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!