Gospel Reading Guide -March 12-18, 2012

How do I use this guide?

Mark 5:21-43

Jesus is on his way to save the dying daughter of Jairus when he notices that power has gone out from him. Though people are crowding around him, Jesus wants to know who touched him. The woman who had touched Jesus in the crowd would have been considered ceremonially unclean throughout the 12 years of her bleeding. Anyone who touched her became unclean. Can you imagine spending twelve years of your life with everyone you know avoiding your touch? What do you think is going through her mind when she steps forward as the one who touched Jesus? What according to Jesus, has healed this woman?

In the meantime Jairus’ daughter dies. How does Jesus respond when he is told it is too late?  Why do you think Jesus only allowed his inner circle (Peter, James and John) and the girl’s parents to witness the miracle and then swore them to secrecy?

What does this miracle tell us about Jesus’ power over death?

Mark 6:1-13

Jesus never used miracles to win over his opponents. He only used them to confirm a faith, no matter how small, that was already present.. Notice that when Jesus healed the woman who touched his robe he says “your faith has healed you” (Mark 5:34), but in this chapter he is unable to perform miracles in his hometown of Nazareth because of their unbelief. Why did the townspeople take offense at Jesus? Why was he so amazed at their lack of faith?

Jesus now takes his disciples education to the next level. Up until this point, the disciples  followed Jesus everywhere and observed his miracles. Now he sends them out on their own missions. If you read Acts 13 and 14, you will find that the apostles continued to follow this pattern of ministry long after Jesus was gone.What instructions does Jesus give his disciples when he sends them out?

What two things did the disciples do on their mission? Who are they imitating?

Mark 6:13-29

Herod receives reports of the activities of Jesus’ disciples (see Mark 6:7-12). What leads Herod to fearfully conclude that John the Baptist, whom he had beheaded, had come back to life?  Why does Herod have reason to be afraid (and feel guilty)?

Mark 6:30-46

Miracles drew crowds of people. This was true for Jesus and now it is true of his disciples. Jesus and his disciples withdraw from the crowds so that they can rest. What did Jesus see that inspired him to change his plans?

The disciples, by contrast, are overwhelmed by the sight of the massive crowds and beg Jesus to send the crowds away. What outlandish command does Jesus give his disciples instead? Why? What is he trying to teach them? What does he expect of them?

Think about this: 26,000 children in the world today will die from preventable causes related to their poverty. What is it that you have in your hands? What does Jesus expect and not expect of you?

Having performed the miracle, what does Jesus do? Why? What does this tell us about Jesus’ humanity?

Mark 6:47-56

What is the connection between the disciples’ failure to understand the miracle of the loaves  (see Mark 6:30-43) and their amazement at Jesus’ ability to walk on water and to still the wind?

Moses prophesied in Deuteronomy 18:15 that God would “raise up a prophet like me from among you”.  When this prophet came, Israel was to listen to him.  Why?  Because this future prophet would be greater than Moses himself.  This prophet would be God.  The miracle of feeding the five thousand echoed the miracle when God through Moses fed the people with manna, (bread from heaven) and quail. The disciples should have recognized that Jesus was the “prophet like me” that Moses spoke of.

Starting here and continuing through chapter 7 Jesus will challenge the Jewish notion of what it means to be “clean” under the law. For example, to come in close contact or touch a sick person meant, according to Jewish tradition, that a clean person became unclean. What do you notice happens to unclean, sick people when they touch Jesus?

Mark 7:1-23

How does Jesus and his disciples challenge the Pharisees’ understanding of what it means to be clean?

It is important to remember that Jesus is not standing against the Old Testament law, but the interpretation of those laws by the Jewish religious leaders.  The rigorous regulations related to hand-washing was simply their interpretation of the law, not what the law said itself. Why is this is a problem?  Sometimes the traditions themselves can get in the way of obeying the heart of God’s law.  That is what Jesus will point out.

Jesus charges the Pharisees of letting go of the commands of God and holding on to the traditions of men. What example of this does Jesus give? What traditions were the Pharisees using to undermine the heart of God’s law (love God, love neighbor)?

Honoring your father and mother went beyond respecting them to providing financial support in their old age.  However, the Jewish legal experts found a loophole.  If you declared some of your wealth to be “corban” or “devoted to God”, it could be withheld from supporting your parents.  The tradition distorted God’s law to the point that it became a means for not loving your parents as yourself.

 Jewish tradition argued that what goes into a man from the outside made him unclean. Jesus argued that what comes _____ of a man is what makes him unclean. The elders believed that outward actions was central to being clean. Jesus believed that the origin of a man’s uncleanness was his _________. What sort of things come out of our hearts?

We need more than a behavior modification program. We need a heart transplant.

John 6:27-40

The crowds following Jesus swelled after the feeding a crowd of 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish. The people, believing Jesus to be the Messiah and wanting to make Him king, went on a frantic search for him. They found him on the far side of the lake.

