Prepares - Mark 14:3-11, 32-36

Name some words that are opposite the following words: large/small; dark/light; rough/smooth; generous/greedy; betrayal/devotion-loyalty-faithfulness.

Describe an act of devotion that impresses you: (Elderly spouses who speak kindly to each other; parents who develop respectful relationships with adult children; neonatal nurses who walk alongside the parents of their patients; caregivers who willingly do whatever is required to take proper care of their mate or perhaps another relative.)

In today’s session, two contrasting responses to Jesus will be examined as we see a woman shows her devotion by sharing an extravagant gift and a greedy disciple!

 

As we have already learned, the events recorded in Mark are not necessarily in chronological sequence, although these events we will study today could have been in the order in which they occurred. We are in the final days just before Jesus crucifixion.

Misunderstood! Read Mark 14:3-5

 

Mark provides a picture of almost unbelievable generosity. We find Jesus in the home of Simon the leper. Leprosy usually resulted in isolation from the community and the temple, so it’s assumed that Simon no longer had the disease and may have been cured by Jesus. The woman boldly approached Jesus with her gift and poured it on Jesus’ head. A denarius was about the same as a day’s wage, so the perfume would have been almost a year’s worth of wages.

1.      How do you suppose the woman knew to do what she did?

2.      What frustrated the disciples? Was it really about wasting perfume and giving money to the poor? (If this is the same anointing recorded in John, then Judas was the one who complained the most, and we know his heart’s condition!)

3.      Why is it so easy to criticize the way others show devotion to Jesus? (Selfishness. Either I can’t, or am not willing to, show my devotion in such a manner.  Focus is on the individual and not on Jesus, the One being honored.)

4.      Why is this dangerous? (Our own worship and devotion to Jesus is misguided, or not given at all, because we are jealous of what someone else did.)

5.      When do you find it easiest to be generous?

6.      How would you respond if asked to give a year’s wages?

 

Honored! Read Mark 14:6-9

 

1.      Why did Jesus defend the woman? (Jesus used appreciation and truth to honor the woman.)

2.      How did His words relieve the tension in the room? (He characterized her act as preparation for His impending burial.)

3.      What actions might a person take that would receive the same response Jesus gave to this woman? (It’s not the act it’s the motive behind the act.)

4.      What role does a person’s motive play in the value of a worshipful action? (A couple of weeks ago we saw Jesus give praise to a poor widow who gave only two small coins. Here Jesus praises this woman for her extravagant gift. This should remind us that it’s not size of the offering but the condition of the heart!)

“It is a beautiful thing when the worth of Jesus and the love of his followers match—when the value of His perfections and the intensity of our affections correspond.” —John Piper

 

Betrayed! Read Mark 14:10-11

 

As one of Jesus’ disciples, Judas traveled with Him but still was willing to betray Him for short-term gain. Perhaps Jesus wasn’t meeting the expectations that Judas had for the Messiah, or maybe by betraying Jesus He revealed His greed for money!

1.      What is the difference between knowing a lot about Jesus and knowing Him personally? (We may know a great deal about a well known person like President Trump but we don’t know him personally. The contrast is even starker when talking about Jesus because Jesus can actually live in us through the Holy Spirit! That is intimate knowledge!)

2.      How does betrayal hurt both the betrayer and the betrayed? (Betrayal is diametrically opposed to devotion. Many betrayals are not overt; they come through lack of action. Betrayals borne of refusing to stand up for someone are equally destructive.)

Mark 14:12-31. After participating in the Passover meal, Jesus led His disciples to Gethsemane for prayer.

 

Committed! Read Mark 14:32-36

 

1.      How would you describe Jesus’ emotions in His prayer?

2.      How did Jesus honor the Father in the midst of His extreme emotions? (Jesus is both fully God and fully human. He had no advantage compared to any other human—Heb. 2:17, and had opportunity to choose to do rightly just like any other person.)

Distress and grief aren’t sins.

3.      What can we learn from Jesus about how to express devotion to God in the midst of our distress and grief?

4.      Think about Jesus’ willingness to submit to God’s plan. What does this reveal about God? (His plan is perfect!) About humanity? (Humanity wants its own way always.)  About the nature of sin? (Sin fights God to the very end.)

 

In Mark 14:37-52 we find the disciples sleeping, Judas completing his actions of betrayal, and Jesus’ disciples deserting Him. Jesus’ response to the situation revealed Scripture being fulfilled.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      What are some ways people today betray Jesus with words or actions?

2.      When have you betrayed Jesus by your words or actions?

3.      Who can you ask to hold you accountable so you can avoid making those mistakes again?

Jesus submitted willingly to the Father’s plan.

He was misunderstood and betrayed, but He still chose to do the right thing. You and I have eternal life with the Father because of Jesus’ willingness to be obedient to the Father’s will.

 

Our challenge today is: Take time to confess privately times you’ve said spiritual-sounding words instead of choosing the devoted action. Talk with Jesus about how to obey Him and delight in that process. That’s how we get to know Jesus more intimately!

Promises - Mark 13:1-37

1.      Have you ever made a promise and had to break it? (Hopefully if we have had to break a promise it was due to circumstances beyond our control.)

2.      Who do you trust to fulfill a promise made to you?

Although the word “promise” isn’t used in our Scripture text today the predictions Jesus made to His disciples (and thereby to us as well) amounted to promises.

The events in Mark 13 were timely in that they occurred just a day or so before Jesus’ crucifixion—an event that seemingly left the disciples with no hope. This is one of only two chapters in Mark where an extensive block of the Lord’s teaching centered around a single theme. The other was back in chapter 4 where Jesus taught parables of the kingdom.

Chapter 13 has been called “the eschatological discourse” or “the prophetic discourse” and some call it “the Olivet discourse” because He taught it from the Mount of Olives.

A comment made by the disciples concerning the temple buildings started this entire discussion.

The chapter could be outlined as follows:

·         Destruction of the temple predicted. Occurred in 70 AD

·         Signs of the end of the age.

·         Persecutions predicted.

·         The great tribulation.

·         The coming of the Son of Man.

·         The parable of the fig tree.

·         No one knows the day or hour of the Lord’s return.

Because the chapter covers such a wide range of time and events we have some difficulty in understanding exactly how it all fits together. Our focus today will be on Jesus’ promise to return and knowing He will keep His promise.

Many of the events Jesus tells His disciples about were prophesied in the Old Testament—Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Joel for example. Once again proof these prophets wrote under God’s inspiration! Later the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians deals with it also.

The promise of Jesus’ return gives us living hope! (I couldn’t help but to think about the Sadducees who don’t believe in the resurrection.)

 

Seen! Read Mark 13:24-27

 

1.      If you were to use just one word how would you say creation will respond at the end times? (Chaos! Complete disorder and confusion.)

Read Isa. 13:10; Ez. 32:7; and Joel 2:10, 31.

2.      What details can we learn about Jesus’ return from these verses? (Jesus’ return will be like nothing we’ve experienced; all people will see Him; Because we’ve never experienced it—similar to the disciples not having experienced the resurrection—we will certainly get some of the characteristics wrong.)

We need to focus on what we can know, such as even nature will change.

3.      Read Mark 13:26-27 again. How do you visualize the return of the Son of Man and what will happen upon His return?

4.      How would you contrast Jesus’ first coming (birth) with His second coming? (Poor-Ruler; Seen by few-seen by all; Birth announced to a few-proclaimed worldwide; Humility and service-great power and glory; etc)

5.      Read Daniel 7:13-14. Mark drew an example from Daniel to connect Jesus as the Messiah. How should His eventual return affect the way people live each day right now?

Verse 27 indicates that Jesus’ return will mean a time of restoration for the believer.  These events in the heavens announce the arrival of God’s righteous judgment.

 

Be Assured! Read Mark 13:28-31

 

1.      Why might Jesus have used a fig tree as an example? (Very common fruit tree in Israel. Everyone would understand exactly what He was talking about. The fig tree served as a reliable indicator of the seasons. Most of the other trees in the area did not lose their leaves in the winter, so the budding of the leaves of a fig tree promised that summer was approaching.)

In our area the blooming of the Bradford Pear tree might serve as a good example pointing to the onset of summer.

2.      What one thing can we be certain of from these verses? (Christians have been anticipating Jesus’ second coming since He departed the first time. No matter how long it takes, His Word is true and will come to pass.)

Verse 30 is a difficult verse to understand. Jesus said “This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things take place.” If He was referring to the destruction of Jerusalem, then He was talking about the generation of His disciples, but that is highly unlikely because it is so far removed in context. Some scholars believe He was talking about the “Christian Era.” The most likely and logical would be the generation living when the events of the great tribulation come to pass. Although a terrible time only that generation will have to endure those events.

3.      Because Jesus’ word and His return are certain, how should our behavior, attitudes, and words be impacted by His promise? (Even the way we speak to our spouses and kids will honor or dishonor Jesus. There isn’t an area of our life that will not be called into accountability.)

If love for Jesus doesn’t motivate us to do rightly, we should be motivated by the reality that we will bring before God both our selfish acts and our loving ones.

4.      Read Mark 13:31. How does this verse provide comfort for us today? (Regardless of what is going on around us Jesus’ words will come to pass. He is in complete control, even in the seemingly chaotic world we live in today!)

 

Stay Ready! Read Mark 13:32-37

 

1.      What key words do we find repeated in these verses? (“Be alert.”)

2.      Why would Jesus repeatedly remind His disciples to be alert?

Notice that when the master went away he gave his servants jobs to do.

3.      Do we ever have a job to do and put it off until it’s too late and we get caught short?

The message to the disciples is clear. They have a job to do before Jesus returns but they don’t know when He will return. Therefore, it is best to go about doing the Master’s will lest we get caught short.

4.      What would a day guided by watching and being alert look like? (We should live as though Jesus could come any hour, doing actions He would be proud of, but plan as though we’ll live on this earth until death.)

As Jesus shared with His disciples the need to stay alert, so we also must watch out and be alert!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      What are some distractions that could keep a person from remaining alert and watchful?

2.      How can a person safeguard himself against these distractions?

3.      Think about challenges you’re currently facing. How does the promise of Jesus’ return give you hope when you face the identified challenges?

4.      How does the hope we talked about today provide comfort?

5.      How can you share this hope with others?

6.      What do you most anticipate about seeing Jesus come in His glory?

 

We all need to focus on our relationship with Jesus rather than getting hung up on details about what will happen first, second and third.

 

Even so come Lord Jesus!

Purifies - Mark 11:15-19; 12:41-44

1.      Have you ever backed out of your garage, driven about a block, and began to question whether you closed the garage?

2.      How many of you have gone back to check only to find that you had closed it?

3.      Has this happened more than once?

4.      Did you close your garage door when you left home today?

Sometimes actions become so automatic that we don’t even realize we’re doing them. It’s like our minds are on autopilot.

5.      When have you ever caught yourself going through the motions either at home, at work or during an important event?

6.      What makes simply going through the motions so dangerous? (The activity has lost its significance. There is no meaning to your actions.)

In today’s study some practices in the temple had become so commonplace that the people failed to see the problems and carried on business as usual with no thought as to its significance or true meaning. They were only concerned with what they were doing and not the impact their actions had on others and their worship.

 

Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Sunday. So the events we’ll focus on today occurred on Monday and Tuesday before Jesus’ crucifixion.

Cleansed! Read Mark 11:15-17

 

The court of the Gentiles was the entry point for Jews going into their main worship area, the only area open to the Gentiles, and a very high traffic area. It had become a place for trading rather than a place of worship. A place for personal gain rather than a place to honor God!

Remember, this is Passover week, so there were many more people in Jerusalem than would normally be there.

1.      What was actually happening in this area designed for Gentile believers? (Animals and doves were being bought and sold for sacrifice. For an animal to be used for sacrifice it had to be judged as perfect. Some scholars believe that as people brought their animals to be inspected by the priests they might be told it was not acceptable. In that case they would be offered the opportunity to purchase one that was acceptable. Especially this week, it was a very lucrative business.)

The money changers were there to exchange Roman coins for the Tyrian shekel. This was the coin required for every Jewish male to use to pay their annual temple tax.

2.      What words would you use to describe Jesus’ emotions? (Anger or righteous anger.)

3.      What did Jesus get mad about and how did He express that anger? (Anger at behavior that hurts people tends to be a godly use of anger. In this passage, Jesus stopped innocent worshipers from being taken advantage of.)

Jesus acted to stop wrongful behavior—stopping merchants from doing unfair business in the temple complex. It is almost like they had turned this area of worship into a stockyard!

4.      What gradual steps do you suppose contributed to this transformation? (The buying and selling was part of the worship process of bringing the right kind of financial and animal offerings. The placement of the merchants limited access to the temple, especially for Gentiles.)

5.      What did Jesus say was the proper use of His house? (Read Jer. 7:11 and Isa. 56:7. Remember Mark wrote his Gospel aimed at the Gentiles—“House of prayer for all nations.”)

6.      What are some ways we gradually move away from approaching God with reverence? (We use our Prelude music time as a time to visit with each other rather than preparing our hearts for worship. We get up and move around in our worship service like we are at a ball game.)

7.      Jews appeared to be going through the motions simply because they were Jews, not because they viewed the temple as a place set aside for worship. How might my “going through the motions” of worship hinder others from approaching God?

 

Feared! Read Mark 11:18-19

 

1.      What response did the chief priests and scribes have to Jesus’ actions?

2.      Why wouldn’t they do anything to Jesus at that time? (Jesus seemed to have the support of the crowd.)

3.      Why might the scribes have felt threatened by Jesus?

4.      What happens when someone begins to get into our “pocketbook”?

5.      What might motivate them to seek to silence Jesus and His message? (With the following of the people a revolt against the scribes and/or Rome could come about.)

6.      Do we ever try to silence Jesus’ message to our hearts?

 

Observed! Read Mark 12:41-42

 

1.      What are some feelings and motives the worshipers in these verses may have had? (Notice there is nothing here that indicated any negative feelings or motives. They may very well have had pure motives and genuine feelings of worship and gratitude to God.)

