defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (11:1). If faith is indeed belief in something we have not yet achieved or experienced, would some visible “proof” of God’s existence actually make our faith stronger, or would it simply turn faith into a form of scientific knowledge? And if we wonder why God has not answered our prayers for healing, does our disappointment mean that we really don’t believe in Him?

 

Today’s lesson tells of an encounter between Jesus and a man who was very much like many of us. The man was a Roman solider, a person who doubtless had faced death on many occasions. But one day he found himself standing helplessly by the bedside of a beloved household member whose life was ebbing away. Circumstances of this kind can be the truest test of one’s heart and convictions.

 

B. Lesson Background

 

The Bible records many stories in which Jesus heals someone, and two aspects of today’s passage are unusual in that regard. One relates to the nature of the healing itself. Luke 7:1-10 is one of only three instances recorded where Jesus healed someone from a distance—that is, the person who was healed was not in the presence of Jesus when the healing occurred. (The other two distance-healings are recorded in Matthew 15:21-28 and John 4:46-54; some students think the account in John and that in today’s text are one and the same, but that is doubtful.)

 

The second unusual aspect relates to the nature of the individual who requested the healing in today’s lesson: he was a Gentile, and a Roman centurion at that. The Gospels very rarely show Jesus interacting with Gentiles, and in fact record Him stating that His mission was focused on Israel (Matthew 10:5, 6; 15:24-26).

 

A centurion was a Roman officer in command of a company of 100 soldiers (compare the English word century, a span of 100 years). The Romans began to rule over the land of Israel in 63 BC, and in Jesus’ day the Roman army was an occupation force that maintained law and order. Units of soldiers, commanded by centurions and stationed in local neighborhoods, were the backbone of Rome’s program to control the Jewish population.

 

I. Faith That Asks

                                                                    (Luke 7:1-8)

 

 

A. Centurion’s Request (vv. 1-3)

 

1. Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum.

 

The fact that Jesus has ended all his sayings in the audience of the people indicates a transition from the events of Luke 6:17-49, which records His famous Sermon on the Plain. This may suggest that what now follows will illustrate some of the key principles from that sermon (see the Conclusion).

 

How to Say It

 

Capernaum Kuh-per-nay-um.

 

centurion sen-ture-ee-un.

 

Cornelius Cor-neel-yus.

 

Gentiles Jen-tiles.

 

Israelites Iz-ray-el-ites.

 

Nebuzaradan Neb-you-zar-a-dun.

 

 

 

The large village of Capernaum (population of about 1,500) is located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Its importance is seen in the fact that it is mentioned 16 times in the Gospels. Capernaum serves as something of a headquarters for Jesus during His Galilean ministry (Matthew 4:13; Mark 2:1).

 

2. And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die.

 

This verse provides three key pieces of information that set the stage for the remainder of the story. First, the person who is about to ask Jesus for help is a centurion, a Gentile in the service of the Roman Empire, assigned to help keep the Jews in line (see the Lesson Background).

 

Second, this Gentile has a servant who is very ill. The precise nature of the affliction is not stated in Luke’s account, but Matthew 8:6 notes that the servant is “sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.” Luke stresses the severity of the situation: the servant is on the verge of death, so time is short.

 

That urgency is enhanced by a third piece of information: the centurion holds this particular servant in very high esteem (dear unto him). Servants in the Roman world are considered members of their master’s household, living and working closely with the family. In verse 7, below, Luke uses a Greek word for servant that is often translated “child” elsewhere (the same term is used throughout Matthew’s version of the story; see Matthew 8:6, 8, 13). The servant in question, then, may be a child born into the centurion’s household and reared with his own children, as is typical in that culture. The stakes are therefore very personal for this centurion!

 

What Do You Think?

 

How can you contribute to your church’s ministry to those who are on the verge of death?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding ministry to unbelievers

 

Regarding ministry to fellow Christians

 

3. And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant.

 

Jesus has already performed numerous miracles in Capernaum by this time (Luke 4:23, 31-41). Therefore it is likely that the centurion, a resident of the village, is already aware of, or has even seen, Jesus’ displays of power. In that case, he heard of means something like, “he heard that Jesus was back in town.” On the other hand, the language of this verse may mean that the man has merely “heard reports about” Jesus. In that case, the centurion’s faith is even more impressive, being based entirely on the testimony of others.

 

Either way, the centurion’s actions here very much reflect the culture and customs of the Roman empire. Following the rules of Rome’s complex system of patronage, a Gentile would not presume to approach an influential Jewish rabbi and holy man like Jesus with a direct request. Instead, the centurion directs his appeal through the elders of the Jews (that is, the leaders of the Jewish community in Capernaum) with whom he regularly interacts, asking them to serve as intermediaries between himself and Jesus.

 

What Do You Think?

 

Under what circumstances should you agree to a request to intercede on another’s behalf? Why?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Considering the motive of the one asking

 

Considering the possible consequences in not doing so

 

Other

 

Going to Jesus First

 

A mother walks the floor with a feverish toddler. A caregiver keeps vigil at the bedside of a confused elderly woman. A neighbor has just been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. People everywhere, every day, experience these and other distressing circumstances of health. And, naturally, they look for solutions.

 

When difficulties seem to multiply around us, we may begin to wonder when our turn is coming. And when it does come, how will we deal with it? Will our first thought be of a famous medical center that handles the kind of problem we have? After we’ve first considered, and perhaps availed ourselves of, our sources of earthly help, do we then say something like, “I don’t know anything else to do, so now I’ll pray”?

 

Putting prayer somewhere other than at the very top of our list of priorities means we don’t take our problems to Jesus first. That can be more of a temptation today than in the first century AD because we have available to us many more medical interventions than did the centurion of our story. Even so, we don’t know whether Jesus was a first resort for him or a last resort; the text doesn’t say (compare Mark 5:25-29). Although we don’t have that information, the centurion still stands as a model of faith; Jesus himself said as much (Luke 7:9, below). The centurion knew who had the answer to his problem. Do we?—C. M. W.

 

B. Centurion’s Character (vv. 4, 5)

 

4, 5. And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this: for he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.

 

It is important that these two verses not be misunderstood, lest they give a false impression to modern readers about the relationship between being worthy and healing. The text is not suggesting here that the centurion’s servant should be healed because the centurion is a particularly righteous man. Nor is it suggesting that God does not answer our prayers for healing because we are not good enough.

 

The point here is quite different. The Jewish leaders realize that Jesus is by now a famous rabbi; perhaps they also know that He does not typically include Gentiles in the scope of His ministry (see the Lesson Background). Therefore they may assume that He will reject their request out of hand simply because it comes from such an unworthy person.

 

Anticipating such an objection, the elders of the Jews immediately stress that the centurion is indeed a worthy person. Some translations obscure this assertion by saying that the man “deserves” the healing. In the culture of the day, the word worthy does not refer so much to a person’s innate goodness or moral excellence as it does to the quality of one’s actions. The centurion doubtless has many flaws, but he has shown himself to be a friend of the Jews. This is a rare trait in a commander of an occupation force, and the elders thereby believe that this makes him eligible for a hearing with Jesus. To establish this point, the elders note that the man has built us a synagogue, apparently providing financial resources and/or labor for its construction.

 

Overall, then, these verses do not portray the centurion as an especially spiritual man to be granted a miracle because he is unusually righteous. A centurion is, on the surface, someone far outside the realm of God’s favor—a Gentile oppressor of God’s people. This centurion’s actions, however, reveal a faith that transcends his background. That, to these Jewish leaders, should make all the difference in a desperate situation.

 

What Do You Think?

 

How does your church respond to the needs of non-members, if at all? What can you do to assist in this area?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding church policy

 

Regarding church procedure

 

C. Centurion’s Confidence (vv. 6-8)

 

6, 7. Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof: wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.

 

Having received a favorable response to his request, the centurion remarkably proceeds to challenge the very point that the Jewish elders have just made in his favor! In fact, he seems concerned that the elders have misrepresented him: the centurion never asked Jesus to come to his house, because he knows that he is, as he now says twice, unworthy to have a man like Jesus in his home. Having lived as a Gentile among Jews for some time, the centurion realizes by now that a proper Jewish rabbi regards him and his home to be unclean—certainly, Jesus would not make himself unclean to help a lowly Gentile!

 

We know from reading the Gospels that the centurion is misguided on this point. Jesus does indeed associate with sinful and unclean people—and is criticized for doing so (Luke 5:30; etc.). The centurion’s further remarks, however, reveal his understanding of Jesus to be deeper than that of the Jews of the time. He knows that Jesus does not need to come to the house to heal the servant; Jesus can heal simply by speaking a word from a distance. The significance of this unusual request is highlighted when one considers how seldom Jesus performs healings of this kind (see the Lesson Background).

 

8. For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

 

The centurion now proceeds to compare Jesus’ spiritual authority with his own earthly authority. As an officer, the centurion need not be personally present at every place a job needs to be done; instead, he commands his subordinates. In a similar way, he knows Jesus is able to command the spiritual powers over which He has authority to come to the man’s house and heal his servant.

 

While this line of thinking may seem a bit odd to modern readers, it is consistent with pagan understandings of the supernatural world, where gods and goddesses are presumed regularly to command deities lower on the totem pole to accomplish things in the human realm. Perhaps the centurion, having lived long among the Jews and having developed a faith in their God, has come to understand that God can command an army of angelic beings to carry out His plans.

 

Similarly, the man’s plea may reflect his awareness of Jesus’ power over demons. This could be evident from the exorcisms that Jesus has already performed, especially in Capernaum (see Luke 4:31-37). Whatever the nature of the servant’s illness, Jesus can command an angel to attend to the need (compare Matthew 26:53). The centurion’s analogy reveals a remarkable faith not only in God but also in Jesus himself—specifically, a faith that Christ has power over sickness and death.

 

What Do You Think?

 

When was a time that someone else’s confident faith during a difficult situation helped you face a similar circumstance later?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding a health crisis

 

Regarding a financial crisis

 

Regarding a relationship crisis

 

Other

 

II. Faith That Receives

 

                                                                   (Luke 7:9, 10)

 

 

A. Jesus’ Astonishment (v. 9)

 

9. When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

 

This verse reveals, in a poignant way, the human side of Christ—the part of Him that is fully vested not only with a physical body but also with human emotions. Jesus is both surprised and frustrated. His surprise comes from the centurion’s faith in God’s power to heal and, more significantly, from the man’s perception of Jesus’ identity and power. The surprise is magnified by the fact that the man is a Gentile—a person who has not grown up with an understanding of God or expecting a “Christ” to come.

 

Of the three cases where Jesus heals from a distance (see the Lesson Background), this is the only one where someone asks Him to do so. The startling nature of the request is highlighted by the fact that the centurion himself does not actually meet Jesus to make the request. All this time, he has remained at home and communicated through Jewish elders and friends (vv. 3, 6, above).

 

Jesus’ pleasant surprise, however, is accompanied by an unfavorable comparison that reflects His ongoing frustration: Why won’t His own people, the Jews, believe in Him? On earlier occasions, Jesus was almost killed by a mob in His hometown of Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30), has been confronted by Pharisees and other experts on the Law of Moses for claiming to forgive sins and for breaking the Sabbath (5:17-26; 6:1-11), and was criticized for fraternizing with publicans and sinners (5:27-32). In the eyes of His own people, Jesus apparently can do nothing right. Yet here is a Gentile who understands the implications of Jesus’ actions!

 

Surprising People

 

The Bible is full of surprises, things we don’t expect given our day-to-day experiences. One category of surprises is that of foreign soldiers who seem to be more in tune with the things of God than are God’s own covenant people.

 

Consider the case of Nebuzaradan, commander of the imperial guard of the Babylonian army. The prophet Jeremiah had warned the people of Jerusalem time and again of coming disaster. But his warnings fell on deaf ears, and he was imprisoned for daring to make such predictions. Nebuzaradan was the one to release him, revealing in the process an understanding of God’s will (Jeremiah 40:1-3).

 

Another case is that of the centurion named Cornelius, about whom an angel declared, “Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God” (Acts 10:4). Cornelius became privileged to be the starting point for expansion of the gospel to the Gentiles after Jesus’ ascension. Earlier, some Roman soldiers had come in repentance to John the Baptist (Luke 3:14). An unnamed centurion exclaimed at Jesus’ death, “Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39). That declaration may have been more from fear than from faith, but even so it showed a respect for Jesus that the Jewish leaders certainly did not exhibit on that day.

 

Just as the Bible surprises us in this way, so may life today. We can find ourselves startled by the faith we find in some people. Our task is to be ready to affirm that faith and help it grow.—R. L. N.

 

What Do You Think?

 

When was a time you encountered unexpected faith? How did you grow spiritually from this?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding a relative

 

Regarding a coworker or classmate

 

Other

 

B. Servant’s Healing (v. 10)

 

10. And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.

 

One can only imagine the centurion’s reaction when he realizes that his request has been granted! The healing actually occurs before the friends he had sent to Jesus return to the house and therefore presumably before the centurion has learned of Jesus’ verbal response to his plea.

 

Conclusion

 

A. Understanding Genuine Faith

 

Several themes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:17-49) are reflected in today’s lesson. In that sermon, Jesus pronounced blessings on those who grieve (as the centurion was doing; compare v. 21b) and are hated (as the centurion would have been hated by many Jews; compare v. 22a). Jesus also taught people to love their enemies and do good for them, because this is how God himself treats all people (note the love of the centurion for Israel as described by the Jewish elders; compare vv. 27-36).

 

Further, Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain noted that people, like trees, define themselves by the “fruit” (behavior) they produce (as the centurion revealed his true nature through his actions; compare Luke 6:43-45). Jesus went on to instruct that the wise person builds life on His teaching, just as a wise builder lays the foundation of his house on rock rather than sand (and as the centurion placed trust in Jesus; compare vv. 46-49).

 

Such connections would have been quite unexpected in Jesus’ day in view of the fact that the centurion was a Gentile and a servant of the Roman Empire—someone whom devout Jews would not normally view as a candidate either for God’s love or their own. All these thematic connections sharpen the point of our story: you can’t judge a book by its cover. As Jesus himself declared, “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” May our faith match that of the centurion’s!

 

B. Accepting God’s No

 

Fortunately for the centurion and his servant, our story has a happy ending: healing was needed, healing was granted, and the servant was saved from death. As we all know from experience, however, the outcome isn’t always so positive. All the faith in the world has never kept, nor can ever keep, a person alive indefinitely. Sometime after the events of Luke 7, the centurion’s servant did indeed die as all humans eventually do. At that time, no amount of prayer could have saved him, as we know from the simple fact that that individual is not alive today. Sometimes God says no, and when it comes to health issues, He always says no in the end.

 

Rather than being a source of discouragement, the fact that faithful people can’t always pray someone out of the hospital should help us better understand the point of stories like today’s. While faith can be powerful to effect healing, the main issue for God isn’t the healing; it’s the faith. The real victory for the centurion in today’s passage did not come when Jesus healed his servant, but before the healing: the centurion had already proven his faith by believing before Jesus answered his request.

 

C. Prayer

 

Father, give us the strength to trust You even in the most difficult times, and a faith that remains hopeful in the face of every obstacle. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

D. Thought to Remember

 

“Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.”—Elton Trueblood (1900-1994)

 

 

 

Kid’s Corner

Faith in the Words of Jesus

Luke 7:1-10

Sunday, April 3, 2016

 

 

Luke 7:1-10

 

(Luke 7:1)  When He had completed all His discourse in the hearing of the people, He went to Capernaum.

 

After Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth rejected Him and tried to murder Him, Jesus made His home in Capernaum (see Luke 4:28-31). After Jesus preached His “Sermon on the Plain” (similar to His “Sermon on the Mount” – Matthew 5-7), Jesus returned to Capernaum. In His “Sermon on the Plain,” Jesus taught, “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit” (Luke 6:43) and “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45). Jesus demonstrated these facts by His life and teaching, and did so when He healed the centurion’s servant.

 

(Luke 7:2)  And a centurion’s slave, who was highly regarded by him, was sick and about to die.

 

A centurion, a professional soldier in the Roman army, had heard of Jesus’ healing abilities, and he had a valued servant who was sick and about to die. Luke did not say how much the centurion knew about Jesus, but he knew enough to confirm what Jesus taught: “Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers” (Luke 6:44). He recognized Jesus was a good man who used and would use His power to help others. He knew what kind of a person Jesus was by His reputation. He knew Jesus was a good, kind, and powerful person who would be able to help him and his sick servant if he asked Jesus for help.

 

(Luke 7:3)  When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come and save the life of his slave.

 

The centurion sent some elders of the Jews to Jesus to ask Jesus to heal his servant. He sent the elders rather than go himself because of his humility. His high position in the Roman army had not made him arrogant or give him a feeling of superiority over others. He did not demand help. His giving to help others had not motivated him to think that he was deserving of Jesus’ help. Unlike the religious leaders who wanted to kill Jesus because of the good and miraculous things Jesus did that threatened their authority, these leaders respected Jesus as a healer and teacher. They also respected the Roman centurion as a God-fearing Gentile, so they went to Jesus for help. They serve as a good example – they interceded for an army officer of a hated, occupying enemy – it appears they had learned to love their enemies (at least some of them) as Jesus taught.

 

(Luke 7:4)  When they came to Jesus, they earnestly implored Him, saying, “He is worthy for You to grant this to him;

 

When these leaders went to Jesus, they showed their faith in Jesus – that Jesus could do exactly what was needed. Otherwise, they would not have interceded “earnestly” for the centurion; rather, they would have taken an unbelieving halfhearted skeptical approach to Jesus. They also gave Jesus some good reasons why He should heal the servant of this Roman officer. They appreciated this Roman officer and they believed the man deserved to be helped because he had borne good fruit – he was a good man and they told Jesus why he was good. They affirmed that the centurion was as Jesus described in His Sermon: “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart.”

 

(Luke 7:5)  for he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue.”

 

Though these elders would not have thought of their pleading as prayers to the Son of God, they provide an example of how someone can intercede with God in behalf of a good person who bears good fruit. Even though the oppressive Roman army was unwanted in Judea, these religious leaders recognized that some individuals in the occupying army loved their nation and their people and wanted to help them in practical ways. The centurion probably also loved and believed in the God of the Old Testament Scriptures up to the level of his understanding, because he built their synagogue where he and others could worship God and be taught the Scriptures.

 

(Luke 7:6)  Now Jesus started on His way with them; and when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof;

 

Jesus went with these elders to answer their pleadings (or prayers) to heal the servant. Jesus went on the servant’s behalf and not just because the servant was valuable financially or otherwise to the centurion. Jesus traveled far enough to show He would heal the servant; perhaps by touching him as He often did when He healed someone. To Jesus, a person some would have considered “just a lowly unimportant servant” was of value as a person created in the image of God regardless of his social standing. Then, Jesus heard from the centurion’s friends that he felt too unworthy for Jesus to come into his house and he did not want Jesus to trouble himself any more than He already had. Rather than give Jesus an order to serve him and help his servant, the centurion called Jesus “Lord.” He said he was not worthy to come to Jesus for help because Jesus was his “Lord.” In this situation, calling Jesus “Lord” would have meant more than simply calling Jesus “Sir” as a title of respect. He spoke and acted as though Jesus was His Lord and Lord over creation too. He believed that Jesus could heal his servant right from where He was on the road and he told Jesus why: it had to do with Jesus’ authority.

 

(Luke 7:7)  for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.

 

Because of his feelings of unworthiness, there is no indication that the centurion eagerly sent the elders to Jesus for help. The elders may have argued and convinced him that if they went to Jesus for help that Jesus would help his servant even though he himself felt unworthy. The elders may have brought the idea to the centurion of their going to Jesus after they had heard of his servant’s illness, because they felt he was worthy of Jesus’ help. The effort that these elders and these friends put forth to help the centurion and his servant reveals how good the centurion was to others. The centurion had such faith in Jesus that he knew Jesus could “say the word” from anywhere and his servant would be healed. He interceded for his servant by asking Jesus to take a moment and help him and then go on to His more important work. With his feelings of unworthiness, he may have had “second thoughts” about sending for Jesus; therefore, he sent his friends believing Jesus could do whatever His servant needed without any more trouble.

 

(Luke 7:8)  “For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”

 

The centurion knew enough about Jesus to know Jesus had tremendous authority and power in the spiritual or supernatural realm. The centurion did what his commanding officers told him, and the soldiers under him obeyed him. He told his friends to tell Jesus that he believed in Jesus as the one who could do anything in the world with a word – that is the way God created the world, with a word, and the centurion probably knew and believed the teachings that God’s creation of the world was with words (from his study of the teachings in the Book of Genesis). He knew Jesus had the power of creation, even if he did not say that to Jesus in so many words. He certainly attributed the power of God to Jesus, or at least Jesus’ spiritual power with God to work miracles.

 

(Luke 7:9)  Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.”

 

Jesus expressed amazement at the centurion’s public expression and statement of faith in Jesus, and Jesus’ amazement impressed His disciples and those nearby. Jesus acknowledged the fact that He did not need to see or touch the sick servant to heal him. All He needed to do was speak the word. He spoke the word in silence so people would know that the power of healing was His to give rather than in the use of special words. Jesus’ word healed; not special or magical words or chants that others could memorize and use to heal people or work miracles. Whereas many religious leaders hated Jesus for His good works and miraculous healings, this centurion saw the true source of Jesus’ good works as Lord over all – as a person powerful enough to heal from a distance with a word and good enough to do so. Everyone should have seen from Jesus’ works that He was good, but amazingly, many hated Him for His goodness.

 

(Luke 7:10)  When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

 

The men returned to the centurion and when they found the servant healed they knew Jesus had the authority and power that the centurion had attributed to Jesus by his expression of faith in Jesus. This miracle could motivate them all to more carefully consider the teachings of Jesus, lead them to learn the true source and the nature of His power as Son of God, and lead them to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

 

 

Faith in the Words of Jesus

Luke 7:1-10

Sunday, April 3, 2016

 

 “When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, ‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel’” (Luke 7:9).

 

Not all the Jewish leaders hated Jesus or wanted Him killed. Some respected Jesus as a teacher and healer. One day some synagogue elders earnestly pleaded for Jesus to heal the servant of a Roman centurion, which surprises us because most

of the Jews hated the Roman army that oppressed them and occupied their nation—they eagerly expected the Messiah to come and free them from the shackles of Rome. This Roman centurion surprises us because he loved the Jewish people and had built a synagogue for their worship and study of the Scriptures. Furthermore, this high ranking officer so highly respected Jesus and was so humble that he felt unworthy to come into Jesus’ presence or have Jesus come into his house. He called Jesus “Lord” in a way that meant more than just the title “Sir.” By every measure the centurion appeared to be a good man, but he did not believe his good deeds merited the attention of someone as important as Jesus. Therefore, as Jesus was on His way to his house to heal his servant, the centurion

sent some friends to tell Jesus not to bother himself, because he knew that Jesus could heal his servant with a word no matter where Jesus was at the time. As a God-fearing Gentile, this centurion knew God had created the world by using words, and he attributed this same power to Jesus when he told Jesus that

he believed Jesus could heal his servant by simply saying the word—Jesus did so and commended his faith.

 

 

Thinking Further

Faith in the Words of Jesus

Luke 7:1-10

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Name ______________________________

 

 

1. What are some things we learn about these Jewish elders from this incident?

 

 

2. What are some things we learn about the Roman centurion from this incident?

 

 

3. What are some things we learn about Jesus from this incident?

 

 

4. What are some things we learn about interceding and praying for others from this incident?

 

 

5. Can you think of someone who does good that needs your prayers? How can this lesson help you pray for them? Take time today to pray for them.

 

 

 

 

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

 

1. What are some things we learn about these Jewish elders from this incident?

They respected a Roman centurion as one who had built their synagogue, and they

considered him worthy of their earnestly pleading for Jesus to heal his servant. They respected Jesus as a teacher and healer, or they would never have gone to see Jesus: they would have been like other leaders who hated and wanted to kill Jesus. They seemed to be good religious leaders. They would have been pleased when Jesus healed the servant and amazed at how Jesus did it. They would have had much to consider.

 

2. What are some things we learn about the Roman centurion from this incident?

The Roman centurion was humble and did not consider himself worthy for Jesus to

come into his home. He had no racial or religious prejudice against the Jews. He was probably a God-fearing Gentile, because he built the Jews a synagogue. He had won the respect, if not the love, of the Jewish elders. He had good friends who would go to Jesus to help him. He seemed to be a good man who was concerned for others and especially concerned about his servant’s health even though he felt unworthy to bother Jesus. He was a man of great faith, of greater faith than any others Jesus knew among the Jews.

 

3. What are some things we learn about Jesus from this incident?

Jesus was willing to do what the respectful Jewish leaders asked of Him. Jesus

responded in a positive way when these leaders interceded for someone who was not a Jew, but a Roman soldier. Jesus was willing to walk someplace to heal a servant of someone else. Jesus was able to heal the servant from a distance with a word, and did so. Jesus was amazed and applauded the faith of this good Roman soldier, who was not a Jew, but who believed in Him, His authority, and His power.

 

4. What are some things we learn about interceding and praying for others from this incident?

When we pray for someone or intercede for someone, we can give God the Father and Jesus good reasons for answering our prayers. We can tell God how much good they have done for us and others. We can tell God how they have shown their love for God and belief in God by their words and actions. We can tell God about how they will be able to do so much more to help others if they are healed or their needs are met.

 

5. Can you think of someone who does good that needs your prayers? How

can this lesson help you pray for them?

Take time today to pray for them.

 

 

 

Word Search

Faith in the Words of Jesus

Luke 7:1-10

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Name_______________________________

 

N I T N A V R E S I B X S Y X

S D J Q C D L D Y C P U L Z E

E E P N K A E O W L S Q A Y W

V Z A L A Z P Z J R I P E B M

R S Q R A T X E E G D B H X S

E X Y M N Z I D R E A P Y E N

S M A N Q E L O D N Y H V F O

E Y Z J A E S A N B A O X Y I

D F T S F G E T K W L U J Z R

Z V A C J L O D L R I T M S U

W T L E P S E G W Y E L O I T

G O S H T I A F U C U T D C N

C U I O M Z V N L E Z B S K E

S Q P F A U T H O R I T Y A C

T Z W J E W S F W N G A D J M

 

Capernaum

Centurion

Servant

Master

Sick

Elders

Jesus

Jews

Heal

Pleaded

Earnestly

Deserves

Loves

Nation

Synagogue

Authority

Amazed

Faith

 

 

 

True and False Test

Luke 7:1-10

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Name__________________________

 

 

Circle the true or false answers. Correct the false statements by restating them.

 

1. Jesus was rejected by His hometown of Nazareth and moved to Capernaum. True or False

 

2. A Roman centurion was someone who was 100 years old. True or False

 

3. A highly humble servant needed healing, so he sent his friends to Jesus to ask Him for help. True or False

 

4. Some Jewish leaders valued Jesus’ ministry. True or False

 

5. A Roman centurion would never build a synagogue. True or False

 

6. Because he did not feel worthy to go to Jesus, a Roman centurion did not want to bother Him. True or False

 

7. Prayer can sometimes include earnestly pleading with Jesus. True or False

 

8. Rather than go and heal sick people, Jesus stayed home and healed people with a word or two. True or False

 

9. Jesus was amazed at the faith of a Roman centurion. True or False

 

10. A Roman centurion could be such a good man that he had Jewish friends. True or False

 

 

 

Answers to the True and False Test

Luke 7:1-10

Sunday, April 3, 2016

 

1.   True

2.   False

3.   False

4.   True

5.   False

6.   True

7.   True

8.   False

9.   True

10. True

 

 

Closing  Prayer

 

 

Father, give us the strength to trust You even in the most difficult times, and a faith that remains hopeful in the face of every obstacle. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen

 

 

 

 

Sunday School Lesson

March 27

Resurrection Faith

 

Devotional Reading:Psalm 23

Background Scripture:Mark 16

 

Focal Verses

Mark 16:1-8

 

1And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.

2And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.

3And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?

4And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.

5And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.

6And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.

7But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.

8And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.

 

Key Verse

[The angel] saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. —Mark 16:6

 

Lesson Aims

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

1. Describe the women’s experience at the tomb.

2. Evaluate the level of faith demonstrated by the women.

3. Share the good news of Jesus’ resurrection with one person in the week ahead.

 

Introduction

A. Surprised by Life

In C. S. Lewis’s classic The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the White Witch demands, by law, the life of a traitor. In response, the great lion Aslan (whose figure represents Jesus) takes the place of the traitor and is put to death on a great stone table by the witch. The witch thereby believes she has conquered all of Narnia.

But Aslan overcomes death by means of a greater law, a law that existed from before the dawn of time. The witch did not know about this law since her knowledge went back only to the dawn of time. Otherwise she would have known that when an innocent individual voluntarily allowed himself to be killed in a traitor’s stead, the stone table would crack and death itself would start working backward.

Satan knows lots of things. He knows what people do (Job 1:6, 7), he knows the Scriptures (Matthew 4:3-6), and he knows how to persuade (1 Chronicles 21:1). But the ability to know everything (that is, being omniscient) is an attribute of God, not of Satan (or of any other created being for that matter). Satan was able to persuade Judas to betray Jesus (Luke 22:3, 4; John 13:2, 27), which resulted in Jesus’ crucifixion and apparent defeat. But would Satan have gone ahead with his plan if he could have foreseen Jesus’ subsequent victory over death? Common sense tells us no.

Satan was not the only one unable to foresee Jesus’ victory through resurrection, although Jesus had predicted it (compare Luke 18:31-34; John 20:9). The women who went to the tomb were not expecting Him to be alive, given their intentions to prepare His body properly. They had witnessed the last moments of His life, had seen Joseph of Arimathaea place the body in his own tomb (Matthew 27:55-61; Mark 15:40-47; Luke 23:49-55; John 19:25-42). They went to do what should be done for the dead; they ended up being surprised by life.

B. Lesson Background: Gospels’ Witness

The four Gospels share divine inspiration and a common purpose. Yet each Gospel was written in a distinctive way for the needs of a particular original audience. In that regard, the four Gospel accounts of the resurrection of Jesus complement one another in the aspects and details they provide, but each is a condensed account. For example, Mark’s especially brief account does not mention the guards posted by Pilate (compare Matthew 27:62-66) and notes only one of the two men (angels) who were present at the tomb (compare Luke 24:4).

The Gospel of Mark constitutes only about 18 percent of the four Gospels taken together, and this brevity is a basis for Mark’s being called the Gospel of action. In rapidly shifting scenes, we see Jesus encounter the world’s sinfulness time after time, overcome its adversity, and alter the course of events profoundly as a result. Mark’s fast-paced biography comes to its climax at the empty tomb—where death itself is overcome by the power of the one able to grant eternal life.

 

C. Lesson Background: Joseph’s Actions

The closing verses of Mark 15 recount Joseph of Arimathaea’s reverential kindness and courage in requesting from Pilate the body of Jesus. Having received permission, Joseph placed it in his own new tomb, “which was hewn out of a rock” (Mark 15:46; compare Matthew 27:60). The fact that Joseph was “a rich man” (Matthew 27:57) fulfilled the prophecy about Jesus in Isaiah 53:9: “he made his grave ... with the rich in his death.” But Jesus’ body was not to remain there.

 

I. Expecting a Corpse

                                                                   (Mark 16:1-3)

 A. Spices of Sorrow (v. 1)

1. And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.

The women mentioned here had watched Jesus die on Friday, and at least two of them had seen Joseph of Arimathaea place the body in his own tomb (Mark 15:40, 47). Joseph had been assisted by Nicodemus, who had brought along a large amount of myrrh and aloes for the interment (John 19:39). The two men had followed Jewish burial customs as best they could (Mark 15:46; John 19:40), but they had acted in necessary haste since they had to finish before the Sabbath began at sundown (Mark 15:42; John 19:31).

 

What Do You Think?

How can various grief traditions help us realize God’s presence? How can we use those traditions to point unbelievers to Christ?

 

Points for Your Discussion

Regarding funerals/memorial services

Regarding graveside services

Regarding visitations/wakes

Regarding funeral dinners

Other

The grief-stricken women apparently do not believe that the burial preparations have been adequate. So after resting on the Sabbath (Luke 23:56), they return with sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.

The designation Mary Magdalene is not a first-name/last-name format that is familiar to us. Rather, the designation Magdalene likely indicates that she is from the town of Magdala. Jesus had delivered this devout woman from great spiritual oppression (Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2), hence her dedication to Him.

Mary the mother of James (and Joses; see Mark 15:40) is otherwise unknown to us. Salome is probably the mother of the James and John who are sons of Zebedee (so identified by combining Matthew 4:21; 27:56; and Mark 15:40).

 

B. Path of Mourning (v. 2)

2. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.

The women had set out “when it was yet dark” (John 20:1), intending to complete their task before the hours of another day furthered the decomposition of Jesus’ body. Their desired ministry is an acknowledgment that death has had its way. They expect the body to have no warmth of its own, the precious life of the teacher now gone from it. To them, the fact that this is the first day of the week has no special significance—not yet, anyway. The women are merely resolved to do their work in spite of their grief, which acknowledges the triumph of death. And so they arrive at the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.

 

C. Stone of Defeat (v. 3)

3. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?

At some point along the way, before they come within sight of the tomb, the women realize that they have forgotten about a major obstacle that lies between them and the fulfillment of their purpose. So they belatedly ask among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?

They had watched while the stone was rolled into place to close the tomb’s entrance (Mark 15:46, 47). Thus they already know that the stone that seals the tomb will be much too heavy for them to move. This is especially so if the groove in which it rests is sloped upward from the stone’s resting place over the opening. Such a design discourages entry by grave robbers, who would steal costly spices, etc.

The women’s anxiety likely mounts as they consider that this obstacle may defeat the fulfillment of their purpose. They had been unable to prevent the death of Jesus; now they may be unable even to complete the proper burial of His body.

 

How to Say It

Arimathaea Air-uh-muh-thee-uh (th as in thin).

Galilee Gal-uh-lee.

Jairus Jye-rus or Jay-ih-rus.

Lazarus Laz-uh-rus.

Magdala Mag-duh-luh.

Magdalene Mag-duh-leen or Mag-duh-lee-nee.

Nazareth Naz-uh-reth.

Nicodemus Nick-uh-dee-mus.

omniscient ahm-nish-unt.

Salome Suh-lo-me.

sepulchre sep-ul-kur.

Shunammite Shoo-nam-ite.

Zebedee Zeb-eh-dee.

Yet their love for Jesus and commitment to their purpose are undeterred by this prospect; they do not turn back in despair. And because they do not turn back, they are soon amazed by life where they expected the dead.

 

II. Encountering a Man

                                                                   (Mark 16:4-6)

A. Stone Out of Place (v. 4)

4. And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.

Mark uses a word that implies looked to mean the women “looked up” in the original language (compare the translation of this same word in Mark 6:41; 7:34; 8:24). Perhaps to this point the women have been entirely focused on the path just ahead of them so as not to stumble in the dim light. But lifting their gaze rather suddenly, they realize they have arrived at the tomb.

To see the stone rolled away is perplexing! There is more than one possible reason for this. But it is likely that the women do not know which explanation to favor over any other in this moment of surprise. The explanation that the women undoubtedly consider least likely—if they consider it at all—is that Jesus is risen from the dead (compare John 20:11-15). What John observes concerning himself and Peter, that “as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead” (John 20:9), is true of the women as well.

 

What Do You Think?

In what ways have you experienced God’s power and presence through the uncertainties that accompanied the loss of a loved one?

 

Points for Your Discussion

When surrounded by the support of others

When alone

 

B. Messenger in White (v. 5)

5. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.

The women’s devotion impels them to venture into the tomb. They seek a dead body, but instead they find themselves face to face with a young man who seems to be waiting for them. Matthew 28:2-5 tells us specifically that he is an angel. This fact is strongly implied in the text before us by Mark’s description of his attire (compare Luke 24:4) and the women’s reaction. Fear is the common reaction by a human when seeing an angel (compare Matthew 28:4; Luke 1:11, 12; 2:9; Acts 10:4).

 

What Do You Think?

What are some experiences you have had while visiting a cemetery that were startling at first but ended up strengthening your faith?

 

Points for Your Discussion

Regarding comments at a graveside service

Regarding inscriptions on headstones

Other

 

C. Victor over Death (v. 6)

6. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.

The angel’s words of comfort are typical in angelic encounters with humans (compare Luke 1:13, 30; 2:10). He knows why the women have come (Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth), but he negates their intention to anoint Jesus’ body by declaring that he is risen; he is not here. This tomb, which had been an abode of the dead, is now the epicenter of resurrection life!

 

What Do You Think?

When was a time that belief in resurrection was especially helpful? How did things turn out?

 

Points for Your Discussion

Regarding a serious illness

Regarding the unexpected loss of a loved one

Other

The invitation to behold the place where they laid him stands against various attempts through the centuries to dismiss the witness of the women as being faulty because of their inability to return to the correct tomb. This is the very tomb in which they had seen the body of Jesus laid. They have indeed come to the place in which the lifeless body of the teacher had been resting. But that body is no longer lifeless; it has no further need of a cold, dark tomb.

 

Where Is Jesus?

I’ll never forget my first experience teaching Vacation Bible School. I found myself in a class with a precocious 4-year-old who had many questions. One question was, “God could die if He wanted to, right?” Just when I began to think I knew something, God brought a child into my life to prove otherwise. (By the way, that little guy grew up to become a lawyer!)

I felt safer with school-age children who seemed to have been socialized to the point where they knew not to ask things that were too hard for their teachers to answer. Even so, I was caught off guard when a young lady in a grade-school Sunday school class asked this: “Why do we bow our heads to pray if Jesus is in Heaven? Shouldn’t we look up?” After taking a moment to regain my composure, I told her, “Good question!” I replied that we bowed our heads as a sign of reverence and respect.

And yet, her bold query made me think. How many times do I try to do things in my own cleverness and power rather than looking up to the one who promises to give me wisdom, if I’ll just ask? Why do I feel alone when He is alive and the Holy Spirit is advocating for me? Two thousand years later, Christians still have moments of feeling defeated—times when we forget that He is not in a cold tomb, but seated on the throne in Heaven. At those times, shouldn’t we look up?

—V. E.

 

III. Receiving a Message

                                                                   (Mark 16:7, 8)

A. Instruction (v. 7)

7. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.

The women had seen Jesus crucified (Mark 15:40) and His body interred (15:46, 47), and now they see the empty tomb. In something of a precursor to the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19, 20, the women are to go and tell of what they now experience. The message is not yet for the unbelieving world at large, however, but for the sheep of the flock that has been scattered (Mark 14:27), namely the disciples.

Of those disciples, Peter is specifically mentioned. This may be because he, having forsaken and three times denied that he even knew Jesus, is especially devastated. Peter in particular needs to know that Jesus wants to see him again (compare John 21:15-19).

Jesus had stated to the disciples prior to His crucifixion that “after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee” (Mark 14:28). Thus the message the women are to convey is not a new piece of information. The disciples had heard it three days previous (as he said unto you), but they need to hear it again. Jesus may have chosen Galilee as a rendezvous point so the disciples can recover from the toxic atmosphere of Jerusalem (compare John 20:19). What happens subsequently in Galilee is recorded in Matthew 28:16-20; John 21.

 

It’s Personal

I was age 6 when I first understood what God had offered me, what Jesus had done for me. Before then I had the idea that good people went to Heaven and bad people did not. But on that Sunday morning, our minister said that we don’t go to Heaven because of being good.

I asked my mom what that meant. Sitting on the sofa in our living room, she explained to me that God’s grace saves us. She explained that Jesus took our punishment, and since we are not able to be good enough, He suffered for us.

That was for me! I connected the idea with the pictures in our church building of Jesus leaving the flock of sheep to search for the one lost sheep that needed Him. And I was the one! Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross is available to anyone and everyone who is willing to accept it. God doesn’t want to lose one single person. God loves the world—the whole world—but we don’t come into His kingdom in bulk or via group tickets. We come in one at a time.

Jesus knows how to rescue us from our lives of sin and, later, from our backsliding, Christ-denying ways. Is there a “backslidden Peter” you know who needs a reminder of Christ’s message of victory? God’s invitation to that individual is just as personal now as ever—and you may be the one through whom God wants to voice it.—V. E.

B. Reaction (v. 8)

8. And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they anything to any man; for they were afraid.

An avalanche of emotions overwhelms the women and prompts their hasty departure from the sepulchre. The result at this point is not understanding but continuing fear—fear that inhibits their saying any thing to any man. Fear is a typical reaction in the Gospel of Mark on the part of those confronted with the true nature of Jesus (see Mark 4:41; 5:15, 33; 6:50; 9:6). The women speak freely after they calm down a bit (see Matthew 28:8; Luke 24:9).

 

What Do You Think?

What part have you seen fear play in a Christian’s witness for Christ?

 

Points for Your Discussion

Positive experiences when fear was overcome

Negative experiences when fear was not overcome

 

Conclusion

A. Singular Event

The resurrection of Jesus is a singular event in history. It is in a category that consists of just that one item. It is distinct from other resurrections in the Bible, such as the raisings of the Shunammite woman’s son (2 Kings 4:32-37), the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-15), the daughter of Jairus (Luke 8:49-56), and Lazarus (John 11:38-44). Those resuscitations were instances of temporary restoration of physical life by the reunion of soul and body—temporary because all those people died again later. The resurrection of Jesus, by contrast, is permanent.

That permanence is attested by Jesus himself: “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen” (Revelation 1:18a). That permanence has vital implications. Death is God’s penalty for sin (Genesis 2:16, 17; Romans 5:12), but now the risen Jesus holds “the keys of hell and of death” (Revelation 1:18b).

Another characteristic that sets Jesus’ resurrection apart from the others noted above is that His body was transformed, not merely resuscitated. After His resurrection, He appeared and disappeared in ways He had not done previously (Luke 24:31, 36, 51; John 20:19, 26), although He still had a physical body that could be touched (Luke 24:37-43; John 20:27).

The transformation of Jesus’ body prefigures the transformation to come of those who belong to Him when we are raised on the last day (1 Corinthians 15:42-57; compare Philippians 3:21, below). The lost also will undergo a transformation, though theirs will be in preparation for eternal death rather than eternal life (Daniel 12:2).

 

B. Vital Reality

From our vantage point some 2,000 years later, the open, empty tomb is the universal image of Christ’s victory over death. The women who found the tomb to be open on that first Lord’s Day morning had prepared themselves to be confronted with death. Instead, they were confronted with the announcement of life.

The reality of death confronts all, and we make preparations for it. We help friends and family members in funeral planning. We purchase cemetery plots. We acknowledge our own forthcoming deaths by writing wills. But the best preparation is to let our thoughts dwell on the life that is to follow: resurrection life.

Jesus has promised that what was accomplished in Him on that third day will also be accomplished in us when He returns. The power of life over death that He demonstrated for himself is the same power that will instantly and forever transform us. As Paul joyfully proclaimed, Christ “shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Philippians 3:21). Jesus is Lord over death, having conquered it. That makes Him Lord over eternal life—our eternal life.

Therefore as we prepare for death, we keep in mind that “the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26). Death is our enemy, but it is ultimately a defeated enemy. When Jesus Christ returns (and every day brings us closer), we all will be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, death will be no more. Then we will walk where death can never again rip us asunder, neither soul from body nor one from another.

The women on that first Lord’s Day ran in fear from the empty tomb; our task today is to run in joy with the message of the empty tomb. May we ever proclaim Christ’s victory over His death; may we never lose sight of the fact that His victory is ours as well—for eternity.

 

C. Prayer

Father, thank You for purchasing for us resurrection life, eternal life! Although we live in a fallen world that lies under the sentence of death, may we ever remember that Christ has conquered death for us to live forever with Him. Empower us daily to walk joyfully in the light and power of His victory. We pray in His name. Amen.

 

D. Thought to Remember

The resurrection of Jesus guarantees our own.

 

Kid’s Corner

Good Reasons for Faith in Jesus

Mark 16:1-8

Sunday, March 27, 2016

 

Mark 16:1-8

(Mark 16:1)  When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him.

