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How do sum up what you believe?

(90) The First Commandment – Summing UpToday we sum up the “testing” of Jesus – kind of like examining the sacrificial lamb for flaws. The Pharisees, Herodians, and Sadducees have found nothing wrong. So now the scribes try. The scribe in question may well be keeping records for the Pharisees, and his question may be honest, though the Pharisees seek to remove any records of what Jesus offers. 1.Read Mark 12:28, Matthew 22:34-36. What’s the biggest difference between the way the question is asked in Matthew and in Mark? a.What was Jesus’ emphasis when he talked about commandments?2.Read Mark 12:29-30, Matthew 22:37-38, Deuteronomy 6:4-5, 5:6-7 How does the “greatest” commandment differ from the “first” commandment? a.What does that tell us about God’s priorities?3.Read Mark 12:31, Matthew 22:39-40, Leviticus 19:18. Are you surprised to find this is in Leviticus? a.Given the huge number of laws in Leviticus, how do this and the Deuteronomy verse sum up God’s law?b.How do they sum up th…

What if it really is complicated?

(89) A Tale of Seven Brothers - InterpretationThe religiously legalistic Pharisees and the securarly comfortable Herodians joined forces to question Jesus but couldn’t trip him up. So now it’s the turn of the aristocratic, worldly, theologically liberal Sadducees. They don’t believe in an afterlife or any kind of resurrection (but they do know their Scriptures, and can argue their positions very well).Just for fun, let’s start by looking at whether the Old Testament scriptures support the Sadducees’ position. Do they have anything to say about resurrection. Read Genesis 5:24, 49:33, Job 14:15, 19:25-27, 1 Samuel 28:3,7-10, 2 Kings 2:10-11, Isaiah 25:8, 26:19, Daniel 12:1-3,13, Psalm 16:10, 49:15, 73:24-25… Then look at: Genesis 3:19, Psalm 88:10, 115:17, 146:4, Job 3:16-19, 14:10-121.Does the Old Testament make a convincing case for life after death? Which was your favorite verse?2.Is it possible to know your Bible well and still honestly misunderstand it? Which was your least favorit…

Ready to ponder a taxing question?

(88) A Taxing QuestionJesus has thrown down the gauntlet in Jerusalem. The leaders know they won’t be able to persuade him to join their gang. So now they have to make sure he doesn’t threaten their position. And the best defense, of course, if offense. Can they make Jesus break the Roman law? Or God’s law even? Can they make him lose the people’s favor? Surely something will work. Read Mark 12:13-17, Luke 20:20-26.1.Read Matthew 22:15. Do we meet leaders who try to “entangle” or “trap” the opposition? Should they?2.Read Matthew 22:16. Pharisees and Herodians working together? What’s odd about this?a.Do our leaders (political or spiritual) make strange alliances? Should they?b.Do our leaders flatter the opposition? Should they?c.Do they flatter us, and how susceptible are we to flattery?3.Read Matthew 22:17. Do our leaders like to phrase things this way—one thing or another and no options in between? Should they?a.Is that a good way to speak about faith? About social issues? About pol…

Will you come to the Banquet?

(87) Teaching in ParablesIn Jesus’ last week, in Jerusalem, when the world is about to change, Jesus had a lot to teach his people. When might you have felt a great pressure to teach, and teach now, about God’s kingdom? What makes us feel that urgency?Read Matthew 21:28-32 Jesus is responding to the leaders’ refusal to acknowledge where John’s authority came from.1.Who do you imagine the sons representing—the leaders, the sinners, the Jews, the Gentiles…?2.When might you have said “no” and done “yes”—in terms of faith, or just in everyday life?3.When might you have said “yes” and done “no”?4.What about the disciples. When did they say one thing and then change?5.Read Matthew 21:31b-32 What should have made the leaders believe John? Or in Jesus? And what should make people believe now? What’s our part in this?Now Jesus tells the crowd (a very celebratory crowd) about the great celebration to come. Read Matthew 22:1-14 Do you remember Jesus telling a similar story earlier (Luke 14:15-24

Ever wondered who's in charge?

(86) AuthorityTemple worship was established long ago. It has been maintained through war, invasion, diaspora and more. Whenever things fall apart, the Temple and the people are restored. So now, here comes this itinerant preacher from the back of beyond demanding change, and refusing to accommodate the church leaders or follow established protocol. No wonder they’ve got questions.1.Read Matthew 21:23, Mark 11:27-28, Luke 20:1-2 When might we have heard similar questions asked in the community? What about in church?a.Is it wrong to ask question authority? Or to question God? Read Genesis 18:22-23, Exodus 32:11 2.Read Matthew 21:24-27, Mark 11:29-33, Luke 20:3-8 Answering a question with a question was a common form of argument, and one the religious leaders were familiar with. But the “answering” question has to be relevant.a.How does Jesus’ answer relate to authority?b.How does their inability to answer reflect on their authority? (Weren’t they in charge of such things?)c.Have you ev…

Ready to Clean House?

(85) Cleansing the TempleLast week Jesus rode a donkey, entered Jerusalem, visited the Temple briefly, and set up base in Bethany with Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Jerusalem is packed out with people looking for places to stay, booking rooms for the Passover meal, buying lambs at the Temple or presenting their own lambs, etc... Bethany is a couple of miles east of the city, just over the Mount of Olives, and Jesus heads back to Jerusalem the next morning. Read Mark 11:12-141.Would Jesus have known it was the wrong time of year for figs (or at least, for useful figs)? (Did you know?)2.Would his disciples have known? If so, what might they have thought when Jesus looked for figs?3.What might they have thought when Jesus cursed the tree?a.What’s the connection between miraculous healings and parables?b.What might be the connection between a miraculous curse and a parable?4.Jesus curses a tree—not a city, not a group of people, not a person… What does this tell you?a.What about today? What f…

What's your most pressing problem today?

(84) HosannaWe celebrated Palm Sunday just a few weeks ago. In the church where I grew up, we didn’t just wave palms; we read the whole Passion story, starting with this story, and reading from a different Gospel each year. But let’s try to read it with fresh eyes now, remembering that Mary has just anointed the feet of “the Lamb,” just when the priests were anointing the feet of those lambs brought from the countryside; remembering that Lazarus has just been raised from the dead; remembering that the authorities want to kill Lazarus as well as Jesus; and remembering that the most pressing problem the authorities think they face is: how to maintain control without Rome cracking down on them. ·What is our most pressing problem today? ·What is the biggest threat to our society?·And who is really in control?Let’s start with the story of that donkey: 1.Read Matthew 21:1-3, Mark 11:1-3, Luke 19:28-31 a.What’s the difference? b.Dorothy Sayers’ play has a “supporter” in the stables prepare t…