2.      How might the contrast between the rich people and the poor widow be deceiving to others watching?

3.      What are some ways people might use religious practices to gain recognition?

4.      Giving includes attitude, action, proportion, and motive. What else might be included in giving?

Some people give because they feel they “have” to give and don’t have a choice. Others feel they “get” to give to show their love and adoration for and to the Lord.

 

Commended! Read Mark 12:43-44

 

1.      Why did the widow put more into the treasury than all the others? (Often believers use their personal lack of wealth as an excuse for not giving an offering to the Lord.)

Notice Jesus didn’t say anything negative about what the rich people gave. We don’t know how Jesus knew they were rich other than perhaps the clothes they wore.

2.      What things do people trust for security?

3.      How might those things get in the way of them trusting God?

4.      What two tips would you share for giving in ways that honor the principles God’s Word teaches? (Tithe proportionally; give sacrificially; ask God what offering you should give.)

5.      How much of your income belongs to God? (All of it. He gives it to us and we should use it in ways that honor Him in every way. How we spend is as important as how we give.)

Sacrifice in our giving isn’t measured by how much we give but how much we have left!

 

In cleansing the temple Jesus removed the money changers so that they were no longer a distraction for worship. In sharing with the disciples, Jesus revealed that the sacrifice of the widow showed a heart for worship much more than the rich people giving out of their surplus.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      What would Jesus clean from my temple?

2.      What thoughtful actions in everyday life would Jesus call attention to as acts of worship?

 

Worship goes far beyond one hour a week but is a giving of our lives, as described in Romans 12:1-2.

 

What might Jesus call attention to in you—not to tell others but to continue that thoughtful deed as an act of worshiping Jesus!

Serves - Mark 10:35-45

1.      When you think of the word “leader” what images or names come to your mind? (President; boss; commander; Mayor; head of civic organizations; etc.)

2.      When you think of the word “servant” what images or names come to your mind? (Helper; custodian; someone lower in terms of importance; housekeeper; etc.)

We almost always think of a leader as being out front, a person of prestige, and importance.

3.      How do you think you would respond if you went for an executive job interview and you were handed a broom as part of the interview?

4.      What would your attitude reveal about your understanding of leadership?

5.      Have you ever been asked to do something that you thought was “beneath” you—even though you said nothing?

Today in Mark 10 we’ll see Jesus again in the role of teaching Messiah. In this chapter Jesus teaches about the permanence of marriage; the blessing of children and childlike trust; the barrier to the kingdom for the rich young ruler; possessions and material wealth; His third prediction of His death and resurrection; suffering and service and finally the healing of a blind man.

These incidents may appear to be somewhat disconnected. Yet, each was not only part of Jesus’ ongoing ministry but also served as an object lesson for the disciples. They needed to grasp Jesus’ example of One who did not come to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for all who believe in Him.

It appears that His disciples, like many today, were struggling to understand what discipleship was all about and the true cost of discipleship.

 

The Request! Read Mark 10:35-38a

 

1.      In your words, what was their request? (Next to Jesus, they wanted the top positions in His kingdom when it was established.)

2.      How did James and John go about making their request? (In modern day terminology—“would you do us a favor?” They wanted a commitment from Jesus before they asked the real question.)

How do you picture the scene? Did they pull Jesus aside? Try not to be heard? Make sure they were overheard? Had they been thinking about it because Jesus’ tone had changed since they headed for Jerusalem? Maybe He was going to establish His kingdom in the very near future and, if so, we want to ask before anyone else thinks about it. 

            In Matthew’s account, the mother of James and John approached Jesus with them to make the request, while Luke didn’t identify who made the request. James and John, along with Peter, were members of what has been called “the inner circle” and may have assumed they had a higher position. They began their request by acknowledging Jesus as their Teacher (not Lord) but appeared to have forgotten His recent prediction concerning His death and resurrection. They were bold in approaching Jesus and desired a guarantee before they made the request.

3.      How would you describe what motivated James and John to make the request?

4.      What does the request reveal to us about their understanding of leadership?

5.      What did the request reveal about their assumption about Jesus’ kingdom?

6.      How is that same understanding expressed today?

It’s unclear how long James and John thought about their response to Jesus’ question in verse 38, but their stories show us they would sacrifice much more than they had intended, at least at this point in following Jesus!

7.      What would you say to your younger self about something you previously misunderstood about following Jesus? (Even with Jesus right there, or teaching us clearly today through the Bible, we can let our own ideas muddle what Jesus teaches!)

Life has a way of humbling us and showing us God’s truth! The cup Jesus was about to drink included dying for our sins, while the baptism is a reference to their completely identifying with Jesus and being willing to face suffering for His sake!

8.      What costs might be associated with following Jesus today?

9.      What does the confidence expressed by James and John say about them? (Not unlike Peter the night before Jesus’ crucifixion, they were confident they would follow Jesus!)

10.  In whom do they trust more, in themselves or in Jesus?

 

The Reaction! Read Mark 10:39b-41

 

The text doesn’t say how the other disciples discovered the request, but our actions seldom stay completely secret.

1.      How would you describe the reaction of the other 10 disciples? (Indignant: “Feeling or showing anger or annoyance at what is perceived as unfair treatment.” Perhaps they felt those positions should be theirs.)

2.      How do you think you would have responded? (As believers, we need to constantly examine our motives for service. Do we follow Jesus because we want something from Him? Do we serve out of ambition hoping He will reward us with special privilege or compensation? Do we serve sacrificially with the goal of obtaining merit in His eyes? The only appropriate motive for serving Jesus is our love for Him.)

3.      How did Jesus remain focused on the Father’s plan for Him? (Constant communication through prayer! Numerous times in the Gospels we find Jesus alone praying at all times during the day! If He needed constant communication with the Father, how much more do I need it?)

 

The Ransom! Read Mark 10:42-45

 

Notice how Jesus didn’t rebuke anyone but used this situation as a teachable moment for all of the disciples!

1.      What are some qualities of a good leader that you most appreciate? (Leads by example. Unquestionable integrity. Puts the organization above self. Treats others as he would want to be treated. Shows respect to everyone. Willing to do whatever needs to be done, no matter how menial the task.)

2.      Jesus challenges us to characterize our lives by serving well. What are some every day examples of serving well? (Changing a diaper. Mowing the lawn for a sick neighbor. Preparing meals. Grocery shopping. Serving at the Soup Kitchen; Community Food Pantry; Choir; orchestra; deacon; teacher—all ages; SS leader; visit shut-ins; prayer room; etc.)

Mark 9:33-35 tells us the disciples were arguing about who would be the greatest.  Jesus tells them that “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” Evidently they weren’t paying close attention!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      Name some words that describe Jesus? (I found over 150 names and titles for Jesus and all are important. But as an example for us to follow in this life “Suffering Servant” gives us perhaps the best example for us to follow.)

2.      How might being a humble servant to all of those around us help lead someone to Jesus?

3.      What tips would you give for actually being selfless?

4.      What temptations pull the attention back to self?

We point to Jesus when we selflessly serve others. But some people unwittingly serve to get attention.

5.      What does counting the cost of discipleship look like in your life right now?

6.      Where have you fallen short?

7.      What steps can you take to make it right?

8.      Where is perhaps the hardest place to be a servant?

 

Thank you, Father for Jesus’ teaching on how to relate to others. May we seek opportunities to serve others and let our lives more effectively point to Christ.

 

Saves - Mark 15:27-39

Last Sunday Jesus interrupted an argument to find out that a man had approached some of the disciples, asking them to help his demon-possessed son. The man explained that the disciples were unable to help his son. Jesus reprimanded His disciples for their unbelief and then called for the demon-possessed boy to approach him. The father appealed to Jesus’ compassion, asking that Jesus do anything He could to help the boy. Jesus noted the man’s waning faith, who then confessed his unbelief, and asked Jesus to help him grow in faith. Jesus commanded the demon to leave the boy forever and with a shriek, the demon left, and the boy lay motionless. Jesus took the boy by the hand, raised him, and the boy stood whole. Jesus was willing to help this boy, in spite of the level of belief found in others. From this lesson we saw the disappointment of placing belief in the wrong person or people. As believers, we must refresh our belief in Jesus to maintain spiritual vitality.

 

(Write on board)  Do you believe in Easter? Yes, No, Why? This was an email closing line I used years ago and one response I received was: “I believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ but I do not believe in the pagan rituals and commercialization so common today.” I was impressed with such a frank and honest answer from a colleague.

   It so happens that our lesson today is about the death of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We have jumped ahead to Mark 15 for this Easter passage but we will return to Mark 10 next week.

 

Read Mark 15:27-28 “Crucified” Read from your KJV bible as v.28 is not in your quarterly.

   Some modern English Bible translations move verse 28 out of the text and into a footnote because the verse does not appear in a number of Greek manuscripts. The KJV includes v.29. “And He was numbered with the transgressors.” Read Isaiah 53:12. Centuries earlier the prophet Isaiah predicted that the Messiah would die among the rebels.

   Here, just as Isaiah forecast, we see Jesus innocently crucified between two criminals. As we know, crucifixion is one of the most tortuous punishments ever invented. I cannot imagine hanging on a cross until death comes.

Why would Jesus face death, particularly crucifixion, for us? To show His love for us by dying for our sins. God reaching down to us is a distinction between God and false religions. World religions try to reach the Almighty, but God has already come to us.

What is Christianity? A religion or a relationship. Relationship.

    

Read Mark 15:29-32 “Mocked”

   Three guys hanging on crosses and near death, what are the audience and those passing by doing? Lots of cruel insults and mocking. The Jewish leaders had successfully stirred up a mob mentality among the many citizens and Passover visitors to Jerusalem.

   What was the taunt “would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days” referring to? Jesus had told His disciples, concerning the temple, that one day “not one stone will be left upon another-all will be torn down.” More to the point, Jesus had also spoken of destroying and raising up “this temple” in reference to the crucifixion and resurrection of His body. The mockers did not have a clue as to what he was talking about and used the phrase as an insult of His powerlessness.

   Did the people really want to believe in Jesus? Why or why not? The Jewish leaders certainly did not but maybe some of the folks had given thought to believing Jesus. It seems the Jewish leaders used Jesus’ claim that He was the Messiah and King of Israel not only to mock Him but to show the crowd that Jesus could not possibly be the long awaited Messiah. Many of the taunts were misquotes of Jesus’ words intended to challenge Him to prove His claims of deity.

   What do today’s critics of Jesus say about Him? Out of date, behind the times, accepts good deeds but no need of repentance, does not answer prayers, does not hold to accountability, and sin is not a big deal.

   What do these critics of today have wrong about Jesus? Pretty much everything. Like the religious leaders that accused Jesus of saying He was God, without even considering that He was God. Sin is still sin and a big deal even if legislative actions say it is legal.

 

Read Mark 15:33-36 “Forsaken”

   What are three actions that happened in these verses? (1.) Darkness came over the whole land, (2.) Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (3.) Some were waiting to see if Elijah would miraculously come take down Jesus. Can you close your eyes and visualize this scene? Dirty, smelly old hillside, three men dying on three crosses, the crowd shouting mocking jeers and then total darkness. Total darkness! No torches would have been burning at noon, the street lights would not have been on at noon. I think it would have been an eerie darkness.

   What is the significance of the darkness? Darkness fell over the area for three hours in the middle of the day. It was noon, Jesus had already been on the cross three hours. Perhaps there is a connection between the darkness and the Passover event. God sent three days of darkness as one of His plaques against the Egyptians. This plaque was followed by death of the firstborn. Here, darkness preceded the death of God’s only Son, which by the way, made redemption possible for everyone. Whatever the significance, the absence of light was a supernatural act of God in reaction to what was happening at the cross.

   What is the significance of Jesus’ plea to God? One view of Jesus’ cry emphasizes that in this moment of Jesus’ life, the sins of the world’s people, past, present, and future bore heavily on the sinless Lamb of God. As the Just One took on Himself the full wrath deserved by sinners, the Father turned away from looking upon the scene. Mark records only this one sentence from Jesus while on the cross. However, Luke records Jesus’ last words in Luke 23:46, “Father, into your hands I commit My spirit.” Those words indicate that Jesus did not believe His Father was absent. Rather, His cry was a prayer for the Father to draw near and give Him help to endure until victory came.

   What was the significance of the people waiting for a miracle from Elijah? The people misunderstood Jesus’ cry of “Eloi.” They thought Jesus was calling for Elijah to help Him. Many Jews believed that the Old Testament prophet Elijah would come to life again to prepare for the Messiah’s appearance. The guy who offered Jesus a drink likely was not trying to help Him. Rather, he wanted to see if Elijah would come to take Jesus down from the cross. Perhaps this person had heard about Jesus’ miracles and hoped to see something spectacular.

Read Mark 15:37-39 “Victorious”

   How was Jesus death far-reaching both at the cross and beyond? The curtain in the sanctuary was torn from top to bottom, the centurion who witnessed Jesus’ death confessed that Jesus really was the Son of God and Jesus’ death ultimately gives life today.

   What changed when the temple curtain was torn? The wall of separation between God and sinful humanity was torn away. Now, every person can come directly into the presence of God, rather than just the high priests. The Pope became a Baptist.

   Was the centurion saved that day? Some believe that he was simply recognizing Jesus as an extraordinary human being who refused to lash out at scoffers and died the cruelest death with remarkable dignity. A more likely understanding is that the centurion confessed more than he knew. He had limited understanding of who Jesus was, but what he saw and heard of Jesus during the crucifixion proved that this One who was said to be the King of the Jews was not merely a son of gods but was the Son of God. Having been stationed in Jerusalem, he may have heard the accounts of Jesus’ compassionate, miraculous works. He may have become convinced that Jesus was exactly who He claimed to be. If so, the centurion’s confession was the beginning of a new road of faith for this Roman soldier. It can be the same way for all who open their hearts and minds to the power of Jesus’ atoning death for their sins.

