Chapter 23 begins and ends with John the Baptist. At the end, John is sitting in prison awaiting his pending death. He wants to know if Jesus is in fact the Messiah because he hasn’t acted as many think the Messiah should act. With his pending death looming, John wants to know if his life’s work has been focused in the right direction. This is a fair question of doubt that gives me some comfort. Jesus responds with a reference to Isaiah 35:5-6 (and Isaiah 61) and points to what he has done: blind receive sight, lame walk, leprosy cleansed, deaf hear, dead raised, good news proclaimed to the poor.
As you read chapter 23 this week, pay attention to how Jesus treats people. Ephesians 4:15 reminds us that truth is to be spoken in love. I’m continually disheartened when I see our Brothers and Sisters in Christ beating people up because of their sins. We need to know the words of Jesus but it is essential that we also pay attention to the actions of Jesus. When he sees people in their brokenness, he sees them with compassion and has a message of peace and grace for them. When he sees the religious leaders, who assume they are not broken, he has a more critical eye and tone. I fear our tendency is to hear the voice of Jesus with a tone of grace and love in our own lives and fail to extend the same tone of grace and love to others.
Questions to consider while reading this chapter:
- What does Satan seem to be attacking when he questions Jesus in the wilderness? In what ways is your identity attacked when you struggle with temptation? Where does your identity come from?
- The Samaritan Woman – When she realizes that Jesus is from God, she asks him what seems like a really random question. The question of location of worship is essential for her. It has been a debate for centuries between the Jews and Samaritans. If you got to ask Jesus one question, what would you ask? I’d love to hear your responses on this. Please send them my way! In a question about location of worship, what does it mean to “worship in Spirit and in truth”?
- Why is Jesus “indignant” when the man with leprosy came to him and said, “if you’re willing, you can make me clean”?
- When Jesus saw the faith of the men who lowered their friend through the roof, he forgave the sins of the paralyzed man. How influential is your faith in the salvation of others? Who do you need to faithfully bring to Jesus for healing?
- The Gospel writer takes time to list off women who are helping Jesus financially. It was not uncommon for women to give financial support to Rabbis during that time but it was completely unusual for women to travel with the Rabbis they supported. Why does the Gospel writer draw attention to these women who traveled with Jesus? What does this say about Jesus’ ministry in contrast to his culture? What does this say about his view of these women as disciples?
I look forward to our discussion this coming Sunday!