The Promise and Warning About Eternal Life

Notes for January 19-20
John 3:16-21  

Biblical Background

  • Only Son (Only Begotten Son): the Greek words mean “special, beloved,” and were often refer in Jewish literature to Isaac in regards to Abraham’s willingness to offer up his “special, and beloved” son.

  • Eternal Life: The Greek can be literally translated, “the life of the world to come.”

    Present Tense of “Have Eternal Life”: This indicates that the person who trusts Jesus Christ immediately is in a state of eternal life – it is immediately applied to the present.

  • God’s Sacrifice of His Son: There is nothing that can compare to the sacrifice which God has made on behalf of humankind through Jesus Christ. His love is immeasurable and infinite as expressed in a number of passages in the Hebrew Scriptures including: (Ex. 34:6-7; Hosea 11:1-4).

  • Light and Darkness: Jewish literature often contrasted the darkness of evil with the light of God. The Dead Sea Scrolls of the Essene Community in the 1st Century BC reflect this concept.

  • He who is from above: All human beings originate from earth –God comes from above.

  • Signet Rings: In 1st Century times, men would officially testify to something by pouring hot wax on a document and then pressing their signet ring into the wax – making their mark and authenticating their witness to the document.

  • He Who Gives the Spirit without measure: Only God has unlimited authority to give the Spirit of God

  • The Son as Judge: The Son has authority to judge and to send people to heaven or hell. Jesus is an awesome Person to be reckoned with.

Discussion Questions

  1. What do you learn about the character of God from verses 16-18?

  2. What does God want to do?

  3. How is a person condemned? What does it mean to be condemned?

  4. Why is important to know about the possibility of condemnation for a human being before Almighty God?

  5. Why are people today, even in the church sometimes, shy about talking about the judgment of God?

  6. What is the condition for being saved from condemnation? How does one do this?

  7. What does it mean that Light has come into the world?

  8. Why do people love darkness and doing evil? Have you ever loved doing evil? Why or Why not?

  9. What is the indication that a person has trusted Jesus Christ? 

  10. How can we discern whether or not a person has given their lives to Jesus Christ? What should we see? What if we don’t see signs of the Light in the actions of a person?

  11. In verse 31, who is the one who comes from above?

  12. What power and authority has Jesus been given on earth?

  13. When you think of Jesus do you think of Him as the all-powerful, judge over all the earth? Why is it important to understand this role of Jesus?

  14. How does this passage impact the way in which you talk with others about Jesus?

  15. What are you doing about sharing the Gospel, when knowing the wrath of God remains on many of your friends and neighbors?

The Death of Jesus

Notes for December 15-16, 2018
Matthew 27:27-31   

Biblical Background

  • Pilate, Governor: Just recently, one of Pilate’s rings was identified from an archaeological dig of “The Herodian,” one of Herod’s palaces outside of Jerusalem.  The ring has the inscription of Pilate’s name on it and is just one more piece of evidence which backs up the historical accuracy of the biblical text.

  • Governor’s HQ: Pilate, the Roman governor of the time would have stayed in Herod the Great’s former palace which was a lavish, spacious residence in Jerusalem. 

  • Roman soldiers: The duty of executing punishments fell to the Roman soldiers, many of whom were from other parts of the Roman Empire. Their cruel ways, mockery, and the way in which they went about the lashings and eventual crucifixion reflect the sinful nature of mankind.  There were around 600 of them stationed around Pilate’s HQ.

  • Scarlet Robe: The color of scarlet was the color of royalty and was made from the murex sea snail, an expensive dye. The robe was put on Jesus as a way of mocking the idea that he was a king.

  • Crown of Thorns: There are a number of thorny plants in the Jerusalem area that could have been used to make this cruel crown that would have pierced Jesus’ head and caused severe pain. Again it is used to make a mockery of Jesus’ kingship.

  • Via Dolorosa – The Way of Suffering: Jesus walked a path from the Governor’s palace that eventually led to his crucifixion on Golgotha. Christians around the world memorialize this painful walk of redemptive suffering by Jesus through the “stations of the cross.” Part of this tradition are from Scripture and others are from church tradition. 

  • Crucifixion: This was the most painful and shameful means for a person to be executed in the Roman world. Jesus was stripped naked (shaming him in front of all), he would be put on display for all to see, unable to control his bodily functions, his body already in extreme pain from the beatings and torture, and eventually he would die from asphyxiation, unable to pull himself up to breathe. In some cases, the person would be on the cross for 2-3 days in agony.In the case of Jesus’ death, he went on his own timing, having died from the weight of the sin of the world.The other criminals crucified on Jesus’ left and right had their death’s hastened by the breaking of their legs which made it impossible for them to continue to raise themselves up for air.

Discussion Questions

  1. Read Matthew 27:11-26 to get the background of the scene.  Who are the players in this tragedy? What roles do they play?

  2. Who is responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion?

  3. Now read our passage, Matthew 27:27-31.

  4. Why were the Roman soldiers given the job of crucifying Jesus?

  5. What is the meaning of their antics? Giving Jesus a scarlet robe, a crown of thorns, etc…?

  6. Who did the Roman soldiers think of Jesus? How did they reflect the crowd’s animosity?

  7. What feelings do you have after picturing this scene?  Describe

  8. In what ways is Jesus mocked today in the world?

  9. Why is it important to reflect upon the death of Jesus during the Advent season?

  10. What do we know from the birth narratives of Jesus that would point to His eventual atoning sacrifice for us on the cross?

  11. Herod the Great played a role in trying to kill Jesus as a baby.  How does the fact that Pilate made the decision to turn over Jesus to the Jewish leaders in Herod’s former palace fit in the story?

  12. As you think about the birth of Jesus this Christmas, take time to thank Jesus for His obedience to His calling which included the pain and suffering of the cross.

  13. How might you share the good news of Jesus and His sacrificial love for them during the Christmas season?Share some ideas and then intentionally do them.

The Life of Jesus

Notes for December 8-9, 2018
Luke 4:16-30   

Biblical Background

  • Nazareth: Jesus was born in Bethlehem (House of Bread), fled to Egypt as a toddler with his parents, and once Herod was dead, his parents moved back to their home town of Nazareth. It is in the north of Israel to the West of the Sea of Galilee. It is estimated that it had between 1,600 – 2,000 people and so was a small town in which Jesus would have been known as one of the boys who had grown up there to be a man.

  • Reading of Scriptures: Since Jesus had grown up in Nazareth, people knew that he could read and he had most likely read before. One read the Torah Scroll standing up, but would sit down to teach (sitting in the seat of Moses). Often readers would read in Hebrew and then paraphrase it in Aramaic so that all could understand.