Jesus understands that the crowd that pursue him are  motivated by and working for food that spoils.  What greater food are the crowds called to work for? What kind of work does God require for the food that endures to eternal life (see verse 29)?

One reason the crowds are so energized is that Jesus reminds them of Moses who led Israel from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. While Israel wandered in the desert, God provided daily bread or “manna” that fell like dew on the ground. They believed it was Moses who gave them “bread from heaven.” Jesus had given them a taste of Moses. They wanted him to do it again but Jesus has a greater bread in mind.

Who or what  is the true bread or bread of life that comes down from heaven? What happens to those who come to Jesus? Why doesn’t everyone come? Who is able to come to Jesus? What is Jesus’ mission on earth? Whose will is He carrying out?

 

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Gospel Reading Guide -March 5-11, 2012

How do I use this guide?

Mark 3:7-19

Why are the crowds pressing to see Jesus? Where are they from? What do the healings and the casting out of demons tell us about who Jesus is? Who do the evil spirits recognize Jesus to be?

It is striking that Jesus silences the demons even though they are speaking the truth about Jesus. Jesus is the Son of God. But Jesus was waiting for the proper time and place to reveal himself. Jesus was more than a miracle worker, he was a king, but a king unlike any the world had ever seen. There would be a time when Jesus would fully reveal himself, but that would happen at the cross and his resurrection. Jesus came not to attract a following through miracles and the overthrow of the Romans. He came to lay his life down for the sins of the world.

Jesus had many disciples or followers, as many as a 120, but he only chooses twelve as his apostles. What is Jesus’ mission for these apostles? What does he give them the authority to do?

Mark gives us a window into Jesus’ ministry strategy. Jesus is sending out 12 apostles to do the very things he had been doing. They watched him preach, they witnessed the healings and the demons being cast out. Now they are sent out to the very things Jesus did. So it is with us. As disciples of Jesus we are called make disciples, pouring our lives into others, so they too make new disciples of Jesus.

Mark 3:19-35

How does Jesus’ own family feel about Jesus’ ministry?

The teachers of the law held an important position in Jewish society. It was their role to study the law of God and help ordinary Jews apply it to their lives. This is precisely what Jesus is doing with his preaching which is why they were so threatened by him.

What charge to the scribes level against Jesus?  What is the unforgivable sin according to Jesus?

The power behind Jesus’ ministry was the Holy Spirit. Notice who the scribes claim is giving Jesus the power to perform miracles. Beelzebub refers to the master of demons, Satan.

When Jesus gets the news that his family is there to claim him, he asks the question, “who are my mother and my brothers?” (verse 33). Who is Jesus’ true family?

Mark 4:1-20

Take a look at the passage as a whole. Who gets to hear the parable (verse 1)? Who gets the parable explained to them (verse 10)? Why do you think this is?

One of the remarkable features of Jesus’ ministry was that he didn’t focus much on crowds. Many of us would be thrilled to host an event where thousands of people came, but Jesus focused on going deep with a small group of people. He did this because he wanted to start a movement and he was quite successful because it is still going today. Jesus built his kingdom through multiplication. I pour into a few and each one pours himself into a few others.

Now for the parable itself.  Who is the farmer in this parable? What is the seed? What do the four soils represent? What is Jesus’ definition of a healthy plant or an alive Christian? What are the three obstacles that can prevent us from becoming a healthy, harvest-producing follower of Jesus?

Mark 4:21-34

Jesus now tells a second parable to his twelve disciples. What do you think his story about the lamp is telling them about what they are to do with all that Jesus is pouring into them? What will happen if they keep it for themselves?

Jesus often used organic and agricultural images to describe the kingdom of God=(the community of followers of Jesus today, literally heaven on earth tomorrow) and it how grows.  What does this third parable where a farmer sows his seeds in a field, tell us about how the kingdom of God grows? Who makes it happen, the farmer or someone else? What do we do? What does God do?

What does the fourth parable, the parable of the mustard seed, tell us about the growth patterns of God’s kingdom? How does it start? Where does it end up?

How does Jesus teach the crowds? What does he do when he is alone with his disciples? Why do you think he did it this way?

Mark 4:35-41

The sea and the violent storms that frequented them were the most powerful forces known in Jesus’ day. The sea was regarded as both a source of fear and evil.

What does this passage say about Jesus’ power? Why did the disciples panic? What terrifies the disciples more, the storm or Jesus calming it? Why does Jesus rebuke them? Can you relate to the disciples? What are some of the storms in your life? Jesus can still those just as he did the storm on the sea.

Mark 5:1-20

Now that Jesus has calmed the storm, we discover the purpose behind his mission to the other side of the lake. Who has Jesus come to save? In what way does Jesus demonstrate his power over the demons? Where do they go once they are cast out of the man? Remember that in the ancient world, the sea was regarded as a place of evil.

