2022 Year of the Story and Way of Jesus

Gospel Community Studies

Study 1: Purity & Tradition – Mark 7:1-23 (30/1/2022)

Absorb –

  • What did you learn about the traditions of the rabbis and the Talmud?
  • Describe the notion of personal purity.
  • Why does the goal of being ‘true to yourself’ need to be qualified? What must happen first?

Reflect –

  • Mark 7:14-15 is the fulcrum of the whole section. What is the significance of this passage?
  • Reflect on the relationship between the new thing Jesus is doing and Moses food/purity laws.

Practice –

  • Think of the way in which Jesus challenges the keeping of the ‘traditions.’ How might you apply this to your own life or ministry?
  • What is the lesson for us today?
  • What kind of purity is important to God and how might we live that out?


Study 2: A Greek Woman & A Deaf Man – Mark 7:24-37 
(6/2/2022)

Absorb –

  • Trace Jesus journey in Mark 7:24-8:9. What are the regions he covers? Summarise what happens.
  • Have any of you been to Lebanon and what was the topography like?
  • Why does Jesus say to the Syrophoenician woman, v27 – “First let the children eat all they want, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
  • What are the parallels between Jesus’ ministry to the Jews in Galilee, and his ministry here in Mark 7:24-8:9 where he moves through Gentiles lands? What is the significance of the feeding of the 4,000 in light of this?

Reflect –

  • The Syrophoenician woman is one of the 11 supplicants in Mark. The supplicants are those who come in supplication to Jesus and exhibit true faith. They are very unlikely characters, starting with the leper in chapter 1:40-45. Name as many of the 11 supplicants in Mark as you can (even just 2 or 3)
  • What characterises these supplicants?
  • What is the significance of the healing of the deaf/mute man for who Jesus is? (Isaiah 35:6, Exodus 4:11)
  • Jesus heals the deaf/mute man in a way that is sensitive to him, leading him away from the crowd and using sign-language and Gentile idioms to communicate what he is going to do for him. Describe how Jesus has been sensitive to other people in need, in the way he healed them, throughout Mark’s gospel. For example, the leper (chapter 1), the woman with the 12 year flow of blood, the girl who has died (chapter 5). How has Jesus been sensitive to you in the way he has brought healing/salvation to you?

Practice –

  • Pray for faith like this Syrophoenician woman
  • What are the implications of this passage for our mission?

Notes on the growth of the Gospel in Lebanon after Jesus was there –

Acts of the Apostles says that Paul visited Tyre in 58 AD, met with the disciples and stayed with them for 7 days. They pleaded with him not to go to Jerusalem due to Christian persecution there. (Acts of the Apostles 21:3–6).

The Gospel also spread in Sidon as it had in Tyre. In Acts says that Paul was allowed, on his way to Rome as a prisoner around 60 A.D. to meet his friends in Sidon (Acts of the Apostles 27:3). After Tyre and Sidon, the Gospel spread throughout the coastal cities of Lebanon because the disciples had to pass through Lebanon on their way from Jerusalem to Antioch in the north and vice versa.


Communion – 
13/2/22

This way of communion can take the best part of the night.

  • First read 1 or 2 appropriate scriptures and share a couple of appropriate thoughts.
  • Take communion one person at a time in this way… One at a time, get each person to share one area where they need Jesus in their life (gospel need). Give them adequate time, and then have 1 or more other gospel community members speak the gospel into their need, sharing how Jesus is good news for their need (gospel provision). Then pass them the bread and wine so they can take a piece of bread and dip it in the wine. While they do this say ‘This is his body given for you… his blood shed for you.’

Gospel need – 

This might be an area of sin or an area of suffering. It might be resolved, or it might be unresolved. Keep it vulnerable, yet appropriate for a mixed gender group.

Gospel provision – 

Jesus brings good news to every area of sin and suffering in our lives. Keep the words you share encouraging and focused on Jesus.

Example – Fear

  • Gospel need: “I need Jesus right now because I am numbing my fears through distracting myself with Netflix and social media instead of engaging with Jesus.”
  • Gospel provision: “Jesus knows what it is like to be afraid. He experienced fear in His life on earth and sympathizes with you. He is your refuge. As you draw near to Him, He will comfort and protect you. He rose from the dead in victory over everything we should fear the most. This Easter, remember the good news that you don’t have to numb your fear but can draw near to Jesus as your refuge.”