After Jesus was crucified, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James (the “lesser” or the “little”) and Joses (Joseph) saw where they laid the body of Jesus in the tomb that had been cut out of the rock. The Sabbath ended on a Saturday, and on Sunday, the first day of the week (which became Resurrection Day or Easter Sunday), these women and Salome (the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee) went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. There is no doubt they knew exactly where to find the tomb and they expected to find Jesus’ dead body there.

 

(Mark 16:2)  Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.

They went to the tomb in daylight, early in the morning. They wanted to do what they could for Jesus in His memory and out of their love for Him as early as possible after the Sabbath ended. They had no belief in and did not know about or remember what Jesus had said about His rising from the dead: they never expected Him to die. They fully expected to find Jesus’ body with some decay having already taken place and with an odor (as in the case of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead) wrapped in cloth and fully needing to be anointed before there was more decay and odor. However, the Bible foretold the body of Jesus the Messiah would not decay: “because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay” (Psalms 16:1,) and “Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay” (Acts 2:31).

 

(Mark 16:3)  They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”

Their only concern was how they would move the large stone in order to enter the tomb. Obviously, none of the disciples or any other man went with them to move the large stone. Perhaps the disciples were too afraid of being arrested to come out of their hiding places. The stone was so large these women together could not have moved it, else they would not have been concerned about needing help. Notice, the stone would have also been too large for a recently crucified man to move it to escape suffocation in his tomb.

 

(Mark 16:4)  Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large.

The gospels emphasize that the stone was very large. Jesus’ tomb may have been similar to the tomb of Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha that Jesus resuscitated. Unlike resuscitation, Jesus’ body was resurrected and glorified — never to die again. The first thing the women saw was the stone (as it was large) and that it had been rolled away from the entrance to the tomb. Because of the religious leaders intense hatred of Jesus, their thoughts may have included worries about the further desecration of Jesus’ body.

 

(Mark 16:5)  Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed.

These courageous women did not flee in terror at the scene. They entered the tomb, which was large enough for a few people to enter along with a body to be buried and later anointed. In the light of day, and perhaps with the radiance of supernatural light, the women saw a young man in a white robe sitting to the right of where they had laid Jesus’ body which was no longer there. Without Jesus’ body, they were at a total loss and did not know why Jesus’ body was gone and a young man was sitting near the place where they had laid Jesus. What had happened? They would later determine that the young man was an angel sent from God.

 

(Mark 16:6)  And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.

Angelic appearances are always so unexpected and shocking that they lead people to feel alarmed or to bow down and try to worship the angel. In the Bible, angels from God always tell people not to be afraid and not to worship them. True angels or messengers from God will not accept and will refuse the worship that God alone deserves. The angel said specifically that Jesus the Nazarene (not any other Jesus or person) had been crucified and buried in that very place – they were at the correct tomb. He explained why Jesus’ body was not in the tomb. Jesus had risen – His body had not been stolen or desecrated. The angel made them look again to confirm for themselves that Jesus was not there, nor was His body.

 

(Mark 16:7)  “But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.’”

The angel told them to tell the disciples (including Peter specifically by name, since Peter had denied Jesus during His trial) that they should go to Galilee and Jesus would meet them in Galilee, just as Jesus had told them before His crucifixion. The fact that this unknown young man (angel) knew about and reaffirmed for them this private conversation and command of Jesus to His disciples is evidence Jesus sent the angel after He rose from the dead. It is unlikely that these women had been told by the disciples what Jesus had told them about His going ahead of them into Galilee. Therefore, when they told this statement from the angel to the disciples that should have been additional evidence to the disciples that Jesus indeed had risen from the dead and they had good and sufficient reason to believe the women. After crucifixion and death, only a glorified and resurrected person could have made a journey from Jerusalem to Galilee – and all of this was beyond their comprehension and belief. Jesus had to appear to them in Jerusalem to convince them that He was alive and they should go to Galilee to meet Him there, which they eventually did, where He met them at the Sea of Galilee.

 

(Mark 16:8)  They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

For some unknown reason, Mark’s gospel may have ended at the conclusion of this verse (or he or another follower of Jesus may have written more later that was appended after this verse). Or, the concluding part of Mark’s gospel was torn from the original scroll and subsequently lost. The women were so afraid and confused that for the moment they said nothing to anyone. From the other gospels, we know that they eventually overcame their fears and told the disciples that the tomb was empty and they had experienced angelic appearances. We learn from John that Jesus did speak to Mary Magdalene near the garden tomb. She had stayed behind in grief (John 20:11-18).

 

Good Reasons for Faith in Jesus

Mark 16:1-8

Sunday, March 27, 2016

 

 “But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you’” (Mark 16:7).

From the women’s testimony, Jesus’ disciples had enough evidence to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. First, the women saw an angel in the tomb sitting near the place where they had laid Jesus’ body. Second, the angel told them they were at the right tomb – the tomb of “Jesus the Nazarene who was crucified.” Third, the angel explained that Jesus’ body was gone because Jesus had risen. Fourth, the angel mentioned Peter specifically along with Jesus’ disciples. Since Peter had denied Jesus three times, with his guilty conscience and remorse he may have felt that he was no longer worthy to be a disciple of Jesus. As his risen Lord, Jesus wanted Peter to know that He forgave him and still considered him a disciple. Fifth, through the women, the angel reminded the disciples to do what Jesus had told them before He was crucified — they were to go to Galilee. The fact that the angel told them about Jesus’ private conversation with His disciples and His command to them indicates the women were not deceived – we have no evidence the women knew of or would have remembered at the tomb this command of Jesus prior to His crucifixion. The women gave the disciples good and sufficient reasons to believe Jesus had risen from the dead, but in their state of mind they would not believe Jesus had risen until Jesus appeared to them in Jerusalem and convinced them He was alive. Later, they obeyed and saw Jesus at the Sea of Galilee as He said (where Jesus restored Peter to apostleship).

 

Thinking Further

Good Reasons for Faith in Jesus

Mark 16:1-8

Sunday, March 27, 2016

 

1. If you had been one of Jesus’ disciples, would you have left as soon as possible for Galilee to meet Jesus there after He was crucified?

 

2. Who were the women who went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body? Who were some of their children?

 

3. Do you think the women expected Jesus to rise from the dead? Give a reason for your answer.

 

4. What did the angel tell the women?

 

5. Why do you think the angel mentioned Peter by name specifically along with Jesus’ disciples?

 

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

 

1. If you had been one of Jesus’ disciples, would you have left as soon as

possible for Galilee to meet Jesus there after He was crucified?

No. I would have thought that He could not meet me there now, because He had been crucified and buried and there was no reason now to go to Galilee except to hide and try to survive. I would not have thought about the possibility that Jesus would rise from the dead and meet me in Galilee.

 

2. Who were the women who went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body? Who were some of their children?

Mary Magdalene, Mary (mother of James and Joses or Joseph), Salome (mother of

James and John, sons of Zebedee).

 

3. Do you think the women expected Jesus to rise from the dead? Give a

reason for your answer.

No. They went to anoint Jesus’ body at the tomb. They were concerned about how to roll the stone away to enter the tomb. They had no expectation that Jesus’ body would not be in the tomb and suffering some decay.

 

4. What did the angel tell the women?

“‘Don't be alarmed,’ he said. ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, he is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you’” (Mark 16:6-7).

 

5. Why do you think the angel mentioned Peter by name specifically along

with Jesus’ disciples?

Peter might have felt too ashamed to even think he might still be considered one of Jesus’ disciples. He might have thought he should leave the disciples and let the others go because Jesus might not want him anymore as a disciple. This would be the beginning of Peter’s spiritual healing and restoration as a disciple and apostle of Jesus.

 

 

 

Word Search

Good Reasons for Faith in Jesus

Mark 16:1-8

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Name ______________________________

 

 

E Q G I E P D C V D O S A R G

Y S C B N Z Q N I W U E N I A

P Q N H O H E S A L R M O P L

I G T B T V C K E Z T A I S I

N B M G S I Z D N L A J N U L

J O S E P H I E E T Z R T P E

C G H L Q A S C L C H K E M E

Q J E X R I M N A P U T D N J

M S R F R Y H A D Z E J O E E

O N A N H R E R G R N F M S P

P L U J D A W T A F W O B I L

U S B S E M U N M U L D U R S

N O Y M W S Q E R A M E M K X

Y J A S O J U M S L V W S V B

N P H Q B T F S S A B B A T H

 

Sabbath

Mary

Magdalene

James

Joseph

Salome

Jesus

Anoint

Sunrise

Tomb

Entrance

Stone

Nazarene

Risen

Disciples

Peter

Galilee

Afraid

 

 

 

True and False Test

Mark 16:1-8

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Name_____________________________

 

 

Circle the true or false answers. Correct the false statements by restating them.

 

1. The Gospel of Mark has an unusual ending. True or False

 

2. Jesus’ mother is not named on Resurrection Sunday. True or False

 

3. At least three women went to Jesus’ tomb. True or False

 

4. On the day his mother went to Jesus’ tomb, John may have stayed with Jesus’ mother. True or False

 

5. The women went to the tomb after sunrise. True or False

 

6. The women knew that together they could move the stone away from

the tomb. True or False

 

7. A Roman soldier told the women they could not enter the tomb. True or False

 

8. A young man in a white robe told them Jesus had risen. True or False

 

9. The young man told the women to tell the disciples and Peter that they should meet Jesus in Galilee. True or False

 

10. The women jumped up and down with joy when they saw Jesus standing in the doorway of the tomb and they worshiped Him. True or False

 

 

Answers to the True and False Test

Mark 16:1-8

Sunday, March 27, 2016

 

1.   True

2.   True

3.   True

4.   True

5.   True

6.   False

7.   False

8.   True

9.   True

10. False

 

 

Closing Prayer

Father, thank You for purchasing for us resurrection life, eternal life! Although we live in a fallen world that lies under the sentence of death, may we ever remember that Christ has conquered death for us to live forever with Him. Empower us daily to walk joyfully in the light and power of His victory. We pray in His name. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday School Lesson

March 20

Struggling Faith

 

Devotional Reading:Jeremiah 3:12-18

 

Background Scripture:Mark 14:26-31, 66-72

 

 

Mark 14:26-31, 66-72

 

26And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

 

27And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.

 

28But after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee.

 

29But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.

 

30And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.

 

31But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all.

 

66And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest:

 

67And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth.

 

68But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew.

 

69And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them.

 

70And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto.

 

71But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.

 

72And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.

 

Key Verse

 

Jesus saith unto [Peter], Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. —Mark 14:30

 

Lesson Aims

 

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

 

1. Summarize Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s denial and its fulfillment.

 

2. Suggest reasons why a disciple today can sink from great confidence of faith to denial in the space of a few hours.

 

3. Create a small group to encourage one another’s faith and perseverance.

 

 

Introduction

 

 

A. When Reality Doesn’t Match the Plan

 

“Be Prepared” is the motto made famous by Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts, in his 1908 book Scouting for Boys. Baden-Powell explained this broad statement to mean that “you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty.”

 

When I joined the scouts nearly eight decades later, I was bound and determined to exemplify this motto. In particular, I set a goal for myself to master every type of first-aid training available. In the case of an emergency, I would be prepared. I would save a life.

 

My test came in my late 20s when a customer began choking while I was waiting tables in a Cincinnati diner. Remembering my training, I began to perform the Heimlich maneuver. It didn’t work. The patron was unable to get the food dislodged, even with all my training and best intentions. I was indeed prepared and acted as best I knew how, but the reality did not match my plan.

 

The apostle Peter was one whose plan did not end up matching reality. His best intentions of exhibiting faithfulness to Jesus fell apart when the moment of crisis came. His struggle remains an enduring caution.

 

B. Lesson Background

 

After Jerusalem fell in 586 BC, the people of the southern kingdom of Judah found themselves in dire straits. Even after their return from Babylonian exile, the Jews were subjected to the whims of evil rulers and foreign powers who sought to impose conformity to their own pagan outlook.

 

Numerous biblical and nonbiblical accounts reveal how the people of God reacted to such trying circumstances. One biblical account is that of Daniel, who survived in a lion’s den when he refused to pray to Darius, the king of Persia (Daniel 6). One nonbiblical example is that of eight devout Jews—seven brothers and their mother—choosing to undergo torture and death rather than capitulate to pagan demands (2 Maccabees 7).

 

Persecutions for faith continued into the first century AD. In Mark’s Gospel, two such trials of faith stand out—one official and the other unofficial. The official one was that of the trials and crucifixion of Jesus. The unofficial one was that of the bystanders’ confrontation of Peter while proceedings against Jesus were underway. Peter’s failure is the subject of today’s lesson.

 

I. To the Mount of Olives

 

                                                                    (Mark 14:26-31)

 

Today’s study takes us to “the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover [lamb]” (Mark 14:12; compare Exodus 12:1-20). It is Thursday night of Jesus’ final week, and crucifixion looms. Parallel accounts of this section of our lesson are Matthew 26:30-35; Luke 22:31-34, 39; and John 13:36-38; 16:32; 18:1.

 

A. Supper Ends (v. 26)

 

26. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

 

The singing of a hymn marks the conclusion of the last supper, held in the upper room (Mark 14:12-25). Traditionally, the last four of the Hallel Psalms (that is, chapters 115-118 of Psalms 113-118) are sung to conclude a Passover meal. (The word Hallel, the first half of the word Hallelujah, means “praise.”) Whether those particular psalms are sung here is uncertain, however, since the first record of a Jewish tradition in this regard dates back only to the second century AD.

 

The night walk to the mount of Olives involves an eastward trek of no more than a mile, out of Jerusalem and across the Kidron Valley. The destination is a familiar one, frequently visited by Jesus (Luke 21:37; 22:39; John 18:1, 2). More specifically, Jesus is headed to “a place . . . named Gethsemane” (Mark 14:32; compare Matthew 26:36). Passover occurs at the time of a full moon, so illumination for the short walk is adequate.

 

How to Say It

 

Babylonian Bab-ih-low-nee-un.

 

Darius Duh-rye-us.

 

Galilaean Gal-uh-lee-un.

 

Gethsemane Geth-sem-uh-nee (G as in get).

 

Kidron Kid-ron.

 

Maccabees Mack-uh-bees.

 

Persia Per-zhuh.

 

Zechariah Zek-uh-rye-uh.

 

B. Jesus Predicts (vv. 27, 28)

 

27. And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.

 

Jesus begins His post-supper discourse with a sad prediction. This older use of the phrase be offended is to be understood as “stumble.” Jesus underlines His prediction by citing Zechariah 13:7. In the original context of that prophecy, God unleashes His own fury against His anointed shepherd and follows that action with a time of testing for the sheep (people). The testing will involve being put “through the fire” for the sheep to be refined “as silver is refined” (13:9).

 

The testing that is to come upon the disciples in general and Peter in particular will reveal their weaknesses. The ultimate result, however, will be men of unwavering faithfulness (Acts 4:18-20; 5:27-32; etc.). But the testing has to come first.

 

Scattered Flocks

 

A young minister and his wife decided to start a church in their home by inviting neighbors to a Bible study. Within three years, the church had grown to over 500 people; the congregation had a beautiful building and became a powerful force for the gospel. For the next 36 years, this minister and his wife faithfully served the members of their congregation through the trials and joys of life.

 

Then one fateful evening the minister was killed by a drunk driver. The congregation was stunned. The elders didn’t know what to do. There was no succession plan in place. Over the next year, the church’s leaders tried calling a new minister, but no one seemed capable of filling the shoes of the deceased. The congregation all but disappeared within three years, and the leadership was forced to sell the building and the land. When the man whom the people saw as the shepherd of their church was no longer among them, the flock he was leading scattered.

 

 

Perhaps the problem was that everyone was focused on a human shepherd rather than on the great shepherd Jesus. If we keep our focus on Jesus, any scatterings we endure will ultimately turn out for the good (compare Acts 8:1b-8). Decide now what you will do when the going gets rough—look to Jesus, stick to your post, and don’t even think about desertion. But be sure to make all such plans without hubris (see below).—D. C. S.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What is most likely to cause “the sheep” to be scattered today? How can we prevent this?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding situations within the church

 

Regarding situations outside the church

 

28. But after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee.

 

To Zechariah’s prophecy Jesus adds two of his own. After that I am risen is the fourth time that Jesus has predicted His resurrection in this Gospel, following those in Mark 8:31; 9:31; and 10:34. (Mark 9:9 might be counted as an additional such prediction.) Attached to it is a promise of a journey to Galilee that is to follow (compare Mark 16:7). Luke 24:36-43 and John 20:19-29 establish that the risen Jesus interacts with the disciples in Jerusalem before that time, so Galilee is another meeting place after the resurrection (Matthew 28:16; John 21:1).

 

The importance of this verse should not be overlooked. Its positive message serves to offset the negative message of the verse before it. Yes, God “will smite the shepherd,” but that shepherd will rise again. Yes, “the sheep shall be scattered,” but the disciples will be reunited with their risen Lord in Galilee. What Peter has to say in the next verse seems to indicate that he misses the positive counterbalance here.

 

C. Peter Counters (v. 29)

 

29. But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.

 

Peter’s knee-jerk response to Jesus’ prediction “all ye shall be offended” in verse 27 is consistent with his outspokenness elsewhere in the Gospels (example: Matthew 16:22). In the case at hand, Peter offers his own counterprediction by declaring that he has what it takes to stand firm, regardless of the actions of others.

 

D. Jesus Specifies (v. 30)

 

30. And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.

 

The word cock refers to a male rooster, a bird with a natural predisposition to crow during the early hours of the morning. This reference to a rooster crowing also sheds light on the illegality of Jesus’ trial. According to prevailing Jewish legal tradition, a trial for a capital offense cannot be conducted at night; such clandestine judicial meetings are often perversions of justice.

 

Mark’s account is unique in that it notes Jesus’ predicting of a double crowing in conjunction with a threefold denial. This mention of a double crowing will be repeated when the prediction is fulfilled (Mark 14:72).

 

The verb deny, having the sense of “renounce,” also appears in the vital text Mark 8:34, where Jesus says, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Considered alongside the verse at hand, the two choices are either (1) deny self and affirm Christ or (2) affirm self and deny Christ. One cannot affirm both self and Christ. We either choose Him to be our master or we do not. Therefore, the seriousness of Jesus’ prediction cannot be overestimated. Peter’s forthcoming denial—not once, not twice, but three times!—will not be insignificant. It will constitute a major moral failing.

 

E. Peter Vows (v. 31)

 

31a. But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise.

 

Peter’s self-confidence knows no bounds at this juncture. Mark’s note of Peter’s replying the more vehemently is the strongest expression of its fervency among the four Gospels. Indeed, the Greek word behind this translation appears only here in the entire New Testament.

 

Peter sees himself as no exception to the expectation that faithful, loyal servants are to be prepared to die defending their masters. This is in keeping with the teaching Jesus gave earlier in the evening that the greatest act of love is “that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

 

The fact that Peter is carrying a sword may give him a sense of bravado in this regard; he plans to use the weapon at the first sign of trouble, and he ends up doing so (Matthew 26:51; Mark 14:47; Luke 22:38, 50; John 18:10). If Peter has any expectation of death, in all likelihood it is that of armed confrontation, not trial and execution (compare Matthew 16:22).

 

31b. Likewise also said they all.

 

Peter’s declaration emboldens the rest of the disciples. Their intentions are noble, but the imminent fire of adversity will prove their resolve to be lacking.

 

What Do You Think?

 

Under what circumstances should we make strong affirmations as did the disciples? Why?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Proverbs 15:23; 23:9

 

Ecclesiastes 5:2

 

Amos 5:13

 

Matthew 7:6

 

Acts 5:42

 

1 Peter 3:15

 

Other

 

No Hubris

 

Hubris is a type of pride that ultimately results in a person’s downfall. It is sometimes characterized by a sense of invincibility. Quite often, those suffering from this condition are in positions of power that only perpetuate their detachment from reality. They often view reasonable boundaries with contempt. They violate moral codes like it is no big deal—as if those sorts of restrictions just don’t apply to them.

 

A prime example is the gangster Al Capone (1899-1947). His “success” at criminal activities only served to reinforce his sense of being above accountability. Through the use of bribes, threats, and other notorious means, he always managed to stay a step ahead of the law. Even when he was finally brought to trial for tax evasion, he was confident that his organization’s efforts at bribing the jurors would allow him to skate free. But the presiding judge, having been made aware of the bribery, negated the problem simply by trading juries with another magistrate. Capone was convicted.

 

Peter was certainly no Al Capone! But it’s possible that Peter and the other disciples were also infected by a form of hubris on the night of Jesus’ arrest. Let us be ever on guard against this attitude taking root in our own hearts. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).—D. C. S.

 

II. At the Place of Trial

 

                                                                   (Mark 14:66-72)

 

Mark 14:32-65 (not in today’s text) describes Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane and subsequent arrest and trial. Our next section of text shifts the focus back to Peter. After losing courage in Gethsemane (v. 50), Peter follows Jesus and His captors “afar off, even into the palace of the high priest” (v. 54). There he places himself in the company of the high priest’s servants around a fire for warmth. That which follows is also described in Matthew 26:69-75; Luke 22:56-62; and John 18:25-27.

 

A. First Confrontation (vv. 66-68)

 

66. And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest.

 

Scholars think the location of the palace ... of the high priest to be in Jerusalem’s affluent west side, also known as “the upper city.” Mark appears to offer an intentional parallel in that a servant of Jesus, namely Peter, is confronted by a servant of the high priest at the same time that Jesus is being charged by the high priest himself.

 

67. And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth.

 

It is difficult to ascertain exactly how a young servant of the high priest is able to identify Peter by sight, especially in the less than ideal illuminations of a full moon and a courtyard fire. Since females are not customarily involved in the sort of police action that has led to Jesus’ arrest, the best explanation is that she has seen Peter sometime during the previous week in Jerusalem, while Jesus was teaching openly with His disciples.

 

The designation Jesus of Nazareth appears frequently in the Gospels. This may be due at least partly to the fact that the name Jesus (equivalent to the Hebrew name Joshua, meaning “Yahweh is salvation”) is a common Jewish name at the time. But the designation is also a fulfillment of prophecy (Matthew 2:23), with Nazareth as a term of scorn (John 1:46). The designation continues to be used after the resurrection (Acts 2:22; 3:6; 4:10; 6:14; 10:38; 26:9), even by Jesus himself (22:8).

 

68. But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew.

 

Peter’s response is to feign ignorance. He pretends to be caught off guard by the servant’s accusation, in effect declaring that he has neither a personal relationship with Jesus nor knowledge of anything about Him.

 

Attempting to escape further scrutiny, Peter exits the area and heads for the porch (probably a colonnaded vestibule). Early manuscripts of Mark do not have the phrase and the cock crew. But since a “second” crowing definitely occurs in verse 72 (below), a first crowing has to occur somewhere, and this is a logical place for it. Roosters are well known for their crowing in early morning hours, but this particular crowing doesn’t deter Peter’s next denial.

 

What Do You Think?

 

Where can and should we seek help when our faith is tested? Why?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

In cases of overt faith-challenges from unbelievers

 

In cases of subtle faith-challenges from culture

 

In cases of moral failures of church leaders

 

Other

 

B. Second Confrontation (vv. 69, 70a)

 

69, 70a. And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them. And he denied it again.

 

A second accusation now comes, this time apparently intended to draw in the bystanders. The accusation is essentially the same; it implies that Peter has something to answer for.

 

Mark’s account of Peter’s second denial is more condensed than Matthew’s. The latter includes an oath of denial (Matthew 26:72), which ignores Jesus’ teaching concerning oaths (Matthew 5:33-37; compare James 5:12). It perhaps even breaks the commandment prohibiting taking the Lord’s name in vain (Exodus 20:7) as oaths are often made in the name of the Lord (Numbers 30:2).

 

C. Third Confrontation (vv. 70b-72)

 

70b. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto.

 

By this point, Peter’s accent has betrayed him, whatever the nature of that accent may be (Matthew 26:73; compare Judges 12:5, 6). The accent must be distinctive since it seems to show through even when the apostles speak miraculously in foreign tongues on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:7).

 

71. But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.

 

To curse and to swear does not mean that Peter is using profanity, as we normally think those actions to indicate. The ideas, rather, involve calling down curses on one who perpetuates falsehood (compare Genesis 27:12) and the swearing of an oath. In saying I know not this man of whom ye speak, Peter is ashamed even to mention the name Jesus (see Mark 8:38). Peter is also bearing false witness, in violation of Exodus 20:16. It is a sad downward spiral that has played itself out many times: sin usually requires additional sin in order to perpetuate itself. Peter is in too deep, and his failure is now complete.

 

What Do You Think?

 

How can a Christian use an experience of failure of faith to warn and teach others?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

In formal teaching settings (Sunday school, etc.)

 

In informal teaching settings (one on one)

 

In family settings

 

72. And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.

 

Peter thus fulfills the prophecy that Jesus uttered so recently. Luke 22:61 adds that Peter has a direct line of sight with Jesus, and their eyes meet for a moment after the rooster crows. Anguish and remorse come crashing onto Peter, and there is nothing to do at this point but weep.

 

What Do You Think?

 

Which Bible characters most inspire you to claim Christ when it is particularly difficult—even dangerous—to do so? Why?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Old Testament personalities

 

New Testament personalities

 

Conclusion

 

A. Gospels’ Variations

 

Today’s text is one of four Gospel accounts that witness to Jesus’ accurate prediction of Peter’s denial. This has led numerous commentators to question why these four accounts are not identical in their reporting.

 

As we read these parallel texts, we must keep in mind that the truth of the testimony of multiple witnesses is gauged not by how their stories match word for word but rather by the agreement of the meaning of their testimonies.

 

The latter is what we see in the Gospel accounts of Peter’s denial: (1) Jesus accurately predicted the denial (Matthew 26:34; Mark 14:30; Luke 22:34; John 13:38); (2) Peter’s denial happened while Jesus’ own trial was underway (Matthew 26:69; Mark 14:66; Luke 22:55; John 18:15); (3) Peter did not use a single chance to affirm his allegiance to Jesus, regardless of who did the accusing; and (4) Peter’s failure was marked by the predicted crowing of a rooster (Matthew 26:75; Mark 14:72; Luke 22:60, 61; John 18:27). The Gospels offer slightly divergent testimonies in these areas, depending on what the individual writer wished to emphasize. But all four affirm the same truth: Jesus correctly predicted Peter’s denial.

 

B. Hubris and Redemption

 

Eager to prove his faithfulness, Peter made bold claims. How often do we similarly overestimate our own spiritual fortitude? The human tendency in this regard may be why Paul advocates fleeing from certain sins (1 Corinthians 6:18; 10:14) rather than hanging around to try to fight them. Spiritual arrogance can lead to ruin. Truly, we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13), but “pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

 

Yet we must not forget that Peter’s failure was not the end of the story. After his reinstatement per John 21:15-19, his track record as a primary witness to the resurrection of Jesus was nearly flawless after he received the gift of the Holy Spirit. (We say “nearly” because of Peter’s error noted in Galatians 2:11-21.) Today’s lesson of failure must always be tempered with hope. Yes, there are serious repercussions for denying Christ, but such failure does not create an impossible situation.

 

C. Prayer

 

Father, grant us victory over both pride and fear through the strength of Your Holy Spirit. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

D. Thought to Remember

 

Find strength in the power of the Holy Spirit. 

 

 

 

Kid’s Corner

Faith Is Possible After Failures

Mark 14:26-31 & 66-72

March 20, 2016

 

Mark 14:26-31 & 66-72

 

(Mark 14:26)  After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

 

During Jesus’ Last Supper (the celebration of the Passover) with His disciples, Jesus made a New Covenant that He would create when He shed His blood on the cross. Jesus came to die, to suffer a substitutionary sacrificial death on the cross so our loving God could be just and merciful and forgive and cleanse and give the Holy Spirit and eternal life to all repentant believers who trusted in Jesus Christ as Son of God, Lord, and Savior. At that meal, Jesus foretold that Judas would betray Him.

 

(Mark 14:27)  And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, because it is written, ‘I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP SHALL BE SCATTERED.’

 

At the close of the Last Supper, they sang a hymn and went to the Mount of Olives to pray. Here, Jesus foretold to His disciples that all of His disciples would desert Him and flee. He knew the Scriptures, and He foretold what would happen based on the Scriptures (Jesus quoted Zechariah 13:7). Moreover, before He came to earth, through the Holy Spirit Jesus inspired the Old Testament writers to prophecy and describe both His first and second comings. Jesus came as the Good Shepherd and demonstrated those qualities during His ministry, and after His resurrection from the dead He would gather them again as a shepherd gathers his sheep.

 

(Mark 14:28)  “But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”

 

Jesus’ disciples still did not accept or understand the teachings He had given them repeatedly about His suffering, death, and resurrection. Peter jumped to the defensive about the prediction all of the disciples would fall away; it is unlikely he paid any attention to Jesus’ prediction that He would rise again and travel to Galilee and see them there (something they would not do until after Jesus appeared to them in Jerusalem and by His appearances convince them that He had risen from the dead). He would see them at the Sea of Tiberius (also called the Sea of Galilee: see John 21).

 

(Mark 14:29)  But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away, yet I will not.”

 

Peter was the first disciple to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah, and he also tried to talk Jesus out of going to die, even rebuking Jesus (see Mark 8:27-33). Peter was continuing to set his mind on the things of man instead of on the things of God (Mark 8:33). He would set his mind on the things of God after the Day of Pentecost when he would preach the gospel of Jesus Christ boldly and many would be converted (Acts 2).

 

(Mark 14:30)  And Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you, that this very night, before a rooster crows twice, you yourself will deny Me three times.”

 

Jesus not only knew the Scriptures that He had inspired the Old Testament prophets to write before He was born, He also knew the future of and God’s plan for each person and especially demonstrated that through His relationship with His disciples. Jesus calmed the seas, and He easily made it possible for the rooster to crow at the right moment even when on trial before the High Priest.

 

(Mark 14:31)  But Peter kept saying insistently, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And they all were saying the same thing also.

 

Not to be outdone by Peter, all of the disciples insisted that rather than disown Jesus they would die with Him. They still had no concept that Jesus, as powerful as He was as the Son of God and Messiah (they had seen His miracles) would actually be arrested and killed without working a miracle to save himself and them. His arrest would come as a complete shock to them and they would flee in terror with shattered dreams.

 

(Mark 14:66)  As Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came,

 

Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss and then Jesus was arrested on the Mount of Olives. Peter and John followed at a distance as the arresting officers took Jesus to the High Priest for a mock trial. Peter was no doubt so shocked by events, even though he was forewarned, that he became afraid of a servant girl of the High Priest – who could report him to the High Priest as one of Jesus’ disciples.

 

(Mark 14:67)  and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Nazarene.”

 

The week of Passover, especially on and after Palm Sunday, the disciples would have been happy to be seen with Jesus, the one the crowd supposed was a conquering Messiah and future King over Israel. They would have basked in His shadow knowing He was the Messiah and thinking they would soon reign over Jerusalem with Him. In spite of all Jesus had taught them, their expectations of the future had not changed.

 

(Mark 14:68)  But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are talking about.” And he went out onto the porch.

 

Peter not only denied knowing Jesus, he lied when he said he did not know what the servant girl was talking about. Earlier, Peter had bravely used a sword to cut off the ear of a servant of the High Priest during Jesus’ arrest (see John 18:10-11). This servant could have told the story to all the High Priest’s servants and this girl who was also a servant of the High Priest might have been especially looking for Jesus’ followers at His trial. All of the High Priest’s servants may have been on the lookout especially for Peter, who the High Priest’s servant might have accurately described even from the dim torchlight at night. Peter denied knowing Jesus and moved toward the entry (which would make possible a quick exit from the courtyard into the dark night).

 

(Mark 14:69)  The servant-girl saw him, and began once more to say to the bystanders, “This is one of them!”

 

Through his speech and demeanor Peter may have revealed his fear and guilt at having been with Jesus and having committed a crime by attacking the High Priest’s servant. Peter first denied Jesus in a private conversation with the girl, but she no doubt wanted to prove she was right so she accused him before those standing around. Perhaps she felt one of them would be able to confirm her belief.

 

(Mark 14:70)  But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders were again saying to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean too.”

 

After a short while, those nearby confirmed the servant girl’s observation. Indeed, “surely” you are one of them. Peter’s Galilean accent confirmed that he was from the same region as Jesus, and any Galileans at the trial would be presumed to be one of Jesus’ followers.

 

(Mark 14:71)  But he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this man you are talking about!”

 

This time, Peter has become so fearful for his life that he even begins to deny Jesus and curse (we are not told if he cursed Jesus too). Peter swore to another lie that he does not know Jesus – even referring to his closest Friend as “this man you’re talking about.”

 

(Mark 14:72)  Immediately a rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had made the remark to him, “Before a rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And he began to weep.

 

The rooster crowed at the exact moment Jesus foretold – also indicating that the dawn was near. No doubt the Holy Spirit, the One who would later fill Peter on the Day of Pentecost, brought to Peter’s mind and heart what Jesus had foretold. The Holy Spirit convicted Peter of his great sin, and Peter broke down and wept with remorse. Peter’s dramatic change on the Day of Pentecost is further evidence that Jesus indeed rose from the dead: the power of the Holy Spirit made Jesus’ followers into new creations, new people who testified about Jesus regardless of the consequences to themselves. Peter’s new creation also shows the depth of Jesus’ love and willingness to forgive the worst of sinners (as He would later forgive and make Saul into a new person — the Apostle Paul).

 

 

Faith Is Possible After Failures

Mark 14:26-31, 66-72

Sunday, March 20, 2016

 

 “‘You will all fall away,’ Jesus told them, ‘for it is written: “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered”’ (Mark 14:27).

 

Jesus came into the world as the Messiah and He took on the role of the Good Shepherd. Jesus told His disciples, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). On His way to lay down His life on the cross, Jesus told His disciples that according to the Scriptures the shepherd would be struck down and the sheep would be scattered. He would die and they would fall away and disown Him. They all denied that they would disown Him, and

especially Peter who declared that all the others might disown Jesus, but he never would. No matter how much Peter protested, the Scriptures would be fulfilled, and Jesus foretold Peter that he would deny Him three times before the rooster

crowed twice, and it was so, exactly as Jesus told Peter. Jesus also told His disciples that after He rose from the dead that He would go before them into Galilee. However, they were so unbelieving they remained huddled in fear in Jerusalem until Jesus appeared to them and proved that He had risen from the dead. Later, exactly as Jesus foretold, He met them in Galilee by the Sea of Tiberius (also called the Sea of Galilee: see John 21); thus proving in another way that He who was crucified and buried had risen from the dead. Here, Jesus said three times to

Peter, “Feed my sheep.” The sheep who fled when the Shepherd was struck became shepherds themselves, and flocks of Jesus’ sheep have spread around the world under the guidance of faithful shepherds.

 

Thinking Further

Faith Is Possible After Failures

Mark 14:26-31, 66-72

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Name ____________________________

 

1. How did Jesus know all of His disciples would fall away?

 

 

2. Did Jesus go ahead of them into Galilee? If so, when?

 

 

3. How many times did Peter deny Jesus and what did Peter do after he denied Jesus the first time? What did Peter do after he denied Jesus the last time?

 

 

4. Who was the first person to claim Peter was one of Jesus’ followers?

 

 

5. What happened that made Peter quit denying that he knew Jesus?

 

 

 

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

 

1. How did Jesus know all of His disciples would fall away?

Before He was born, through the Holy Spirit, Jesus inspired the Old Testament prophets to predict many aspects of His first and second coming. He quoted the prophets in the Scriptures knowing that He would fulfill them.

 2. Did Jesus go ahead of them into Galilee? If so, when?

Yes. But only after He appeared to them a few times and convinced them that He had risen from the dead (see John 21).

 

3. How many times did Peter deny Jesus and what did Peter do after he denied Jesus the first time? What did Peter do after he denied Jesus the last time?

Three times. He began to move toward the entrance of the courtyard, probably so he could escape quickly if detected. He broke down and wept.

 

4. Who was the first person to claim Peter was one of Jesus’ followers?

One of the high priest’s servant girls.

 

5. What happened that made Peter quit denying that he knew Jesus?

The rooster crowed and reminded him of what Jesus had said he would do—and he recognized that he had done exactly as Jesus had predicted. His weeping took the place of his denying.

 

 

 

Word Search

Thinking Further

Faith Is Possible After Failures

Mark 14:26-31, 66-72

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Name ____________________________

 

D Y C B N U D E R E T T A C S

R B E E R H T X D B S T P E W

M O U N T A I N R E T E P E M

H R Z S P E E H S L Z B S L D

W O Q V I O U N B Y U Q Y I R

Z P E A D K L A E D F H U L A

L N O C L N T I L R S Y D A Y

R E T S O O R P V H A I L G T

L M C S U S E J E E S Z R O R

Z Y N E D F O P F O S B A J U

D U B H Q Y H G W B E N X N O

T N A V R E S N I O V M O S C

J X I C R O J K Q R J Y W Y F

N B M D M U A T G E L H C T I

X A I A H Q M I K O W F V R D

 

Hymn

Mountain

Olives

Shepherd

Sheep

Scattered

Galilee

Peter

Jesus

Rooster

Disown

Three

Servant

Girl

Courtyard

Nazarene

Deny

Wept

 

 

 

True and False Test

Faith Is Possible After Failures

Mark 14:26-31, 66-72

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Name ____________________________

 

Circle the true or false answers. Correct the false statements by restating them.

 

1. When Jesus told His disciples they would fall away from Him, He referred them to a prophecy from the Old Testament. True or False

 

2. Jesus told them He would rise and go ahead of them to Galilee. True or False

 

3. After Jesus was buried in the tomb, the disciples rushed to Galilee to meet Him there, just as He promised them. True or False

 

4. Peter said that even if everyone else fell away, he would not fall away.

True or False

 

5. Only Mark remained true to Jesus and did not fall away, just as Jesus

predicted. True or False

 

6. Each time Peter denied Jesus the rooster crowed twice. True or False

 

7. A servant girl of the high priest was the first person to accuse Peter of

being with Jesus. True or False

 

8. Peter laughed at her foolishness, because he was unafraid of what the

high priest might do to him. True or False

 

9. The servant girl said to those standing around, “This fellow is one of

them,” and Peter replied, “So what! What are you going to do about it!”

True or False

 

10. After the rooster crowed, Peter remembered what Jesus had foretold

and he broke down and wept. True or False

 

 

 

Answers to the True and False Test

Mark 14:26-31, 66-72

Sunday, March 20, 2016

 

1.   True

2.   True

3.   False

4.   True

5.   False

6.   False

7.   True

8.   False

9.   False

10. True

 

Closing Prayer

Father, grant us victory over both pride and fear through the strength of Your Holy Spirit. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday School Lesson

March 13

Simple Faith

 

Devotional Reading:Galatians 5:1-13

Background Scripture:Mark 10:17-31

Focal Verses

Mark 10:17-31

17And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

18And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

19Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

20And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

21Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

22And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.

23And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!

24And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!

25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

26And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?

27And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.

28Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.

29And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,

30But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

31But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.

 

Key Verse

 

Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. —Mark 10:21

 

 

Lesson Aims

 

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

 

1. Describe key elements in the interaction between Jesus, the rich man, and Jesus’ disciples.

 

2. Explain to what extent Jesus’ command to the rich man applies to disciples today.

 

3. Identify one area of overreliance on self and write a prayer of confession.

 

Introduction

 

A. Longing to Do It Yourself

 

Do you remember as a child longing to do things for yourself? When we were very young, we depended on adults to do almost everything for us. Adults dressed us, washed us, fed us, transported us—they took care of us in every way. But children are intent on doing things themselves. They want to learn to tie their own shoes, drive the car, and live life independently in every way. After we have established our independence as adults, we take pride in having done something on our own. We value our independence, and we like to express it.

 

But none of us is truly independent. We depend on others all the time. Most of what we have, what we use, and what we do depends on what others have done to make those things and actions possible in the first place. As we approach the end of life, we often struggle against becoming more and more dependent on others.

 

We desire to be independent not only of other people but of God as well. At the core of what the Bible calls sin is the human desire to become like God by becoming king of our own lives (Genesis 3:5). Sin is more than breaking God’s rules; it is declaring our independence from God.

 

Today’s text deals with this universal human desire. As the story develops, it lays bare our most stubborn illusion: the false belief that we can live life on our own. It draws us back to depend on God’s ever-sufficient grace and mercy.

 

B. Lesson Background

 

Today’s text comes at a point where at least two key themes in the story of Jesus come together in Mark’s Gospel. One such theme is the attention that Jesus gave to the weak and marginalized of His culture.

 

From His first public actions in Mark, Jesus deliberately acted on behalf of those who did not belong to the upper levels of society. He acted on behalf of “all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils” (Mark 1:32). He had fellowship with despised “publicans and sinners” (2:15). He criticized and warned those in power (7:6-8; etc.). In doing all this, Jesus turned upside down the cultural mores of His day, putting the lowly in the highest place and reducing those at the top to be at the very bottom.

 

A second theme in today’s passage is the implication that Jesus intends His followers to be like children as He addresses them that way (Mark 10:24). In the section of text immediately preceding the one for this lesson, Jesus rebuked His disciples for forbidding children to come to Him for blessing. Instead, He said that anyone who wanted to belong to God’s kingdom had to become “as a little child” (Mark 10:15; see also lesson 12).

 

Taken together, these two themes speak against the idea of self-reliance when it comes to being part of the kingdom of God. Today’s text adds to our understanding in this regard. (Matthew 19:16-30 and Luke 18:18-30 are parallels.)

 

I. Jesus and the Rich Man

 

                                                                 (Mark 10:17-22)

 

A. Question (v. 17)

 

17. And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

 

Jesus is on His final trip to Jerusalem (Mark 10:32). Along the way, He is met by someone who shows Him exceptional respect. The word him in verse 18 (next) reveals that this person is a man; verse 22 tells us that he is wealthy. When these are combined with the words young in Matthew 19:20 and ruler in Luke 18:18, we end up with a picture of a man who is commonly known to Bible students as “the rich young ruler.”

 

The man’s approach by running indicates urgency. Reaching Jesus, he kneels in a position of submission, like a servant before a master or a subject before a king. His address of Jesus as Good Master indicates that he respects Jesus’ moral uprightness and wisdom. Jesus is now in the third year of His public ministry, and His reputation has spread widely.

 

How to Say It

 

Deuteronomy Due-ter-ahn-uh-me.

 

Isaiah Eye-zay-uh.

 

Sinai Sigh-nye or Sigh-nay-eye.

 

 

 

The man has a specific question of profound significance: what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? To our ears, the last two words may sound like the man is asking a question about life after death. While that is certainly a crucial part of the man’s question, he is asking about more. Eternal life is the life that belongs to the new age of blessing that God is establishing. It means a life that experiences all the goodness that God intends for His people. Jesus has come to declare that God is now bringing His promises to fulfillment, so that the old era is about to be eclipsed by the new one of God’s blessing. This man wants to be part of that.

 

Despite the importance of the man’s question, it is flawed. When he asks what shall I do? he wrongly presumes that the life of God’s age of fulfillment is something that he can obtain by his own actions.

 

B. Reply (vv. 18, 19)

 

18. And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

 

Jesus’ response draws attention to the implications of the man’s words. As a thoughtful, observant Jew (see vv. 19, 20, below), the man understands that being truly good is a characteristic only of God. Furthermore, asking Jesus how to obtain eternal life means that the man is asking a question that only God himself can truly answer. Is the man ready to confess plainly what he is implying about Jesus’ divine nature?

 

19. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

 

Without waiting for a response to His question of verse 18, Jesus continues His challenge. What God has told His people to do is very clear, being spelled out in the Law of Moses. The particular commandments Jesus quotes are representative of all of them (Exodus 20:12-16; Deuteronomy 5:16-20; 24:14). What is a person to do in light of God’s goodness? Keep God’s commandments!

 

But in listing some commandments, Jesus is also reminding the man of their context. The man knows these commandments are from the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy, books that not only detail God’s law but also narrate how God’s people failed to keep them.

