His Love! - Psalm 136:1-26

1.      When you are with one of your small children or a grandchild and someone gives them something, what do you remind the child to do? (Thank the person for giving to them.)

2.      What makes giving thanks so important?

3.      What does a person’s willingness to give thanks to God reveal about his or her understanding of God?

Today we are looking at Psalm 136. It was written to be read responsive or sung antiphonally. But before we do that I want to read the entire psalm leaving out the “responsive” part so we can get a clear picture of what the psalmist was thankful for as he wrote this beautiful song. (Read the Psalm leaving out the responsive portion.)

Now divide the class into two groups and read the entire psalm responsively to get the full impact of this beautiful psalm.

 

We do not know the date this psalm was written. It could have been just after the exodus from Egypt, during the time of the Judges or after the return from the Babylonian exile. The important truths to remember is this psalm gives thanks to God and recalls again and again His unfailing love for us.

 

In Creation! Read Psalm 136:1-5

 

            The Hebrew word chesed is the main word in the refrain of Psalm 136, meaning His love is eternal. It is used almost 250 times in the Old Testament and has no exact English translation. Various translations have rendered it “faithful love,” “mercy,” “steadfast love,” and “lovingkindness.” It conveys the idea of “covenant love,” a love that is based on God’s promise to His people. Rarely is chesed used in reference to people; it is almost always used in reference to God’s faithful love toward us.

 

1.      Notice the names used for God in these verses. What do they reveal about His character? (God is thoroughly and consistently good. His character is steadfast, powerful, reliable, true, and trustworthy from first to last.)

2.      His supremacy? (Other gods exist only in the imagination of people. There are people we call “lords” but God is supreme above all! See Psalm 135:15-18.)

3.      His power? (Our finite mind cannot fathom the extent of God’s creation—it is limitless! Scientists estimate the diameter of the known universe as over 90 billion light years. That is distance you would travel going 186,000 miles per second for 90 billion years.)

4.      What do they say about how we should worship Him?

5.      How might a wrong view of God affect our worship of God?

6.      Why is it important for Christians to believe God created everything out of nothing?

It is humbling to realize that everything God created is for His glory and our good!

 

In Conquest! Read Psalm 136:10-15

 

1.      How would you describe what God did for Israel as recorded in these verses?

2.      What kind of impact do you think these stories had on the original audience for this psalm?

The Israelites often sang or wrote of their release from slavery in Egypt (examples are: Ex. 15:4; Josh. 24:6; Neh. 9:9; Ps. 106; Heb. 11:29). Verses 16-22 of Psalm 136 go on to talk about victories the Lord gave Israel once they left Egypt. Sihon king of the Amorites and Og king of Basham were enemy kings the Israelites conquered before they got to the promised land (Num. 21:21-25). This victory is referenced multiple times throughout the rest of the Old Testament.

It is a humbling thought to realize God took a nation of slaves and molded them into a victorious nation!

3.      Why is the act of remembering what God has accomplished in your life and that of your ancestors an important spiritual discipline?

4.      Why is it easy to forget God’s blessings?

5.      What are some of the pitfalls that come from forgetting? (Taking God’s blessings and mighty acts for granted!)

 

The previous verses emphasized what the Israelites were to remember. These next few verses focus on what God remembered.

 

In Compassion! Read Psalm 136:23-26

 

1.      Since we know God doesn’t forget anything, what does verse 23 mean? (From our point of view is seems that God forgets us when we are going through a difficult situation for an extended period of time. Then when He delivers us it’s like he just remembered us and our circumstances. The truth is: He was with us all the time working out everything for His glory and our good!)

2.      What does verse 25 teach us?

 

The Israelites always go back to the miraculous deeds God performed in the forming of their nation and sustaining them over the centuries. We should do the same in our times of thanksgiving.

In Psalm 136 we learn that God reigns with providential care over His universe, His creatures, and all of human history according to the purposes of His grace. Our appropriate response is thanksgiving!

 

3.      Why is giving thanks to God important for believers?

4.      How can you help others express their thankfulness to God?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

While the psalmist recognized the cosmic works of the Lord in creation, he spent more time thanking God for His personal care for His people.

We live in a hurting world.

 

What’s our role in providing love and resources, even though God is the ultimate provider?

As people made in God’s image, we are responsible to express His love, goodness, and mercy. He frequently works through people to meet the needs of others.

 

Evidently God led the psalmist to repeat the phrase “His love is eternal” for a reason! Perhaps it was to remind us of His great love for us and that we are to be at least one expression of that love for Him to those around us—after all we are created in His image!

God Revealed - Psalm 19:1-14

1.      How would you describe President Trump to someone who had never heard of him?

2.      How would you describe one of your grandparents to someone who did not know them?

3.      How would you describe your spouse to someone who had never met him or her?

4.      What are the different levels of relationship involved here? (One is general knowledge—information available to everyone. The second is special knowledge—available through a close relationship. The third is intimate knowledge—known only through a close, intimate relationship.)

God reveals Himself to us through His creation. We see such qualities as intentionality, orderliness, inventiveness, beauty, goodness, cleverness, uniqueness, steadiness and more.

5.      What do we know about our God who created both horses and zebras; badgers and beavers; robins and cardinals; cockatoos and buzzards—and the list could go on? (He is a creative God who loves variety!)

God reveals Himself through special revelation in His Word.

But God reveals Himself specifically through Jesus Christ.

Through each of these, beginning with His general revelation, we learn a little more about who God is and how He desires to relate to His creation.

The question each of us must answer is: How do we respond when God reveals Himself to us? In His general revelations do we ignore the evidence around us and proclaim God’s creation is simply a freak accident, a big bang that occurred from nothing and made something? In His special revelation do we ignore His Word and proclaim this doesn’t apply to me? In His specific revelation do we proclaim this as simply a fairytale made up by weak dreamers?

 

In Psalm 19, the psalmist described two ways God has given us to help us know Him better. We can learn about God by observing His creation, but He also reveals Himself through His Word.

Seen In Creation! Read Psalm 19:1-6

 

1.      What are the various ways creation is personified in these verses? (Declare; proclaims; pour out speech; communicate knowledge; their words; pitched a tent; rejoices.)

2.      Notice all the synonyms for “tell” in verses 1-2. What is the psalmist teaching us through these words?

3.      What do the heavens and sky proclaim about God? (The heavens declare the glory of God—the visible representation of the invisible. They also declare the work of God’s hands, communicate knowledge even without words.)

Glory refers to God’s manifested power and revealed character. God’s glory is the outshining, or the expression, of His character.

All people are accountable to God since He reveals Himself through His creation!

4.      How do you make sense of the apparent contradiction between verse 3 and 4?

Read Romans 1:19-23.

When our Astronauts made their first trip to orbit the moon they read from Genesis 1:1. After the first Russian Cosmonauts made his trip into space Nikita Khrushchev is quoted as saying “Gagarin flew into space, but didn’t see any god there.”

5.      What do the images in verses 4-6 teach us about God? (Consider one image at a time. Pitched a tent for the sun; groom coming from the bridal chamber; athlete running a course; rising from one end to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.)

God created nature. Nature is not God, so there is never a place to worship it. Nature reveals some of the glory of God, it is not God!

Also note that God created time, but He is not bound by it. God also created the physical laws that govern the universe but He is not bound by those laws!

6.      What conclusions can we draw about God by observing His creation? (God is great, mighty, powerful and supreme!)

7.      What misconceptions about God might people draw if they only depend upon what they see in creation? (God is withdrawn from us and is not interested in a relationship with His creation.)

We’ve looked at God’s general revelation to us now we will consider His special revelation to us.

Seen In His Word! Read Psalm 19:7-11

 

The name used for God in the first 6 verses is “Elohim”. The name used in verses 7-11 is “Yahweh,” which was God’s special, covenant name revealed to His people Israel. Most English Bibles render it Lord.

1.      “Instruction,” “testimony,” “precepts,” “command,” and “ordinances” are all synonyms for what? (God’s law.)

God’s Word provides people with an infallible guide for living in right relationship with God! The law in God’s Word is meant to free us, not place us in bondage. Contrary to what many people believe, a life of freedom comes only by being obedient to God’s instructions. He created us and knows what is best for us.

2.      How did the psalmist describe each of these synonyms for God’s law and the benefit of obedience from his perspective?

 

God’s Law               Described              Benefit Received

 

Instruction                 Perfect                        Renewing one’s life

Testimony                  Trustworthy              Making one wise

Precepts                     Right                           A Glad heart

Command                   Radiant                       Making eyes light up

Fear                            Pure                            Enduring forever

Ordinances                 Reliable/righteous    More desirable than

                                                                        gold/sweeter than

honey.

3.      Can we say that everything that is said here is true of Jesus? (Yes! Jesus is the Word made flesh! Therefore all of the truths here are true of Jesus!)

4.      What is the final conclusion the psalmist made about God’s Word in verse 11? (We are “warned by them” and “there is great reward in keeping them.”)

5.      How does God’s Word help us avoid dangers and traps?

6.      If we know there are benefits to keeping God’s Word, why do we so easily choose to disregard or disobey it?

7.      How does your life show that you treasure God’s Word?

Celebrated in His People! Read Psalm 19:12-14

 

1.      How does the focus shift here? (Isn’t this a normal, logical progression as we read God’s Word and allow it to penetrate our heart with its truth?)

2.      What happens in our lives as we read and meditate on God’s Word? (Sin is revealed for what it really is. As we apply God’s Word to our life hidden or unintentional sin is revealed. We become convicted of our intentional sin.)

3.      How do we deceive ourselves about our unintentional sins? (Both intentional and unintentional sins rule over us.)

4.      How do we deceive ourselves with intentional (willful) sin? (We think we choose freedom when we choose sin. Yet the result is always bondage to sin. The only true freedom is found in Christ!)

God’s Word will always lead us into a greater awareness of our own sinfulness. This isn’t necessarily meant to make us feel more guilty but to make us more like Jesus.

5.      What role does Scripture play in revealing our faults and sins?

6.      How does God use Scripture in our lives to correct us so we can better reflect His character?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      How can the truths described in verses 1-13 become realities in our lives? (Put verse 14 into action.)

2.      How can Psalm 19:14 serve as a daily prayer?

 

God’s Spirit will help us control our words, before they exit our lips.

We can’t control what thoughts enter our minds, but we can control what thought we entertain or eject.

Our words and our hearts determine the actions we choose.

 

Challenge: Every morning for the next seven days pray Psalm 19:14 and watch for the ways God answers!

 

Close by praying Psalm 19:14.

The Creator - Psalm 95:1-11

1.      What is your favorite hymn?

2.      What is your favorite hymn of praise?

3.      How would you describe the difference in the hymn “How Great Is Our God” and “Worthy of Worship”? (The first one is proclaiming God’s greatness to others, while the second hymn is addressed directly to God.)

Many of our favorite hymns proclaim God’s greatness, along with other descriptions of Him but are not addressed directly to Him. Not that these other hymns are not good but we need to sing hymns addressed directly to God as well. “Amazing Grace” is most likely the most favorite hymn of all time, but it is a hymn of testimony not praise to God, although it does cause people to praise Him. While hymns of proclamation are appropriate in our services, hymns of worship are addressed TO God, not ABOUT God!

            The subheading for Psalm 95 is “Worship and Warning.” This tells us that this psalm is a combination psalm that leads us to worship and cautions us to watch our attitude toward God!

“This psalm may have been composed for the Festival of Booths. This weeklong feast celebrated the ingathering of the harvest and commemorated Israel’s exodus out of Egyptian slavery. During this sacred holiday, the Israelites erected temporary living quarters to remind them of God’s providential care during the years when the nation wandered in the wilderness. Booths were not indications of privation and poverty but were symbols of protection and preservation. Living in booths for a week reminded Israel of God’s protection during a critical period of its history.” (From your Personal Study Guide, page 63)

In our text today we will address four of the six basic journalism questions: What? Who? How? And When?

 

What? Read Psalm 95:1-2

1.      How would you characterize these two verses, worship or call to worship?

2.      What does the psalmist specifically call for the people to do? (Shout joyfully; shout triumphantly; enter His presence with thanksgiving; shout triumphantly.)

3.      What causes believers to feel this way?

4.      Based on this passage, how would you define worship?

5.      What elements should be included in worship?

6.      What phrase does the psalmist use to describe God? (“The Rock of our salvation.”)

7.      How does verse 1 free you to sing to God whether you think you sing well or poorly? (Singing in the Bible is not a talent for a few but a command for all people. Many translations use the word “sing” rather than “shout” here, and one even encourages us to “make a joyful noise.”)

8.      What might shouting joyfully to the Lord look like in corporate worship? In privacy of your home or car?

Singing and shouting to God without right actions is not worship: read Amos 5:23-24.

True worship begins in the heart, not the lips!

 

Who? Read Psalm 95:3-5

 

1.      The answer to the question of who we are to worship should be obvious. How do these verses describe God?

2.      How do the descriptions that the psalmist used differ from how we might describe God?

Verse 4 teaches us that God is present at the deepest depths and the highest heights of creation. For the ancient Israelites, Mount Hermon would have been their highest reference point at 9,100 feet. The Dead Sea would have been the lowest point they knew at 1,400 feet below sea level and 120 miles away from each other. Today, our knowledge of the world is more expansive. We know that Mount Everest at 29,028 feet is the highest point on the planet, and the Challenger Deep in the Pacific Ocean (36,200 feet) is the lowest. But regardless of whether you are an ancient Israelite or you live today, God is present in every dimension of creation. He is there because He made it.

3.      Does our increased knowledge of our planet increase or diminish our worship of God?

4.      In what ways does the earth point to the greatness of God as Creator?

5.      How does the fact that God created you motivate you to worship Him? (We should be reminded that as our Creator, God knows our hearts and sees our actions and motivations infinitely more than we could ever understand.)

6.      How is worship more than a feeling? (We worship God for who He is not what He has done or will do! He is worthy of worship simply because of who He is!)

When we notice we’re worshiping something else, including our own opinion, we must deliberately redirect our affection to God. God’s Spirit in us will help us do this.

7.      How is obedience an act of worship? (It acknowledges God as our Sovereign Lord through our actions!)

 

How? Read Psalm 95:6-7a

 

1.      What attitude or character trait do you associate with kneeling and bowing down?

2.      Beyond physically bending our knees, how are we to show humility before God?

The psalmist further reinforced a posture of humility by comparing us to sheep.