Example – Uncertainty

  • Gospel need: “I lost my job in the pandemic and it’s hard for me to trust that God will take care of my family.”
  • Gospel provision: “Your pain is seen by your Father. He is a good Dad who will provide for your every need, even when things seem bleak. If He gave us the life of His Son, we can know that He will take care of His kids. You can rest knowing that you are safe in the Father’s arms even if the road ahead is hard.”

After everyone shares, spend some time in prayer together thanking Jesus for the hope that the gospel brings to our lives.

 

 

Study 3: Jesus Feeds 4,000 – Mark 8:1-21 (20/2/2022)

Absorb/reflect –

  • How is this feeding of a crowd (8:1-10) different from the feeding of the 5,000 recorded in Mark 6:30-44?
  • What can we learn from this story and it’s earlier lookalike companion?
  • What is ironic about the Pharisees asking for a sign just at this point in the story?
  • Instead of giving them a sign, Jesus and his disciples got in a boat to cross the water. He warned them about the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod. In light of what you’ve learned from Mark so far, why does Jesus give this warning (8:14-21)?
  • What would make Jesus groan today? What is it about us that would make him say, like a frustrated teacher, ‘You still don’t get it’?

Practice –

  • In what ways can we ‘remember and see’ exactly who it is who is in the boat with us?
  • Share areas you need help in this and pray for one another.

 


Study 4: Seeing Jesus Clearly – Mark 8:22-9:1 
(27/2/2022)

Absorb –

  • When they arrive in Bethsaida, Jesus heals another blind man. (8:22-26) How is this healing related to what happened in the boat?
  • The blind man needs 2 touches to bring his physical sight. What 2 touches did the disciples need?
  • The Jewish people were expecting a messiah who would sort out their political mess and put the Gentiles in their place. Peter’s reaction makes it clear that’s the way he thought. How does Jesus redefine what the messiah would do here in Mark 8:22-9:1?

Reflect –

  • Jesus asks us the same question he asks his disciples: “Who do you say I am?” What is your answer to who Jesus is and what he is actually doing in the world?
  • Jesus tells his disciples that following him has its dangers and risks. How can following Jesus be dangerous for us as well? 
  • Following Jesus is Mark’s definition of what it means to be a Christian, and Jesus is not leading us on a pleasant afternoon hike. How have you seen in your life and in others’ lives the truth that, ‘if you want to save your life, you’ll lose it; but if you lose your life because of me and the gospel, you’ll save it.’?

Practice –

  • Share areas you need help in this and pray for one another.

 


Study 5: Extra Study notes on Mark 8:31-38 
(6/3/2022)

Reflect on Mark 8:31-32 –

Having finally brought the disciples to the place where they recognize that he is the Christ, the Son of God, Jesus now begins the task of preparing them for his death.  This is no easy task. Everyone was expecting the Messiah to come one day, but no one was expecting that the Messiah would come to die.

  • The Messiah was expected to lead them to victory against their national and political oppressors.
  • The Messiah was expected to sit as King on the throne of David.
  • The Messiah was expected to restore Israel to economic prominence and to her historic borders and glory.

But this is not the only difficulty that confronts the disciples in Jesus’ teaching about his death. Jesus makes it even more difficult for them to understand the necessity, or even the possibility, of his death by referring to himself as ‘the Son of Man’ [8:31].

The ‘Son of Man’ is the glorious, divine figure of Daniel’s vision in Daniel 7:13,14. This glorious figure parallels Ezekiel’s vision of ‘the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD’ in Ezekiel 1:28, and of John’s later description of the resurrected, ascended Jesus in Revelation 1:12-16.

Reflect on Daniel 7:13-14 –

  • Describe the ‘son of man’ seen by Daniel.
  • Which part of this description makes his death appear impossible?
  • Which parts of this description appear to support the common Jewish expectations of the Messiah?

But there are other prophecies of the Messiah, the Anointed One, which speak not of his political or military victory, but of the victory over sin and death that he achieves through his death. Most significant of these are ‘the Servant Songs’ of Isaiah.

Reflect on the Lord’s servant in Isaiah –

  • Isaiah 42:1-9
  • Isaiah 49:1-7
  • Isaiah 50:4-9
  • Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Jesus is pulling together three Old Testament prophetic figures: the Messiah, the Son of Man, and the Suffering Servant. He makes them all one. And he identifies himself as that One.

  • The ‘Messiah’ is the anointed king, a descendant of David, awaited with joyous expectation.
  • The ‘Son of Man’ represents the saints and comes with the clouds to the Ancient of Days and receives all authority and kingdom which he then shares with the saints
  • The ‘Suffering Servant’ is humiliated, rejected, despised, killed, but then is restored

Reflect on Mark 8:34-9:1 –

It seems that Peter’s man-centred attempt to turn Jesus aside from God’s eternal plan moved Jesus to give teaching about values and priorities to the larger crowd. Because their expectations of the Messiah are incorrect, so also their expectations of being followers of the Messiah are incorrect.