How do the people respond to the man’s healing? Why does Jesus not allow the healed man to come with him? What mission does he have for him instead? How much do you need to know in order to tell others about Jesus?

John 5:25-29

How would you describe Jesus’ (the Son) relationship with God the Father?  Who takes the lead?  What authority has God the Father given his Son?  Who does the Son seek to please? How are we caught up in this love story between the Father and the Son?

The Son of Man is not a generic title for Jesus, but a reference to the vision the prophet Daniel received which is recorded in Daniel 7:13-14.  In this vision there are two characters ‘The Ancient of Days’ (God the Father) and ‘one like a son of man’ (Jesus).

In my vision at night I looked and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.  He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.   He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away … (Daniel 7:13-14)

How does Daniel 7:13-14 shed light on who Jesus is?

Gospel Reading Guide -February 27-March 4, 2012

How do I use this guide?

Mark 1:1-13

It is believed that the Gospel of Mark was written by John Mark, a member of both Paul’s and later Peter’s ministry teams. Church tradition teaches us that Mark was asked by the church in Rome to write down Peter’s teaching and compile them in a book so that they would not be forgotten after Peter’s death.

Mark is the shortest, simplest gospel, and focused most directly on the actions of Jesus.

Mark quotes two Jewish prophets. Malachi 3:1 in verse 2 and Isaiah 40:3 in verse 3. How is John the Baptist the fulfillment of these prophecies? How is John’s ministry connected to Jesus?

Baptism was not a ritual that was unknown to Judaism. For centuries, non-Jews who wished to convert to the Jewish faith underwent baptism. The ritual symbolized the washing away of the filth of their old pagan life and the start of a new life as a member of God’s people. Baptism was not new, but Jews undergoing baptism was revolutionary. For a Jew to undergo baptism was a public statement that they needed the forgiveness and cleansing of God just as much as a pagan foreigner did. It took extraordinary humility to be baptized. But humility and recognizing your need of forgiveness are essential elements of the repentance needed to prepare yourself for the coming of the Messiah.

If John is preaching a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”, why does Jesus step forward to be baptized? Why get baptized if you are already sinless? The answer to this question gets at the essence of Lent which is summarized for us in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians

2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jesus is identifying with our sin through his baptism. Jesus “became sin”, made himself guilty, took on our sin and was punished for our sins at the cross.

How does the Father feel about his Son and what he is doing? Why do you think Jesus needed to hear this from his Father?

Where does the Holy Spirit drive Jesus immediately after his baptism? The number forty recalls that years that Israel spent wandering in the wilderness. Israel, like Jesus, was tempted in the desert. But Jesus, unlike Israel, overcame that temptation. Jesus became our sin so that we might become the righteousness of God. This means that Jesus’ victory over Satan’s temptations counts for us. We fast not to get on God’s good side, but to remember that Jesus’ righteousness is credited to us. Just as Jesus was punished for our sins, we are also blessed by God because of Jesus’ obedience.

Mark 1:14-28
What event signals the beginning of Jesus’ ministry?  Who fades to the background as Jesus takes center stage?

How does Mark summarize Jesus’ message (sometimes called the gospel or good news) to the world in verse 15?

The Kingdom of God is wherever God’s will is done, a world filled with people who love God and love their neighbor as themselves. Imagine what that world would look like. Jesus declares that this kingdom is now drawing near and breaking into our world through his coming.

How is each person called to respond to the good news in verse 15?

Immediately Jesus begins to his build his kingdom by calling disciples. Disciples and their teachers called rabbis were not an uncommon sight in Israel. To be a rabbi was a position of honor in Israel and to be a disciple was akin to going to Harvard. The privilege of being a disciple was an honor conferred only on those with the sharpest minds and the highest moral integrity. Those who were rejected by rabbis were encouraged to go home and work the family trade. Those who were accepted were told by the rabbi to “come and follow me.”

Disciples ordinarily applied to rabbis. Do the disciples come to Jesus or does Jesus go to them? What do you notice about the men Jesus called? What are they doing when Jesus meets them? What new purpose does Jesus give them?

For Jewish rabbis, and Jesus followed this tradition, all of life was a classroom. These disciples will spend the next three years of their lives following Jesus, watching him with the goal of learning to do what he did and most importantly becoming like him.  The disciples are with Jesus as he enters the synagogue.

What do the people in the synagogue recognize in Jesus; through his teaching AND through the way he healed the demon-possessed man?

Mark 1:29-45

“As soon as they left…” notice the sense of urgency. “He went to her, took her hand and helped her up.” Jesus was willing to heal Peter’s mother in law, he made it a point to go to her. What does this passage say about Jesus’ ability to heal the sick? What does it say about his willingness to heal the sick?