 

Summary: Jesus’ death bridges the gap between God and humanity caused by our sin.

·         Jesus willingly faced death on our behalf.

·         Jesus ignored challenges to His identity and power so He could provide our salvation.

·         Jesus endured God’s wrath as our sin-bearer.

·         Jesus’ death gives all who believe in Him access to the Father.

 

Pray, giving thanks to our Heavenly Father for Jesus and ask that You would give us the strength to be the example You would have us be so others can be led to know Jesus.

Commands - Mark 9:14-27

1.      What different roles do you play each day in relationship to others in your life? (Spouse, parent, grandparent, child, sister, brother, employee, employer, friend, co-worker, church volunteer, community volunteer, neighbor, etc.)

2.      On a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being all the time, how often do you let Jesus affect each role you play?

3.      Does how much control you allow Jesus to have in each role, impact the lives of those around you for Jesus?

Beginning in Mark 8:27 we see a shift in Jesus’ earthly ministry. Here He begins to focus on preparing His disciples to carry on His mission. Jesus has now moved north from Bethsaida toward Caesarea Philippi. As Jesus walked along with His disciples He asked them what people were saying about Him. Then He asked them what they believed about Him. Peter blurts out, “You are the Messiah!” Then Jesus began to teach them about His coming death and resurrection. He is trying to help them understand what being the Messiah really meant. They struggled with the concept of a suffering Savior. Note that the transfiguration recorded in Mark 9:2-12 points specifically to Jesus’ divinity and fulfillment of the Law and prophets.

 

In today’s study we see Jesus as both a miracle-working Messiah and a teaching Messiah. Following the mountaintop experience with His inner circle of disciples, Jesus became immediately involved in a spiritual battle.

 

Powerless! Read Mark 9:14-18

 

These verses don’t explicitly explain the dispute between the disciples and the scribes, but past examples in Mark would indicate that the scribes consistently looked for ways to discredit Jesus and His disciples. When Jesus asked about the argument, the person with the greatest need stepped forward. Jesus would’ve already known the problem, but He wanted the person with the need to come forward and explain the situation.

1.      What are some possible reasons that the disciples were unable to drive out the demon? (Remember when Jesus sent them out two by two they had been given authority over demons and had, in fact, cast out demons. Perhaps their lack of faith; the father’s lack of faith; the boys lack of faith; perhaps they were actually acting in their own power; etc.)

For whatever reason, the disciples were powerless to help in this situation. Their inability to act probably led to the dispute with the scribes and the crowd.

2.      When we feel powerless, what do we tend to do first? Then next? And finally? (Solving powerless situations isn’t once-and-done but requires repeated efforts, steady attitudes, and deliberate calmness—all guided by Jesus.)

Put yourself in the apostles’ shoes; they were trying a new ministry venture, being confronted by powerful religious leaders, and unable to heal a man’s child as Jesus had sent them to do.

3.      How can placing trust in someone other than Jesus to solve a problem in your life lead to frustration and disappointment? (We can have faith in faith but that won’t solve the problem. Our faith must be in Jesus. We can place a lot of trust in our pastor or a trusted counselor but our faith to resolve the issue must be in Jesus.)

4.      How can we return to a better path if we’ve made mistakes or poor decisions? (We falsely label ourselves as failures, when the more likely reality is we simply need more training or practice. God’s grace allows us to reorient our trajectory. He will even use our mistakes for His good when we surrender them to Him!)

Not all illnesses result from demon activity. We must be careful not to attribute demonic activity in Scripture to simple mental illness.

 

Hopeless! Read Mark 9:19-21

 

1.      How would you describe Jesus’ response when told the disciples were unsuccessful in driving out the demon?

Read verse 19 again.

Even though Jesus seemed to express frustration about the disciples’ actions, He still felt compassion for the father and moved to action.

2.      What situations produce a sense of hopelessness?

3.      How could Jesus make a difference in those situations?

4.      What do Jesus’ words in verse 21 teach us about His treatment of people? (Put yourself in Jesus’ shoes, not Jesus in your shoes. Include the compassion, attention to the father’s needs, the boy’s needs, and care for others without a hidden agenda.)

These questions help us wrestle aloud with what we sometimes wonder within our minds.

5.      How did the demon respond to Jesus?

6.      What does this teach you about how to respond to Jesus?

7.      What conclusions can we draw from the demon’s behavior? (Even the demon recognized Jesus’ power. The demon knew he would have to surrender to Jesus’ power! Sometimes we fight rather than listen to Jesus, and Jesus has the power of Almighty God!) 

 

Faithless! Read Mark 9:22-24

 

1.      How would you describe the father’s response?

2.      Did the father question that Jesus could help his son?

3.      Was Jesus mocking the father when He said, “If you can”?

4.      What can be helpful when we have doubts or gaps in our faith? (We need Jesus’ help to believe. Jesus will help us serve, believe, and honor Him. He attends to even the minor details of our lives.)

 

Faithful! Read Mark 9:25-27

 

In these verses we see Jesus’ authority with two commands. First, Jesus commanded the demon to leave the boy. Secondly, He commanded the demon to never return. Both in this situation and in Mark 5:35-43, where Jesus healed Jairus’ daughter, a father was challenged to believe and had to overcome the doubts of a skeptical crowd.

1.      What are some examples of Jesus’ working in a situation that seemed beyond reasonable hope?

2.      How can these situations become opportunities to share His power, mercy, and grace with others?

3.      What does this passage teach about how to treat evil? (Evil is seldom as obvious as this demon. Typically it’s sneaky and maybe even uses church words. To show how insidious evil is, generate a dozen ways evil manifests itself, such as an adult being cruel to a child, selfishness, saying the right words and  doing the wrong thing, manipulation, whining, procrastination or overspending.)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      What tips would you give to new believers for expressing belief in Jesus? (Express faith in God’s Word by living it out in your daily life. Right living produces right results in our spiritual lives. We must trust that the way God directs us to live is the way to peace!)

Belief is more than a set of words or a once-and-done decision. As we instruct new believers we are instructing ourselves!

2.      Are you having trouble believing Jesus for right now?

 

Some areas of our life may be experiencing strong faith while in other areas we need help with our unbelief! Cry out to God as this father did: “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!”

 

Prayer!

Includes - Mark 7:24-37

Since our study last week Mark records Jesus feeding the 5,000 with five small loaves of bread and two fish; then Jesus coming to His disciples walking on the water; next He performed more miraculous healings; then He confronted the Jewish elders about some of their traditions they held to be more important than Scripture at times.

Our study this week certainly contains the ideas that Jesus was inclusive in His work and ministry. Although not all are included in our passage, the Gospels record Jesus ministering to Jews and Gentiles, men and women, rich and poor as well as those who were accepted by society and those rejected by society.

            If we aren’t careful we can lose sight of a deeper message the Scripture has for us. Jesus was trying to teach His disciples, and thereby us, that our main mission has priority over all else.

 

1.      What would you say is our lead Pastor’s number one priority concerning our church? (To lead us in the direction God wants us to go! While there are three primary areas He must lead in they all enable Him to accomplish that top priority. Those three areas are Administration, Ministry and Preaching. While all are important no one area can be allowed to consume all of His time.)

2.      What is your number one mission from God?

We all have many sub-priorities in our life that we cannot allow to hinder us from accomplishing our main, God-given mission!

 

To accomplish our mission may call on us to move outside our comfort zones to include people different from ourselves. This can often be a great challenge. In chapter 7 Mark relates two healing stories that reveal Jesus’ love and compassion for people who might have been considered outsiders.

(Point out the region of Tyre and Sidon on a map. Also point out this is where Jesus came to try to escape the crowds.)

 

The Humble! Read Mark 7:24-30

 

1.      Why might the people coming to Jesus here be considered outcast?

2.      Jesus clearly did not want the people to come to Him. That sounds strange to us. Why might He feel that way? (Once again we find perhaps they needed their physical rest.  His primary mission was not to cast out demons and heal the sick. But in doing so He was fulfilling Scripture—Isa. 35.)

3.      What are some risks Jesus took in ministering to these individuals?

4.      This is a non-Jewish woman approaching Jesus to heal her daughter. In verse 27 this is without doubt a harsh reply from Jesus. Why do you suppose Jesus answered her as He did? (The way Jews referred to Gentiles was understood by both groups, so she understood her position! He may have been trying her faith. Jesus came as the Jewish Messiah and that had to be His primary focus. Children are not less important to Jesus that adults!)

5.      What could we learn from this woman about how to respond to challenges? (This woman’s humility and persistence earned Jesus’ respect and action.)

6.      How do ethnic and religious differences serve as barriers for expressing compassion? (We have to be careful that we don’t make the one receiving compassion feel inferior and watch for pride in ourselves. It would help us to know about the other person’s culture so we wouldn’t unknowingly insult them.)

7.      How can faith in Jesus help a person look beyond these barriers? (In these circumstances the best expression of faith is through love, which is an action word. So faith put into practice is best done by showing love to all people.)

Throughout His ministry, Jesus made it clear that Israelites were His principal ministry focus, but Jesus found tremendous faith in her response. This reinforced the fact that faith is not limited to a privileged few!

8.      What does verses 29-30 say about the woman’s faith? (It was complete. When Jesus told her the girl was healed she left for home and experienced victory through her faith!)

The Outsider! Read Mark 7:31-35

 

1.      What reasons would people, especially the Jews, have to consider this man an outcast? (He was most likely a Gentile. Because of his handicap he was considered unclean. They may have even thought he was deaf and slow to speak because of some sin he had committed.)

2.      What does the matter in which he came to Jesus indicate others were concerned about him and his condition? (It seems some of his friends brought him to Jesus like the four brought the paralytic earlier in Mark.)

3.      How are individuals with physical disabilities treated like “second-class” citizens today? (We generally try to avoid them, if possible. We may even pass them on the street or in a store and never speak to them. To be fair though, some of us go out of our way to speak to them and make them feel welcome.)

4.      What can the church do to serve as an advocate and break down barriers for them? (Where possible integrate special needs individuals into standard classes. Have a class or department, as we do, for special needs. If needed, during worship services have someone sign the message. Volunteer in special needs homes and ministries around the community.)

5.      What similarities and differences do we find in the two miracles we’ve seen today? (One was healed from afar by Jesus just speaking; the other was healed when Jesus touched him.  Each concern was brought by someone other than the one in need. Faith of a mother and the faith of friends led to spiritual victories in another person’s life. The second healing, for whatever reason was done in private.)

6.      Too often we see people with physical challenges as outsiders to minister to rather than contributors to ministry. How is this ultimately cruel? (All believers have a place in God’s kingdom! As believers, they are part of the body of Christ also and need an outlet for service whenever possible.)

 

The Exuberant! Read Mark 7:36-37

 

1.      Why do you think people talked about Jesus’ healings even after He commanded them not to tell anyone? (Encountering God’s power and majesty will cause us to become awestruck. Refrain from condemning the people who didn’t contain their astonishment.)

2.      How does Jesus’ acts of compassion motivate us to show compassion that won’t be stopped by any obstacle? (We see the change that can be brought in someone’s life and want to be a part of that kind of love in action.)

3.      Why do your caring actions speak love so much more powerfully than your caring words? (Words mean nothing unless they are followed by actions.  Loving actions show God powerfully. Examples?)

4.      What risks do we take when we choose to act on someone’s behalf?

Mark makes it clear that people couldn’t keep the news of their healing a secret. The crowds recognized that Jesus does all things “well.”

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      What single word best summarizes the exuberance found in seeing Jesus changing a life?

2.      What does a person’s response communicate about what and who they value?

3.      To move toward acting upon the truth, think of times you’ve shown compassion—or tried. What works? What doesn’t work?

4.      How do we keep our ministry priorities straight? We must first know what our primary mission is that God has given us. Then we must guard our time carefully to be sure we don’t allow a secondary ministry consume our time and energy.

While Jesus came for the whole world, in a sense His primary mission was first and foremost to the Jews. He is their King and Messiah. He was to prepare them to take His message of salvation to the world. Generally, Jesus ministered to the Jews first then to the Gentiles. See Acts 13:46 and Romans 1:16.

A Jewish woman was cleansed then a Gentile woman asked for her daughter to be healed. A paralytic Jew was healed then the one deaf and slow to speak was a Gentile. Jesus fed the 5,000 Jews then the 4,000 Gentiles.

Ironically, the Gentile crowd recognized that Jesus met the expectations of the Jewish Messiah (Isa. 35:5)

 

From Jesus’ own ministry, we can learn a very important, two-fold principle for Christian ministry: the primary mission or calling that God has placed on our lives must inpact the decisions we make—and even good things can distract us from God’s purpose.

 

In Jesus’ case, He chose not to engage in widespread public ministry with the Gentiles because He had a greater mission. It was not wrong or inappropriate for Him to minister to a Gentile person, but He could not allow their immediate needs to outweigh the importance of His obedience.

 

In the same way, we believers need to be focused on the mission God has given us, both general and specific. And we need to take care to organize the many commitments and obligations in our lives in a way that moves us toward accomplishing whatever we have been called of God to do.

 

Father, help we focus on the primary ministry you have for me. Help me to not get distracted on lesser important tasks!

SENDS

Tell about a time you got a message to someone when you couldn’t personally deliver it.

Why did that message matter to you and to the one who would receive it?

 

Mark 6:7

Jesus sent His Apostles out in pairs to minister in His name to the surrounding communities.

Why did He send them in pairs?

Jesus gave them the authority over unclean spirits.

What were the dangers if they went in their own authority?

What was the significance of Jesus giving them his authority?

Why would Jesus instructions in verse 7 increase reliability of the message delivery?

 

Mark 6:8-11

Jesus instructed the twelve to take minimal provisions as they went out in his name, trusting that God would provide through the means of a host in the towns they were sent.

What instructions did Jesus give, and what were possible reasons for each directive?

What needs were met by the host homes where the disciples stayed?

 

Mark 6:12-13

The twelve preached and ministered in Jesus’ name extending His ministry. They freed people from demons and healed others from illness.