3.      What do you remember about sheep from our study of Psalm 23?

4.      How is the image of sheep a fitting metaphor for the relationship between God and His people?

5.      What do you appreciate about being one of God’s sheep?

 

When? Read Psalm 95:7b-11

 

Summarize or read Exodus 17:1-7 where the people of Israel were without water and grumbled against God and Moses.

1.      Instead of grumbling and complaining against God because they had no water, what should have been their attitude? (First, thankfulness to God because He had delivered them from Egyptian slavery. Second, an attitude of faith that God would provide and excitement to see how He would provide.)

2.      Where was the people’s focus when they were without water? (Self! Instead of excitement about how God would provide.)

3.      Why is it so hard for us to maintain humility?

4.      What makes hardheartedness appealing? (Our sinful nature keeps our focus on “self”.)

5.      How is our worship of God influenced by our faith in God?

6.      What are the dangers of failing to worship God?

7.      How do we enter into God’s rest?

8.      What blocks us from entering His rest? (Lack of faith.)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

People were created to live in relationship with God and a natural outflow of that relationship would be to worship God.

What evidence do you see of this foundational need to worship?

 

We all worship something. The Spirit motivates believers to worship God through the fruits of the Spirit. These are obedient actions, not feelings.

Notice that the fruits of the Spirit are missing when a person worships self or possessions or any other entity.

 

Chorus to “Worthy of Worship”:

You are worthy, Father, Creator!

You are worthy, Savior, Sustainer.

You are worthy, worthy and wonderful;

Worthy of worship and praise.

 

Close with a prayer of praise!

His Presence - Psalm 84:1-12

1.      When you think of going to the following places what emotions do you feel: Home; Parents Home; Children’s Home; Wal-Mart; Bass Pro Shop; Shopping in general; Church?

2.      Why do we associate certain places with particular emotions?

3.      What are some places that have special emotional significance for you or your family?

4.      Do you ever find yourself humming or singing a hymn on your way to church? (I must confess I do. It is not uncommon for me to be singing a hymn on my way to church.)

5.      Why do you think a person would be singing a hymn on their way to worship? (Anticipation of being with God’s people and praising God together for all He has done and will do in our lives.)

Psalm 84 is classified as a Royal Psalm. It offers prayers for God’s blessings on Israel’s King with some hint of messianic fulfillment. Although not a formal classification it could be called a Psalm of Assent. It is thought that it was sung as pilgrims made their way to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple. Their excitement grew as they got closer and closer to Jerusalem.

One of the descendants of Korah wrote this Psalm. The sons of Korah were “gate keepers” at the Tabernacle and later on the Temple.

Listen for hints of their excitement!

 

The Passion! Read Psalm 84:1-4

 

1.      What words or phrases describe how the psalmist felt about God’s dwelling place? (Lovely; Even birds nest there; Those who reside there are very happy.)

2.      What words or phrases describe how the psalmist felt about God Himself? (Lord of Hosts; My King and my God; Praise You continually.)

3.      What one emotion seems to describe how the psalmist feels about both God and His house? (The psalmist wrote “I long and yearn for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God.”)

4.      Why did the psalmist associate the presence of the Lord so closely to the Temple? (The Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant was located, was where the High Priest went in once a year to sprinkle the blood of the sacrificed lamb, and it was associated with the very presence of God! It was thought of as God’s dwelling place here on earth.)

5.      Have you ever long for, yearned for, cried out for the presence of someone?

6.      What role does passion play in worship?

7.      How does the expectation of God’s presence impact that passion?

8.      Where is God’s dwelling place here on earth now? (The hearts of the believers.(1 Cor. 3:16 “Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you?”)

9.      What is the role of a particular place in feeling close to God? (Of course, God is everywhere but His presence is felt more strongly when God’s people are gathered. In Matthew 18:20 Jesus says, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.” His presence is manifest in the company of two or more gathered in His name. See Heb. 10:25.)

God is everywhere simultaneously, yet He promises that when His people gather in a designated place to worship Him and seek Him, He will meet with them there and reveal Himself to them.

Selah—Most likely a musical notation meaning to pause.

 

The Priority! Read Psalm 84:5-7

 

1.      How did the people described here make worship of God the highest priority? (They were on a pilgrimage to the temple to worship. The trip is characterized as having difficulties and hardships, but also as energizing to those making the journey, because they knew the joy of worship that awaited them.)

The Valley of Baca (Bay kuh) wasn’t necessarily a place but a metaphor. Baka derives from the Hebrew term meaning “to weep.” So the valley of Baca is similar to Psalm 23’s “valley of the shadow of death” (KJV).

2.      What is the value of God’s presence for the psalmist?

3.      How does God’s presence serve as a source of strength? (Finding strength in God is not a sign of weakness but instead is our source of happiness. God meets us in our weakness!)

4.      How do we go “from strength to strength”? (As we are strengthened through one crisis our faith is stronger and in the next crisis face we should be stronger.)

5.      How do strong decisions and actions encourage further strong decisions and actions? (We must be certain we are waiting on the Lord for our directions.)

The experience of worship can bend our question marks into exclamation points!

6.      How does God’s presence serve as a source of strength?

 

The Prayer! Psalm 84:8-9

 

1.      What is the specific prayer in verses 8-9?

2.      Who is the psalmist praying for, and why? (For the King of Israel. That God would consider the King and bless him.)

3.      How is a godly king/leader a shield for his people?

4.      Why is it so important that God direct the king/leader?

5.      How did the realization that God anoints rulers and leaders impact how the psalmist prayed?

The word “anointed” referred literally to the king of Israel, but it is also reference to Jesus, the coming Messiah. The Hebrew word translated “anointed one” is where we get our word “Messiah.”

6.      Does God still anoint leaders/place them in leadership today?

7.      What is our responsibility to our leaders today? (We have a God given responsibility to pray for our leaders, whether we like them or not! 1 Tim. 2:2)

 

 

The Presence! Read Psalm 84:10-12

 

1.      Why do you suppose Psalm 84:10 is so favored and frequently repeated? (Being a “doorkeeper” in the house of the Lord was a menial task. Remember the writer of this psalm was a descendant of Korah, and they were the “gatekeepers” in the house of the Lord.)

2.      The psalmist declared the joy of being in God’s presence even in an outer court. Why is being near God so valuable? (Being near God equips us to have the characteristics He has. After all, aren’t we to be like Jesus! The best way is to be near Him!)

3.      Verse 11 is the only place in Scripture that “God is a sun.” In what way would you compare God to the sun for us? (Without the sun everything on earth would die. God is literally the light or life for us!)

4.      How is God our shield?

5.      What is the condition here for God to give grace, glory and good to His people? (Integrity.)

6.      We generally know what it means to live with integrity in our daily lives but what does it mean to worship with integrity?

7.      How does God’s indwelling presence help us live with integrity?

Happiness results when we put our complete trust in the Lord!

8.      What modern-day illustration might convey the same trust as the psalmist expressed?

9.      What makes God’s presence so compelling?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

·         Believers are to worship God passionately in light of who He is.

·         God offers strength for life to those who seek to worship Him.

·         Believers are to pray for their leaders and for God’s direction as they lead.

·         Believers are to respond to God’s presence with worship and praise.

I love the word synergy! It means the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. In our context, it means that there is such a connection among individuals that it is better than what each one would be individually! We are stronger spiritually together than we are individually. Pray for each other and support each other as well as our leaders!

Our Response - Psalm 138:1-8

(Give each person a large paper clip and ask them to bend it into several different shapes. Give them a few moments to complete their task of bending the paper clip.)

Say: Your paper clip represents your life. We might be shaped in ways we didn’t anticipate, but we’ll end up better liking the person we become if we learn to give God thanks in all situations for the work He is doing in and through us. Read 1 Thess. 5:18!

(Reshape your paper clip to look like a person bowing.)

When we make thanksgiving and praise to God a daily habit we are changed more into the likeness of Jesus!

 

Psalm 138 is a thanksgiving psalm, which means it was a response to something God had done for the psalmist, David. In this Psalm, David stated that he would give God thanks with his whole heart. That may not always be our first instinct, but as we strengthen our allegiance to God, it will become more and more natural.

 

Give God Thanks! Read Psalm 138:1-3

 

1.      What phrase expresses David’s sincerity in giving thanks?

2.      What does it mean to “halfheartedly” do something?

3.      How would you describe doing something “with all your heart?”

4.      What makes the difference in “halfhearted” and “wholehearted”?

5.      Before whom did David say he would sing praise?

We can’t see heavenly beings with our physical eyes. And at the time David was writing this psalm, the temple hadn’t been built so he was bowing toward the Tabernacle. A thankful heart does not depend on what can be seen with our eyes.

6.      What may cause a person to hesitate in giving thanks to God?

7.      What roadblocks get in the way of a person developing an attitude of thankfulness?

Read verse 3 again. Note that David was referring to a previous experience—he has shifted from talking about what he would do to what had happened in the past.

8.      Would anyone like to share an experience when God answered a specific prayer?

9.      What motivates a person to express thankfulness?

10.  Are some motives better than others?

 

This psalm seems to indicate that thankfulness is a matter of willingness. Thankfulness is often expressed for what God has done. But worship is expressed for who God is. In the next section, let’s pay attention to why David wrote that all earthly kings will worship the Lord.

 

All Kings Will Bow! Read Psalm 138:4-6

 

God has a special relationship with His people, Israel. Israel is the nation to whom God has made specific promises of blessing. Yet, verse 4 says that all the kings on earth will thank God when they hear what God has promised.

1.      What generally happens when an earthly kingdom is vanquished by another?

2.      What will happen when earthly kingdoms are concurred and subjugated by the Lord? (It is cause for thanksgiving and praise!)

3.      According to verse 5, why would other kings of the earth sing of the Lord’s ways? (“The Lord’s Glory is Great.”)

Although God’s promises were made to Israel, God is clear throughout Scripture that all nations will benefit from the blessings God poured out on His chosen people. When God first blessed Abraham, He told him that He would make Abram into a great nation (see Gen. 12:3). Ultimately, this promise has its fulfillment through Jesus Christ, who, though He is a descendant of Abraham according to the flesh, is the Savior of all people through His death and resurrection (see Rom. 1:4).

4.      Which is a better motivator of thankfulness to God: love or fear? Why? (Some kings would be prompted out of thankfulness for the Lord’s promises, ways, or greatness, and others would give thanks out of fear for God’s recognition of their haughtiness and for their own failure to recognize the humble.)

5.      How does God treat the humble? (See James 4:10, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.” See 2 Chron. 7:14.)

6.      What is God’s attitude toward the proud? (See James 4:6; Prov. 16:18—“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Prov. 11:2—“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” Prov. 6:16-19 “There are six things the Lord hates, no seven things He detests; haughty eyes, …”)

Sadly, sometimes our thanks might be self-focused rather than God-focused. God sees through our arrogant or haughty attitudes.

 

In our last few verses for today, we’ll see how David expressed confidence in God’s love, omniscience, and power.

God Will Fulfill! Read Psalm 138:7-8

 

From the time Samuel anointed David to be the person God had chosen to replace Saul as king of Israel he almost always faced danger from some enemy. Initially it was Saul, then other armies, then his own son, Absalom. David was well acquainted with danger. But David’s enemies failed because he trusted God, not his own skill. No foe could take David’s life as long as he gave it to God!

1.      What three conclusions had David come to realize in verse 8? (David’s life had meaning; God’s love is eternal; and God would complete what He had begun in David’s life.)

2.      How does enduring a danger or a trial make a person more aware of God’s will and working in his or her life? (What we believe about God shapes how much we let Him guide us.)

3.      How does enduring it foster a thankful attitude?

4.      How has God’s extended hand equipped you to manage danger, anger, or unexpected obstacles?

5.      How can we work for God’s purpose despite setbacks? (God is very practical and will use many means to help us fulfill our purposes in Him.)

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Looking back over these eight verses actions for which the psalmist was thankful are: God’s constant love, constant truth, answering prayer, increasing strength, noting the humble, recognizing haughtiness, helping with anger from enemies, extending His strong hand, fulfilling His purpose, and eternal love.

1.      What are some ways we can develop a truly thankful attitude toward God?

2.      How can we express joyful thanks to God when we feel grumpy, entitled, frustrated, or otherwise unthankful?

We know the “church answers,” but still struggle to choose thankfulness.

Like David, we can choose “I will” with such actions as naming elements to be thankful for even amidst the junk, talking to God about our frustrations and knowing He’s been there, or by taking “every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).

 

We give thanks to God not for everything, but “in everything” (1 Thess. 5:18). This can only be done through the power of God’s Spirit!

 

Our challenge: Create a habit that will ensure regular thankfulness to God. Will it be a dialogue with Him while taking your shower, a calendar reminder, or something else?

 

Make thankfulness and praise to God a lifestyle!

The Shepherd - Psalm 23:1-6

(Make three columns on the board. Label them “First Person”, “Second Person”, and “Third Person”. List the singular, plural, and possessive pronouns below each one: 1st Person: I, we, me, my, mine, ours; 2nd Person: you, yours; 3rd Person: he, she, it, him, her, they, them, his, hers, theirs.)

Engage the class in the following discussion:

1.      Which pronouns would you typically use in a conversation with a friend?

2.      Which would you use providing eyewitness testimony? Writing a history paper? Singing a love song? Writing a letter to the editor? Recapping a game you watched on TV? Praising God? Praying to God?

Psalm 1, which we studied two weeks ago used third person pronouns. Psalm 78 gave the history of God’s faithfulness and Israel’s unfaithfulness. Almost every pronoun is third person. But Psalm 23 is different. Every single verse in the psalm has at least one first-person pronoun, and there are even a few second-person pronouns. There’s a reason Psalm 23 is one of the most beloved chapters in the entire Bible: it may be the most personal of all the Psalms! We hear it quoted and even used as a prayer at times.

 

Psalm 23 is a thanksgiving psalm, which means it was a response to something God had done for the psalmist—in this case David.

David knew about shepherding so he described God as his Shepherd. Let’s learn a little more about how God shepherds us!

 

(Read the first two paragraphs of Understanding the Context in the Personal Study Guide.)

Provides! Read Psalm 23:1-3

 

1.      Who is the Shepherd? *(Yahweh, God the author; God the Son, our Savior, Creator of all that exists; God the Holy Spirit who lives in the believer.)