Following the real Messiah does not mean earthly glory.
Following the real Messiah does not mean earthly recognition.
Following the real Messiah does not mean earthly power.
Following the real Messiah does not mean earthly gain.
Following the real Messiah does not mean earthly victory.

Rather,

Following Jesus means denying oneself.
Following Jesus means taking up one’s ‘cross’.
Following Jesus means losing one’s life for his sake.

And,

Not following Jesus means forfeiting your soul (life).

Peter has just been ‘ashamed’ of or embarrassed by the things Jesus has said about the divine necessity of his rejection, suffering and death. Such a defeated Messiah is no Messiah at all. But now Jesus says:

‘If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels’ [verse 38].

This statement looks beyond Jesus’ death, to his resurrection, ascension, and ultimate return. Jesus will come in power and glory in his resurrection, ascension and return.

He came as the Messiah – not to re-establish the kingdom of Israel, but to establish ‘the kingdom of God … with power.’ Some of those listening to him actually saw him do it [9:1]: they saw his resurrection and ascension.

 


Study 6: Transfiguration – Mark 9:2-13 
(13/3/2022)

Absorb –

  • If you were Peter, how would you describe this event known as the transfiguration?
  • Write down all the ways that the transfiguration echoes the history of Israel, especially Moses and Elijah?
  • Compare and contrast the transfiguration and Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:9-11).
  • How would the transfiguration confirm to the disciples what Jesus has been saying about his sufferings, death and resurrection (Mark 8:31-9:1)?

Reflect –

  • How can Moses and Elijah appear like this? What does this show us about the spatial relationship between heaven and earth?
  • In Mark’s Gospel, how does Jesus continue and finish the work of Moses and Elijah?
  • Reflect on Peter’s offer to make three tents in Mark 9:5. Explain what some of his motivations and thoughts might have been.
  • What does the transfiguration show us about the identity of Jesus?
  • What is the relationship between the transfiguration and Jesus’ resurrection?
  • Why were the disciples puzzled about what Jesus meant by rising from the dead (v9-10)?
  • The prophets said that Elijah would return before the final victory of God’s people (Malachi 4;5). In the next exchange about Elijah (v11-13), what is Jesus talking about when he says Elijah has already come, and they have done to him as they pleased? What is the implication of this for how we understand the final victory of God’s people?

Practice –

  • Consider that Jesus is the beloved Son of God and the living embodiment of the presence of God. Put this in your own words and share with someone this week.
  • How does the transfiguration and all that is said in Mark 9:1-13 encourage you to take up your cross and follow him?

 


Study 7: Down The Mountain – Mark 9:14-29 
(1/5/2022)

  • During Jesus’ time on the mountain with Peter, James and John, what is happening to the other disciples?(9:14) 
  • Why does Jesus struggle with their unbelief? (9:19)
  • What faith does “if you can” represent? What does Jesus say about faith and possibility? (9:24)
  • How do the father’s words in 9:24, ‘I believe, help my unbelief,’ show he has true faith?
  • What method does Jesus use for this exorcism? (9:25)
  • Why couldn’t the disciples drive out the spirit? (9:28-29)
  • Describe what you learned about Jesus and prayer in Mark 9:14-29?


Study 8: One Cup Of Water At A Time – Mark 9:30-50 
(8/5/2022)

Read Mark 9:30-37

  • What does Jesus teach his disciples about coming events?

  • Why don’t the disciples understand him?

  • When and why are we like the disciples in this situation – sometimes failing to hear (listen and obey) something from scripture or something from church or something in prayer?

  • What is on the disciples’ minds that is preventing them from understanding Jesus? (v33-34)

  • How does Jesus define greatness? (v35-37)

  • How does Jesus embracing a little child illustrate his point about greatness

  • How do our concerns for status sometimes get in the way of understanding Jesus and participating in his mission

Read Mark 9:38-50

  • How does Jesus’ attitude toward the man casting out demons in Jesus’ name differ from the disciples’ attitude?

  • How is the disciples’ attitude similar to how Christians react today towards other Christians who aren’t part of ‘our’ group?

  • What is Jesus getting at with these graphic pictures in 9:42-48?

  • How does Jesus’ final command in v50 tie back to the issues raised in v33-34 and 38?