How can we communicate the need for repentance to someone we know well?

How about to someone we don’t know well or; at all?

 

Mark 6:30-32

The twelve reported to Jesus all that had happened as they went out, celebrating what had happened. Then Jesus led them to a place where they could rest and reflect on their experiences.

Why is taking time for rest important?

How does it help to share both victories and frustrations as you minister in Jesus’ name?

 

Summarize and Challenge

Jesus expects His followers to be a part of His ministry.

Jesus empowers His followers to preach and act in His name.

Jesus has a message for all believers to deliver.

 

Personal Challenge: Think of messages you deliver to those around you. Use Jesus’ instructions to deliver those messages and other messages Jesus gives you.

Restores - Mark 5:21-43

1.      What gives life on this globe we call earth value? (First and foremost life has value because God gave it to us when He created the universe. He is the only One who can give life. On a recent television program a doctor made the following statement when talking about his role in helping a couple conceive: “I created that life, not God, it was me!” I realize it was a TV program but I cringed at the danger that man was placing himself under God’s judgment.)

2.      Why is healing important to us?  (God created us with a desire to continue living in this physical life and keep our family and friends here with us as long as possible. As long as we are somewhat healthy, we desire to live here on earth.)

3.      Why is healing important to God? (Healing is ultimately an expression of God’s power. It truly is godly to enjoy our lives while on earth.)

 

As we think about our Scripture text today we find a parent desiring that his daughter be healed. Wrapped inside the overall text is a woman who had suffered 12 long years doing all she knows to do to be healed. In this passage, Jesus demonstrated His authority and encouraged those He touched not to fear, but believe. It is one thing to believe one can be healed, but quite another to believe someone can be brought back to life.

In the greater context of Mark 4:35-5:43 Jesus exercised His power over nature by calming a storm on the Sea of Galilee; His power to drive out evil spirits from a man in the region of the Gerasenes; and His power over death by bringing a dead girl back to life.  As Jesus demonstrated throughout His ministry, He had ultimate power over all creation!

Jesus is now among a Jewish population.

 

Willing! Read 5:21-24

 

1.      What do we learn about Jairus from this passage?

(Jairus was one of the synagogue leaders; had a very sick daughter; willing to humble himself at Jesus’ feet; expressed faith in Jesus; as a leader he would have been a respected and influential member of the town’s society. Does Mark’s mention of Jairus by name suggest that he was later known to the apostles as a follower of Jesus?)

2.      How would you describe Jairus’s level of confidence in bringing his need to Jesus?

3.      What might hold a person back from confidently approaching Jesus?

4.      Is it possible that Jairus’s attitude toward Jesus changed when his daughter became deathly ill?

5.      What words in these verses illustrate Jairus’s desperate call for help? (“Urged Him insistently.” This indicated his sincerity as well as his grave need.)

6.      Do you believe Jesus is still willing to help all those who approach Him in faith? (Yes, but perhaps not in the way we expect.)

 

Now it seems that Jesus gets distracted and Jairus, I’m sure, became frustrated. But Jairus had no one else to turn to for help.

Read Mark 5:25-34

 

Undeterred! Read Mark 5:35-40

 

1.      Do you think Jairus’s heart sank as he heard the news of his daughter’s death?

2.      What instructions did Jesus give to Jairus after hearing the girl had died?

3.      What experiences had Jairus had with death that would cause him to lose faith? (Healing the sick is one thing, restoring life, another!)

4.      In what situations today might Jesus challenge a person to continue to believe?

5.      What roadblocks might a person face that could cause them to doubt or give up?

6.      Why do you suppose this became a private healing? (People were weeping and wailing. Some laughed at Jesus, not amused but scornful. But Jesus is not deterred nor bound by unbelief.)

7.      How does Jesus’ walking with us through a dark time impact our relationship with Him? (I can watch you go through a difficult time but to experience it myself builds my faith and strengthens our relationship.)

 

Able! Read Mark 5:41-43

 

Jesus touched the young girl even though He would’ve been considered ceremonially unclean, and immediately she got up and walked.  As was the case with the woman with the issue of blood, Jesus makes the unclean clean!

 

1.      How does Jesus bring life to His creation? (Speaking! He is the Living Word of God!)

2.      What can be pointed to as proof that Jesus gives life today?

3.      Why was it important for Jesus to command the people to provide a meal? (Jesus’ healing is both effective and practical. The girl needed nutrition after being ill for a period of time.)

4.      Why did Jesus give strict orders to the family not to tell what had happened? (Jesus knew many people wanted to force Him into a Messianic role that fit their own interpretation, not God’s plan. He sought to avoid that kind of attention so He could focus on what really mattered.)

 

God’s Timing!

 

God’s timing doesn’t always coincide with our schedule. In fact, most Christians would confess that God, more often than not, acts unexpectedly. He may move quickly and suddenly to bring about a resolution to our circumstances or an answer to our prayers, or He may delay to test our faith or deepen our willingness to persevere. Whatever the reason, it’s always true that God acts according to His purpose, and His timing is always a perfect match for whatever He is working to accomplish.

 

            In Lamentations 3:25-26, we learn,

           

            The LORD is good to those who wait for him,

            To the person who seeks hm.

            It is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD.

 

Although we prefer God’s more immediate answers, we need to enjoy His delays. When God waits to act, it tests our trust in Him and stretches our ability to rely on Him alone for what we need. When we fail to wait on Him, the inevitable result is that we search for answers or solutions elsewhere, and in so doing, we sometimes forfeit God’s blessing.

The dilemma is that we want God to work in the way we think best benefits us, but we desire this without knowing the full picture of what God is trying to accomplish. In John 11, for example, Mary and Martha called upon Jesus to come to the village of Bethany and heal their brother, Lazarus. Rather than leaving immediately for Bethany, Jesus tarried for two more days in the place where He was staying. Before He departed, Lazarus died. When Jesus arrived in Bethany, Mary and Martha were greatly saddened because their brother was dead. They spoke to Jesus and told him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died” (v.21). Clearly, they were upset because their request had not been answered in the way they desired. However, Jesus had a greater purpose for growing their faith through this crisis. He allowed Lazarus to die so that He could exercise His power over death and raise Lazarus to life again, knowing that His display of power would solidify their belief in Him as the Messiah.

Like Mary and Martha, we often want God to work things out on our time lines. But sometimes He has a greater purpose in our circumstances. Let us not trade our own desires, however good they may be, for God’s best. His timing is always perfect.

Quicksource, page 26 “Dig Deeper”

 

Father, may we not settle for good when we can have Your best!

Unites - Mark 3:22-35

1.      Do you favor either one of your parents?

2.      What characteristics are most prevalent in your family?

Although it isn’t always true we can generally identify people who are of Native American heritage—and proudly so!

 

In all families, proud parents of newborns look for family resemblances that identify the child as theirs; so too our relationship with Christ identifies us as part of His family. The church directory is a representation of part of our spiritual family.

Most of us have children and grandchildren. Some have adopted children and many times as those children grow their habits and mannerisms mimic their adopted parents.

 

3.      What are some physical characteristics you share with your biological family?

4.      What are some ways you try to reflect your relationship with Christ? (Actively involved in the local church. Obedient to the Father. Live by the truth of God’s Word.)

 

In the last session we saw a demonstration of Jesus’ authority over sin as He healed the paralyzed man and said that his sins were forgiven. That action stirred up conflict between Jesus and the scribes. In today’s session the scribes continue to try to discredit Jesus. At this point in Jesus’ ministry, there was growing animosity from the religious leaders as He redefined the rules and threatened the establishment.

Since last week in Mark 2:12 we see Jesus call Matthew to follow Him; Jesus dining with sinners; questions raised about fasting; a lesson on Lord of the Sabbath; Jesus healed a man with a paralyzed hand; we find Jesus ministering to the multitude; and a listing of the twelve apostles!

 

Undivided House! Read Mark 3:22-27

 

Beelzebub: Name for Satan in New Testament spelled differently in Greek manuscripts. The term is based on Hebrew Baalzebub, “lord of the flies.” Regardless of its exact meaning it is clearly a reference to Satan!

Notice Jesus called the scribes over to Him so He could confront their charges against Him!

1.      In verse 23 Jesus asks, “How can Satan drive out Satan?” How does Jesus’ introductory question refute the argument presented by the scribes?

2.      In verses 24-26 what does Jesus use to clarify His initial question to them?

Read Matthew 12:25-28.

3.      What additional information do we find Jesus providing in these verses? (These verses indicate that internal strife would produce chaos rather than unity. To further illustrate His point, Jesus shared another parable. Read Mark 3:27 again.)

4.      How does Jesus’ explanation offset the accusation of the scribes?

Jesus’ enemies were specifically charging Him with blasphemy, but in the next verses Jesus refuted the charge.

Read Mark 3:28-30

5.      What was Jesus trying to do by using the phrase “I assure you?” (What was about to follow was very serious! This passage contains what is sometimes referred to as the unpardonable sin!)

6.      What are at least two truths we can glean from these verses? (People can be forgiven a multitude of grievous sins! There is no forgiveness for a person who “blasphemes against the Holy Spirit.”)

7.      What does it mean to “blaspheme against the Holy Spirit”? (Jesus was indicating that God is willing to forgive even the most grievous sin directed against Him personally if repented for. However, nowhere in Scripture is there any suggestion that divine forgiveness for the impenitent is ever granted! In other words, rejecting the wooing of the Holy Spirit to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior can never be forgiven!)

8.      How would you explain the unpardonable sin to others?

9.      What ramification does this teaching have for believers today?

10.  Why do people wrongly assume that certain actions are unforgivable? That they have crossed the line and they can’t turn back? (If you are still feeling the conviction of the Holy Spirit, you have not crossed the line. If your heart has grown calloused, and you have rejected the Holy Spirit to the extent that you no longer feel conviction for sin, you are in dangerous territory!)

The religious leaders were hardening their hearts with the promised Messiah standing right before them. It’s dangerous to attribute God’s work to Satan, hardening our hearts to the Spirit. Surely there were some of the Scribes who at least thought for a moment, like Nicodemus, “Maybe Jesus really is the Messiah” but rejected the wooing of the Holy Spirit’s urging!

 

In addition to the charges of the scribes, Jesus’ own physical family misunderstood His words and actions.

Misunderstood by Family! Read Mark 3:31-32

 

1.      What did Jesus’ mother and brothers want? (Jesus’ earthly family may have wanted to rescue Him, correct Him, or help Him. Like the disciples, it took them time to understand Jesus and His mission. Perhaps they feared for His life since the scribes’ opposition to Jesus was growing stronger daily.)

2.      How would you respond if your family didn’t understand your commitment to following Jesus?

3.      How do we make it harder for those closest to us to follow Jesus? (They tend to see more of our worst selves! Generally it is perhaps most difficult to be at our best when we are at home—we like to “let our hair down” so to speak.)

4.      What can we do to make it easier? (We can instead show our best to the people we live with—we have more opportunity to show love to them than to others.)

 

United by Purpose! Read Mark 3:33-35

 

1.      Why could “whoever does the will of God” include Jesus’ mother and siblings? (We know that at least one of His brothers became a believer and leader in the church in Jerusalem and wrote the letter titled James in the Bible. Some believe the book of Jude was also written by one of Jesus’ brothers. But most likely they did not fully believe and understand until after the resurrection.)

Jesus is not being rude or neglectful of His family here. He is simply stressing the fact that our spiritual union is much closer that our natural family relationships. Jesus arranged for His mother’s care from the cross (John 19:26-27).

2.       How can we respond when there’s a conflict between what we believe God wants for us and what our family members expect from us? (Jesus was teaching here that the nature of the spiritual family means obeying God!)

3.      How does being members of God’s family affect our daily lives?

4.      What can believers do to truly live out their relationships as children of the King? (Stay connected to the Family and remain obedient to the Father!)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

In today’s study Jesus refuted the charge of blasphemy, continued to reveal Himself as Messiah, and expanded the concept of a spiritual family. As believers, we are integral parts of two families.

1.      When has your commitment to Jesus put you at odds with members of your family?

2.      How did that experience draw you closer to Him?

3.      How did it help you minister to your family more effectively?

Having a strong commitment to God isn’t an excuse for not caring for your family. In fact, the more obedient you are to God the better you take care of your family! We should be seeking God’s will in all of our relationships!

Challenge: Write a family member a letter, thanking that person for showing you how to honor God with your actions and words.

 

Forgives - Mark 2:1-12

1.      Indicate yes or no with a thumbs up or thumbs down. Has a message you’ve sent ever been misunderstood?

2.      Have you ever regretted words said in haste?

3.      Have you had to apologize for words hastily crafted?

 

With today’s social media tools, it’s easy to respond quickly to messages, but our speed of response may keep us from considering carefully our words. The limitation of the number of characters we can post might send a message we didn’t intend. Our responses can make people wonder what gave us the right to say what we said.

 

Jesus never had to back down on His words even if they led to controversy. What some considered outrageous He knew as true. Today we will see some of the religious leaders questioning Jesus’ authority.

 

After Mark’s record of Jesus calling four of His disciples that we finished with last week Jesus drove out an unclean spirit; healed several more people in Capernaum; preached in Galilee; and healed a man with a serious skin disease. Jesus told that man to tell no one but he proclaimed to everyone what Jesus had done. The crowds became such a problem that Jesus went out in deserted places but people would come to Him from everywhere.

 

Faith Expressed! Read Mark 2:1-5

 

Jesus’ authority had already been demonstrated through His teaching, calling of his disciples, exorcising of demons and healings.

1.      What draws people to at least consider what Jesus teaches? (Unlike the religious teachers of His day, Jesus taught as one having authority—Mark 1:22. No one had ever taught as Jesus—John 7:46. He not only spoke with authority He healed and cast out demons.)

2.      What actions did these four men do to help their friend meet Jesus? (First, they believed Jesus could help him. The man may have believed also, but could not come without help. Second, they brought their friend to Jesus. Third, went upon the roof and tore off part of the roof to let their friend down to Jesus.)