2.      What is the relationship of the shepherd to his sheep? (Many times he was the owner, protector, guide, companion, and savior—he was everything to the sheep!)

3.      What words or phrases from these verses are especially comforting to you right now?

4.      What does the Shepherd provide for the sheep? (Everything they need!)

5.      How often do you see sheep lying down in a field?

*Sheep do not just take care of themselves. They require, more than any other class of livestock, endless attention and meticulous care. It is almost impossible for sheep to be made to lie down unless four requirements are met. 1-They refuse to lie down unless they are free of all fear. 2-They must be free from friction with others of their kind. 3-They must be free from torment by flies or parasites and 4-They must not feel a need of finding food.

6. How does each of these conditions apply to us as God’s sheep?

Sheep are afraid of swift running water and will not drink. Also, it is dangerous for them because if they slipped in the running water, their wool would become soaked and they would likely drown. What a peaceful picture is painted here! They are led to still waters to satisfy their thirst.

6.      What path does the shepherd lead them along?

Sometimes, sheep fall over on their backs, or “cast” and need someone to set them on their feet again. They can become “cast” by lying down on a really soft area of grass and just roll too far or perhaps the wool coat has become too heavy with briarsand such that they simply fall over. They must be helped to their feet or they will die. They have fallen by the wayside.

7.      How can we as Christians become “cast” and need help getting back to where we need to be?

8.      How specifically do you see God, as the Shepherd, give life to you daily?

9.      What keeps people from recognizing God’s involvement in providing these things?

10.  The shepherd metaphor was very understandable to the ancient Hebrews, but not many of us today have firsthand experience with sheep and shepherds. David drew metaphors from his life experiences. How would you convey the biblical truth in these verses using contemporary analogies from your own life experience?

Truths we find here is that it is important to rest at times—resting is not a sin—that is one way God renews us! Phillip Keller shares in his book “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” that when he was in the field with his sheep they were at ease and unafraid. That sounds a lot like John 10:14 “I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep and they know Me.”

We are led in the right paths “for His name’s sake.”—for His glory!

 

Guards! Read Psalm 23:4

 

Notice that David had stopped talking about the Lord and now spoke directly to the Lord.

1.      Who is there with the sheep in this dark valley?

2.      How did the sheep get in this valley? (The indication is that the Shepherd led them through it. Perhaps they needed to pass that way to get to greener pastures across the way.)

3.      Why is it important to have a personal relationship with God when we are going through dark valleys?

4.      Why isn’t it enough during these times to simply “know about” the Lord?

5.      How do sheep express trust in the shepherd? (They are calm, unafraid and obedient.)

6.      In what ways is obedience a function of trust?

*The staff is essentially a symbol of the concern, the compassion that a shepherd has for his charges. No other single word can better describe its function on behalf of the flock that that it is for their comfort. Whereas the rod conveys the concept of authority, of power, of discipline, of defense against danger, the word “staff” speaks of all that is longsuffering and kind.

The rod and the staff are tools of both correction and guidance.

7.      How has God walked with you and shown you what to do during a dark or dangerous time? (God not only goes with us, but He shows us what to do when we suffer or during quiet, rightness, wrongness, darkness, danger, plenty, and goodness.)

It is always important to wait until you hear from God!

8.      How does God’s presence in the good and bad times bring comfort to us? (Sometimes we are in difficult situations because of bad choices. Often God’s guidance helps us completely avoid darkness or danger. Sometimes, however, following the right path leads us directly through the dark valleys. Following the wrong path always leads us toward unnecessary dark valleys.)

While we are in our darkest valleys, God is not only with us, but He also continues to provide for our needs!

Hosts! Read Psalm 23:5-6

 

Some scholars think the psalmist has shifted to a banquet metaphor in these verses and some believe he is still talking about shepherds and sheep. If the psalmist is talking about a banquet host, we see them eating while onlookers come into the room. We see this in Luke 7:36-50 where Jesus was invited to a Pharisees home for a meal and the sinful woman anointed His feet with oil.

To anoint the guest’s head with oil was to honor them.

Most likely, however, the entire psalm is comparing God as David’s shepherd. Phillip Keller was trained as an aerologist at the University of Toronto and spent many years in agricultural research, land management, and ranch development. He also owned and operated a sheep ranch for eight years. He has firsthand knowledge of sheep and how to take care of them. He says at certain times of the year good grazing land is hard to find, and the sheep have to be herded high in the mountains to flat pastures known as mesas or tablelands. Mesa means table. In the spring the shepherd begins to prepare these mesas for summer feeding. Then just before the sheep arrive he takes a supply of salt and minerals to be distributed over the range. He also looks for and gets rid of the poisonous weeds or plants to avoid grazing in those areas. In other words, he is preparing the table for the sheep. He also says that pests are a real problem in the summertime, especially nose flies. The shepherd will prepare an ointment to smear over the sheep’s nose and head as a protection against nose flies.

As David thought about all the things God did for him, he was overwhelmed; therefore he said “My cup overflows.”

1.      What is indicated here by the Lord preparing a banquet feast for us in the presence of our enemies?

2.      What characteristics of God give confidence in times of trouble and in times of prosperity?

3.      How do these two verses encourage a person facing a time of trouble?

4.      How do these verses bring perspective to those experiencing a time of prosperity? (David highlighted the place where divine provision and protection was constantly available: in the house of the Lord!)

What a great thought that goodness and mercy pursues us!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

Jesus referred to Himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11). All the promises we see in Psalm 23 have their fulfillment in Christ (see Matt. 11:28; 28:20)

 

Let’s recite this beloved psalm in the King James Version as we close.

 

Psalm 23

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:

He leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul:

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

Close with prayer!

 

*”A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” by Phillip Keller © 1970 Zondervan Publishing House

The Past! - Psalm 78:1-39

Write on the whiteboard/blackboard or large sheet of paper: “Those who do not learn from history…”

1.      Point out the phrase: how would you complete this famous quote? (…are doomed to repeat it.”)

There are some variations of this that have been thought up through the years, for instance—“Those who don’t learn from history will wind up in summer school.” I’m living proof of that prediction.

2.      How would you describe the general tone of the original quote? (That the outcome will not be good, perhaps even disastrous.)

3.      Based on your own experiences or the state of the world today, do you think this saying is true?

4.      What is necessary to keep from repeating history? (We must know history to avoid making the same mistakes our ancestors made.)

Psalm 78 called for Israel to learn lessons from their history. Like Psalm 1, which we studied last week, Psalm 78 is a wisdom psalm. Its purpose is to teach not only the Israelites something but us as well.

Psalm 78 is rich with stories of historical events—plagues that led to freedom form Egyptian slavery, God parting the Red Sea, God’s provision of food during the journey, rebellion expressed through building high places to worship false gods, God residing among the people in the tabernacle, God choosing David to lead Israel, and more.

 

Teach for the Future! Read Psalm 78:1-4

 

1.      How are our children to learn about their heritage?

2.      What is Asaph going to share in the following verses?

3.      Is this just a good idea Asaph came up with or does this practice go much deeper? (Read Deut. 11:18-21)

4.      What is it that will bring success in our lives and nation?

Read Psalm 78:5-8

5.      What were parents to teach their children? (According to verse 5, fathers were to teach their children God’s law. Hebrew poetry often emphasized repetition of ideas rather than sounds. Thus, “testimony in Jacob” and “law in Israel” are synonymous.)

6.      Why were they to teach these truths of Israel’s history and law to their children?

7.      What are some ways people teach future generations about God and His love besides telling?

8.      What types of teaching will most likely touch a future generation?

9.      How might you put God’s faithfulness into one sentence stories? (This Psalm shows two ways to live—respect and obey God, or ignore God and assume you’re smarter than Him.)

10.  Who in previous generations taught you about God?

The natural order of humanity is to drift toward decay. It takes intentional effort for us to grow in love and obedience toward God. This is true of old and new generations as well. That is why we are commanded to keep God’s word constantly on our minds!

 

(If time permits read Psalm 78:9-31. If not summarize these verses.)

Remember the Past! Read Psalm 78:32-37

 

1.      The Scripture records the tendency for God’s people to turn from God, fail, receive God’s discipline, and then return to God. What clues do these verses give for why this happens? (The people did not “believe” God. In other words they did not place their confident trust in Him. They tried to use “flattery” in their insincere worship.)

2.      For what reasons might a person risk lying or being unfaithful to God?

Even people who crossed the Red Sea and recipients of God’s miraculous feeding refused God’s loving direction. The people’s repentance was insincere and self-deceptive. They had a form of belief that responded to God’s judgment and not His compassion.

3.      Conversely, what would lead someone to be sincere in repentance and trust of God?

4.      How can we demonstrate our faith and trust in God to our children?

5.      How have people in our day, tried to “rewrite” history to suit what they would like for it to be? (Some would say our ancestors came to this country for reasons other than religious freedom. Some would say that the U. S. A. is an aggressor nation, trying to impose our lifestyle and beliefs on others! They would teach our children that God’s Word is not truth and not what our nation was founded upon!)

Read Numbers 14:34: (Highlight the Sinai Desert on a map.) The Israelites rebelled against God so they received His righteous judgment. They would wander in the desert for 40 years, until every adult 20 years old and older died, except Joshua and Caleb. Numbers 1:46 lists the number of fighting men at more than 600,000 so if they were all married, that’s a total of 1.2 million people. That’s one funeral every 17 minutes! While verse 35 indicates that some did repent when they remembered God as their rock and Redeemer, they always seemed to lapse back into unfaithfulness.

6.      Read Psalm 78:35: How does this verse motivate us to desire to be faithful to God? (Seeing God’s character should draw us toward Him. When we focus on God’s character, our faithfulness grows out of gratefulness rather than the fear of getting caught.)

7.      How did the people, as a whole, demonstrate insincere hearts toward God in verses 35-37?

8.      How do people do the same today?

9.      Why do tragedies cause people to turn to God?

10.  How would you define the difference between a genuine turning to God and a temporary turning to God?

 

These verses paint a grim but accurate picture of human nature. Thankfully, it isn’t human nature that saves us. Verses 32-37 talk about what the people did in spite of God’s goodness. Verses 38-39 talk about what God did in spite of the people’s wickedness.

 

Compassion in the Present! Read Psalm 78:38-39

 

1.      What word gives us hope here in the face of God’s righteous judgment? (Atoned!)

2.      How did God atone for the guilt of the people? (God’s plan has been the same from the very beginning—He would send His Son to atone for our sin! Jesus was the substitute sacrifice offered for our sin!)

3.      How does God’s compassion shown in the past give us hope for the present?

4.      What is the connection between God’s compassion and humanity’s limitations? (God provided what we could never be—the perfect sacrifice for atonement for our sin!)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Think back for a moment about what your parents passed on to you and what you are passing on to your children. Whether it’s cooking or changing a tire, there is value in all the things we try to pass on to our children.

1.      But what are we doing to pass on those lessons that have eternal significance?

2.      What did you learn today about human nature and God’s compassion?

3.      What are some ways our S. S. class can teach younger individuals about God and His compassion for humanity?

4.      What examples of God’s faithfulness can you site in your life right now, regardless of good or bad circumstances?

 

We can learn from the past as we observe God’s faithfulness in contrast to humanity’s unfaithfulness.

The Path - Psalm 1:1-6

Today we begin a thirteen week study of all or portions of thirteen different Psalms from the book bearing that name. That is hardly the proverbial “drop in the bucket” when considering there are 150 chapters in the book of Psalms. This book contains the longest chapter (119) and the shortest chapter (117) in the Bible. In has the center chapter (117) and the center verse (118:8) in the Bible. It is the most quoted Old Testament book in the New Testament. It was written over a period of 1,000 years with numerous authors including David, who wrote roughly half of them, Moses, Asaph, sons of Korah, and Solomon. Forty eight are anonymous.

There are psalms that address virtually every possible human emotion—there are emotional cries to God for deliverance; expressions of gratitude to God for His abundant blessings; declarations of the greatness of God; Prayers for God’s blessings on Israel’s king, some with messianic implications/fulfillments; celebrations of God’s rule over all His creation; expressions of contrition and repentance; practical guidelines for godly living. There are even psalms that call for God’s righteous judgment to fall on the wicked.

The psalms of wisdom, like the other wisdom books—Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes—have both indisputable truths and general truths. Just when I think I understand all God is saying to me He speaks a new truth! We will never plumb the depth of God’s Word!

Dr. Robert Smith Jr. shares this thought: “The Psalms invite us to come close so that we can see the windows of the psalms turned into the mirrors of our lives.” As we read the Psalms we find ourselves saying “This is my story, this is my song; Praising my Savior all the day long!” “It’s not what we get from God that we need most; it is God Himself.”—again Dr. Smith. The Psalms help us understand and express our emotions to God, even our frustrations! God can handle it!

            Psalms 1 and 2 serve as an introduction to the book.

The Path of Life! Read Psalm 1:1-3

 

1.      What does the first line of verse 1 tell us about the “state of being” of a person on the path of life? (Happy.)

2.      What does worldly happiness depend upon? (Circumstances.)

3.      What does God’s definitions of happiness depend upon? (Relationship with Him. It is a deep down contentment.)

4.      How many different paths are there for a person to take in life according to Scripture? (Matt. 7:13-14—narrow way and wide way. Why should we be surprised when we read the same idea expressed is different areas of Scripture—All is God inspired!)

There are only two roads; one is God’s way, which leads to life. The other way presents itself in many different forms, but it leads to the same destination—destruction!

5.      What progression do we see in verse one for one headed down the wrong path? (Walk, stand, and sit. We all must be very careful about our close associations!)

Also notice the progression of the wrongdoers. They are described as wicked, then sinners, then mockers of those who chose not to go down the wrong path! We must refuse to take ungodly advice, refuse to walk down a sinful path and refuse to make fun of the truth.

6.      How do we balance expressing love to ungodly people while refusing to be influenced by them?

7.      Where does the godly find delight?

8.      What does it mean to meditate on God’s Word?

9.      What word picture does the psalmist paint to depict a person who has chosen the right path?

10.  What is the godly fruit that God desires for His followers to produce?

11.  How can worldly wisdom hinder growth?

12.  How does reading the Bible nurture the development of this godly fruit? (It is the nourishment needed for spiritual growth!)