  • What is next in your GCs serving of one another and the wider community?


Study 9: What God has joined together – Mark 10:1-12 
(22/5/2022)

Read Mark 10:1-12 

  • Divorce and remarriage is as much a controversial issue for Christians today as it was for the Pharisees who asked Jesus about it. Remembering Herod’s marital status from Mark 6 and what happened to John the Baptist, how could the Pharisees’ question put Jesus in a tough spot no matter how he answered?
  • How does Jesus deal with this trap?
  • In this dialogue what point is Jesus making by going to what Moses commanded about divorce in Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 while the Pharisees note instead what Moses permitted about divorce in Deuteronomy 24:1-4?
  • What is the point of Moses’ command in Deuteronomy 24:1-4? What/who does it protect?
  • When Jesus is safely back in the privacy of the house with his disciples, what does Jesus add to his answer (v10-12)?
  • If the problem is Israel’s hardheartedness, not the ideal of Genesis 1-2, what does this say about Jesus’ ultimate mission?
  • How does this section relate to the broader theme bookended by Mark 9:35 to 10:31?


Study 10: Like A Child – Mark 10:13-31 
(29/5/2022)

  • How does Jesus’ attitude toward children differ from the disciples’ attitude. What value system are they operating from? (9v13-16)

  • What characteristics of a child represent discipleship?

  • How are the discussions about divorce and children connected?

  • What is the rich man looking for? (v17)

(The NIV has translated this ‘eternal life’ but the Greek says ‘the life of the age to come.’ Many first-century Jews divided time into the present age and the age to come. The present age, their own time, was full of sin and injustice, lying and oppression. Good people suffered, wicked people got away with it. But in the age to come that would all be different.)

  • Jesus answers his question by restating the basic commandments that every Jewish person knew well – the Ten Commandments. Which commandments does Jesus leave out? (Check out the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17)
  • How do the commandments Jesus leaves out in v19 relate to his directive in v21?
  • What does the young man’s failure to obey Jesus’ command reveal about the one thing he lacks?
  • Why were the disciples shocked that wealth won’t guarantee a place in the age to come (23-26)? What value system are they operating from?
  • Many today and back in Jesus’ day, thought wealth was a sign of God’s pleasure. How can wealth actually be a hinderance to us in our call to follow Jesus?
  • When Peter declares that he and the other disciples have done what the rich man would not do, what assurance does Jesus give them (v28-31)?
  • How are the promises of v29-30 being fulfilled in your life today?
  • In what area is Jesus asking you to change your thinking or your actions as you follow him? What might he be calling you to leave in order to follow him?

     


Study 11: Come To Serve – Mark 10:32-45 
(12/6/2022)

Read Mark 10:32-45

  • What events does Jesus say will occur after they arrive in Jerusalem (v32-34)

  • What do James and John request of Jesus?

  • What does this request reveal about how they view this journey?

The cross isn’t just about God forgiving our sins because of Jesus’ death (though that’s central). The cross also challenges and subverts our understanding of leadership, power and glory.

  • What does Jesus’ response to their request teach about following him (v38-45)?
  • What is unexpected about Jesus’ teaching about leadership and discipleship
  • How can Jesus’ teaching about leadership guide you or leaders in our GC and church community?
  • In what ways have we tried to apply Jesus’ idea of servant leadership in our church and GCs and how these are organised and led? How can we go further with this?

     


Study 12
: Blind Bartimaeus – Mark 10:46-52 (19/6/22)

Read Mark 10:46-52.

  • Note the use of the expression, ‘the way’ in v46 – ‘sitting by the way begging’ and in v52, ‘Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the way.’ Where else in Mark 9 and 10 have we seen the expression ‘on the way’ or ‘on the road’ (‘way’ and ‘road’ are the same word in the Greek – it just means ‘way’)? Why does Mark use this expression so often in Mark 9-10?
  • On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples come to Jericho, where Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, shouts at them. What does Bartimaeus want from Jesus?

Imagine yourself in the crowd that day in Jericho. Its hot, dry and dusty. You’re excited; you’re with Jesus; you’re going up to Jerusalem. And here is someone shouting from the roadside. It’s a nuisance. Its possibly even dangerous (if enough people call him ‘Son of David,’ someone in authority is going to get alarmed).