  • Torah Scroll: Synagogues had a special scroll that was kept in a box or closet for safe keeping. It was brought out for the reading of the Torah and often would be opened up to a passage for that day to read. So, it may be that Jesus just read the passage assigned or chose the passage from Isaiah. The scroll would be rolled open to a particular passage – thus one couldn’t flip to pages of another book very quickly as in our books.

  • Isaiah 61:1-2: the future of Israel is described as a Year of Jubilee, a concept developed in Leviticus 25. This was a year in which debts were forgiven, land given back, etc… It was a year to celebrate and start fresh again.

  • Fulfilled in your hearing: Jesus is stating clearly that He has is the fulfillment of this prophecy that had been written approximately 700 years prior to this reading. Imagine waiting that long for something to happen – you’d be surprised too!

  • Isn’t this Joseph’s son?: In Judaism, one was known by one’s father. They are surprised that a local boy, would make such a claim, after all, they had known him all of his life. How could he be so special?

  • Israel rejects its prophets: Israel had a history of rejecting and mistreating its prophets i.e. Jeremiah.

  • The marginalized of society: Jesus mentions the widows, sick, and even the non-Jews – the dirty Gentiles from Sidon and Syria.

  • Anger of the masses: Crowd rage takes over and they seek to throw him off a cliff or stone him. This wasn’t legal, but rage took over.

  • Jesus unharmed: Jesus is protected supernaturally by the Lord.

Discussion Questions

  1. Read Luke 4:14-15 to get the context of Jesus’ reading of the Torah.  What change takes place from the way he is treated prior to returning to Nazareth versus the way he is treated in his home town?  Why do you think this happens?

  2. What is significant about Jesus reading from Isaiah 61:1-2?  What is Jesus stating after he finishes the reading from the Torah scroll?

  3. What is the 5-fold mission of Jesus according to this passage in Isaiah that he reads?

  4. How does Jesus fulfill this mission during his time on earth?  Now?

  5. How did the people respond to Jesus’ statement that He had fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah 61?

  6. What do the proverbs that Jesus states in vv. 23 mean? 

  7. Have you ever noted that people are treated differently in their home town than in a new place? Why is this?

  8. Why do the people go from amazement to anger?

  9. Who are the Gentiles?  Why were they despised by the Jews?

  10. What can we learn from this story about Jesus’ view of people?

  11. How are we to carry on Jesus’ 5-fold mission?

  12. How can we carry out Jesus’ 5-fold mission in Greater Washington, the US and the world?

The Birth of Jesus

Notes for December 1-2, 2018
Luke 2:1-7 

Biblical Background

  • Censuses:  The Romans took censuses every 14 years to keep track of the populace and more importantly to be sure that they were receiving their tax revenue.

  • Caesar:  There is a contrast between the great earthly Roman “King” or “Caesar” and the “King of Kings” who comes to earth by humbling Himself to become a fetus in the womb of Mary and eventually be born – taking on human flesh.

  • Date for the birth of Christ:  Our current Western calendar was based on the birth of Christ – B.C. – “Before Christ” and A.D. – “Anno Domini” Latin for “the year of our Lord”.  However, scholars are not sure of the exact date for Christ’s birth – putting it somewhere between 4 B.C. and 6 A.D.  However the names of Caesar and also Quirinius, Governor of Syria and Herod the Great place the birth within the historical context of this time period.  Christianity is different from some religions in that historical context and time and place are important since they show the consistent work of God throughout history – as God’s plan for the redemption of the world unfolds.  It adds credibility to the historicity of Jesus Christ – something no reputable scholar would question.  It is clear that Jesus is not a legend or folklore hero made up by people.  He was born into this world and lived during this time period.

  • Bethlehem, the home of David’s line:  the name means “House of Bread.” It was the home of David the shepherd boy who became the king of Israel.  Joseph was a descendant of David and while he lived in Nazareth in Galilee where he met Mary, his ancestral home was Bethlehem.  As well, he probably had some kind of family property in Bethlehem (land, house, etc…) since the Romans would base their taxes in part on this property.  Of course, the Messiah was to come from the line of David, so Christ’s birth in Bethlehem and the fact that both Joseph and his mother, Mary descended from the tribe of Judah and from the family line of David is important for the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies.

  • Betrothed:  The Jewish betrothal was a very serious engagement period in which a couple and their families prepared for marriage.  Sexual intercourse was forbidden during this period as the first act of sexual intimacy was reserved for the wedding night. Thus, the fact that Mary was pregnant was scandalous.  Joseph, knowing that he had not had sexual relations with Mary, had to be told in a dream that Mary had been impregnated by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18-25).  This gave Joseph the courage and fortitude to travel with Mary and remain committed to her during the betrothal period.

  • Swaddling clothes:  These were clothes that were wrapped tightly around a baby to keep him snug and secure. 

  • Manger and cave:  This was a feeding trough used by animals.  This indicates that Mary gave birth in a stable – probably a rock cave carved into the hillside – common in Bethlehem.  The stable is a humble place for the King of Kings to be born into this world – another image of the humility of Jesus.

  • “Inn”:  The Greek word used here refers to a guest room rather than to a hotel or “inn” as we think of it in the Christmas pageants.  Normally Mary and Joseph would have stayed with relatives, but it appears in this case that due to the census, there was no room for them to stay, even with relatives – except in the stable. 

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is it important that Luke includes the mention Caesar Augustus and Quirinius, Governor of Syria, in this story?

  2. What was the purpose of a Roman census?

  3. Why did Joseph and Mary leave Galilee and go to Bethlehem?

  4. What is Bethlehem known for in the Old Testament? What do we know about Bethlehem?

  5. Why is the fact that Joseph belongs to the line of King David important to the story?

  6. What was the cultural perspective on a young woman being pregnant before her marriage?

  7. Why do you think Joseph was willing to remain committed to the pregnant Mary, knowing that he was not responsible for her pregnancy?

  8. How is Mary’s pregnancy different from any other pregnancy in history? How is it the same as any other pregnancy?

  9. Describe the scene of Jesus’ birth based on this passage in Luke.

  10. Read Malachi 5:1-6:  How is this Old Testament prophecy fulfilled through the birth of Jesus Christ?

  11. Read Psalm 2:  How is this Old Testament prophecy fulfilled through the birth of Jesus Christ?

  12. How does the understanding of the many prophetic fulfillments through the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ impact your faith?

  13. Familiar passages like this one which is read every Advent season can often become “old hat.” What have you learned or been inspired by as you’ve looked at this passage again?

  14. Pray for ways to share your faith in the “King of Kings” with your non-Christian colleagues and neighbors during this season of Advent.

The Conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus

Notes for November 24-25, 2018
John 3:1-16

Biblical Background

  • Nicodemus: Nicodemus was a wealthy and prominent Pharisee in Jerusalem. Thus, he was well educated in the Jewish law.