 

That failure began even as the law was being given: while Moses received the law on Mount Sinai, the Israelites worshipped a golden calf below (Exodus 32). If the man knows the commandments, he also knows the history of his people’s failure to keep them. Consequently, he should also know of his own failure in that regard. These laws reveal that the law-giving God alone is good; the recipients themselves are not. Again, the implied lesson is that if eternal life is to be had, it must come through God, not through human effort.

 

C. Assertion (v. 20)

 

20. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

 

Jesus’ appeal to the man’s conscience is not yet successful. Rather than acknowledging God’s unique goodness and his own sinfulness, the man asserts that he has kept the law faithfully since he was young. What the man is claiming is not absolute moral perfection but sincere, consistent observance as compared with other people. Measured against the lives of others, this man sees himself as good.

 

That comparison, however, is his failing: he compares himself with other people instead of with God. The man’s self-perceived goodness is what drives him. Yet the man seems to lack assurance that eternal life is really in his possession, given his question in verse 17, above.

 

What Do You Think?

 

How do you respond to someone who voices a do-it-yourself approach to eternal life?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

When the person accepts biblical truth

 

When the person does not accept biblical truth

 

D. Rejoinder (v. 21)

 

21. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

 

Mark tells us first that love is the basis of Jesus’ rejoinder. To point out what the man lacks is not uncaring—quite the opposite!

 

Jesus first tells the man to sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor. For any person, rich or otherwise, this action would be extraordinary (compare Mark 10:28, below; 12:44). Indeed, the Gospels do not record Jesus’ telling any other person to do something like this so specifically. So why this man?

 

From the opening of this conversation, we conclude that Jesus sees the man’s primary problem to be that he thinks he “has it all together.” This is the problem of self-reliance. Having possessions in abundance gives one the illusion that self-reliance is possible (see Luke 12:15-21). But having nothing tells us that we cannot rely on ourselves. Before and after God gave Israel His law, He led them into and through places where they had no means to sustain themselves. They needed to learn to trust God to provide food and water (Exodus 15:22-17:7).

 

Selling all and giving to the poor would put this man in the same situation. He would have no means to provide for himself, no illusion of his own self-sufficiency, and so nowhere to turn but to God.

 

This is the sense of the next statement, about having treasure in heaven. This refers not simply to what the man will receive after death. Rather, the word heaven reminds us of the dwelling place of God, as the place of God’s presence. So treasure in heaven is the assured, abundant blessing that the God who dwells in Heaven provides for His people when they admit their need.

 

The instructions do not end there. Jesus further says come . . . and follow me. (The earliest manuscripts of Mark do not have the phrase take up the cross, although that imperative is definitely part of Jesus’ teaching on discipleship elsewhere; see Mark 8:34.) How does one obtain eternal life? Only through Jesus. He is the one who can rightly accept the title Good Master and can therefore require that those who seek eternal life must follow Him to receive it.

 

E. Reaction (v. 22)

 

22. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.

 

Whatever response the man is expecting from Jesus, what he hears is not it! He is unwilling to trade his self-sufficiency for reliance on Jesus. The man prefers to remain under the powerfully false perception that his great possessions provide security.

 

We note that the man’s rejection of Jesus is not that of scoffing dismissal (contrast Luke 16:14; Acts 17:32; 2 Peter 3:3). Rather, he departs with the sadness of a person who has sought something he knows to be of great value—eternal life—but has failed to attain it. He has counted the cost, and he has concluded that that cost is too high (compare Luke 14:25-33). Such is “the deceitfulness of riches” (Mark 4:19).

 

What Do You Think?

 

What luxury items can or should a Christian allow himself or herself to own, if any? Why?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Definition of “luxury item”

 

Mark 14:3-9

 

“The more stuff you own, the more it owns you”

 

Other

 

II. Jesus and the Disciples

 

                                                                (Mark 10:23-31)

 

A. Where the Rich Stand (vv. 23-25)

 

23. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!

 

To enter into the kingdom of God is to receive the blessings of God’s promised rule that Jesus is bringing. Many in His day believe that having wealth is a sign of God’s favor (compare Job 1:10; 42:10; Isaiah 3:10). Wealth is also seen to confer the advantage of being able to spend more time and money in careful observance of the law. But Jesus overturns this line of thinking.

 

24. And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!

 

Reflecting the common outlook, the disciples are deeply surprised that Jesus views wealth as a hindrance to entering God’s kingdom. Their astonishment prompts Jesus to repeat His statement. There must be no mistake about this warning.

 

But Jesus also begins to hint at the solution to the problem as He addresses the disciples as children. Earlier, He had said that one must receive God’s kingdom as a child would (Mark 10:14, 15). The contrast between the rich man in his seeming strength and the child in weakness is vital.

 

25. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

 

Jesus now restates His warning in sharp, vivid terms. Camels are the largest animals commonly seen in Jesus’ culture, and the eye of a needle is among the smallest of familiar openings. Jesus’ comparison paints a picture of impossibility.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What self-tests can we perform to determine if we are serving God or money?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

When money is relatively scarce

 

When money is relatively plentiful

 

The Camel and the Needle

 

A common teaching when I was a youngster was that at the time of Jesus there was a small gate in the Jerusalem wall that was known as the Needle’s Eye. To pass through this gate, a camel would have to be unloaded, get down on its knees, and crawl. Therefore the meaning of what Jesus said was that we have to abandon our possessions and assume a prayerful lifestyle (“get down on our knees”) before we can enter the kingdom of Heaven.

 

That makes for a nice illustration, and it was popularized in E. W. Bullinger’s The Companion Bible, published in the early twentieth century. Apparently, the first person to debunk the application was J. W. McGarvey (1829-1911), longtime professor of sacred literature at The College of the Bible in Lexington, Kentucky. McGarvey noted that there is no evidence that there ever was such a gate at Jerusalem.

 

Jesus is known to have used extreme language in His teachings (examples: Matthew 7:3-5; Luke 14:26). With all good intentions, various interpreters have attempted to soften those extremes to make the teachings more palatable. We should exercise great caution in this regard lest we end up robbing the teaching of what Jesus really intended!—J. B. N.

 

B. What God Can Do (vv. 26, 27)

 

26. And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?

 

The disciples’ astonishment only increases. In wondering Who then can be saved? they reveal again that they hold to the conventional wisdom noted in verse 23, above. Thus Jesus’ words are as startling to the disciples as His instructions were saddening to the rich man a minute earlier. If it is impossible for the rich to enter God’s kingdom, how can there be hope for anyone?

 

27. And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.

 

Now the point becomes clearer. The problem is not simply wealth. Wealth promotes the problem, but it is not the problem itself.

 

God’s blessing comes to those who recognize their own inadequacy and therefore reach out in their deep need to receive His unmerited gift. A person who relies on self can never enter God’s kingdom. But by God’s grace and mercy, anyone can receive the gift that He freely gives. Those who rely on themselves, like the rich man, miss out on God’s blessing. Those who approach God as children, relying utterly on Him as heavenly Father, receive the fullness of His blessing.

 

C. What the Disciples Have Done (v. 28)

 

28. Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.

 

The exchange with the rich man and Jesus’ declarations lead Peter to wonder about himself and the other disciples. They have, in fact, done what Jesus said: they left their livelihoods behind when they accepted His invitation to follow Him (Mark 1:16-20). Does this mean that they have done what the rich man was unwilling to do?

 

What Do You Think?

 

What has your discipleship cost you? What should it cost you?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Concerning relationships

 

Concerning standard of living

 

Concerning job opportunities

 

Other

 

D. What Will Result (vv. 29-31)

 

29. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s.

 

In reply, Jesus first lists some of the many things that the Twelve and others have left and will leave behind as they follow Him. These things include home and relationships, which give a sense of security and belonging. If God is indeed fulfilling His promises, then nothing is too great to give up in order to receive the blessings of that fulfillment.

 

What Do You Think?

 

How can we keep devotion to family members from interfering with our devotion to God?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Before a problem occurs

 

After a problem has occurred

 

30. But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

 

There is no loss in sacrifice for the person who relies on God in following Jesus. God amply meets all real needs, and He does so in far greater measure than what one gives up. What God supplies, both in the present and in the eternal future, is far greater than what anyone leaves behind.

 

Hundreds of Relatives

 

Back when I was in Bible college, a fellow student named Frank (name changed) had a deep desire to become a foreign missionary. His family was not in favor. They supported his desire to be a minister, but not to a foreign country. Frank, however, was undeterred. When he graduated from college, he married his girlfriend, raised support, and went abroad as a missionary.

 

Things were very difficult at first. Frank had to learn the language, the culture, and different customs in adjusting to a completely different way of life. This was made even more difficult by the fact that his family had all but rejected him. They wrote to him only on rare occasions, and then usually to berate him for leaving.

 

Finally, however, things began to open up for Frank in his ministry. He was instrumental in bringing numerous individuals to Christ, and he started a couple of churches. Frank became known in the area for his integrity, and even nonbelievers often came to him for advice and arbitration. More churches were started, and eventually there were hundreds of Christians. After three decades of ministry, the mission was well planted. Men he had trained for ministry were taking greater responsibility for local evangelism as more of Frank’s time was spent in administration of the expanding work.

 

Frank once remarked to me that as he looked back over his ministry, he could see that God had given him a larger family than he had back in the States. The new family loved him deeply. Parents, brothers, sisters, and children had been multiplied to him, just as Jesus had said. And so it can be for each of us as well.—J. B. N.

 

31. But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.

 

In God’s view, human status and power count for nothing, but need counts for everything. Those who see themselves as self-sufficient will be brought low, as God shows them the reality of their situation. Those who recognize their deep need for what only God can give will be exalted by His unmerited blessing. God’s kingdom is populated not with the self-sufficient but with children.

 

 

Conclusion

 

A. Camels or Children?

 

So, how do we evaluate ourselves? Do we see ourselves as accomplished, capable, resourceful, and righteous? Or do we see ourselves as weak, vulnerable, needy, and guilty?

 

Do our possessions—either those we have or those we aspire to have—form the basis of our security and status? Or are they a stewardship from God to be used to serve Him in generosity that reflects His own?

 

One evaluation puts us on the path of attempting to enter God’s kingdom as camels trying to pass through eyes of needles, an impossibility. The other evaluation has us approaching God’s kingdom and eternal life as children who rely solely on God’s grace. The choice is ours.

 

B. Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, those of us who live in prosperous Western democracies are especially at risk of seeing ourselves as self-sufficient. May our possessions, status, and cultural security structures not blind us to our weakness and need! Teach us to live as children, always relying on You to provide, both now and forevermore. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

C. Thought to Remember

 

Be children, not camels!

 

 

 

 

Kid’s Corner

Faith Is Possible with God

Mark 10:17-31

Sunday, March 13, 2016

 

 

Mark 10:17-31

 

(Mark 10:17)  As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

 

Jesus traveled to meet those who needed to hear the good news without waiting for the people to come to Him. The young man who ran up to Jesus and knelt before Jesus in homage did so before Jesus left where He had been teaching and healing. He acknowledged Jesus as his Teacher or Master, and wanted to know what he could do to add eternal life to his possessions as an inheritance. To inherit from the Father, he would first need to become a child of God, an adopted son of God through faith in Jesus.

 

(Mark 10:18)  And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.

 

Jesus asked him why he called Him good. Did he recognize the fact that Jesus never sinned? Did he think Jesus’ teaching was good teaching? Did he believe Jesus had come from God? Did he think Jesus was a prophet who knew what people must do to inherit eternal life? Jesus indicated that God alone is good – all other human beings have sinned against God. Though fully human, as the Son of God, Jesus never sinned.

 

(Mark 10:19)  “You know the commandments, ‘DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, Do not defraud, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.’”

 

Jesus named commandments that involved personal relationships with other people. Jesus did not name the commandments that began the Ten Commandments regarding worshiping God alone (not worshiping idols) and loving God supremely. The young man would show by his responses to Jesus’ words that he was not loving and worshiping God alone or supremely.

 

(Mark 10:20)  And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.”

 

He could say that he had outwardly kept all of the commandments Jesus listed. As a wealthy young man interested in eternal life, he would probably try to keep those commandments and do what he thought he needed to do to inherit both from his parents and eternal life from God. He probably also knew that something was missing in his life. From Jesus teaching him about obeying the commandments and later the importance of giving and following Him, he would begin to understand that he was not really “good” for only God is good. He would begin to understand that he loved money more than God.

 

(Mark 10:21)  Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

 

Jesus may have loved this young man because he had really tried to obey the law of God by not doing bad things. But rather than tell the young man he was not obeying the commands regarding love for God and others, and that he really loved money instead of God and others, Jesus gave him something practical to do that would demonstrate his disobedience to God and speak to his conscience. Love for God and others requires more than avoiding doing harm to others. By his actions, the young man would reveal that he trusted more in his wealth than in the “Good Teacher” Jesus and what Jesus said.

 

(Mark 10:22)  But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.

 

The young man had great wealth, and to follow Jesus he needed to give all that great wealth away and use it to help others in positive ways. Then, he would have great treasure in heaven and have something to inherit from his heavenly Father after he died and went to heaven. It seems he wanted to add to his accumulations, and he was serving money instead of God. He went away sad rather than do what the “Good Teacher” told him to do – this was a sign of unbelief in Jesus as Good Teacher or Good Master.

 

(Mark 10:23)  And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!”

 

The rich are tempted to love their wealth and what their wealth can buy them. They are tempted to trust in their wealth in this life, and they may suppose that their wealth is an indication of God’s blessing upon them. This was a popular notion at the time, and still believed by many. Therefore, it is hard or difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. They must look to God first, and put their future, wealth, and possessions in God’s hands – to use their wealth as God wants – some rich people will do this, some will not.

 

(Mark 10:24)  The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!

 

The disciples probably thought as many did in Jesus’ day — that wealth indicated God’s love and special blessing upon someone. Jesus indicated in reply to their surprise that it is hard or difficult for anyone to enter the kingdom of God, not just the wealthy.

 

(Mark 10:25)  “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

 

A camel must kneel and have its load removed to squeeze through a gate in the wall to enter a city or earthly kingdom (this is sometimes called “going through the eye of a needle”). A wealthy person must humbly kneel before God and become willing for God to remove the burden of his wealth in order to enter the kingdom of God. It is difficult for a truly wealthy person, especially one who has endeavored with all his heart and mind to become wealthy or retain his inheritance, to bow before God and become willing for God to remove all of his possessions or freely give all he has to God, for God to use his wealth as God wants. It is difficult for people to give up their control of their lives and turn the control of their lives over to God.

 

(Mark 10:26)  They were even more astonished and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?”

 

The disciples are so amazed at Jesus’ teaching they ask each other, “Who then can be saved?” If a rich man cannot be saved, even with all his wealth (which they thought was a sign of God’s blessing upon him), then what chance does a poor man have, or even they as Jesus’ disciples have, of being saved? How could they possibly give enough to be saved?

 

(Mark 10:27)  Looking at them, Jesus said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”

 

Jesus said that it is impossible for us to save ourselves. There is nothing we can do to save ourselves. We must trust ourselves and everything we have and are to Jesus Christ and follow Him. It is not impossible for God to save us, and by His grace lead us to saving faith in Jesus Christ. A sign that God has saved us is our putting God first in our lives and using our wealth, talents, time, and possessions to serve God and others. Doing so does not save us, but doing so is a sign that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, that we truly love and trust in God.

 

(Mark 10:28)  Peter began to say to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You.”

 

Peter exclaimed that since they had left everything to follow Jesus that they had no more to give to God in order to be saved. Therefore, they could do nothing more to save themselves. Jesus will indicate to them that because He had called them to follow Him and they had done so that was a sign that they were saved, had entered the kingdom of God, and would inherit eternal life.

 

(Mark 10:29)  Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake,

 

What is of central importance is our relationship with God in Jesus Christ. The wealthy young man wanted to keep all he had and do a few more good things to ensure his future after death. The question is “Are we following Jesus?” The wealthy young man needed to leave all he had acquired behind to follow Jesus: he chose not to do so. The disciples had left all they had behind to follow Jesus – a sign of God’s saving grace at work in them.

 

(Mark 10:30)  but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.

 

In this life, in this present age, the followers of Jesus will have hundreds of homes opened to them and hundreds of brothers and sisters and mothers and children (only one heavenly Father and Savior) for Jesus’ mother and brothers are those who do the will of God — the sign they are saved. They will have many homes and many friends of Christ in heaven, and they live with them forever. This inheritance is greater than all the world’s wealth. Jesus also prepared His followers for the future by telling them they will also suffer persecution in this life, another sign they are different from the world.

 

(Mark 10:31)  “But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.”

 

In many societies, the first or most important people are the wealthy who have hoarded their money rather than use their money to do the will of God; they will be last in regard to the future and eternal life with God’s people. They may forfeit eternal life altogether if they did not repent and put God first through faith in Jesus Christ. The followers of Jesus, who appear to be last because they have given up everything to follow Him will be first in the Kingdom of God. In the Kingdom of God, they will have far more friends, who will be like brothers and sisters, than those in this life who put money and acquiring possessions and wealth first before God and others. Jesus specifically told the young man to follow Him. Giving away money is insufficient to inherit eternal life, especially when that giving sometimes helps those who oppose the truth and destroys the lives of others through the organizations they support. In this world, the disciples of Jesus may appear to be last, especially when persecuted, but they will be first in the Kingdom of God. Unless they repent and follow Jesus, many of the first and most important people in this world will not inherit eternal life and will not even be last.

 

 

 

Faith Is Possible with God

Mark 10:17-31

Sunday, March 13, 2016

 

 “Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me’” (Mark 10:21).

 

When Jesus talked with the wealthy young man who wanted to know what he could do to inherit eternal life, they determined that he had not harmed anyone. On the other hand, it appeared as though he had not done much to help others either. Jesus did not ask him if he loved the LORD his God with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might (see

Deuteronomy 6:5). Rather, Jesus gave him the opportunity to discover this lack of love for himself by telling him to sell everything he possessed and give to the poor. When the rich

young man heard this, he became sad because of his great possessions. He had to choose between embracing God and serving God supremely because he loved God or clinging to his

possessions because he loved them more than everything else. He had to choose between entrusting his life and future to Jesus by following Him and believing Jesus would meet all of his needs – including giving him eternal life – or entrusting his life and future to the money and possessions he had hoarded. Jesus loved him knowing how hard it would be for this rich young

man to give up his earthly security and entrust his eternal security to Jesus. To inherit eternal life, he must enter into God’s family by following Jesus. He would not do that without help from God. We do not know if he ever did what Jesus said, but “all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27).

 

 

Thinking Further

Faith Is Possible with God

Mark 10:17-31

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Name ___________________________

 

1. What did the rich young man want to inherit after he died? What did Jesus say he would need to do?

 

 

2. What might his refusal to do what Jesus said have indicated?

 

 

3. What can someone do which indicates they have entered the kingdom of God?

 

 

4. What had Peter and the other disciples left behind to follow Jesus?

 

 

5. What did Jesus say His followers would receive?

 

 

Word Search

Faith Is Possible with God

Mark 10:17-31

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Name ____________________________

 

C I R O N O H Z I Y W N X F L

R P F P K I N G D O M Q E R S

J I J U B H N E E D L E V A C

E F E O Y T T K O W X G O T O

A O S M K L F R G I V E L E M

H F U W R A O S E P L N T A M

Z E S E Z E L J G A Y K D C A

E M A D G W L Z O P S U M H N

C T U V C U O Y O G A U L E D

J S E A E A W H D R W I R R M

C D M R V N C L F V F M O E E

G E Q L N P U E I E L B F R N

L Y P E V A D F N O Q J C M T

E X G X Z I L A W V A K I F S

G R P I N H E R I T H M A E G

Jesus

Teacher

Good

Inherit

Eternal

Life

Commandments

Defraud

Honor

Love

Give

Kingdom

Treasure

Heaven

Follow

Wealth

Camel

Needle

 

 

 

True and False Test

Mark 10:17-31

Sunday, March 13, 2016

 

 

Circle the true or false answers. Correct the false statements by restating them.

 

1. The wealthy young man called Jesus, “Good teacher.” True or False

 

2. Jesus told the man that he was not good. True or False

 

3. Jesus said God alone is good. True or False

 

4. Jesus said that if a person did good then he would inherit eternal life. True or False

 

5. If someone sells all they possess and give the money to the poor, they can enter the kingdom of heaven after they die. True or False

 

6. The rich young man said that he had kept all the commandments Jesus listed. True or False

 

7. The rich young man was eager to begin doing everything Jesus, the good teacher, told him to do, and Jesus praised his good intentions and guaranteed him a blessed inheritance. True or False

 

8. The disciples were amazed to learn that it was difficult for rich people to enter the kingdom of God. True or False

 

9. Jesus said, “All things are possible with God.” True or False

 

10. Jesus promised those at the end of the line that they could go first. True or False

 

 

Answers to the True and False Test

Mark 10:17-31

Sunday, March 13, 2016

 

1.   True

2.   False

3.   True

4.   False

5.   False

6.   True

7.   False

8.   True

9.   True

10. False

 

Closing Prayer

Heavenly Father, those of us who live in prosperous Western democracies are especially at risk of seeing ourselves as self-sufficient. May our possessions, status, and cultural security structures not blind us to our weakness and need! Teach us to live as children, always relying on You to provide, both now and forevermore. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Sunday School Lesson

March 6

Powerful Faith

 

Devotional Reading:Genesis 50:15-21

 

Background Scripture: Mark 9:14-29

 

Mark 9:14-29

 

14And when he came to his disciples, he saw a great multitude about them, and the scribes questioning with them.

 

15And straightway all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed, and running to him saluted him.

 

16And he asked the scribes, What question ye with them?

 

17And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit;

 

18And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not.

 

19He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me.

 

20And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming.

 

21And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child.

 

22And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.

 

23Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

 

24And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

 

25When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him.

 

26And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead.

 

27But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.

 

28And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out?

 

29And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.

 

Key Verse

 

Straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. —Mark 9:24

 

Lesson Aims

 

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

 

1. Describe the plight of the boy, the desperate faith of his father, and Jesus’ response.

 

2. Compare and contrast the father’s mixture of faith and unbelief with his or her own status in that regard.

 

3. Plan a ministry project that will stretch the faith of those who participate.

 

 

Introduction

 

 

A. The Best Water You Ever Drank

 

What was the best water you ever drank? That may seem like an odd question. After all, most of the water we drink daily varies little in taste.

 

But most of us can name a time when we truly savored a drink of water. We were thirsty, maybe hot. Perhaps we were working hard in the heat or playing a vigorous sport. Perhaps we were traveling where water was not readily available. We were desperate. When we finally received the water we needed, it tasted wonderful! Our experience of relief was intense because our need was intense.

 

The Bible says something similar about faith in God. There is never a time when we do not need God. But we can easily spend most of our time unconscious of that need, living as if we needed no one but ourselves. But into every life come situations that strip us of our sense of self-sufficiency. These are times when we realize that we have nothing or no one else on which to rely except God. So we cry out for His help. In those moments, we discover what real faith is.

 

Today’s text presents a man who had just such an experience. His son was in desperate need, and the father knew that he was powerless to help. What this man said in his anxious weakness will show us much about our own situation.

 

B. Lesson Background

 

Our text brings together several themes that interweave and build throughout the Gospel of Mark. One of these themes is Jesus’ authority over unclean spirits. The first recorded miracle of Jesus in this Gospel is the casting out of such a spirit from a tormented man (Mark 1:23-27); Jesus went on to exercise this power on other occasions (3:11; 5:1-20; 7:24-30).

 

Another interwoven theme is the failure of Jesus’ disciples. Their failure to rely on His strength in difficult circumstances led Him to challenge their lack of faith and hardness of heart (Mark 4:35-41; 6:45-52; 8:14-21). When Jesus questioned the disciples regarding their conclusion of His identity, Peter replied, “Thou art the Christ” (8:29). But the next recorded interaction between the two shows Peter attempting to “correct” Jesus’ prediction of His own death and resurrection. This earned Peter a sharp rebuke from Jesus: “Get thee behind me, Satan” (8:33).

 

Later, two disciples presumed to request places of authority (Mark 10:35-45), having already been taught that “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all” (9:35). Another disciple went on to betray Him, one to deny Him, and all to abandon Him (14:17-21, 43-51, 66-72).

 

A third interwoven theme is the faith of the needy and outcast. Although the 12 disciples failed to trust in Jesus as they should have, those who were at the end of their rope in one way or another expressed a deep faith born of their deep need. Marginalized “publicans and sinners” wanted to be close to Jesus (Mark 2:13-17). A woman whose medical condition made her an “unclean” social outcast believed she could be healed merely by touching Jesus’ garment (5:24-34). A Syrophenician (non-Israelite) woman replied to Jesus’ hard saying with persistent faith (7:24-30). These individuals had a deep realization of their need to rely on Jesus—a realization that the 12 disciples often didn’t seem to have.

 

Today’s text comes at an intersection of these themes. Following hard on Jesus’ transfiguration (Mark 9:2-13), the mountaintop experience of encounter with divine glory became a valley encounter with the demonic. (Parallel accounts are in Matthew 17:14-21 and Luke 9:37-43a.)

 

I. Prelude

 

                                                                  (Mark 9:14-16)

 

A. Scene Interrupted (vv. 14, 15)

 

14. And when he came to his disciples, he saw a great multitude about them, and the scribes questioning with them.

 

Jesus arrives on the scene, having just come from a high mountain where He had been transfigured before Peter, James, and John (see the Lesson Background). Those whom Jesus encounters at this point fall into three distinct groups: (1) his disciples, referring to the 9 of the 12 who had not accompanied Him to the mountain, (2) a great multitude, which tries to follow Him everywhere (see Mark 3:7-10, 20, 32; 4:1; 6:30-44), and (3) the scribes, who may be here to collect evidence against Jesus to take back to the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem (compare 3:22; 7:1).

 

The scribes, as experts in the Law of Moses, often dog Jesus with their confrontational questions. Lacking Jesus to pick on at this point, they seem to be settling for the next best thing: challenging His disciples.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What can we do to ensure that our discussions with skeptics end up shedding “light” and not “heat”?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

In private conversations

 

When others are listening

 

Proverbs 15:1, 18; 20:3

 

1 Peter 3:15

 

15. And straightway all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed, and running to him saluted him.

 

The crowd of people has been watching the conflict between the scribes and the disciples. The word translated greatly amazed occurs only four times in the New Testament, and only in this Gospel (here and in Mark 14:33; 16:5, 6). In this context, it indicates a troubled response to something disturbing. It is not the arguing of scribes and disciples that provokes the people’s reaction, but the arrival of Jesus himself. So they rush toward Him.

 

B. Question Asked (v. 16)

 

16. And he asked the scribes, What question ye with them?

 

Jesus inserts himself into whatever controversy is taking place between the disciples and the scribes. The scribes, however, are not the ones who respond to Jesus (next verse).

 

How to Say It

 

Moses Mo-zes or Mo-zez.

 

Sanhedrin San-huh-drun or San-heed-run.

 

Syrophenician Sigh-roe-fih-nish-un.

 

 

What Do You Think?

 

How do we know when to interject ourselves into an ongoing conversation and when not to?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding conversations between believers

 

Regarding conversations between believers and unbelievers

 

Regarding conversations between unbelievers

 

Proverbs 26:17

 

Matthew 7:6

 

II. Problem Analyzed

 

                                                                  (Mark 9:17-22)

 

A. Demon’s Domination (vv. 17, 18)

 

17. And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit.

 

Mark draws our attention away from the scribes and the crowd to a particular one of the multitude. This person is a man, per verse 21 (below). The first word of his address to Jesus indicates respect for Jesus’ authority.

 

The man’s son is afflicted with what the father calls a dumb spirit, that is, a spirit who makes the boy unable to speak. (For convenience, we will refer to the man’s son as a boy, although his age is not given.) The man clearly hopes that the boy can be delivered from this spirit, which Matthew 17:18 and Luke 9:42 call “the devil.”

 

In the parallel text of Matthew 17:15, the father says the boy is “lunatick,” having seizures assumed to be caused by phases of the moon (literally, “moonstruck”). Matthew 4:24 uses the same word to describe a condition, usually considered to be epilepsy, that Jesus alleviated in many sufferers earlier in His ministry.

 

We note that the more abbreviated version of Matthew 17:15 records only the father’s description of his son’s symptoms, not their cause. Today’s text as well as Matthew 17:18 and Luke 9:39, 42 leave no doubt regarding a demon being that cause.

 

18a. And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away:

 

The boy’s condition involves more than loss of speech. He often (see v. 22a) is overcome suddenly by the spirit (he taketh him). On such terrible occasions, one result is that the spirit teareth him in some way. The word translated teareth here is translated “rend” in Matthew 7:6 and “burst” in Mark 2:22, indicating some kind of self-destructive behavior. Three observable symptoms accompany this: foaming at the mouth, grinding of teeth, and a shriveling up or withering (as the word behind pineth away is translated in Mark 3:1; 4:6; 11:20, 21).

 

18b. And I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not.

 

Not finding Jesus, the man had asked Jesus’ disciples to cast out the demon. Jesus has granted them the authority to do so (Mark 6:13), but for some reason they have failed in this instance. This is probably the point of discussion between the disciples and the scribes in Mark 9:14, above. The desperate situation now seems more desperate still.

 

B. Jesus’ Exasperation (v. 19)

 

19. He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me.

 

Jesus’ initial reaction may surprise us. Instead of expressing compassion for the plight of the afflicted person, He voices impatience with the faithlessness of those who should know better. This includes the disciples who have failed to drive out this demon. The phrase faithless generation connects them with the Israelites who had experienced the exodus from Egypt but failed to trust God when challenged to do so (Numbers 14).

 

That phrase also serves to warn Jesus’ wider audience of failure to respond to what God is doing in Jesus. Moses had come down from the mountain where he had received God’s law only to be confronted with unbelief (Exodus 32). Now Jesus has come down from the mountain of His transfiguration only to be confronted by the unbelief of those who should have more faith (compare Mark 3:5; 4:40; 6:50, 52; 8:12, 17-21).

 

Jesus warns that the time is short and His patience is not boundless. Only after He issues this warning does Jesus command that the afflicted boy be brought to Him.

 

C. Boy’s Presentation (v. 20)

 

20. And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming.

 

Demonic spirits are able to recognize Jesus’ authority and power (see Mark 1:23, 24; 5:7), and this one is no exception. The boy’s terrible condition is immediately revealed as a result. Clearly, the boy has not been helped at all by the disciples. If anyone is to deliver him, it must be Jesus.

 

D. Father’s Explanation (vv. 21, 22)

 

21, 22a. And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him.

 

As Jesus inquires further, we learn that essentially the boy’s entire life has been dominated by the demon. The father’s elaboration allows us to see more of the danger that the lad faces constantly: as demonic seizures come upon him, he is in mortal danger of falling into a fire to be burned to death or into water to drown. The boy is utterly helpless in both cases and requires constant monitoring. Talk about family stress!

 

22b. But if thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.

 

Expressing his desperation, the father now speaks in a way that implies the failure of others to provide relief. No one, not even Jesus’ disciples, has been able to help. Can Jesus now do what others cannot? The man’s if thou canst expresses the natural doubt that arises from repeated disappointment. Yet in that doubt he still asks.

 

III. Problem Solved

 

                                                                    (Mark 9:23-27)

 

A. Faith’s Power (v. 23)

 

23. Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

 

Jesus’ reply picks up on the doubt in the man’s plea. By repeating if thou canst back to him, Jesus poses the challenge as to whether the man is just another member of the “faithless generation” that sees God’s mighty works in Jesus yet fails to believe (Mark 9:19, above). Such a failure of faith ultimately becomes the obstacle to God’s action (Matthew 13:58). Yet for those who do believe, all things are possible because God will act on behalf of those who trust in Him (Matthew 21:21; Mark 11:23-24; Luke 17:6).

 

 

So, is the man expressing faith or doubt? Is his faith the kind to which God responds, or is it too weak? Does Jesus take action only for those whose faith is faultless? The answer comes next.

 

What Do You Think?

 

When have you seen someone’s level of faith play a key role in a Christ-honoring outcome to a negative situation? What did you learn from this?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding a spiritual issue

 

Regarding a medical matter

 

Regarding a relationship problem

 

Other

 

B. Father’s Quandary (v. 24)

 

24. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

 

The father’s response may change the way we look at Jesus’ challenge and the very nature of true faith. The man first insists that he does indeed believe, but with spontaneous sincerity he also confesses frankly his unbelief. In expressing this paradoxical condition, the man speaks for all of us at one time or another. Our faith is not always an unwavering confidence that is characterized by no shred of doubt. Rather, our faith is often the cry that arises from a desperate, longing need that has been battered and bruised by harsh experience.

 

Yes, my faith is weak, confesses the man. But he begs for help anyway—help for his weak faith so that Jesus can help his suffering son. No matter what prayer requests we lift to God, our first need is always for stronger faith.

 

What Do You Think?

 

When a time was your prayer was similar to what the father expressed? How did things turn out?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

During a spiritual crisis

 

During a financial crisis

 

During a health crisis

 

During a relationship crisis

 

Other

 

Belief and Unbelief

 

I’ve often thought the apostle Thomas got bad press. Because of his disbelief about the resurrection of Jesus (John 20:24, 25), we call him Doubting Thomas. Yet this same Thomas earlier had said that if Jesus was going to put himself in mortal danger by returning to Judea, then “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16). This is not doubt; this is faith unto death.

 

Marking the line between belief and unbelief is often difficult. We believe that God can cure a person’s cancer; but when we pray for healing, we really don’t expect it. We agree that God “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20), but we don’t pray for something because we don’t think God will do it.

 

Years ago, I was talking with a Bible college student whose Pentecostal background taught him to pray for a thing and then act as if it were going to happen. He was taught that if you don’t believe it will happen, then your lack of faith will guarantee it won’t. It is easy for us to criticize the father for asking, “If you can.” Yet his hesitancy is a mirror of us all. We believe, and God is able to build our faith by overriding our unbelief.—J. B. N.

 

C. Jesus’ Command (vv. 25-27)

 

25. When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him.

 

Before the growing numbers of people and in response to the father’s expression of desperate faith, Jesus now acts. His authoritative command is longer than any other directive to demons in an exorcism in this Gospel (16 words in the Greek compared with 5 words in Mark 1:25 and 8 words in 5:8). If we wonder whether the father’s imperfect faith will receive a half-hearted response, the length, authority, and specificity of Jesus’ rebuke to the foul spirit shows us the opposite. We also note in passing that in speaking of the spirit as dumb and deaf, Jesus is referring to two of the ill effects it has had on the boy.

 

26. And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead.

 

In response to Jesus’ command, the spirit can only cry out and cause a final, dramatic shaking (rent him sore) before departing. The boy lies motionless in the immediate aftermath. Many in the crowd, still lacking faith, conclude that the boy is dead, implying that Jesus has failed.

 

27. But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.

 

Jesus’ action in taking the boy by the hand is like the action by which He had raised a dead girl to life in Mark 5:41 (compare Matthew 9:25; Mark 1:31; Luke 8:54; Acts 3:7). The power of Satan is being broken, as it will be most dramatically in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

 

IV. Problem Explained

 

                                                                (Mark 9:28, 29)

 

A. Disciples’ Failure (v. 28)

 

28. And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out?

 

This is not the first time that the disciples have waited for privacy to pose a question to Jesus for clarification (see Mark 4:10; 7:17), nor will it be the last (see 10:10). With the crowd out of earshot, the disciples bring to the fore the question that has loomed in the background throughout the story: Why could not we cast him out? Jesus has already given the disciples authority to cast out demons (Mark 3:13-15; 6:7), and they have done so (6:13). So why in this instance were the disciples unable to do the same? Was this a failure of God’s power?

 

B. Jesus’ Response (v. 29)

 

29. And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.

 

Jesus’ response implies that the disciples had attempted to cast out the unclean spirit by their own authority and power. They have become reliant not on God and His divine authority but on themselves. The faith that believes (Mark 9:23, above) is also the faith that prays. Unlike the boy’s father, who openly admits his weakness and asks for help, the disciples seem somehow to have arrived at the point of believing that their own power is sufficient for the need.

 

We can note in passing that the earliest manuscripts of Mark do not have the words and fasting. Even so, the Bible relates prayer with fasting in the lives of several people of great faith (see Ezra 8:23; Nehemiah 1:4; Daniel 9:3; Luke 2:37; Acts 13:3; 14:23).

 

What Do You Think?

 

In what ways do a Christian’s prayers reveal his or her spiritual maturity? Why?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding what is prayed for (Luke 6:28; 1 John 5:16)

 

Regarding motive (Matthew 6:5; James 4:3)

 

Regarding form (Matthew 6:7)

 

Regarding priority and frequency of prayer (Luke 18:1; 1 Timothy 2:1)

 

Other

 

Exorcisms, Then and Now

 

When I was in Bulgaria several years ago, I saw a priest attempting to exorcise evil spirits from an automobile. We may chuckle at this, but some attempts at exorcism are no laughing matter. For instance, two women in Germantown, Maryland, ended up being charged with murder and attempted murder in 2014 in the stabbing deaths of two children and the wounding of two others as the result of attempted exorcisms. One of the women was the mother of all four victims.

 

Exorcism as a religious ritual is a fascinating subject. There are numerous references to exorcisms in the Scriptures. The Roman Catholic Church has practiced a rite of exorcism for centuries, last revising the ritual in 1999.

 

In the early 1970s, the book The Exorcist and the movie based on it contributed greatly to the modern fixation on this topic. While the book and movie certainly contain objectional elements, the question they pose is still fascinating. That question is this: How does a society that tries to explain away the supernatural react when confronting real, supernatural evil? But this question is not confined to our era, as today’s text shows (also see Acts 19:13-16). This is an enduring caution!—J. B. N.

 

Conclusion

 

 

 

A. The Enemy of Faith

 

Belief and unbelief, faith and failure characterize today’s lesson. What we saw in the father we also see in the disciples and in ourselves. The father’s plea “help thou mine unbelief” was refreshingly honest. May that man’s honesty be ours as well!

 

B. Prayer

 

O Lord, we do believe! But help our unbelief. When we begin to rely on ourselves, teach us again to rely on You. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

C. Thought to Remember

 

The enemy of faith is self-reliance.

 

 

 

 

 

Kid’s Corner

Jesus Can Increase Our Faith

Mark 9:14-29

Sunday, March 6, 2016

 

 

Mark 9:14-29

 

(Mark 9:14)  When they came back to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them.

 

Peter, James, and John came down from the mountain with Jesus where they had seen Jesus transfigured and speaking with Moses and Elijah. When they reached the other disciples, they saw them arguing with some scribes (teachers of the law). They were arguing about something related to a father whose son needed to have a demon cast out in order to be healed. It seems the disciples repeatedly failed to cast out the demon. The arguing might have concerned Jesus casting out demons, whether Jesus was the Messiah, and the failure of the disciples to cast out demons if Jesus was the Messiah. It does seem the source of the argument related to the failures of Jesus’ disciples.

 

(Mark 9:15)  Immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet Him.

 

Throughout the Gospels we learn of people rushing to see Jesus that they might be healed or have a loved one healed or see a miracle. The stories about Jesus were so amazing that when the crowd saw Jesus they ran to greet Him. If the disciples had been arguing with the scribes about Jesus’ ability to heal and the source of Jesus’ power, then the enthusiasm of the crowds would have been heightened, and they would have run to Jesus with great expectations, perhaps to see Him settle the argument or see Him perform miracle or see if Jesus could heal the boy that the disciples had failed to heal.

 

(Mark 9:16)  And He asked them, “What are you discussing with them?”

 

Of course, Jesus knew what they had been arguing about, but Jesus had no intention of creating a spectacle through His ability to read hearts and minds – that was not His purpose. When Jesus did read the hearts and minds of the scribes and Pharisees, He demonstrated to them that they could not hide anything from God or Him. Jesus wanted to build up the faith of a father and heal his son, who had been afflicted with a demon for many years. Jesus would also lead some in the crowd to believe that He was the promised Messiah. By His words and actions, Jesus would demonstrate that He was from God and give the scribes good and sufficient reasons for believing in Him; therefore, they (and any in the observing crowd) would be guilty of the sin of unbelief if they did not repent of their sins and believe in Him.

 

(Mark 9:17)  And one of the crowd answered Him, “Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute;

 

Immediately, the father indicated that the real problem was not an argument between Jesus’ disciples and the scribes. He told Jesus that he had brought his son for healing, but had only found Jesus’ disciples, who had tried and failed to heal his son. The father recognized the signs of demon possession and began to describe what the demon was doing to his son.

 

(Mark 9:18)  and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.”

 

The first problem the father told Jesus about was his son’s inability to communicate by speech: the evil spirit had made him mute. Second, the evil spirit would seize him and control his body in order to bring him physical harm. Finally, the spirit would immobilize his son and do frightening things through his son’s mouth. The disciples had tried and failed to cast out the evil spirit or heal his son.

 

(Mark 9:19)  And He *answered them and *said, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!”

 

Jesus’ immediate response may seem harsh or uncaring to us; however, Jesus dealt daily with myriads of unbelieving people. The problem in this situation was related to unbelieving people, not to His disciples’ failure. The “unbelieving generation” Jesus spoke to had strayed so far from God, and had been so subjected to the false teachings of the scribes who disregarded the Scriptures, that they did not recognize the power of God or a person sent from God. Jesus came to help, teach, and save some in this “unbelieving generation” from their sins, and also help, teach, and save some in future “unbelieving generations” through His disciples and the Scriptures the Holy Spirit would inspire them to write. When the scribes and others persistently argued about and with Jesus, and refused to believe in Him and continued to mislead others in spite of His many miracles, Jesus expressed the fact that at some point the divine patience will cease to be a virtue. God’s anger and judgment because of this faithless unbelief will be appropriate after God has given so much evidence of His existence and virtues through His Son. Jesus’ time on earth in bodily form would soon end with His crucifixion by unbelievers. After all Jesus had said and done, His annoyance at persistent unbelief is appropriate and to be expected, especially when one knows the outcome of unbelief. Later, after Jesus cast out the demon, Jesus would tell the disciples why they had failed.

 

(Mark 9:20)  They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth.

 

When they brought the boy to Jesus, the demon did through him exactly what the father had said. The “unbelieving generation” heard the truth about his demon possessed son and they saw and heard what the demon would do. They had no reason to doubt that the boy was afflicted by a demon, and they would soon see Jesus cast the demon out and heal the boy. However, the question remained, “Would any persist in unbelieving?”

 

(Mark 9:21)  And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood.

 

Jesus also wanted the crowd to know that the boy’s demon possession was not something recent or just a passing phase. His possession by the demon had been permanent from the time the boy was a child; therefore, the boy’s situation was extremely desperate and put him in danger of losing his life. The demon could do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted – even in front of Jesus and a large crowd.

 

(Mark 9:22)  “It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”

 

The father had brought his son to Jesus, but in His absence Jesus’ disciples saw his son first and failed to help him; therefore, his son’s situation began to seem more and more hopeless. Since the disciples could not do anything, he asked Jesus if He could do anything to help his son. The father appealed to Jesus’ compassion and he challenged Jesus to help them, for the son’s affliction afflicted his father too as he saw him suffer time after time and almost die at the demon’s whim.

 

(Mark 9:23)  And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.”

 

Jesus indicated that the father could do something to help his son. The father could believe in Him. Jesus replied that the problem was not beyond His ability, power, and compassion to solve. The problem was in part the father’s lack of faith in Jesus. The father doubted Jesus’ ability and perhaps Jesus’ compassion. Jesus did not teach that “faith” or “believing” in and of themselves were the solution. Jesus taught that God the Father and He should be the true objects of faith and the true Persons to believe in, for everything was possible through the Father and the Son when believers trusted them.

