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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Entering the Gates

With six studies left before summer in our Coffee Break Bible Study year,  Easter coming soon, and the writing of Jerusalem Journey very much on my mind (Galilee's Gift will come out soon), my study group friends have kindly agreed to let me lead six studies on the Passion. Here's number 1.

Revisiting the Passion – where to begin?

1.      Our pastor's Lenten sermon series follows two disciples on the road to Emmaus, effectively preparing us for the story of the Passion by beginning after it has happened. What do you think we gain by viewing a familiar story from an unexpected starting point?

2.       Without looking at the later questions, where might you choose as a starting point to the story of Easter?

3.       Genesis 3:15 promises enmity between Satan and the offspring of woman. Why might this be a good starting point?

4.       In Genesis 12:1-3 God promises a descendant of Abraham will bless all families of the earth. Could you start here?

5.       What other Biblical prophecies might make good starting points?

6.       What about the suffering servant is Isaiah 53, or perhaps Psalm 22? What aspect of the Passion would these passages bring out most clearly?

7.       You could start the story with the birth of Jesus. What aspect of the story would this emphasize?

8.       Or you could choose a more traditional starting point—Jesus heading toward his death... But there are still choices to be made. Again, without looking ahead, what places might you choose to start your story?

9.       Do you know how many times Jesus prophesied his death, or how his disciples reacted?

10.   Read Mark 8:31-33. What has just happened? Why is Jesus’ reaction so strong? What message might it convey today?

11.   Read Mark 9:30-32. What is happening here? Why do the disciples still not understand? Do we understand?

12.   Now read Matthew 20:17-19. Why might there be three recorded predictions of Jesus’ death? What’s different about this one? How do you imagine the disciples felt now?

13.   What does the Gospel of John tell us about Jesus as he heads to Jerusalem this final time? Read John 11:1-16. What is unique about this story, and how is it uniquely relevant to the Passion?

14.   The traditional Passion story starts with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, but what events lead up to this?

15.   Read John 12:1-3. Is there another occasion when Jesus’ feet are wiped with hair? Do you think both stories are the same? What might be special about Mary anointing Jesus before Passover? How might the entry into Jerusalem relate to the anointing? (And how might we guess how many days remain to Passover?)

16.   Read Matthew 21:1-5 and Zechariah 9:9. Is Jesus deliberately fulfilling prophesy or could there be some deeper meaning?

17.   How far did Jesus ride the donkey? Do we know where Bethany, Bethphage and Bethlehem are?

18.   Read Luke 19:40, Habakkuk 2:11. Do you see any connection?

19.   When I was growing up, we read the story of the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday, and we, the people, said “Hosanna!” in the appropriate places. Later the same week we read the Passion story and we, the people, said “Crucify him!” How might you feel, being asked, effectively, to identify with the people who crucified Jesus?

20.   Matthew follows the triumphal entry immediately with the cleansing of the Temple. John starts his story of Christ’s ministry with the cleansing. What different emphases do the “starting points” give us, and what does this tell us about how much we can trust the Biblical accounts?

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