Even though the demons correctly identified Jesus, Jesus silenced them. Wouldn’t he want the world to know who he was? Yes, but not yet. Jesus’ time would come when he would be revealed as the King of the Jews and the Son of God not through a miracle, but through his death on the cross.

“Very early in the morning…” Jesus made time alone with His Father a priority. Prayer always preceded action. “they exclaimed…” shows the importance of the disciples message. Jesus’ reply, “Let us go somewhere else to the nearby villages so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” What is Jesus trying to convey to the disciples? What is his strategy for spreading the good news of God’s kingdom?

“A man with leprosy…” In keeping with the law in Leviticus 13 and 14, Jewish leaders declared people with leprosy unclean. This meant that they were unfit to participate in any religious or social activity. Because the law said that contact with any unclean person made a person unclean also, some people even threw rocks at lepers to keep them at a safe distance. But Jesus touched the man who had leprosy (NIV Life Application Study Bible Notes). The Law taught that to touch an unclean person, made that person unclean. But what happens when Jesus touches an unclean person?

Jesus sends the healed man to the priest because the Law demanded that a leper’s healing be verified by the priest before that person was declared to be “clean” and allowed to re-enter society.

Mark 2:1-12

Word of Jesus’ healing miracles has spread throughout the countryside and crowds mob the home where Jesus is staying. Desperate to get their friend to Jesus, a hole is torn in the roof of the house and a paralyzed man is lowered before Jesus. What did Jesus see that caused him to declare to the paralyzed man, “your sins are forgiven”?

To claim the power to forgive was to claim to be God for only God reserved the right to forgive sins. The Jewish leaders considered Jesus’ words to be blasphemy because they did not accept that he was God and therefore they are enraged

Why does Jesus go ahead and heal the paralytic? What was he proving concerning himself?

Mark 2:13-22

Discipleship was an honor afforded to the brightest minds and those with impeccable integrity. No self-respecting rabbi would dream of calling a tax collector to follow him as a disciple. A tax-collector was a traitor, who collaborated with Roman occupiers.  They were sell outs who enriched themselves by overcharging their own people.

How does Jesus explain his unusual choice of a disciple? What warning does verse 17 have for us religious types?

John the Baptist and his disciples regularly fasted, Jesus and his disciples never did and this puzzled the disciples of John the Baptist. Fasting was considered to be a important part of holiness. Why don’t the guests (the disciples) not fast for now? Who is with them? Why will Jesus’ disciples fast in the future?

Mark 2:23-3:6

The fourth commandment (Exodus 20:8-11) prohibited work on the seventh day of the week called the Sabbath. The question was, “what constituted work?” The teachers of the law spent a lot of time thinking about this and they determined that picking grain to eat constituted work and therefore was prohibited on the Sabbath.

Why does Jesus go out of his way to challenge this interpretation? What is Jesus saying about the Sabbath? What is he saying about himself?

Guess what? The teachers of the law also ruled that healing was work. And notice what Jesus does on the sabbath.

The heart of the Law (think 10 Commandments) was to love God and love your neighbor. The commandments, including the Sabbath Law, was an explanation of what loving God and your neighbor meant. How does Jesus demonstrate that his opponent’s interpretation of the Sabbath violated the heart of the law?

While it was unlawful to heal someone on the Sabbath, apparently it was legal to conspire to kill the Son of God. Imagine.

John 5:19-27

How would you describe Jesus’ relationship with God the Father?  Who takes the lead?  How do they feel about each other?  What do they do for each other?  How do they work together?

The Son of Man is not a generic title for Jesus, but a reference to vision the prophet Daniel received which is recorded in Daniel 7:13-14.  In this vision there are two characters ‘The Ancient of Days’ (God the Father) and ‘one like a son of man’ (Jesus).

In my vision at night I looked and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.  He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.   He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away … (Daniel 7:13-14)

How does Daniel 7:13-14 shed light on Jesus’ words?

Gospel Reading Guide -February 20-26, 2012

How do I use this guide?

John 18:15-18; 25-27

Earlier that evening Jesus interrupted his meal with his disciples to deliver some disturbing news. He is leaving and where he is going his disciples cannot follow. You have to admire Peter’s brash resolve. He announces that he will die for Jesus. Jesus, however, sees a different future for Peter and predicts that he will deny him three times that very night.

Following the meal, Jesus takes his disciples out to the Garden of Gethsemane, just outside the city of Jerusalem. While Jesus is praying (and the disciples are sleeping), Judas appears with a crowd of soldiers and to arrest Jesus. Peter tries to play the hero and cuts off the ear of the high priest’s servant, but Jesus quickly puts a stop to the Peter’s resistance and heals the servant. The disciples scatter, but Peter and one other disciple followed Jesus at a distance.

What wins out that evening, Peter’s resolve or Jesus’ prediction? Why does Peter fail? When Jesus predicted Peter’s failure, Peter offered Jesus his resolve to stay faithful. What do you think Jesus  wanted from Peter instead? Peter is a pillar of the early church. Why is his colossal failure preserved for us? What does it teach us?