  • When have you felt like the disciples do in this passage?
  • What does Jesus mean by the question he asks Bartimaeus’ in return (9v49-52)? Notice that this is the same question Jesus asked James and John.
  • How do Bartimaeus’ actions and request stand in contrast to the disciples’ in the last chapters? What is Mark saying to us?
  • Compare Bartimaeus with the other supplicants in Mark’s gospel. What are the elements of true faith?
  • Imagine yourself as the blind man. We all have something, not necessarily a physical ailment, that we know is getting in the way of our being the people we believe God wants us to be and made us to be. What is it you want Jesus to do for you?
  • Why is mercy the one request that is always answered by God?
  • What do we indicate when we ask for mercy?

     


Study 13
: Triumphal Entry – Mark 11:1-11 (26/6/22)

Read Mark 11:1-11

  • Jesus riding over the Mount of Olives, across the Kidron Valley, up to the temple mount would clearly have called to mind words of the prophet Zechariah for those watching. What do Zechariah 9:9-10 and 14:4 indicate Jesus is saying about himself?
  • How does the reaction of the people conform that they understand Jesus’ symbolic message?

‘Hosanna’ is a Hebrew word which means exuberant praise to God with the prayer that God will save his people and do so right away. The beginning and end of their cheerful chant is taken from Psalm 118:25-26, which is itself all about going up to Jerusalem and the temple. The sentence that follows means, literally, ‘Blessed is the one who comes’; but in Hebrew and Aramaic that’s the way you say ‘welcome.’ In the middle of the chant, they have inserted the dangerous prayer: Welcome to the kingdom of our father David!’

  • You don’t spread cloaks on the road for friends and family – especially in the Middle east, dusty and stony as it was. But you do it for royalty. How does Jesus’ kingship call us to put our property at his disposal?
  • Why would Mark bother to mention that Jesus looked around the temple and left (v.11)?

     


Study 14
: Fig Tree Cursed – Mark 11:12-25 (3/7/22)

Read Mark 11:12-21

  • In v12-14, why does Jesus curse the fig tree?
  • How different is the temple here from what it was supposed to be? (v.15-17)
  • How do the religious leaders react to Jesus’ actions and teaching? (v.18)

Mark has given us the story, once again, in ‘sandwich’ form. The outer part concerns the fig tree, the inner part concerns the temple.

Jesus and his listeners would recall that in Jeremiah 8:11-13 and 24:1-10 God uses figs to depict judgment on Israel and its leaders.

  • How do both parts of this ‘sandwich’ of the fig tree and the temple help explain each other?

Read Mark 11:22-25

It’s important to realise that ‘this mountain’ (v.22) in context almost certainly refers to the Mount of Olives Jesus and his disciples are standing on. (see Zechariah 14:4-9)

In encouraging his followers to pray with confident boldness for the present order to be replaced by God’s new order, Jesus is quite clear that ‘if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.’

  • Why is it often difficult for us to hold together both a deep desire for God’s kingdom to come and his will to be done on earth, and a spirit of peace and forgiveness?

     


Study 15
: Your Will Be Done – Jesus’ Prayers in Mark (31/7/22)

What are you thoughts and questions from Sunday’s talk where we looked at Jesus’ prayers in Mark? 

I thought I’d be great to follow that up by diving into the prayers of Paul and challenge us to pray kingdom prayers like Paul did (and like Jesus did). 

There are at least 6 major themes! There are definitely more things Paul prayed for but these come up often. 

1. He understands what is eternal and how he prays reflects that. 

  • That the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you. (Ephesians 1:18f)
  • For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18) This isn’t an actual prayer but emphasizes Paul’s beliefs. 

2. His singular mission is to share the gospel.

So many of his prayers, even those that may not look obviously like they’re about the gospel, ultimately are. Even prayers to remain alive often tie back to wanting to share the gospel with more people. His desire is to be used by God to advance the gospel.

  • That they may be saved. (Romans 10:1)
  • And also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel… (Ephesians 6)
  • That God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. (Colossians 4:3-4)
  • That the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. (2 Thess. 3:1-2) 
  • That the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. (Philemon 6)
  • That we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith  (1 Thess 3:10)

3. He longs to glorify God in all he does so he prays for things that will glorify God. 

  • May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5-6)
  • That our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)

4. He prays for endurance and strength to face the trials he knows will come. 

  • May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)
  • That according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love. (Ephesians 3:16-17)

5. He prays for the ability to live holy lives.

  • That you will not do anything wrong. (2 Cor. 13:7)
  • First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
  • Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thess 5:23)

6. He prays we would fully know God. 

  • God may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. (Ephesians 1)
  • That you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge. (Ephesians 3)
  • That your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)
  • That you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy. (Colossians 1:9-11)

Did anything jump out as something that’s not often prayed?