 

(Mark 9:24)  Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

 

Jesus knew the source of the father’s lack of faith and Jesus knew the father had some faith: the father even said “I do believe.” He had faith the size of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20). Jesus and the father both knew there were still some areas of unbelief in the father’s heart and mind. In some fashion, the father did believe Jesus could heal his son, and that is why he brought him to Jesus. Perhaps the failures of Jesus’ disciples had shaken his faith in Jesus; for surely they had not strengthened his belief in Jesus. The father expressed faith the size of a mustard seed and Jesus would help him overcome what he still lacked in belief by working a miracle of healing and compassion.

 

(Mark 9:25)  When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.”

 

Jesus determined to heal the boy before an even larger crowd had gathered: His primary concern was expressing compassion and helping the father and son, not creating a big scene or impressing a crowd. Those who did not see the miracle would hear of it from others and believe in Jesus or refuse to believe in Him as part of the “unbelieving generation.” Jesus called the impure spirit by what it did to the boy and commanded it to come out of the boy and never enter him again: the father and son would know that he was permanently freed from the demon and healed. When the demon failed to return, the father’s faith would be further strengthened, as well as the faith of his son (who would be told how he was freed from the demon and healed by Jesus). Jesus said in a parable that a demon could return with additional demons and make a person’s life worse than before, but in this case it could not return and harm the boy (Luke 11:26).

 

(Mark 9:26)  After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, “He is dead!”

 

Mark’s report makes it obvious that the boy was indeed possessed by an impure spirit and his problems were greater than a physical or mental disease. The spirit did not give up its possession of the boy easily, but demonstrated its power as it left him at the command of Jesus. It became obvious to the crowd that Jesus was more powerful than the demon; and yet, there was some fear that the demon had killed the boy as it left him.

 

(Mark 9:27)  But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up.

 

Jesus showed His compassion and the fact that He had no fear that the demon would return and attack Him when He took the boy by the hand and lifted him up and he stood up freed from the demonic possession. No one could doubt the fact that Jesus had freed the boy from a demon and Jesus could do everything for the person who trusted in Him. Still, the question remained, “Would any of the ‘unbelieving generation’ come to believe in Jesus as the Person Jesus revealed himself to be?”

 

(Mark 9:28)  When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, “Why could we not drive it out?”

 

The disciples waited until they were alone with Jesus to learn why they had failed to cast out the impure spirit. After Jesus called His disciples, He had given them the authority to cast out demons: “He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons” (Mark 3:14, 15). Later, Jesus had sent them out to cast out demons by themselves: “Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits” (Mark 6:7). The disciples knew from experience that they had the authority under the Lordship of Jesus Christ to cast out demons, and they may have been arguing with the scribes about their authority from Jesus, their failures, the reason for their failures, and the impact their failures had on belief in Jesus as the Messiah.

 

(Mark 9:29)  And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.”

 

Jesus did not condemn His disciples for a lack of faith. Lack of faith was not their problem. Their problem was a lack of prayer. They would need to take some situations to their Father and to Jesus directly through prayer in order to succeed in helping others with some of their problems. We may not know the cause of an illness or something that might appear as a demonic possession or persecution, but with Jesus everything is possible, and we can go to our heavenly Father and to Jesus with believing prayer – even asking Jesus to help us overcome any areas of unbelief in our lives.

 

 

 

Jesus Can Increase Our Faith

Mark 9:14-29

Sunday, March 6, 2016

 

 “‘It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.’ ‘If you can’? said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for one who believes’” (Mark 9:22b-23).

A father brought his son to Jesus because an evil spirit possessed his son and often tried to kill him. Jesus’ disciples had the authority to cast out spirits, but they had failed; therefore, the father rushed to Jesus as soon as he saw Him. The father had believed Jesus or His disciples could help him, but after Jesus’ disciples failed, Jesus was his last hope. He said to Jesus, “If you can do anything, help us” and Jesus replied, “Everything is possible for one who believes.” The father needed to believe in Jesus, and if he did his son would be helped. The father and Jesus knew that he had some belief in Jesus or he would never have brought his son to Him. The father and Jesus also knew that he needed to believe more in Jesus. Perhaps his belief was almost the size of a mustard seed, for the father said to Jesus; “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). Jesus answered his prayer of faith and cast the demon out of his son. When Jesus answered his prayer, He helped the father increase his belief in Him. Later, the disciples learned that some demons can only be cast out by prayer (Mark 9:29). If we have a little belief in Jesus and are also aware that we still have a measure of unbelief, we can still pray to Jesus and ask Him to help us overcome our unbelief, for “Everything is possible for one who

believes.

 

 

 

Thinking Further

Jesus Can Increase Our Faith

Mark 9:14-29

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Name______________________________

 

1. Discuss what you might be thinking if you were in the crowd listening to the disciples and the teachers of the law arguing. Whose side would sound most convincing to you?

 

 

 

2. Discuss the effect it would have on your faith if you had been the father and the disciples had failed to help you and your son.

 

 

 

3. Discuss how you would feel if you looked up and saw Jesus walking toward the crowd.

 

 

 

4. What do you think Jesus did that helped the father overcome his unbelief in Jesus?

 

 

 

5. Do you think Jesus criticized His disciples for failing to cast out the demon? What did Jesus say to them in private after they failed?

 

 

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

 

1. Discuss what you might be thinking if you were in the crowd listening to the disciples and the teachers of the law arguing. Whose side would sound most convincing to you?

I might be thinking the scribes were right because they were lawyers and professional debaters and the disciples were Galilean fishermen and unlearned followers of a person the scribes said was a blasphemer. The scribes would sound most convincing, especially after the disciples failed to cast out the demon after many of them tried.

 

2. Discuss the effect it would have on your faith if you had been the father and the disciples had failed to help you and your son.

My faith would have almost been shattered, because with each effort they made my hopes would have gone up, and with each time they failed my hope would have been cast down. I would have felt hopeless, with a little hope that if Jesus were here then He might be able to help where His disciples could not.

 

3. Discuss how you would feel if you looked up and saw Jesus walking toward the crowd.

I would be excited and wonder what Jesus would say and do. Would Jesus be able to help? What would Jesus say to the scribes and His disciples if He joined the argument?

 

4. What do you think Jesus did that helped the father overcome his unbelief in Jesus?

Unbelief in God and Jesus is worthy of reproving after all they have done for us and after all we have heard about Jesus and the compassion and power of God the Father. I think Jesus also spoke to the father with a tone of authority and confidence, as well as a tone of compassion and encouragement because the father did have faith the size of a mustard seed and the father wanted and asked Jesus to help him with his unbelief (see Matthew 17:20). Finally, Jesus helped him overcome his unbelief in Him when He cast the demon out of his son and healed him.

5. Do you think Jesus criticized His disciples for failing to cast out the demon? What did Jesus say to them in private after they failed?

No. Jesus took them aside privately and told them they needed prayer to cast out that type of impure spirit. He used their failure as a teaching opportunity and not as an opportunity to condemn them.

 

 

 

Word Search

Jesus Can Increase Our Faith

Mark 9:14-29

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Name______________________________

 

D E S S E S S O P S V H F P I

D H R W G V P Z R Z I A O S C

E W V X A J R E M A T H P B V

B T O L H L E J O H Y E Z T C

E J I R T B T P E P E J A X S

L R D S C Q A R J C L R Z E A

I H Q I N Y W Y H Q G E B U M

E C Z P S T V F T U D I T V Z

V N T F X C E P I M R C E S P

E Z I O E I I N R C V W A D T

S R N Q L F G P S A O S C F S

E Z J E S U S O L N Y W H U L

Y X B T K W R F D E O E E Q B

B N G D H I S E C W S D R M N

U K I M P U R E Q T C O S P O

 

Disciples

Teachers

Law

Scribes

Arguing

People

Crowd

Jesus

Wonder

Father

Possessed

Speech

Fire

Water

Believes

Unbelief

Impure

Prayer

 

 

 

True and False Test

Jesus Can Increase Our Faith

Mark 9:14-29

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Name______________________________

 

Circle the true or false answers. Correct the false statements by restating them.

 

1. The disciples did not know why they could not cast the impure spirit out of the boy. True or False

 

2. When the crowd saw Jesus they ran to greet Him. True or False

 

3. In His confusion about what was going on, Jesus asked, “What are you arguing with them about?” True or False

 

4. The father knew that his son was possessed by a spirit. True or False

 

5. The father told Jesus that the disciples had cast out the spirit but the spirit had come back and made his son worse than before. True or False

 

6. Jesus said, “How long shall I put up with you?” True or False

 

7. The demon showed its power over the boy by throwing him into convulsions. True or False

 

8. The boy had been possessed by the spirit from childhood. True or False

 

9. The father told Jesus, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” True or False

 

10. Jesus told His disciples that if they had only had more confidence in Him that they could have easily cast out the demon by themselves and not have been an embarrassment to Him and themselves. True or False

 

 

Answers to the True and False Test

Mark 9:14-29

Sunday, March 6, 2016

 

1.   True

2.   True

3.   False

4.   True

5.   False

6.   True

7.   True

8.   True

9.   True

10. False

 

 

Closing Prayer

 

O Lord, we do believe! But help our unbelief. When we begin to rely on ourselves, teach us again to rely on You. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

Sunday School Lesson

February 21

Day of Atonement

 

Devotional Reading:Hebrews 3:1-6

 

Background Scripture:Numbers 29:7-11; Leviticus 16:1-34; 23:26-32; Hebrews 7:26-28; 9:24; 10:4-18

 

Focal Verses

Leviticus 16:11-19

 

11 And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself:

 

12 And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail:

 

13 And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not:

 

14 And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times.

 

15 Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat:

 

16 And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness.

 

17 And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel.

 

18 And he shall go out unto the altar that is before the Lord, and make an atonement for it; and shall take of the blood of the bullock, and of the blood of the goat, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about.

 

19 And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel.

 

Key Verse

 

He shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness. —Leviticus 16:16.

 

Lesson Aims

 

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

 

1. List the procedures that God ordained for Israel’s annual Day of Atonement.

 

2. Explain the concept of atonement, noting the allusions to Leviticus 16:14, 15 in New Testament texts such as Hebrews 9:7; 10:4.

 

3. Write a prayer of praise for the atonement for sins available only through Jesus.

 

 

Introduction

 

A. Forgiveness

 

Forgiveness became national news (again) in late 2006 when five Amish schoolgirls were murdered in their one-room schoolhouse in Pennsylvania. A distraught gunman left suicide notes for his family and then went to the school where he shot hostages and then killed himself. The Amish leaders did not respond with anger, but with forgiveness.

 

To forgive means to give up resentment for an offense committed; to forgive involves cessation of anger toward another. Atonement, however, is more than forgiveness. Atonement includes reparation for the wrong committed. Forgiveness between people is possible without atonement; forgiveness by God requires atonement.

 

Atonement is often defined as “at-one-ment” with God. That’s clever but superficial because it describes the result of atonement but not the basis for it. That basis is the payment of sin’s penalty by Jesus on the cross. This is often referred to as the substitutionary atonement because God substitutes the payment paid by His Son so that we do not have to pay the price ourselves—the price of eternity in Hell.

 

Blood atonement is a key concept in both the books of Leviticus and Hebrews. Without the shedding of blood as atonement, there is no forgiveness by God (Hebrews 9:22).

 

B. Lesson Background

 

The Lord prescribed three annual feasts that the people of Israel were to observe at the central sanctuary (Exodus 23:14-17). The first two feasts were subjects of study in the two previous lessons; the third will be considered in the lesson following this one. Just before the third feast was the Day of Atonement, arguably the most important religious event on the Hebrew calendar. This took place on the tenth day of the seventh month (Leviticus 16:29; 23:27), that month being late September and early October. The tenth day was five days before the Feast of Tabernacles (lesson 13).

 

By the time of the New Testament era, the sacred nature of the high priest’s duties compelled him to rehearse what he had to do on the Day of Atonement to avoid mistakes. So seven days ahead of time, he moved into one of the chamber rooms that were on three sides of the temple. There he could ensure that he remained ceremonially clean (by avoiding contact with a dead body, etc.). Just in case, another priest was designated to serve if the high priest became defiled in any way.

 

During the seven days, the high priest rehearsed his duties of lighting the lamps in the temple, carrying the incense and live coals with a censer, sprinkling and applying blood, and accomplishing the essential features surrounding the burnt offering sacrifices. Others were with him to make certain that he knew each part of the day’s events and how they were to be performed.

 

The high priest ate a light meal on the evening before the Day of Atonement. He had Scripture explained during the night, and he was kept awake in order to avoid any defilement that might occur during sleep (Deuteronomy 23:10).

 

He wore ordinary clothing as the day began, then bathed and changed into his colorful high-priestly garments to perform the burnt offering that was done each morning (Exodus 29:38-42). As he went through the day, he bathed and changed clothing five times. His hands and feet were washed twice that much.

 

The high priest did something else unusual on this special day: He actually pronounced the sacred name of God, often seen as Yahweh. Devout Jews of the time did not pronounce it for fear of profaning it, so the word Lord was the substitute word when Scripture was read.

 

How to Say It

 

Abihu Uh-bye-hew.

 

Babylonian Bab-ih-low-nee-unz.

 

Eleazar El-ih-a-zar or E-lih-a-zar.

 

ephod ee-fod.

 

Ithamar Ith-uh-mar.

 

Levites Lee-vites.

 

Moses Mo-zes or Mo-zez.

 

Nadab Nay-dab.

 

Talmud Tahl-mood or Tal-mud.

 

Yahweh (Hebrew) Yah-weh.

 

 

 

Two other factors should be mentioned. First, the Day of Atonement was a day of fasting for each Israelite, being the only such fast that the Law of Moses prescribed (the meaning of “afflict your souls” in Leviticus 16:29, 31; 23:27). Second, the Day of Atonement was the day that the year of jubilee was to be announced once every 50 years (25:8, 9).

 

The Day of Atonement was the day when God stated that atonement would be made “for all the people . . . for the children of Israel for all their sins” (Leviticus 16:33, 34; compare Hebrews 9:7). Every Christian is aware that permanent atonement for sins didn’t happen until the death of Christ. This is developed in Hebrews 9:11-10:14.

 

I. Atonement for Priests

 

                                                              (Leviticus 16:11-14)

 

A. Bull as Sin Offering (v. 11)

 

11. And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself.

 

The instructions are for Aaron, who is Moses’ brother and Israel’s first high priest. The high priests who succeed him are to follow these procedures as well (Leviticus 16:32, 33). Aaron will be wearing his majestic high-priestly apparel for the normal sacrifice of the morning. On the Day of Atonement (or Yom Kippur), the regular sacrifices and duties are performed by the high priest only.

 

Aaron is to bathe and don the four linen garments (Leviticus 16:4; compare Exodus 28) for the special offerings on the Day of Atonement. He is responsible to provide the bullock of the sin offering that is for himself and his family, a bullock being a bull or an ox.

 

Leviticus 16:1 mentions that these instructions are given after the deaths of Aaron’s two older sons, Nadab and Abihu. Those two had “offered strange fire before the Lord”; as a result, “there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord” (Leviticus 10:1, 2). That experience brings with it the compelling necessity to know and to do exactly what God says! A casual carelessness about holy things may have disastrous consequences.

 

In later times there will be many priests available to assist when the high priest sacrifices animals for sin offerings. This time that task is limited to Aaron’s two surviving sons, Eleazar and Ithamar (Leviticus 10:12). It is possible that some Levites assist them.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What can or should Christians bring to the Lord in light of sins forgiven?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding tangibles similar and dissimilar to what the ancient Israelites were to bring

 

Regarding intangibles similar and dissimilar to what the ancient Israelites were to bring

 

B. Incense for a Cloud (vv. 12, 13)

 

12. And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail.

 

Aaron’s task as high priest is to carry burning coals and incense through the Holy Place and on into the Most Holy Place, the latter being located within the vail (veil) of the tabernacle (compare Exodus 26:33; Hebrews 6:19; 9:2-5). The burning coals of fire are from the altar of burnt offering, which is near the front of the court of the tabernacle (Exodus 27:1-8); these are to be carried in a censer or fire pan (compare Numbers 16:6, 7, 17, 36-38). Aaron is painfully aware that coals from any other source may risk the consequences of disobedience (again, Leviticus 10:1). The formula for the sweet incense is found in Exodus 30:34-38.

 

13. And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not.

 

After entering the Most Holy Place, Aaron is to set the censer down and place the incense on the burning coals. This will cause a cloud of smoke to rise from the coals, and the smoke will provide a protective screen between Aaron and the symbolic presence of the Lord above the covering of the ark of the covenant, often called the mercy seat (see Exodus 25:17-22; 26:34). It is sometimes said that the cloud is to keep the priest from viewing the ark, but another thought is that the cloud protects a sinner from the judgment of God. The testimony refers to the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 25:16; 31:18; 2 Chronicles 6:11).

 

Aaron is to leave the censer with the burning incense so that the smoke continues throughout the rituals in the Most Holy Place. He returns through the Holy Place to the courtyard to prepare to make his second entry into the Most Holy Place (sometimes called the Holy of Holies). Entrance into the Most Holy Place, where the ark of the covenant is located, is highly restricted (Leviticus 16:2).

 

One issue not discussed in any biblical text is when the censer with the incense and coals is removed from behind the veil of the Most Holy Place at the conclusion of the day’s ceremonies. A Hebrew document called the Babylonian Talmud provides a solution: it says that the high priest enters the Most Holy Place an additional time for this purpose. It would be precarious to carry both the censer and containers of blood in one trip, so retrieval of the censer may be a separate task.

 

C. Blood for Sprinkling (v. 14)

 

14. And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times.

 

This part of the ritual is similar to what is done for other sin offerings (see Leviticus 4:6, 7, 17, 18). But in those cases the blood is applied to the altar of incense, which is located immediately in front of the veil (curtain) that shields the Most Holy Place. This time the blood is first sprinkled on the east side of the ark of the covenant; since the tabernacle is situated facing east per Numbers 2:3, the eastward side is the front side.

 

Then the high priest uses his finger seven times to sprinkle blood on the ground or floor in front of the mercy seat. Hebrews 9:7, 8 explains the significance of this: “But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing.”

 

What Do You Think?

 

What do the meticulous instructions regarding the work of the priest on the Day of Atonement have to say about providing ministry today, if anything?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Concerning spiritual preparation

 

Concerning mental preparation

 

Concerning physical preparation

 

Other

 

II. Atonement for People, Places

 

                                                           (Leviticus 16:15-17)

 

A. Goat as Sin Offering (v. 15a)

 

15a. Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people.

 

Earlier in the day, two male goats are brought to the door of the tabernacle (Leviticus 16:5, 7). One is selected as the sin offering to the Lord, and the other becomes the scapegoat that will be led into the desert to an inaccessible place (16:8-10). The latter represents the removal of sin (16:22). A Jewish legend states that on one occasion the scapegoat returned to the camp. That problem was solved in future years by pushing it backwards off a cliff to guarantee that the goat would not return!

 

Aaron is to be the one to kill the goat that represents the sin offering for the people. The blood is caught in the special container that Aaron will take into the Most Holy Place (next verse).

 

B. Blood for Sprinkling (v. 15b)

 

15b. And bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat.

 

Next, Aaron is to reenter the Most Holy Place. His actions with the blood of the goat for the sins of the people are the same as with the blood of the bull that was applied for the sins of the priest (v. 11, above).

 

What Do You Think?

 

How does the merciful atonement extended to you by Christ affect your extension of mercy to others? How should it?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

At the office

 

In traffic

 

At home

 

Other

 

C. Places (v. 16)

 

16a. And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins:

 

This is a summary. By doing what is prescribed, the high priest makes atonement for himself, the sins of the people, and for the holy place (the Most Holy Place).

 

16b. And so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness.

 

The procedure is not given, but this is probably the occasion when the high priest fulfills what is commanded in Exodus 30:10—that atonement is to be made once each year for the altar of incense that stands just in front of the veil. The instructions in Exodus say that Aaron is to use the blood of the sin offering. It is assumed that he applies or sprinkles blood on each of the altar’s four horns, and then sprinkles blood on this altar seven times. This is done with the blood of both the bull and the goat.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What sinful uncleanliness do Christians grapple with most? How do we help them?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding spiritually mature Christians

 

Regarding backsliding Christians

 

Regarding new Christians

 

D. Duty (v. 17)

 

17. And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel.

 

No one, not even another priest, is to be with Aaron in the tabernacle when he is making atonement for himself, his household, and the entire nation of Israel. A gospel song from the past asked the question “Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone?” The answer is yes in the sense that only Jesus can fulfill His high priestly duties in the heavenly tabernacle (Hebrews 9:11, 12).

 

No Exemption

 

It is significant that the instructions for the high priest include making atonement even for himself. This probably does not strike most of us as unusual, for we realize that all have sinned (Romans 3:23). Therefore even the high priest, symbolically the most holy man of all Israel, needed atonement for sin.

 

Yet this most basic of all principles of religious need has been known to be rationalized away. When I was in Bible college many years ago, a fellow student claimed that he did not need to give financial offerings to the Lord because his entire life was an offering. He found it convenient to overlook the fact that even the priests and Levites were expected to give a tithe of their income (Numbers 18:26). He chose to believe that his life of ministry put him above God’s expectations of normal, regular churchgoers.

 

Similarly, I know of a minister who was involved in multiple affairs with various women of his congregation. One woman later admitted that he had convinced her it was all right because he was in full-time ministry and therefore he was extended privileges that did not apply to regular folk. The temptation to rationalize is so enticing, isn’t it?—J. B. N.

 

III. Atonement for the Altar

 

                                                                 (Leviticus 16:18, 19)

 

A. Blood Applied to the Horns (v. 18)

 

18. And he shall go out unto the altar that is before the Lord, and make an atonement for it; and shall take of the blood of the bullock, and of the blood of the goat, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about.

 

When Aaron’s work in the sanctuary—which consists of the Holy Place, the Most Holy Place, and their furnishings—is completed, he is to walk outside to the courtyard while carrying the containers of blood of the two animals sacrificed. There he will apply the blood to the four horns of the altar of burnt offerings, which stands near the entrance of the tabernacle (Exodus 27:1-8).

 

This is the same as is done with the blood of other sin offerings when the priest applies the blood (Leviticus 4:25, 30, 34), so this part is not unusual. The practice of later priests is to mix the blood of the two animals before applying it.

 

B. Blood Sprinkled Seven Times (v. 19)

 

19. And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel.

 

The cleansing needed is not due to the presence of physical dirt. Rather, it is the spiritual uncleanness of the children of Israel that results in the tabernacle furnishings’ being defiled. Many commentators have noted that seven serves as a complete number in the Bible. The number seven appears more than 40 times in Leviticus alone.

 

After this cleansing, Aaron is to exit the Most Holy Place to perform the scapegoat ritual of Leviticus 16:20-22.

 

We, the Unclean

 

Twice our text refers to “the uncleanness of the children of Israel” (vv. 16, 19). These are God’s chosen people. Yet they were unclean. A leprous person was to shout “unclean, unclean” to warn others (Leviticus 13:45). Spiritually, the Israelites were little better than lepers. A colleague of mine who teaches Old Testament commented that the ancient Israelites were basically a multi-god people. Their unfaithfulness to God was not finally removed until the Babylonian captivity; even then their obedience was often ritualistic, not of the heart.

 

Paul observed that “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3). Was Abraham, in fact, a righteous man? Not in an absolute sense. He lied to Pharaoh about his wife (Genesis 12:10-13); he did the same thing to the king of Gerar (20:2). Abraham was a sinner, but his faith allowed him to be counted as righteous in the eyes of God.

 

We too are unclean (Matthew 15:19, 20). We may be regular churchgoers; we may support the church heavily with our finances; we may hold high office or ministry in the church. But our lapses mark us as unclean. It is our acceptance of Jesus’ payment of the penalty for our sins that enables us to stand in God’s presence and be counted as righteous. That is God’s grace.—J. B. N.

 

What Do You Think?

 

How can the corporate aspects of the Day of Atonement be applied to the church, if at all?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Nehemiah 9

 

Acts 19:18-20

 

Other

 

We should not close our lesson without evaluating a legend that has been around for centuries. It is the legend that the high priest had a rope tied to his ankle when he was in the Most Holy Place. This was so that if he sinned and died, others would not have to enter to bring out his body; they could just pull it out by the rope.

 

As engaging as this legend is, there is no evidence that this procedure was ever practiced. One part of the legend is obviously false—that the priest wore bells, and if the bells were not heard as he walked, then it was time to act. Bells were on “the robe of the ephod” of the high priest (Exodus 28:31-35), but not on what he wore when in the Most Holy Place. (Other garments mentioned in Leviticus 16:4 are “coat,” “girdle,” and “mitre,” none of which equates to the “robe” or “ephod,” all five being mentioned as separate articles of clothing in Exodus 28:4.) It is a great story, but it is not true.

 

Conclusion

 

A. The Final Day of Atonement

 

The basic thrust of the Day of Atonement concerns the nature of sin, which required that innocent animals give their lives so that human sins could be forgiven. God planned for this to be a temporary arrangement. Eventually, there was to come a perfect sacrifice that need never be repeated.

 

The writer of the book of Hebrews uses imagery from the Day of Atonement, especially in chapter 9, to make comparisons with the salvation that Christ has accomplished. Hebrews 10:4 declares that “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” Hebrews 7:27 affirms that Jesus did not need “to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.”

 

“Without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). Christ had to die in order for our sins to be forgiven! The new covenant in His blood is available to all who respond to the great invitation: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

 

B. Prayer

 

Father in Heaven, we marvel at the atonement You have provided! May it compel us to follow the Christ wherever He leads. May we draw others to Him as well. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

C. Thought to Remember

 

The atonement by Jesus’ death

is the only basis for our forgiveness.

 

 

 

 

Kid’s Corner

God’s Way to Forgive and Remove True Guilt

Leviticus 16:11-19

February 21, 2016

 

 

Leviticus 16:11-19

 

(Leviticus 16:11)  “Then Aaron shall offer the bull of the sin offering which is for himself and make atonement for himself and for his household, and he shall slaughter the bull of the sin offering which is for himself.

 

Six months after the celebration of Passover, in the seventh month, called Tishri, the Israelites celebrated the Day of Atonement. The High Priest, beginning with Aaron, would make a sin offering for himself and the other priests before making a sin offering for the people. Through the sin offerings of the High Priest, he could atone for their sins and they could become “at one” again with the Most Holy God, the LORD. Since the priests knew and taught the law of God, their sins were most serious. Because of their position of authority spiritually and politically, by their sins they could mislead millions of people; so that may be one reason God required a bull for the priests’ sacrifice instead of a goat: a bull would be more valuable and a greater sacrifice. Similarly, there can be no greater sacrifice than the death of Jesus Christ for our sins, which shows our value to God and the seriousness of our sins and rebellion against God.

 

(Leviticus 16:12)  “He shall take a firepan full of coals of fire from upon the altar before the LORD and two handfuls of finely ground sweet incense, and bring it inside the veil.

 

Behind the curtain was the Holy of Holies, which was so holy that the High Priest could only enter in on the Day of Atonement for the forgiveness of sins and the removal of guilt of all the Israelites through very specific sacrifices. He would burn the incense and create a cloud of smoke between himself and the Most Holy God, the LORD, lest he look upon God on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant and die.

 

(Leviticus 16:13)  “He shall put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the ark of the testimony, otherwise he will die.

 

Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies, and only the High Priest could make atonement for the sins of the Israelites, as well as his own sins through specific sacrifices. The Israelites and priests outside the tabernacle knew from the Law of Moses what the High Priest must do for their sins to be forgiven and their guilt removed. In faith, they had to trust that the High Priest did rightly what they could not see, and in faith they had to trust in God to forgive them for all their sins. In faith, we trust in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins.

 

(Leviticus 16:14)  “Moreover, he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the mercy seat on the east side; also in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.

 

Seven is the number of perfection. The Day of Atonement is in the seventh month and the high priest is to sprinkle blood with his finger seven times. God required a perfect sacrifice in a perfect time performed in a perfect way to forgive sins and remove guilt. The sacrifices on the Day of Atonement pointed toward the coming of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who would himself as High Priest and Sacrifice be the One who would finally forgive the sins and remove the guilt from all (both Jews and Gentiles) who would put their faith in Him.

 

(Leviticus 16:15)  “Then he shall slaughter the goat of the sin offering which is for the people, and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat.

 

Goat’s blood was required for the forgiveness of the people, and the procedure was the same whether the High Priest was using the blood of a bull for the priests or the blood of a goat for the people. The necessity of the death and the shed blood of a bull or goat illustrates the fact that sinners can do nothing to atone for their sins or remove their guilt before our Most Holy God. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins, which shows how serious our sins are to God, to others, and to ourselves: “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). Our sins always result in suffering and death, and eventually brought about the suffering and death of God’s only Son: “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished” Romans 3:25).

 

(Leviticus 16:16)  “He shall make atonement for the holy place, because of the impurities of the sons of Israel and because of their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and thus he shall do for the tent of meeting which abides with them in the midst of their impurities.

 

The sins of the Israelites contaminated not only themselves, but also their place of worship and where they lived. The sacrifice of the goat would cleanse their lives from the pollution of sin, and even their rebellion against God could be forgiven (“whatever their sins have been”), but only through the sacrifices on the Day of Atonement. Only the death of Jesus Christ can lead to God’s forgiveness of our rebellion against God and cleanse us from our unrighteousness “whatever our sins have been”—if we will believe in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for us.

 

(Leviticus 16:17)  “When he goes in to make atonement in the holy place, no one shall be in the tent of meeting until he comes out, that he may make atonement for himself and for his household and for all the assembly of Israel.

 

No one was to assist or accompany the High Priest (Aaron represented the High Priest as the first High Priest). If the High Priest did not act properly, he could not come out of the Holy of Holies: he would die in the presence of God. When he came out, priests and people would know that by his sacrifices he had made atonement for everyone. No one assisted or accompanied Jesus to the cross to die with Him as a sacrifice for our sins. Jesus did not need to make atonement for himself, because Jesus never sinned. After Jesus died, He was buried, but when Jesus rose again from the dead and came out of the tomb His disciples learned from Him that His atonement for their sins and ours was accepted by the Most Holy God.

 

(Leviticus 16:18)  “Then he shall go out to the altar that is before the LORD and make atonement for it, and shall take some of the blood of the bull and of the blood of the goat and put it on the horns of the altar on all sides.

 

The horns on the altar help secure the sacrifice on the altar, and some think these horns represent the power of God. The sins of priests and people had some effect on the altar, because priests and people did not always offer their sacrifices throughout the year with holiness of heart, loyalty, and love to God; therefore, the altar, priests, and people all needed cleansing.

 

(Leviticus 16:19)  “With his finger he shall sprinkle some of the blood on it seven times and cleanse it, and from the impurities of the sons of Israel consecrate it.”

 

The specified sacrifices confirm a sacred method that God required for the forgiveness of sins. The method does not include using a large amount of blood, as though more blood is more effective than less blood. Only a drop on the finger of the High Priest is needed (sprinkled seven times), because among other things the blood illustrates that death is the result of sin: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). There is no magic in the blood. People do not need to wonder if enough blood was shed or applied for the forgiveness of their sins. As a consequence of our sins, Jesus Christ had to shed His blood and die. The fact that the Son of God had to die and shed His blood so God could lovingly, justly, and mercifully forgive us, remove our guilt, cleanse us from our sins, and consecrate us for His holy purposes is more important than the amount of blood Jesus shed (one drop of His sacred blood was more than enough), but Jesus began to shed His blood when He was flogged and a crown to thorns was pressed upon His head before they crucified Him.

 

 

 

God’s Way to Forgive and Remove True Guilt

Leviticus 16:11-19

Sunday, February 21, 2016

 

 “In this way the high priest will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the tent of meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness”

(Leviticus 16:16).

The intentional sins and rebellion of the Israelites did more than morally and spiritually contaminate them and rupture their relationship with God. Even the tent of meeting that covered the Most Holy Place became unclean in the midst of an unclean community. The Israelites had

to live with their spiritual uncleanness and moral guilt in the midst of an unclean people until  the Day of Atonement in the seventh month of the Israelite calendar. By God’s

grace, on that one Day of Atonement the Israelites could avail themselves of God’s way of making sacrifices so the high priest, all the priests, and the people could be forgiven for their rebellion against God and “whatever their sins have been.” Through arrangements God

commanded, the high priest used a scapegoat to bear away sins and remove true guilt. By the sacrificial sprinkling of blood from a bull and a goat, everyone learned that the consequence of sin is death, and only by the shedding of blood can believers be cleansed morally and spiritually. The sacrifices on the Day of Atonement pointed to the sacrificial death of Jesus the Messiah. Jesus came to be the perfect High Priest, Scapegoat, and Sacrifice. Jesus shed His blood to forgive, cleanse, remove the guilt, and empower to serve God all who will believe in Him. Not just on one special day a year, but every day, Jesus remains ready to save those who will trust in Him.

 

 

 

Thinking Further

God’s Way to Forgive and Remove True Guilt

Leviticus 16:11-19

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Name ____________________________

 

1. In what month did the Israelites celebrate the Passover? In what month did the Israelites celebrate the Day of Atonement?

 

 

 

2. What did the High Priest sacrifice for his sins and the sins of the priests? What did the High Priest sacrifice for the sins of the people?

 

 

 

3. Why did the priest burn incense in the Holy of Holies?

 

 

 

4. How did the priests and people know that the High Priest had done what was needed for the forgiveness of their sins?

 

 

 

5. How do we know that Jesus’ death on the cross was an acceptable sacrifice to God for the forgiveness of our sins, our cleansing from sins, and the removal of our guilt?

 

 

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

 

1. In what month did the Israelites celebrate the Passover? In what month did the Israelites celebrate the Day of Atonement?

The first month: Nisan. The second month: Tishri.

 

2. What did the High Priest sacrifice for his sins and the sins of the priests?

What did the High Priest sacrifice for the sins of the people?

A bull. A goat.

 

3. Why did the priest burn incense in the Holy of Holies?

God commanded it. So he would not look upon the LORD upon the mercy seat and die.

 

4. How did the priests and people know that the High Priest had done what was needed for the forgiveness of their sins?

After he performed his duties, they saw him leave the tabernacle alive.

 

5. How do we know that Jesus’ death on the cross was an acceptable sacrifice to God for the forgiveness of our sins, our cleansing from sins, and the removal of our guilt?

Jesus Christ came out of the tomb alive, which showed God’s approval of His perfect life

and perfect sacrifice for the sins of all who would believe in Him as Lord and Savior.

 

 

 

Word Search

God’s Way to Forgive and Remove True Guilt

Leviticus 16:11-19

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Name_____________________________

 

 

S N R Q X L E L K N I R P S M

A T O N E M E N T E W B L F R

V S E N E V E S O Z C R Z C E

X N M Z W F D X K L O L K F B

G K I I O L M A L M V Z M S E

T D Z A N E O U X S E T Y R L

R P U D T C B H Z B N Q E U L

A F T G Z R E X T I A S T K I

Q L Q N N G U N K Q N W R W O

C D T S A I M C S E T C A U N

L O J A C R R U C E V N I S V

Y O H E R D G E T A O G B H B

S L W N I S H A F Z J H S Z X

J B S L A O C X R F C I J D P

H O U S E H O L D F O M W T V

 

Rebellion

Bull

Sin

Offering

Atonement

Household

Goat

Uncleanness

Censer

Coals

Altar

Fragrant

Incense

Curtain

Covenant

Blood

Sprinkle

Seven

 

 

 

True and False Test

God’s Way to Forgive and Remove True Guilt

Leviticus 16:11-19

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Name_____________________________

 

Circle the true or false answers. Correct the false statements by restating them.

 

1. God told Moses to celebrate the Day of Atonement every six months on the second Sabbath of the month. True or False

 

2. Aaron, the High Priest, was to sacrifice a bull for his sins. True or False

 

3. Jesus never needed to offer a sacrifice for His sins: He was perfect. True or False

 

4. Aaron, the High Priest, was to sacrifice two sheep for the sins of the people. True or False

5. Finely ground incense was to be burned in the Holy of Holies. True or False

 

6. Aaron’s assistant was to carry the blood of the bull into the Holy of Holies for him. True or False

 

7. Aaron was to cleanse and polish the atonement cover above the tablets of the covenant law every six months. True or False

 

8. Aaron was told to pour seven flasks of blood on the altar to cleanse it. True or False

 

9. God would not forgive sins of rebellion on the Day of Atonement. True or False

 

10. Jesus died on the cross to make atonement for all of our sins, including rebellion against God: we need to believe in Him. True or False

 

 

 

Answers to the True and False Test

Leviticus 16:11-19

Sunday, February 21, 2016

 

1.   False

2.   True

3.   True

4.   False

5.   True

6.   False

7.   False

8.   False

9.   False

10. True

 

 

 

Closing Prayer

 

Father in Heaven, we marvel at the atonement You have provided! May it compel us to follow the Christ wherever He leads. May we draw others to Him as well. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

 

 

Sunday School Lesson

February 14

Feast of Weeks

 

Devotional Reading:Romans 7:14-25

Background Scripture:Numbers 28:26-31; Leviticus 23:15-22; Acts 2:1-36

 

Focal Verses

Leviticus 23:15-22

 

15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete:

 

16 Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord.

 

17 Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals; they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the Lord.

 

18 And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the Lord, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the Lord.

 

19 Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings.

 

20 And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits for a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the Lord for the priest.

 

21 And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.

 

22 And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the Lord your God.

 

Key Verse

 

Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord. —Leviticus 23:16

 

Lesson Aims

 

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

 

1. Describe the Feast of Weeks and list its key elements.

 

2. Explain the significance of making provision for the poor in the midst of participating in worship traditions.

 

3. Suggest one way to better provide for the poor by using the principle in Leviticus 23:22.

 

 

 

Introduction

 

A. Family Gatherings

 

The family reunion for my father’s side was always held the first Sunday of September. It was interesting to watch the interactions, especially among the different age groups. The older members of the family could immediately enter into conversations that usually turned to reminiscing. The children would gradually assess each other and then develop their games. The patriarch or matriarch of the family would be introduced to the new members of the clan. The sumptuous meals came from baskets and boxes, full of foods prepared at home.

 

At the end of the day, the good-byes were said, and comments such as, “See you next year!” were exchanged. Whether the drive home was short or long, it had been a good day.

 

Cultural changes of the last few decades have ended these customs for many people. Reunion-type events seem rarer, for family members are likely to live anywhere on the globe. Some children enter adulthood having never seen or known certain cousins or other relatives.

 

Today’s lesson demonstrates how God provided an occasion for His people to meet together as a family of Israelites for the giving of thanks, fellowship, forgiveness, and spiritual dedication. This study is about the Feast of Weeks, which is an unusual term for a one-day celebration. Some of its features made it the preferred event for those who lived at great distances from Jerusalem.

 

B. Lesson Background

 

The first Passover in Egypt (last week’s lesson) demonstrated to the Israelites that God was on their side. This made it easier to leave all that was familiar when it was time to make the exodus from Egypt (Exodus 12). The Israelites did not know what the future held, but they had confidence—at least temporarily—in the one who held the future.

 

The GPS (God’s Positioning System) used by Moses led the Israelites in an unusual direction—not by the way of the Mediterranean seacoast to the land of Canaan, but into the wilderness of the Red Sea area (Exodus 13:17, 18). The Lord used a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to guide, protect, and assure the people that they were going where He wanted them to be (13:21, 22).

 

The Israelites experienced at the Red Sea yet another mighty deliverance after Pharaoh changed his mind about the departure of his labor force. He sent hundreds of chariots to bring them back (Exodus 14:5-9), but God had different plans. The dividing of sea waters so as to have a wall of water on each side is an impossibility for humans, but not for God (14:21, 22). The God who created the universe can easily divide a small sea on this tiny planet!

 

As the journey continued, God met the needs of His people. These needs included provisions of water (Exodus 15:22-27; 17:1-7), food (chap. 16), and a victory over the Amalekites (17:8-16). The interim destination was Sinai, and this new nation arrived in the third month (19:1).

 

The Israelites knew that the Lord was God, but what did He expect from them? God was ready to tell them, and that was the purpose of their stay at Mount Sinai, which lasted almost a year (Numbers 10:11, 12). When God gave the people manna on the way to Sinai, they learned that God expected them to rest on the seventh day (Exodus 16:23-30), and that expectation was reinforced as part of the Ten Commandments (chap. 20).

 

This was followed by His giving judgments or laws (chaps. 21-23) that collectively are called “the book of the covenant” (24:7). It contained upwards of 70 rules that the people needed immediately for the governing of social relationships. It could be called their bill of rights, but perhaps bill of responsibilities for producing a just society is better.

 

How to Say It

 

Canaan Kay-nun.

 

ephah ee-fah.

 

Mediterranean Med-uh-tuh-ray-nee-un.

 

Pentecost Pent-ih-kost.

 

Pharaoh Fair-o or Fay-roe.

 

Pharisees Fair-ih-seez.

 

Sadducees Sad-you-seez.

 

Sinai Sigh-nye or Sigh-nay-eye.

 

 

These laws introduced for the first time the fact that the Israelites were to have three feasts during the year (Exodus 23:14-17). Last week’s study was about the first one, the Feast of the Passover. Exodus 12:1-20 adds that this one-day observance was to be followed by seven days during which the only bread that could be eaten was to be unleavened. These seven days constituted the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the two feasts were functionally considered the same event since they were right next to each other on the calendar.

 

Today’s lesson is about the second of the three annual feasts: the Feast of Weeks. This feast is different from the first (lesson 10) and the third (lesson 13) in that it is not associated with a historical event. There is a tradition that the Feast of Weeks commemorates the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses at Sinai, but the first mention of that idea is postbiblical.

 

The Feast of Weeks received its name because it was to be celebrated seven weeks after Passover. Therefore the Feast of Weeks was to take place in late May or early June. It is not given a name in today’s text, but it has several names attached to it elsewhere: Feast of Weeks (Exodus 34:22a), Feast of Harvest (Exodus 23:16a), and sometimes the day of the firstfruits (Numbers 28:26). In the New Testament it is called Pentecost (Acts 2:1; 20:16; 1 Corinthians 16:8), a Greek word that means “fiftieth.”

 

I. Day Determination

 

                                                             (Leviticus 23:15, 16a)

 

A. Seven Sabbaths (v. 15)

 

15. And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete.

 

This verse refers back to the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the bringing of the sheaf of the wave offering in Leviticus 23:10, which was seven weeks before. The counting is to begin after the sabbath. The problem is this: Which Sabbath?

 

The word Sabbath, which means “ceasing,” may refer to any day on which labor is prohibited. The Feast of Unleavened Bread has two such days, the first and last days of the feast (Leviticus 23:7, 8). In addition, the regular Sabbath of the week is to be observed. Unless a special Sabbath falls on a regular Sabbath, there can be as many as three Sabbaths in a seven-day period.

 

When the New Testament era dawns, the Pharisees and the Sadducees have different interpretations about the matter of calculating when the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) is to occur. The Pharisees prefer the view that the counting is to begin on the sixteenth day of the first month, the day after the first special Sabbath. The Sadducees, however, control the agenda in the temple at the time, and they interpret the word Sabbath to refer to the regular weekly Sabbath.

 

This is very significant, for it means that Pentecost always falls on the first day of the week—50 days after the regular Sabbath in the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This is the day the church was birthed, the first day of the week (Acts 2).

 

What Do You Think?

 

How can we be more conscientious regarding the things the Lord expects us to count and the things He does not?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

1 Chronicles 21:1-7

 

Matthew 18:21, 22

 

Luke 14:31-33

 

Other

 

B. Fifty Days (v. 16a)

 

16a. Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days.

 

This half of verse 16 demonstrates a definite connection between the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Weeks. God’s instructions show that an event within one feast is used to determine the timing of the feast that is to follow.

 

It is important to note that two of the regular harvests are connected with these feasts (v. 16b, next, will show us why). Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread occur in early spring at the beginning of barley harvest (last week’s lesson). The Feast of Weeks, for its part, is associated with wheat harvest in late May or early June (Exodus 34:22). The time period from one harvest to the other is on the order of fifty days.

 

II. Sacrifice Directives

 

                                                            (Leviticus 23:16b-20)

 

A. Wave Offerings (vv. 16b, 17)

 

16b. And ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord.