3.      What risks did these four men take? (Tore through someone’s roof! They were willing to remove obstacles to get to Jesus. Why couldn’t they wait until Jesus stopped speaking and then approach Jesus, after the crowds are gone?)

An important issue comes up here that we do not want to pass up: Here Jesus connected faith and forgiveness!

Hebrews thought sin and illness were connected. Sometimes they are simply illnesses (Matt. 5:45). However, sin and illness were connected in some way for this man with paralysis. Did Jesus have to forgive him in order to heal him?

4.      What did it cost the friends to bring their friend to Jesus? (Time. Energy. Risk of being criticized. Etc.)

5.      How did these friends show love for this man? (Since God is love, we’re never more like Him than when we meet a real need in a way that truly helps another.)

6.      Faith is something we do, not something we have or hold. How do expressions of love show faith? (Putting yourself in another person’s shoes—or showing compassion and empathy—is central to love expression.)

7.      How might a person show faith in a tangible way today? (We give as an expression of worship and faith. We pray, in faith.)

Doing the right thing is an expression of faith because we trust that Jesus is right. We trust Him so much that we act.

Jesus could forgive sins because He is God. Pause to talk with Him privately about some sins for which you need forgiveness.

8.      What need of this man was most evident to the four men as well as the crowd? (Physical healing. Forgiveness or spiritual healing wasn’t even on their “radar”.)

 

Authority Questioned! Read Mark 2:6-7

 

1.      What was the reaction of the scribes in the crowd?

Jesus saw the spiritual need as more important than the physical need of the paralytic, and He challenged the status quo with His words about the forgiveness of sins.

2.      How were the scribes right and wrong at the same time? (Right, only God can forgive sin. Wrong, thinking Jesus couldn’t forgive sin. He is also God! One writer points out that the scholars of Jesus’ day didn’t believe the Messiah could forgive sin because they did not see Him as God, only a political leader.)

3.      How do you think you would feel if you were expecting a very important person, but only met a few commoners, only to learn later that one of them was the person for whom you had been waiting for in great anticipation, but didn’t recognize?

4.      What are some facts about Jesus that challenge our ability to understand?

5.      How is sin like paralysis?

 

Power Proclaimed! Read Mark 2:8-11

 

“The scribes were likely using the law as a type of litmus test to evaluate Jesus’ teaching. Jesus presented them with a different kind of litmus test—a test of authority.” (PSG, p. 25)

 

Reread verses 10-11. This is the first time Jesus referred to Himself as the “Son of Man.” This is the first of fourteen times this title is used in Mark to emphasize both the humanity and deity of Jesus.

(Hand out Pack Item 12: The “Son of Man” in Mark.”)

As you study this week read these and reflect on the significance of the term “Son of Man.”

 

1.      How does accepting the teaching that Jesus is God affect other beliefs a person may hold? (If you believe Jesus is God then all other beliefs must be measured by what the Bible has to say. If it agrees with the Bible it is true; if it doesn’t it is false!)

2.      How did Jesus’ actions here further demonstrate that He is God? (He knew what they were thinking. He showed divine authority to forgive sins. Jesus commanded the paralyzed man to stand and carry his pallet home! Jesus is beyond a doubt God.)

3.      What did the others who were listening—the man, his friends, and the crowd of onlookers—learn about Jesus’ character and authority? (Jesus had courage as He spoke the truth to the scribes. No common Jew spoke to the scribes that way. He spoke truth!)

We should speak the truth of God boldly when sharing God’s Word! Not in a boastful way but humbly speak truth!

 

Authority Demonstrated! Read Mark 2:12

1.      How would you describe the way people responded to the healing of the paralytic?

2.      Who responded with praise to God? (Evidently even the scribes were moved to praise God.)

3.      Do people respond with praise to God more about a physical healing or when a sinner is born into the Kingdom of God? Why?

4.      Complete this sentence: Forgiveness of sin can only be granted by __________!

This was only the beginning of the questioning of Jesus’ authority by religious leaders of His time, and continuing today we see people questioning Jesus’ authority.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

1.      Jesus still offers forgiveness to all who approach Him.

2.      How does this statement affect your life?

3.      In what areas should you seek forgiveness to clear the way for God to work in and through you?

4.      Are you sending a clear message to others seeing and hearing from you in relation to the authority of Jesus to forgive sins?

5.      As we approach our planned Revival meeting, who is someone you can help find Jesus?

Pray about who God would have you be concerned and pray for!

Calls - Mark 1:1-20

1.      How would you define the word “charisma”?

(Charisma is defined as a compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others. A second definition: a divinely conferred power or talent. Another: Charisma is the ability to attract, charm, and influence the people around you.)

2.      Who do you know that has “charisma?”

 

Today we begin a 13 week study of the book of Mark. The most charismatic person to ever live was Jesus Christ. His very presence commanded attention.

This Gospel that bears his name, although we do not find Mark identified as the writer, was attributed to him early in the second century AD. It is also widely accepted that Mark simply wrote the memoirs of the Apostle Peter. Although we can’t know a precise date of the writing it is generally thought to have been written prior to AD70 when Jerusalem along with the Temple was destroyed by the Emperor Nero, although it could have been as late as AD 90.

It was most likely written for a Greek audience because several Jewish customs are explained for the reader.

The events recorded in this gospel are not always in chronological order. When compared to the other Gospels the events may not be in the same sequence but none the less accurate.

The main theme: Mark 10:45—“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark focuses on action and the superiority of Jesus.

3.      What do we know about Mark? (John Mark became famous when he deserted Paul and Barnabus on their first church-planting trip. He was the subject of a sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabus that brought about two teams going out to share the gospel. Later, Paul said Mark was a valuable asset and should be brought to Paul—2 Tim. 4:11.)

 

Read Mark 1:1-8

 

Affirmed! Read Mark 1:9-11

 

(Use the map to locate these important places.)

1.      What evidence do you see here that affirms Jesus as the anticipated Messiah?

2.      What do we see in verse 4 as the reason to be baptized by John?

3.      If Jesus did not need to be baptized for repentance and the forgiveness of sin, why was He baptized? (An act of obedience to the Father; Open display of His commitment to His mission as Messiah; As an example to us as we yield in obedience.)

4.      What do these verses tell us about Jesus? (He was yielded to the Father’s will.)

Read verse 10. Throughout Mark’s Gospel we will find a sense of urgency as illustrated in verse 10. In the first chapter alone, we find ten separate examples where this sense of urgency appears.

5.      What evidence do we see here that affirms Jesus’ power to fulfill the task ahead of Him as Messiah? (The Holy Spirit came down visually to testify His presence with the Son.)

6.      If a friend asked why you believe Jesus is God’s Son, how would you respond?

7.      Why is it important to understand and accept His role as Son? (He is our example for obedience to the Father.)

8.      How do these events declare Jesus’ authority? (Jesus’ authority comes directly from the Father.)

9.      How do we demonstrate Jesus’ authority in our lives? (Through obedience! Jesus is our guide for day to day living.)

 

Tested! Read Mark 1:12-13

 

Notice how Mark moves us along quickly with the word “Immediately”!

Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13 have a much more detailed narrative of Jesus’ temptation than Mark gives here. John doesn’t cover it at all.

1.      How does knowing that Jesus faced temptation help you better understand His identity? (He was fully man and fully God. He understands what temptation is like for us.)

2.      What role does the Holy Spirit play in these verses? (Jesus was, according to Luke, “led by the Spirit into the wilderness.” Jesus certainly had power of His own-after all He is God the Son, but just like us, He was led and empowered by the Holy Spirit. He is our example in following the leadership of the Holy Spirit.)

3.      What do we learn here about temptation and how to deal with it? (1-it is Satan who tempts us. 2-we can resist temptation in the power of the Holy Spirit. 3-use the Word of God to overcome temptation. 4-everyone is tempted. 5-Heb. 4:15-16 teaches Jesus was “tempted in every way,” just as we are, and He will equip us with His power to resist.)

4.      What does the fact that Jesus was tempted immediately after His baptism teach us? (Many times after a spiritual victory, Satan will attack us to discourage us. Elijah is a great example.)

 

Heard! Read Mark 1:14-15

 

The reference to the imprisonment of John the Baptist was primarily a way to identify that time as the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

1.      What are three basic points to Jesus’ message? (1-“the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near.” 2-“Repent”  3-“Believe in the good news!”)

2.      How would you describe Jesus’ message in three sentences or less?

3.      What sets His message apart from the messages presented by other religious leaders?

4.      Up until Jesus came how did the Jews expect the Messiah to manifest Himself? (They expected an earthly king to rule politically.)

5.      How do we participate in the kingdom as a believer this side of heaven? (The Kingdom of God is when and where God rules.)

6.      How does Jesus help with this? (Jesus calls us to follow Him with our lives!)

 

Followed! Read Mark 1:16-20

 

1.      Did there seem to be urgency in Jesus’ command?

2.      Was there urgency in their response?

3.      What factors might have prompted the disciples to leave their occupations to follow Jesus? (They may have heard about Him secondhand from some who saw Jesus’ baptism and witnessed the dove. We know from other gospels this wasn’t their first time to hear Jesus.)

4.      What might Jesus ask a modern-day person to leave behind in order to follow Him? (Whatever is near to the heart and would stand in the way of full obedience to Him! Jesus doesn’t want us to be unhappy but He does require that we forsake anything that has first place in our heart over Him.)

5.      What might Jesus call you to leave behind—or embrace—to follow Him? (Jesus’ call involves leaving behind certain relationships, pursuits, and loyalties to follow Him. Name some of these, such as selfishness or greed.)

Jesus was calling His disciples not only to literally come to Him, but also spiritually to walk with Him in a new life. We are not only called to “leave” something but we are called “to” something—a joy-filled life of service to the King of kings and Lord of lords and a close intimate relationship with Him.

 

We catch ‘em Jesus cleans ‘em!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      What do the things a person holds most tightly reveal about what he or she trusts for security?

2.      What is the relationship between holding on tightly and faith?

3.      What do the events and people in Mark 1:1-20 teach us about God’s character? (He loves us and will go to any extent to reclaim us to Him! Jesus is the very image of God!)

4.      Which is your greatest challenge right now: Yielding to God’s authority? Or resisting temptation?

 

Now deliberately do both!

Reunited - Genesis 45:1-15

I watched a movie recently were two brothers were reunited after the Civil War. They ran into each other just as the war was over.  They fought on opposing sides, but they forgot their differences and traveled back home together. They had each fought for what they believed to be right, but when the war was over they embraced each other. One was thought to have died in the war but everyone was glad to see them even though they fought for opposing beliefs.

We may be separated from loved ones because of job relocation, military service, ministry calling, or division in the relationships. Sometimes we may live in close proximity to a loved one and yet be separated because of hurt feelings. Sometimes we allow hurt feelings to fester, and we become bitter toward another family member. Sometimes those torn relationships between family members can be the most difficult to restore.

Where division occurs, God can work to bring about restoration and healing.

1.      What makes restoring a broken relationship so difficult?

2.      What makes attempting to restore a broken relationship worth the effort?

In today’s focal passage we will examine how God worked to reconcile Joseph and his brothers. We will see how God worked through events in Joseph’s life to bring about the hard work of reconciliation.

 

Last week we ended with Joseph being exalted to the second highest position in Egypt because of the wisdom God had given him. Today we find the seven years of plenty have passed and the drought is only in its second year, with five years yet to come. Canaan, where Jacob and all of his family lived, was also experiencing drought. They heard that there was grain in Egypt. So Jacob told his sons to go to Egypt and buy grain. Ten brothers went the first time, leaving Benjamin at home.

Joseph accused them of being spies and kept Simeon as hostage until they returned with Benjamin. After some time Jacob relented and allowed them to return with Benjamin.

What happened next? (Discuss the cup hidden in Benjamin’s sack and Judah’s plea for Benjamin.)

 

(Write “22 years” on the board.)

Revealed! Read Genesis 45:1-4

 

Twenty-two years had passed since his brothers sold him into slavery. Their relationship had been splintered longer than that.

1.      What emotions might have been evident in this scene between Joseph and his brothers? (Joseph wept uncontrollably, even to the point that those in Pharaoh’s house could hear him. His brothers were petrified with fear!)

Joseph spoke Egyptian to his servants, so his brothers had no idea what was happening or about to happen.

2.      If you had been in Joseph’s place, what do you think you would have done?

3.      What is the best way to initiate a reconciliation process? (Bathe the situation with prayer. Come face to face with the real issue between you and the other person. Express your willingness, in love, to resolve the issue. If you are the offended, offer forgiveness. If you have offended someone, in love, ask for their forgiveness.)

Realize it may take more time for the healing than you thought.

There are situations, such as battered spouse or an abused child, where reconciliation is not possible. Legal action may be necessary.

Read Mark 9:50

Read Romans 12:18

Read Romans 14:19

4.      What attitudes, words, and actions should a believer embrace to live peaceably with others?

When people have wronged us, we are wise to avoid getting revenge, for vengeance belongs to God—Rom. 12. In His perfect wisdom, God knows exactly what is best!

 

We’ve seen the emotional moment when Joseph proclaimed his identity to his brothers. Now let’s see how Joseph pointed to God’s plan at work in his life.

Remnant! Read Genesis 45:5-8

 

1.      How did Joseph set his brothers at ease? (He told them not to be worried, because he didn’t plan to harm them. He even told them to forgive themselves because this was all God’s plan.)

When we have wronged others, forgiving ourselves can be just as difficult as seeking forgiveness from the ones we have hurt.

We must remember that if God has forgiven us then we need to forgive ourselves.

2.      How did Joseph’s understanding of God’s purposes help him show forgiveness to his brothers? (Joseph told them that God’s plan was bigger than their hatred of him. He said that it was God’s plan for him to be in Egypt at this strategic point so he could help with the famine and consequently, with their own family.)