  • Comes at night: Nicodemus comes at night – in part John seems to be pointing this out as the themes of light and darkness end this section in vv. 17-19. As well, it may have been a practical thing as many Pharisees worked jobs during the day and studied at night. As well, it may be that Nicodemus was being cautious and didn’t want others to see him coming to Jesus for advice.

  • Born from above: This was a Jewish way of saying, “born from God.”

  • Reborn: Jewish writers spoke of Gentiles as being “newborns” in the faith, but wouldn’t have considered the need for a Jewish person to be reborn in the faith as they were already in. A Jew wouldn’t have had to convert. Thus, Nicodemus struggles at first with Jesus’ imagery – wondering if Jesus means a literal physical re-birth in which someone would have to climb back into his/her mother’s womb.

  • Gentile converts were baptized, born of water: Gentiles who converted to Judaism were baptized in order to remove the impurities of their Gentile-ness. Gentiles were seen as unclean. Someone “born of water,” were converts – went through a conversion process.

  • Ezekiel 36:26 (ESV): Jesus may be referring to this passage of the Old Testament in this passage as it is now fulfilled through the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit: “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

  • Ezekiel 37: This Old Testament passage refers to the Spirit as wind.

  • Nicodemus seems clueless: Not only was Nicodemus having a hard time initially understanding Jesus, but it is also a good literary technique, and one that was used in the day to help the reader follow the argument as Nicodemus helps bring clarity to Jesus’ words through his questions.

  • Jesus is an eyewitness to heaven: In Jewish law, only an eyewitness has the credibility to prove a point. So, in this case, only Jesus is able to speak about things in heaven since He had descended from heaven and come to earth.

  • “Lifting up”: In the Old Testament, Moses lifts up the serpent to bring healing (Numbers 21:4-9). In a future moment, Jesus is lifted up on the cross to bring our healing from sin, (John 12:32-33).

  • “Only begotten”: The literal translation from the Greek of this expression is, “special, beloved.” The translation in English also makes it clear that Jesus was not created as other humans are created by God since He is the Eternal God, who took on human flesh.

Discussion Questions

  1. What do we know about Nicodemus from these verses?

  2. Why do you think he came at night to see Jesus?

  3. How would you describe Jesus’ approach to answering Nicodemus’ questions? Why do you think he handled Nicodemus in this way?

  4. When Jesus talks about being born again in this passage what does Nicodemus think he means? Why do you think he misunderstands Jesus on this?

  5. What does Jesus mean by the expression, “born again”?

  6. What is “the water and the Spirit”?

  7. How does Jesus describe the work of the Spirit?

  8. Where else in Scripture is the Spirit involved in something being born or created?

  9. Why is Jesus alone able to talk about “heavenly things”?

  10. What is Jesus saying about Himself to Nicodemus?

  11. How is the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – involved in this passage? Why is it important to understand the Trinity’s work in this passage?

  12. Would you describe yourself as “born again”? Why or why not?

  13. Why did Jesus come into this world? How does knowing His purpose for coming into the world impact your feelings about Jesus?

Centurion of Great Faith

Notes for November 17-18, 2018
Matthew 8:5-12

Biblical Background

  • Gospel of Matthew: The Gospel of Matthew is written primarily to a Jewish audience, thus the large number of quotations to the Hebrew Scriptures and prophetic fulfillments mentioned.  In this case, Matthew is throwing off his readers and showing Jesus’ lack of partiality as He finds faith in an “unclean Gentile,” who even worse, is a Roman soldier – one of the occupiers of the land of Israel.

  • Capernaum: This was a crossroads city and thus would have had Roman soldiers stationed there to keep the peace and enforce Roman law.

  • Centurion: The centurion commanded between 60-80 troops – a “century”.  He was like the Sergeant Major of today’s army and enforced discipline among the troops.  Roman soldiers didn’t marry, but often had servants in their homes to take care of household chores while they were carrying out their duties. Roman soldiers were very disciplined and followed strict regimens.

  • “I will come and heal him”: Jesus breaks cultural norms by his willingness to come into an unclean Gentile’s home.  Devout Jewish people would not do this.

  • Great Faith of the Centurion: The centurion’s understanding of the power of authority and command/control structures is carried over from the natural world into the realm of the supernatural as he has the faith to believe that Jesus has authority in the supernatural world to command things to happen just as the centurion has authority to command his troops to do things.

  • Most Gentiles: to find faith in an unclean Gentile was a surprise to the Jewish people – there were not many Gentiles who followed their one God, although there were a few “God-fearers” around. Most Gentiles would have been pagans who worshipped many different gods including Caesar himself.

  • Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: These are the fathers of Israel. If you were descended from them, one assumed you would be at the future banquet in heaven.  However, Jesus dispels this idea stating that it is for those of faith, not just physical birth into the nation of Israel that leads to salvation.

  • Outer Darkness: This is the picture of separation from God and having fellowship with him.  The gnashing of teeth may reference Psalm 112:10.

Discussion Questions

  1. What do you know about Roman centurions?

  2. What is significant about a centurion coming to Jesus for help?

  3. How would Jesus’ Jewish audience respond to the idea of Jesus talking with and helping a centurion?

  4. Who are the “unclean” people that we encounter in our world who are outside of the church? How does our church respond to them? How do we respond to them?

  5. What do you think the relationship was like between the centurion and his servant?

  6. What is the request of the centurion to Jesus?

  7. How does Jesus respond initially to the centurion’s request? What would be unique about his response in a Jewish context?

  8. When have you stepped into a stranger’s home recently, especially someone from a different cultural background? What did it feel like? What happened?

  9. Why did the centurion have such trust and faith in the authority and power of Jesus’ words to heal from a distance?

  10. What lessons are there in the faith of the centurion for us today?

  11. How does Jesus commend the centurion and his faith?

  12. Why is it that some Jewish people did not pick up on Jesus’ authority and power?

  13. What are the implications from Jesus’ word that people from the East and West will enter the Kingdom of Heaven and partake in the feast of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?

  14. What are the implications in Jesus’ words that some will not enter the kingdom of heaven but be thrown into the darkness?

  15. Why is the truth of heaven and hell important to communicate to people today? After all, Jesus spoke of hell more than any other person in the Bible.

  16. How might you grow in faith? Discuss.

Mary of Bethany

Notes for Nov. 10-11, 2018
John 12:1-8

Biblical Background

  • Bethany: This small village is near Jerusalem on the other side of the Mount of Olives and would be a place for pilgrims to Jerusalem during the major festivals to stay.

  • Reclining at meals: People ate while reclining in the 1st century, laying on their left side, propped up on their left elbow and eating with their right hand.  One would never eat with the left hand as that was used for unclean activities.