John 18:28-38

The Pharisees and teachers of the law believed that entering a non-Jewish home, where Jewish law practices concerning cleanliness were not practiced, would make them unclean.  Jewish law prohibited anyone who was ceremonially unclean from celebrating the Passover. This is why the Jewish officials escorting Jesus refused to enter the palace of the Roman governor. But this only serves to expose the hypocrisy of Jesus’ adversaries. It was unlawful to enter the home of a Gentile, but it is permissable to bring trumped up charges against the Son of God.

Pilate clearly wants this whole thing to go away and commands the Jewish officials to judge Jesus according to their law. Why do Jesus’ enemies reject this suggestion? Who, according to verse 32, is orchestrating the details of Jesus’ death?

The Jewish authorities hoped to present Jesus as a threat to Roman authority, so their charge was that Jesus claimed to be the “King of the Jews”. The penalty for insurrection in the Roman Empire was death by crucifixion. Does Jesus consider himself to be a king? What makes Jesus’ kingdom different from the kingdoms of our world? What does this tell us about following King Jesus today?

Luke 18:9-14

Parables or short stories was a favorite teaching method of Jesus. What problem causes Jesus to tell this parable? Here’s a little background to clarify Jesus’ point. The Pharisees were a sect of Judaism that was well respected by the average person on the street in Israel. Their respect came from their zeal in keeping Jewish law and tradition and protecting the Jewish identity while their nation was occupied by the Romans. Pharisees were national heroes, whereas tax collectors were traitors. Not only did tax collectors work for the occupying Roman Empire, they often became rich by overcharging their own people. So these two men went to the temple to pray …

Which of these men goes home justified (forgiven and declared to be innocent)? Why? What virtue does God value most highly?

John 17:1-8

It’s the dead of night in the Garden of Gethsemane and Jesus kneels in the darkness to pray. He is desperate because he knows that the next day he will go to the cross. In a most remarkable chapter, John allows us to listen in on Jesus’ prayer.

What do we learn about Jesus’ relationship with his Father?  What do they do for each other?  How does Jesus bring glory to his Father?  How does Jesus’ obedience to his Father impact us?  

John 17:9-19

John 17 is commonly known as Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer.”  Priests represent the people before God and in this prayer Jesus is representing us before his Father by praying for us.  Imagine.

Verse 9 tells us that Jesus is praying for his disciples, “his own.” How did these disciples come to belong to Jesus? What did Jesus do for his disciples while he was with them?  What does Jesus ask the Father to do for his disciples in his absence?  In case you were wondering, “to sanctify someone” is to make them holy, or to use Christian language, to make someone like Jesus.

John 17:20-26

This is where the prayer gets exciting.  Jesus extends his prayer beyond his disciples to those who will receive the message from the disciples.  That means us!  What is Jesus’ prayer for us?  What is Jesus most concerned about and why?

John 12:44-50
What does it mean for Jesus to be the light of the world? What does his light illuminate? Who does he point us to?

When we believe in Jesus, we also believe in _____________________.

When we see Jesus, we also see _______________________.

Jesus came to save the world. Who judges those who hear Jesus’ words, but do not keep them? Who directs Jesus’ mission and guides his words? What is the purpose of God the Father’s commands?

 

Gospel Reading Guide -February 13-19, 2012

How do I use this guide?

John 7:37-52

“The Feast” or the Feast of Tabernacles was one of the three major feasts on the Jewish calendar.  This holiday commemorated Israel’s 40 years of wandering in the desert before they entered the Promised Land. It was a celebration of God’s faithfulness for he provided “daily bread” or “manna” when the people were hungry and when they were dying of thirst, God caused drinking water to flow from rocks in the desert. Jesus draws on this miracle as he begins to teach in the temple. Central to Jesus’ teaching is the idea that He is the fulfillment of Israel’s story.

In the Old Testament God caused water to flow from rocks in the desert, who or what is the miracle water that Jesus offers? What will this water do? What does it take to receive this water? When would the people receive this water?

Moses spoke this prophecy in his farewell speech to Israel:

Deuteronomy 18:15 The Lord will raise up a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.

This “prophet like Moses” became known in Israel as the “the prophet.” Some of the people begin to wonder if Jesus just might be the prophet Moses spoke of. Why do some, including the Pharisees, reject the possibility that Jesus is The Prophet? What don’t they know about Jesus’ story? (See Luke 2 – Jesus was raised in Nazareth in Galilee, but he was born in ____________ because _____________.)

Why were the Pharisees unsuccessful in their attempt to arrest Jesus? What do the temple guards see in Jesus?

Notice who comes to the aid of Jesus. Nicodemus (see John 3:1-21), who we met earlier in this gospel, asks the chief priests and the Pharisees why they are not giving Jesus a fair hearing.