 

The King James Version designates the offering in view as a new meat offering. In this older sense, the word meat means “meal,” or the food that one eats, broadly speaking. This helps us understand how the reference to meat here connects with the loaves and flour of the next verse. See also Leviticus 2:14: “Thou shalt offer for the meat offering of thy firstfruits green ears of corn dried by the fire, even corn beaten out of full ears.”

 

17. Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals; they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the Lord.

 

The offering is to be in the form of two loaves of bread, the amount of flour used in these being two tenth deals. A deal is also known as an “ephah” (Leviticus 5:11; 6:20; etc.); its dry measure is about 3/5 of a bushel. Therefore, 2/10 of a deal computes to about 1/8 of a bushel (18.6 cups) of flour to be used.

 

Most biblical scholars conclude that the two loaves are representative gifts for the nation; they are ultimately given to the priest (Leviticus 23:20, below). Another view follows a tradition that Hebrew farmers use a stalk of grain to bind the first shocks of ripe grain. These special bundles are then taken to the priests and presented unto the Lord.

 

Leviticus 2:11 is very specific that leaven (yeast) is forbidden “in any offering of the Lord made by fire.” Since leaven is mandated in the two wave loaves, this indicates that these are not to be burned; they are intended for the priest. It is interesting that leaven is forbidden for the eight days of Passover and Unleavened Bread, but is required in the loaves of firstfruits for the Feast of Weeks.

 

The careful student will notice that a firstfruits offering is connected with the Feast of Unleavened Bread in Leviticus 2:14. Now there is one associated with the Feast of Weeks. How can there be two firstfruit offerings, 50 days apart? The answer is that the first one is an offering at the start of barley harvest in March/April, and the second one is for the day when the firstfruits of the wheat harvest are given as loaves (see comments on v. 16a, above).

 

What Do You Think?

 

How can Christians offer “firstfruits” to the Lord?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

In finances

 

In time

 

In talents

 

Other

 

B. Burnt Offerings (v. 18)

 

18. And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the Lord, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the Lord.

 

A total of 10 animals are to be a burnt offering unto the Lord. These are to be accompanied by meat [meal] and drink offerings as described in Numbers 15:4-9. Burnt offerings carry the idea of consecration or dedication.

 

What Do You Think?

 

How do we distinguish between blemished and unblemished offerings today?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding how the offering was earned (Deuteronomy 23:18)

 

Regarding the attitude of the giver (Matthew 5:23, 24; 2 Corinthians 9:7)

 

Regarding the motive of the giver (Matthew 6:1-4; Acts 5:1-11)

 

Regarding the size of the offering (Mark 12:41-44; 1 Corinthians 16:2)

 

Other

 

C. Sin Offerings (v. 19a)

 

19a. Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering.

 

Atonement is the dominant factor in a sin offering. Such an offering presupposes that the covenant relationship has been broken and needs to be renewed. A sin offering is primarily offered on holidays or when an action is deemed to have broken the relationship with God (Leviticus 4:1-5:13).

 

What Do You Think?

 

Is it a good idea to “get creative” in commemorating Jesus’ sacrifice as a sin offering? Why, or why not?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Considering differences in learning styles

 

Considering the danger of unchanging routine

 

Considering the danger of cultural compromise

 

Other

 

D. Peace Offerings (v. 19b)

 

19b. And two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings.

 

The two lambs noted here are to be given to the priests (see v. 20, next). For an ordinary peace offering, the priests keep for their own consumption the breast and right shoulder of animals sacrificed (Leviticus 7:31-36). The rest is eaten by the one offering the sacrifice and others (7:15, 16).

 

The Feast of Weeks is the only time when peace offerings are prescribed for public offerings. Numbers 10:10 notes that trumpets are to be blown over such public offerings, and peace offerings are mentioned.

 

Blessing the Blessers

 

I love hearing how church families choose to bless their ministers with various expressions of gratitude! Such expressions include gifts of golf lessons, poems, baked goods, video tributes, new shoes, home remodeling, brunch, plaques, cake, pizza celebrations—the list goes on.

 

I know of one church that sent its worship minister on a cruise with his wife in gratitude for his 25 years of service. My parents’ home church in central Missouri is blessing its minister with a trip to Israel. While this may seem extreme to some, this man has worked a full-time job and been active with the youth and charitable groups in his small community while serving this congregation’s needs.

 

Many ministers find themselves “on call” most of the time. Their congregants’ awareness of this may be evident in the creative blessings they offer back. It’s interesting that the Lord’s directions for the Feast of Weeks include some offerings that were to be burnt to please Him, while others were for His servants, the priests. That was commanded by God. We should not need a command today to bless in return those who have been a blessing to us as they serve the church.—V. E.

 

E. Priest Actions (v. 20)

 

20. And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits for a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the Lord for the priest.

 

We imagine that it is an easy matter to wave the bread of the firstfruits. The priest need only lift them upward and swing them back and forth to symbolize their being given to the Lord. It becomes a custom that one of the two loaves (Leviticus 23:17, above) is given to the high priest and the other to the priest who officiates at the service.

 

The waving of the two lambs is more problematic! It is sometimes suggested that the priest lifts and waves each animal while it is still alive; after they are sacrificed, the breast, thigh, and at least one loaf is waved—toward the east and back, and then up and down. Another suggestion is that live animals are led back and forth in front of the tabernacle.

 

III. Other Rules

 

                                                                (Leviticus 23:21, 22)

 

A. No Work (v. 21)

 

21. And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.

 

The description of how the Feast of Weeks is to be observed bears much similarity to the other feasts of the Lord in Leviticus 23. The characteristic of being an holy convocation is noted for the other observances in Leviticus 23:3, 7, 8, 24, 27, 35, 36. The prohibition against work is also seen in Leviticus 23:3, 7, 8, 25, 28, 30, 31, 35, 36. The enduring nature of these statutes is noted in Leviticus 23:14, 31, 41.

 

The rule against work may be designed to provide protection for servants so that they may participate in the day. See also Numbers 28:26.

 

B. No Stinginess (v. 22)

 

22. And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the Lord your God.

 

At first glance, this verse may seem out of place. Its stipulations were given earlier (Leviticus 19:9, 10), so why is it repeated in conjunction with the Feast of Weeks? The answer may be that since this is a harvest celebration, it is appropriate to mention one of the laws of the harvest: God is concerned for the welfare of those in need. The harvesters are to reap so that there will be something left for them.

 

It is noteworthy that the verse before us does not say that harvested grain is simply to be given unto the poor, and to the stranger. Rather, those in need are to go to the fields and do the work of harvesting themselves. An outstanding example of this practice is found in the book of Ruth, specifically chapter 2.

 

What Does the Lord Desire?

 

“It’s a scam . . . he probably makes more money than I do.” “Don’t give her money! She’ll just use it to buy drugs!” “They should get jobs.” I hear the warnings in my head as I drive past the people with sad eyes and cardboard signs. What should I do? I don’t know who is genuinely needy and who is deceitful. I don’t know what they will do with a gift I may choose to give them.

 

I have served on a benevolence committee, and I have given attention to the various ways that limited resources are shared. Some churches open their doors on a certain day of the week (or month), and whoever shows up with needs that day gets help. Some require that those requesting help be known to someone in their church family in order to receive help. Others give without restriction until the benevolence well runs dry. Some churches operate food pantries, provide clothes closets, or focus on specific needs, such as utility or medical bills.

 

Our passage does not speak of those in need having to go through an application process. What about discernment regarding who should be helped? That question is not addressed here. In fact, there is no human interaction prescribed at all; there is simply a leaving behind of some of the blessings of the land to allow those blessings to be accessible to the needy. How does this relate to passages such as 2 Thessalonians 3:10 and 1 Timothy 5:3-16?—V. E.

 

What Do You Think?

 

Under what circumstance, if any, should the church expect those in need to work for “the harvest” that is made available to them? Why?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding food

 

Regarding clothing

 

Regarding housing

 

Other

 

The Lord is in the process of providing for His people by giving them a land that flows with milk and honey, a land where they can flourish (Deuteronomy 31:20). The Lord also is providing ways for His people to remember the source of their blessings: they are to have feasts that enable them to join with others in celebrations in the giving of thanks. Passover, Unleavened Bread, Weeks, and Tabernacles—they are reminders of the blessings of harvest and/or famous events in the nation’s history. God is good, all the time!

 

Conclusion

 

A. Pentecost and the Church

 

The Day of Pentecost—the later designation for the Feast of Weeks—is the birthday of the church (Acts 2). The Bible does not say why God chose this occasion for the church to begin. But the way that it was celebrated made it the perfect tool to fulfill God’s plan to spread the gospel from Jerusalem into Judea, Samaria, and “unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Pentecost drew many Jews from distant parts of the Roman Empire (compare Acts 2:5-11). The rainy season was over, and the weather was warm and delightful for travel. Some who made a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Jerusalem for Passover perhaps remained “on vacation” through Pentecost.

 

In any case, it is fascinating that the death and resurrection of Jesus occurred during the time of Passover and Unleavened Bread and that seven weeks later the church began on Pentecost. The people who were in Jerusalem at these times had the privilege of being among the first to be introduced to the gospel, which they could take with them on their return home. About 3,000 people were convinced, and they responded to Peter’s instructions to repent and to be baptized for the remission of sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38, 41). As they returned to all parts of the Roman Empire and elsewhere, they became the vanguard for the spreading message of redemption.

 

B. Prayer

 

Father, may the attitude of gratitude that was to characterize the Feast of Weeks become our own on a daily basis! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

C. Thought to Remember

 

God still expects our expressions of gratitude to include provisions for the poor.

 

 

Kid’s Corner

God’s Laws Are Practical with Good Reasons

Leviticus 23:15-22

February 14, 2016

 

(Leviticus 23:15) “‘You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths.

 

The feasts and festivals in the Law of Moses reflect a primarily agricultural society. For this reason, by the time of Jesus the Messiah, travelers from far away would buy the sacrifices they needed when they arrived in Jerusalem (which led to abuses that influenced Jesus to cleanse the temple: see John 2:13-17). The next big festival after Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread was the Feast of Weeks, called Pentecost in the New Testament. In general, harvesting began after the feast of Unleavened Bread and ended with the Feast of Weeks. The sheaf of the wave offering was the first grain to be reaped from a harvest, which was also considered “first fruits.” The wave offering reminded the Israelites of the fact that God’s grace and blessing were the cause of their land being productive. By waving a sheaf of grain, they thanked God for their harvest. This wave offering was made on the Sabbath.

 

(Leviticus 23:16)  ‘You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the LORD.

 

Using a lunar calendar, God commanded the Israelites to count off fifty days from Passover and Unleavened Bread to celebrate the Feast of Weeks (seven full weeks plus a Sabbath: 7×7+1= 50). The number seven represents a perfect number. In later Judaism, the Feast of Weeks celebrated the giving of the Law by God to Moses after the Exodus. After Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to His apostles and followers (about 120 people), which led to the salvation of 3000 people in one day: the Day of Pentecost (see Acts 2).

 

(Leviticus 23:17)  ‘You shall bring in from your dwelling places two loaves of bread for a wave offering, made of two-tenths of an ephah; they shall be of a fine flour, baked with leaven as first fruits to the LORD.

 

The Feast of Weeks was to be celebrated in Jerusalem; for that reason, many Jews from many nations were present and learned of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the followers of Jesus, and many of these returned home as believers in Jesus the Messiah (see Acts 2:8-11). Notice: at this feast they did not wave a sheaf of grain; instead, they waved before the LORD two loaves of baked bread that must contain yeast (which made certain new yeast was used, because their old yeast would have been removed from their homes during the Passover celebration and Feast of Unleavened Bread). Yeast makes bread rise and pervades the entire loaf making delicious satisfying bread. When the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus’ followers He cleansed them and filled them with the love, power, and guiding presence of the Lord Jesus Christ and through their testimony the Church began to grow and spread throughout the world even to this day.

 

(Leviticus 23:18)  ‘Along with the bread you shall present seven one year old male lambs without defect, and a bull of the herd and two rams; they are to be a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD.

 

On the Feast of Weeks, also called the Feast of the Harvest, the first things they sacrificed were to the LORD — in thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest that the LORD had given them. They did not credit themselves or their hard work; they credited the true God. With thanksgiving, they offered to the LORD animals that provided food and clothing and bore their burdens. They also offered a portion of their crops. These types of offerings indicated symbolically that they were giving all they had and all they were in consecration to the true God. Later, prophets condemned the fact that some rebellious Israelites and Jews celebrated this feast and also sacrificed to the pagan fertility gods, even sacrificing their own children to these idols.

 

(Leviticus 23:19)  ‘You shall also offer one male goat for a sin offering and two male lambs one year old for a sacrifice of peace offerings.

 

The male goat for a sin offering acknowledged the fact that they were unworthy to receive God’s blessings and they had not earned a good harvest by their good behavior and labors. God blessed them because of His love and grace. Later, as punishment for their sins, God brought drought and pestilence upon their land and crops in order to lead them to repentance. The Fellowship or Peace Offering was for the family and their friends to eat and enjoy at the one-day celebration, and indicated the celebrants had received the blessing, peace, and fellowship with God that accompanied their sacrifices.

 

(Leviticus 23:20)  ‘The priest shall then wave them with the bread of the first fruits for a wave offering with two lambs before the LORD; they are to be holy to the LORD for the priest.

 

The priests received their food and sustenance from the offerings of the people. For this reason, some of the festivals, including this one, required the celebrant to come to Jerusalem. People brought bread and meat for the priests (and made offerings at the temple). The wave offering indicated that the animal and bread were presented first to the Lord with thanksgiving and were not wholly burnt. The offering was food for the priests and their families to eat at the festival. Everything was consecrated to the LORD.

 

(Leviticus 23:21)  ‘On this same day you shall make a proclamation as well; you are to have a holy convocation. You shall do no laborious work. It is to be a perpetual statute in all your dwelling places throughout your generations.

 

On this festive day, the Jews assembled for sacred purposes instead of pagan purposes and rituals that involved sin and rebellion against God. They were to do no work, but essentially to enjoy a time of rest after their busy harvest season concluded — about fifty days after their harvest season had begun. God ordained or commanded this sacrificial feast for their benefit, and to remind them “from Whom all blessings flow.” In addition, they were to be reminded to care for the poor in their midst. The festival provided the priests with an opportunity to teach about God, God’s laws, and their sacred history.

 

(Leviticus 23:22)  ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, moreover, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field nor gather the gleaning of your harvest; you are to leave them for the needy and the alien. I am the LORD your God.’”

 

The Apostle Paul wrote that a necessary condition for eating was being willing to work, and this provision was made possible with this command, while also providing charity for the needy (2 Thessalonians 3:10). The poor were provided a way of working to support themselves and their families. In the Book of Ruth, Ruth fed herself and her mother-in-law from this provision in the law. Ruth was a foreigner (a Moabite) and her widowed mother-in-law was a poor Israelite. Boaz arranged for Ruth to be given more than she could glean in a day, which set an example for those who had no farms to find other ways to care for the needy from the material blessings that God had given them.

 

 

 

God’s Laws Are Practical with Good Reasons

Leviticus 23:15-22

Sunday, February 14, 2016

 

 “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 23:22).

 

If an Israelite farmer asked why God forbade farmers from harvesting their entire crop, a good and sufficient answer from God would be, “I am the LORD your God.” Mature believers can tell anyone asking questions about why they should obey God, “Because the LORD said so.” Early in the believer’s relationship with God, they need to learn to trust in God and understand that God has the best interests of everyone concerned whenever God gives a command. Because God is their Lord and King, believers obey God even when they do not understand why. In a similar way, good parents command their young children, “Do not run into the street.” Based upon their ability to understand, if the child asks “why,” a parent might reply, “Because I said so.” Children eventually understand that parents make rules to protect them, and believers eventually understand why God’s laws are good. God’s rules for farmers showed them the best way to care for the poor and the foreigner, and God gave His law for the benefit of farmers as

well as the needy. Instead of commanding farmers to harvest their whole field and provide bags of grain for every needy person who came to their door, God’s command showed farmers how to help those able and willing to work. God’s law helped farmers encourage a good work ethic among the needy. God’s law also helped the farmer avoid selfishness and remain loving toward God and others in practical ways.

 

 

 

Thinking Further

God’s Laws Are Practical with Good Reasons

Leviticus 23:15-22

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Name __________________________________

 

1. What major feast followed the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread? When did it occur? What did the Christians name the feast in the Book of Acts?

 

 

2. What could be used for wave offerings according to Leviticus 23:15-22?

 

 

3. What kind of bread was used for Passover? What kind of bread was used for the feast in Leviticus 23:15-22?

 

 

4. How might you compare the work of yeast in bread and the work of the Holy Spirit in believers?

 

 

5. How were the poor and foreigners in the land to be cared for by farmers?

 

 

 

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

 

1. What major feast followed the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread? When did it occur? What did the Christians name the feast in the Book of Acts?

The Feast of Weeks. Fifty days later. Pentecost.

 

2. What could be used for wave offerings according to Leviticus 23:15-22?

A sheaf. Two loaves. Two lambs.

 

3. What kind of bread was used for Passover? What kind of bread was used for the feast in Leviticus 23:15-22?

Unleavened. Leavened.

 

4. How might you compare the work of yeast in bread and the work of the Holy Spirit in believers?

Leaven completely fills and has an expanding effect on the bread dough, which makes the loaf of bread rise and become larger and more satisfying to eat. The Holy Spirit completely fills believers and makes them more effective in living and in showing and telling others about Jesus. The Holy Spirit satisfies the spiritual needs of believers and helps them help others.

 

5. How were the poor and foreigners in the land to be cared for by farmers?

They were allowed to reap the edges of a field and glean from the harvest.

 

 

 

Word Search

God’s Laws Are Practical with Good Reasons

Leviticus 23:15-22

February 14, 2016

Name _________________________________

 

 

R D S V Y F S V S T N S P U P

B N R I L Y A H J M K V H A I

P I G P B T B X E S T Y G M Z

I A N K M F B G B A E R N O W

H R I A E I A U X D F V P R N

S G R S S F T J O C A X A A T

W U E K S E H Y M D S Y Q O E

O M F E A T K E K F E L S Y L

L G F E D V F A M A V W U E D

L H O W M R C S G U E A R M U

E R E C A E P T L S N V P A I

F O M Z D W M K Y Z L E D U O

Q W T S T I U R F T S R I F W

H E C N A N I D R O O W T S H

V F A T L E U P U K N H X U F

Sabbath

Sheaf

Wave

Offering

Seven

Weeks

Fifty

Days

Grain

Two

Loaves

Yeast

Firstfruits

Aroma

Fellowship

Peace

Assembly

Ordinance

 

 

True and False Test

God’s Laws Are Practical with Good Reasons

Leviticus 23:15-22

February 14, 2016

Name _________________________

 

Circle the true or false answers. Correct the false statements by restating them.

 

1. The Feast of Weeks was at the same time as Easter. True or False

 

2. The Feast of Weeks was celebrated in each Israelite home from sunset to sunrise. True or False

 

3. The Feast of Weeks celebration required a wave offering to two loaves of bread. True or False

 

4. At the Feast of Weeks, the bread to be waved must be leavened bread. True or False

 

5. The Feast of Weeks was after seven full weeks and a Sabbath day. True or False

 

6. The oldest member of each family was to eat the firstfruits. True or False

 

7. At the Feast of Weeks, the priest was to wave two lambs before the Lord. True or False

 

8. God wanted the Israelites to be good neighbors and worship at the pagan shrines within two weeks after the Feast of Weeks. True or False

 

9. Celebrating the Feast of Weeks was an ordinance to be obeyed. True or False

 

10. The poor and the foreigner could reap the harvest on the edges of the fields of grain. True or False

 

 

Answers to the True and False Test

Leviticus 23:15-22

Sunday, February 14, 2016

 

1.   False

2.   False

3.   True

4.   True

5.   True

 

6.   False

7.   True

8.   False

9.   True

10. True

 

 

 

Closing Prayer

 

Father, may the attitude of gratitude that was to characterize the Feast of Weeks become our own on a daily basis! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday School Lesson

February 7

Passover

 

Devotional Reading:Matthew 26:20-30

 

Background Scripture: Exodus 12:1-14; Numbers 28:16-25; Mark 14:12-26

 

Focal Verses

Exodus 12:1-14

 

1 And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying,

 

2 This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.

 

3 Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house:

 

4 And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.

 

5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats:

 

6 And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.

 

7 And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.

 

8 And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.

 

9 Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof.

 

10 And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire.

 

11 And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord’s passover.

 

12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord.

 

13 And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.

 

14 And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.

 

Key Verse

 

This day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever. —Exodus 12:14

 

Lesson Aims

 

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

 

1. Restate the Lord’s instructions for the Passover.

 

2. Compare and contrast the observance of Passover with that of the Lord’s Supper.

 

3. Write a communion meditation that reflects Passover themes.

 

 

Introduction

 

A. A Night to Remember

 

A Night to Remember was published in 1955 as an account of the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912. Walter Lord, the author, had interviewed survivors, and he wrote about the tragedy from their points of view. Movies, articles, and other books have been produced that also tell this story, but Walter Lord’s work seems to be the one against which all other accounts are measured.

 

It has been over 100 years since the “unsinkable” ship sank, but each new generation is fascinated by Lord’s presentation. It departs from a chronological presentation in order to focus on the emotions of those who lived through that “night to remember.”

 

Nations, families, and individuals have experienced events at night, making each instance “a night to remember.” On the national level, the midnight ride of Paul Revere has inspired future generations of Americans. The death of President Abraham Lincoln was also a night to remember. Personal experiences may involve the birth of a child, the death of a family member, and seemingly ordinary events that developed into something quite out of the ordinary.

 

Many sermons have been preached with “night to remember” motifs concerning the numerous memorable nights found in the Bible (examples: Genesis 28:12; Exodus 14:21-29; Judges 7:19; Daniel 5:30; Matthew 14:25-33; Luke 2:6-20; John 3:1, 2; Acts 12:6-17; 16:25-34). Today’s lesson is about an event in Egypt that fits—even defines—this category. It was a night when God proved His superiority over the fictitious gods of Egypt.

 

B. Lesson Background

 

In about 2092 BC, God instructed Abraham (at the time known as Abram) to leave his home country and go to the land he would be shown—Canaan (Genesis 12:1-5). Obeying God, Abraham continued on to Egypt because of a famine (12:10). There Pharaoh and his household experienced the first plagues from the Lord on the Egyptians; this time it was to convince Pharaoh that he must return Abraham’s wife to him (12:14-20). Later, God informed Abraham that his descendants would be oppressed 400 years “in a land that is not theirs” (15:13).

 

That land was Egypt, for grandson Jacob and his extended family went there in about 1877 BC—again to escape famine (Genesis 43:1; 45:6; 46:5-7). After 430 years, the Lord was ready to act to free His people from slavery. That was the beginning of many mighty acts to fulfill the promises made to the patriarchs—to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The year was 1447 BC. The occasion was Passover.

 

I. The Lord Speaks

 

                                                                  (Exodus 12:1, 2)

 

A. Brothers Addressed (v. 1)

 

1. And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying.

 

The book of Exodus notes the Lord’s speaking to Moses dozens of times. By contrast, for the Lord to speak unto Moses and Aaron simultaneously is rare (only here and in Exodus 6:13; 7:8; 9:8; 12:43). What is about to be said is so important that Aaron—Moses’ brother and Israel’s future first high priest (28:1-4, 41; 29:9; etc.)—must hear it firsthand. All the other regulations for sacrifices and rituals will be given at Sinai, but the revelation about the observance of Passover is given while the nation of Israel is still in the land of Egypt.

 

B. Month Designated (v. 2)

 

2. This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.

 

The name of the month in question is given as “Abib” in Exodus 13:4. This month corresponds with late March and early April. The name of this first month of the year becomes known as “Nisan” during the Babylonian exile (Esther 3:7), for that was the Babylonian name for it.

 

Abib/Nisan is used in determining the beginning of the religious year, while Israel’s civil year eventually comes to begin with the seventh month (compare 1 Kings 8:2). The first day of any month is heralded by the appearance of a new moon (compare Psalm 81:3; Isaiah 66:23).

 

II. Moses and Aaron to Speak

 

                                                                 (Exodus 12:3-14)

 

A. Passover Preparations Described (vv. 3-9)

 

3. Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house.

 

The directives continue to both Moses and Aaron, who must pass these on to all the congregation of Israel. The verb speak ye is a plural imperative, so both men are to provide specific instructions on what the people are to do in preparation for the first Passover observance.

 

The ceremonial actions are to begin on the tenth day of the first month. The selection of the animal on this specific day is never cited again, so some conclude that this feature is intended only for this initial occasion. Forty years later, the Israelites will cross the Jordan River “on the tenth day of the first month” (Joshua 4:19) and will keep the Passover four days later (5:10). But there is no mention of selecting the animals on the exciting day when they cross the Jordan. It is possible that they do, but this more likely takes place later.

 

The word translated lamb is not the usual word for a young sheep. It is a generic term that may refer either to a young sheep or goat (kid). That is made clear in verse 5. The use of either goats or sheep will be a recognized part of the ceremony some 800 years later when King Josiah’s workmen find the law in the temple, in about 621 BC. At that time the king renews the practice of keeping the Passover (2 Chronicles 35:7).

 

How to Say It

 

Aaron Air-un.

 

Abib A-bib.

 

Abraham Ay-bruh-ham.

 

Abram Ay-brum.

 

Babylonian Bab-ih-low-nee-un.

 

Hezekiah Hez-ih-kye-uh.

 

Josiah Jo-sigh-uh.

 

Moses Mo-zes or Mo-zez.

 

Nisan Nye-san.

 

Pharaoh Fair-o or Fay-roe.

 

 

 

4. And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.

 

The meaning of the verse is clear, but interpretive traditions have risen from it. In the late first century AD, the Jewish historian Josephus wrote that “a company not less than ten belong to every [Passover] sacrifice, for it is not lawful for them to feast singly by themselves, and [that there were often] as many as twenty.”

 

5. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats.

 

The importance of the forthcoming Passover observance is magnified by the requirements that are given for the sacrificial animals. Animals of highest value, those without blemish, are prescribed. This prerequisite will later be stressed repeatedly for other offerings as well (Leviticus 1:3, 10; Numbers 28:3, 9, 11; etc.). If it is for God, it should be the best. The unblemished animals will be considered as substitutes for the firstborn of people and animals to be spared when the Lord passes through the land (Exodus 12:12). Most Christians are aware of the comparison with Jesus as the perfect, sinless sacrifice (1 Peter 1:19).

 

6. And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.

 

The interval between the tenth day and the fourteenth day of the same month is more than just for ordinary care of animals. The phrase ye shall keep it stresses that careful attention is to be given to the selected sacrificial animals. The unblemished animals of the tenth day must not be allowed to become the blemished animals of the fourteenth day! The priesthood of Aaron and his descendants (Leviticus 8-10) has not yet been established; at this time there is no altar, no tabernacle, no central place for worship. As such, the leader of each household is to act as something of a priest to prepare and slay the animal. The special guidelines make this a memorable experience for each family.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What things, if any, should Christians reserve solely for God’s use even though He already owns everything? Why?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Material things

 

Personal abilities

 

Time

 

Other

 

The fourteenth day of the month has another implication: since the month begins with a new moon, there will be a full moon by the fourteenth. This will provide light during the hasty departure from Egypt by night.

 

The phrase in the evening is literally “between the two evenings.” This awkward (to us) expression has drawn various interpretations. Some think it refers to the time between sunset and when stars become visible. But it probably refers to a two-hour period just prior to full sunset. Josephus wrote that the time is between the ninth and eleventh hours, or from about 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. The regular evening sacrifice for Israel, when instituted, will usually occur about 3:00 p.m., but it may be earlier on this special day.

 

7. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.

 

Exodus 12:22 provides a bit more detail on how the blood of the Passover lamb is to be used. The blood is first caught in a “bason” (basin). Then “a bunch of hyssop” is used to apply the blood to the two side posts and the upper door post (lintel) of each Israelite house where the people are gathered to eat. A sermon from decades ago had these words in it: “The blood gurgling into the basin proclaimed that something innocent had to die so that others could live.” This parallels the doctrine of a substitutionary atoning sacrifice: Christ the innocent died so that we the guilty might live.

 

8a. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire.

 

Roasting over an open fire is the only method to be used to prepare the Passover lamb. Verse 9, below, further stresses this requirement.

 

8b. And unleavened bread;

 

Bread made without leaven (yeast) will end up being thin and flat. Not having to wait until the dough rises points to the haste demanded later. The New Testament usually associates leaven with impurity (example: 1 Corinthians 5:6, 7; note Christ’s designation as “our passover”), and removal of leaven as removal of sin is stressed.

 

8c. And with bitter herbs they shall eat it.

 

Bitter herbs are associated with the life that the Israelites have endured for many years, especially in the year after Moses makes his first approach to Pharaoh. The bitter herbs of Egypt probably include wild lettuce and endive (compare Numbers 9:11).

 

What Do You Think?

 

Under what circumstances, if any, would a Christian’s participation in a modern Passover celebration be appropriate? Why?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Positive and negative impact on non-Christians

 

Positive and negative impact on fellow believers

 

Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Galatians 4:10, 11; Colossians 2:16

 

Other

 

Remembering the Bitter

 

My community is blessed to have a Christian ministry to homeless women and their children. The ministry offers both short-term emergency shelter and a longer-term “life recovery” option for women to receive training and assistance in breaking free from unhealthy patterns. The longer-term option requires participation in work therapy, counseling, self-evaluation, and coursework designed to help them heal, be accountable to others, and set boundaries for themselves.

 

Many women who enter the program have been exposed to abuse, rejection, abandonment, addiction, and court involvement. Although the shelter offers the women a way out of dire circumstances, many ladies leave the program before they complete all that is offered. The struggles that come with change are challenging. At times it seems that memories of “life before” grow more attractive, especially when the inevitable trials of what should be the “new normal” kick in.

 

The rituals and symbols of Passover were meant to remind participants of the Lord’s protection. They also contain an element to bring to mind the bitterness of the past. Then as now, we humans tend to romanticize or minimize trauma of the past as a reaction to the trials of the moment (compare Numbers 11:4-6). Perhaps an honest reflection on yesterday’s trials (and sins!) will prevent us from embracing them anew.—V. E.

 

9. Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof.

 

The cooking directives are specific in prohibiting the eating of raw meat. Sodden at all with water refers to boiling—not allowed either! It must be roasted. Purtenance refers to entrails or internal organs. The restriction “neither shall ye break a bone thereof” in Exodus 12:46 is also a factor, and this is easily avoided by roasting the animal over a spit. Not having a bone broken is cited in John 19:36 as being a fulfillment of prophecy when Jesus is crucified (compare Numbers 9:12; Psalm 34:20; John 19:32, 33).

 

B. Cautions Determined (vv. 10-13)

 

10. And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire.

 

A regular future custom for most sacrifices will be to incinerate what cannot be eaten on the first day after making an offering to God (Leviticus 7:15). An exception will be made for freewill offerings or offerings with a vow; such can delay the burning one more day (7:16-18).

 

11. And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord’s passover.

 

The Israelites are to be ready to leave on a journey, and the procedures listed here are regarded as being only for the first Passover. A walking staff is to be readily available when the actual departure from Egypt begins. The word passover is from a verb that primarily means “to spare,” so “to pass over” is a valid way to express the idea in view. This is seen especially in Isaiah 31:5, where God says, “As birds flying, so will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it.”

 

What Do You Think?

 

What errors involving haste do Christians commit?

 

How do we correct these?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Areas where more haste is called for

 

Areas where less haste is called for

 

12. For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord.

 

The words pass through translate a different word from the one translated “passover” in verse 11, above. The Lord will move through the land of Egypt so as to bring about an extraordinary event: the death of the firstborn of both man and beast. Egypt has sacred goats, rams, etc., so a greater impact will be made if the firstborn of many types of animals are slain, especially those of the sacred animals in the various temples. Pharaoh will finally understand, at least temporarily, that all the gods of Egypt are powerless against the God of Israel!

 

Regarding the forthcoming human deaths, the guarded palaces of Pharaoh will not be a sanctuary—the deaths of firstborn will happen there as well. This is a judgment on the entire nation of Egypt, top to bottom. The Lord has seen the affliction and heard the cries of His people in Egypt (Exodus 3:7), and the time for judgment has come.

 

What Do You Think?

 

Which “gods” of modern culture most tempt the wrath of the one true God? What will you do with your conclusions in that regard?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Considering 2 Corinthians 4:4

 

Considering Galatians 4:8, 9

 

Considering Philippians 3:19

 

Other

 

13. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.

 

The word blood occurs more than 400 times in the Bible. From Genesis 4:10 to Revelation 19:13, there is something special about blood. In the verse before us, blood serves as protection for those who are in homes that have had the blood of the lamb or goat applied as instructed. Many gospel songs have used this verse to make application to salvation in Christ.

 

The message that Moses and Aaron pass along involves much more than “doing something religious.” The purpose is to provide protection from the final plague. A study of the plagues reveals that the first three affect both Egyptians and Israelites. Beginning with the fourth, God makes a distinction, sparing Israel. This time, however, it is up to each Israelite household to obey the instructions or suffer the consequences of disobedience.

 

What Do You Think?

 

How should the reality that the blood of Jesus, our Passover Lamb, has been applied to our sins affect how we live?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding attitudes

 

Regarding actions

 

Regarding priorities

 

C. Continual Observance Demanded (v. 14)

 

14a. And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations;

 

The Israelites are instructed that future generations are to have a similar observance. It will provide reminders about the birth of their nation as it changed from being enslaved to being a free and covenant people. It is to prompt a continued faithfulness to the Lord, who covenants with them.

 

Fitting

 

I recently traveled for a weekend ladies event. My fellow sojourners and I decided to break up the 11-hour drive home, and Kansas City was a logical stopping point. We took advantage of that to visit the International House of Prayer. I had never been there before, but I had watched the ministry’s feed on the Internet. I had seen the worship area, a fairly simple setup where young interns perform worship music in two-hour segments continually. That’s right—continually.

 

We signed the guest book, entered, found seats, and joined in the acknowledgment of the King of kings. After about an hour, we quietly left and resumed our journey home.

 

While this experience was not very different from that of Sunday morning worship, one thought dominated my mind: fitting. Since 1999, that little room had not seen an interruption of praise and prayer. It has taken a concerted effort of coordination, administration, and willing hearts to keep it going. Yet what could possibly be a more appropriate response to our amazing God than an unending flow of praise, prayer, and worship? May we too be faithful in ceaseless thankfulness and worship of him!—V. E.

 

14b. Ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.

 

This final phrase seems at first glance to indicate that the Passover is to be kept in perpetuity. But the phrase for ever actually means “into a hidden period of time” or “no end in sight,” whether in the future or in the past. A covenant may be ended by either party. If either fails to keep its part, then the covenant is broken. A covenant also terminates when the reasons for its existence—what it is intended to accomplish—are fulfilled.

 

Very few Passover celebrations are recorded in the Old Testament. The feast is celebrated a year later while the Israelites are at Sinai (Numbers 9:2-14). The next mention is immediately after the Israelites cross the Jordan River, 40 years after the first observance. Prior to the exile of 586 BC, only two other observances are recorded: one in about 715 BC, in the days of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 30) and another in about 621 BC, during the reign of Josiah (2 Chronicles 35). The text indicates prior neglect of the feast in both instances (30:5; 35:18). After the exile, a Passover celebration is noted in Ezra 6:19, in 515 BC.

 

 

Conclusion

 

A. Christ Our Passover

 

There are parallels between the salvation of Christians and the deliverance of the Israelites on that special night in Egypt. These are voiced in many sermons and devotional presentations. Listed below are several such comparisons.

 

Israel’s deliverance was from impending doom, and so is ours.

Israel’s deliverance was of God’s devising, and so is ours.

Israel’s deliverance was made possible by obedient faith, and so is ours.

Israel’s deliverance required continued faithfulness, and so does ours.

Israel’s deliverance demanded a sacrifice without blemish, and so did ours.

Israel’s deliverance was accomplished by a sacrifice that was a substitute, and so did ours.

So—what value is there in studying the ancient event of the first Passover?

 

B. Prayer

 

Thank you, God, for demonstrating Your power and Your love for Your people! You have fulfilled Your promises, and now we look forward to our final deliverance when Your Son returns in glory! In His name we pray. Amen.

 

C. Thought to Remember

 

God still liberates.

 

 

Kid’s Corner

The Power of Faith in the Blood

Exodus 12:1-14

Sunday, February 7, 2016

 

 

Exodus 12:1-14

 

(Exodus 12:1)  Now the LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt,

 

Though God first spoke to Moses at the burning bush on the mountain of God, Moses did not need to go to and from the mountain of God in order to hear from God. The Bible makes clear that Moses did not need to be in a special place or pray during a special time to hear from God. The eighth and ninth plagues of locusts and darkness may have already come upon the Egyptians by the time God speaks to Moses again in Exodus 12:1. Some commentators think the plague of darkness descended upon the Egyptians beginning the 10th day of the month, immediately before the first Passover was to be celebrated.

 

(Exodus 12:2)  “This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you.

 

The name of the new first month is Nisan, which falls during the latter part of March or the first part of April, since the Jews use a lunar calendar. For this reason, the dates for Passover, Palm Sunday, and Easter vary from year to year. The previous Egyptian calendar would have made this month the seventh month of the year. With this first Passover, the Jews began a new calendar, a new calendar year, and a new way of life under the ceremonial Law of Moses before they entered the Promised Land. In a similar way, after the resurrection of Jesus Christ Sunday became the first day of the week and our new calendar is divided into BC and AD.

 

(Exodus 12:3)  “Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household.

 

The new moon began a new month. In the Bible, the number 10 is a symbol for completion. On the 10th day, with the selection of the Lamb, the Hebrews began to make their Passover preparations. God’s plagues in Egypt would be completed after He brought ten of them upon the Egyptians. Each person in the whole congregation was to be involved in the celebration of the Passover, and the head of each household would serve as a priest in the slaughter of the sacrificial lamb.

 

(Exodus 12:4)  ‘Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb.

 

A family could be comprised of many households. At this time, the Hebrews lived in houses with doors and door posts instead of tents. Some households could be too small in numbers or too impoverished to acquire or use a whole lamb, so God made provision for everyone, rich and poor alike. They were told to join with their “closest neighbor” to buy the lamb or take a lamb from the flock to use. The lamb would be divided equally among each person at the feast. Centuries later, the rabbis would say that each person needed to eat some lamb and no piece of lamb eaten could be smaller than the size of an olive.

 

(Exodus 12:5)  ‘Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats.

 

The lamb to die sacrificially and be eaten was to be “the best,” without blemish; just as the Lamb of God was the Messiah who never sinned and the best Person that God the Father could give as a sacrifice for our sins. At future Passover celebrations, the lamb would have been born near or shortly after the previous Passover (after the Hebrews began to celebrate the Passover in later years). It would be a male, who would represent males and females; just as the Lamb of God, the Son of God, died for the sins of males and females and represented males and females when He died for all.

 

(Exodus 12:6)  ‘You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight.

 

As God’s judgment on the gods of Egypt and the Egyptians (who worshiped the sun as a god or idol), some believe the Egyptians were in darkness from the 10th day of the month to the 14th day of the month. Their sun god could not overcome the true God and give them light or save their firstborn children from death. During this same time, the Israelites were caring for their livestock and their families in the light that God provided for them alone. As night approached on the 14th day, the lamb would be slaughtered and eaten in the evening, which was the beginning of the 15th day.

 

(Exodus 12:7)  ‘Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.

 

As the darkness of the evening approached, the Israelites obeyed Moses in faith and they put some blood from the slaughtered lamb or goat on the two door posts and the beam above the door (the lintel) of the house, but not on the threshold where it could be trampled underfoot. The blood would protect all those who stayed inside the house, so each one could be at peace on the inside of the house on the night of God’s Passover. They may not have understood why this was important, but their faithful obedience led to their salvation when the death angel passed over their homes and saw the blood of the lamb where God had commanded them to place it.

 

(Exodus 12:8)  ‘They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

 

The lamb would be slaughtered and roasted immediately after it was slaughtered. In later years, the Hebrews would eat the lamb with unleavened bread in remembrance of how quickly they had to leave Egypt (before their bread had time to rise with yeast), and bitter herbs in remembrance of their bitter years of slavery in Egypt. Just as believers are saved from spiritual death by the blood of Christ, so they need to eat spiritually of the Lamb of God for spiritual life moment by moment.

 

(Exodus 12:9)  ‘Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails.

 

God commanded the Hebrews to cook by roasting the entire lamb in haste. There was no time to remove the insides of the lamb (or “properly” dress it as a butcher would) before roasting it. Eating boiled lamb with its head and inner organs instead of roasting the lamb entirely might also have made people sick (or be sickening to look at and eat). Roasting the whole lamb might be considered a symbol of the fact that we are to receive into our lives and hearts Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, wholly and completely as He is. Furthermore, we must receive the Lamb of God into our hearts on His terms, not on our terms or in our way but in His way, even though we may not completely understand His terms or His way.

 

(Exodus 12:10)  ‘And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire.

 

The Hebrews needed to learn complete trust in God for their salvation and daily provision. They needed to trust God for their daily bread, and obey God in order for them to receive all the blessings God wanted to give them. They were to burn all of the remains of the lamb and trust God for their next meal; just as later they were not to keep manna in the wilderness that they received overnight because it would spoil, except on the day before the Sabbath. Even though the Israelites may not have understood everything God wanted them to do, they understood enough to obey God in faith. The remains of their meal was consecrated and eaten in faith; it was not to be trampled underfoot or thrown in the trash by Egyptians after the Israelites exited the land.

 

(Exodus 12:11)  ‘Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste--it is the LORD’S Passover.

 

The Israelites were commanded to eat in haste and prepared for their quick deliverance by God. They were to eat with their “loins girded” (with their robe tied around their waist so they could run or work and the robe length would not get in their way or trip them), with their sandals on their feet because they would not have time to search for them and put them on before embarking on the hard road ahead, and with their staff for support as they walked. Remember, Moses did great things with his staff. God wanted the Hebrews to be ready when He moved quickly, as He did (and often does). Though God may seem to take a long time, when He does move or want people to move, He often does so very quickly. From Passover, we learn to always be prepared to do God’s will immediately.

 

(Exodus 12:12)  ‘For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the LORD.

 

God executed judgment “on all the gods of Egypt;” these gods were a total failure and some of these gods may have been inspired by evil spirits, as Paul described them: “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). The ten plagues and the exodus show that if we trust in false gods, we will suffer with them when they fail or when they suffer God’s judgment. The Israelites learned this same lesson by hard experience over and over again throughout their history, as their prophets warned and taught them. Through Moses, the prophet of God, God gave the people good and sufficient reasons to believe God and obey God. They had witnessed nine plagues that had fallen on the Egyptians and they had every reason to believe that God would do what He said. The Pharaoh pretended to be the son of the sun god, and his son was considered a god too; therefore, at the first Passover God would be judging these men who were considered to be gods when the true God killed the firstborn of every Egyptian and every Egyptian animal. God would do this after He had blotted out the sun during the ninth plague as judgment on the idol that the Egyptians worshiped as their highest god. God’s just judgment would have been milder than Pharaoh’s persecution of the Israelites, because the Pharaoh had ordered the midwives to kill every newborn male child: “When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live” (Exodus 1:16).

 

(Exodus 12:13)  ‘The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

 

The angel of the Lord would pass over every house; he would see the blood of the lamb on the door posts and on the beam above every door; he would see and save the occupants of the house from death. Those who put the blood of the lamb on their door posts and lintel believed God and acted in faith, believing the word of the Lord spoken to His prophet, Moses. Those inside the house could not see the blood on the door posts, but they trusted that the angel of the Lord could see the blood and save them from death. We do not see the blood of Jesus Christ, but when we trust in Jesus Christ, in His death for us, in His blood shed for our sins, in His resurrection from the dead, by grace He saves us through our faith in Him.