3.      Challenges and hardships are part of the human condition. What are the various ways people respond to challenges and hardships? (List on the board.)

4.      How does it change our response to the challenges and hardships when we are looking to see God at work in the circumstances? (God focused rather than “me” focused.)

Read the paragraph that begins, “Spiritually discerning…” from the PSG p. 123.

5.      How can believers increase their awareness of God working in their lives?

6.      How does looking at the big picture of life help a person deal with past hurts and injustices?

 

We see how Joseph continued to focus on God’s plan for his life, unfolding even in the difficult seasons.

Reunion! Read Genesis 45:9-13

 

1.      Beyond forgiveness, what did Joseph display to his brothers who had wronged him? (Joseph displayed mercy, love, kindness, and a concern for the well-being of his family even when his brothers had wronged him.)

God wants us to care for others without judgment if it is in our power to do so. (See Prov. 3:27)

2.      Why did Joseph express such urgency in bringing his father back to Egypt? (Joseph knew the seriousness of the famine.)

3.      How can we show that we genuinely seek reconciliation?

(Give class members a copy of “Path to Reconciliation.” Read the paragraph at the top of the page and discuss similarities as time allows.)

 

We see how Joseph took tangible steps toward reconciliation by physically providing for his father and brothers, as God provided a way. Now let’s see further evidence of Joseph’s mercy.

Restored! Read Genesis 45:14-15

 

As believers, we should carry an attitude of forgiveness and openness. We can’t go through life without being wounded in some way or wounding someone else in some way. We must be willing to humbly ask for forgiveness and with great mercy and grace, grant forgiveness to those we’ve wronged.

1.      How did Joseph show mercy to his brothers? (He initiated the first step of restoration by revealing himself to them. Then he kissed them as a sign of peace.)

2.      How do these verses urge us to get rid of bitterness and hatred? (As Joseph forgave his brothers, God desires that we forgive others as we have been forgiven—Eph. 4:32)

Living at peace with others means we may need to take the first step toward reconciliation with those we have offended or who have offended us.

 

Extending forgiveness and grace to those who have hurt us takes courage, but if we are serious about living biblically, we must take the initiative and seek reconciliation.

 

 Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      Privately: In what ways do you identify with Joseph’s story?

2.      How has God’s sovereignty been evident in your life?

 

Take some time to think about why you may need to forgive or seek forgiveness from someone this week. What actions do you need to take?

 

Pray asking God to help you bring restoration to difficult relationships you may have in your life.

Opportunity Knocks - Genesis 41:1-40

(Write “Opportunity Knocks” on the board.)

1.      What are some examples of ways we might use this phrase?

2.      What do we mean when we use this phrase?

3.      Is anyone willing to share a time when you have had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and either took advantage or passed on it?

4.      What factors determined your response? Name some of the reasons why we might miss out on or pass on an opportunity that comes our way.  (Fear—I’m not skilled enough; I just don’t think I can do it; I’m not prepared; I don’t want that responsibility; etc.)

Last week’s session ended with Joseph being thrown in jail after Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him. Today we will see how God sends an opportunity to Joseph inside that jail cell.

We will see how dreams are a great part of Joseph’s life once again.

 

Briefly relate the events recorded in Genesis 40:1-41:14 to bring the class up to today’s focal passage.

 

A Problem! Read Genesis 41:15-21

 

1.      Who is Joseph quick to give credit for interpreting dreams? (We still find Joseph as a humble young man. He seems to be the same regardless of his circumstances.)

We know that Joseph had been in prison for more than three years!

2.      After being accused of attempted rape and imprisoned, Joseph could have selfishly taken the credit, feeling as if he was due. What excuses do people give for not giving God the credit He deserves?

There are at least four applications we can draw from Joseph’s experience: First, the world’s wisdom, as wise as it may be, doesn’t have all the answers. Second, in times of adversity, we must keep on serving the Lord. Third, God rewards faithfulness. Fourth, we can point to God as the source of wisdom when called on to address difficult situations.

3.      After all that Joseph had been through, even most recently when the cupbearer forgot him, why did Joseph continue to honor God in his actions? (Joseph could have been bitter and angry toward God about his circumstances, but he chose to give God glory for providing interpretations to dreams. Joseph became better not bitter! He continued to be faithful in the little things even when he could not see the end result of how God would eventually use him.)

We can be faithful to God in our everyday decisions even if we can’t yet see how God will use our obedience for His glory.

4.      Can you recall a time in your life when you have experienced one or more of these four applications?

5.      How can the way we look to God as the source of wisdom in difficult encounters or situations be a witness to those around us?

 

Joseph pointed to God as the source of his wisdom. That same wisdom is available to us today.  Now let’s see what became of Joseph’s opportunity to interpret Pharaoh’ dream.

(Fill in the events found in verses 22-32.)

 

A Plan! Read Genesis 41:33-36

 

1.      What were the details of God’s plan Joseph relayed to the Pharaoh? (Impose a high tax during the years of plenty, 20%; build storage facilities in all major cities; store all of the excess; hold the grain until the seven years of drought come so the people will not starve.)

God had given Joseph wise council for Pharaoh. Notice that Joseph didn’t give up “the floor,” he simply kept on speaking, giving wise advice. He had Pharaoh’s full attention!

2.      When representing God’s interest, especially before unbelievers, what characteristics should we seek to display? (Humility, love, concern for the whole group, etc.)

3.      When we consider the following areas of life, would we exhibit different characteristics in different areas: Work, School, Community, and Social Life?

Have someone read from your PSG, pg 114 the paragraph beginning: “God sometimes places..”.

4.      How does a person discern the difference between an opportunity and a distraction?

5.      What is the difference between an opportunity and a distraction? (I’ll admit that I don’t always approach disruptions like this but we should look for what God is trying to do when we have a disruption. God may just have a divine opportunity for us.)

6.      When we find ourselves in tough situations, how does it help to look for God at work in the circumstances? (We generally want to make everything about us, but God has a greater purpose.)

Isn’t it remarkable that Pharaoh trusted this Hebrew jailbird!

We see Joseph using the wisdom God provided to lay out a survival plan for the time of famine. We will see God’s hand on Joseph’s life in a bold way in these next verses we examine.

 

A Place! Read 41:37-40

 

God has provided here a surprise ending to a situation that no one saw coming!

1.      How did God ultimately place Joseph in a strategic position? (Before Joseph’s imprisonment, he was in charge of Potiphar’s house. Then the warden put him in charge of the prison. Then he became in charge of Pharaoh’s house. Truly, “the Lord made everything he did successful”.)

Sometimes God places us in strategic positions to be His ambassadors so that we can share about Him at opportune moments.

2.      What did Pharaoh giving Joseph full authority over the Egyptian people reveal about Joseph? About God? (Pharaoh recognized God’s hand on Joseph. If God blessed Joseph, Pharaoh wanted his people to be a part of that blessing by allowing Joseph to lead the Egyptians.)

In the lives of believers, the Holy Spirit’s presence sets us apart (Eph. 1:13).

As we submit our lives in obedience to God and allow Him to work through us, people are drawn to the Holy Spirit in us. They will seek us out for wisdom on how to live as Pharaoh sought Joseph.

3.      How can you see that God has used lessons you have learned during challenging times in your life to prepare you for where you are today?

4.      How can you see God at work in those lessons you learned?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      What does it mean to be faithful to God in the little things in your life?

2.      How can you honor God with the amount of responsibility He has given you right now?

 

Tell the story of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettigger. In 1975, a benchwarmer for Notre Dame Football by the name of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettigger was put in the game in the last 27 seconds. In the only play of his career, he sacked the quarterback and went on to receive fame, immortalized in the 1993 film by his name Rudy. Despite many challenges, Rudy worked hard to secure a spot on the team. Once on the team, he continued to practice faithfully though playing time in a game was highly unlikely. Yet when he got his moment, Rudy was ready because he had been so diligent to work hard in practice.

3.      What steps are necessary to be ready for that kind of opportunity? (Apply oneself in practice; listen to instructions; although it seems unlikely that you would get to play, be faithful in all aspects of preparation. Rudy isn’t the only person to prove themselves ready when called upon in difficult circumstances.)

4.      Are you ready for the next assignment God may have for you?

5.      How can you be committed to God in all things this week?

Father, help us to be faithful to You in our day to day life so we are ready for the next assignment You have for us, big or small!

 

 

Tempted - Genesis 39:1-12, 19-21

Last Sunday we began a four series study on the life of Joseph, Jacob’s eleventh son, the first born son to Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel. We saw God begin to reveal His future plans for Joseph through dreams and we also saw some evil intentions from his own brothers that God will ultimately use to achieve His good purposes. Just as we have seen with Jacob and will see as we study Joseph, the truth of Romans 8:28 is evident in our lives today: “all things work together for the good of those who love God”.

 

We choose our circumstances ___________. A. always, B. maybe not, C. never, D. sometimes.  Maybe we have not have chosen the circumstances but what can we choose about those circumstances? We can choose our attitude and how we react to the circumstances. In our verses last week we see how the truth caused bad blood between Joseph and his brothers. He is sold into slavery and we begin to see God work His will through an evil situation. What different attitudes do you think Joseph could have experienced up to this point? Anger, distrust, loneliness, hate, depression, confusion. We will see how Joseph reacts to his continually changing circumstances and the powerful attitude he displays.

  

   Last Sunday our author ended with Joseph being sold to the Ishmaelites in Genesis 37:25. Today he starts our lesson “Tempted” with Genesis 39:3.  So, where is Joseph? If you do not read Genesis 37:36 or Genesis 39:1-2 you have no idea where he is or what he is doing. We will start with Genesis 39:1-2.

 

Read Genesis 39:1-2 “The Lord Is With Joseph”

   Verse 1 gives us the same information as 37:36 and picks up after the Hollywood Soap Opera story in Genesis 38 about Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar. Verse 1 tells us Joseph was bought by Potiphar, an Egyptian and officer of the guard for the Pharaoh of Egypt. Verse 2 tells us the Lord was with Joseph and it is obvious that God cared for, protected, and blessed Joseph. Instead of being forced to do manual labor, perhaps building Egyptian Pyramids in the hot sun, he held a high position for a slave and lived and worked in his master’s house.

 

Read Genesis 39:3-6a “Successful”

   How did Potiphar know he could trust Joseph, a slave, with all he owned? I think Potiphar saw something different in Joseph. I believe he recognized and believed in Joseph’s integrity and appreciated his leadership skills. Haven’t you experienced the same thing in your life? If we follow God, then people will recognize something different in us. What they see is the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. Have you ever had someone tell you, “I want what you have”?

   What evidence do we see that both Potiphar and God were pleased with Joseph’s attitude and his efforts? Joseph continued to gain more authority with Potiphar. God was working out His plan in Joseph’s life. The experience Joseph gained while working in Potiphar’s house and managing his property would, one day, be invaluable. We should also recognize that Joseph continued to honor God even though his circumstances were not of his choosing. God blessed Joseph as Joseph honored God. Don’t we see that today? Shouldn’t we remember how God has blessed us in difficult situations because we choose to honor Him with our words and actions?

   Things seem to be going pretty good for Joseph. God is blessing him and the people around him but then…

 

Read Genesis 39:6b-12 “Tempted”

   What do you think, are temptations easier to refuse as we experience success? No. We can get over confident in ourselves. Regardless of our station in life, Satan knows that with a little manipulation he can turn our God-given human desires into weapons of temptation.

   What steps did Joseph take to resist this temptation? He refused her offer. He explained how his master (her husband) trusted him v.8. Then in v.9 he equates this as a sin against God and I believe shows his faithfulness to God. Remember, we have talked about sinful opportunities many times in our class. It is much easier to turn from sin if you have aIready made up your mind to honor God. I think he had already made up his mind how he would handle such temptations. “Woman, I have a good thing going here and fooling with you is not in my job description. Just leave me alone!”

   With the temptation still there, what did Joseph do? He ran! Isn’t this exactly how we should resist the Devil’s temptations? Run, turn away, get away from the sin. Did you notice, this is the second time Joseph has had an issue with his coat.

   Does it help us resist temptation when we realize God knows what we are doing and that we are ultimately accountable to Him? Yes. Perhaps there is a conviction to be considered: some things are always right and some things are always wrong.

  At this point six verses (13-18) that read like a melodramatic scene from another Soap Opera are skipped. Mrs. Potiphar, undoubtedly feeling scorned, contrived a tall tale accusing Joseph of trying to force himself on her and leaving his coat behind when she screamed for help. She tried this story out on the other household slaves and then told the same story to Potiphar when he returned home.

 

Read Genesis 39:19-21 “Favored”

   How are the circumstances in Joseph’ life changing? Potiphar believes his wife’s story and puts Joseph in prison.

   What would you think Joseph’s attitude would be with these new circumstances? Hopeless, bewildered, this isn’t fair, I’m innocent, perhaps he wondered about the dreams he had in the past.

   How can we apply verse 21 to our circumstances today? Just as God saw Joseph in prison, God sees us when we’re going through difficult trials, unjust situations, or seemingly hopeless circumstances. James 1:2-4 reminds us that in the same way God was at work in Joseph’s life, He will work through us in our trials if we let him.

  

Summary: God is honored when we are faithful to Him and His standards.

·         As believers, we should seek to honor God in all that we do.

·         Believers can resist sin, remembering God’s standards and the joy of honoring Him.

·         Believers can be assured that God abides with those who seek to honor Him.

Accept It - Genesis 37:1-27

There is a story about something that seemed bad at the time, but ultimately turned out to be beneficial in the end.

“Before WW II, coal was commonly used to heat homes, which left soot stains on walls. Noah McVicker developed a doughy cleaner to rub the soot off wallpaper. After the war, washable wallpaper and the use of natural gas as a heat source made this cleaner obsolete. The company faced bankruptcy; however, Noah’s nephew, Joe McVicker, learned that his sister, a school teacher, used the material in her classroom as modeling dough. The McVikers marketed their nontoxic creation as a children’s toy, Play-Doh.—PSG, pg. 91

1.      When have you seen something good come out of a bad situation?

In our study today we will explore how God can take a person’s evil intentions and shape the effects of those intentions for His good purposes.