  • Traveling teachers: Rabbis would travel as Jesus did and often be asked to be the guest of honor in return for giving a teaching for the guests.

  • A Pound of Ointment: The size of this ointment would be around 12 oz of expensive perfume. A flask of perfume normally carried about 1 oz. so this is an extravagant amount of ointment/perfume being poured out.

  • Value of the oil: This perfume was probably worth about a year’s worth of wages for a common laborere.  Thus, this was a very expensive gift to Jesus in monetary terms.  This represents a major sacrifice on Mary’s part and displays her love for Jesus – valuing Him above all others.

  • Treatment of Feet: It was a common practice to provide water for people to wash their feet upon entering a home as people would be traveling on dirty, dusty roads.  However, the washing of feet with oil that was normally used for the anointing of one’s head would be unique.

  • Oil for anointing the head: A symbol of honor would be to anoint a guest with a drop of oil on their head to freshen them up.

  • Judas and the Finances: Rabbis would need money to finance their teaching and school.   These funds would be entrusted to a trustworth person to manage. Judas’ character is exposed here as he is described as a thief.

  • Anointing of dead bodies: The anointing of a dead body with oil was meant to do two things:  1) show dignity and honor to the body (all physical bodies are created by God and thus are not to be desecrated) and 2) provice some sanitary and hygenic purpose by cleaning the body as once it began to decompose in the tomb it would begin to smell.

  • Poor always with us: Jesus is alluding to Deuteronomy 15:11 and is not condemning generosity to the poor, but rather pointing out the importance of what Mary is doing to him by anointing him with oil as a symbol of his upcoming death and burial.

Discussion Questions

  1. What do we know about this scene? Who is Lazarus, Mary and Martha? Where is Bethany? What is the Passover?

  2. Why do you think a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor?

  3. What was Martha doing during the dinner? Why is this an important role to play?

  4. What was Lazarus doing? What was his role in the dinner?

  5. Knowing the value of the perfume that Mary pulled out and then poured out on Jesus’ feet, how would you have responded if you’d seen this during the dinner?

  6. What do you think Mary’s motivation behind this extravagant act was? What is she expressing to Jesus?

  7. What senses are being used to take in this entire experience? Why is this important?

  8. What is Judas’ response to this extravagant act? Why did he respond this way?

  9. Why did John as the author of this Gospel share more about Judas and his character in this story?

  10. What is Jesus’ response to Judas’ critique of this extravagant act of Mary?

  11. How is this act of pouring perfume/oil on Jesus’ feet symbolic of his eventual burial?

  12. How might the wise men’s gift of myrrh, another expensive perfume foreshadow this story?

  13. Why is this act of love important for us to know about?

  14. In what ways can we express our love for Jesus in extravagant ways?

The Rich Young Ruler

Notes for November 3-4, 2018
Matthew 19:16-29

Biblical Background

  • Good: Judaism described one of God’s primary attributes as goodness and even used “Good” as a title for God. Thus, Jesus is pointing out that only God is ultimately – “Good.”

  • The Human-directed commandments: Jesus begins by asking the young man if he has kept the commands directed toward human to human relationship to which the young man responds affirmatively.  It is possible that the young man felt that he had kept these human directed commandments in an outward fashion.

  • God-directed commandments: Here Jesus is honing in on the heart of the young man as it is God who reads the heart and can determine one’s obedience to the commandments to follow God above all other idols.

  • Jesus’ demand to sell all, give to the poor and come follow me: Jesus’ request is radical and beyond that of any demands put on Jewish people for the cause of charity.  It is also rare in Greek teaching for a teacher to demand this kind of asceticism.  Jesus is clearly getting to the heart of the man’s ultimate love and loyalty.

  • Young Man’s response: the young man expects as many comfortable, wealthy young men would – not willing to give up their comfortable life and turn his life over to God.

  • Camel going through the Eye of a needle: While there is a gate in the old city wall of Jerusalem by which a camel would need to kneel down to go through – “the camel’s gate,” that gate dates to the 2nd century AD after the time of Jesus.  This legend of the “camel’s gate” doesn’t work for this passage. Jesus is referring to an actual “needle” used in sewing.  The Babylonian Talmud speaks of the impossibility of an elephant going through the eye of a needle, even in a dream. Archaeology has discovered some 1st century needles which were used for sewing and used for carpet thread and were tiny. The contrast is between one of the largest animals in the Middle East and one of the smallest openings one could see which points to the near impossibility of the proposition.

  • Hyperbole: Jesus is using the communication technique of hyperbole (extreme contrast) to get his point across.  God demands all of us, not just our things and few are willing to give it all to place under God’s control.

  • God’s reward: Jesus makes it clear that the reward for giving everything up to follow Him is greater than anything that we could ever keep on this earth.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is the nature of the young man’s question to Jesus? What do you think is the reason for his question?

  2. What do you think was the young man’s view on how one obtained eternal life?

  3. Which commands does Jesus first ask the man about in verses 18 and 19? What do these commands have in common?

  4. Have you obeyed these commands for the most part in your life? Could you justify the following of these commands as did the young man? How do you think most people would answer concerning the obedience to these commands in our culture today?

  5. What is going on in the young man’s mind when he asks, “What do I still lack?”

  6. What is Jesus’ demand upon the young man’s life? Go through this demand line by line and reflect upon it – what is Jesus asking him to do?

  7. Rather than rationalize this demand of Jesus away in applying it to our own situation as wealthy Americans (Most Americans are among the world’s top 10% wealthiest in the world – if you’re even lower middle class), reflect upon how you might respond to this demand if Jesus were to ask it of you today.

  8. What does the young man’s response to Jesus’ demand show about his heart – what is going on inside his inner self?

  9. What does Jesus mean when he states that it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get into heaven? Discuss

  10. Is Jesus’ statement still true today? Why or why not? Discuss.

  11. What is the response of the disciples to this exchange between the rich young man and Jesus? How might we respond if we were to witness this exchange today?

  12. What is the response of Peter to Jesus’ demand? Does Peter follow through on this throughout his life?

  13. What rewards are there for those who give up all to follow Jesus?

  14. Share examples of people that you know who you think have given up all to follow Jesus.

  15. Reflect upon this question: Are you willing to give up all to follow Jesus? Read the quote by C.S. Lewis and Jim Elliot and for more insight.

Come to Me, Rest

Notes for Oct. 27-28, 2018
Matthew 11:25-30

Biblical Background

  • The wise and understanding vs. the little children: Jesus is echoing the Old Testament teaching on wisdom which begins with “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7) and “the beginning of wisdom,” (Psalm 111:10). It is not those who have become wise in their own eyes, but those to whom God has revealed His truth that have wisdom. Thus, one must approach God as a little child does his parents in order to learn knowledge and gain wisdom.