The fruit of the Spirit is produced as God’s Word is absorbed. But as apple trees produce apples, so disciples should produce disciples as we saw last week in Matthew 28! In John 15:1-5 Jesus says “I am the vine and you are the branches…” We must abide in Him if we are to produce fruit!

13.  How might our lifestyle or daily schedule change if our delight in and meditation of God’s instruction increased?

It is only by remaining on the right path that we can experience our full potential God planned for us! “I know the plans I have for you…”

 

The Path of Death! Read Psalm 1:4-5

 

1.      What is the state of being for the person on “The Path of Death?”

2.      What is chaff? (Chaff is the husk that contains the precious grain. It is worthless. The righteous was compared to a perennially watered tree that is permanent and prosperous. The wicked is compared to the chaff of wheat that is worthless and blown away by the slightest gust of wind.)

The wicked are the opposite of everything that is said about the righteous in verses 1-2. We can assume that if the happy person does not follow the advice of the wicked, the wicked person does, and so on for the other descriptions from verse 1. However, there are specific details about what the wicked won’t do in verse 5.

3.      What is it that the wicked will not do? (One translation says the wicked will not “stand up in the judgment.” See Phil. 2:9-11)

4.      How should God’s warning about the future of the wicked affect us?

5.      How should we feel?

6.      What should we do?

7.      How can we share God’s truth in love with those who are in rebellion against God? (We must build a relationship with them to “earn” the right to share with them.)

We cultivate blessing when we follow God in daily routines, remaining focused on being obedient to Him. Falling for the deceptive advice of the wicked leads to instability, worthlessness, and destruction.

 

 

 

The Conclusion! Read Psalm 1:6

 

1.      What does this verse teach about the security of those who follow God?

2.      How does this security impact our behavior?

3.      Does this verse mean that the “righteous” will not ever have any problems? (Certainly not! As Bro. Tommy Higle shared with us last Sunday, God allows us to have problems to DIRECT us; INSPECT us; CORRECT us; and PERFECT us. But be assured, He is right there with us helping us be more like His Son, Jesus through it all!

4.      What is the fate of the wicked in verse 6? (While God is aware of them He does not interfere as they suffer the consequences of their choice of paths.)

The righteous aren’t right with God because of the good things they do: We don’t become righteous because we avoid following the advice of the wicked, taking the path of sinners, or joining with mockers. We are righteous because we have been saved by faith in Christ Jesus. Our actions and behaviors reflect our salvation. They don’t contribute to it.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      What illustration from nature would best describe your spiritual life right now?

2.      If you have felt more like a tree planted by streams of water, is it because you have maintained the spiritual disciplines of delighting in God’s Word and meditating on it?

3.      On the other hand, if your spiritual life has been more like chaff, is it because you haven’t been avoiding the behaviors of verse 1?

4.      Reflect: What might you need to change in your life? Or What good things are you doing that you need to make sure you keep doing?

5.      How difficult is it to keep from eavesdropping on the advice of the wicked; or walking with those we know to be wicked; or sitting with those who mock righteousness?

Embracing godly wisdom is more than intellectual ascent. It affects every area of life. It is a conscious decision to take the right path. Look back at decisions you made yesterday. For which did you follow “the advice of the wicked”? Which followed “the pathway of sinners”? Which delighted in “the Lord’s instruction”?

 

Thank God for watching over the way of the righteous, and ask Him for the strength to continue on the path of life!

What Do We Do Now? - Matthew 28:16-20

   Last Sunday we saw the religious leaders prod the crowd witnessing Jesus’ crucifixion to mock Him, even those being crucified with Him mocked Him. A supernatural event took place as darkness fell over the area for three hours. This was obviously a physical darkness but it also represented a spiritual darkness, the darkness of man’s sin. Then with a final cry and at precisely the right time, Jesus willingly died for our sin. The temple curtain was torn from top to bottom, an earthquake split stones, and people were resurrected from their graves, in much the same way as Lazarus. An interesting point to take from that lesson was that Jesus gave up His life, it was not taken from Him. He waited to die until the three o’clock hour when the priests would be at the temple and would witness the tearing of the curtain and man’s new access to God with the curtain removed. Jesus was in control all along, sovereign over the very timing of His own death.

 

   In today’s lesson we see that Jesus instructed us to go and make disciples. So how do we do that? We each have a skill, we each have a place to teach that skill and we can use various methods to teach. We are to use our skill or skills to make disciples of Christ. We can do this knowing that as believers we have the light of Jesus’ power and presence.

  

Read Matthew 28:16-17 “Worship”

   How did the disciples immediately respond when they saw Jesus after His resurrection? They worshipped Him, but some doubted. Even today, we see responses to Jesus ranging from belief and acceptance to questioning and doubts to rejection.

   What might have motivated them to worship?

   What might have caused them to doubt?

Think of all they had experienced over the past few days. Their emotions were shot, they were both overjoyed and bewildered.

   What should we do with our doubts? Give them to God. God can handle our honest doubts and questions when we earnestly seek Him. We can have doubts while we worship. Even so, God desires for us to move from doubting to faith and obedience.

   What was the significance of Jesus accepting their worship? By accepting the disciples worship, Jesus showed Himself to be the Lord. Remember when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He quoted Deuteronomy 6:13: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him”.

 

 

 

Read Matthew 28:18 “Power”

   Pg. 136 of the Quarterly has an interesting question: Why would it have been important for the disciples to understand the magnitude of Jesus’ authority? Why is it important for believers today?

   What was the scope of Jesus’ authority? Jesus had authority before the resurrection, but through the resurrection, God the Father granted Him “all authority” over creation. To help explain His authority consider having someone read these verses: Matt. 7:29, 9:6-8, 21:23.

   What does Jesus’ power mean for us? Jesus’ declaration of His authority over all creation immediately precedes His commission for us to “go…and make disciples”. Look at how “therefore” links this verse 18 to the next verses.

 

Read Matthew 28:19-20a “Mission”

   See how “therefore” links the authority of v18 with the “go” in v19.

   What were the disciples supposed to do? The disciples were to share the gospel, but also they were to nurture the new converts as they grew into maturity.

   Why is baptism important after one has accepted Christ? Baptism is a public declaration of a person’s faith in Jesus, not a means by which a person is saved. It calls attention to the spiritual transformation that has taken place through the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

   As His followers, how are we to carry out Jesus’ instructions? Jesus instructed His disciples to extend their mission to the whole world. Christ still calls His followers to that today.

 

Read Matthew 28:20b “Presence”

  Jesus had commanded and taught the disciples for years. Now it was time for them to take the baton and continue His ministry.

   What did Jesus promise here? His presence, always.

   How do we see His presence in our lives today? We do not have to carry out the Great Commission in going and making disciples in our own power and strength; Jesus is with us “always, to the end of the age.”

   Does that promised presence serve as an encouragement to believers?

   What does it mean to you that Jesus will be with us always?

   At what times do you find this most strengthening and comforting.

 

Summary: How can we fulfill the Great Commission?

·         Pray, give, go

·         FBC Missions Task Force

·         Ardmore Team

·         Judea/Samaria Team

·         Uttermost Team

 

Remember that you don’t have to depend on your own limited strength or resources. Jesus has promised His power and presence to go with us. Look and listen for opportunities to share the gospel every day.

Crucified - Matthew 27:41-52

1.      Can you think of an actual incident where someone gave their life to save someone else?

2.      Do you think most people stop to think “If I do this it will cost me my life.”? (Many times it is simply a reaction to save someone else, without considering the danger to one’s own life.)

3.      There are numerous real life stories about people who have given their life for someone else. What is the difference in their actions and Jesus’ actions in giving His life for us?

 

Today’s study is about Jesus’ paying the ultimate sacrifice when He gave His life to save us for all eternity. When we study and reflect on His actions, we are led to worship Him, thank Him, and commit our life in service to Him!

 

Mocked!

 

After the mock trial before the Sanhedrin, Jesus was taken to Pilate. Pilate learned that Jesus was from Galilee and knew that Herod Antipas was in Jerusalem so he sent Jesus to him. When Jesus would not answer any of Herod’s questions or perform any miracles, he was sent back to Pilate. There was obviously an execution already scheduled for that morning. Pilate, in an effort to let Jesus go offered to release either Jesus or Barabbas, a notorious prisoner. But the people, led by the chief priests and the elders, demanded Barabbas be released and Jesus crucified. Then Pilate had Jesus flogged and handed Him over to the soldiers to be crucified. The soldiers mocked Jesus even more by putting a robe on Him and bowing down to Him and saying “Hail, King of the Jews!” they took thorns and fashioned a crown, mashed it on His head and kept hitting Him with a reed. Finally they stripped Him and led Him away to be crucified. He was placed between two criminals, who also mocked Him.

 

Read Matthew 27:32-40

 

Who were the people mocking Jesus in this passage?

From Jesus’ point of view it seemed that everyone was mocking Him. They nailed Jesus to the cross. The sign that was placed above Him on the cross was in the three common languages during that time period; Hebrew, Aramaic and Latin.

 

Read Matthew 27:41-44

 

1.      Who is mocking Jesus in this passage?

2.      If you were describing those mocking Him in terms we use in our church who would they be? (Pastors, staff, teachers and members.)

3.      Generally speaking, if the leadership takes a particular stand on an issue how do the people respond? (It is so important that we as leaders know the Scripture and take the right stand from God’s point of view.)

4.      How would you describe the way the chief priests, scribes and elders mocked Jesus? Notice in verse 43 they insinuated that even God didn’t want Him!)

5.      What is a “Paradox”? (“A paradox is a statement that, despite apparently sound reasoning from true premises, leads to a self-contradictory or a logically unacceptable conclusion. A paradox involves contradictory yet interrelated elements that exist simultaneously and persist over time.”)

6.      In what way was the statements the ridiculers were making about Jesus being able to save others but not being able to save Himself a paradox?

7.      Would they have believed if He had come down from the cross? (The answer is “no”. In Luke 16:31 Jesus said they would not believe even if someone was raised from the dead. That was proven when Lazarus was brought back to life. Faith that demands miraculous signs is an inadequate faith see Matt. 16:4.)

8.      Of those who mocked Jesus, who surprises you the most? (Perhaps the criminals. Although, one of them later repented, and Jesus promised him a place in heaven.)

All of these events took place from the time Jesus was nailed to the cross—around 9 A.M. (see Mk. 15:25)—and noon.

9.      How do you respond when people ridicule Jesus?

10.  What do you do when they mock you for your trust in Jesus?

 

Forsaken! Read Matthew 27:45-49

 

1.      What do we learn from the three hours of darkness about the nature of sin and the magnitude of its consequences? (Nature itself reacted to its Creator being crucified see Rom. 8:22.)

2.      Why darkness? What happened to cause this darkness? (Several possibilities have been proposed. Creation itself was in mourning; The Father turned away see Hab. 1:13; Some say a solar eclipse—that can’t be because that can only occur when there is a new moon and Passover takes place during a full moon; We really don’t know but for this one event a supernatural event took place that has never been repeated. Both physical and spiritual darkness covered the land!)

3.      What seemed to be the motive of the one who offered Jesus a drink? (He seemed to have compassion and mercy. The One who made the rivers and seas cried out “I thirst”—see John 19:28. In His great thirst He brought water to me.)

4.      What were the motives of those who wanted to see Elijah appear? (It had been prophesied that one like Elijah would come and Jesus Himself said John the Baptist fulfilled that prophesy.)

5.      Have you ever felt forsaken in the midst of some terrible trial?

6.      What renewed your faith that God will never leave you or forsake you? (The words Jesus cried out in torment at three in the afternoon were prophesied in Psalm 22:1. Imagine being in so much agony that you feel God has forsaken you! But because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross we have assurance that God will never forsake us see Heb. 13:5.)

 

There were seven recorded statements that Jesus made from the cross:

·         Luke 23:34—“Father, forgive them…”

·         John 19:26-27—“Woman, behold your son…”

·         Luke 23:43—“…Today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

·         Matt. 27:46—“My God, My God, …”

·         John 19:28—“I thirst.”

·         Luke 23:46—“Father, into Your hands I entrust My spirit.”

·         John 19:30—“It is finished!”

7.      What do these sayings, taken together, tell you about who Jesus is?

8.      How do they instruct you in living today as a follower of Christ?

 

Sacrificed! Read Matthew 27:50-53

 

1.      What events marked the death of Jesus? (The curtain separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple area was torn from top to bottom. It is said that this curtain was 4” thick, 60’ wide and 30’ tall. There was also a great earthquake and graves of the saints were opened.)

2.      How would you interpret the significance of these events? (All people now have access to God. Once again creation is reacting to God’s Son’s suffering and death. Jesus’ death made Him the Giver of our Spiritual life!)

Jesus’ death occurred at three o’clock, the time of the afternoon sacrifices at the temple. The priests would have been there to witness the curtain being ripped apart from top to bottom. This curtain, which separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place could only be entered once a year for the High Priest to make atonement for the sins of the people. The days of the High Priest making intercession for God’s people was over.

That curtain that had been a visual symbol of the separation between creature and Creator, between sinful humanity and the holy, righteous God was gone! Jesus is now our Intercessor!

3.      In what ways did Jesus’ death on the cross provide access to God for all people?

4.      What does it mean to you personally that you have access to ‘God through faith in Jesus?

5.      To whom could you tell this good news in the week ahead?

 

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Jesus’ death removed the great chasm between God and sinful humanity, making it possible for us to have an eternal relationship with God through faith in Jesus.

1.      Take time to reflect on your life when you were separated from God. What image from the crucifixion best illustrates your life at that time?

2.      What actions should you take as a result of remembering what it is like to be separated from God?

3.      How should we live in light of Jesus’ sacrifice for us?

·         If we have never asked forgiveness for our sins and placed our trust in Jesus, we can do that today.

·         As believers, we should live each day so that our words, attitudes, and actions reflect that Jesus is the Messiah and Lord of our lives.

·         We should live with thankfulness for the sacrifice Jesus made through His death, so we could have an eternal relationship with God.

 

It wasn’t the nails that held Jesus on the cross! It was His great love for you!

Take time this week to reflect on the sacrifice Jesus made for you. Remember the sin debt that each of us carries and none of us can pay. It is only accepting what Jesus did on the cross for us that we can be made right with God. Thank God for providing our way to Him!!