John 7:53-8:11

The Feast of Tabernacles has come to a close and the pilgrims who traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast have now returned home. The feast may be over, but the Pharisees continue to see Jesus as a threat to their authority and they seek to trap and destroy him. In the woman caught in the act of adultery, they believe they have found their opportunity.

The idea is put Jesus in the position where he must side either with Old Testament Law or the Roman authorities. The penalty for adultery in the Law of Moses was indeed death, although it is curious as to why only the woman was brought before Jesus, because the Law demanded the lives of both the woman and the man. Already the Pharisees are in violation of the Law.

Here’s the problem. If Jesus says, “yes, stone her” then He would have been in trouble with the Roman authorities, because only the Roman Empire had the right to impose capital punishment. The Pharisees would have been able to portray Jesus to the Romans as someone who was fomenting insurrection. If Jesus says “no” they would portrayed Jesus as someone who did not believe in Jewish Law and Tradition.

How does Jesus stop these men in their tracks and rescue this woman? Who else in this story deserves judgment under the Law of Moses? How is this woman called to respond to Jesus’ gracious act of forgiveness? How are we called to respond?

Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions …

John 8:12-20

John has collected a series of “I am …” statements that Jesus made throughout his ministry. In this week’s reading Jesus declares, “I am the light of the world.”

What does Jesus promise to those who follow him as the light of the world?

In Jewish law you needed to have two witnesses to bear account of something. Here it seems to the Pharisees that Jesus is bearing witness for himself. Who does Jesus put forward as his 2 witnesses? Why was that such an audacious thing to say? What are the Pharisees missing here?

John 8:21-32

“I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin.  Where I go, you cannot come.”
Jesus begins to push back against the Pharisees and speaking as The Prophet that he is, he warns them that they are under God’s judgment if they do not change.

What must the Pharisees do or believe in order to avoid dying in their sin? What are they choosing not to ‘see’ and understand? Origin in Middle Eastern culture is extremely important. No one gets to speak on their own authority. Who you are is based on where you come from and the identity of your family. Notice that Jesus speaks to those same questions. Where is Jesus from? Who is his father?

Some of the Jews listening to Jesus put their faith in him. What advice does Jesus have for them? What must they do to be true disciples or followers of Jesus?

John 8:33-47

When Jesus offers freedom to the Jews who began to follow him, they are deeply offended. As natural born citizens of the nation of Israel they believed, as we say in New England, they were “all set.” To be full-blooded descendents of Abraham securely placed them among God’s people or so they believed.

What are all men and women slaves to whether they be Jewish or not? According to Jesus, what does it take to be a true descendant of Abraham or a child of God? Is it a matter of genetics or something else? What does it take to be a child of the devil?

To be a true child of Abraham, you must do the things Abraham did (verse 39). What did Abraham do? He simply believed the promises of God and lived his life accordingly.

John 8:47-59

How does Jesus explain the unbelief of his hearers? Notice that this explanation further infuriates the crowd. Remember that they believed that they were “all set” because of their status as biological descendants of Abraham. They believed that pagans like the Romans, prostitutes, and tax collectors were the real sinners. But Jesus goes after these religious and moral people and boldly says, “No, the enemy lies within.” That’s why the wild charges start flying. “You are a Samaritan [fighting words for a Jew in those days] and demon-possessed.”

How does Jesus answer the charge of being demon-possessed? What is his mission? What motivates him?

“Are you greater than our father Abraham?” That indeed is the central question. If the answer is “yes” then Jesus is indeed God and must be followed and obeyed. If your answer is “no” then Jesus was either a lunatic or a bold-faced liar. As GK Chesterton and CS Lewis pointed out, there is no middle ground. There is no possibility that he was just a nice teacher. Jesus’ life and ministry does not leave open that possibility.

The phrase “I am” was one of the sacred names of God. What is Jesus claiming when he says, “before Abraham was, I am!”?  The penalty under the Law of Moses for blasphemy (claiming to be God when you are not is a good example) was death by stoning. How did the crowds interpret what Jesus claimed? How does Jesus get away?

Mark 10:23-31

Wealth, especially when it was experienced by those who were outwardly moral, was considered to be a sign of God’s favor. Yet, when a rich young man came to Jesus asking for eternal life, Jesus asks this man to sell his possessions, give the money to the poor, and come follow him. He goes away sad and the disciples are shocked. It was assumed that wealthy people who had received their riches through virtuous living and hard work would be among the first to receive eternal life. But Jesus declares, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

How does Jesus answer the disciples question, “Who then can be saved?” What promise does Jesus offer to those who leave everything to follow Him? When will the rewards be experienced? Read verse 30 closely.

Gospel Reading Guide -February 6-12, 2012

How do I use this guide?