 

(Exodus 12:14)  ‘Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.’”

 

God told the Hebrews when and how to celebrate the Passover yearly in commemoration of this first Passover. Later, Jesus the Messiah made a new covenant in His blood, and He instituted the new covenant in a communion celebration during His last Passover meal with His disciples. He has told all who believe in Him as Lord and Savior to celebrate and remember His death for their sins in the celebration of the communion meal, the Lord’s Supper, until He comes again (see 1 Corinthians 11:24-25).

 

 

The Power of Faith in the Blood

Exodus 12:1-14

Sunday, November 10, 2013

 

 

 “And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:13—KJV).

 

“The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:13—NRSV).

Before the first Passover, God declared, “On all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD” (Exodus 12:12). All the gods of Egypt, their priests, and Pharaoh had misled the

Egyptians away from believing in the true God. Therefore, on the first Passover night God judged the gods of Egypt, and all those who trusted in these false gods suffered for their misplaced faith. Since a “mixed crowd” left Egypt with the Israelites under the leadership of

Moses, perhaps some Egyptians had come to believe in the LORD and had put the blood of the lamb on their two door posts and lintel too so their families were saved from suffering when God judged the idols of Egypt (see Exodus 12:37-38). However, it may be that some Egyptians came to believe in the LORD after the Passover plague and decided to leave with the Israelites rather than remain in Egypt and live under the oppressive influence of false gods. The Israelites who placed the blood of the lamb as a sign on their houses did so in faith. Though they remained inside their homes and could not see the blood on their houses, they trusted that the

LORD would see and save them from death. Though believers today cannot see the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God, they trust that “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” and “those who do the will of God live forever” (1 John 1:7 and 1 John 2:17).

 

 

Thinking Further

The Power of Faith in the Blood

Exodus 12:1-14

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Name__________________________

 

 

1. Thinking about calendar days and why calendars and days are changed, what might be some reasons why many weekly calendars today begin with Monday instead of Sunday?

 

 

2. In what way during Passover is the head of the household similar to a priest? Why would this be important in later years?

 

 

3. What type of lamb or goat were the Israelites commanded to use in the celebration of Passover? In what way is this Passover lamb similar to the Messiah?

 

 

4. Why would the Israelites eat their first Passover in peace instead of fear?

 

 

5. Why do you think the Israelites obeyed God in faith and did what God told them through Moses at their first Passover, even though they might not have understood all of God’s reasons for His commands? Why is knowing this important?

 

 

 

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

 

1. What might be some reasons why many weekly calendars today begin with Monday instead of Sunday?

Monday is now chosen as the first day of the week for many because the most important day of the week for them is their business day or the beginning of their business week (or school day or week, etc.). Might this indicate something about the new god that many people worship; such as, money or career, instead of putting the worship of God in Christ as their most important way to begin a new week and live a life?

 

2. In what way during Passover is the head of the household similar to a priest? Why would this be important in later years?

During Passover, the head of the household would kill the lamb that serves as a reminder of the lamb that was sacrificed before the first Passover meal. Under the Law of Moses, the priests are appointed to offer all other sacrifices at the tabernacle or temple. The rule for Passover would be important in later years when the Jews were scattered and after the temple was destroyed. The Jews did not need an official priest in order to obey God in the celebration of Passover. The fact that an official priest or religious leader was not needed to celebrate the Passover teaches believers a great deal.

 

3. What type of lamb or goat were the Israelites commanded to use in the celebration of Passover? In what way is this Passover lamb similar to the Messiah?

A lamb without blemish, a male lamb for everyone in the house, a young lamb (a year old) that represented the future of what the lamb could have become someday if not sacrificed, a lamb whose blood was put on the door frame of a house to protect those inside. The Lamb of God is without sin; Jesus was a male who died for everyone, and Who saves everyone who believes in Him; Jesus died as a young man (between 30 and 33 years old, many believe), and He rose again to an eternal future as Lord of lords and to give an eternal future to all who would trust in Him as Lord and Savior.

 

4. Why would the Israelites eat their first Passover in peace instead of fear?

They ate in faith, believing that the blood of the lamb would save them from death.

 

5. Why do you think the Israelites obeyed God in faith and did what God told them through Moses at their first Passover, even though they might not have understood all of God’s reasons for His commands? Why is knowing this important?

They had seen God work many miracles and nine plagues that succeeded. They were about to experience a tenth plague, and God could save them if they obeyed Him in faith. They had seen God distinguish them from the Egyptians in some of His plagues, and He had told them that He would distinguish them again from the Egyptians, but this time they would need to put the Passover lamb’s blood of the door posts and lintel of their houses in faith that He would save them. Knowing this is important because when we think about the facts we know, we know that God has given us good and sufficient reasons to believe in Him and believe Him whatever He tells us, even though we might not always understand every reason for what He does or asks us to do— remembering always that God will never tell us to do anything contrary to what the

Bible teaches about right and wrong, good and evil, faith and unbelief.

 

 

 

Word Search

The Power of Faith in the Blood

Exodus 12:1-14

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Name__________________________

 

 

D O O L B R J F H X B L S B C

S M N E X T B M O N T H W N P

E R K R J S E T A R B E L E C

M E L O N A D Q P D W F I T P

A T S B A E S G V F P Q O U Y

R T N H S Y T D O H J W R X G

F I X G I X R U T X T P Q S F

R B O I N O R E N B F N Y B W

O M Z E L T L S V J Y L E N E

O X U N E K N E G O A Q O T Z

D S F E J G M X A M S R I S W

Q M N A I W A O B R A S X H X

R T Q U R U Y I S A S W A Q R

H O R D I N A N C E N I V P K

Y D I P F S B R E H S J R D W

Lord

Moses

Aaron

Month

Nisan

Passover

Lamb

Israel

Tenth

Bitter

Herbs

Yeast

Neighbor

Celebrate

Fourteenth

Ordinance

Blood

Doorframes

 

 

True and False Test

The Power of Faith in the Blood

Exodus 12:1-14

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Name__________________________

 

 

 

Circle the true or false answers. Correct the false statements by restating them.

 

1. God told Moses to choose the day and month he thought best to begin a new Jewish year. True or False

 

2. The name of the first month of the new year in the Jewish calendar is Nisan. True or False

 

3. Unlike our calendar, Moses and the Israelites followed a lunar calendar. True or False

 

4. The religious leaders in Israel were told to give a lamb to every family in Israel. True or False

 

5. Each household was to determine the amount of lamb for each person to eat. True or False

 

6. The lamb to be eaten was to be a year old male without defect, and could be a sheep or a goat. True or False

 

7. The lamb to be eaten must be killed early in the morning, boiled, and eaten at noon. True or False

 

8. On the first Passover, blood from the lamb was to be placed on the sides and top of the doorframe of each house. True or False

 

9. After the first Passover in Egypt, the Jews were to celebrate Passover once again only after they entered the Promised Land. True or False

 

10. God told the Israelites to carefully preserve everything that was not eaten at the first Passover meal so they would have food to eat after they crossed the Red Sea. True or False

 

 

 

 

Answers to the True and False Test

Exodus 12:1-14

Sunday, February 7, 2016

 

1.   False

2.   True

3.   True

4.   False

5.   True

6.   True

7.   False

8.  True

9.   False

10. False

 

 

Closing Prayer

 

 

Thank you, God, for demonstrating Your power and Your love for Your people! You have fulfilled Your promises, and now we look forward to our final deliverance when Your Son returns in glory! In His name we pray. Amen.

 

 

 

 

Sunday School Lesson

January 31

The Death of a Friend

 

Devotional Reading:Isaiah 25:6-10

 

Background Scripture:John 11:1-44

 

Focal Verses

John 11:38-44

 

38 Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.

 

39 Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.

 

40 Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?

 

41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.

 

42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.

 

43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.

 

44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.

 

Key Verse

 

When he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. —John 11:43

 

Lesson Aims

 

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

 

1. Tell how Lazarus was raised from the dead.

 

2. Compare and contrast the resurrections of Lazarus and Jesus.

 

3. Share with one other person a hymn, song, or poem that reflects the Christian hope of eternal life.

 

 

Introduction

 

A. Funerals and Faith

 

“God’s finger touch’d him, and he slept.” So wrote Alfred, Lord Tennyson when reflecting on his friend Arthur Henry Hallam, who died suddenly in 1833, at age 22. This line is part of the poem, “In Memoriam A.H.H.” It contains other memorable lines, and it was widely read and admired in the nineteenth century. It was a favorite of Queen Victoria, who found great comfort in reading it after the death of her beloved Prince Albert. The poem has been mentioned as among the greatest poetic works of its century.

 

Tennyson explores the topic of death in many ways, but always from the perspective of faith. He ends the extremely long poem of 2900 lines by describing his beloved colleague as “That friend of mine who lives in God” (line 2896). Tennyson’s faith was challenged but remained unshaken by this death of one so dear. Tennyson believed the Lord to be the master of the living and of the dead. Therefore his dead friend was in fellowship with the same God whom he, Tennyson, continued to worship while still living.

 

Funerals tell us a lot about how the family and friends of the departed view death. For Christians, there is sometimes a celebratory mood that almost becomes a blissful denial of the death. This is usually not satisfactory, for the loss of a loved one is sad even for believers. Funerals for unbelievers can only be described as awkward since there are few words of comfort for those who die without the hope of resurrection to eternal life with Jesus.

 

Last week’s lesson was about a village wedding, one of the most joyous events in rural life. This lesson’s setting is a village funeral, also a major event but with a completely different tone. It was a time of wailing instead of dancing. Both events were significant in the life of a village. And in both cases Jesus intervened to change a dire situation into a happy ending.

 

B. Lesson Background

 

The household of siblings Mary, Martha, and Lazarus was in the village of Bethany. Bethany was on the outskirts of Jerusalem, on the lower eastern slope of the Mount of Olives. This mountain is situated directly east of the temple area in Jerusalem, across the Kidron Valley. To travel between Bethany and Jerusalem, one would skirt the southern flank of this mountain, a walk of about two miles (see John 11:18). Bethany also was located on the Jericho Road. Thus pilgrims from Galilee would pass through the village as they made the final ascent from the valley of the Jordan River to Jerusalem.

 

Jesus may have used the household of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus as a convenient base when He visited Jerusalem (see Mark 11:11). The two-mile walk, 30 minutes each way, was inconsequential in a society where everyone was accustomed to walking. Martha, Mary, and Lazarus are described as “loved” by Jesus (John 11:5). Luke records a story about the sisters (not mentioning Lazarus) that involved another visit by Jesus in their home (Luke 10:38-42). This story shows a familiarity with Jesus similar to that which He had with His chosen 12. The home may have been large and comfortable, although we have no information regarding the household’s source of income (note Mary’s possession of expensive ointment in John 12:1-5).

 

When a person died in that time and place, the interment of the body followed very quickly. Embalming was not practiced by the Jews of Jesus’ day (contrast Genesis 50:1-3, 26), so a decaying corpse would soon begin to smell of decomposition—thus the urgency to have the body entombed.

 

How to Say It

 

Bethany Beth-uh-nee.

 

Galilee Gal-uh-lee.

 

Jairus Jye-rus or Jay-ih-rus.

 

Jericho Jair-ih-co.

 

Kidron Kid-ron.

 

Lazarus Laz-uh-rus.

 

 

 

Nonetheless, the body would be washed, wrapped in linen shrouds, and perhaps have spices and various sweet-smelling concoctions included in the wrappings to mask bad odors (compare John 19:39, 40). After the body was placed in a ready tomb, the entrance would be sealed using a stone carved for this purpose (compare Matthew 27:60). That is all very different from the modern custom of using a casket and concrete vault, digging a suitably deep hole, and marking the spot with a headstone in a community cemetery. In Bethany, there would be no burial in the sense of shoveled dirt filling a hole. Family tombs in places like Bethany were ready to be used on short notice.

 

Today’s lesson is prefaced by what may seem to be curious inactions by Jesus. While He was some distance from Bethany and Jerusalem, Jesus received word that His friend Lazarus was gravely ill and that the man’s sisters wanted Jesus to come (John 11:1-3). But without apparent reason, Jesus delayed (11:6), arriving days after the interment (11:17). Yet comparing the time frames of John 11:6 with 11:17 leads to the conclusion that Lazarus would have died even if Jesus had started toward Bethany immediately. Even so, Jesus could have healed Lazarus from a distance (compare Matthew 8:5-13), so why didn’t He?

 

Jesus explained that the death of Lazarus was to result in faith (John 11:15). Indeed, the question He asked Martha after He arrived was “Believest thou?” (11:26). Her confession of faith contrasted with the voices of skepticism (11:37), leading into today’s text.

 

I. Tomb Opened

 

                                                                 (John 11:38-41a)

 

A. Grieving Friend (v. 38)

 

38. Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.

 

Jesus is experiencing heavy emotions, described as groaning in himself. We should remember that while Jesus was God in the flesh (John 1:14), He was also a man. He experienced human emotions.

 

Jesus arrives at the grave, which is outside the village. The place of interment is a cave that is probably located in some stone outcropping on the lower eastern side of the Mount of Olives. This is likely an area of other family tombs, caves that have been prepared to be suitable as underground rooms for the remains of the dead.

 

 

 

As are other area tombs, the entrance to the resting place of Lazarus’s body is covered by a stone carved for this purpose. Ancient family tombs have been found having disk-like stones, three or four feet in diameter, that are rolled on a track across the entrance. However, the language here indicates a stone laid over the entrance. Not all tomb-caves have upright entrances. Sometimes such caves descend vertically rather than extend back horizontally. This may be the case here, and artists sometimes portray Lazarus’s subsequent exit from the tomb as coming up a stairway that has been chiseled out of the stony ground.

 

B. Worried Sister (vv. 39-41a)

 

39. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.

 

To open a tomb is a serious matter. Such action can be construed as a desecration of the grave, so it must be ordered by a family member. That may be why Martha is the one to respond when Jesus says Take ye away the stone. She seems to be the older of the sisters, now in charge of the family’s business following the death of her brother, Lazarus.

 

Martha’s response indicates that she is not eager to grant Jesus’ request. Four days have passed since the death of Lazarus, and she assumes that his body is in its smelliest phase of decomposition. What we observe are the limits of faith. Martha fully believes that Jesus could have healed Lazarus of his sickness and prevented his death (John 11:21) as does her sister, Mary (11:32), but their faith cannot imagine what is about to happen. For them, resurrection is a future event, a promised time when all of God’s righteous people will be raised from the dead (11:24). Have the two not heard of the raising of the widow’s son at Nain (Luke 7:11-17) or that of Jairus’s daughter (8:40-56)?

 

What Do You Think?

 

How can we make sure we are “on the same wavelength” with God as we ponder what His will for us might be?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding use of material resources

 

Regarding use of time

 

Other

 

Opportunities to Trust

 

The classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life is loaded with lessons that can be relearned with each viewing. One such lesson is that the unexpected twists and turns of life can call for agonizing decisions. George Bailey, the movie’s main character, initially resists his father’s desire that George join him at Bailey Building and Loan Association. George has other ideas, as he dreams of becoming a world traveler.

 

Those plans change as a result of the unexpected death of George’s father. Using every excuse and defense imaginable, George tries to avoid taking over his father’s position at the building and loan, but he eventually gives in. Subsequent events take George on a life journey he never anticipated.

 

George Bailey is a fictional character, but Martha is not. Dealing with the dark event of the death of her brother, she initially resisted Jesus’ request to have the stone removed. But her ultimate willingness to trust Jesus led her to experience an event that redirected her life and strengthened her faith. Each of life’s unexpected turns is an opportunity to trust Jesus. When those turns come, will we focus on our doubts or focus on Him?—C. M. W.

 

40. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?

 

In response, Jesus reminds Martha of their earlier conversation. His challenge to her was that the one who believes in Him will never die (John 11:26). Death is sad, but it is not the end for those who trust in Jesus. This is a crucial point, for the tomb might not be opened if Martha’s faith falters. Her faith is challenged by the trauma of being asked to have a beloved relative’s grave disturbed.

 

We are reminded of John’s later conversation with the risen Christ, who declares himself to hold “the keys of hell and of death” (Revelation 1:18); He is capable of breaking the hold that death has over humanity. To believe in and understand Jesus’ power over death is to be aware of the glory of God, and this glory is about to be revealed to Martha in the resurrection of her dead brother.

 

In the Old Testament, the glory of God is synonymous with God’s presence, something that was observed at Sinai (Exodus 24:17), at the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34), and in the temple (2 Chronicles 7:1). God is present in the person of Jesus, and this was revealed earlier in glorious fashion at the Transfiguration (see Matthew 17:2; compare 2 Peter 1:16, 17). Although what has unfolded thus far in our text may seem little more than a humble human drama witnessed by a few dozen people in an insignificant Judean village, no one there should doubt the power of the Lord after Lazarus comes from the tomb alive.

 

What Do You Think?

 

How do we evaluate the claims of those who say they have seen or experienced the glory of God?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Exodus 33:18-23

 

Psalm 19:1

 

Acts 7:55

 

Romans 3:23

 

Other

 

41a. Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid.

 

In some unstated way, perhaps by a nod or gesture, Martha grants permission to remove the stone that blocks the tomb’s entrance. This may require several strong men using levers. We can only imagine what sort of persuasion this requires, so Martha must be held in very high esteem in the village. Although some translations portray the stone as being “rolled,” the text implies that the stone is lifted. We may wonder if a powerful odor does indeed emanate from the tomb when this happens, but the text doesn’t say one way or the other.

 

II. Lazarus Emerges

 

                                                                  (John 11:41b-44)

 

A. Preparing with Prayer (vv. 41b, 42)

 

41b. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.

 

Before proceeding, Jesus pauses to pray. We may not understand the relationship between the Father and the Son in every detail, but we do know that Jesus “can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:19).

 

Jesus’ prayer is thankful and confident. He is confident that what He is about to attempt is actually going to happen. He thanks His Father for having heard Him, indicating that Jesus has already bathed this situation in prayer as He was traveling to Bethany.

 

Perhaps the two-day delay of John 11:6 was for such prayer. What those gathered are about to see will not be a spur of the moment, impetuous action. Rather, everything that is happening is part of a confident plan of one who has prayed to and been heard by God the Father.

 

What Do You Think?

 

Under what circumstances does it seem that God is most willing to hear your prayers? Why?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Lamentations 3:44

 

James 1:6; 4:3

 

1 Peter 3:7

 

1 John 5:14

 

Other

 

42. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.

 

Jesus’ prayer has a purpose other than communication with the Father. Jesus wants the villagers who are present to understand the significance of what is about to happen: it is to give them cause to believe in Jesus as having been sent by the Father.

 

Jesus teaches that believing in Him is the same as believing in the Father (see John 12:44). Faith in Jesus is valid only if one accepts that He comes from God and reveals God (see 1:18). “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (6:29).

 

What Do You Think?

 

How can we adjust our prayer lives in order to demonstrate greater trust in God?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

In the way prayers are phrased

 

In the attitude in which prayers are offered

 

In response to the answers to other prayers

 

Other

 

A Boy Named Dennis

 

Dennis, a boy in my third-grade class, had cancer. This small child never complained and seemed to face each day with silent strength. It was the next year, during fourth grade, that his long struggle with cancer ended.

 

His funeral, held at the school where he had attended, was unforgettable. Space for parking extended onto the main highway out front. Teachers, administrators, and Dennis’s classmates formed a standing-room-only crowd of mourners, while seating was filled by family and members of their church.

 

The aged minister, whose demeanor always exuded a sense of comfort and fatherliness, delivered a poignant message as he reminisced about Dennis’s life and struggles, his fun times and his moments of misery. He described the eternal joys and blessings that surrounded this precious child. Hardly a face was dry as each person envisioned this little boy in his new home. There were tears of sadness for losing his presence among us, but grateful tears of joy for his release from pain into a perfect place.

 

There was something more to that occasion—the celebration in the praises and songs that poured from Dennis’s parents. They, of all people, knew what their child had suffered and the mercy that had released him. They realized that this was not the last chapter in their son’s life, for he was being called from the earth to life eternal. The resurrection that awaits Dennis when Jesus bids him to come forth from the grave will be ours as well. “Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:26).—C. M. W.

 

B. Commanding to Come Forth (vv. 43, 44)

 

43. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.

 

The prayer is over and all is ready. We can imagine the crowd is hushed with every eye glued on Jesus. It is not an overstatement to say that this is the most important moment of Jesus’ public ministry up to this point. His request to have the tomb opened is undoubtedly seen as the act of a lunatic by some in this crowd (compare John 10:20). Why is He doing this? Shouldn’t the dead be allowed to rest in peace? Why is He torturing the two sisters, beloved and upstanding members of their village? Something very good needs to happen or the ministry of Jesus will be ruined just as it is poised to enter its final phase.

 

Although the drama is high, Jesus’ act is simple. There are no incantations, no magic potions, no sacred smoke or fire. Jesus merely speaks with a loud voice, a voice of authority, and utters three words: Lazarus, come forth. Jesus is acting like God himself, the one who speaks creation and living things into existence in Genesis 1. There is no more powerful sign that Jesus has indeed been sent by God, for Jews believe that only God can give life to the dead (see John 5:21; Romans 4:17).

 

44. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.

 

The result of Jesus’ command surely leaves the crowd breathless and astounded. The man who was dead comes out of the tomb! Despite artists’ depictions, he is probably crawling not walking, because he is bound hand and foot with graveclothes. It is likely that he cannot see clearly, if at all, because his face is bound about with a napkin. The first order of business, therefore, is to remove these so that Lazarus can walk and see without restriction. We can imagine a short, stunned pause before Lazarus is quickly freed by the willing hands of his grateful friends and relatives.

 

If we read on in John, we find that many do indeed believe in Jesus because of this mighty miracle (John 11:45). The group that is present may form the core of the crowd that acclaims Jesus on Palm Sunday as the Son of David (see 12:9, 12, 13).

 

John also relays the incredible detail that the plot of the Jewish leaders to kill Jesus is expanded to include killing Lazarus also, because his presence causes many people to follow Jesus (12:10, 11). For some, the raising of Lazarus does not result in faith but only fear and evil intent. And so Jesus’ path to the cross becomes firmer still.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What are some ways you can be Jesus’ hands in helping release or rescue people from negative situations?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Physical bondage (chemical addictions, etc.)

 

Spiritual bondage (sin)

 

Emotional bondage (dysfunctional patterns of living, etc.)

 

Conclusion

 

A. The Hope of Resurrection

 

The raising to life of a man who had been dead four days was among the greatest of Jesus’ miracles. Jesus was working out God’s plan to bring faith to His followers, but this faith did not come without personal pain. For the raising of Lazarus to happen, he first had to die, resulting in grief to loved ones.

 

As marvelous as the raising of Lazarus was, we should remember that it was different from the resurrection of Jesus. On that day outside Bethany, Jesus broke the power of death over Lazarus temporarily since it’s fair to assume that he rose only to die again. Jesus’ own resurrection, however, broke the power of death permanently.

 

Traditions claim that Lazarus eventually became a bishop on Cyprus and that his remains are still in the Church of St. Lazarus in the city of Larnaca on that island. This is referred to as the “second tomb” of Lazarus, the final resting place for his body after his second death. Wherever his final resting place, the account of his raising in John 11 points to the hope of his permanent resurrection on the final day; it points to ours as well. Martha held on to this hope even after the untimely death of her brother (John 11:24); we must hold on to it when losing a loved one or facing death ourselves.

 

The key to having such faith is the resurrection of Jesus himself. His resurrection is “the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15:20). He was the first to be raised permanently. As such, Jesus opens the way to life eternal for all who believe in Him. He is the “resurrection, and the life,” and those who place their faith in Him, even though they die, will live again (John 11:25, 26).

 

Our lesson today is therefore not the final chapter in the story of Lazarus. He, like you and me, will be raised when the resurrection trumpet sounds (1 Thessalonians 4:16). In prefiguring the final resurrection, Lazarus played a key role on that dramatic day in Bethany centuries ago. On the final day, Lazarus, Mary, and Martha will be joined again to feast at the banquet table of the Lord. And we will be there too, if we maintain our faith in the Lord of the resurrection. This is our eternal hope.

 

B. Prayer

 

Father, we believe there will be a day when death will no longer hold people captive in their graves. May we be comforted throughout this life by the certainty of this hope. The miseries and pains of today will not last forever. The true forever is with You. We pray in the name of the Son, who has made all this possible. Amen.

 

C. Thought to Remember

 

Jesus conquered death.

 

 

 

 

Kid’s Corner

Consequences of Belief and Unbelief

John 11:38-44

Sunday, January 31, 2016

 

 

John 11:38-44

 

(John 11:38)  So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.

 

Jesus received a message that Lazarus was sick, but Jesus knew Lazarus had already died. Jesus could have healed Lazarus or raised him from the dead from a distance, but Jesus chose to do something better than heal Lazarus before he died. Jesus would glorify God before the mourners after all hope that Lazarus could come back to life had been crushed. When Jesus was “once more deeply moved,” Jesus simultaneously expressed His grief and anger at death, the last enemy to be defeated (see 1 Corinthians 15:26).

 

(John 11:39)  Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.”

 

Jesus loved Lazarus, and his sisters Mary and Martha, and Jesus knew that raising Lazarus from the dead would lead the Jewish leaders to want even more to kill Him and kill Lazarus too (John 12:9-10). To raise Lazarus from the dead, Jesus could have moved the stone with a word and made a big display, but Jesus commanded the mourners to move the stone as an act of faith on their part. As Martha said, after four days the body would have been in a state of decay, and those who moved the stone needed to trust that Jesus knew what He was doing.

 

(John 11:40)  Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

 

When people believe in Jesus Christ as Son of God, Lord, and Savior, they will see the glory of God all around them every day. Jesus planned to demonstrate the glory (power and truth) of God when He raised Lazarus from the dead, when He died on the cross for our sins, when He rose from the dead on the third day, and later when He ascended into heaven. As children of God, we see God’s glory in special ways and all around us.

 

(John 11:41)  So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.

 

As they rolled away the stone from the cave, a cave similar to Jesus’ burial place, those who moved the stone and those nearby could tell by the odor that Lazarus was truly dead. Neither Lazarus nor Jesus were simply resuscitated: they truly died physically. Jesus then demonstrated His power and the power of prayer. Jesus’ prayer was not like the prayers of the hypocrites who loved to be heard (Matthew 6:5). Jesus thanked the Father for having heard His prayers, even His silent prayers on the way to Lazarus’ tomb, even all of His prayers throughout His life on earth. Jesus and the Father together would bring Lazarus back to his family alive.

 

(John 11:42)  “I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.”

 

Jesus prayed aloud for Lazarus to rise and for the benefit of those who heard Him, as well as to thank God the Father for always hearing His prayers. The Bible tells us to always give thanks in our prayers — “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Jesus gave this last miraculous sign before His crucifixion and resurrection from the dead to lead more to believe in Him personally as the Person He said and showed He was and is. He showed that true believers can pray aloud for the benefit of others to show the power of the Father and the Son to answer prayers as long as they do not do so hypocritically.

 

(John 11:43)  When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.”

 

Jesus did not need to pray a long prayer. His prayer included an address to the Father who answers prayers, thanks to the Father, acknowledgment that the Father hears His prayers, and the reason He prayed aloud before the crowd. Our prayers can address God the Father, as in the Lord’s Prayer. Our prayers can give thanks to God, acknowledge that God hears our prayers, and the reason we are praying to God. Without hypocrisy, Jesus prayed for the focus to be on the Father and on the sign that the Father had sent Him. After Jesus prayed, He called in a loud voice for everyone to hear Him call, “Lazarus, come out!” Jesus did not need to shout for Lazarus to hear Him, but for the crowds to hear Him call to Lazarus so they could hear and see the sign that He is the Messiah.

 

(John 11:44)  The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

 

In obedience to Jesus’ command, Lazarus came out, still wrapped in his grave clothes. Lazarus had not been “existing” in a tomb four days waiting for someone to rescue him. Then, Jesus commanded the people to take the grave clothes off Lazarus, which enabled everyone to see that Lazarus was not a ghost but a real, live, flesh and blood person (whose body would die again someday, but who would never die himself: see John 11:26 — “whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”). The gospel of John keeps the focus on Jesus, but no doubt Lazarus could report what he had seen in heaven because he had believed in Jesus and had not died even though his body had died and was buried in a tomb. He could report having seen Abraham and others, even as the Lazarus in Jesus’ parable had seen Abraham and others (see Luke 16:24-25).

 

 

Consequences of Belief and Unbelief

John 11:38-44

Sunday, January 31, 2016

 

 “Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’” (John 11:40).

 

Before Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead, He reminded Martha of something He had taught her earlier: “If you believe, you will see the glory of God.” If she had not believed, Jesus would still have raised Lazarus from the dead; however, Martha would not have seen the glory,

truth, and power of God when Lazarus came forth alive. If someone does not believe, they will not see the glory of God. For example, most of the religious leaders did not believe in the God of their own Scriptures or the teachings of John the Baptist and Jesus. Therefore, when they heard reports that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead they responded according to their unbelief. They made plans to kill Jesus and “kill Lazarus as well, because on account of Lazarus many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him” (John 12:10-11). These leaders suppressed the truth and the meaning of Lazarus’ resurrection as a sign that Jesus was the Messiah sent by God. Their political plans and privileged ways would be upset if too many people began to believe in God and Jesus as revealed by their Scriptures. Later, the Apostle Paul described what can happen to people who refuse to believe in, glorify, or give thanks to God. Their thinking will become useless, their foolish hearts will become darkened, they will become fools (Romans 1:21-22). Such was the case of the religious leaders who refused to believe the evidence before them about God’s power in Jesus. Because of foolish, futile thinking and unbelief these leaders failed to see the glory of God.

 

 

 

Thinking Further

Consequences of Belief and Unbelief

John 11:38-44

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Name _____________________________

 

 

1. Commentators seem to agree that the Greek word for “deeply moved” or “greatly disturbed” includes the meaning that Jesus was angry at death. How might this teaching influence how you look at death?

 

 

2. Why do you think Jesus waited four days before seeing Mary and Martha?

 

 

3. What is one result of our believing in Jesus as our Lord and Savior according to this lesson? Can you think of other results?

 

 

4. What is one reason Jesus prayed aloud for everyone to hear Him pray?

 

 

5. Why did Jesus tell the mourners to remove Lazarus’ grave clothes rather than simply remove them miraculously himself when He could have easily done so?

 

 

 

 

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

Consequences of Belief and Unbelief

John 11:38-44

Sunday, January 31, 2016

 

1. Commentators seem to agree that the Greek word for “deeply moved” or “greatly disturbed” includes the meaning that Jesus was angry at death. How might this teaching influence how you look at death?

I, too, can be angry at death without being angry at God. I can know that Jesus knows how I feel. I can know that Jesus felt that way knowing He was going to bring Lazarus back to his family alive, even though Lazarus would die physically again someday. There are good reasons to be angry at death until Jesus returns and death as an enemy is finally defeated, as Paul wrote.

 

2. Why do you think Jesus waited four days before seeing Mary and Martha?

So everyone would know that Lazarus was really dead. So God could be glorified. So everyone could know that God the Father had sent Jesus. So everyone would know more about Jesus and His power. So He could show that He is the resurrection and the life in His very nature and character.

 

3. What is one result of our believing in Jesus as our Lord and Savior according to this lesson? Can you think of other results?

We will see the glory of God in many places and ways. We will have eternal life. We will have our sins forgiven. We will be cleansed from our sins. Our sins will not be remembered. We will be given the Holy Spirit to indwell us, guide us, and empower us.

 

4. What is one reason Jesus prayed aloud for everyone to hear Him pray?

So those listening might believe that God the Father had sent Him.

 

5. Why did Jesus tell the mourners to remove Lazarus’ grave clothes rather than simply remove them miraculously himself when He could have easily done so?

To free Lazarus from the bondage of his grave clothes, the last bondages of death. So the

mourners and family could see that Lazarus was a real raised person and not a ghost. So

they could feel his hands and face, just as the disciples could feel the hands of Jesus after

He rose from the dead.

 

 

 

 

Word Search

Consequences of Belief and Unbelief

John 11:38-44

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Name ____________________________

 

 

L U G F P S X Y F P F I F G E

S K N R U Z D K R Y R L M L O

T G H S A O S X Z A G A W I A

F V E E G V I F T P M L Y F J

C J T V F R E B A H A J O E U

S H X A G C O Z I O R C K R R

O K D C E A M D H B T N H U Y

W A E H I V F C O S H W M B I

E D J Y P A E K H I A C Z L D

N X N K T N Z I Y D L D J E Q

O K B H B M O T L O R F R N P

T W E A G I S R T E X M O O Z

S R X D O T J H J K B W F U L

Q W B K I K E K L X E N I Z R

Z E V M E S L A Z A R U S D V

Jesus

Lord

Father

Lazarus

Mary

Martha

Tomb

Cave

Stone

Four

Odor

Life

Believe

Glory

God

Prayer

Grave

Clothes

 

 

 

True and False Test

Consequences of Belief and Unbelief

John 11:38-44

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Name _________________________

 

Circle the true or false answers. Correct the false statements by restating them.

 

1. Jesus seemed basically calm and unconcerned about Lazarus’ death when He talked to Mary and Martha. True or False

 

2. When Jesus went to see Mary and Martha, He already knew what He was going to do. True or False

 

3. When Mary saw Jesus, she bluntly asked Him, “What took you so long?” True or False

 

4. At first, Martha objected when Jesus said, “Take away the stone,” and she told Jesus why she objected. True or False

 

5. Martha told Jesus that Lazarus had been in the tomb four days. True or False

 

6. Jesus told Martha, “If you believe, you will see the glory of God.” True or False

 

7. Jesus prayed aloud to the Father after they took the stone away from Lazarus’ tomb. True or False

 

8. Jesus wanted the people who heard Him pray to know that the Father had sent Him. True or False

 

9. Jesus sent Mary to the tomb to tell Lazarus that he could come out of the tomb. True or False

 

10. Lazarus came out of the tomb looking like an angel in a glowing white robe. True or False

 

 

 

Answers to the True and False Test

John 11:38-44

Sunday, January 31, 2016

 

 

1.   False

2.   True

3.   False

4.   True

5.   True

6.   True

7.   True

8.   True

9.   False

10. False

 

 

Closing Prayer

Father, we believe there will be a day when death will no longer hold people captive in their graves. May we be comforted throughout this life by the certainty of this hope. The miseries and pains of today will not last forever. The true forever is with You. We pray in the name of the Son, who has made all this possible. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday School Lesson

January 24

A Wedding in Cana

 

Devotional Reading: Matthew 5:12-16

 

Background Scripture:John 2:1-12

 

Focal Verses

John 2:1-12

 

1 And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:

 

2 And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.

 

3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.

 

4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.

 

5 His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.

 

6 And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.

 

7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.

 

8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.

 

9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,

 

10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.

 

11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

 

12 After this he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples: and they continued there not many days.

 

Key Verse

 

This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him. —John 2:11

 

Lesson Aims

 

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

 

1. Outline the salient features of Jesus’ first miracle.

 

2. Explain the purpose of Jesus’ miracles.

 

3. Explore ways to develop an apologetics ministry in his or her church to help strengthen believers’ faith.

 

 

Introduction

 

A. A Daughter Is Married

 

I have performed dozens of weddings in my ministerial career. These have ranged from very simple affairs (one time the bride wore her high school prom dress and the groom wore his work uniform) to elaborate extravaganzas (sit-down reception dinners for more than 200 guests at $80 each). Circumstances were reversed recently, as my oldest daughter married. My wife and I experienced many things as the parents of the bride: great expense, tenseness that everything be “just right,” and a strange mixture of sadness and joy as we saw our little girl all grown up and entering into her own family status. “All eyes were on the bride,” as they say, and ours certainly were.

 

Today’s lesson is dramatically situated in a wedding, but the focus of the story is not the bride or the groom. In fact, we don’t even know their names or anything about them. But that’s not important since the wedding serves only as a backdrop to Jesus’ first miracle.

 

B. Lesson Background

 

The Old Testament is loaded with wedding language. Some of it is literal (example: Genesis 29:22-28, lesson 5), and some is figurative (example: Psalm 19:5). Some is positive (example: Isaiah 62:5), and some is negative (example: Jeremiah 7:34). A wedding was always a big deal in the world of the Bible, and some of Jesus’ teachings drew on imagery from wedding celebrations (see Matthew 9:15; 22:2-14; 25:1-3; Luke 12:35, 36; 14:7-11). Jesus used such illustrations because marriage celebrations were a well-known and popular feature of village life, allowing a pause in the grind of a difficult existence that required long hours of work. Weddings were cherished occasions.

 

There were variations in the way village weddings were celebrated, but a regular feature was a large, festive meal, where the guests were treated to abundant food and drink. Dancing and singing of traditional songs were also staples. The cost of hosting such an event was high, and the bridegroom might hire a coordinator or steward to manage things.

 

Since customs of honor and status naturally led to comparisons with other wedding celebrations, no bridegroom would have wanted to be seen as miserly for scrimping on this very public event. Villages had long corporate memories! Instead, the tendency was to provide a wedding feast so lavish that the bridegroom would be thought of as a generous person who met his village’s expectations in abundant ways.

 

I. Village Wedding

 

                                                                (John 2:1, 2)

 

A. Mary the Helper (v. 1)

 

1. And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there.

 

The phrase the third day indicates the elapse of time from the previous incident, the calling of Philip and Nathanael (John 1:43-51). That took place near the Jordan River at a place called Bethabara, where John the Baptist was ministering (1:28-43).

 

Jesus’ mother, Mary, is present at this marriage in Cana of Galilee. Her trip from Nazareth, about nine miles due south of Cana, makes it probable that she has a family connection with someone in the wedding party. She may have come early to help out.

 

There is no mention of Mary’s husband, Joseph, making it likely that he has passed away. We thus see her as an independent woman who is not homebound by her widow’s status. With Jesus being about age 30 at this time (see Luke 3:23), Mary is in her mid- to late-40s.

 

B. Jesus the Guest (v. 2)

 

2. And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.

 

How to Say It

 

Bethabara Beth-ab-uh-ruh.

 

Cana Kay-nuh.

 

Capernaum Kuh-per-nay-um.

 

Galilee Gal-uh-lee.

 

Nathanael Nuh-than-yull (th as in thin).

 

 

 

If Mary is related to the bride or the groom, then so too is Jesus. So there may be a family expectation involved in His presence, and He is accompanied by a group of disciples. This is presented like a teacher with his chosen students, as a rabbi with his followers (John 1:35-39). At this early point, this group includes Andrew (1:40), Peter (1:42), Philip (1:43), Nathanael (1:49; known as Bartholomew in the other Gospels), and the unnamed disciple of John the Baptist (1:35-40). The latter has been proposed to be John the Evangelist, author of the fourth Gospel. If he is present, then it is likely that his brother, James, is already part of Jesus’ entourage (compare Matthew 4:21, 22). So possibly half of the eventual 12 accompany Jesus to Cana.

 

The term called has the sense of being invited. Jesus and His band of disciples are collectively invited to participate in this joyous celebration, and they accept. Nathanael is from Cana (John 21:2), so it is likely he is acquainted with the family hosting the wedding.

 

II. Social Crisis

 

                                                                (John 2:3-10)

 

A. Running out of Wine (vv. 3-5)

 

3. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.

 

Mary has her finger on the pulse of the event, and she is quickly aware when there is a problem with the wine supply. We see the importance of this fact to her when she turns to her extraordinary son Jesus for help.

 

We should read the first part of this verse carefully. To “want” wine does not mean the guests are demanding their beverages. It means the wine supply has been exhausted, as in “found wanting.”

 

The likely reason for having run out is that there are more guests than expected. The half dozen or so disciples of Jesus may account for part of this. Perhaps unanticipated guests, even freeloaders, have come and are not turned away. This can indicate that the celebration has been budgeted too tightly, and there is no extra “just in case” wine.

 

I have been at banquets where the caterers cut things too close and there was not enough food. It is embarrassing. There is not much that can be done except admit the shortfall and hope the guests are forgiving. But in Jesus’ day, to run short is a grave social error. The bridegroom and his family have doubtlessly attended other village weddings where there was abundant food and drink. They now fail to reciprocate, and the guests will end up feeling cheated. This lack of hospitality will not be forgotten!

 

There probably are no ready supplies of wine that can be purchased quickly in a small village like Cana. Even if more wine is available from a larger town a few miles away, by the time it arrives (several hours), the banquet will have fizzled—the guests muttering and going home. This is a crucial moment, and the mother of Jesus understands what is at stake. So she presents the problem to her son, believing Him to be capable of providing a solution. There is much unsaid here, but Mary understands that Jesus is able to provide the fix.

 

A Messed-Up Banquet

 

I worked in one of my university’s educational offices during my time in graduate school. One of my responsibilities was to coordinate a two-week summer academic institute that concluded with a banquet. The academic program flowed without a hitch. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the banquet. At the last minute, when it was absolutely impossible to make any additions or adjustments, my supervisor and I discovered that I had neglected to order the selection of beverages commonly provided at these functions.

 

Describing my embarrassment is just as impossible now as it was then. Any positive feelings I had for the success of the academic program flew out the window as I realized the dissatisfaction I had caused not only to my supervisor but also to the student guests. My supervisor knew it was unintentional on my part, and he never held it against me. Nonetheless, it is a humiliation difficult to forget.

 

We like to be prepared. We like to know we have done a good job. It is unsettling to feel that we have failed. But perhaps some of those failures and shortcomings can also be ways to remind ourselves of human fallibility. The more such reminders we have, the more we become aware of our need for the infallible Jesus.—C. M. W.

 

4. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.

 

Jesus’ response is difficult to translate in a way that conveys the courteous rebuke that He intends—something like, “Why does this matter to us?” His response to His mother may seem very abrupt to modern sensibilities, almost rude, but there is no disrespect meant. His justification for His tough question to His mother is that His hour is not yet come (compare John 7:6-8, 30; 8:20). This means that to intervene miraculously will push up the timetable for Jesus’ revealing himself publicly as more than a mere man. Indeed, the eventual result of the forthcoming water-to-wine miracle is a revealing of His glory (see John 2:11, below).

 

What Do You Think?

 

What are ways to respond when put on the spot to do something when the timing seems wrong?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Considering the need that exists

 

Considering the motives of the one asking

 

Considering the options available

 

Considering the consequences of declining

 

Other

 

5. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.

 

Rather than respond to Jesus, Mary simply tells the servants to follow His instructions. She seems to be sure that He will act and help resolve this embarrassing situation, although she likely does not know how.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What was a situation where you served as a go between?

 

How did things turn out?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Situation of equipping

 

Situation of rebuke

 

Situation of comfort

 

Other

 

B. Filling up Containers (vv. 6-8)

 

6. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.

 

The household has available six waterpots of stone. This description indicates that these have been hewn from limestone, making them more expensive than cheaper pottery vessels. Stone jars hold water for ritual cleansings in the home. Such containers are used in the belief that they help eliminate uncleanness associated with Gentiles or other unclean things (compare Mark 7:3, 4; John 3:25). The presence of such vessels indicates that this is a house with some wealth, and that it is an observant household when it comes to religious matters.

 

A firkin is an older English liquid-measure equal to 9 or 10 gallons. The variation two or three firkins is due to the fact that the jars are of different sizes, as would be expected from such handcrafted items. The total volume potential of these six vessels therefore is in the neighborhood of 150 gallons, give or take 20 gallons.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What do you need to make available for the Lord’s use? How will you do so?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Material resources

 

Spiritual gifts

 

Personal abilities

 

Other

 

7. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.

 

To fill the waterpots with water may take 30 minutes or so, depending on the number of servants available and the distance to the village well. Filling the vessels up to the brim means that there is no way to add wine later; this will prevent attempts to explain away the miracle that is about to happen as being any kind of sleight of hand.

 

8. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.

 

There is no magic here. No mystical words are spoken. Not even a prayer is recorded as being offered. As soon as the containers are filled, their contents are suitable for testing, for the water has changed into fine wine that will meet anyone’s quality standards (see v. 10, below). Before it is offered it to the guests, however, Jesus wants the governor of the feast to taste the newly created wine. This person is the one who has been hired to coordinate the event.

