Unexpected Authority

I don’t know. Why is it whenever I write the word “authority” I hear Cartman’s voice in my head commanding my respect? It’s the hazards of keeping up with popular culture I suppose.

Whenever we think of a king or government exercising authority, what usually comes to mind? Often, we think of violence or even battle. We’re going to see a battle of sorts in our text this Sunday as we read Mark 1:21-34 – albeit, it’s not much of a battle. The authority of God’s kingdom leaves very little room for resistance.

  • In the story, what is it that first gets the people amazed about Jesus?
  • What do you think the people mean by Jesus teaching with “authority”?
  • Why do you suppose they didn’t recognize that sort of authority in the teachers of the law?

The story gets really exciting when someone erupts with squawking and a demonic spirit begins speaking through a person to confront Jesus.

  • What are your thoughts about demons and the spiritual world?
  • Why do you think the demonic entity identified Jesus’ hometown?
  • Why do you think Jesus cut the demon short? What can we infer from that about our own focus in ministry?

For those who care, there’s a chiastic structure to v21-28

Jesus comes to the synagogue

Jesus teaches

People are amazed at his authority

Jesus confronts a demon

People are amazed at his authority

Jesus leaves the synagogue

After the public setting of the synagogue we move the private setting of Jesus’ home. Peter’s mother-in-law is sick with a fever and Jesus heals her. Word gets out and suddenly people are showing up in droves to be healed at Pete’s house. Not at the synagogue, isn’t that interesting?

  • How do you feel about the fact that Pete’s mother-in-law gets right to work, serving? Follow the link to the definition of that word. Look at the other passages where that word is used (the verse count is to the right of the definition).
  • How might we deduce something about the nature of being Christ’s follower from that?

Hope to see you Sunday!

God’s Rule in Action

I remember once when my wife and I were going to turn an enclosed porch area on the back of our house into an extra bedroom for our boys. We planned and considered how this could be accomplished and what it would take. We drew a lot of diagrams on napkins and contemplated this task – and then realized it was too big for us and had to be hired out. A friend from church did construction jobs like this agreed to take on our project. What I still remember was the great sense of satisfaction and even surprise when he set out to tear sections out and rebuild others, because there was a big difference between this project in theory and seeing it in action. It turned out much better than we had imagined.

That’s a lot like what’s happening in our study in Matthew. We’ll be reading the last part of Matthew chapter 4 this Sunday and we’ll finally see the start of Jesus’ ministry.

In v15-16, Matthew identifies Jesus’ work as a fulfillment of a prophecy given by Isaiah, 600 years earlier. Light dawning on people living in darkness is how the action of the kingdom of God is described. What is your impression of this metaphor? What do you think it means, and how does that inform your understanding of God’s purposes for humanity?

We then read about Jesus’ first disciples. We’ll be unpacking the dynamic of rabbis and talmidim (disciples) on Sunday morning – but succinctly put: if these guys were working in the family business, it was because they didn’t measure up for normal rabbinical activities. Yet Jesus chooses these fishermen to be his close associates who will set out to imitate him. What does that tell us about God’s rule in action? Who is it open to, and what action does he call his disciples to (v19)?

V23-25 provide a summary of the excitement that was building around Jesus. What is it that he is becoming famous and sought out for? What is this revealing about God’s rule in action – what is intended? In all three of these examples, what is it about this that makes it good news?

Looking forward to this study! Happy Father’s day in advance – and don’t forget it’s Surf-N-Grill this Sunday, and if you want to be baptized, follow this link to sign up online: sign up!

See yez’ Sunday!

A Matter of Life and Death

This Sunday we’ll be continuing in our study of the Gospel of John, reading John 4:46-54.

We’ve mentioned before that John’s gospel is sort of constructed around seven distinct signs that Jesus does. John doesn’t ever call them miracles, but uses the term sign. What is the function of a sign? What are these signs, or this one in particular, telling us about Jesus?

Think about the crisis that Jesus resolves in this story. What was at stake and what did Jesus provide? If that were taken as a symbol of what God is doing through Christ, how would we summarize his mission?

The official who approaches Jesus was most likely working for Herod, the puppet king under Rome’s control. The common people hated him, and there is a strong likelihood that this man wasn’t even Jewish, but part of the gentile administration that interfaced Rome with Herod’s rule. The official isn’t a popular guy…and he may even be a gentile. As we consider the progression of people who encounter Jesus, a Jewish spiritual leader, an outcast Samaritan woman, and now what could be a gentile official, what picture is emerging about who it is Jesus is willing to rescue?

For this official, the crisis of his son’s illness was the very thing that sent him to Jesus. All he cared about was getting his son healed, but in the process of making his request he finds himself in a position where he has to put his trust in what Jesus says. Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? How can this help us to view our times of crisis and trouble differently?

It should prove to be an interesting passage to explore!

I Can See Clearly Now

This Sunday, we’re going to read the account of Jesus healing 10 lepers, and the one who came back to thank him.  It’s found in Luke 17:11-19.

The word “saw” occurs twice in this story.  To me, it emerges as a subtle theme concerning perspective.  There are also some strong contrasts that emerge in the text, encouraged by Jesus himself.  He asks the question “where are the other nine?”.  The similarities and differences between the 9 and the 1 are intriguing to me. What similarities in plight, positioning,  plea and cure do you see in the 10 as a whole…but what differences occur with the ONE who “…saw that he was healed”?  What contrast do you see from his original plight, positioning, plea and even pronounced cure?

Crud…this is too heady, isn’t it?  How about this…. All ten lepers stood at a distance pleading for mercy in the opening of the story.  Where does the one Samaritan end up positionally at the end of this story?  Jesus tells the 10 to GO to the priests….what does he tell the one to do at the end of the story?  We’re told that the 10 were cleansed (original word), but he told the one who returned that he was made well (original word)…what distinction, if any, do you see in this?  A cure that leads to healing…that sounds strange, doesn’t it?  If we think about our own lives and encounters with Christ, do we see similarities between our own experiences and that of the 10 and then the 1?  What does this tell us about goals for our spiritual journey?

Well…those are some interesting questions about a passage that always seemed so straight forward to me before.  This will be fun to explore together this Sunday!

The Authority of Christ

This Sunday we’ll be looking at Luke 4:21-44.

Right on the heels of Jesus declaring that the prophecy of Isa 61:1-2a were fulfilled, he goes out and demonstrates just how it is He will be fulfilling His messianic calling.  While the people of Nazareth rejected Jesus, the people to the North-West in Capernaum have a very different reaction.  They are filled with wonder…because of Jesus’ “authority“.

What things does Jesus demonstrate His authority over in this passage?  What can it tell us about our own life specifically?  How often do we ever think about the forces that operate behind what’s seen with the natural eye?  What do we learn from Jesus’ interaction with those forces?

For all of His authority, Jesus also demonstrates submission as well.  What does Jesus submit to, and what does He NOT submit to in the last few verses of this passage?

Good stuff to consider, we’ll unpack it more on Sunday!