John 6:27-40

Pandemonium spread like wildfire through the hills beside the sea of Galilee. Jesus of Nazareth, one of their native sons, had fed a crowd of 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Crowds of people, believing Jesus to be the Messiah and wanting to make Him king, went on a frantic search for him. They found him on the far side of the lake.

Jesus understands that the crowd that pursue him are  motivated by and working for food that spoils.  What greater food are the crowds called to work for? What kind of work does God require for the food that endures to eternal life (see verse 29)?

One reason the crowds are so energized is that Jesus reminds them of Moses who led Israel from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. While Israel wandered in the desert, God provided daily bread or “manna” that fell like dew on the ground. They believed it was Moses who gave them “bread from heaven.” Jesus had given them a taste of Moses. They wanted him to do it again but Jesus has a greater bread in mind.

Who or what  is the true bread or bread of life that comes down from heaven? What happens to those who come to Jesus? Why doesn’t everyone come? Who is able to come to Jesus? What is Jesus’ mission on earth? Whose will is He carrying out?

John 6:41-51

The crowds who pursued Jesus were hoping for someone who would miraculously give them free food. Jesus announces that the true bread is not the bread he fed the 5000 with. The true bread is Himself. How do the crowds respond to Jesus’ announcement that he is the true manna (see Exodus chapter 16) or bread from heaven? Why are they skeptical?

How does Jesus explain their unbelief? What does Jesus say here about how people come to him? Who draws the people to Jesus? How does Jesus relate Himself to the Father here in this passage? What happens to those who believe according to verse 47?

In what way is Jesus a greater bread than the manna that Israel’s forefathers ate in the desert? What will happen to those who eat the “flesh” of Jesus?

John 6:52-59

Much of Jesus’ teaching emphasized that He was the fulfillment of Israel’s story. In this conversation, Jesus is making the point that the “manna” or “the daily bread from heaven” that kept Israel alive during their wanderings in the desert (see Exodus chapter 16) was a picture of Himself.  Jesus argues that He is the true “manna” or “bread from heaven” from Israel’s story.

What is promised to those who eat the “flesh” of Jesus and drink his “blood”? What do you think Jesus means by all of this?

John 6:60-71

It almost seems that Jesus is going out of his way to turn-off his crowds of adoring fans.  Jesus has argued that he, not the food he gave the 5000 people nor the manna that Israel ate in the desert (see Exodus chapter 16) was the true bread, but He, His body was the true bread. Now cannibalism is abhorrent in most cultures, especially in Jewish culture and so the crowds are beginning to be repulsed by Jesus.  Even his disciples are begging him to tone down his teaching.

How does Jesus react to the restlessness of the crowds and the skepticism and even the desertion of some of his own disciples? Why?

What does it take for someone to accept Jesus’ teaching? Why is Jesus not surprised that some reject Him? Why does Peter decide not to leave even though he doesn’t fully understand Jesus’ hard teaching? (I’m not sure I fully understand what Jesus is saying.) What can Peter teach us about the nature of faith and doubt? How does Jesus explain Peter’s faith? Why will one of the 12 turn away?

John 7:1-13

Why does Jesus want to stay in Galilee and away from Judea? There is a time for Jesus to die, but Jesus will decide where and when his death occur.  Why were Jesus’ brothers interested in having him go to Jerusalem (which was the capital of Judea)? Why does Jesus refuse their advice?

You can almost see Jesus’ brothers point. The Jews traveled to Jerusalem three times a year to worship God at the temple. These times of worship coincided with one of the three feast days in the Jewish Calendar. So, if you wanted to start a movement in Israel, why not go when massive crowds of people flocked to Jerusalem. There would come a time when Jesus would go to the Feast of the Passover in public, but that would be the time when he was ready to die.

What do the people in Jerusalem think of Jesus? Why do they speak of Jesus only in hushed tones?

John 7:14-36

There will be in a time when Jesus is ready to ride into Jerusalem publicly on a donkey. But he will only come that way when he is ready to die. But now is not the time, so Jesus enters the city secretly.

How do the crowds react to Jesus’ teaching? What does Jesus have to say about His own teaching? What are the marks of someone who speaks the truth? How does Jesus bear these marks?

Why does Jesus say to the crowds, “not one of you keeps the law (of Moses – think 10 Commandments)”?

Jesus’ one miracle is the feeding of the five thousand with five loaves and two fish. This is what made Him so popular. But Jesus is more than a miracle-worker and his mission is greater than filling the stomachs of the people with food. Jesus is God and as God He alone has the right to interpret the Law. Jesus was hated by the religious authorities because He dared to heal people on the Sabbath, the day of rest when work was forbidden. He did this to highlight the hypocrisy of the religious authorities. Rather than acknowledge that Jesus was right and they were wrong, the religious leaders plotted Jesus’ death.

Mark 10:13-22

Children in the ancient world did not have the social standing that they have today. We worship youth today in our culture and maybe overly so, but in Jesus’ day, children were often marginalized as we do the poor, the ugly and the elderly. How does Jesus view those who are not valued by our world? How are people to enter the kingdom of God? Who are they to identify with?