Does it shift things mentally to think of praying like Paul?

I don’t think this means we abandon other requests at all. I think it does help to expand how we pray for requests quite a bit though! 

 


Study 16
: By What Authority? – Mark 11:27-12:12 (7/8/22)

Read Mark 11:27-33

When the religious leaders ask Jesus about his authority, he counters with his own question.

  • Why can’t the chef priests, elders, and teachers of the law (a delegation from the Sanhedrin) answer Jesus’ question (v27-33)?
  • What is the Sanhedrin?
  • Even though Jesus says he will not answer them, because they have not answered his question, how has he answered them none-the-less?

The question of Jesus’ authority has come full circle. In the early chapters of the Gospel this was the thing that most impressed people in Galilee (1v22, 27, 2v10, 3v15). And throughout Mark chapters 1-8, Jesus has been demonstrating his authority. Now the authority with which he taught and healed has turned into explicit authority over the highest institution within Judaism – the temple. Who does he think he is? From here there is a straight line to the questions before the chief priest after Jesus’ arrest (14:55-64). These incidents in the temple is the key to the unfolding drama.

Read Mark 12:1-12 & Isaiah 5v1-2

  • Who do the different characters in this parable represent?
  • How has Jesus’ parable here answered their original question (11v28)?
  • How do the religious leaders (the Sanhedrin), react to this parable?

This parable didn’t need explanation like his previous parables. They knew what he was saying. This was partly because Jesus was adapting a well-known story in Isaiah 5 that compares Israel to a vineyard. There is no happy ending here. It’s a terrifying picture of what happens if the people of God persistently reject the purpose for which god has called them.

  • In v10-11 Jesus goes on to quote from Psalm 118, the same Psalm that excited pilgrims were using when singing hosannas a few days before (see Mark 11:9). What is Jesus saying with this quotation?
  • What aspects of the gospel are highlighted by the parable of the tenants and the quote about the rejected stone? What aspects do you find compelling, encouraging, amazing or puzzling?


Study 16: Render To Caesar
 – Mark 11:27-12:12 (21/8/22)

Read Mark 12:13-17

  • Who are the Pharisees and the Herodians?

These are two groups that in most circumstances, would’ve been opposed to each other. The Herodians were the group that were in favour of maintaining the Herodian dynasty, which is a dynasty that began with Herod the Great – the Herod we know from the birth story of Jesus. It began with Herod the Great, and then through his sons, Herod Antipas, Herod Phillip, and Herod Archelaus. They were aligned with Rome and were certainly trying to win Roman favour. And this often led to great architectural city developments which were Greek in style. So they accepted and enjoyed all the things the Pharisees stood against. Of course, it doesn’t surprise us now as readers of Mark that the Pharisees and the Herodians are aligned because they aligned earlier on in Jesus’ ministry, in Galilee seeking to kill him (Mark 3v6).

The Pharisees were a wonderful (at first) group that emerged in the 2nd century BC, following the Maccabean revolt. Now, let’s spend some time unpacking this because many Christians don’t understand the history here and where the Pharisees fit in.

The Maccabean revolt was a great moment in the history of the Jews, because the Syrians had come in and taken over and had desecrated the temple, setting up a statue of Zeus (the abomination that causes desecration of the temple), but this little group of the family of the Maccabees – Mattathias and his 5 sons – decide to revolt. 

And Judas Maccabeus, one of the sons, leads the battle – (this is not Judas the Galilean). And amazingly in 164, after 3 years of the Syrian rule over Jerusalem, Judas, and his little band of brothers and friends get together. They say their prayers and mount a revolt and they’re able to defeat the invader and to cleanse the temple. And the Maccabees become the kings of Israel for the next 100 years until the Romans come in and take over.

But all is not well, the kingdom of God has not yet arrived. Despite the great victory – which is celebrated to this day in the Jewish festival of Hanukah (which happens around the same time as Christmas)… despite the victory, people are aware that the Maccabees or the Hasmoneans as they become known, are not ruling with justice and mercy. And they’re becoming kings like the kings of the nations. They’re brutal. They’re aggrandizing themselves. They’re amassing wealth.

And in response to this, the Pharisees become a pressure group, a new group within Judaism, who were saying – ‘We’re going to keep God’s law, the Torah properly. We’re not seeking power, but we’re going to put pressure on those in power’

A lot of Christians think the Pharisees are in power – they’re not. They’re a lay pressure group. The Sadducees are in power, the Pharisees are not in power and not wealthy either.