  • Rest to the weary: Jesus offers a rest beyond anything other teachers could promise. He provides the kind of refreshment described in Isaiah 40:28-31. True Sabbath rest which restores the soul and rejuvenates a weary.

  • The yoke: The yoke was a symbol of obedience in Judaism to the law of God. It was a heavy load which ultimately no one could carry. In contrast, Jesus offers a yoke that is easy to carry (through his grace). Jesus’ teaching is in contrast to the heavy-handedness of the Pharisees who through legalism weighed the people down.

  • Gentle and lowly in heart: Meekness is the ability to know one’s self, yet remain in a position of humility with strength – much like a powerful stallion who is able to control his power to carry a child.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is the good news of Jesus Christ hidden from those with “wisdom and understanding”?

  2. Why does God reveal things to “children”? What does this mean?

  3. What can hinder us from understanding God’s wisdom and understanding today?

  4. Who are the “wise and understanding” in our world today that people turn to who may not understand the things of God?

  5. What does it mean that it was “God’s good pleasure,” to do something?

  6. What is the relationship between God the Father and God the Son? Describe it in detail.

  7. Why is it important to understand this relationship in the Trinity?

  8. What does it mean to be weary, burdened and heavy laden in this context?

  9. Who was laying burdens upon the people?

  10. Who places heavy burdens on you to carry?

  11. What does Jesus mean when He tells us to take up His yoke?

  12. How does a yoke work? How could it be made easy and light?

  13. How does a yoke uniting two animals together work to make the work easier? How might this apply to Christian discipleship?

  14. What does it mean that Jesus is gentle and lowly in heart? Why would this be a good thing for you?

That They May Be One

Notes for Oct. 6, 2018
John 17:20-26

Biblical Background

  • Unity of God the Father and God the Son: The unity of the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit is an essential aspect of God’s character. Thus, God’s people are to reflect this same character of unity or oneness as they worship the same Trinitarian God. As God’s people are united in purpose and worship they demonstrate that they are part of God’s family and become witnesses to the world of God’s goodness and loving character.

  • So that the world may believe: When Christians are united in true unity through their common faith in Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life, the only way to reconciliation with God, they give the world a reason to believe. Christians as well will always be a minority in the world as a whole, yet it is their love for one another that will attract others to the faith.

  • Before the foundation of the world: Jesus, as part of the Trinity, was not created as we are or as our world was created. Rather, Jesus created the world and has existed for eternity. It is for this reason that we use the word “begotten” when describing Jesus the Son of God. Begotten points to his everlasting existence before the foundation or creation of the world as we know it.

Discussion Questions

  1. Who is Jesus praying for in this prayer?

  2. How can we as believers join in Jesus’ prayer for those who will believe?

  3. What is the goal of Jesus’ prayer?

  4. What does it mean for Christian’s to be united?

  5. Watch the Youtube video to get J.I. Packer’s understanding of Christian unity. What comments do you have after watching his short commentary?

  6. Whose example of unity are we to follow?

  7. How do God the Father and God the Son reflect unity and love for one another?

  8. What is needed for authentic, true Christian unity? What does it look like in our world today?

  9. What does false unity in Christian circles look like? Share some examples.

  10. How does authentic Christian unity point others to faith in Jesus Christ? Why and how is it attractive?

  11. Share specific times or moments when you have experienced Christian unity in your life. What made these moments stand apart?

  12. What are some specific ways this week that you can display authentic Christian unity in your workplace? Home? Neighborhood?

  13. Take some time to pray for unity in our church, the church of Greater Washington, D.C., the global church.

Link to Sermons

The Prayer of Jesus

Notes for Sept. 30, 2018
John 17:1-19 

Biblical Background

  • Prayer Posture: “He lifted up his eyes to heaven,” - this posture in prayer is spoken of in other Jewish literature, especially in the intertestamental books of the Apocrypha. Our physical posture does play a role in our prayers and may vary on the situation. In the Bible we find people praying standing up, with arms raised, prostrate on the ground, and in other positions of prayer as well.

  • Jesus’ Relationship with the Father: Jesus is unique and receives glory from and gives glory to the Father. The Father has also given Jesus all authority to grant eternal life. These are clearly signs of Jesus’ deity and position in the Trinity.

  • Glory: The Old Testament states in Isaiah 42:8 and 48:11 that God does not give His glory to another. Jesus’ claim to share in the Father’s glory is a clear statement about His deity.

  • Manifested the Name of God: In the Old Testament, the name of God, “I am,” which is the essence of being is holy and displayed through His character and actions. Jesus through his word and deed displays God – reveals God – manifests God.

  • Jesus’ Prayer for His Disciples: this prayer describes the battle Jesus’ disciples will be in against the world. The Qumran community that was the source of the “Dead Sea Scrolls” wrote of the battle between the children of God (light) and the children of darkness. This spiritual idea is given more meaning through Jesus’ prayer.

  • “Son of destruction”: The expression “son of …” is an idiom that associates a person with a particular quality or trait. Thus the “son of destruction,” in v. 12 may be a reference to Judas, also seen in a reference in John 13:18. This may also be an allusion to Psalm 41:9 which dealt with apostates.

  • Being Sanctified: This word means to be “set apart,” for righteousness. The children of Israel had been set apart from the other nations for God and now Jesus is asking that His disciples be set apart or sanctified as they are identified in contrast to the people of darkness in the world.


Discussion Questions

  1. What posture was Jesus in when he prayed in this passage? Why is this important?

  2. What postures do you use when you pray? Describe why you pray in various postures.

  3. What is the relationship between Jesus and the Father? Describe

  4. What kind of authority does Jesus have? Why is this important to know? How does this impact the way you live your life? Do you view Jesus more as a friend or a person with the ultimate authority?

  5. What does it mean to glorify someone? How do Jesus and the Father glorify one another?

  6. How do you glorify your Heavenly Father? Describe

  7. Who gave the disciples to Jesus? What are the implications for us in understanding this idea?

  8. Who is Jesus praying for? Knowing that you are a disciple of Jesus, what do you think Jesus is doing now for you? How does this impact the way you live your life?

  9. What is Jesus’ prayer for His disciples? You?

  10. What does it mean to be in the world?

  11. How can we be protected by Jesus from the world? Describe

  12. What does it mean to be “sanctified”?

  13. How can we be “sanctified” and what does it look like?

  14. How can you join Jesus in praying for His disciples today?

  15. Take time to pray for everyone in your group using the prayer of Jesus.

Grace and Bearing One Another's Burdens

Notes for June 10, 2018
Galatians 6:1-6

Biblical Background

  • Brothers and sisters: Paul is addressing disciples of Jesus Christ. While all people are created in the image of God, not all people are children of God. We must be adopted into God’s family through faith in Jesus Christ. Only then do we become children of God and thus brothers and sisters in Christ. There are expectations for brothers and sisters in Christ that are different from non-believers – the reason being that we have the Holy Spirit within us and are also family.