Read Genesis 37:1-4

2.      How can telling the truth cause problems?

3.      How can the method with which we communicate the truth contribute to the problem?

Everyone at one time or another has said or done insensitive things. God can use those moments to teach us how to be more sensitive to others in the future.

Sometimes we have to speak truth that others don’t want to hear, but God can give us wisdom about how to do so in a loving manner.

In today’s study the focus of our study in Genesis turns the emphasis from Jacob or Israel to Joseph. This is the beginning of turning our focus on the nation of Israel as a whole.

 

Rule Over Us? Read Genesis 37:5-11

 

1.      How did Joseph’s dreams impact his brothers? (They hated him more.)

Jacob didn’t try to hide the fact that he loved Joseph more than all the others.

2.      Was there any question as to what the implication of the two dreams was? (Everyone recognized the fact that these dreams indicated his parents and all of his brothers would one day bow to him with their faces to the ground.)

Without a doubt the indication was that Joseph would have position and power over his brothers some day!

God does speak through dreams and other means, but the most common way God communicates today is through His Word.

3.      How can we best use God’s Word as the test for all truth? (We should hold to this key doctrine on The Scripture: The Holy Bible is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture of error, for its matter based on 2 Tim. 3:16-17.)

“How you say it matters.”

4.      The Bible reveals that Joseph told his brothers about his dreams. It doesn’t tell us how he said it. What should be our attitude in sharing God’s truth with others? (It should be spoken in love—genuine love not mockingly. Eph. 4:15)

5.      Joseph’s brothers saw him not as a brother, but as an enemy. Is jealousy avoidable?

6.      How can jealousy be minimized in relationships, especially between believers?

The pattern of dysfunctional family relationships continues here.

 

Read Genesis 35:12-18—make any appropriate comments.

 

Joseph’s telling of his dreams watered the seeds of jealousy that were growing in his brothers’ hearts. The distance from Hebron to Shechem is fifty miles and another fifteen miles to Dothan.

What Happens to Your Dreams Now? Read Gen. 37:19-24

 

Joseph’s brothers’ deep seated hatred found an outlet for expression. Verse 19 can be literally translated, “Oh look, here comes that dream expert.”

1.      What emotions do we see expressed in this passage? (Hatred, anger, and no doubt fear on Joseph’s part see Gen. 42:21.)

Joseph probably questioned how the dream he had would be fulfilled.  God’s path for us may be different than what we anticipate, but He will always fulfill His purposes for us.

2.      Finally Reuben spoke up and offered an alternate plan but he had ulterior motives, he planned to rescue him later. Are there any things Reuben could have done to diffuse this situation?

3.      What actions can be taken to diffuse jealousy?

4.      How can our own agendas and desires cloud our view of others God chooses to use in a specific way?

 

We see Joseph’s brothers acting out the full measure of their jealousy and hatred. Now let’s see how God worked even in these cruel circumstances.

 

What Do We Gain? Read Genesis 37:25-27

 

1.      How did jealousy impact Jacob’s family? (Joseph was separated from his family for many years, and his father thought he was dead. Jesus even had to rebuke Peter for his jealousy over John’s relationship with Jesus—John 21:22.)

God does not what us to be jealous of His plans for other believers because He has a unique plan for each of us. Rather than allowing jealousy to divide us, God wants us to “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Rom. 12:15).

2.      What did the brothers gain by selling Joseph to the Ishmaelite traders? (Initially they gained twenty pieces of silver, but ultimately, they gained nothing. Rather than gaining their father’s attention, they lost their father to devastation and consumption with grief.)

3.      How do you see God at work in the midst of these brothers’ plans? (It was no small miracle that this caravan just happened to be passing at this precise moment.)

4.      In what ways do we see God at work in Joseph’s life at this point? (Just think all of the different events that had to be coordinated to make this happen! Israel sending Joseph at the right time. The brothers were not at Shechem. The caravan’s perfect timing. Etc!)

5.      How does knowing God is in control give you endurance to face opposition and jealousy from others?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      How are you comforted knowing God’s plans will ultimately be accomplished as you remain committed to Him?

No matter the circumstances God is in control and knowing that helps us at all times, but especially when we walk through challenging seasons of life. The fact that God is in control doesn’t mean there will not be difficult times but that God is with us through those times.

2.      How can we encourage each other at all times, easy and difficult?

3.      How does Keeping God’s plans in mind change the way we pray for each other?

 

Pray for God to bless those you may consider to be enemies, even if they are fellow believers.

If you have a hint of jealousy in your heart, pray that God would help you remove it!

 

Assurance - Genesis 35:1-15

1.      Can you think of some times when we re-commit ourselves or renew our vows to each other? (In times past we would “rededicate” ourselves to the Lord; renew our wedding vows.)

2.      Why renew our wedding vows? Simply put, a vow renewal is a way to celebrate your marriage. Perhaps you’ve made it to a significant milestone in your marriage and you want the world to know you’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. Maybe you want to reaffirm your commitment to each other after a rough period in your relationship.

Sometimes it is called a reaffirmation ceremony. As we study Genesis 35 today we will discover Jacob recommitted himself to the Lord and the Lord renewed His promises to Jacob.

 

(Write the four session headings on the board—purify Yourself, Obey God’s Directives, Remember God’s Promises and Treasure God’s Promises.)

In today’s study, we discover four fundamental actions that will get us back on track when life derails us. From Jacob’s example of hearing and answering God’s call on his life, we learn no situation is hopeless when we include God!

 

Purify Yourself! Read Genesis 35:1-4

 

1.      What actions were Jacob and his family to take to purify themselves before beginning their journey to Bethel?

Identify Shechem and Bethel on the map. Jacob and his family were to leave Shechem and journey back to Bethel.

2.      Why was purification important for Jacob’s family? (Jacob was preparing his family for worship of the One true God, so he wanted them to get rid of all idols that would keep them from worshiping Yahweh. They needed a fresh start.)

Jacob knew that his heart and the hearts of his family members needed to be totally focused on the Lord. Jacob felt he owed his allegiance to Yahweh since God had helped him on every step of his journey.

3.       Altars had been used before, but this is the first time we find God giving someone instructions to build an altar. What is the purpose of an altar? (A place to worship God and make sacrifice offerings to Him!)

4.      What actions might a person take today in preparation for meeting God?

5.      Why do we sometimes have trouble identifying and removing idols from our lives? (Sometimes our “idols” aren’t tangible things. God wants us to purify ourselves and remove idols in our lives that may distract us from worshiping Him. Jacob’s wives were not raised to worship the One true God. Rachel even snuck her family’s idols into her belongings.)

Getting rid of all of the idols meant that Jacob’s whole family would be committing to worship Yahweh—to putting away everything that would come before their worship of God!

6.      What things show that a person is purifying his or her life? (Sometimes it is nothing more than a fresh commitment of our life to God and His calling on our life!)

 

(Briefly discuss the events in Genesis 34 to help understand these verses a little better.)

Obey God’s Directives! Read 35:5-8

 

At God’s command, Jacob obediently led his family to Bethel with God protecting them along the way. Notice that protection of God came after Jacob was obedient, teaching us that we must obey God first.

1.      Which is more difficult—obeying God in the big stuff or in the small stuff?

·         Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden. Gen. 3:24

·         Moses wasn’t allowed into the Promised Land. Deut. 3:27

·         King Saul lost his throne. 1 Sam. 13:13-24

2.      How did God move to fulfill His promise to Jacob to receive the land of Abraham and Isaac? (Earlier God had been working in Esau’s heart to forgive his brother rather than destroy him. Here God caused the inhabitants of the land to be afraid of Jacob’s family.)

God works to bring about His purposes for us in ways we cannot always see.

Jacob made a vow in Genesis 28:20-21 that God would be his God

3.      What is the significance of returning to a location where a significant spiritual event took place?

4.      How important is it for those experiences to be relived?

 

Remember God’s Promises! Read Genesis 35:9-13

 

1.      What promise did God make to Jacob here? (The same promise God had made to Abraham and Isaac! God is faithful and will fulfill all of His promises. As the old hymn says: “All Your promises are true, I will lift up my eyes to You. For You’re all that I need. And by faith I receive the wonderful things You will do.”)

In his first Bethel experience, Jacob saw God and the angels in a dream, but now the Lord appeared to Jacob while he was fully awake, reaffirming His promises made at Bethel and Peniel. Although Jacob may have forgotten these promises or taken them for granted, God still remembered His word.

Jacob had spiritually matured. He knew that these blessings came from God and not from anything he could control or manipulate.

2.      Why did God remind Jacob of his new name? (God officially reminded Jacob again when He blessed him. God’s mercies are “new every morning”—Lam. 3:23, and He reminds us we are new creations in Christ Jesus—2 Cor. 5:17. Just as God took away the shame of Jacob’s past by giving him a new name, God gives us a new identity in Christ.)

Notice that when God first appeared to Jacob, He introduced Himself by His personal name Yahweh. Now God referred to Himself as “God Almighty” to emphasize His all-sufficient power to accomplish the great future He had promised to Jacob and his descendants.

3.      What are some promises God has made to you in His Word?

4.      How do these promises influence your daily life?

 

Treasure God’s Promises! Read Genesis 35:14-15

 

Once again Jacob marked the place where he had encountered God. Markers or memorials help us reflect on a significant event. The greatest privilege in life is discovering and treasuring the Lord’s precious promises.

1.      When God finished speaking to Jacob, what sustained Jacob to remain faithful to the Lord? (Jacob set up a stone marker as a reminder of God’s promises.)

2.      What are some ways people commemorate significant spiritual commitments today? (Journaling about important markers in our spiritual journey can bring great encouragement during times of difficulty. Sometimes people will write notes in their Bible to remind them of a special commitment or promise and place a date along with it.)

3.      How do these compare with the actions taken by Jacob?

Remembering God’s promises will help sustain us through trials and temptations.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      Jacob needed a fresh word from God so God called him to go back to Bethel. Do you need to “go back to Bethel”?

2.      Is there a commitment you’ve made to God in the past that needs renewing?

3.      What helps you remember everything God has done for you?

 

Take time this week to consider God’s Word, a prayer journal, verses prominently displayed at home or work, songs, or other items that remind you of God’s answering your prayers.

 

Identify a way God has shown Himself faithful in your life. Mark your new commitment to God in some way that you can go back to and remember what happened there. Perhaps even this Scripture!

 

Protect and Serve - Genesis 1:27; 9:1-7 Matthew 5:21-22

1.      Do you physically favor your parents? (Share your experience.)

2.      Do your children favor you? (Share your experience.)

Although some of us may “look like” other family members, all of us are created in the image of God.

   Because God created humans in His image, every life has value, regardless of age, gender, race, or nationality. Being made in God’s image, we are to affirm the value of every person and protect all human life—including those in their mother’s womb. Truly, being created in God’s image is more than a privilege; it is a responsibility. Maintaining that image in our lives and helping others maintain that image is a difficult, lifelong process.—PSG, pg 73

3.      How is life a gift?

4.      How is life a responsibility?

5.      What makes life valuable? (We determine possessions’ worth based on the value we place on them whether monetary, trade, sentimental, or personal. To the world, people’s value might lie in their contributions, talents, intelligence, skills, or outward appearance. God values a person based solely on the fact that humans are His creation.)

In today’s Scripture we will focus on God’s view of humans, made in His image.

(Our individual views on abortion and assisted suicide and even allowing a terminally ill elderly adult to simply die can change over time. We must remember that God is merciful and forgives. A young couple could have had an abortion and later discovered the truths of God’s Word concerning the taking of a human life—at any age or stage of development to be sin. God forgives!) 

 

In His Image! Read Genesis 1:27

 

1.      What does it mean to be created in God’s image? (This question is widely debated, but considers the following: God is eternal. Man is eternal, that is man has a spirit, as does God. While God is eternal man’s spirit will live throughout eternity yet to come, as does God. God and humans are personal beings who possess the attributes of personality. These attributes include capability of intelligence and thought, emotion, and decisions of the will. We can discern between good and evil. We are moral agents who decide which choice to make.—PSG pg 75)

While we may not fully understand what it means to be made in God’s image, we are the only creature that carries this distinction.

2.      How does the idea of all humans being created in God’s image run contrary to attitudes sometimes seen in today’s society?

3.      What evidence might a person point to as proof that they value all people? (That we oppose oppression and prejudice of all kinds. We affirm the value of every person as being created in God’s image—not just in word but in action, as well. No racism or any other form of hatred. Read James 3:9)

4.      What is distinctive about how God categorizes humans in this passage? (Men and women are of equal worth in God’s sight, yet God created them to be distinctly different. There is no mix up as to what gender a person is—God didn’t create an “it”.)

 

It’s a first step in the right direction to affirm that all people are created in God’s image. Now let’s explore how we are to protect human life.

Genesis chapters 6, 7 and 8 tell us about the great flood that destroyed all land creatures save those who were in the ark God led Noah to build. In chapter 9 God enters into a covenant with Noah and gives instruction concerning protecting human life.

To Be Protected! Read Genesis 9:1-7

 

Before the flood it seems that all living creatures lived in harmony with humans. It also appears that humans were vegetarians.

1.       What authority did God give Noah upon leaving the ark and starting over with humanity? (God gave Noah and his sons’ authority over all living creatures. God said that all creatures would fear humans.)

In contrast to God’s specific instructions to Adam and Eve about what plants to eat, God gave Noah and his sons’ full authority to eat all living creatures and plants.

2.      Read Genesis 1:28-31. How do the instructions God gave Noah compare to the instructions He gave Adam in the garden? (God told Noah and his sons to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth. He also told them to be in authority over all living creatures. God warned them against eating live animals, and that they should protect human life by requiring the life of any creature that took the life of a human.)

While Christians differ on the use of the death penalty, the emphasis God gave to Noah was that human life is valuable, and other humans should protect it.