Gospel Reading Guide – January 30-February 5, 2012

How do I use this guide?

John 4:43-54

When Jesus returns to Cana in Galilee he is confronted with a difficult situation. A royal official approaches Jesus and asks him to heal his son.  Jesus’ answer is quite jarring. “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe.” How are Jesus’ words proven to be true in this story? What happens to the royal official and his household once the boy is healed?

What does the way that Jesus healed the boy tell us about Jesus and His power?

John 5:1-18

Some time after the healing of the official’s son, Jesus returns to Jerusalem. This time Jesus approaches the person in need of healing saying, “Do you want to get well?”

It is important to note Jesus heals on the Sabbath. This is a direct challenge to the authority of the Jewish religious leaders who believed that the Old Testament Law prohibited healing on the Sabbath. One thing from the Sabbath Law is clear. Work was prohibited on the seventh day of the week (Sabbath day). What was unclear was what constituted work. The teachers of the law considered healing and carrying your mat to be work and so it was against the law. This brought the religious leaders to the absurb positition that it was against the law to do a loving act for someone.

What does the way Jesus healed this man tell us about His power to heal and His authority to interpret the Jewish Law? What is Jesus saying about His authority with respect to the authority of the Jewish religious leaders? How does Jesus respond to the man when he sees him again in the temple?

John 5:19-29

How would you describe Jesus’ relationship with God the Father?  Who takes the lead?  How do they feel about each other?  What do they do for each other?  How do they work together?

The Son of Man is not a generic title for Jesus, but a reference to vision the prophet Daniel received which is recorded in Daniel 7:13-14.  In this vision there are two characters ‘The Ancient of Days’ (God the Father) and ‘one like a son of man’ (Jesus).

In my vision at night I looked and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.  He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.   He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away … (Daniel 7:13-14)

How does Daniel 7:13-14 shed light on Jesus’ words?

John 5:30-47

In Jewish Law, only testimonies that were confirmed by two or three witnesses were admissible as evidence in court.  Who are the two witnesses that bear witness to who Jesus is and what He came to do? What do the works of Jesus bear witness to? What does this passage say about who sent Jesus? What does it say about the Father’s special relationship to Jesus? Why did the people fail to believe (verse 44)?

John 6:1-15

The Old Testament is full of events and images that are given their full meaning in the life and ministry of Jesus. The story of God’s rescue of Israel from slavery in Egypt (memorialized by the Passover Feast) and God feeding Israel daily with manna (daily bread) in the wilderness loom large in John chapter 6.

Why does Jesus put the responsibility of feeding the crowd on Philip and the other disciples?

The people exclaim that Jesus must be “the Prophet who is come into the world.” This is an allusion to the words of Moses:

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers. You must listen to him. (Deuteronomy 18:15)

When Jesus miraculously feeds 5000 people his popularity soars not only because hungry people were fed, but also because the people saw Jesus as a second Moses. Moses had led Israel out of slavery in Egypt. It was in the desert that God fed the people through Moses with manna, bread from heaven. With Jesus also performing a miracle feeding, the people began to wonder if Jesus was the prophet that Moses spoke of. If Moses led Israel out of slavery in Egypt, maybe Jesus will lead them out of Roman oppression. But Jesus has something else in mind and in the end many of his disciples desert him.

John 6:16-27

The disciples get into their boats to sail back to Capernaum which served as Jesus’ base of operations for His ministry in Galilee. Why do you think Jesus sent his disciples into the storm without him? What is he trying to teach them about themselves? What does Jesus’ walking on the water teach the disciples about Himself?

Once in Capernaum, Jesus went to the synagogue and began to teach. What troubles Jesus about the motives of his followers? ’Bread that spoils’ is an allusion to the manna God fed Israel in the wilderness (see Exodus 16) and the bread Jesus provided when he fed the 5000. What is the food that endures to eternal life? The title ‘Son of Man’ comes from Daniel 7:13-14 and is a title that points to Jesus’ divinity and power.

Mark 8:22-30

Running in the background of toady’s reading is a distorted understanding of the Messiah, the future king who will rule over God’s kingdom. It was believed that the Messiah would be sent by God to overthrow the oppressors of God’s people Israel by military force and set up a kingdom for the benefit of Israel. Jesus clearly understands himself to be the Messiah, but not the kind of Messiah that the people of Israel were expecting. He does not want to be revealed as the Messiah until after he has been crucified on the cross .

Jesus takes the blind man by the hand and leads him out of the village. Why? Why does he tell the man not to enter the village? What does the miracle and Peter’s confession tell us about Jesus’ identity? What would have happened if word got out?

How does the Jewish expectations for the Messiah explain Peter’s angry response to Jesus’ teachings? Why does Jesus slap Peter down so forcefully?