And the Pharisees are saying we’re going to study Torah and keep it so that it won’t just be something we do from time to time. It won’t just be a nice religious ideal when we go to the temple. We’ll keep Torah at home, in the marketplace, in our personal lives, in all our dealings. As well as in the great festivals, and our worship at the temple.

So the Pharisees are a popular, grassroots movement, which says we’re going to be loyal to the God of Israel in every single breath we take, come what may. And the prayer known as the Shema was important to them – ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord, our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength.’ And by praying this prayer they saw themselves as taking on the yolk of God’s kingdom. In other words, I’m signing up. I’m going to be loyal. I’m not going to give up in the face of persecution. I’m not going to be corrupted or turn aside.

But what happened with the Pharisees is that they embraced zeal, but it was a nationalist zeal, it was in defence of the Jews as a nation, as a people, and it was anti-Gentile. They lost sight of the vision of Genesis 12 to be a blessing to all the nations. As far as they were concerned, it was all about preserving national identity, and they lost God’s heart for the world.

But it was the Pharisees who became the champions of the resurrection, because of their loyalty to Torah and their study of scripture. They held onto the belief that God the creator will do the new thing he’d always promised. And he will raise his people from the dead. And they saw that martyrs had died in the cause, that people who had been fiercely loyal to the God of Israel had been slaughtered and killed in horrible circumstances. And they believed passionately that God would not allow this to remain forever, that God would raise them from the dead into a new life when God finally brought in his kingdom.

  • With what motive and in what manner do the Pharisees and Herodians come to Jesus?
  • What do you know about this tax? What does it symbolise to the Jewish people? Why is it an issue?
  • Why would they believe their question is a perfect trap?
  • What does Jesus recognise about his questioners?
  • Describe how the image and inscription on the Tiberius coin (Denarius) relates to this controversy
  • How does Jesus answer their question? How is his answer neither yes nor no? How is it both/and, balanced, nuanced, and paradoxical? How does he both resist what’s on the coin and accept it?
  • What do you think Jesus is saying overall? And how does this apply to us as Christians? How does it inform how we engage with politics?
  • How is the Kingdom of God Jesus is bringing political? And how does it transcend politics?

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Jesus Is Better – Hebrews 1:1-2:4 (20/3/2022) 

Read 1:1-4 –

  • What does the writer say about God’s having spoken through the Old Testament prophets?
  • List 8 things these verses tell us about Jesus.
  • What benefits come to us through Christ?

Read 1:5-14 –

  • What does the writer want to prove about Jesus’ position in relation to angels?
  • The writer quotes God in v5. What do the question and quotations in v5 reveal about Jesus?
  • How is Jesus different from, and superior to, both the prophets and the angels?
  • What is your concept of angels? Compare it with what the writer says about the duties and position of angels in v6, 7, 14.
  • What responsibilities and authority does the Son have (v8, 9)?
  • What is the comparison with the creation meant to reveal about the Son in v10-12?
  • List the words that describe the creation and those that describe the Son.
  • What thoughts do v13 and 14 add to the contrasting functions of angels and the Son?
  • What locations are suggested (v13, 14) for the present activities of the Son and of angels?
  • What relationship do angels have with human beings?

Summary –

  • In what ways is the Son superior to… the prophets… the angels… all creation
  • What is the work of… the Son… God the Father… the prophets… the angels

Read 2:1-4 –

  • What conclusion does the author draw from what he has said in chapter 1?
  • Describe ways in which a person might drift away How can we make sure we are not drifting?

 

Jesus, brother, captain, king – Hebrews 2:5-18 (27/3/2022)

Read 2:5-9 –

  • What is the point of the contrast between human beings and angels?
  • What is humanity’s destiny? How does Jesus already fulfill our destiny (v9)?
  • Why has Jesus been crowned with glory and honour?
  • What does Jesus share with all humanity (v9)?
  • What has Jesus done in his death that no other man ever did?

Read 2:10-18 –

  • The word in v10 for author or pioneer means leader or originator in the sense of one who initiates and carries through. In what ways was Jesus qualified to be such an author (v9, 11, 14, 18)?
  • Why was it the suffering of Jesus which made him fully adequate to initiate and carry through our salvation?
  • In what ways does Jesus identify with human beings in v11-13 and 14-18?
  • Keep in mind that it is the children of v13 who are referred to in v14. Consider the reasoning of verses 14, 15, 16. What advantages come to us because Jesus took on our humanity rather than the nature of an angel?
  • Why did Jesus have to die?
  • In what ways do people express their bondage to the fear of death?
  • To what extent do you now have freedom from the fear of death?
  • Why is it significant that Jesus in his high-priestly position is both merciful and faithful? What does Jesus do for us as our high priest (v17)?
  • What 2 things has Jesus shared with us (v18)? What difference does this make for you?