            God’s requirement for us to protect human life is based on humans being created in God’s image.

3.      How can a believer be the voice of a person silenced by violence? (Be an advocate for pro-life. Let our voice be heard when individuals or people groups are discriminated against. Our efforts should be centered on affirming the value of life by being evangelistic and mission-minded, caring for the welfare of others, speaking for the unborn, stopping abuse and enslavement, standing up for the persecuted, and treating life as precious wherever it is found.)

4.      How can we see value in all people—even those we disagree with or whom we’ve been hurt by? (God cares for each individual life and we should reflect God’s attitudes in the way we live our life. See James 3:9-10)

It is clear from the beginning that God’s plan was for all human life to be valued. Next, we turn to the New Testament and see how Jesus turned the spotlight on people’s heart attitudes.

 

In Action and Attitude! Read Matthew 5:21-22

 

1.      How does Jesus connect our heart attitudes with our actions?

These verses come from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus established the moral code for Christians!

The Pharisees only looked at a person’s outward behavior. Jesus connected the people’s heart attitudes with their actions

2.      In what ways are murder and anger connected? (Left unchecked anger becomes rage, out of control anger.)

3.      How does a person’s attitude serve as a mirror of what a person truly thinks and believes?

4.      What is the difference between respect and tolerance?

5.      Can a person confuse tolerance and respect?

6.      Note the commands given by God in Genesis 1:27; 9:6; and Matthew 5:22. What do these commands reveal about God’s view of humanity? (God not only values human life, but His plan calls for us to show we value others through our attitudes and actions!)

God expects His followers to go further—to show actions and attitudes that value other people’s lives.

7.      In what way do Jesus’ words demand changes in your own attitudes toward other people?

8.      What actions do you need to take in order to bring about these changes?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      What will it look like in our culture today for us to stand up for all people, made in the image of God?

2.      How can we be advocates for those who cannot speak for themselves?

3.      What actions can we take this week?

 

We might ask ourselves, “Why did God even bother to create human beings in the first place?”  Many times we define God as love, and rightly so. God’s love is why he created us—so that His great love would have an object to lavish His love on. So much so that when His creation rejected Him, He would go to the ultimate length of sending His Son to redeem, or buy back what was His in the first place.

How could we neglect so great a salvation! If God placed that much value on us while we were astray how could we do less?

 

The ultimate act of love we can express toward others is to tell them how much God loves them and share God’s salvation plan with them.

Reconciled - Genesis 33:1-15

1.      What comes to your mind when you think if the word “reconcile?” (In accounting it is making sure two sets of figures agree. To make or show to be compatible. In relationships it is restoring friendly relations between two people or groups of people. Cause to coexist in harmony.)

Most of us think of reconcile in terms of people who aren’t getting along with each other—there is more of that in the world than we would like to admit from nations down to individuals.

2.      What obstacles get in the way of reconciling a broken relationship? (Pride. Stubbornness. Hatred.)

3.      How can reconciling with others help a person’s spiritual growth? (The first broken relationship for each one of us is our relationship with God. When we humble ourselves and turn to God we are well on our way to mending relationships. When we find ourselves in a broken relationship with someone it calls for us to examine our heart and ask God to “peel back” the curtain of our heart and reveal any sin that is there. Then repent and reconcile that relationship.)

God can use those moments to focus our attention on Him and remind us that He alone is God. He alone has the power to transform us, but we have to be willing to let Him work in our lives.

4.      What is the relationship between reconciliation and forgiveness? (There must be forgiveness and humility for reconciliation to be genuine.)

5.      Can there be reconciliation without humility and forgiveness?

 

Regardless of how grievous the offense and upset the offended, we can make things right. By resolving his difference with Esau, Jacob depicts both the necessity and method of how we can live in harmony with others today.

1.      Unrestrained fear can make God’s children do unhealthy things. How can believers overcome the fears we face? (Placing our faith in God and giving everything over to Him in faith.)

Put Aside Your Pride! Read Genesis 33:1-4

 

After a momentary lapse of trust, Jacob rebounded, acting as a man who had just met with God. He faced Esau alone, demonstrating His trust in God.

2.      How did Jacob demonstrate humility towards Esau? (Jacob first had to humble himself before the Lord by being willing to go home when the Lord told him to go. Jacob bowed before Esau to establish his intent to seek forgiveness. Jacob had to admit that what he did was wrong and humble himself before his brother in hopes that his brother would offer forgiveness rather than destroy him and his family.)

When we humble ourselves before the Lord and seek God’s forgiveness, then we are able to humble ourselves before those we have wronged and seek their forgiveness as well. True transformation is evident when we approach others with humility.

3.      Knowing pride hurts and humility helps in building good relationships, what steps of preparation should a person take before seeking reconciliation?

4.      How is Esau’s reaction in the story surprising? (Not only did Esau offer forgiveness, but he also ran to meet Jacob, signifying he was glad to see Jacob. Jesus shared a similar story of a father’s forgiving reaction to his son’s reckless behavior in Luke 15:20.)

Notice that in both Esau’s reaction and the father’s reaction, there is no mention of the wrong that had been done by Jacob or the son. God had not only been working on Jacob but evidently He had been working on Esau’s heart also. We aren’t told how God worked on Esau but it is obvious that he had been transformed too.

Believers can choose to forgive whether an offender seeks forgiveness or not. They can also ask for forgiveness whether or not the offended person accepts their apology. However, both parties have to be willing to participate for genuine reconciliation to occur.

 

Be Genuine! Read Genesis 33:5-11

 

1.      What evidence do you see here that both Jacob and Esau demonstrated a genuine desire to be reconciled?

2.      What attitude do you think Esau used when asking about those traveling with Jacob? (Like a relative you haven’t seen in a long time would ask, “Well who are these little ones with you?” All the while knowing they had to be your wives and children.)

3.      Why did Jacob insist on giving Esau the gift of livestock? (God had blessed Jacob abundantly, and Jacob wanted to share those blessings, especially in the wake of having stolen his brother’s birthright.)

When we choose to share what God has given us, we can bless others because God has blessed us. Jacob demonstrated contentment with what God had given him. Rather than showing greed for more as he had done earlier in his life. Jacob exhibited satisfaction with what God had provided for him.

Jacob had matured quite a bit in twenty years. He showed gratitude toward the Lord and recognition that all his blessings came from God!

4.      How can Christians show godly contentment in their lives—in relationships, finances, health struggles, and so forth? (True contentment comes from trusting God to provide for your needs and being generous to share God’s blessings with others.)

5.      What are some ways to demonstrate a genuine desire for reconciliation in a broken relationship?

 

Jacob took the first step with God’s help and Esau reciprocated. To have meaningful relationships, we must seek God’s guidance and then step out in faith as He leads.

Agree On Limits! Read Genesis 33:12-15

 

1.      How would you characterize the exchange here between Jacob and Esau? (Congenial; friendly; humbly spoken by both.)

Notice that Esau offered two gifts to Jacob: one being his company and the second being protection provided by his 400 men.

2.      Why did Jacob refuse Esau’s assistance? (Though Jacob sought Esau’s forgiveness, he chose to part ways on good terms rather than work together.)

Upon reconciling difficult relationships, wise safeguards may be necessary to avoid further conflicts. It is wise to place boundaries on relationships, especially when there have been problems.

3.      Identify any potential problems you may face. What are some safeguards you can create in order to minimize any conflict?

Sensing their differences, Jacob makes sure he established boundaries so there would be no unnecessary conflicts between them.

4.      How important is it for people to agree on boundaries within their relationships?

5.      How long did it take for Jacob to be ready to reconcile? (20 years!)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      Why is forgiveness so challenging, whether we’re seeking forgiveness or choosing to offer it?

2.      How can you offer forgiveness when you’ve been deeply hurt?

Jacob’s successful encounter with Esau was the result of meeting with God at Bethel, Mahanaim and Peniel. Only after being reconciled with God could Jacob be reconciled with Esau.

Reconciled relationships are a blessing from God, with the greatest blessing being a restored relationship with Him.

3.      Is there someone you need to seek forgiveness from or to forgive?

Pray and ask God to help you with this! If God has laid this on your heart, your relationship with God will be strained until you resolve this issue with the other person!

 

Challenge: If possible, get in touch with that person this week, whether by phone, text, or email.

 

(Give personal testimony!)

Transformed - Genesis 32:24-32

1.      When you think of the word “transformed” what comes to your mind?

2.      What is perhaps the most graphic illustration of transformation we find in nature? (The caterpillar to the butterfly. Others may be suggested as well.)

 

Caterpillars must go through a process of great struggle before turning into a butterfly, but the end result is a beautiful creature.

We have graphic examples of individuals who have gone through a spiritual transformation that was not easy for them but the end result is a beautiful life lived out for God.

One of the best I know is the life of Sterling Eggleston. When he and his wife, Bennie Faye married he was not a Christian but she was a committed Christian and faithfully attended church each week. He testifies that each Sunday the last thing he said as she went out the door to church was, “Don’t you give that preacher any of my money.”

He finally gave in and went to church with her and, through the life she lived before him and the message of God’s Word to him, he was saved. The transformation that God did in Sterling’s life is truly beautiful. But while salvation happens at one point in time, transformation (sanctification) is a life-long process molding us into the image of Christ! Transformation requires ongoing, steady, and sometimes difficult steps. In today’s study, we will see how God transformed Jacob.

 

God used a variety of circumstances to soften Jacob’s heart. Listen to the prayer he prays in Gen. 32:9-12.

We pick up the narrative when Jacob is spending the night alone, consumed with thoughts of fear, not only for his life, but for the lives of all those he loved.

 

The Match! Read Genesis 32:24-26

 

1.      How does this passage characterize Jacob’s life?

Think for a moment about Jacob’s relationship with Esau, Isaac, Laban, Leah, and Rachel. With each of these Jacob had encounters that were challenging to say the least!

Because Jacob spent most of his life wrestling with people, God came that lonely night in the form of a wrestler. Note: Don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out the identity of the person God sent to wrestle with Jacob, it isn’t important who it was but what this individual’s message delivered from God is important. This “man” was clearly the Lord or one of His angels.

Jacob was absolutely determined to receive a blessing, even if it meant deceiving his father and wrestling with God.

Recall Jacob’s experience at Bethel, then God promised Jacob His blessings. The promise was fulfilled from a material perspective because Jacob was wealthy with flocks, herds, and servants. After wrestling with the Lord all night, Jacob discovered he needed more than material wealth. He needed God and His transforming work in his life!

2.      How do we know Jacob was determined to receive God’s blessing on his life? (Even though his hip was dislocated, he refused to let go. Jacob asked for a blessing. True transformation leads believers to value and seek God’s blessing above all else.)

3.      What keeps people from being desperate for God’s blessing?

4.      How does an encounter with God foster a desire for His blessing?

Evidence of true transformation occurs in our lives as we continue to follow the Lord and seek Him, even in the midst of difficult situations.

I read the following excerpt from a prayer voiced by David Brainerd: “When I really enjoy God I feel my desire for Him more insatiable, and my thirsting after holiness the more unquenchable…”

The more we get the more we desire. But we will never plumb the depth of God’s love for us.

Before Jacob’s transformation could continue, a painful but key element was required: honesty.

5.      When have you wrestled with God? (Most likely it was a spiritual wrestling match.)

 

The Title! Read Genesis 32:27-29

 

Throughout the Bible a person’s name often identified his character and the giving of a new name meant either a change in nature or a change in relationship.

1.      Why do you think the man asked Jacob what his name was? (The man already knew Jacob’s name. He wanted Jacob to own up to who he really was. Jacob’s name meant “he cheats” or “he supplants.” The reality of who Jacob really was came into focus in his eyes now. Jacob’s problem was his sinful character!)

2.      What was significant about the name change to Israel? (The name means “he struggled with God.” And it can mean “God rules.”)

3.      What does the fact that the man changed Jacob’s name mean? (The man had power or authority over Jacob.)

Notice that when Jacob asked the man his name he wasn’t told his name. Jacob had no power or authority over this man.

4.      Jacob would no longer be identified as the “deceiver” but rather the “one who wrestled God.” What comes to a person’s mind when they hear your name mentioned?

5.      How can difficult circumstances help believers mature? (Jacob learned the value of working hard for something, as he had to do to maintain the flocks with Laban. He couldn’t take shortcuts to accumulate his wealth in animals.)

Jacob learned the necessity of facing struggles rather than running away from them. He essentially ran away from Esau after stealing Esau’s blessing, yet many years late, Jacob prepared to face Esau upon returning home!

 

While transformation is a lifelong process, Jacob successfully completed the two major steps. He desperately sought God’s blessings, and then he submitted himself before the Lord in humility.

1.      What does a surrendered life look like from God’s perspective?

2.      What does a surrendered life look like from a human perspective?

The Venue! Read Genesis 32:30-32

 

Not eating the meat from the thigh muscle is not a commandment; it is more like a tradition among the Jews.

 

Notice that before wrestling with God, Jacob’s world was dark—both literally and figuratively. In these verses “The sun shone on him.” Jacob experienced a new day, and a new beginning by God’s design.

Peniel or Penuel is Jacob’s third spiritual landmark and means “face of God.” Jacob’s first spiritual landmark was Bethel and his second was Mahanaim or “This is God’s camp.”—Gen. 32:1-2.

With each heavenly visitation, Jacob renamed the meeting place, acknowledging God’s presence and transformation in his life.

 

3.      What are some life markers for believers?

4.      How can a person’s spiritual lessons be memorialized so the insight gained will not be forgotten?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

I will admit that it is difficult to see a quick transformation in Jacob. But from now on the Bible uses the phrase “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…” about a dozen times. To me, this says that spiritual transformation is slow in some of us, but God can and does use us for His glory and purposes.

1.      How has God transformed your life?

2.      Who would share with us at least one way in which God has brought about visible change through your journey?

 

This week, reflect on where God has led you in the last few years. Record any markers or turning points in your relationship with God. Thank God for His amazing work of transformation.