 

If we pause for a minute here, we can appreciate how lavish and expensive this wedding feast really is. It requires a group of hired servers and the services of an event coordinator. Since the extra wine that Jesus provides totals at least 130 gallons, we can imagine that at least that much has already been consumed. If we assume as much as a half-gallon per guest before Jesus intervenes, this implies approximately 260 adult attendees at a minimum, with at least twice that many being more likely. This helps us understand how damaging to the reputation of the bridegroom and his family a lack of wine would be—and why Mary is so concerned about it.

 

C. Wondering at Quality (vv. 9, 10)

 

9. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom.

 

A little plot twist is noted to establish the miracle further. The obedient servants do indeed take a sample of this new wine to the governor of the feast as directed by Jesus, but they do not tell him its source. As soon as he tastes this new supply, he suspects something is amiss, so he speaks to the bridegroom personally. This action in and of itself is highly unusual, for the bridegroom is deeply involved in the festivities, enjoying the greatest day of his life. He is paying the event coordinator to see to the details so that he (the bridegroom) is not bothered.

 

10. And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.

 

The coordinator speaks with the experience of one who has overseen many weddings. He gently chides the bridegroom for an apparent mix-up of the wine supplies that the bridegroom has made available to him. Normally, the coordinator points out, better wine is served at the outset of the banquet. Such wine is good in that it is not vinegary. It is costly, and the guests will be pleased with it. Later, when men have well drunk, a thrifty host serves cheaper wine. It does not taste as good, but the guests who by then are slightly “buzzed” will not notice the difference. This is not only a clever way to stretch the banquet budget, it is also socially acceptable and considered normal.

 

We should note that the phrase have well drunk does not imply that first-century Jewish weddings are drunken galas. Conscientious Jews know the Scripture’s warning against drunkenness (Proverbs 23:19-21; etc.), and wine of this era and economic context has an alcohol content of only 2 or 3 percent. By contrast, modern table wine runs 8 to 14 percent alcohol by volume.

 

In the case at hand, the wine miraculously created by Jesus is considered by the wedding coordinator to be excellent. It is better even than the wine the bridegroom had made available or approved for the initial stages of the banquet.

 

What Do You Think?

 

When was a time you were surprised as God did something astonishing by means of something quite ordinary? What did this teach you?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Ordinary situation

 

Ordinary things

 

Other

 

III. First Sign

 

                                                                (John 2:11, 12)

 

A. Revealing Divine Glory (v. 11)

 

11. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

 

The word translated miracles here is more literally translated “signs,” as the King James Version does in John 2:18; 4:48; 6:30; and 20:30. A sign is more than a bare display of supernatural power; it is a miracle with significance, a miracle that points to or signifies something.

 

Miraculous signs have two closely related purposes. First, they serve as a method for Jesus to reveal his glory, meaning to demonstrate His divine nature as the Son of God. When supernatural claims are backed up with supernatural evidence, the second purpose can be achieved: belief. That’s the effect we see on the part of Jesus’ disciples.

 

Sadly, Jesus’ miraculous signs do not have this effect on everyone (John 12:37). Even so, John’s recounting of Jesus’ miraculous signs is the central purpose of the book, for he hopes this will bring the reader to faith (see John 20:30, 31).

 

What Do You Think?

 

In what ways has Christ’s work in your life increased your faith in Him?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding a change in life direction

 

Regarding provision in a time of need

 

Regarding a healing, physical or spiritual

 

Other

 

Whose Glory?

 

Brides and their weddings serve as ingredients for so-called reality TV shows. Consider those that match brides to wedding dresses. In most instances, brides, family members, and friends have a price range in mind when they arrive at the dress store to shop. Most of the time, however, budgetary constraints are tossed aside as the bride falls in love with a more expensive fashion.

 

Creators of TV shows know that conflict is the key to attracting a large base of viewers. Therefore, TV shows sensationalize the drama that plays out among brides, family members, and friends as everyone tries to have a say in the selection of the bride’s dress. Sometimes things get just plain ugly as clear-headed thinking takes a backseat to emotions. Dreams for a fabulous wedding day turn into nightmares.

 

Perhaps a way to keep all the drama from happening in the first place is to ask this question up front: Who is the main one to be glorified at this wedding, the bride or Jesus? When this question is asked and properly answered, the selection of the bride’s attire might be made easier! Jesus is to be the real glory in every aspect of our lives.—C. M. W.

 

B. Departing for Capernaum (v. 12)

 

12. After this he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples: and they continued there not many days.

 

Jesus will return to Cana to perform another miraculous sign (John 4:46-54), but for now He and His entourage head about 17 miles east-northeast to Capernaum, a fishing village on the Sea of Galilee. The mention of his brethren indicates that Jesus’ relatives have been in Cana for the wedding.

 

The reason everyone heads not to Nazareth but to Capernaum for a short stay there of not many days is probably because the time for the annual Passover celebration in Jerusalem is at hand (John 2:13; compare 4:45). Capernaum is a convenient point of departure for Galilean travelers who take the traditional route along the Jordan River valley to Jerusalem. Capernaum is also the base for the fishing business of James, John, Simon Peter, and Andrew, who are among the disciples of the traveling band (compare Matthew 4:13, 18-22; Mark 1:16-21; Luke 4:31, 38; 5:1-10). That fact may indicate that Jesus will have a place to stay as these men extend the hospitality of their homes to Him.

 

Jesus will end up using this lakeside village as a type of headquarters for His Galilean ministry. The importance of Capernaum in that regard is seen in its being mentioned 16 times in the Gospels.

 

Conclusion

 

A. Miracles and Me

 

Have you noticed how churches treat claims of miracles differently? Churches that can’t seem to say enough about miracles have mottoes like, “Expect a miracle,” or “This is a place of miracles.” These can be exciting places, where the Spirit of God is said to be moving dynamically and frequently. However, some of the members of these churches may feel left out because they are suffering and no miracles come into their lives.

 

Other churches feel like places where miracles would be unwelcome and embarrassing. Faith is a rational matter in these churches, and the Christian life is based on obedience, not signs and wonders. Don’t expect a miracle, because “God helps those who help themselves” (a saying mistakenly attributed to the Bible).

 

We gain clarity when we understand the purpose of miracles from the Bible’s perspective. Miracles were not just Jesus’ way of helping the helpless. They were a way for Him to show His divine glory and bring unbelievers to faith as a result. Sadly, that did not always happen. Even resurrections did not compel everyone to believe (Luke 16:31; John 11:43-54). Doubtless there were scoffers at the wedding in Cana when the story got out about the water turned to wine. But hearts that acknowledge miracles are “of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:39).

 

B. Prayer

 

Lord God, may our lives reveal the glory of Jesus! May we ever invite Him in, as He was invited to that wedding so long ago. It is in His abiding name we pray. Amen.

 

C. Thought to Remember

 

Believe the signs about Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

Kid’s Corner

Jesus Christ Gives Signs Today

John 2:1-12

Sunday, January 24, 2016

 

John 2:1-12

 

(John 2:1)  On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there;

 

On the first day, Jesus called Andrew, Simon Peter, and most probably John (the writer of the Gospel of John) to be His disciples. On the second day, Jesus called Philip and Nathanael to be His disciples. John the Baptist introduced Jesus as “the Lamb of God.” The five disciples called Jesus, “Rabbi” (or Teacher), “Messiah” (or Christ), “Son of God,” and “King of Israel” (John 1:35-52). On the third day, Jesus went to a wedding with His new disciples. Mary, His mother, was there.

 

(John 2:2)  and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.

 

In the Bible, the relationship between Jesus and the Church is sometimes described as or compared to a marriage relationship. John the Apostle described his vision in heaven: “Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’ (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.) Then the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ And he added, ‘These are the true words of God’” (Revelation 19:6-9). (See also: John 3:29, Revelation 18:23; 21:2; 21:9; 22:17). By attending this wedding, Jesus showed His disciples how important marriage and the family is, even though Jesus never married. Jesus wants His followers to participate in activities pleasing to God, including marriage if that is God’s will for them personally. Marriage is a God-ordained and good institution that Jesus upheld so some later would not despise marriage or think or teach that it is improper for followers of Jesus to marry.

 

(John 2:3)  When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”

 

By His presence at the wedding, just as His important ministry and the calling of His disciples had begun, Jesus affirmed the importance and value of marriage. Jesus’ mother came to Jesus and stated a fact that revealed a need. She knew that He was concerned for the needs of others, even as she was. The availability of wine at a wedding feast was considered a social necessity, and to run out of wine would have been a huge social embarrassment, if not worse. Just as wine at this wedding was a necessity, so Jesus’ teaching is a spiritual necessity for everyone.

 

(John 2:4)  And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.”

 

Calling His mother “Woman” was not unkind or unloving no matter how it might sound to our sensitive ears. Written words do not always convey the love or the tone of the person speaking. By addressing His mother as “Woman,” Jesus showed that He was not going to meet the need at the wedding party simply because His “mother” asked Him to do so. Later, some would teach the false doctrine that Mary is “the Queen of Heaven,” and teach their followers to pray to her to intercede with Jesus for them, convincing them that Jesus would never refuse His mother’s request. Perhaps to show that this future false teaching is untrue, Jesus called His mother “Woman.” Jesus’ use of “Woman” when addressing His mother should have prevented the worship of Mary in later centuries. Furthermore, Jesus said His true mother and brothers (the true members of God’s family) were those who did the will of God: “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:50). His mother, Mary, would demonstrate her true faith in Jesus at this wedding feast. Though Jesus’ hour had not yet come to manifest or reveal himself to the world, Jesus would do His first sign quietly and unnoticed except by a few which would keep the attention where it belonged at that time — on the bridegroom and the bride at their wedding.

 

(John 2:5)  His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”

 

Jesus’ mother totally trusted in her Son. He had never failed to honor His father and His mother on earth. All of His life, she had found Him dependable and concerned about others, seeking to serve them and meet their real needs. She knew He would do the right thing, and she trusted in His wisdom whatever the situation, because she knew Him. Therefore, she told the servers at the wedding feast: “Do whatever He tells you.” At that moment, they did not know that in obeying Jesus they would be doing the will of God.

 

(John 2:6)  Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each.

 

The six stone water jars were for ritual washings. Though they might externally clean a person’s hands before eating, the focus of attention was on a ceremonial law to be kept and not on personal hygiene. During His ministry, some criticized Jesus for His teachings on the traditions of the Jews: “The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders.  When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles. So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, ‘Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?’” (Mark 7:3-5). Jesus came teaching; and just as new wine will burst old wineskins, Jesus’ teaching, sacrificial death, and sending of the Holy Spirit to fill believers will cleanse morally and spiritually on the inside those who believe in and follow Him. Therefore, Jesus made ceremonial washing obsolete, but not washing for physical cleanliness and good health.

 

(John 2:7)  Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim.

 

The servants went to Jesus immediately at the instruction of Mary. Jesus simply said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” As far as we know, the servants did not ask, “Why?”. As far as we know, He did not give them an explanation for what He was going to do through them. These servants simply obeyed Jesus completely and waited for further instructions. When Jesus said, “Fill,” they obeyed completely by filling these jars “to the brim.”

 

(John 2:8)  And He said to them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it to him.

 

The servants obeyed Jesus explicitly. We do not know the exact time the water changed to wine. If it did not change until the moment it touched the lips of the master of the banquet, then no telling what the servants might have been thinking as they took water (soon to become wine) to the master. If the water turned into wine the moment they drew some out, they could give it to the master with true joy in their hearts and on their faces. They certainly found true joy after they obeyed Jesus and saw the results.

 

(John 2:9)  When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom,

 

No doubt God and Jesus perform countless miracles. Our moment-by-moment existence and the life of each person in the world are divine miracles-after-miracles. The master of the banquet did not know that a miracle had changed the water into wine. Most of the miracles God and Jesus do are never seen or recognized by us and others. The servants who obeyed and trusted in Jesus when they did what Jesus told them knew that a miracle had been performed by Jesus through them. The obedient servants of Jesus Christ give thanks and see far more miracles than unbelievers. Jesus honored the bridegroom (just as Jesus will be honored at the marriage supper of the Lamb), rather than draw attention to himself as the One who served the bridegroom and bride at this wedding.

 

(John 2:10)  and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.”

 

Spiritually, the “choice wine” was the calling of Abraham and the giving of the Law of God to Moses so the Israelites could be a kingdom of priests for God to all the nations. When Jesus came as the promised Messiah, the Person that the Law of God and the prophets pointed to, God had saved the best for that time and all subsequent human history. Filled with the Holy Spirit, the followers of Jesus are filled with “the best” that gives them true and lasting joy, peace, guidance and power for service. When believers see Jesus face-to-face at the marriage supper of the Lamb, they will enjoy the best of God and all things for eternity.

 

(John 2:11)  This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.

 

In Jesus’ first sign, Jesus revealed His glory to His mother, who trusted in Him when she brought a real need to Jesus. In Jesus’ first sign, Jesus revealed His glory to the servants who obeyed Him completely and trusted He knew what He was doing when they obeyed Him. In Jesus’ first sign, He revealed His glory to His disciples as they observed the entire event and they believed in Him. Jesus confirmed in His first sign what they had said about Him after they first met Him. And they would see many more signs; because Jesus said to these disciples: “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man’” (John 1:51).

 

(John 2:12)  After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days.

 

Perhaps to give His family and disciples time to rest after the wedding or to explain more about the meaning of His first sign to them, as well as give himself more time to spend in prayer to His Heavenly Father as was His custom, they all went to Capernaum. Then, Jesus went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, where He cleansed the temple and began to manifest His glory by working many signs publicly. John reported: “Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person” (John 2:23-25).

 

 

 

Jesus Christ Gives Signs Today

John 2:1-12

Sunday, January 24, 2016

 

 “Jesus’ mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you’” (John 2:5).

 

Though the problem might not seem serious to us, and from our point of view seem less serious to God, the Bible reported a serious event at a wedding feast – the celebrants ran out of wine. The bridegroom faced serious consequences if he failed to provide what was expected and needed at his wedding banquet. When the wine failed, Mary went immediately to Jesus. She so trusted in His willingness to help others in need that she told the servers at the banquet, “Do whatever he tells you.” Jesus told the servants to fill six ceremonial water jars with water and take some to the headwaiter. After the headwaiter tasted the water which had now turned into wine, he praised the bridegroom for serving the best wine last. To honor the bridegroom, bride, their families and wedding guests, Jesus did not turn the attention away from the bridegroom and the bride to himself as a miracle worker. Only the servants, Jesus’ disciples, along with His mother and brothers, saw this miracle, which Jesus performed as the first sign that He was the

Messiah. Faith in Jesus is never misplaced. No real need of anyone is insignificant to Jesus. No matter how small or insignificant a real need may seem to us, we can take it to Jesus. He will meet all of our real needs. As faithful servants, whenever we do whatever Jesus tells us, we can depend upon it: we will also be helping others. Even though no one except Jesus and us know that God has worked a miracle, we may see miracles of Jesus today, signs that Jesus Christ is everything the Bible teaches about Him.

 

 

 

Thinking Further

Jesus Christ Gives Signs Today

John 2:1-12

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Name ____________________________

 

 

1. From John 1:35-52, what are some of the names or titles that John the Baptist and Jesus’ first disciples called Jesus?

 

 

2. From these names, which ones mean the most to you personally? Give a reason for your answer.

 

 

3. What might be the significance of Jesus accepting the invitation and taking His disciples to a wedding soon after He called them?

 

 

4. Do you think Jesus did what His mother wanted because she was His mother and His mother asked Him? Who did Jesus say were His mother and brothers?

 

 

5. What are some of the results when people obey Jesus immediately and completely?

 

 

 

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

Jesus Christ Gives Signs Today

John 2:1-12

Sunday, January 24, 2016

 

1. From John 1:35-52, what are some of the names or titles that John the Baptist and Jesus’ first disciples called Jesus?

The Lamb of God, Rabbi (Teacher), Messiah (Christ), The Son of God, King of Israel

 

2. From these names, which ones mean the most to you personally? Give a reason for your answer.

The Lamb of God — Jesus gave His life as a sacrifice for my sins. He loves me. The Son of God — Jesus is God (Mighty God), the only begotten Son of God, the Word of God, perfect in every way with divine power to do whatever He chooses. He is fully God and fully human. He understands me and my situations, and He has the wisdom and power to help me and supply my real needs. Messiah — Jesus Christ fulfilled the Bible’s prophecies about His first coming, and He will fulfill the Bible’s prophecies about His second coming. The Bible can be trusted as

the true Word of God written.

 

3. What might be the significance of Jesus accepting the invitation and taking His disciples to a wedding soon after He called them?

The Bible describes the Church as the Bride of Christ, and as members of the Church, His first disciples needed to understand the meaning of Christ as the Bridegroom and the Church as the Bride. He could have explained some of this after the wedding in Capernaum. Jesus showed them how much God and He valued marriage and the family. He showed them a purpose of His miracles: they were signs, but not everyone would see or understand His miracles and signs. He would do some miracles quietly and unseen. He did His miracles to help others, and not just to draw attention to himself.

 

4. Do you think Jesus did what His mother wanted because she was His mother and His mother asked Him? Who did Jesus say were His mother and brothers?

No. Those who do the will of His Father in Heaven.

 

5. What are some of the results when people obey Jesus immediately and completely?

They often experience the joy that comes from serving Jesus and they sometimes see the results of their immediate and complete obedience. They bless others quickly in the way Jesus wanted. The sometimes see miracles worked by Jesus through them .

 

 

 

Word Search

Jesus Christ Gives Signs Today

John 2:1-12

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Name _______________________________

 

I B C W R H X Y G H C D Z D F

Z D P E A E L F J R F O W I A

P R X N R D T M K H J I A Z B

M L A U H E I A R M N U P E K

G C T Z O E M S W E B L Q O T

B A R V U N A O T A H M V X U

R D L T R O H M N N E T D F S

I I Q I H T B Q A I A S O I N

D S W Y L S U M G S A V X M T

E C E Z B E O H S I T L R A W

G I D A T W E C F U A E S E O

R P D Y I Q G O G K S H R N S

O L I A S R A J F O M E O Y H

O E N O N W P N C I T A J M A

M S G Y J V T Z X H Z W G Q C

Wedding

Cana

Galilee

Jesus

Mother

Disciples

Water

Wine

Woman

Hour

Servants

Six

Stone

Jars

Ceremonial

Master

Banquet

Bridegroom

 

 

 

 

True and False Test

Jesus Christ Gives Signs Today

John 2:1-12

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Name __________________________________

 

 

Circle the true or false answers. Correct the false statements by restating them.

 

1. Jesus took all twelve of His disciples to the wedding feast in Cana. True or False

 

2. At most weddings, the choice wine was served first and the cheaper wine was served later. True or False

 

3. At the wedding ceremony, Jesus’ disciples caused a huge problem for the bridegroom because they drank too much wine. True or False

 

4. Jesus’ mother ran to Him in a panic because they ran out of wine. True or False

 

5. Jesus loved His mother, but for good reasons He called her “Woman” after she spoke to Him about the wine. True or False

 

6. Even when it was wrong, Jesus always did His mother’s will. True or False

 

7. Mary trusted Jesus to help at the wedding. True or False

 

8. The servants immediately and completely obeyed Jesus’ commands. True or False

 

9. The servants and Jesus’ disciples knew who provided the best wine. True or False

 

10. The master at the banquet praised the bridegroom for inviting Jesus to the wedding feast. True or False

 

 

 

Answers to the True and False Test

John 2:1-12

Sunday, January 24, 2016

 

 

1.   False

2.   True

3.   False

4.   False

5.  True

6.   False

7.   True

8.   True

9.   True

10. False

 

 

Closing Prayer

 

 

Lord God, may our lives reveal the glory of Jesus! May we ever invite Him in, as He was invited to that wedding so long ago. It is in His abiding name we pray. Amen.

 

 

 

 

Sunday School Lesson

January 17

An Unfaithful Bride

 

Devotional Reading:Psalm 89:24-29

 

Background Scripture:Hosea 1-3

 

 

Focal Verses

Hosea 1:1-11

 

1 The word of the Lord that came unto Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel.

 

2 The beginning of the word of the Lord by Hosea. And the Lord said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord.

 

3 So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim; which conceived, and bare him a son.

 

4 And the Lord said unto him, Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel.

 

5 And it shall come to pass at that day, that I will break the bow of Israel, in the valley of Jezreel.

 

6 And she conceived again, and bare a daughter. And God said unto him, Call her name Loruhamah: for I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away.

 

7 But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the Lord their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.

 

8 Now when she had weaned Loruhamah, she conceived, and bare a son.

 

9 Then said God, Call his name Loammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God.

 

10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.

 

11 Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel.

 

Key Verse

 

The beginning of the word of the Lord by Hosea. And the Lord said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord. —Hosea 1:2

 

Lesson Aims

 

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

 

1. Tell the story of Hosea’s unusual family.

 

2. Explain how the marriage of Hosea and Gomer represented the relationship between the Lord and Israel.

 

3. Identify one way to improve his or her spiritual fidelity and make a plan to do so.

 

 

Introduction

 

A. Well Begun?

 

Some reports claim that the divorce rate among evangelical Christians is the same as the rest of the population (or perhaps even higher). Other analysis claims, however, that the divorce rate for active, churchgoing Christians is significantly lower than that of the general population. Either way, we should agree that the divorce statistics are too high, for Christians or anyone else.

 

The reasons cited for divorce are familiar: money problems, infidelity, meddling in-laws, personal tragedies, constant fighting—the list goes on and on. Operating under the maxim “Well begun is half done,” the best way to minimize these potential obstacles is in-depth premarital counseling. Today’s lesson begins with a startling account of premarital counseling by the ultimate counselor: God. His directive counsel to Hosea was for that prophet to take a wife from among the local prostitutes! Could such a marriage possibly succeed?

 

B. Lesson Background

 

The opening verse of the book of Hosea dates that prophet’s ministry as beginning during the reign of King Uzziah and ending during the reign of King Hezekiah, both of Judah. The date range is thus about 767-687 BC. Hosea is also mentioned in conjunction with King Jeroboam of Israel. He is the second king of that name in the Bible; he is “the son of Joash” (2 Kings 14:23-29; Hosea 1:1), not Jeroboam “the son of Nebat,” an earlier king (compare 1 Kings 11:26-14:20).

 

Jeroboam II reigned 793-753 BC, a particularly prosperous time in the northern kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 14:25-27). Hosea does not mention other kings of Israel who followed him, although Hosea surely ministered during their reigns since Hezekiah of Judah did not begin to rule until at least 24 years after the death of Jeroboam II.

 

Hosea also does not mention the invasion of the northern kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians in 722 BC. That catastrophic event ended Israel’s existence as a nation, so Hosea’s ministry to that kingdom ended before then. A general time line for Hosea’s ministry therefore is 755-725 BC, with its primary focus being the northern kingdom of Israel and its capital city of Samaria. This made Hosea a contemporary with Isaiah, Micah, and Amos. Hosea’s name means “salvation” or “he will save.”

 

I. Marriage That Illustrates

 

                                                                (Hosea 1:1-3a)

 

A. God Commands (vv. 1, 2)

 

1. The word of the Lord that came unto Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel.

 

These references set the context for the book. Hosea is the son of Beeri, the father otherwise unidentified. Hosea is contemporary with four kings of Judah: Uzziah (also called Azariah, see 2 Kings 14:21; 15:1-7; 2 Chronicles 26:1), Jotham (2 Kings 15:32-38; 2 Chronicles 27), Ahaz (2 Kings 16; 2 Chronicles 28), and Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:1-20:21; 2 Chronicles 29:1-32:33). These are all descendants of David, rightful heirs of his royal line. (For the chronology, see the Lesson Background.) This introduction serves to tell the reader that what follows may be a collection of Hosea’s prophecies over a period of many years.

 

How to Say It

 

Beeri Be-ee-rye.

 

Canaanites Kay-nun-ites.

 

Diblaim Dib-lay-im.

 

Hezekiah Hez-ih-kye-uh.

 

Hosea Ho-zay-uh.

 

Issachar Izz-uh-kar.

 

Jehu Jay-hew.

 

Jeroboam Jair-uh-boe-um.

 

Joash Jo-ash.

 

Loammi (Hebrew) Lo-am-my.

 

Loruhamah (Hebrew) Lo-roo-hah-muh.

 

Nebat Nee-bat.

 

Uzziah Uh-zye-uh.

 

 

 

It is interesting to note that there is no mention here of kings of northern Israel following Jeroboam the son of Joash, although the names of six kings could be included per 2 Kings 15:8-31; 17:1-6. The silence regarding these six may indicate disapproval, for they were a series of usurpers—men who gained the throne by assassination and intrigue.

 

2a. The beginning of the word of the Lord by Hosea.

 

Hosea is one of the first prophets whose oracles are preserved in a book. As such, he sets a pattern for those who follow. While there is a mix of material, the book is primarily the word of the Lord, messages of God for which the prophet is the voice, not the origin. Those who hear these words are doing more than listening to a human, and those who read the book now are doing more than reading the words of a human. This is the solemn Word of God.

 

2b. And the Lord said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms:

 

The initial word of the Lord is personal, a command to the prophet himself. Hosea’s prophetic career begins not with preaching and prophesying but with a symbolic action. He is told to find a wife (contrast Jeremiah 16:2), so we know he is of marriageable age and likely has not been married previously. What is unusual is the segment of the female population from which he is to take a wife: she is to be of whoredoms, meaning an immoral woman who is probably a prostitute! Such marriages are forbidden for priests (Leviticus 21:7), but we don’t know if Hosea is one of those. God can make exceptions to His laws in any case.

 

The action the prophet is directed to take is certainly not an impersonal thing, like hiding an article of clothing (Jeremiah 13:1-11). Rather, it is a life-changing action, something that must give Hosea pause before he obeys. This contrasts with the situation of Jacob, who was sent on a journey so that he might not select a wife from those considered unacceptable by his family (Genesis 27:46; 28:6).

 

The offspring resulting from Hosea’s marriage will be considered children of whoredoms. This can have serious implications from a family relationship standpoint (compare Judges 11:1, 2).

 

2c. For the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord.

 

Hosea is not on a mission of mercy to redeem a wayward woman. Rather, this is to be an object lesson for the nation, for the people of Israel have been unfaithful to their covenant with the Lord (see Hosea 4:10-13). It is not mere coincidence that the religion of the Canaanites includes temple prostitution, in which paying for the services of a cultic priestess is considered an act of worship. The charge in the verse before us has both symbolic and literal aspects (compare Isaiah 1:21; 57:3; Jeremiah 2:20; 5:7; Ezekiel 16).

 

What Do You Think?

 

What are some positive ways for our lives to illustrate biblical principles?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

In family life

 

In church life

 

In vocation

 

Other

 

The Clarity of 20/20 Hindsight

 

The Bible is filled with commands and instructions that seem to make sense only in 20/20 hindsight. God told Abram to leave his homeland for a place God would show him. Later, God told him to sacrifice Isaac, the son of promise. God told Jeremiah to buy a field at the very time the Babylonians were laying siege to Jerusalem, a seemingly poor real-estate investment! In the New Testament, Jesus called fishermen to leave their livelihood and follow Him.

 

And then there is this very strange command to Hosea: “Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms.” God’s reason for telling Hosea to do so may be equally puzzling: “For the land hath committed great whoredom.” Wouldn’t we be tempted to respond, “Why should I suffer because of what the wider culture is doing?”

 

Let’s shift the question to this: Have you ever experienced a compulsion that seemed as if it could be coming only from God? Perhaps it was to speak to a certain stranger about Christ or to make an unusually generous gift or to sign up for a mission trip. If you did experience such a prompting, what was the end result? The clarity of 20/20 hindsight encourages us to look at the result, but results are only available later, by definition. Until that “later” is available, we walk by faith.—C. R. B.

 

B. Hosea Obeys (v. 3a)

 

3a. So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim.

 

Hosea’s choice of a wife is a certain Gomer, whose name means “completion.” It appears elsewhere in the Bible as a man’s name (Genesis 10:2) and that of a people (Ezekiel 38:6). It may be her prostitute nickname, with “completion” taken as something like “ultimate one.” Perhaps Hosea decides to marry not just any prostitute but the most infamous and disreputable one in town. She is the complete prostitute, and no one sees her as anything else.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What are some ways you have been challenged to obey God when doing so was not easy?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding cultural expectations

 

Regarding workplace expectations

 

Regarding expectations of family members

 

Other

 

II. Names That Symbolize

 

                                                               (Hosea 1:3b-9)

 

A. First Child (vv. 3b-5)

 

3b. Which conceived, and bare him a son.

 

Whatever the prophet’s misgivings, Hosea’s obedience results in a son for him. This is surely a happy time for the new parents despite the scandalous nature of their marriage. We should expect that this birth is properly celebrated.

 

4. And the Lord said unto him, Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel.

 

The Lord is not finished with Hosea, and the symbolism is pressed further. The name for the new son is Jezreel, which means “God sows.” Names in the Old Testament have meaning, and these meanings are readily apparent to Hosea’s audience. Jezreel is the name of a city in the tribal territory of Issachar (Joshua 19:17-23). Jezreel is also the name of the valley within which that city is located (see the next verse below; also see Joshua 17:16). Its name originally was a reference to its agricultural fertility, farmland that is so productive it seems as if God sows the seeds himself.

 

But the name Jezreel is better remembered by Israelites in its association with various battles (see Judges 6:33; 1 Samuel 29:1; etc.). For Hosea, the name is more recently connected with the murder of an innocent man (1 Kings 21:1-14) and the retaliation massacre of the royal family and those closely associated with it in about 841 BC (2 Kings 10:1-11; compare 1 Kings 21:15-27; 2 Kings 9:7-26, 30). The name Jezreel has a blood-soaked history!

 

Combining this history with the meaning “God sows,” the total effect may be construed as “God will sow destruction.” This is a prediction of His vengeance, punishment for the atrocities of Jezreel where innocents were murdered and the ruthless Jehu became king. Jehu not only had killed all remnants of the line of Ahab, he also had slaughtered 42 emissaries from the king of Judah (2 Kings 10:12-14). God approved Jehu’s actions in general (2 Kings 9:1-10; 10:30), but Jehu went too far by shedding more blood than God intended. God has not forgotten this outrage.

 

5. And it shall come to pass at that day, that I will break the bow of Israel, in the valley of Jezreel.

 

The name of Hosea’s son is a way for the Lord to communicate a future promise for Israel: He will break its bow, a reference to a weapon in the arsenal of an ancient army. This weapon depends on the springiness of its wood to propel deadly arrows. If broken, a bow is useless. God’s promise portends the destruction of Israel’s military power, leaving it defenseless against the might of Assyria (see the Lesson Background).

 

B. Second Child (vv. 6, 7)

 

6. And she conceived again, and bare a daughter. And God said unto him, Call her name Loruhamah: for I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away.

 

The second child born to Hosea and Gomer is a daughter, and she too is given a symbolic name as directed by the Lord. The name Loruhamah is the combination of two Hebrew words: Lo is a word of negation meaning “no” or “not”; ruhamah is a word referring to compassion and can be translated “mercy” or “love.” The combination therefore means “no more mercy.” This is the signal that the Lord’s compassion for Israel has come to an end, for He promises to utterly take them away. National disaster looms, and the hand of the Lord is behind it (contrast 1 Peter 2:10).

 

We should not fail to notice the horror of the little daughter’s name. It is a sign of rejection. There is nothing cute about it. Naming is the prerogative of the father, and Hosea’s obedience to the Lord’s command undoubtedly makes heads shake and gossipy tongues wag in his village. We can only imagine the toll this takes on Hosea himself.

 

7. But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the Lord their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.

 

In contrast, God’s mercy upon the house of Judah, the southern kingdom, will continue. It will be saved from the Assyrian menace. This will come about not because of the nation’s military might but by the miraculous hand of God himself. This proves true on the night when 185,000 trained warriors of Assyria are destroyed by an act of the Lord (see 2 Kings 19:35).

 

What Do You Think?

 

How does God’s heart toward Judah serve as a model, if at all, for how to respond when wounded by another?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Concerning a spouse

 

Concerning a friend

 

Concerning a fellow Christian

 

Other

 

C. Third Child (vv. 8, 9)

 

8, 9. Now when she had weaned Loruhamah, she conceived, and bare a son. Then said God, Call his name Loammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God.

 

The birth of Hosea’s three children seems to happen in rapid sequence as we read this chapter. But verse 8 indicates that the third child is not conceived until the daughter has been weaned (finished her breast-feeding). So we might understand the “family-addition period” of Hosea’s message to be of five or six years’ duration.

 

As with the first two children, the third is given a symbolic name, and this one is the most chilling of all. The son is to be called Loammi, another combination of two Hebrew words that are self-explanatory for Hosea’s original readers: Lo means “not,” and ammi means “my people.” This is a negation of one of the greatest promises enjoyed by the nation of Israel: that they are God’s chosen people (see Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2).

 

Although this rejection is reversed later (Hosea 2:23), it must strike a note of terror for the people who understand its implications. This is the father disowning his son (contrast Exodus 4:22), the wayward child being kicked out of the family. The great promise of the covenant is a two-way relationship. The nation of Israel has been chosen to be God’s people, and the Lord has agreed to be their God (Leviticus 26:12). The naming of Hosea’s third child indicates that this covenant relationship is now breached.

 

 

For Hosea’s family, this name sounds like, “This boy is not my son.” As with the daughter’s name, this undoubtedly sets tongues wagging, perhaps fueling speculation that Gomer has been unfaithful and the child is not Hosea’s. Those who focus only on that are missing the bigger picture.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What “names” would you give to different seasons in the spiritual life of a Christian? How can doing so be useful?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding a season of guilt

 

Regarding a season of grief

 

Regarding a season of doubt

 

Regarding a season of victory

 

Other

 

What’s in a Name?

 

Vermont Connecticut Royster (1914-1996) was named after his paternal grandfather. His strange name did not seem to hinder his success in life; Royster had a distinguished six-decade career with the Wall Street Journal. He started as a reporter in 1936, progressed through several positions to become editor, finally ending up as editor emeritus. His name came from a family tradition of using the names of states. He had great-uncles named Arkansas Delaware, Wisconsin Illinois, Oregon Minnesota, and Iowa Michigan Royster. Their unusual names earned them a place in Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

 

Whimsical names are a staple of at least two shows on National Public Radio. The credits that close Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion® often include Amanda Reckonwith (“a man to reckon with”). The hosts of NPR’s Car Talk named their business corporation Dewey, Cheethem & Howe (“Do we cheat ’em? And how!”). The latter is a gag line that has been used by many comedians.

 

When we come to the names God told the prophet Hosea to give his children, there is no whimsy involved. These names—Jezreel, Loruhamah, and Loammi—had serious meanings. They spoke of what had gone wrong between God and His people. Does it make you wonder what names God would give babies today?—C. R. B.

 

III. Vision That Predicts

 

                                                              (Hosea 1:10, 11)

 

A. Restored Population (v. 10)

 

10. Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.

 

Over a period of several years, Hosea delivers a message of coming disaster for Israel. The text now takes a turn to the longer-range vision of future restoration. We are reminded of the promise to Abraham of descendants that will be like “the sand which is upon the sea shore” (Genesis 22:17). This future day will be more than a re-adoption of Israel as a people. It will be individualized, for all included persons will be called sons of the living God. This is a family picture, a remarkable depiction of a coming time of blessing (compare Romans 9:26-28).

 

B. Coming King (v. 11)

 

11. Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel.

 

Our lesson ends with a verse that gives a picture of the future that may puzzle the reader. We can understand it if we begin at the end and work backward. Hosea promises great shall be the day of Jezreel. Remembering that Jezreel means “God sows,” we know this ultimate future is not that of God sowing destruction (the promise of vv. 3, 4). This is a vision, rather, of God sowing blessings. That matches the picture of the people coming up out of the land, as if they are a crop sprouting and growing. Furthermore, both Judah and Israel will be gathered together when this happens.

 

This cannot be understood solely as recovery from the Assyrian crisis that Israel is to face a few years after Hosea gives this prophecy. This is a messianic vision, a promise of a coming king who will unite and lead an uncountable number of God’s people. This is a vision of Christ and His church, the new people of God. This will be the perfect marriage, the marriage of the Lamb and His bride, the church (see Revelation 19:7-9).

 

The complete story of Hosea and Gomer’s marriage is difficult to piece together, but there seems to be a time of later alienation and reconciliation. Hosea is commanded to redeem her from the life of prostitution to which she returns (Hosea 3:1-3). With God’s blessing, their marriage is restored to one of love and mutual respect.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What risks are worth taking and not taking when trying to rebuild a broken relationship? Why?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Considering the nature of the relationship

 

Considering where the fault lies

 

Other

 

Conclusion

 

A. Restoring a Damaged Relationship

 

Marriages between Christians are not immune from trouble and even failure. Divorce is a reality, and there is little to be gained from making divorced persons outcasts or fueling their feelings of guilt. They feel guilty enough already.

 

On the other hand, the restoration of a damaged marriage should not be considered to be beyond the will or power of God. Hosea’s marriage was clouded by sexual unfaithfulness and the undoubted tension arising from the scandalous naming of his children. The thing that saved the marriage was the prophet’s willingness to heed God’s commands to love Gomer again no matter how much she had hurt Hosea. This is symbolic of the way the Lord loves His people, despite their spiritual adultery.

 

B. Prayer

 

Holy God, help us ever to remember that the church, the bride of Christ, must remain pure! Show us our part in keeping her that way and strengthen us to do so. We pray in the name of the bridegroom, Jesus. Amen.

 

C. Thought to Remember

 

Stay faithful to God, forsaking all other gods.

 

 

 

 

Kid’s Corner

When Jesus Christ Comes Again

Hosea 1:1-11

Sunday, January 17, 2016

 

Hosea 1:1-11

 

(Hosea 1:1)  The word of the LORD which came to Hosea the son of Beeri, during the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel.

 

Hosea was one of the minor prophets (one of those who wrote the shorter prophetic books). He was from Israel and a contemporary of Isaiah. He was active for between 40 to 60 years, during portions of the reigns of four Judean kings and Jeroboam of Israel. He prophesied the fall of Israel, which occurred in 722 BC and led to the dispersion of the Israelites among the nations and the end of the kingdom of Israel. We know little about him other than what he wrote about himself in the Bible. The name Hosea means “Salvation,” the same as Joshua and Jesus.

 

(Hosea 1:2)  When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD.”

 

The first words of the LORD to Hosea were a command to marry a promiscuous woman or prostitute. Commentators differ as to “when” she became promiscuous (before or after their marriage?). In their marriage relationship, Hosea symbolically represented the LORD and Gomer symbolically represented unfaithful Israel. In keeping with the history of Israel, I believe she was spiritually unfaithful to the LORD when Hosea married her and then her spiritual unfaithfulness led her into sexual immorality similar to most of the Israelites who turned from God and worshiped fertility gods in Canaan. Sometimes people will invent or seek to find a theology or religion that they can use to “justify” or excuse their immorality.

 

(Hosea 1:3)  So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

 

In obedience to the LORD and to fulfill the prophetic words Hosea received from the LORD, Hosea married Gomer and through Hosea she conceived and bore a son. Just as we know little about Hosea outside of the Bible, we know little about Gomer. We only know the names of their fathers and what Hosea wrote about them. Soon after their marriage, Gomer bore Hosea a son.

 

(Hosea 1:4)  And the LORD said to him, “Name him Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel.

 

The LORD told Hosea the names He wanted him to give to the children Gomer bore. Jezreel means “to sow.” The name may mean that Israel would reap what they had sown. Jehu was told to execute King Ahab and Jezebel, but he massacred far more in Jezreel. He was violent and remained idolatrous as did his descendants, and Israel became increasingly unfaithful to the LORD. Jehu put an end to Ahab and Jezebel, and through Hosea God warned that He would put an end to the kingdom of Israel and punish the royal house of Jehu (see 2 Kings 9:1-37; 10:1-36).

 

(Hosea 1:5)  “On that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.”

 

To break the bow meant to defeat or destroy the army of an enemy. By her open rebellion and idolatry, Israel had become increasingly the enemy of the LORD. Jehu killed many prophets of Baal, but he did not turn from idolatry or try to lead the Israelites back to faithfulness to the LORD during his twenty-eight years as king over Israel. Therefore, God would use the Assyrians to destroy the kingdom of Israel, and Jezreel would once again be a battleground.

 

(Hosea 1:6)  Then she conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. And the LORD said to him, “Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have compassion on the house of Israel, that I would ever forgive them.

 

Most believe this daughter was conceived through Gomer’s adultery, even as Israel was committing spiritual adultery and sexual immorality during their idol worship. Gomer’s spiritual sins led her into sexual sins. Lo-Ruhamah means “not loved” or “no mercy,” for she was not the daughter of Hosea. She symbolized the fact that Israel had departed so far from true faith in the LORD that the LORD could no longer show Israel love and forgiveness. Ignoring Israel’s sins without appropriate discipline would not be just and loving. Hosea warned that the time for just punishment would soon come. Israelite and Canaanite idol worship included child sacrifices, and since Israel would not repent, God would bring an end to this idolatrous and violent behavior by bringing the kingdom of Israel to an end before they killed or corrupted more of their children and their neighbors – even leading the kingdom of Judah and her neighbors into sin.

 

(Hosea 1:7)  “But I will have compassion on the house of Judah and deliver them by the LORD their God, and will not deliver them by bow, sword, battle, horses or horsemen.”

 

God did save Judah from the Assyrians, and He would have saved Israel if the leaders and people had repented. King Hezekiah of Judah prayed and led the kingdom of Judah to repent. The LORD saved the kingdom of Judah just as Hosea declared (see 2 Kings 19). God saved them without needing to use bow, sword, battle, horses, or horsemen.

 

(Hosea 1:8)  When she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and gave birth to a son.

 

Since Hosea does not record that he and Gomer had a second son, most believe that after she weaned her daughter that she had another adulterous relationship and conceived again. Usually a child was weaned within 2 to 3 years. Perhaps Gomer remained adulterous throughout her marriage to Hosea, just as the Kingdom of Israel refused to return to the LORD in love and faithfulness.

 

(Hosea 1:9)  And the LORD said, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not My people and I am not your God.”

 

Again, the LORD named Gomer’s children. The fact that the son is symbolically named “not my people” may also indicate that he was not Hosea’s son. The Israelites had so departed from the LORD that they had broken the covenant the LORD had made with the Israelites. They murdered their children as part of worshiping their idols. Those they did not murder they raised apart from faith in God; these children would then turn to idol worship, gross immorality, and violence toward their children. God acted in behalf of future generations, and God’s just judgment of Israel served as a warning to others. The Israelites and their descendants were no longer the spiritual children of God. How heartbreaking that our almighty and holy God would need to declare that His people had so persistently rebelled against Him for so long that He would need to declare that they were “not my people” or “not my children.” Later, Jesus declared of some He spoke to in Judea: “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Hosea said God would someday show love to “not my loved one” and “not my people,” and say to them “you are my people” and they would say “You are my God” (see Hosea 2:16-23). This will happen after Jesus the Messiah returns.

 

(Hosea 1:10)  Yet the number of the sons of Israel Will be like the sand of the sea, Which cannot be measured or numbered; And in the place Where it is said to them, “You are not My people,” It will be said to them, “You are the sons of the living God.”

 

Hosea chapter 1 ends with a message of hope, which will take place after the second coming of Jesus the Messiah. Recalling God’s promise to Abraham, the LORD spoke through Hosea that the Israelites would be called “children of the living God” once again, and there would be so many of them that people would not be able to count them. This would include the land once known as the Kingdom of Israel that Assyria conquered.

 

(Hosea 1:11)  And the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together, And they will appoint for themselves one leader, And they will go up from the land, For great will be the day of Jezreel.