Loyal? - Matthew 26:62-75

1.      How do we show loyalty to our favorite sports teams? (Attend games, wear our team’s apparel, watch religiously when the team plays on TV, etc.)

2.      What causes some people to abandon their favorite team? (When the team falls on hard times and ceases to win. Sometimes when we are with a group of people who strongly support an opposing team.)

3.      What causes us to change our loyalty to a product or a business? (Target’s support of “unisex” bathrooms.)

The change of heart concerning a product or business may well be merited, because businesses are certainly not perfect, and we as consumers may sometimes realize our loyalties have been misplaced. But loyalty to our Father is never misplaced, not is loyalty to His Son, Jesus!

 

Today we will learn of unwavering loyalty as we observe Jesus’ loyalty to our Father’s plan of salvation. Following Him is easy at times, but under some circumstances it is much more difficult. In today’s Scripture text, Peter is given the opportunity to exercise loyalty under difficult circumstances, but fails the test.

 

As Jesus finished His third period of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane Judas and the soldiers came to arrest Jesus and take Him to the High Priest. Judas identified which one was Jesus by kissing Him on the cheek. Then they took Jesus to be tried at Caiaphas’ house where the Sanhedrin was gathered. They began the mock trial to support the decision they had already made about crucifying Jesus. Two of the disciples, John and Peter, had followed at a distance to see what would happen to Jesus. They entered the courtyard and warmed themselves by a fire near the proceedings.

 

Jesus was being questioned by Caiaphas, the high priest who ruled the Sanhedrin, the council that reigned over the Jewish people.

Affirmed By Scripture! Read Matthew 26:62-64

 

Caiaphas understood the divine nature of the Messiah. To be the Anointed One was to be equal with God. He also knew that to be the Son of God was to be divine. To these leaders, there was no greater crime that the blasphemy of claiming to be the Messiah!

1.      How did Jesus use Scripture to affirm His identity? (Jesus used Old Testament Scripture to confirm His identity in verse 64.

Read Ps. 110:1 and Daniel 7:13. “Son of Man” came from this passage, depicting a ruler who would come from heaven and rule over an eternal kingdom as opposed to an earthly kingdom, as many had expected.

Jesus affirmed that He was both Messiah and Son of God!

2.      What was the significance of Jesus’ pointing to Scripture in response to questions addressed to Him? (Although, He knew they would not accept Him, He wanted them to know that He was the fulfillment of the Scriptures about the Messiah and that He was not ignorant of the Scriptures.)

3.      How does Scripture continue to serve as the authority on Jesus’ identity? (It is the Word of God and a Witness by the Holy Spirit, Who inspired the writers of the Old Testament to write their prophecies. All are consistent with the unfolding events, even today!)

 

Denied By His Opponents! Read Matthew 26:65-68

 

1.      How would you describe the religious leaders’ response to Jesus’ revelation that He was indeed the Messiah?

2.      What did the tearing of one’s robe signify? (This was an expression of grief and an appropriate Jewish response to blasphemy.)

3.      Why did the high priest claim blasphemy?

These brutal men were religious leaders who believed in God. They should have worshiped and submitted to Jesus; instead they insulted and brutally assaulted Him.

4.      In what ways did the religious leaders misunderstand Jesus? (Their concept of the Messiah was a military leader who would establish an earthly kingdom. Jesus didn’t fit their concept.)

5.      What kinds of misconceptions do people today have about Jesus? (Some people acknowledge that Jesus was a prophet or teacher, but they fail to recognize Him as the living Son of God. Others ignore Jesus, as if He were just some character in a fairy tale. Many fail to acknowledge Him as the Son of God and the Savior of the world, much less their personal Savior.)

6.      Have the misconceptions about who Jesus is changed over the centuries?

7.      How does knowing the persecution Jesus faced help us as we face challenges to our faith today? (Verse 67 says the people “spit in His face and beat Him.” After blindfolding Jesus (Mark 14:65), they taunted Him, calling for Him to name who was hitting Him. If we receive any mistreatment because of our faith today, we can draw strength from knowing that Jesus stood firm in the face of even greater persecution.)

 

Now the focus of the scene changes to Peter.

Abandoned By His Friends! Read Matthew 26:69-75

 

1.      What evidence did the people nearby give for identifying Peter as a disciple of Jesus? (Their accusations indicated they had seen Peter with Jesus and his manner of speech indicated he was from Galilee. This is just like we can identify someone from the northeast United States as opposed to someone from the deep south.)

2.      How did Peter’s denial intensify each time He was singled out as being a disciple of Jesus? (The first time he simply said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” The second time he denied it with an oath, “I don’t know the man.” The third time Peter started to curse and to swear with an oath, “I do not know the man!” Peter stepped a little further away each time He denied knowing Jesus.)

We all respond perhaps a little differently but fear can have a tremendous effect on us.

3.       How far did Peter go in denying Jesus? (Just as Jesus had predicted, Peter denied Him three times. He denied even knowing Jesus, much less being one of His disciples.)

4.      What was Peter’s reaction when he realized the full measure of his denial? (Luke 22:61 tells us that at the very moment Peter denied Jesus the third time and the rooster crowed Jesus looked at Peter. Peter then went out and “wept bitterly”.)

It’s good to recall Peter’s comeback following the resurrection, when Jesus restored Peter—John 21. God gives second chances!

5.      What pressures could cause a person to hide his or her Christian faith today?

6.      How might we deny Jesus today? Through Words? Attitudes? Actions? (Sometimes we deny Jesus through the words we say or in the moments when we should speak up but remain silent. We deny Jesus when we place other things above our relationship with Him.)

 

Imagine the grief Peter must have felt when he realized the tragedy of his poor choice! Yet this was not the end to Peter’s story. Jesus didn’t turn His back on Peter or give up on him. Instead, He restored Peter (see John 21:15-19). As a result, Peter devoted the rest of his life to Christ!

 

Summarize and Challenge! 

 

Jesus could have called 12 legions of angels and the Father would have sent them according to Matthew 26:53! But He chose to surrender to the Father‘s will and suffer as no man has ever done.

 

What are some potential costs of remaining loyal to Jesus today?

·         Being a loyal follower of Jesus may mean experiencing ridicule or hardships.

·         We may find that family and friends misunderstand us and our allegiance to Jesus.

·         In some parts of the world, faith in Jesus could lead to physical persecution or even death.

In the coming week, reflect on Jesus’ position as Messiah and King. Ask yourself if you have given Him rightful priority in your life. Are you prepared to defend your faith when others question it?

Commit yourself again to loyal, obedient living as a follower of Christ!

 

Do I Have The Strength? - Matthew 26:36-46

1.      What sayings have you heard people use about facing very difficult situations? (Examples: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”; “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”; “Tough times never last, tough people do”.)

These quotes emphasize personal resolve.

2.      What can a person draw from when facing difficult situations that feed his or her resolve? (Support from friends and family. Our greatest source of strength comes from our Heavenly Father, no matter how difficult the situation is we are facing.)

Jesus had a wonderful Heavenly Father. Though Jesus doubtless spent time with His Father daily, He knew the time was near for suffering and sorrow in a way no one had ever, or would ever, experience. He did what any child would do; He ran for strength and comfort into the loving arms of His Father.

            Jesus and His disciples had finished their Passover meal. Jesus had shared the broken bread and cup that represented His broken body and shed blood. They walked out the East Gate of Jerusalem, across the valley to the Mount of Olives to a garden called Gethsemane. Here we see Jesus display His humanity perhaps more clearly than at any other time in His earthly life.

 

Committed To The Task! Read Matthew 26:36-39

 

1.      How would you describe the emotions we see Jesus express here?

2.      What did Jesus instruct Peter, James and John to do while He went a little further to pray? (In Luke 22:40, Luke records that Jesus said “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” I know Matthew records this later but it seems Jesus was expecting them to remain in prayer as He prayed.)

3.      In what ways did Jesus show His humanity in these verses? (As a man, Jesus was struggling in the same way we do. He knew the horror of physical suffering that was ahead of Him.)

4.      How did He show His divinity in these verses? (As the Son of God, Jesus was completely willing to go through the horror of death on the cross. But is the physical suffering all that Jesus would have to endure on the cross?)

5.      What was Jesus’ attitude as He faced impending death? (Jesus would have “this cup” pass from Him! In the Old Testament, “cup” is used to describe divine wrath and judgment—see Ps. 76:7-8; Isa. 51:17.)

6.      In what ways would Jesus suffer on the cross that no man has ever had to suffer? (Read 2 Cor. 5:21. Because Jesus would take upon Himself the sin of the world, the Father would turn away, unable to look upon sin. In a way that we cannot even begin to understand, the Father and Son were torn apart by my sin! Many people have been physically tortured and nailed to a cross, burned alive, covered with boiling oil and other hideous means of torturous deaths. But when Jesus bore the sin of the world He was separated from the Father, and it was more than He wanted to bear.)

7.      What emotional response do you have to verse 39?

8.      What did Jesus resolve to do in verse 39?

9.      How does verse 39 compare to your prayer practices?

10.  What does Jesus’ willingness to follow the Father’s direction reveal to us about His trust in the Father? (Jesus knew the Father possessed the power to provide a way to escape from those who wanted to kill Him, but Jesus completely embraced the will of the Father to the point of death on a cross.)

11.  When have you wrestled with God over a situation or hardship?

12.  Why is praying that the Father’s will be done such a hard prayer? (Sometimes our desires and the Father’s will are not necessarily the same. We might prefer an easier path when the Father’s will is a harder course. We might know God’s plan is best, but sometimes we still wish for a different outcome.)

Surrendering to God’s will is ALWAYS the best solution!

 

Asleep On The Job! Read Matthew 26:40-43

 

1.      How did Jesus’ disciples let His down?

2.      Do we ever “fall asleep” when we are supposed to be doing what Jesus told us to do? (We are imperfect, so we fail at times despite our best intentions. We sometimes choose our own sinful ways instead of living as obedient Christ-followers.)

3.      What instructions did Jesus give His “inner three” this time?

4.      For whom did He instruct them to pray?

5.      How did Jesus indicate that prayer would benefit Peter?

6.      What did Jesus mean by saying “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”?

7.      How is Jesus’ prayer here different from the first? (As Jesus faced the misery that awaited Him now, He demonstrated His own submission to the Father’s will without regard for what it would cost Him. There seems to be a progression in His prayer to more complete surrender.)

8.      What can we learn from Jesus’ prayer here to apply in our own prayer life? (It is not a sin to continue to pray to God about a particular situation numerous times. In fact, keep praying until you receive an answer, even right up to the time the final decision has to be made.)

9.      How can we support each other during hard times? (We need to be spiritually alert as we support each other in our Christian walks. Spending regular time in prayer and praying for each other are essential. Through prayer and words of encouragement we can help each other stand strong against temptation.)

 

Realizing The Moment! Read Matthew 26:44-46

 

1.      How might we be sleeping when we should be alert and praying? (The time had come for Jesus to pay the price for all the sins of humanity. We must guard against spiritual laziness. Are we prioritizing Bible study, prayer, and service in the kingdom? We want God to find us spiritually alert and at work when He returns!)

2.      In what way was this a defining moment for Jesus? (His first defining moment was at His baptism when He publicly accepted His mission as Messiah!)

3.      What role did Jesus’ understanding of His purpose have in His actions here?

4.      What steps can we take to recognize God’s work in our world? (Jesus prayed and committed to follow God regardless of the cost. Every believer is important and has work to do for the kingdom. Each of us should be doing our part in service. Your part in kingdom work is between you and God. And God will seldom tell you what someone else’s service is to be for the kingdom. Leave that up to God.)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      How should Jesus’ willing submission to the Father’s will shape our response when God calls us to action?

·         We should willingly obey God’s plan for our lives!

·         We should give thanks through our words and actions for the sacrifice Jesus made for each of us!

·         We should remain alert and faithful as we serve each day in God’s kingdom!

 

2.      What are some actions we can take to remain spiritually alert?

 

Consider your own situation and develop a list of practical steps you can take to help you stay spiritually alert and remain faithful to God’s plans for your life.

How Do We Remember? - Matthew 26:17-30

(Consider having some unleavened bread-bread made without yeast- and grape juice to use at some point in your lesson.)

1.      What are some key events we commemorate in our society? (President’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence’s Day, Veteran’s Day, and Christmas are the main days.)

2.      What are some key events we commemorate in our families?

What makes these days worthy of remembering? (These are days we pause to recall important happy events like marriage anniversaries, birthdays, etc.; Then there are days that are solemn remembrances of passed loved ones, joyous celebrations of freedom, and a day to honor those who sacrificed for the freedoms we enjoy.)

Today’s study is a time and ceremony set aside to remember the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made for each one of us. Jesus instituted this new ordinance after the observance of the Passover meal with His disciples. Passover marked the final plague in Egypt when all firstborns died, but the Israelites were unharmed because of the blood smeared on their doorposts. The unleavened bread reminded the people that they left Egypt with such haste that there was no time to put leaven in their bread.

The Lord’s Supper, as it has come to be known, commemorates Jesus’ sacrifice for our freedom from the bondage of sin. Here Jesus established a new covenant with God made possible through Jesus’ shed blood and broken body. In a sense Jesus did away with Passover and established a new commemoration of His broken body and shed blood!

 

Preparation! Read Matthew 26:17-19

 

Jewish people crowded into Jerusalem yearly for the Passover. They secured places to eat the Passover meal as families. Jesus and His disciples had become a family, and they needed an appropriate room. Jesus gave them directions as to where they could find such a room.

We don’t know how Jesus knew the man He sent the disciples to, but the point is that arrangements were made.

1.      What preparations had to be made for the feast? (One source said, “The lamb had to be taken to the temple to be slaughtered. The blood was poured on the altar. Then it was returned to the house and roasted. It had to be ready by sunset.”)

Jesus was about to fulfill and reveal a new meaning for the annual Passover feast. The purpose of the Lord’s Supper would be to remember the new covenant including Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, and promise of salvation to all who believe.

2.      What preparations should a person take when preparing to participate in a Lord’s Supper observance?

 

Betrayal! Read Matthew 26:20-25

 

1.      How did the disciples respond to Jesus’ declaration that one of them would betray Him? (They were “deeply distressed”, and each one denied that they would betray Jesus.)

2.      What do we notice different about how Judas addressed Jesus? (The other disciples addressed Jesus as “Lord”. Judas addressed His simply as “Rabbi” or “Teacher”, not Lord!)