Summary – 

  • In your own words describe the great tribulation the writer tells about in this chapter.
  • What things is Jesus able to do for us? Why?

 

Jesus, the Rest-giver – Hebrews 3:1-4:13 (3/4/2022)

Read 3:1-6 –

  • What do the titles apostle and high priest tell you about the ministry of Jesus?
  • In what ways is Jesus superior to Moses (v3-6)?
  • What difference does this picture of Jesus make when you are worried or afraid? …When you are tempted?
  • What does it mean to hold on to our courage and the hope in which we boast (v6)? Describe the person who fails to do these things

Read 3:7-19 –

  • What warning does the writer add to v6 by quoting from Psalm 95 in v7-11?
  • The writer compares those who have become the people of God through faith in Christ to those delivered from Egypt under Moses’ leadership. What is the point of the two if statements (v6, 14)
  • What warning and command are given in v12 and 13?
  • Why do Christians need these same warnings today?
  • How can we avoid becoming hardened by sin’s deceitfulness?
  • What warning is implied by the expression as long as it is called Today?
  • What lessons are we to learn from the experience of these Israelites?

Read 4:1-13 –

  • What does the author say about his rest in v1?
  • Why didn’t the good news of the opportunity to enter Canaan do any good to those who lived in the time of Moses?
  • What response of faith must we make to receive the benefits of the good news that Jesus went through death for us?
  • What in v3-9 determines whether a person benefits or not from the great promises and intentions of God?
  • According to v10, what does entering God’s rest mean for believers in every generation?
  • In v11, Let us make every effort to enter that rest… with v3. How can these elements of rest and making every effort co-exist? Give examples of how this contrast works out in your life as a Christian.
  • In v12 list 4 things we learn about God’s word. What is the meaning of these qualities? What does this sharp two-edged sword accomplish?

 

Jesus, Our Relatable & Gentle High Priest – Hebrews 4:14-5:10 (10/4/2022)

Read 4:14-16 –

  • How do the 6 things the writer says about Jesus in these verses give you hope?
  • What 2 things are we to do because we have such a high priest (v14, 16)? What will this mean in practice for you?
  • How do v14-16 encourage you to approach God in confidence?

Read 5:1-10 –

  • What do we learn about a high priest’s work, attitudes and office (v1-4)?
  • How does each of the requirements for a high priest find perfect fulfilment in Jesus (v5-10)
  • Jesus learned obedience from what he suffered (v10). How does this clarify what you learned in Hebrews 2:10? How have you or a Christian you know, learned through suffering?
  • For what did all that Jesus experienced fit and prepare him? Why is he able to be our Saviour?
  • What condition for salvation does the writer make clear in v9?
  • What important element about the Melchizedek priesthood do we find in v6? How does this substantiate the use of the word eternal in verse 9?

Summary – 

  • Describe the qualifications and preparation of Jesus to be our high priest?
  • Because Jesus is our high priest, what specific blessings and benefits do we enjoy as Christians?
  • Why do we need Jesus’ work as our high priest?
     

Jesus, the better hope – Hebrews 5:11-6:20 (17/7/22)

  • 5:11-14 is a remarkable rebuke that is like a sudden cold shower. What is the writer accusing the believers of? What is the nature of ‘maturity’ that the writer has in mind?
  • 6:1-2 – What is meant by each of the basic teachings of the Christian faith mentioned in 6:1-2?
  • Why are these things we shouldn’t have to go back over again once we’ve begun our Christian life?
  • Sometimes Christians never learned these things properly in the first place. What steps could you or your GC take to make sure you have a good grasp of the foundational things listed here and how to repent?
  • 6:4-5 are a lavish description of what happens when you become a Christian. Expand on what each phrase means.
  • 6:7-8 – Why does the writer want us to go deeper and teach more developed and wide-ranging truths
  • 6:9 – What could entice us to turn our backs on the faith
  • 6:10-12 – ‘Continue strong in active love and service.’ Compare your love and service now to when you were first a Christian.
  • What specific act of love and service could you participate in this week?
  • 6:9-17 – How do you put together the call to not be lazy and to energetically participate and the reminder of God’s faithfulness and firm and secure promise?
  • 6:19-20 – What does ‘behind the curtain refer to? How is Jesus in this way our anchor in the storms of life?

 

Jesus, our better advocate – