This week’s reading, chapter 24, is largely focused on the teachings of Jesus. Over the years, I’ve found myself reading these stories and teachings and doing a few things with them. I rationalize how if Jesus knew my situation he would teach something different. I justify my own convictions into the text. And I often see myself as the best character in the story and thank God that I’m not like that terrible Pharisee. While I am overstating this on some level, the sentiment of what I’m saying probably holds true for many of us. Jesus gives many hard teachings of radical submission and radical forms of love. While we’ve read many of these lessons plenty of times again, I want to challenge us to be open to the Spirit’s conviction in our lives to transform us through the words of Jesus. Simon Peter says it best, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Here are some comments and questions to wrestle with while you read this chapter:
- These three parables go together and each have a common focus, “Rejoice with me…” when sinners come into the Kingdom. Who are people in this world that you struggle to rejoice for if they were to come into the Kingdom of God? It is easy to say we will rejoice when we know we won’t have to interact with them. Can we say we want someone in the Kingdom whom we are unwilling to interact with in this life? This entire discussion originates with criticism over who Jesus is hanging out with. What if the only way we are going to truly welcome people into the Kingdom is if we spend time with them outside of the Kingdom? Take a moment to examine your friendships. How many nonChristians do you have genuine relationships with?
- In the story of the prodigal son, read it a few times and place yourself in each characters’ position in the story. When was the last time you allowed yourself to feel the warm embrace of the Father? Who do you have your eyes on the road for to return home from their departure? What emotions does the father have? When was a time when you felt self-pity when someone else was receiving the attention?
- When the man asks, “Who is my neighbor?” He asked for clarification of “who” and Jesus responded with a call to action. What does it mean to be neighbor to others?
- Jesus begins his sermon on the mount with words of blessing. He then has a few “you are…” statements affirming their role and identity as being salt and light. How do words of affirmation help you better accomplish hard things? Wake up every day this week, look in the mirror, and say, “You are a child of God. You are loved and God is very pleased with you.” If you believed that at your core, what areas of your life would change?
- Take the Lord’s Prayer on 341 and use it as a framework for your prayer life this week. Use each line of the prayer to focus what you pray.
- Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. In what way is giving a spiritual discipline? How does giving money as an offering draw you closer to God?
- When I’ve herd teachings about the eyes being a lamp to the body, I’ve often heard it applied to issues of lust or watching rated R movies, “Be careful little eyes what you see.” In what other areas of life can this verse be applied?
- What do you worry about most? How does seeking the Kingdom offset that worry?
- There are a lot of hard teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. How seriously are we supposed to take these teachings? At the end of it, Jesus says, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock.” I believe the church as a whole would be a better light to the world if we took this sermon seriously.
- Jesus is asleep on a boat in the middle of a storm. When they woke him he rebuked the storm and questioned their faith. Remember who you have with you. You have the Holy Spirit inside of you as you navigate this storm called life. I’m hesitant with where to take this because how people will receive it. Jesus won’t always calm the storms in our life but when we know who is with us we will have a peace about us amongst the chaos of the storms swirling around us.
- The power that is within Jesus is greater than the storms and it is also greater than the Legion of demons possessing this naked-bleeding-crazy guy who lives in a cemetery. When the people find him seated and in his right mind at the feet of Jesus, they are terrified of Jesus. Why does Jesus not let the guy come with him on his journey?
- In the stories to follow, there are different examples of Jesus’ power. What strikes you about these stories? How does Jesus respond to these different people? What tone do you hear in his voice when you read it? Is this the same way you interact with people on a daily basis?
- The line that struck me the hardest in the reading is when Jesus looks out over the crowd and his emotion is “compassion” because they were like sheep without a shepherd. There are groups of people I see on a daily basis that my first reaction hasn’t always been compassion. I’m praying for that transformation in my view of people. Who are people that you need to see with compassion?
- Food is fuel. If you eat bad food you’re going to get sluggish. If you eat healthy food, you’re going to have more energy. If you need to know more about this, ask Pat Fuller and she’ll fill you in. The question I want to leave with us is this hard teaching of Jesus. What does a body look like that has a diet of eating the bread and blood of Christ? What does the individual look like? More importantly, we are called to give up our self to be the body of Christ. What does the body of Christ look like based on this diet? Maybe other questions to explore here could fall in the lines of, what junk have we been feeding the body of Christ that is making it sluggish?