What happened was all part of God’s plan, yet Judas acted of his own free will and faced judgment because of his betrayal. There is a vast difference in “foreknowledge” and “predestination”! God knew Judas would betray Jesus but God did not make him do it.

3.      What was the difference in Judas’s betrayal and Peter’s denial?

4.      In what ways can or do we betray Jesus today? (Some betray Him today by rejecting His gift of salvation and abundant life. Others betray Jesus in subtle ways—by not taking a stand for Jesus when the opportunity is there, by not sharing about the gift of eternal life we have received, or by not loving others as He commands us to do.)

In the observance of Passover the bread was dipped into a bowl of bitter herbs which represented the bitterness of the slavery the Israelites endured, their new meaning was the bitterness of Jesus’ suffering!

 

Remembrance! Read Matthew 26:26-30

 

Leaven was a symbol of sin, so unleavened bread, bread without yeast, was symbolic of a life cleansed of sin.

1.      What new symbolism did Jesus place upon the broken bread?

2.      The four cups during the Passover stood for the four “I wills” in Ex. 6:6-7; “I will bring you out; I will deliver you; I will redeem you; I will take you as my people”.

3.      How does Jesus provide these four things?

Jesus had made the Lord’s Supper a time of remembrance of His sacrifice, His broken body, and His shed blood. In verse 29, He shares something else to be remembered: that one day we will celebrate with Jesus in heaven. This is a wonderful promise for Christians to celebrate, anticipate, and remember as the Lord’s Supper is observed!

4.      What do Jesus’ actions in this passage reveal about His mission and purpose?

5.      In what ways does the Lord’s Supper motivate you to live differently in light of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection?

6.      How does remembering Jesus’ sacrifice help us in daily living? (If we do not remember Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, it’s easy to take for granted the price paid for our salvation. Remembering His sacrifice gives us strength and hope as we face each day’s challenges.)

7.      How can we keep the memory of these symbols fresh in our own hearts each time we take part in the Lord’s Supper? (Sometimes when we do things regularly we can start to feel like we are just going through the motions. We should never let the Lord’s Supper become a mindless behavior. Each time we approach the Lord’s Supper we can thank God for the sacrifice He made on our behalf and remember afresh the abundant life we have because of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection.)

 

 

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      Evaluate your observance of the Lord’s Supper: What does it mean to you?

2.      What element has today’s study brought to light that can make your celebration even more meaningful?

3.      What are the best ways we can remember Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf?

·         By thanking God daily for His provision and care.

·         By being diligently loyal to Christ.

·         By observing the Lord’s Supper regularly, always mindful of the price paid for our redemption.

 

Perhaps we can carve out some time this week to pause and reflect on the sacrifice Jesus made for you, individually. Then when you approach the Lord’s Supper, look at the table—the bread and the cup—with fresh eyes, appreciating all Jesus has done for you!

What About the Future? - Matthew 24:1-25:46

1.      What region of Israel were most, if not all, of Jesus’ disciples from? (Galilee.)

Read Matthew 24:1-2

2.      The indication is that the disciples were impressed with the buildings. Why might that be the case? (They were just as much in awe as we are when we leave our rural communities and go to the big city and look in awe at the massiveness of the buildings.)

Matthew 24 and 25 records another discourse Jesus used to teach His disciples. Recall, He is in the final week before His death and yet He has much to teach them. This is Tuesday and some scholars have called this “Teaching Tuesday”, because of the vast amount of teaching that seems to have occurred on this day.

The disciples were shocked, and perhaps a little confused, at what Jesus had to say about what was instore for the Temple complex in the future. “Not one stone would be left on top of another.” We know that this prophecy came true in 70 AD when Jerusalem was destroyed and the Temple completely demolished!

 

Jesus’ disciples were eager to know about future events concerning Jesus’ reign as king. Jesus had plenty He needed to teach them before the time came for Him to depart this world. In Matthew 24:3-35 Jesus taught about the signs of the end of the age, persecution that was to come, the great tribulation and the coming of the Son of Man. In our focal passage we will learn about the day and hour.

 

Be reminded! Read Matthew 24:36-41

 

1.      Just in your lifetime, how many different charlatans have claimed to know the day Jesus would return? (I can think of three personally, but I’m sure there were others.)

2.      Who knows the day of the Lord’s return and the end of time, as we know it?

3.      What did the revelation that only the Father knows the day and the hour Jesus will return teach us about Jesus?(While Jesus was fully God and fully human while here on the earth, Philippians 2:6-7 reveals to us “[He], existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity.” He willingly limited Himself from using His divine nature while here on earth.)

4.      How was the flood in Noah’s day similar to the return of Christ?

Noah was in preparation for the flood for over 100 years. He was building the Ark and yet it had never rained. In spite of the urging to repent and the evidence of Noah’s faith, the people refused to repent of their wickedness.

5.      What were the people doing during this 100 years Noah was warning them? (Carrying on with life as usual with no regard what so ever of the impending judgment that was to come.)

6.      How do many people respond today when urged to accept Christ before it is too late?

7.      How do you picture the people’s response the day the rains began?

8.      According to verses 40-41 what will happen on the Day of Judgment? (There are two ways to look at this passage. Since it comes immediately after the comparison of the great flood, many scholars believe the one left is the saved and the other swept away as in flood waters. Some have seen it as the rapture and the one taken is the saved one. Either way you must be prepared!)

9.      Why might it be important to be reminded of Jesus’ promised return?

10.  How should Jesus’ assurance about His return impact our actions?

11.  How can we be ready for Jesus’ return if we don’t know when it will happen? (We accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and then live each day as if He would return that day!)

12.  How can we help others to be ready for His return? (By reminding others in a loving way, that putting off the decision to trust Jesus is dangerous, because we do not know when He’s coming back. We can encourage each other to be ready for Christ’s return by regularly gathering for prayer, Bible study, worship, and service.)

Just as the flood during Noah’s time, the second coming of Jesus will be sudden, swift, and unexpected.

 

Be Alert! Read Matthew 24:42-44

 

1.      What might cause someone to fail to stay alert concerning a possible upcoming event? (Uncertainty that it was really going to occur; weariness of waiting; no one else thinks it’s going to happen; etc.)

2.      Have any of you ever had your home burglarized?

3.      What would you have done differently if you had known that it was going to happen?

Unlike the person whose home was burglarized, we know that Jesus is coming! The hour will be a surprise, so we must expect the unexpected! Jesus’ return is also compared to a “thief” coming when we least expect it in 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10; and Rev. 3:3; and 16:15.

4.      What characteristics describe a person who is living in anticipation of Jesus’ return? (As the old song says, “looking toward the eastern sky. Will the sound of a trumpet be the next sound that I hear?” “What a Beautiful Day.”)

5.      What would you do differently if you knew the Lord was returning today?

Jesus continues His teachings along this line in Matthew 25. Jesus taught this same truth using the parable of the 10 virgins and the parable of the talents. Both of these parables illustrate the importance of being ready when the Lord returns!

 

Be Faithful! Read Matthew 24:45-47

 

1.      What does the faithful slave reveal that we should be doing while we await the return of Jesus? (Keep busy at the tasks the Master has given us. Live each day ready for the Master’s return.)

2.      What is the motivation of this servant, love or fear? (We do not serve God in order to gain possessions, but out of love for our Lord. Our reward is fulfilled when He says to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”)

3.      What characterizes the way a person tries to serve Christ if he or she is not motivated by love?

The faithful servant’s reward here is greater responsibility, just as it was with Joseph in Genesis! We demonstrate our love for Jesus when we stay focused on doing His work here on earth.

 

Be Warned! Read Matthew 24:48-51

 

1.      What does verse 48 indicate about the servant’s heart? (This verse points out that his actions were much more than an oversight or a mistake. This man also erred by his failure to be alert to his master’s return, even though he knew it would happen one day.)

2.      What does the “wicked servant” reveal about the fate of those who reject Jesus? (1-The death penalty; 2-placed with the hypocrites; 3-condemned to a place of eternal punishment where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”)

3.      What does this parable reveal about different attitudes people may have about Jesus’ return?

4.      How are these attitudes seen or expressed today?

5.      How would you respond to someone who asks how a loving God could send someone to hell? (God does not send people to hell. He has given all people free will, if we reject Him, hell is our choice and the punishment we deserve.)

6.      How is postponing a decision to accept Jesus the same as rejecting Jesus? (Since we do not know when Jesus will return, those who postpone the decision to accept Jesus are unprepared for His return. The moment Jesus returns, their delay becomes a rejection.)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Today we have been reminded and warned to be alert and to be faithful!

 

1.      What should we be doing daily to be prepared for Jesus’ return?

·         We stay ready for Jesus’ return when we prioritize our relationship with Him. We commit to regular Bible study, prayer, and worship, so that we continue growing in our faith.

·         We stay ready for Jesus’ return through ministry and service for God’s kingdom.

2.      How can we help those we meet be ready too?

·         We need to be bold in sharing the gospel message with all we meet. Don’t fear rejection or ridicule; just plant the seeds of the gospel message.

 

Ask yourself whether you’re ready for Christ’s return if it were to happen today. If not, what steps should you take to prepare yourself?

Are there family members and friends who need to hear about your faith?

Will you make the first move in sharing the gospel with them?

 

Remember, we are not to speculate about Christ’s return, just be ready. We are not on the “Time and Place Committee! We’re on the “Preparation Committee”!

 

Prayer.

Where Is Jesus? - Matthew 28:1-15

1.      If you could be an “Eyewitness” to any event in American history, what would you choose? Signing of the Declaration of Independence? Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address? The first airplane flight? The Atomic Bomb over Hiroshima? Victory in Europe Day?

2.      What Biblical event would you like to be an “Eyewitness” of? Noah’s Ark? Elijah’s “wheel in the middle of a wheel”? David’s defeat of Goliath? Jesus’ Resurrection?

3.      Why is eyewitness testimony so important in certain situations? (The best, most accurate information will come from people who actually saw the event happen.)

We will investigate eyewitness accounts that will provide documented proof that Jesus resurrected from the grave on the third day, just as He said He would do.

4.      Who were the first eyewitnesses that something supernatural occurred at Jesus’ tomb that first Easter morning? (As unlikely at it may seem it was the Roman guards who were stationed at the tomb to prevent the Disciples from taking His body.)

People all over the world celebrate special days throughout the year. Most are associated closely with their nation and wars they have won. Here in the United States the most popular such celebration is July 4th.

Easter is a day when Christians all over the world celebrate Jesus’ victory over sin, death and the grave! Because of this, our lives have undergone the most drastic, important, and wonderful transformation that could ever occur!

Before we get into our text for today, to get a feel for the mood Jesus’ followers were experiencing that Sunday morning watch this clip for “The Passion of The Christ” movie. (Show the clip about Jesus’ beating at the hands of the Roman soldiers, the road to the cross and His crucifixion itself.)

We live in such a sterile environment we forget what the followers must have experienced.

 

The Grave Opened! Read Matthew 28:1-4

 

1.      Why were the women going to the grave? (To anoint the body. See Mark 16:1-4)

2.      What did the women find when they arrived at the tomb? (They had been discussing how they were going to move the stone, but it was something they didn’t have to worry about. The Roman guards were as “dead men”. Either petrified with fear or passed out from fear.)

3.      What do verses 3-4 tell us about the angel and his actions?

4.      What do his appearance “like lightening” and his robe “white as snow” indicate about him? (His majesty and heavenly purity blended together perfectly in his brilliant display of glory. It was a reflection of God’s glory, from Whose presence he came.)

5.      What do we learn about these guards in verse 4? (These guards were trained soldiers who had been in battle and undoubtedly had faced horrifying circumstances, yet they were unprepared for an encounter with an angel of God. Fear gripped them so that they lost consciousness and even appeared dead.)

6.      What evidence do you see in these verses that point to a miraculous resurrection of Jesus?

As these women walked to the tomb in defeat, the disciples hid in fear and disappointment, but God was working to bring victory.

7.      Have you ever struggled with what you thought was a period of defeat only to realize later that God was at work to bring victory?

The religious leaders had insisted that Pilate post guards to secure the tomb. Their scheme backfired—the guards actually became witnesses to the fact Jesus’ body was not stolen by the disciples.

 

The Risen King Announced! Read Matthew 28:5-10

 

1.      Notice the angel invited them to see for themselves that Jesus was not in the tomb. What was the angel’s instructions to the women?

2.      What does verse 8 indicate to us about the fear the women felt as opposed to the fear the guards had felt?

Next, the women’s morning of surprises was punctuated with the biggest surprise of all. They saw Jesus! Jesus repeated the assignment the angel had given. Once we have worshiped there is always an assignment to be accomplished.

3.      Why is prompt obedience so important? (The more we trust God, the quicker we will respond in obedience to His plans for our lives.)

4.      What were the women’s responses upon encountering Jesus?

5.      How should we respond to the risen Savior today? (Our response should be that of worship and obedience.)

6.      How does Jesus’ designation of His disciples (who had earlier abandoned Him) as “brothers” encourage you?

7.      Do you think the disciples would believe what the women had to tell them about the resurrection?

We know from the other Gospels that Peter and John ran to the tomb to see for themselves! John believed but Peter still doubted.

 

The Cover-up Concocted! Read Matthew 28:11-15

 

Aren’t you glad we have learned from experience over the last 2,000 years and we don’t have to deal with cover-ups today!

 

1.      What motives were at work as the chief priests and elders devised their deceptive plan? (If the resurrection really happened, then perhaps Jesus was who He claimed—the Son of God. The chief priests could not risk this potential threat to their position and authority.)

For the Jewish leaders to accept the truth of Jesus’ resurrection demanded that they accept Him for who He was—Christ the Lord!

2.      What was their deceptive plan?

Just as it is with any deceptive lie it just didn’t make sense. If the soldiers were sleeping, how could they know it was Jesus’ disciples who stole the body?

3.      What punishment would the guards face for falling asleep while on “guard duty?” (Death! Plain and simple.)

4.      The concocted story was that Jesus’ body had been stolen by the disciples. How do people try to explain away the truth of Jesus’ resurrection?

5.      What are some of the problems with their explanations?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      Jesus conquered death, affirming His identity and giving all believers hope. What evidence causes you to believe and place your hope in the resurrection?