 

Again, after Jesus the Messiah returns the descendants of the Kingdom of Judah and the Kingdom of Israel will be reunited. They will appoint or recognize the Lord Jesus as their Messiah and unite under His rule and authority. The day of Jezreel may indicate the defeat of all of God’s enemies when Jesus returns as Lord of lords and King of Kings. Believers will be reunited in the Kingdom of God (or kingdom of heaven) as children of God.

 

 

 

 

When Jesus Christ Comes Again

Hosea 1:1-11

Sunday, January 17, 2016

 

 “The people of Judah and the people of Israel will come together; they will appoint one leader and will come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel” (Hosea 1:11).

 

Hosea predicted the total destruction of the Kingdom of Israel because of the idolatry of the religious and political leaders and people, which included spiritual and physical adultery (symbolized by Hosea’s marriage to Gomer) and the murder of children by their parents as part of their pagan worship. Since the Israelites refused to repent of their idolatry and increasing levels of violence, God fulfilled Hosea’s prophecyin 722 BC by using the Assyrians to conquer the Kingdom of Israel and disperse the Israelites among the lands they had conquered. Thus, these dispersed Israelites came to be called, “the ten lost tribes of Israel.” Even though these Israelites had rejected God, so God finally said of them, “You are not my people,” God promised through Hosea that He would someday call their descendants “children of the living God” (Hosea 1:10). God began to fulfill His promise when many Israelites and Judeans came to believe in Jesus the Messiah. When the State of Israel was established in 1948, many Jews and some who claimed to be descendants of the “ten lost tribes of Israel” came together to form the new nation. Since then, the Israelis have elected many national leaders, but when Jesus the Messiah returns “they will appoint one leader.” As predicted, the first “day of Jezreel” began with the punishment of idolatrous King Ahab and his evil Queen Jezebel. The “great day of Jezreel” will begin with the promised Second Coming of Jesus the Messiah, when He will end the world’s descent into depravity and increasing violence.

 

 

Thinking Further

When Jesus Christ Comes Again

Hosea 1:1-11

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Name _________________________

 

1. How did the LORD want Hosea to express His word to the people of Israel and their leaders?

 

 

2. How did Gomer’s behavior illustrate the sins of the Israelites?

 

 

3. What did God say He would do when He justly judged Israel for their sins and unrepentance?

 

 

4. What names did God tell Hosea to give to the children Gomer conceived and bore and what did these names mean?

 

 

5. What hope did God give to the Israelites?

 

 

 

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

 

1. How did the LORD want Hosea to express His word to the people of Israel and their leaders?

By speaking God’s word and by taking symbolic actions to portray the sins of the people through his wife and her children.

 

2. How did Gomer’s behavior illustrate the sins of the Israelites?

She was faithless to Hosea and demonstrated the spiritual faithlessness (or unfaithfulness) of the Israelites to God. Her spiritual unfaithfulness through idolatry led to immorality, as did the unfaithfulness of the Israelites.

 

3. What did God say He would do when He justly judged Israel for their sins and unrepentance?

God said He would put an end to the kingdom of Israel.

 

4. What names did God tell Hosea to give to the children Gomer conceived and bore and what did these names mean?

Jezreel – God would punish Israel – means “to sow.” That they would reap what they sowed?

Lo-Ruhamah – “not loved” or “no mercy” Lo-Ammi – “not my people”

 

5. What hope did God give to the Israelites?

See Hosea 1:10, 11. They would again be a great number of people someday. They would again be called “children of the living God” someday. The people of Israel would come together under the same leader someday and God would justly judge his enemies someday.

 

 

 

Word Search

When Jesus Christ Comes Again

Hosea 1:1-11

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Name ______________________________

 

P J D F Y F W C V B H R W X J

G E I L J E Z A J Z O A U O U

P Z B W D G V E I V S P T Z L

T R L P H S R F M C E H Z F O

N E A M U O B H M V A I U N R

E E I R B Z A N A M A L H C U

R L M O D D O D O H R N S J H

D T A R U H W R L B C Z A F A

L M O J A M E G O M E R O W M

I W V G H W U Z J I K X H Q A

H X C F A P D Y E Y S P E Y H

C D W B Z V W F A K O R J F I

N B S A X I R E E B I S A X V

G Z G Q K F Y V P S L A C E J

X D R O L M L W N O N F H T L

Lord

Word

Hosea

Beeri

Uzziah

Jotham

Ahaz

Hezekiah

Judah

Israel

Jeroboam

Jehoash

Gomer

Diblaim

Jezreel

LoRuhamah

LoAmmi

Children

 

 

 

True and False Test

When Jesus Christ Comes Again

Hosea 1:1-11

Sunday, January 17, 2016

 

Circle the true or false answers. Correct the false statements by restating them.

 

1. Hosea was a Judean prophet who went to Israel at the Lord’s command. True or False

 

2. Hosea declared the word of the Lord by his actions and his words. True or False

 

3. Gomer remained Hosea’s faithful wife throughout their marriage. True or False

 

4. Gomer’s behavior reflected or symbolized the behavior of Israel in their relationship with God. True or False

 

5. Hezekiah was a faithful king over Israel. True or False

 

6. Hosea named his son Jezreel because the LORD told him to do so and Hosea obeyed the Lord. True or False

 

7. Gomer’s daughter Lo-Ruhamah was especially loved by Gomer and Hosea. True or False

 

8. Swords, battle, horses, and horsemen would not save the kingdom of Judah. True or False

 

9. God loved Israel and no matter what the Israelites did God would save the kingdom from destruction and always forgive them. True or False

 

10. God promised that someday the people of Israel and the people of Judah would come back together again. True or False

 

 

 

Answers to the True and False Test

When Jesus Christ Comes Again

Hosea 1:1-11

Sunday, January 17, 2016

 

1.   False

2.   True

3.   False

4.   True

5.   False

6.   True

7.   False

8.   True

9.   False

10. True

 

 

Closing Prayer

 

 

Holy God, help us ever to remember that the church, the bride of Christ, must remain pure! Show us our part in keeping her that way and strengthen us to do so. We pray in the name of the bridegroom, Jesus. Amen.

 

 

 

Sunday School Lesson

January 3

A Bride Worth Waiting For

 

Devotional Reading:1 Timothy 1:12-17

 

Background Scripture:Genesis 28-30

 

 

Focal Verses

Genesis 29:15-30

 

15 And Laban said unto Jacob, Because thou art my brother, shouldest thou therefore serve me for nought? tell me, what shall thy wages be?

 

16 And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.

 

17 Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured.

 

18 And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter.

 

19 And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me.

 

20 And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.

 

21 And Jacob said unto Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her.

 

22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast.

 

23 And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her.

 

24 And Laban gave unto his daughter Leah Zilpah his maid for an handmaid.

 

25 And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?

 

26 And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.

 

27 Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years.

 

28 And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also.

 

29 And Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah his handmaid to be her maid.

 

30 And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years.

 

Key Verse

 

He went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years. —Genesis 29:30

 

Lesson Aims

 

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

 

1. Describe Jacob’s expectation and Laban’s deception.

 

2. Compare and contrast Laban’s actions with modern “bait and switch” deceptions.

 

3. Write a prayer of commitment to honest dealings.

 

 

Introduction

 

A. Marriage Chaos

 

I was recently in Uganda to do some teaching and was taken off guard when one of my students for the day said that he wondered why American families are so small. When asked how many brothers and sisters he had, he answered, “Thirty.” Further questioning revealed that his father, a wealthy Muslim, had four wives. Four wives and 31 children! This was far outside my experience and comfort level, but the other students in the class did not see this as unusual or even exceptional in their country.

 

Today’s lesson is about marriage customs that are outside our comfort level. Jacob, the lesson’s focal character, ended up having two wives simultaneously. Or did he? Actually, each wife was given in marriage with a “handmaid,” and these two women ended up serving as secondary wives (concubines) for Jacob. He had children by all four women. There were eventually 12 sons and at least one daughter in the family. None of this is condemned as immoral or seen as unusual in our lesson text, yet few if any Christians in the western world today would find the idea of multiple or secondary wives as acceptable (and we should not).

 

The value of today’s lesson is not in what it teaches us about the ideal structure of a family, however. It is a study in the two characters of Jacob, the father of the nation of Israel, and of Laban, his father-in-law. It is also about the great love Jacob had for Rachel, a tender and romantic account in a time and place where marriage was viewed more as a male-dominated business arrangement than anything else.

 

B. Lesson Background

 

The book of Genesis begins with grand, dramatic accounts of worldwide significance: creation of the world, the fall of sinful humanity, and a flood of judgment. Beginning with the concluding verses of Genesis 11, the story line focuses on the person of Abraham (about 2000 BC), who ended up in the land of Canaan with son and heir Isaac.

 

Isaac’s two sons, Esau and Jacob, had a turbulent relationship. With the help of his mother and the blessing of his father, Jacob left home to find a suitable wife from his mother’s people (Genesis 28:2). On the way, he had a marvelous, visionary dream of a ladder connecting earth and Heaven, with the Lord at the top. Jacob was promised that his descendants would possess the land of Canaan as a mighty nation, the people of the Lord (Genesis 28:10-15).

 

Jacob finally arrived in the land of his mother’s people, and right away he met Rachel, his uncle Laban’s daughter, at a community well. This divinely directed connection placed him in Laban’s household, just as Jacob’s mother intended. Jacob began to work for Uncle Laban, and that is where this week’s lesson begins.

 

We refer to the men of the second part of Genesis as patriarchs. They were the leaders of family clans, which were networks of wives, children, relatives, hired men, and slaves—all operating as semi-autonomous communities. These patriarchal clans made their livelihoods by tending large flocks and herds of livestock. This made the clans nomads in the sense that they would sometimes move so that their livestock would have adequate grazing. The tents the clans lived in were quite substantial in that they could be equipped with rugs, furniture, and cooking equipment.

 

These clan-communities were surprisingly large. On one occasion, Abraham was able to muster 318 men from his retinue to form a small army to rescue his nephew, Lot (Genesis 14:14). If we include the women and children, this community may have had 1,000 people. This was the social situation both of Isaac’s clan (which Jacob left) and of Laban’s clan (which Jacob joined).

 

How to Say It

 

Abraham Ay-bruh-ham.

 

Bilhah Bill-ha.

 

Canaan Kay-nun.

 

Esau Ee-saw.

 

fait accompli fay-tuh-kom-plee.

 

Jacob Jay-kub.

 

Laban Lay-bun.

 

patriarchs pay-tree-arks.

 

Zilpah Zil-pa.

 

 

 

I. Contract Agreed

 

                                                               (Genesis 29:15-20)

 

A. Laban’s Request (v. 15)

 

15. And Laban said unto Jacob, Because thou art my brother, shouldest thou therefore serve me for nought? tell me, what shall thy wages be?

 

Jacob has been in the service of Laban for a month by this time (Genesis 29:14). It has become clear that Jacob is more than a visiting relative, and Laban wants to clarify the relationship. Jacob, a strong young man capable of moving the heavy stone that covered the community well (29:10), has doubtlessly proved himself as a hard worker. He is not just a visiting relative who drinks Laban’s wine, eats Laban’s food, and sleeps late.

 

Reading the entire story of Jacob and Laban reveals tension throughout their 20-year partnership (see Genesis 31:38-42). If Laban has heard of Jacob’s clever maneuver to obtain his brother’s birthright (Genesis 25:29-34), then Laban may be distrustful of Jacob. The question of the verse before us may be Laban’s way of averting a later, unexpected claim for wages from Jacob.

 

What Do You Think?

 

Under what circumstances, if any, is it unwise to work for a relative? Why?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding temporary situations or specified periods of time

 

Regarding permanent or open-ended situations

 

Regarding Christian vs. non-Christian relatives

 

B. Laban’s Daughters (vv. 16, 17)

 

16, 17. And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured.

 

Laban has two daughters and (apparently) no sons, since at least one daughter has shepherd duties (Genesis 29:6). The fact that Rachel is beautiful and well favoured implies that Leah is relatively less endowed with these qualities. Leah’s only noted characteristic is her eyes, which are said to be tender in some way. This could be a positive comment on Leah, that her eyes are an attractive feature, or a negative comment, that her eyesight is poor.

 

 

Either way, it would be wrong to read all this as a contrast between a homely sister and a gorgeous sister. There is no indication in the story that Jacob is repulsed by Leah; after all, he will end up having six sons and one daughter by her (Genesis 29:31-35; 30:17-21).

 

Even so, we now begin to see the backdrop of the sibling rivalry that will be evident in Genesis 29:31-30:20. Leah will have to fight for her place as a respected wife.

 

C. Jacob’s Offer (v. 18)

 

18. And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter.

 

Laban has asked Jacob about proper wages, but Jacob answers with a request for Rachel as a wife. He has no money to pay a bride price, so as a substitute he offers to work for seven years. This is a substantial proposal and shows us the depth of Jacob’s attraction to Rachel, something that has only grown during his month-long residence in the household of Laban.

 

D. Laban’s Acceptance (vv. 19, 20)

 

19. And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me.

 

Laban’s agreement helps us understand his character. Jacob’s offer is enormous, but in response it is as if Laban shrugs his shoulders and says, “Well, OK, that’s not much, but I’ll give you the family discount.” Young Jacob has little leverage with which to bargain, so he seems satisfied.

 

Perils of a Family Business

 

Working in the family business has been a common human experience throughout much of history. This was true even in America well into the twentieth century. An example is the family farm, where succeeding generations took over the tasks of planting, harvesting, animal husbandry, etc.

 

There are advantages to working in the family business. But there are challenges as well, such as preventing family feuds, keeping nonfamily employees motivated, and not letting emotions ruin the business. Feuding happens when family members do not separate their business and personal lives. Low morale may plague nonfamily employees who realize that their “outsider” status limits advancement opportunities. Ruinous emotions may be sparked when a supervisor takes corrective action for subpar performance by a family member.

 

We may see some of the above reflected in passages such as Genesis 15:2, 3; Judges 11:1, 2; and John 10:12, 13. We definitely get indications of family-business challenges in today’s text and in the outcome recorded in Genesis 30:25-31:55! Much of the problem can be traced to lack of communication, whether intentional or unintentional. As a result, underlying issues went unaddressed, only to create big problems later. The fact that both Laban and Jacob had deceptive sides to their personalities didn’t help! Recalling that “whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning” (Romans 15:4), what does their relationship teach you?—C. R. B.

 

20. And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.

 

This verse describes one of the most romantic and moving episodes in the entire Bible (even in all of literature). If Jacob’s attraction to Rachel had been merely physical, those lustful feelings surely would have waned in short order and transferred to another woman.

 

Jacob’s relationship with his future wife allows for frequent contact in the household situation, but this is very guarded and controlled—what we would call “chaperoned” today. He very likely does not have any private moments with her, but he sees her at her best and her worst, on good days and bad days. It is a testimony to her character that Jacob does not become disillusioned over these years. If anything, his love grows stronger.

 

What Do You Think?

 

Under what circumstances, if any, would a very lengthy engagement be a good idea today?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Considering the emotional maturity of those to be married

 

Considering the spiritual maturity of those to be married

 

1 Corinthians 7:9, 36

 

Other

 

II. Deception Rationalized

 

                                                                (Genesis 29:21-26)

 

A. Expectation (vv. 21, 22)

 

21. And Jacob said unto Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her.

 

While the time passes quickly, Jacob also has been counting the days. He is eager to claim his bride now that the seven years of service are fulfilled. Even after that length of time, Jacob has yet to go in unto her, meaning that they have not shared a tent for the night to this point. Even so, Rachel is already his wife in a certain sense because of the nature of betrothals in this culture. Jacob’s patience is transformed to impatience now that this long-awaited day has come.

 

22. And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast.

 

Laban follows local protocol and stages a great wedding feast for his daughter and new son-in-law. This is a joyous occasion, planned for weeks, with plenty of food and drink. Many lambs and goats are slaughtered and roasted. Figs, raisins, and other delicacies are served. Wine flows freely. The people of this community are hard workers, not people of leisure, and they join the celebration willingly and heartily.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What are some ways to prepare for a wedding that will honor God and serve as a witness to unbelievers in attendance?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding location

 

Regarding vows

 

Regarding budget

 

Regarding scheduling

 

Other

 

B. Substitution (vv. 23, 24)

 

23, 24. And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her. And Laban gave unto his daughter Leah Zilpah his maid for an handmaid.

 

The scenario unfolds something like this: (1) a special “marriage tent” is prepared for the wedding night, (2) Laban delivers his daughter to this tent in her wedding regalia, then (3) Jacob goes in to spend the night with his new wife. But that new wife is Leah, not Rachel! We can imagine that it is after dark, the tent is poorly illuminated, Jacob is at least slightly inebriated, and Leah is wearing robes and a veil. All this makes it difficult for the trusting Jacob to detect that he is spending the night with the wrong sister.

 

We are also given another detail that explains some later events: Leah comes with a handmaid named Zilpah. Leah is probably into her 20s by now, and Zilpah is her personal slave, whose ownership is being transferred from Laban to Leah. Zilpah is likely only 10 or 12 years old. She figures into the story later when Leah uses her as a proxy wife to provide more sons for Jacob (Genesis 30:9-13).

 

C. Confrontation (vv. 25, 26)

 

25. And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?

 

Daylight reveals Laban’s deception. Jacob has spent the night with the older sister! This makes Leah his wife nonetheless; there is no undoing this. Jacob immediately confronts his father-in-law, reminding him that their deal involved Rachel, not Leah. He speaks plainly and accuses Laban of having beguiled him.

 

We can only imagine the sense of rejection that Leah must feel. Even so, she has been a willing part of this deception. There is no attempt by Jacob to dismiss her, however. She will prove to be a loyal (if somewhat jealous) wife who eventually gives him six sons and a daughter, so this is not to be the last night the two spend together. The situation, as it unfolds, will reveal the problems of a plural marriage: a household filled with rivalries and intrigue.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What lessons have you learned about healthy relationships with in-laws?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding the handling of holidays

 

Regarding grandchildren

 

Regarding expectations of visits

 

Regarding non-Christian in-laws

 

Other

 

26. And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.

 

Laban is unapologetic and unrepentant for his trickery. He cites a custom of which Jacob is apparently unaware: daughters must be married in the order of their birth. But this does not change the fact that Laban substituted Leah for Rachel deceptively. Laban is correct to care about both daughters despite differences in their physical appearances, but his deception is nonetheless dishonorable. Even so, there is no court of appeal above the patriarch himself (in this case, Laban).

 

In the larger context of Jacob’s story, we remember that Jacob deceived his father, Isaac, to steal the father’s blessing from brother Esau (Genesis 27:1-36). We sense irony in the fact that Jacob the trickster now has been tricked himself (compare 31:20).

 

III. Contract Modified

 

                                                                (Genesis 29:27-30)

 

A. Seven More Years (v. 27)

 

27. Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years.

 

Laban already has a plan to resolve this sticky situation: Jacob is welcome to have Rachel too—for another seven years of service. Laban includes something to sweeten the deal, something he knows Jacob will be unable to resist: Jacob may have Rachel at the beginning of the additional seven years rather than having to wait until the end.

 

This concession by Laban seems prudent from the aspect of Rachel’s age. If Rachel were 16 when the first seven years began, she would be 23 now. Another seven years would make her 30, missing many years of potential childbearing. Laban knows that having both daughters produce sons as soon as possible is to everyone’s advantage.

 

Bankruptcies, Fiscal and Otherwise

 

The city of Detroit, Michigan, filed for bankruptcy in 2013. At the time, it was the largest municipal bankruptcy ever. Many issues were involved in the city’s insolvency, but one that received much attention was the inability to pay retiree pensions as had been agreed. Many American cities faced similar problems, with pension plans underfunded by as much as 75 percent. Similar problems were noted with employee healthcare coverage.

 

State governments had problems as well. For example, Illinois had reserves for less than one-half of its then-current and future pension obligations. In all cases, government entities were trying to revise pension plans—sometimes unilaterally, sometimes through negotiation. Understandably, employee unions resisted the attempts, calling them unfair.

 

When Jacob completed the agreed upon seven years of labor, he expected to receive what had been promised to him by oral contract. But Laban unilaterally and secretively changed the terms; he had the power to do so, so he simply did it. Jacob was appropriately incensed and demanded an explanation. Whether or not he liked the explanation was irrelevant because his marriage to Leah was a done deal—or in fancier terms, a fait accompli. The rest, as they say, is history. The question still open, however, is how much of Laban’s ethical bankruptcy we see in ourselves.—C. R. B.

 

B. One More Wife (vv. 28-30)

 

28, 29. And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also. And Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah his handmaid to be her maid.

 

Jacob quickly agrees to Laban’s deal without further bartering. His great love, Rachel, will be his in seven more days, not seven more years. We can imagine that the scheming Laban also takes advantage of the situation to combine the wedding celebrations of his two daughters, thus relieving himself of the responsibility for another expensive gala for Rachel’s wedding a few years later!

 

As with Leah, Rachel comes with a handmaid: a slave girl named Bilhah. This all seems to be prearranged by Laban, and we get the sense that at least Leah and Rachel, if not Zilpah and Bilhah as well, are agreeable to Laban’s plans ahead of time since no one tips Jacob off before the first wedding night. Bilhah, like Zilpah, later becomes a surrogate wife and bears two sons for Jacob (Genesis 30:3-8). As Jacob comes to be seen as the father of the nation of Israel, the 12 tribes will be descendants of the sons born to him by his four wives.

 

30. And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years.

 

This story is completed with two seemingly positive notes: (1) Jacob and Rachel are finally together and (2) Jacob fulfills his agreement to work for Laban another seven years. But the fact that Jacob favors Rachel over Leah casts an ominous shadow on this family’s future. This favoritism will stoke the flames of rivalry between these two sisters (Genesis 29:31-30:24). The resentment that results will play a big part in the selling of Rachel’s son Joseph as a slave (chap. 37).

 

What Do You Think?

 

How can we prevent preferential love in family relationships? Why is it important to do so?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Parent-to-child

 

Grandparent-to-grandchild

 

Sibling-to-sibling

 

Other

 

Conclusion

 

A. Mixed Families

 

When we speak of the “tribe of Judah,” we usually don’t think about the fact that Judah was a historical figure, a boy who grew up in a confusing home where his brothers had different mothers. Although Jacob loved Rachel most, Judah was a son of Leah; of the 12 sons, he was the ancestor of Jesus the Messiah.

 

Many families today are “mixed” in some way. They may include a stepfather, a stepmother, half-sisters, and half-brothers. The conflicts that result are not always minor. Yet God worked through Jacob’s tangled family situation to create His beloved nation of Israel to usher in the Messiah. God also can work through the varied situations of families in the church to bring stability so children can become faithful followers of Christ.

 

Committed love in a relationship will help in navigating the many challenges that beset a family. Jacob never stopped loving Rachel, and this love was a sort of glue that seemed to hold the larger household together. In the end, God blessed the entire family in tangible ways. He desires to do so for us as well.

 

B. Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, to You we commit ourselves and our families. We are not perfect. We have tensions and issues, disappointments and tragedies. For these we seek Your help and blessing that we may serve You best. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

C. Thought to Remember

 

No family is perfect,

but all may be blessed and used by God.

 

 

 

 

 

Kid’s Corner

God Gives Laws with Good Reasons

Genesis 29:15-30

Sunday, January 3, 2016

 

Genesis 29:15-30

 

(Genesis 29:15)  Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?”

 

After Jacob and his mother Rebecca deceived his brother Esau and his father Isaac, Jacob fled to Rebecca’s brother Laban in Haran (about a 500 mile journey). Jacob met Rachel at a well and he helped her water the family flock of sheep. Laban invited Jacob to his home, and for a month Jacob continued to help with the family flock. Jacob was serving Laban “for nothing.” Laban may have seen how much Jacob loved Rachel, and he finally asked Jacob what he would take for wages for serving him. After leaving his father, Jacob became a servant of Laban.

 

(Genesis 29:16)  Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.

 

Jacob wanted to marry Rachel, but after Laban’s deception he married both of his daughters. Leah became the mother of Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, and Dinah. Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, and Rachel became the mother of Joseph and Benjamin after some years of inability to conceive children. Joseph became the father of two tribes: Ephraim and Manasseh.

 

(Genesis 29:17)  And Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful of form and face.

 

Different translations describe Leah’s eyes as “lovely,” “weak,” “tender.” Her eyes were either beautiful in contrast to Rachel’s beauty; or, in addition to not being as beautiful as Rachel her eyes suffered from a defective vision or beauty. It may be that Rachel always looked more desirable than Leah because neither were married before Jacob was deceived into marrying both sisters.

 

(Genesis 29:18)  Now Jacob loved Rachel, so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.”

 

Jacob loved Rachel, but in order to marry her he had to pay for the privilege (which tablets from that time indicate was customary). Some believe that Jacob’s offer of seven years of service was extraordinary, but such was Jacob’s love for Rachel that he named what some consider a high price to show how much he valued her. The perfect number of “seven” is interesting to note. Perhaps the number indicates Jacob’s perfect love for Rachel.

 

(Genesis 29:19)  Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than to give her to another man; stay with me.”

 

Laban’s comment seems somewhat strange. Did he mean that Jacob’s offer of seven years of labor was a better offer than other men had made him for Rachel? Did he intend to make an agreement that he could easily change because it was not a firm commitment or agreement, but left room for deception? Perhaps both? His reply does not seem to indicate a binding contract from Laban’s point of view, but Jacob took it as such.

 

(Genesis 29:20)  So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her.

 

Perhaps Jacob worked side-by-side with Rachel as they pastured and watered Laban’s flock, because with his strength he could move the stone from the well by himself and Laban did not need to be concerned about the safety of his daughters when they were with Jacob. If Jacob and Rachel labored together, they bonded in love and spirit in a way that made seven years seem short to Jacob.

 

(Genesis 29:21)  Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, for my time is completed, that I may go in to her.”

 

Jacob fulfilled his agreement with Laban as far as he understood the agreement. Laban, however, had left himself a legal loophole in the agreement so he could “legally” deceive Jacob, which of course was unethical behavior and a great sin with woeful consequences. By means of deception with Laban’s sister (Rebecca), Jacob had once cheated his brother and father. Now, Jacob learned personally the sad consequences of deception and sin in a way that would have an effect on the rest of his life and family.

 

(Genesis 29:22)  Laban gathered all the men of the place and made a feast.

 

A wedding feast preceded the consummation of the marriage. Perhaps similar to the wedding feast in Cana, much wine was consumed (see John 2). There are a few details about how these weddings were carried out – probably without the detailed exchanging of vows as in contemporary weddings, but with a mutual understanding of the customs of the day before the laws of Moses guided the kingdom of Israel.

 

(Genesis 29:23)  Now in the evening he took his daughter Leah, and brought her to him; and Jacob went in to her.

 

We do not know if Leah consented to the deception of her father. Whether she did or not, she would have been obligated to obey her father according to the custom of the day. From the Bible, we know that believers are obligated to obey God first if commanded by any human authorities to disobey God (see Acts 4:19-20; Acts 5:29).

 

(Genesis 29:24)  Laban also gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid.

 

Jacob fulfilled his obligation to Leah and married her even though he did not know at the time that he was marrying her instead of Rachel. What he did would not be “undone.” Before learning about Jacob’s response to Laban’s deception, we learn that Laban gave Zilpah to Leah. Later, Leah gave her to Jacob, and she bore him Gad and Asher, who also became fathers of two tribes of Israel.

 

(Genesis 29:25)  So it came about in the morning that, behold, it was Leah! And he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served with you? Why then have you deceived me?”

 

We often reap what we sow (and it is only by the grace and mercy of God when we do not reap all the consequences of all the sins that we have sown). The obvious answer to Jacob’s question is Laban wanted seven more years of service from Jacob and he selfishly did not consider the effect of his deception on his daughters Leah and Rachel. Though Jacob did not love or want Leah, God noticed her suffering and comforted her through many children: “When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless” (Genesis 29:31).

 

(Genesis 29:26)  But Laban said, “It is not the practice in our place to marry off the younger before the firstborn.

 

Currently, we do not know of this custom as being widespread. It may have been a local custom that Laban did not tell Jacob about in advance, in order to take unfair advantage of him. Or, it may have been an invented “family custom” in order to cheat Jacob while appearing to be law-abiding.

 

(Genesis 29:27)  “Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also for the service which you shall serve with me for another seven years.”

 

Though he did not love her as he loved Rachel, Jacob did not want to divorce Leah, for then he would lose Rachel. His only option at that moment was to publicly agree with the marriage contract or break fellowship with Laban and Rachel. He could marry Rachel immediately, only if he worked another seven years. Laban was neither a good father to his daughters nor a good father-in-law to Jacob.

 

(Genesis 29:28)  Jacob did so and completed her week, and he gave him his daughter Rachel as his wife.

 

Jacob did as Laban commanded. The consequences of marrying two sisters brought unhappiness into the family that lasted decades and generations. Later, the laws of Moses forbid marriages of this type: “Do not take your wife's sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is living” (Leviticus 18:18). The unhappy story of Leah and Rachel illustrates the wisdom of this law of Moses.

 

(Genesis 29:29)  Laban also gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maid.

 

Because Rachel could not bear children immediately, she gave Bilhah to Jacob so she could legally adopt their children as her own. Bilhah bore Jacob two sons: Dan and Naphtali, who became fathers of two tribes of Israel.

 

(Genesis 29:30)  So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and indeed he loved Rachel more than Leah, and he served with Laban for another seven years.

 

Eventually, Jacob worked twenty years for Laban (he worked thirteen years after his marriages to Leah and Rachel) before fleeing with his family back to his home in the land God promised to Abraham. As Jacob told Laban: “It was like this for the twenty years I was in your household. I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times” (Genesis 31:41). In spite of all Jacob did to Isaac and Esau, and all Laban did to Jacob, Leah, and Rachel, God worked it out for good and Jacob learned to trust in and obey God. This would not be the last time Jacob would be deceived, for he was later deceived about the death of his favorite son, Joseph, but God used that deception to save Jacob’s family in Egypt.

 

 

God Gives Laws with Good Reasons

Genesis 29:15-30

Sunday, January 3, 2016

 

 “Laban replied, ‘It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one’” (Genesis 29:26).

 

When Laban used a custom to deceive Jacob, the Bible does not tell us if Laban used a real custom of his family and people or a custom he created for his own convenience. Without

telling Jacob in advance about the custom, he tricked Jacob into marrying his oldest daughter Leah, when Jacob loved and thought he was marrying Laban’s youngest daughter Rachel. Laban abused his daughters and Jacob for his own selfish purposes when he forced Jacob to marry both of them in exchange for Jacob serving him fourteen years. Leah was unloved, and Laban’s trickery, even if he used a real custom, brought decades of unhappiness to both of his daughters and Jacob. When God saw Leah’s unhappiness, He intervened and brought her much happiness through her children. She also became the mother of Levi, the ancestor of Moses, and of Judah, the ancestor of Jesus the Messiah. So, God was able to bring everlasting goodness and happiness out of Laban’s sin and Leah’s sorrow. God also did not want this “custom” to prevail, and from the unhappiness the “custom” brought Jacob and his family we can understand why. Therefore, God gave this law to the Israelites through Moses: “Do not take your wife's sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is living” (Leviticus 18:18). We may not understand all of the reasons for all of God’s laws, but God has good reasons for giving us His laws, and God’s laws are always for our good. For this reason, God has given believers the Holy Spirit to guide them in understanding and obeying God’s laws.

 

 

Thinking Further

God Gives Laws with Good Reasons

Genesis 29:15-30

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Name_________________________________

 

 

1. How would you describe Jacob’s work ethic? Contrast it with what others might have done in his situation with Laban and his family.

 

 

2. How might Laban’s answer to Jacob regarding his wages have been crafty in preparation to deceive Jacob later “if he wanted to and saw the opportunity”?

 

 

3. How long did Jacob’s first seven years of work feel to him and why did he feel that way?

 

 

4. How do our feelings for someone influence how we serve them? What kind of feelings do believers and unbelievers have toward God and how do those feelings influence their service of

God?

 

 

5. Can you name one or more good consequences that God worked out in spite of Laban’s sins against Jacob and his daughters?

 

 

 

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

 

1. How would you describe Jacob’s work ethic? Contrast it with what others might have done in his situation with Laban and his family.

He worked hard and long enough for a month to impress Laban enough to offer him a paying job. Perhaps he worked each day with Rachel as a shepherd. He worked seven years to purchase the right to marry Rachel, and then seven more years after Laban deceived him with Leah so he could marry Rachel (a total of fourteen years that resulted in marrying two sisters). Others might have relaxed and enjoyed free room and board for a month as a relative until they became an unwanted burden on their relative.

 

2. How might Laban’s answer to Jacob regarding his wages have been crafty in preparation to deceive Jacob later “if he wanted to and saw the opportunity”?

Laban’s “agreement” was vague enough that he could change the implied terms later. He added terms to the agreement when he deceived Jacob with Leah and mentioned a previously undisclosed “custom.” Laban and Jacob understood the agreement differently. Perhaps if a “better man” had come along, Laban would have told Jacob and refused Rachel to Jacob.

 

3. How long did Jacob’s first seven years of work feel to him and why did he feel that way?

The first seven years felt like only a few days, because Jacob loved Rachel.

 

4. How do our feelings for someone influence how we serve them?

 What kind of feelings do believers and unbelievers have toward God and how do those feelings influence their service of God?

If we love and respect someone, we will enjoy the opportunity to serve them. If we dislike, hate, or have no respect for someone, then each moment of service will feel like drudgery at the least. Believers love and respect God; they give thanks to God for the opportunity to serve God; their service brings them much joy as it flows from their love for God. Unbelievers think there is no God, and when they learn of God they certainly do not want to serve God; they would feel like a resentful slave to God and God’s laws.

 

5. Can you name one or more good consequences that God worked out in spite of Laban’s sins against Jacob and his daughters?

The twelve tribes of Israel came from Jacob’s wives and their servants. Leah bore Judah and Levi, ancestors of Jesus the Messiah and Moses the Lawgiver. Rachel bore Joseph (who saved Israel from starvation in Egypt, and who was the father of two tribes).

 

 

Word Search

God Gives Laws with Good Reasons

Genesis 29:15-30

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Name_________________________________

 

Y Q R Q W J L R E D L E F P G

N V T E D I R H W B Y A U W Q

U G L I L E P E X O U M K A E

R C O E G A D I C C H S R G T

T Y F N A D T U R A D Z E E R

B W U S I H S I H J F I B S J

N O T N K T D L V A N L E M W

Y X G C O X I S Y E W P C F E

G U A M W B L B R P B A C Z E

S H E P H E R D L A V H A V K

Z L O B U J N I Q E E X L Y M

D A U G H T E R S U H Y A S T

O N Q B S L V U G O T C B V Q

F I W X Q C E X W R G K A Y I

G N H E T F S Q Y P A W N R K

Laban

Rebecca

Relative

Jacob

Leah

Rachel

Custom

Zilpah

Bilhah

Seven

Wages

Wedding

Years

Week

Shepherd

Daughters

Elder

Younger

 

 

 

 

 

True and False Test

God Gives Laws with Good Reasons

Genesis 29:15-30

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Name__________________________

 

 

Circle the true or false answers. Correct the false statements by restating them.

 

1. Even though Jacob was his relative, Laban was so honest and righteous that he did not want Jacob to work for him without getting paid a fair wage. True or False

 

2. Laban’s oldest daughter was so beautiful that Jacob fell in love with her immediately. True or False

 

3. Jacob agreed to work seven years for Laban so he could marry Leah. True or False

 

4. God punished Jacob when He tricked Jacob into marrying Rachel.

True or False

 

5. Both Laban and his sister deceived members of their own family.

True or False

 

6. By personal experience, Jacob learned how much it hurt to be cheated by someone. True or False

 

7. Jacob bowed down and thanked Laban for the gift of Leah as his wife. True or False

 

8. Jacob worked fourteen years for Laban so he could marry Rachel. True or False

 

9. Laban gave Zilpah and Bilhah to Leah and Rachel to serve them as maids. True or False

 

10 Jacob agreed to follow a marriage custom after Laban explained it to him. True or False

 

 

 

Answers to the True and False Test

Genesis 29:15-30

Sunday, January 3, 2016

 

1.   False

2.   False

3.   False

4.   False

5.   True

6.   True

7.   False

8.   True

9.   True

10. True

 

 

Closing Prayer

Heavenly Father, to You we commit ourselves and our families. We are not perfect. We have tensions and issues, disappointments and tragedies. For these we seek Your help and blessing that we may serve You best. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday School Lesson

December 27

A Generous Gift

 

Devotional Reading:John 1:10-18

 

Background Scripture: Matthew 23:1-12; Mark 12:38-44

 

 

Focal Verses

Matthew 23:2-12

 

2 Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:

 

3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

 

4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

 

5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,

 

6 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,

 

7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.

 

8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.

 

9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.

 

10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.

 

11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.

 

12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

 

Mark 12:38-44

 

38 And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces,

 

39 And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts:

 

40 Which devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.

 

41 And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.

 

42 And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.

 

43 And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:

 

44 For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

 

Key Verse

 

Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. —Matthew 23:12

 

Lesson Aims

 

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

 

1. Note a godly characteristic to contrast with each of the behaviors or traits that Jesus condemned in the religious leaders.

 

2. Tell how the poor widow’s example can be followed by people of comfortable means today.

 

3. Identify one attitude or action in need of change and make a plan to do so.

 

 

Introduction

 

A. Definitions from God’s Dictionary

 

When we want to understand an unfamiliar word, we may consult a dictionary. But definitions therein describe how words are commonly used, and that usage is subject to change. As Christians, we want to know how God defines words—and His definitions do not change.

 

As we think carefully about today’s passage in the context of Jesus’ life, we will be able to understand God’s definition of generosity, a subject of our lesson. So informed, we will then be able to make a better response to God’s generosity, reflecting it in our own generosity toward others.

 

B. Lesson Background

 

Today’s texts from Matthew and Mark follow a series of exchanges between Jesus and His opponents during His final public ministry in Jerusalem. These opponents included scribes and Pharisees. Scribes served the vital role of copying Scripture by hand in an era that did not have copy machines, electronic texts, etc. A scribe was therefore recognized as an expert in the Scriptures. Scribes were held in high esteem.

 

Pharisees, for their part, were advocates of a particular way of interpreting Scripture (compare Acts 23:8). This group believed that God would restore or maintain His favor on the Jewish people only if they kept His law faithfully. To ensure that they did so, the Pharisees “built a fence” around the law by developing oral traditions as legal commentary regarding how to apply God’s written ordinances. Pharisees thought that people wouldn’t even come close to violating God’s written law if they adhered to these oral traditions.

 

Most Pharisees probably did not believe that God was overly concerned with the minor details of their oral tradition. But they did believe that devout Jews honored God by not violating the law as they followed detailed traditions. Pharisees were held in high esteem by most Jews, even if they did not strictly follow the Pharisees’ traditions.

 

In contrast to these is the widow who appears in the second of our two texts for today. Widows were especially vulnerable in biblical times. Those who lacked sons or other male relatives were essentially left without means of support. They might earn some coins selling handwork, but few could make a living by doing that.

 

As a result, many widows depended on the generosity of the community to survive. God’s law required such generosity (Deuteronomy 24:19-21; compare Acts 6:1; 1 Timothy 5:3), but those needs were easy to overlook. A widow without family or community support was in a desperate situation. She had nowhere to turn but to God (Deuteronomy 10:18; 1 Timothy 5:5).

 

I. Prideful Prominence

 

                                                                 (Matthew 23:2-7)

 

A. Hypocrites as Leaders (vv. 2, 3)

 

2. Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.

 

Speaking “to the multitude, and to his disciples” (Matthew 23:1), Jesus affirms the importance of the position of the scribes and the Pharisees. The expression Moses’ seat does not refer to a literal place to sit. Rather, it speaks to the position of those who guide Israel in understanding God’s law. Jesus is affirming what the audience believes: these teachers are in a vital position.

 

Those of us who are familiar with the story line of the Gospels may tend to think of scribes and Pharisees as obviously wicked. But for Jesus’ audience, they are the most highly respected people. We can better hear the significance of Jesus’ harsh words (below) against that background.

 

3. All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

 

Jesus has criticized religious leaders previously for teaching certain things (Matthew 15:1-20). The heart of His critique is the difference between what the leaders claim to be and how they actually live.

 

How to Say It

 

Pharisees Fair-ih-seez.

 

phylacteries fih-lak-ter-eez.

 

Zebedee Zeb-eh-dee.

 

 

 

Here Jesus highlights that problem. The scribes and Pharisees have become prominent because of their expertise in the law. But from positions of prominence they use that expertise to manipulate people and take advantage of them. This is not consistent with the ideal of sitting in Moses’ seat: interpreting rightly the law of the God who liberates His lowly people from oppression.

 

To say, and do not fits a description that Jesus applies elsewhere: hypocrite (Matthew 23:13-29; etc.). Hypocrite is the Greek word for “actor,” and hypocrites are those who appear to be something they are not. This description refers to the religious leaders’ claims to honor God when their actions show that they use their teaching to disobey Him (example: Mark 7:9-13). The ultimate expression of their hypocrisy is their claim of allegiance to God while rejecting God’s very Son, who stands in their midst.

 

B. Hypocrites in Setting Standards (v. 4)

 

4. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

 

Earlier, Jesus had invited all “that labour and are heavy laden” to come to Him for rest, for He gives a light, easy burden (Matthew 11:28-30). By contrast, the hypocritical leaders bind heavy burdens on others while taking none of the burden on themselves. The problem is that the scribes and Pharisees use their expertise to create interpretations that encumber others while making loopholes for themselves; in so doing, they enhance their own power and prestige. By contrast, Jesus, though greater than others, lowers himself to serve the weak.

 

C. Hypocrites for Wanting Attention (vv. 5-7)

 

5. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments.

 

Jesus has already affirmed that the true subjects of God’s kingdom do their righteous deeds where only God can see (Matthew 6:1-18) so that God is glorified (5:16). This is the righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees (5:20). But the hypocritical religious leaders are focused not on serving God but on receiving honor and prestige from other people.

 

Jesus drives His point home by citing prominent parts of the Pharisees’ appearance. Phylacteries are small leather boxes containing pieces of parchment on which are inscribed Scripture passages. This custom probably began with a literal application of the instruction to bind the law on one’s hand or forehead (Deuteronomy 6:8; 11:18; compare Exodus 13:9, 16). The borders of their garments are fringes attached to the edges of the shawl worn by devout Jewish men. The strings of the fringe serve as a memory device (Numbers 15:37-40).

 

Jesus’ critique is not of the phylacteries and fringes themselves. (Some think that Jesus himself may have worn the prayer shawl; see Matthew 9:20, 21.) Rather, He is critiquing the pursuit of prominence reflected in ostentatious display. Those who seek the approval of people already have their reward (6:1, 2, 5, 16). They have no standing with God, whom they effectively ignore.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What, if anything, does this passage have to say about the way we dress today?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

For church

 

For work

 

For leisure

 

Other

 

6. And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues.

 

The religious leaders’ quest for prominence extends to their behavior at feasts. Many guests might be invited to feasts held in wealthy households, and those guests may include prominent religious leaders. To be invited to sit in the most important places at the feast table, here translated as uppermost rooms, means to receive a public honor.

 

There is a certain parallel of this situation in the synagogues. Synagogues in Jesus’ day are places for regular gatherings of faithful Jewish people for the reading of Scripture and prayer. In such gatherings, special chairs are set aside for those educated in God’s law, who are invited to speak on its practice. (Others mostly sit on benches or the floor.) Jesus accuses the religious leaders of seeking the prominence that is attached to the places of honor at such gatherings. Again, their motive is not to serve God but to gain prestige (compare Luke 14:7-11).

 

“Sitting in the Catbird Seat”

 

An interesting idiom of a few decades past is “sitting in the catbird seat.” Attributed to Brooklyn Dodgers’ radio announcer “Red” Barber, it appeared first in print in a 1942 short story of the same title by James Thurber. A character in the story remarked that her boss was “sitting in the catbird seat,” which drew on the catbird’s known tendency to perch on the highest point to sing. This meant that the boss was in control of his world.

 

The problem of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day is that they viewed their position “in Moses&rsq