This week's study invites us to stand in the crowd watching a miracle. Will we believe it, question it, reject or accept the possibility? Will we follow the healer?
(35) Belief and Unbelief
How do we react to the “unlikely”? If we see something that doesn’t seem possible, do we:
1. Ask everyone else what they think happened?
2. Go away to think and research privately?
3. Tell yourself you were mistaken?
4. Tell everyone else they must have been mistaken?
Read Matthew 9:27-31
1. Why two ? The number has symbolic meaning, but does it have human implications too?
2. What makes us more or less likely to say “Yes, I believe”?
3. Would you find it easy or hard to keep quiet? Why?
Read Matthew 9:32-34
1. Do you want to identify with the man, the crowd, or the Pharisees?
2. Can you think of times when others might have identified you with
a. the man, (did religious people think he was heading in a “wrong” direction)
b. the crowd, (did religious leaders see them as too eager to accept a “new” thing)
c. or the Pharisees (too cautious and critical for their own good, perhaps)?
Matthew places these two miracles straight after Jairus’ daughter and the woman in the crowd. He follows with Jesus sending the disciples out to teach and heal—an odd juxtaposition when Jesus has just warned others to keep quiet. But his account rejoins Mark’s after the “teaching digression,” so let’s start our next story with Mark: Read Mark 6:1-6
1. Does it surprise you how quickly they move from “amazed” to “offended”?
2. How easily are we swayed by “the crowd”?
3. How do we keep a right balance between what we know, what we assume, and what we are learning from God
Read Matthew 13:53-58 The people are responding to Jesus’ “wisdom” as well as his “miracles.”
1. What do we respond to most—what we see or what we hear?
2. What do we respond to most carefully—what we see or what we hear?
3. What do we emphasize in our faith—wisdom, miracles, relationship…?
Luke places this story earlier (and we’ve already read Luke 4:16-30 in an earlier study. The chronology we’re following takes Jesus and the disciples through many villages (Mark 6:6), and we’ll assume this is on his way south to Jerusalem, to another Festival. Next week’s study will look at events and teaching there, but first, let’s just set the scene…
Jesus’ last visit to Jerusalem coincided with Passover (John 2:13), so next week’s stories could coincide with Pentecost, just a few weeks later (which wouldn’t leave much time for all the Galilean events we’ve just studied), or it could be a festival in the following year. Since Pentecost celebrates the giving of the law to Moses, and John 5:39 shows Jesus teaching about the law, this “second” visit to Jerusalem is usually imagined to take place at Pentecost after a year of Galilean ministry. For those who like dates, Jesus’ first trip to Jerusalem (first cleansing of the Temple, meeting with Nicodemus, etc) might be in Spring AD 27, and this second one in early summer AD 28.