2.      Even when faced with the undeniable facts of Jesus’ resurrection some will refuse to believe in Him. What actions do you need to take to share the truth with these who have yet to accept Jesus and the truth of His resurrection?

3.      What biblical proofs do you find that present Jesus as the risen Son of God?

 

Consider reading the following Scripture passages:

Romans 6:4              

Romans 8:11                       

Romans 10:9

1 Cor. 15:12-19

1 Thess. 4:14-18

 

4.      Why was Paul so certain that Jesus had been raised from the dead? (He was an “Eyewitness” on the Road to Damascus!)

5.      How does the fact of the resurrection encourage you in your own spiritual walk? (What have I to fear, Jesus conquered sin, death and the grave and He’s my Lord!)

 

Offered to All? - Matthew 22:1-14

1.      How many wedding invitations do you receive each year?

2.      How do you determine which weddings you will attend and which you will not attend?

3.      How do you explain to the bride and groom that you must decline the invitation to their wedding?

4.      If you attend, how do you determine what clothes to wear? (We received an invitation this past year that specified “formal attire”. Most do not specify what to wear.)

Recall, Jesus had come to Jerusalem for the Passover. During the week He had several encounters with the religious leaders. They tried to make Jesus look bad in front of the large crowds that gathered everywhere He went, but He outwitted them each time. Jesus used a series of parables to illustrate spiritual truths that cut the religious leaders to the heart and infuriated them even more. They were more and more determined to get rid of Him. In today’s passage, Jesus tells a parable about a wedding banquet.

(A short disclaimer here: Parables generally have one or two main points of spiritual emphasis. We can’t give every small detail a special spiritual meaning.)

 

The Invited! Read Matthew 22:1-7

 

1.      Who are the characters Jesus used in this parable to this point? (King; son; servants; and invitees.)

2.      Whom does each character represent? (God; Jesus; servants of God—prophets, disciples, etc.; and Jewish people.)

The wedding feast would likely have reminded the Jewish leaders of the feast with the Messiah, which they were looking forward to when the Messiah arrived someday. One commentary stated that early on a notice would be sent out as to the day the wedding would occur so they could set it aside. Then on that day when everything was ready, those invited would be told to come. They should have wanted to make this small sacrifice a priority and go enjoy the feast with the king and his son.

3.      How many times did the king send out his servants and what does this represent? (Twice and it demonstrates God’s grace.)

4.      Why did those invited refuse to attend the feast? (They simply went about their daily business, unwilling to attend the feast.)

5.      How did some even act cruelly toward the king’s messengers?

All of these actions demonstrate a total disrespect for the son and the king.

6.      If you were completely honest, why do you attend most weddings you are invited to attend? (To show respect for the bride, groom, or the parents, or all of the above. You don’t want them to think you don’t care about this momentous event. Those invited in this parable didn’t care!)

Just as the king shows patience in verse 3, God shows His patience as He draws people to accept His invitation into an eternal relationship with Him through His Son.

7.      How does the response of the invited guests in the parable reflect the way people respond to God’s offer of salvation today?

8.      What causes people to respond in this way?

9.      What is the fate of those who show utter disrespect for the king? (The destruction of the city represents God’s judgment on people who do not honor and accept His Son. This parable is a picture of Israel and her rejection of the Messiah. It is also a picture of people today who reject Jesus as their Savior.)

 

The Gathered! Read Matthew 22:8-10

 

Now we have many guests attending the banquet.

1.      According to verse 10, what kinds of people were included? (Some scholars believe “evil and good” to be referring to Gentiles and Jews.)

2.      What does that say to us about the nature of God? (He loves and wants a relationship with everyone.)

The guests who came to the banquet represented Jesus’ followers. Jesus clearly expresses that there was a place in the kingdom for everyone, “both evil and good”.

3.      What should we be doing to ensure that everyone, “both evil and good,” hears the king’s invitation? (Through our prayers and monetary gifts, we can help spread the gospel across the globe. Right here in Ardmore, we are called to share the good news with “everyone” we encounter. We must do our part in sharing and then allow God to work in their hearts. Dr. Fannin puts it this way: IdentifyIntercedeInvite. A very simple way to remember that “I” am the one responsible to share the Good News of the Gospel!)

The servants gathered the available people to attend.

 

The Unprepared! Read Matthew 22:11-14

 

It was the custom in Jesus’ day for the host to provide attire in the form of a robe if someone came without one. Likely, the king provided a garment as a gift for those in attendance. There was no reason for someone to show up in his old street clothes, other than overt rebellion.

1.      What could this “wedding robe” represent? (The righteousness of Christ that all believers will be clothed with.)

This man was a “pretender”.

2.      What is the significance of the king addressing the man as “friend”?

3.      What consequences did he suffer due to his careless decision?

4.      What false assumptions or beliefs do you think contribute to people’s belief that they will gain access to heaven without faith in Christ?

5.      How should the doom of this unprepared guest motivate believers to share the gospel with clarity and urgency?

6.      Who called the man’s hand on not being properly clothed? (The king, not the servants. Perhaps we have a lesson to learn here. Only God really knows who belongs to Him and who doesn’t. We need to tread lightly in this area.)

7.      What was the man’s response when asked why he wasn’t properly clothed? (There was nothing he could say—he was speechless!)

8.       Jesus taught a lot about “hell”. What are some words He used to describe this awful place? (A place where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth”. Place of condemnation. Where the “worm doesn’t die and the fire is never quenched”. A place of torment. Place of separation from God forever.)

9.      How should the portrait of hell painted by Jesus serve as a motivator for believers?

“The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Salvation is offered to all, yet each person must respond in obedient faith to be a part of God’s kingdom.

 

How can we help those around us to join Jesus in God’s kingdom too?

Through our words and actions we should tell the gospel story of God’s invitation for all people to join His kingdom. We must remind ourselves that God holds us accountable for our response to Jesus, and eternal punishment awaits those who reject His Son.

 

Challenge:

Have I placed my trust in Jesus, declaring that I want to be a part of God’s kingdom?

If you have not made that decision, what keeps you from making it today?

If you have said yes to God’s invitation and put your trust in Jesus, where and how can you share that good news with someone else this coming week?

 

If I Reject Jesus? - Matthew 21:33-45

1.      Assume for a moment that you own a business. What qualities would you look for when hiring employees?

2.      What methods would you use to try to ensure you were hiring dependable people?

Reliable, qualified employees are crucial to the success of any business. Employees need qualities such as honesty, integrity, leadership skills, experience, and dependability.

3.      I have often wondered: How do individuals just starting out in the workplace get the experience they need to prove themselves if this is their first job? (They are placed under an experienced person for training!)

Jesus had drawn quite a crowd as He entered Jerusalem and they were very supportive of Him. But the religious leaders were infuriated by His actions—throwing the “money changers” and those selling lame and blind animals for sacrifice out of the Temple area. Now Jesus tells the religious leaders (and the crowd as they listened) two parables. The first was about a father who told his two sons to go work in the vineyard on a particular day. The first son told his father he would not go but later changed his mind and went. The second son told his father he would go but did not go. Jesus asked the religious leaders which son obeyed their father and they answered correctly, the first. Jesus said, “Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you!”

Then Jesus told them a second parable about a vineyard owner, which we will study today. We will discover what Jesus says will happen to those who reject Him.

A parable can be defined as: An earthly story with a heavenly meaning.

 

The Son Sent! Read Matthew 21:33-37

 

Even though the religious leaders were angry with Jesus, I don’t think they could walk away; they were intrigued by what Jesus had to say. After all, they thought they knew all the answers.

Notice that the vineyard owner planted the vines, built a wall, built a tower, prepared a wine press and hired tenant farmers to care for his vineyard in his absence. He exhibited exceptional devotion to his vineyard.

1.      Who was taking all the risk?

2.      What was the purpose of the fence or wall? The tower? The winepress in the center of the vineyard?

3.      When it was time for the fruit to be harvested, the owner sent servants twice to collect his share of the harvest. How did the tenants respond each time?

4.      How would you expect the landowner to respond to these brutal crimes?

5.      How did he actually respond?

6.      Do you think the religious leaders listening to this parable were astonished at the owner’s response?

Consider the following:

·         Owner – God

·         Vineyard – Israel

·         Fence – Protection

·         Watchtower – Prophets

·         Winepress – Faithful Results

·         Tenants/Stewards – Jewish leaders

The “servants” the landowner sent also represent the prophets God sent down through the ages to call His people to repentance, but most of them were rejected and many killed.

7.      How would you describe God (the landowner) based on this parable?

The landowner’s response reflected God’s grace expressed through His patience with His people when they turned their backs on Him time after time.

8.      Do we ever take God’s patience for granted or even approval and continue in our sin, neglecting God’s warnings?

9.      After two different groups of servants had been beaten, stoned and/or killed, why would the owner send his son—the indication here is that it is his only son?

 

 

The Son Rejected! Read Matthew 21:38-39

1.      What may have been the motives behind the tenant farmers killing the landowner’s son? (Greed; lack of respect for the son; an insatiable, selfish desire; ultimately a total disrespect for the landowner himself!)

2.      What did the tenants hope to accomplish by this brutality?

3.      What attitude displayed by the tenant farmers do we see displayed in our world today?

4.      How do those attitudes get in the way of accepting the Son, Jesus?

Just as we can see from this parable that these tenants will not get away with their actions, neither will we get away with disrespecting God, HisWord, His messengers or His message!

5.      How would you compare the events in these two verses to the events that were about to happen to Jesus in the next few days?

Just like the tenant farmers thoughts about the son, Jesus’ opponents considered Him to be an obstacle they needed to remove. He was too great a threat to their authoritative positions.

 

The Son Vindicated! Read Matthew 21:40-45

 

1.      How did Jesus tighten the noose around their necks? (Recall Nathan, the prophet and his encounter with David after his affair with Bathsheba, killing Uriah, and taking her as his wife. 2 Sam. 12:6-7. David, in his anger at the rich man who had taken the one sheep a poor man had, passed sentence on himself. Nathan said, “Thou art the man.”)

With His question, Jesus gave the religious leaders a chance to look at their rejection of God’s Son, Jesus, through the eyes of God. Their answer described the judgment that would be rendered to them.

2.      Jesus quoted from Psalm 118:22-23 concerning the rejection of a stone. What are the characteristics and uses of this very important stone? (It is the foundation stone of a building. It can also be the capstone of an arch, without which the arch will fall.)

3.      For what reasons might a builder reject a stone?

4.      Why did the Jewish leaders reject Jesus?

5.      How did Jesus use the grinding ability of a stone to demonstrate the fate of these who rejected Him?

6.      How does Jesus serve as both a cornerstone and a stumbling block at the same time? (To those who accept Him, He becomes the foundation for their life. To those who reject Him, He becomes a stumbling block that they just can’t accept.)

In the passage concerning the money changers in the Temple, the religious leaders had questioned Jesus’ authority to throw them out, but here Jesus turned the tables and confronted them instead. It is amazing how quickly Jesus can put us on the defensive!

Jesus told the religious leaders that God would take His kingdom away from them and entrust it to others. The Jewish leaders realized Jesus was speaking against them. No doubt they were angry, confused, and unsure how to respond. They were convicted but obviously not convinced to change. Generally when someone gets angry enough and confused enough the response is violence!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      With whom do you identify in this story?

2.      In your life, is Jesus the cornerstone? Why or why not?

3.      How can we help others understand the peril of rejecting Jesus?

4.      How can we be welcoming of unbelievers without compromising the truths of the gospel? (Establish a relationship with them that will let them know we love them and desire that they come to know Jesus for their eternal salvation.)

 

Take time this week to evaluate how your life portrays Jesus to those around you.

Are you openly sharing your faith with others?

Do you have a deep burden for those who are lost and don’t know Jesus as their savior?

Do you have an ongoing prayer strategy for friends, family, and others who are lost?

What needs to change in order for you to be more proactive in reaching others?

More Than a Prophet? - Matthew 21:1-11

1.      What memories flood your mind when you think of a parade for a dignitary?

2.      Have you ever attended a parade where a famous person, like a President, was part of the parade? What was it like?

3.      What is the appeal of seeing a world leader or someone very famous in person?

Today’s Scripture tells of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem at the beginning of the Passover festival and the joyful response of the crowd. This event marks the beginning of Jesus’ final week prior to His arrest, betrayal, trial, crucifixion, burial and resurrection.

As we explore our passage, think about the details associated with how Israel’s long-awaited King made His grand entrance into the “Holy City.”

 

The King’s Prerogative! Read Matthew 21:1-5

 

Bethphage was located on the slopes of the Mount of Olives. (Point the location of the Mount of Olives on a map.)

1.      What specific instructions did Jesus give to two of His disciples here?

2.      What did Jesus’ knowledge about the animals reveal about Him?

3.      What is the significance of what Jesus told them to tell the owner if questioned about taking the animals? (The literal meaning of “Lord” is “Master.” Evidently the owner knew Jesus as “Master.”)

Jesus goes on to teach the disciples that all of these events were done in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy concerning the Messiah. See Isaiah 62:11 and Zechariah 9:9.

4.      What assurances about God’s plan can be drawn from the precise details about the Messiah found in these passages?

Zion is used sometimes to refer to Jerusalem, so Daughter Zion provided a word picture to describe the people of Jerusalem.

5.      What do you suppose people in Jesus’ day thought of when they heard of a king?

6.      When a king entered a city in that time period how did they normally arrive? (Riding a horse, certainly not on a donkey!)

7.      How did this prophecy indicate that Jesus was a very different kind of king than any they had experienced? (Jesus came in meekness and humility, not with a great show of power.)

8.      What kind of king and kingdom had the people expected? (They were expecting a king who would establish his kingdom on earth and make life better and easier for those under his rule in the here and now!)

Jesus’ kingdom was definitely not what they expected. His followers had many unanswered questions, but they followed Him in faith.

 

The King’s Celebration! Read Matthew 21:6-8

 

1.      How would your life be different if you responded like the disciples in verse 6?

2.      What are the benefits of unquestioning obedience?

3.      How did the disciples treat Jesus?

The disciples followed Jesus’ directions by bringing the donkey and her colt. Then they laid their robes on them before Jesus mounted. Even the crowd removed their own robes and spread them on the road; they spread branches on the road and began to shout. This crowd was already excited about coming to Jerusalem for the “Passover” celebration and this just added to their excitement.