  • Accountability within the church: Paul is establishing an approach and attitude toward mutual accountability in the church. It is based on a mutual love and care for one another rather than a hierarchical “holier than thou” approach.

  • Gentleness or Humility: This fruit of the Spirit is essential for Christian character and life. Judaism had always valued humility, however, that wasn’t always the case in the Greco-Roman world.

  • Keep watch on yourself: It is easy to find fault with others, however, as a Christian, we are called to be aware of the sinful habits and temptations in our own life, in humility ask the Lord and others for help. If we see sin in another, we are better to help them in humility, gently confronting them on their issue as we confess that we too are in need of mutual accountability.

  • Bearing or Carrying Burdens: Roman soldiers were allowed to order civilians to carry things for them – thus the idea of placing a load on someone else to carry. This image would be a daily image as people in the 1st century were always carrying loads. The image is one of subservience – serving someone else. In this example, however, it is placed in the context of helping someone else overcome sin in their life.

  • Carry your own load: Greek literature stressed independence, much like American culture. Self-sufficiency was exalted and taking care of yourself. However, Paul twists this concept and while he says we need to carry our load, we also need to carry the load of others. In other words, within the church rather than people being totally independent, we are called to be interdependent – being responsible for our life, yet at the same time ready to help others and also be helped.

  • Support your teachers: In Greek culture, many teachers required a fee for their services. In this case, Paul is telling Christians to give back to our teachers, pastors, in practical ways by remunerating them. Teaching is a service and “the worker is worth his wages.”


Discussion Questions

  1. Who is Paul writing to in Chapter 6 – “brothers and sisters”?

  2. What should be the relationship between brothers and sisters in Christ? Describe

  3. How does it feel to get caught in a sin?

  4. How does it feel to catch someone in a sin?

  5. What is to be our response when we catch someone sinning?

  6. What does it mean to be a spiritual person as described in v. 1?

  7. What is Paul’s warning to those who catch someone in sin? What does this warning remind you of from Jesus’ teachings?

  8. What is a burden? Describe different kinds of burdens.

  9. How can we help carry other people’s burdens? What does this look like?

  10. What does it mean to carry our own load?

  11. When should we allow others to help us carry our load?

  12. How can we persuade others to let us help carry their load?

  13. What is the basic principle at work here? Summarize

  14. How are we to treat our teachers, pastors, mentors according to v. 6?

  15. Identify people in your life today that you might be able to help in carrying their load. Pray for the Lord’s leading in this area.

Grace in Marriage

Notes for June 3, 2018
John 2: 1-11

Biblical Background

  • On the third day: This beginning of the passage “on the third day” in reference to the wedding celebration could be a hint foreshadowing Jesus’ promise in John 2:19 that the resurrection will occur after three days. This is probably not referring to the third day of the week as in Jewish culture, virgins were married on the 4th day of the week and widows on the 5th day of the week.

  • Cana: This village would have been near to Jesus’ home town of Nazareth, thus the invitation to come to a wedding of friends or relatives of Jesus’ family.

  • Weddings in 1st century Jewish culture: Weddings were large celebrations and lasted 7 days. It was common to invite dignitaries and rabbis to such events.

  • Running out of wine: It would be scandalous for the host of the wedding to not provide enough wine for the event – for the full seven days. So, Jesus’ miracles helps this family avoid a social gaffe.

  • Wedding gifts: Fortunately for the hosts of a wedding, one of the social responsibilities was for the guests to provide wedding gifts (money, valuables, presents) that could help defray the overall cost of the wedding. In this case, Mary notices the problem and helps defray some of the expenses through her son’s miracle.

  • “Woman”: This would have been comparable to our polite, “Mam”. It was a sign of respect, but not necessarily a term one would commonly use with your mom.

  • What does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come: Jesus’ hour is a reference to the future when he will be crucified and pay the penalty for our sin. So, Jesus knows that when the miracles begin, his journey to the cross begins. Thus, he let’s his mom know that this is an important point of demarcation.

  • Mary is persistent: Just as many characters in the Old Testament (Jacob, Moses, and others) Mary is persistent in asking God for a miracle. She is demonstrating strong faith in Jesus’ ability to do this miracle.

  • Stone Jars: These large stone jars were large enough to fill a Jewish “Mikvah” the pool where people could go to for ceremonial cleansing and purification. There may be some symbolism here in that these large purification jars are providing wine – the symbol of Jesus’ blood in the future that purifies us from sin. Stone jars were also more sanitary than other types of ceramic jars for example.

  • Master of the banquet: this was a position of honor bestowed on someone. One of their duties was to distribute the wine in quantities of sufficiency to provide refreshment, but not so much as to get people inebriated.

  • Best wine normally first: After drinking wine, one’s palate is desensitized so that one doesn’t discern as many notes in the wine. Thus, the best wine was normally served first. In this case, Jesus’ miraculous wine is better than the finest wine available for the wedding. Additional punctuation on the power of the miracle.

  • Jesus’ first sign: Just as Moses’ first sign introduced his ministry to the children of Israel and (the turning of water into blood), so Jesus’ first signal that he has begun his ministry is the turning of water into wine – which in the Lord’s Supper would symbolize the blood of Jesus.


Discussion Questions

  1. Why would the writer, John, begin this narrative with the expression, “on the third day”?

  2. Why were Mary, Jesus and disciples attending a wedding?

  3. What is the importance of the wedding celebration in biblical culture? What do you know about Jewish weddings in Jesus’ day? How about today?

  4. What do we learn about Jesus and his mother, Mary, and their relationship from this story?

  5. Jesus hadn’t yet done any miracles, why do you think Mary approaches him now?

  6. How do you interpret the dialogue between Jesus and Mary? What is going on here?

  7. What is significant about Jesus having water poured into what were probably ceremonial cleansing stone jars?

  8. Can you think of other biblical stories in which a miracle with water was performed in the Old Testament? How might that be a foreshadowing of what Jesus does here?

  9. How do you think the servants felt about this when Jesus asked them to take the water to the host?

  10. How did the host feel when he tasted the water turned into wine?

  11. How might the quality and the quantity of the wine reflect the character of Jesus?

  12. Why did Jesus’ first miracle take place at a celebration of a wedding?

  13. What did the miracle reveal? Why is this important?

  14. What was the response of Jesus’ disciples to this miracle?

  15. In what ways have you experienced the joy and celebration of Jesus in your life? What do you think he rejoices about in your life? In the life of our church?

  16. How can we give extravagantly and generously to help others celebrate the joys of life?

Grace and Friendship

Notes for May 20, 2018
John 15:12-17

Biblical Background

  • Greek and Roman Stories: Greek and Roman literature viewed the act of dying for one’s friend as heroic and was the greatest act of friendship. An example is story in which Pythias offered to be killed in place of his friend Damon, or the story in which Achilles goes into battle to avenge the death of his best friend Patroclus. These heroic friendship stories would have been known by many within the Hellenistic Jewish community.

  • Friendship in Roman times: The Greeks and Romans valued friendship and emphasized an equality of standing and ability to share intimately with others. Loyalty was the primary attribute of friendship in this culture. Servants were not considered on the same level as a friend.

  • Friends of God: In the Old Testament, Abraham and Moses were called, “friends of God,” attesting to their intimate relationship with God.

  • Jewish rabbis didn’t choose their disciples – Jesus did: In 1st century Judaism, disciples would choose the rabbi that they wanted to follow. In Jesus’ case, however, he chose his disciples – he took the initiative.

  • Chosen by God: Judaism emphasized the idea that the Jewish people were the “chosen people,” those chosen by God to represent God to the world.


Discussion Questions

  1. What is Jesus’ commandment to his disciples?

  2. How did Jesus love his disciples? Give examples

  3. What can we learn from Jesus’ love for his disciples?

  4. What is the greatest example of love? How did Jesus model this for us?

  5. How can you and I lay down our lives for our friends on a daily basis?

  6. What are the implications for us if we do not obey the commands of Jesus?

  7. What does a friend of Jesus look like?

  8. What does it mean to you to be a friend of Jesus? How does this affect your everyday life?

  9. How does it make you feel to know that Jesus chose you rather than the other way around?

  10. What does Jesus expect you to do now that He has chosen you?

  11. What does it mean to bear fruit?

  12. What does it mean to abide in Jesus? What does this look like practically speaking on a daily basis?

  13. How are we to be equipped to live lives that are in obedience to Jesus and to bear fruit?

  14. Why would Jesus tell us to ask the Father for things? How did Jesus model this?

  15. Share examples in which you have seen people lay down their lives for others as Christ commanded.

Grace Toward Our Enemies

Notes for May 13, 2018
1 Peter 3:8-22

Biblical Background

  • List of virtues: It was a common practice for both Greek and Hebrew ethicists and moralists to create lists of virtues in their writing. We see this in verses 8-9 of this passage.

  • Psalm 34:12-16: Peter quotes this portion of the Psalm as he encourages Christians to turn from evil and to live righteous and holy lives.

  • God not only hears the righteous but he opposes those who are evil: It is an important biblical truth that God is active in this world opposing evil, and encouraging the righteous. God is not passively watching like the God of Deism, but rather is taking action in His way, all the while honoring and respecting the freewill that He gave all human beings to choose to good or evil.

  • A Literary Chiasm: Peter uses a literary tool called the chiasm in verses 3:16- 4:2.

A – Slanderers will be ashamed (3:16)

B- Suffering though innocent God’s Will (3:17)

C- Christ suffered for unjust (3:18)

D- Christ triumphed over evil spirits (3:19)

E- Noah saved through water (3:20)

E- You are saved through water (3:21)

D- Christ triumphed over evil spirits (3:22)

C- Christ suffered (4:1a)

B- Suffering is God’s will (4:1b-2)

A- Slanderers will be ashamed (4:3-5)

  • Jesus preached to the spirits in prison: In the Apostle’s Creed we proclaim our belief that Jesus “descended into hell.” This part of the creed is based on 1 Peter 3:19 and 4:6 which states, “For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.” Acts 2:27 and Romans 10:7 also inform this part of the creed. Most evangelical scholars believe that “spirits in prison” are either fallen angels or sinful people who were in “Hades” or “Hell” – separated from God upon death, but preached to by Jesus following His crucifixion – the act by which salvation was then made possible to all who put their trust in Him – both pre- and post-crucifixion. The predominant view of this text is that Jesus proclaimed his triumph over evil to the fallen angels in hell. Others believe that Jesus preached to the dead in hell – a view held by many church fathers. A minority view believes this means Jesus preached through Noah to the people in Noah’s day (view of most of the Reformers). This is a difficult passage that has some mystery to it.

  • Salvation through Water: This is a common symbol in Scripture – Noah saved by ark from flood; people of Israel saved through parting water of the Red Sea; Baptism – a symbol of spiritual salvation.

  • Right Hand of God: The place of honor at a table in the biblical world was just to the right of the host. Thus, to be at the right hand of God means that one has been put in the most honored place. Jesus, the Son of God, sits at the right hand of God the Father, a symbol of their unity, and the honor given to Jesus – a place of authority and power as well.

  • Authorities and Powers: The Bible consistently speaks of angels, demons and other created beings in the spiritual realm who rule and fight over nations and regions of the world. See the book of Daniel for this and Revelation.


Discussion Questions

  1. What does it mean to repay evil and insults with a blessing? What does this look like?

  2. Share examples in which you have seen this done. What was the end result?

  3. Why is it hard to repay evil and insults with a blessing? How can we develop this discipline and practice?

  4. How does Peter’s quote of Psalm 34 support the verses in 2:11 – 3:9?

  5. What stands out to you in this Psalm?

  6. How would you describe God’s role on this earth in regards to evil and good people, angels and principalities?

  7. What does it mean to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”?

  8. Do you feel equipped to share the Hope of Jesus with all who ask? If so, how have you been equipped? If not, what do you think you need to be able to be prepared to give an answer to all who ask?

  9. What should be our attitude when sharing our faith with non-Christians?

  10. Share good examples in which you’ve been able to share the hope of Christ and give an answer for your faith.

  11. What reasons do we have for hope even in the midst of suffering?

  12. How does Christ’s example encourage us when in the midst of suffering and pain?

  13. How do you hope to live out this passage this week?

Grace and Courage

Grace and Courage

Paul like many of the Old Testament prophets received special knowledge and revelation from God through visions – supernatural experiences in which God communicated intimately and clearly with Paul. While these visions and revelations are not everyday occurrences, even in the lives of the apostles and prophets, they were a powerful means of revelation from God.

Grace for All Peoples

Grace for All Peoples

Non-Jews were Gentiles. The Jewish people considered Gentiles to be, “unclean”, “goy”, “non-Kosher,” “pork-eating” and uncircumcised. They were considered to be “without God,” not knowing the true God. This is ironic as the Jews and Christians were considered atheists by other religions –since they didn’t have visible gods or idols.