Remember, most of the people coming to Jerusalem from Galilee would come down the east side of the Jordan River, to avoid Samaria, and cross back over near Jericho. Many of them had likely encountered Jesus during His ministry in Galilee and may have been proud that they at least knew of Jesus, and so would be enthusiastic participants.

Their actions resembled the response of God’s people in the Old Testament when they found themselves in the presence of a king. Listen to 2 Kings 9:13.

4.      What are the benefits of unquestioning obedience? (Unlimited joy and blessings!)

Read Matt. 21:9

Ironically, “Hosanna” literally means “God save us.”

5.      What did the name “Son of David” indicate? (Possibly they thought He would become an earthly king who would save His people through political and military success.)

What we understand now, that the people of Jesus’ day didn’t, is that His kingdom is a spiritual kingdom in the hearts of men.

The phrase “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” were from Psalm 118:26. There are six celebratory psalms sung at major Jewish festivals. Psalms 113 and 114 were sung before the Passover meal was eaten; Psalms 115, 116, 117 and 118 were sung after the meal. So these psalms would be fresh on the minds of the people. Prior to this event Jesus had stopped the people from proclamations that indicated He was the Messiah, but now He allows it.

6.      How do we celebrate the presence of Christ in our lives? In our church?

7.      How do the demonstrations today compare to the reception Jesus received as He entered Jerusalem?

 

The People’s Confusion! Read Matthew 21:10-11

 

1.      Why was the city shaken? (There was confusion about who Jesus was from the beginning of His ministry. The people could not comprehend how the Son of Mary and Joseph could claim to be the promised Savior of the world, much less the Son of God.)

2.      Why was it easier for the people to call Jesus a prophet than to acknowledge Him as the Son of God? (Human nature looks for an indisputable explanation for everything. The people knew and understood the role of a prophet; most of them could not define, defend, or comprehend Jesus’ mission.)

Once again, many of the people who were saying Jesus was “the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee” were most likely from that region. Those asking the questions were from other parts of Israel less familiar with Jesus’ ministry.

Apparently the crowd was excited about having a potential king in their midst. However, by asking “Who is this?” and by calling Jesus a prophet, they indicated they had no idea of the true majesty of Jesus or the gravity of this event and the ones to follow. They mentioned only that He came from Nazareth; apparently they didn’t realize He was born in Bethlehem to a virgin according to prophecy.

3.      In what ways do people in our time express a misunderstanding about Jesus as the Messiah, the long-awaited King?

 

Summarize and Challenge! 

 

Truths from today’s study:

·         Jesus is sovereign over all of His creation!

·         Jesus is worthy of our honor and praise!

·         Jesus is the promised messiah who came to save His people from sin!

 

1.      Jesus gave two of His disciples specific instructions. What specific directive has Jesus given you to fulfill?

2.      What actions are you taking to complete the assigned task?

3.      How do you communicate what you believe about Jesus through your daily life?

What is Required? Matthew 19:16-26

1.      Have you ever been stopped for a traffic violation?

2.      If so, for which violation were you stopped?

True confessions: I have been stopped for speeding—just slightly over the posted limit. Actually it was in 1971 and I was not paying attention and was exceeding the limit by around 12 mph.

3.      How did you respond to the policeman when he told you why you were stopped?

Suppose you were stopped for speeding and you told the policeman you had used your turn signals and were courteous to other drivers.

4.      How would he have responded? (“That is commendable, but you broke the law by speeding and you must suffer the consequences!”)

Matthew 19 tells of a man who was seeking eternal life. He was trying to fulfill all the requirements, but he was concerned he might be leaving something out. He, like many people today, thought eternal life had to be earned. He turned to Jesus for help; Jesus demonstrated that He alone offers eternal life to those who follow Him.

 

As Jesus and the disciples were traveling to Jerusalem, large crowds followed. Jesus entertained questions from the people. Some were from people honestly seeking to learn, others were designed to trap Jesus, as was the question in 3 of chapter 19 concerning marriage. Our focal passage deals with an honest seeker.

Standard Defined! Read Matthew 19:16-20

 

1.      What does this young man’s question reveal about his assumption concerning “eternal life”? (That there was something he could do to earn or deserve eternal life.)

2.      To what was the man referring as good?

3.      What do we, as Christians, know about acts of goodness with regard to salvation? (They do not earn us salvation, they are at least partial evidence that we are a Christian. They are not the root but the fruit of our salvation.)

4.      What did Jesus try to teach the man about goodness in verse 17? (True goodness comes only from God. It also showed that our good acts could never be sufficient to earn salvation. Goodness was actually a person, Jesus; it is only through Him that we can gain salvation.)

5.      How would you describe the young man’s response to Jesus’ statement about keeping the commandments? (“Just tell me which ones! I’ve got this!” Confident he would pass the test.)

6.      Which commandments did Jesus start with on His list? (Our interactions with other people, the last six of the Ten Commandments given to Moses—except #10.)

7.      Why do we limit the commandments we want to obey? (Those are the ones that we find relatively easy to obey. Then we look down on others who break the ones we obey. Many times we break the ones others find easy to obey!)

Sincere obedience follows the commandments of Scripture but also goes beyond the “letter of the law” and obeys from a heart of love for Christ.

8.      What is the difference between outward performance and obedient trust in God? (The attitude of the heart—motivation! Are we counting on our performance to achieve on our own merit, or do we obey out of a heart of love.)

The minute we begin to refer to a “checklist” of commandments to obey, we have started trusting in ourselves, not in Christ through faith! While obedience often includes outward performance, acts of obedience are not a substitute for an attitude of trust, love, and surrender as we conform our will to His!

9.      How would you describe the young man’s response to Jesus’ list of commandments? (Obviously, the man didn’t get it; he thought, based on these commands, that he was good enough.)

10.  Which commandments did Jesus not name?

11.  Why do you think He didn’t name these?

12.  How do people today express the same attitude and beliefs as the young man?

13.  How can trying to keep the commandments lead to insecurity?

 

Impossible to Keep! Read Matthew 19:21-22

 

The word “perfect” here can mean “complete”.

1.      Is it necessary to sell everything you own in order to have eternal life in Jesus Christ? (It depends…does what you own come between you and God? Then yes, you must give it up.)

2.      What in your life comes between you and God? (The first of the commandments God gave to His people addressed this issue: “You shall have no other gods before Me!” Ex. 20:3.)

3.      In what did the young man trust for his security? (Wealth and possessions were of great importance to this young man. He couldn’t even get past the first commandment!)

4.      What things do people hold on to that keep them from fully trusting Christ today? (In similar fashion, we tend to place our trust in other people, our jobs, our health, our intellectual abilities, our bank accounts, our houses, and other material possessions.)

5.      Why do you think those things are so hard to let go?

6.      How would you describe the young man’s actions to what Jesus told him?

7.      Are you surprised at how easily Jesus lets people go when they decide to reject Him?

 

Provision to Accept! Read Matthew 19:23-26

 

1.      What lesson did Jesus have for His disciples to learn from this encounter?

2.      Why were the disciples so shocked at what Jesus said in verse 23? (It was commonly believed that riches were evidence of God’s blessings. If a person was wealthy then they were surely in God’s will.)

3.      What do you suppose the disciples thought when they heard it was harder for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to be saved?

4.      Does this mean money is inherently evil? (“The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” 1 Tim. 6:10)

5.      Why do you think it would be difficult for a very wealthy person to be saved? (They think they have everything they need!)

The reality is that wealth, more often than not, is a barrier to God’s gift of salvation rather than a sign of it!

6.      How do Jesus’ words serve as a warning for us today?

7.      How do His words give us hope today?

In Luke 18:27 Jesus said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

·         The Old Testament law points to our inability to gain salvation by our own merit.

·         What a person depends upon for security reveals what he or she trusts for salvation.

·         Jesus offers salvation as a gift that can only be received by faith and never earned.

 

1.      If the young man we studied about today had obeyed all of the law to the very best of his ability, why was he seeking more answers? (There was an emptiness in his heart that only Jesus could fill.)

2.      Jesus pinpointed the young man’s real issue. If Jesus were to pinpoint your real issue, what would it be?

3.      How would you respond?

4.      What have you relinquished in order to follow Jesus?

5.      What have been the results?

Jesus offers salvation as a gift that can only be received by faith in Him; salvation cannot be earned—it doesn’t matter how good you think you are, you can’t measure up to God’s perfect standards.

Consider:

1.      What comes between you and your complete surrender to the Lordship of Jesus?

2.      How does that affect your ministry to others?

3.      Is Jesus asking you to forsake or abandon something right now?

4.      What is your response?

 

Is Jesus Fully God? - Matthew 17:1-13

(Distribute a small index card and pen to everyone. Tell them to write something unique about themselves that most people may not know. Collect the cards, shuffle them and read them aloud. Have the group guess to which individual the fact refers.)

 

1.      Which fact most surprised you? Why?

No matter how well we think we know others, we never really know everything because of the complexity God has placed within each of us.

This week we will look at a passage in which three of Jesus’ disciples will learn a greater truth about Jesus than they had known before through a “mountain top experience.”

2.      How do we normally describe a “mountain top experience?” (A momentous experience can be life-altering or help put life into perspective.)

3.      Have you ever had what you would describe a “mountain top experience” and would you like to share it with us?

 

Last week we learned the disciples had come to realize that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God; now there was much more to learn about Him. Today we’ll learn how Jesus continued to reveal more precisely who He really was on the mount of transfiguration.

 

Presence! Read Matthew 17:1-6

 

The Greek word translated “transfigured” appears only four times in the New Testament: Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2; Romans 12:2; and 2 Corinthians 3:8. In Matthew and Mark it is used in relationship to what happened to Jesus on the mountain with Peter, James and John. In Romans and 2 Corinthians it is used in reference to how we as Christians are transformed into the likeness of Jesus, otherwise known as “sanctification.”

1.      Why do you suppose Jesus led the disciples up on the mountain for this event?

2.      How would you describe the transformation that took place in Jesus?

3.      Why do you think the disciples used the sun to describe Jesus’ face and the color “white” to describe His clothes? (I believe they were at a loss for words and that was the closest they could come to what they saw. In Mark 9:2 the word “dazzling” is used.)

4.      Why do you think Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus? (Moses represented the law and Elijah represented the prophets.)

5.      What key role did each of these men play in God’s plan of redemption?

6.      What did their presence confirm about Jesus? (Matt. 5:17 “Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” The Law and the Prophets had foretold Jesus’ arrival and mission.)

Luke 9:31 records that Jesus, Moses and Elijah were talking about Jesus’ impending death in Jerusalem.

7.      What does Peter’s request to build three tabernacles imply about his lack of understanding? (It is almost as if Peter was saying Moses, Elijah and Jesus were all equal. It could also mean that Peter thought this experience was so wonderful that he wanted to just stay up there on the mountain. On top of the mountain is wonderful but it’s not where the work is to be done.)

Peter did not grasp the priceless value of the experience, nor did he realize that Moses and Elijah were present only to confirm the deity of Jesus Christ (nor did James or John).

God the Father stepped in to clarify by speaking from a cloud the awe-inspiring words recorded in verse 5.

8.      How do we know the disciples then understood the gravity of their experience?

9.      How is what God said different here from what He said at Jesus’ baptism? (He added “Listen to Him!”)

10.  How does the awareness of God’s presence change our understanding or perception of a situation?

 

 

Purpose! Read Matthew 17:7-9

 

1.      The disciples had heard directly from the Father and it gave them new perspective. How does time with the Father prepare us to face challenges? (Time with God, reading His Word, praying and seeking His guidance gives us strength, boldness, and courage for what is to come. While we are not outwardly transfigured like Jesus was, we can be inwardly transformed.)

2.      What does Jesus’ response to their fears tell us about Him?

3.      What was the significance of the fact that when the disciples looked up they saw that Jesus was now alone?

4.      How does devoting our attention to Christ alone help us deal with our fears?

5.      What would be the first thing anyone would want to do after the most overwhelming experience of a lifetime?

Jesus sensed their plans to tell others of their wonderful experience, but He called an abrupt halt to these plans by telling them not to tell anyone. The time would come to share all they knew, but the time would be after His death and resurrection. Some scholars term this idea as the “Messianic Secret.” “Jesus forced His disciples to think about the secret until they could articulate the secret.” Source—HCS Bible Dictionary.

 

Perspective! Read Matthew 17:10-13

 

Read Malachi 4:5—The scribes had taught, based on this verse, that Elijah would come ahead of the Messiah to lead His people back to a proper relationship with Him and with each other. The disciples were perplexed because they had not seen this happen.

 

1.      How did the scribes’ teachings of what would happen differ from reality once Jesus came? (They were looking for Elijah literally, not one who would come like Elijah.)

2.      What did the disciples then realize about the identity of “Elijah”? (John the Baptist had lived out the spirit and power of Elijah!)

3.      What message did John the Baptist preach? (Repentance.)

4.      What difference might it have made if God’s people had recognized John the Baptist as God’s messenger and had responded to his message of repentance and preparation for the Messiah’s arrival? (Even if they had accepted Jesus as the Messiah they pictured in their mind, Jesus would have been rejected and crucified because He didn’t fit their “mold”!)

5.      Once again Jesus told the disciples of His impending death, yet they did not grasp what He was saying. How is it possible that they could hear Jesus speak the words and still not understand His meaning? (They did not understand why Jesus had to suffer and die. Even after Jesus’ resurrection, many people today know the truths of Scripture concerning Jesus, but they choose to ignore the message of salvation.)

6.      How does Jesus change our perspective of what we have accepted as truth?

7.      What attitudes do we need to adopt if we are going to continue to learn from Jesus?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      Why is it impossible to understand Jesus’ mission apart from His death, burial, and resurrection? (Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth in human form was to die in our place. His death, burial, and resurrection are the cornerstone of our salvation. He is “the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through Him.” John 14:6)

2.      Why are reverence and fear appropriate responses to the reality of God’s glory revealed through His Son? (Reverence denotes worship, adoration, and respect. Fear acknowledges the holiness of God and the assurance that our devotion and awe are expressed in light of who He is and what He has done.)

Take time this week to evaluate how you demonstrate reverence and awe for Jesus in your personal life.

3.      Does your life point others to Jesus?

4.      Do you verbally share with others about the divine mission of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection?

Father as you reveal Yourself more and more to us, may we have the appropriate response of worship and awe!