Like New Wine for the Thirsty

Notes for March 18, 2018
John 2:1-12

Biblical Background

  • On the third day: This beginning of the passage “on the third day” in reference to the wedding celebration could be a hint foreshadowing Jesus’ promise in John 2:19 that the resurrection will occur after three days. This is probably not referring to the third day of the week as in Jewish culture, virgins were married on the 4th day of the week and widows on the 5th day of the week.

  • Cana: This village would have been near to Jesus’ home town of Nazareth, thus the invitation to come to a wedding of friends or relatives of Jesus’ family.

  • Weddings in 1st century Jewish culture: Weddings were large celebrations and lasted 7 days. It was common to invite dignitaries and rabbis to such events.

  • Running out of wine: It would be scandalous for the host of the wedding to not provide enough wine for the event – for the full seven days. So, Jesus’ miracles helps this family avoid a social gaffe.

  • Wedding gifts: Fortunately for the hosts of a wedding, one of the social responsibilities was for the guests to provide wedding gifts (money, valuables, presents) that could help defray the overall cost of the wedding. In this case, Mary notices the problem and helps defray some of the expenses through her son’s miracle.

  • “Woman”: This would have been comparable to our polite, “Mam”. It was a sign of respect, but not necessarily a term one would commonly use with your mom.

  • What does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come: Jesus’ hour is a reference to the future when he will be crucified and pay the penalty for our sin. So, Jesus knows that when the miracles begin, his journey to the cross begins. Thus, he let’s his mom know that this is an important point of demarcation.

  • Mary is persistent: Just as many characters in the Old Testament (Jacob, Moses, and others) Mary is persistent in asking God for a miracle. She is demonstrating strong faith in Jesus’ ability to do this miracle.

  • Stone Jars: These large stone jars were large enough to fill a Jewish “Mikvah” the pool where people could go to for ceremonial cleansing and purification. There may be some symbolism here in that these large purification jars are providing wine – the symbol of Jesus’ blood in the future that purifies us from sin. Stone jars were also more sanitary than other types of ceramic jars for example.

  • Master of the banquet: this was a position of honor bestowed on someone. One of their duties was to distribute the wine in quantities of sufficiency to provide refreshment, but not so much as to get people inebriated.

  • Best wine normally first: After drinking wine, one’s palate is desensitized so that one doesn’t discern as many notes in the wine. Thus, the best wine was normally served first. In this case, Jesus’ miraculous wine is better than the finest wine available for the wedding. Additional punctuation on the power of the miracle.

  • Jesus’ first sign: Just as Moses’ first sign introduced his ministry to the children of Israel and (the turning of water into blood), so Jesus’ first signal that he has begun his ministry is the turning of water into wine – which in the Lord’s Supper would symbolize the blood of Jesus.


Discussion Questions

  1. Why would the writer, John, begin this narrative with the expression, “on the third day”?

  2. Why were Mary, Jesus and disciples attending a wedding?

  3. What is the importance of the wedding celebration in biblical culture? What do you know about Jewish weddings in Jesus’ day? How about today?

  4. What do we learn about Jesus and his mother, Mary, and their relationship from this story?

  5. Jesus hadn’t yet done any miracles, why do you think Mary approaches him now?

  6. How do you interpret the dialogue between Jesus and Mary? What is going on here?

  7. What is significant about Jesus having water poured into what were probably ceremonial cleansing stone jars?

  8. Can you think of other biblical stories in which a miracle with water was performed in the Old Testament? How might that be a foreshadowing of what Jesus does here?

  9. How do you think the servants felt about this when Jesus asked them to take the water to the host?

  10. How did the host feel when he tasted the water turned into wine?

  11. How might the quality and the quantity of the wine reflect the character of Jesus?

  12. Why did Jesus’ first miracle take place at a celebration of a wedding?

  13. What did the miracle reveal? Why is this important?

  14. What was the response of Jesus’ disciples to this miracle?

  15. In what ways have you experienced the joy and celebration of Jesus in your life? What do you think he rejoices about in your life? In the life of our church?

  16. How can we give extravagantly and generously to help others celebrate the joys of life?

The Act of Grace

Notes for Feb. 25, 2018
2 Corinthians 8:1-11

Biblical Background

  • Paul’s previous comments on giving: In 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, Paul tells the Corinthians about the need to collect funds to help Christians in need.

  • Positive Role Models and Comparison of rivals: Paul uses a standard rhetorical technique for his day which was to offer models for the audience to compare themselves to. In this case, he highlights the positive generosity of the Macedonian churches as an example to follow. In this case as well, there was a regional rivalry in the culture between Macedonia and Corinth, so it might be like telling Washington Redskin fans about the generosity of the Dallas Cowboys as a means of spawning some healthy competition.

  • Hardship in Macedonia: The Macedonian church had endured some persecution and hardship, so their example of generosity toward other churches – even giving beyond their means – was a stirring example of sacrifice for the kingdom.

  • Giving alms according to one’s ability: The Old Testament encourages giving, each according to one’s ability to give (Deuteronomy 15:14; Ezra 2:69) but here the Macedonians give beyond their ability.

  • Privilege of Giving: The Macedonians see their giving as a means of showing hospitality toward others and counted it a privilege rather than an obligation.

  • In service to the saints: The Macedonians saw giving as a means of serving the Christians who had less than they had.

  • Titus began the appeal: Titus had asked the Corinthians earlier to help out the churches in need.

  • The grace or gift of giving: Giving is a spiritual gift just as is teaching, faith, etc…

  • Not commanding the act of giving: Biblical giving occurs when a person’s motivation comes from the heart, from within. It is not forced or coerced or manipulated.

  • Christ the ultimate example in giving: Christians should be giving as a means of imitating their Lord

  • Corinthian Church was a wealthy church: The Corinthian church had means and wealth and so Paul is encouraging to share with those churches that don’t have as much.


Discussion Questions

  1. What is the “grace of God” given to the Macedonian churches?

  2. Paul shares the example of the Macedonian Churches giving generously to churches in need. Why does he do this do you think?

  3. What can we learn about giving from the Macedonian churches?

  4. How did the Macedonian churches view the act of giving?

  5. What does it mean to “given oneself first to the Lord and then to us”?

  6. How can we do God’s will according to this passage?

  7. What gifts had God given the Corinthian church?

  8. What gifts has God given our church?

  9. Why doesn’t Paul command the Corinthians to give?

  10. How is Jesus Christ a model for us in giving? Why is this an important point?

  11. How often does Paul ask the Corinthians to give to churches less fortunate than their own?

  12. What are some examples in which you’ve seen wealthy churches like the Corinthian church give generously to other churches who may be in need?

  13. How might God be calling our church to give generously to other churches who not as well off financially than ours?

  14. How might God be calling you to give generously toward the work of God?

  15. Share an example of biblical generosity.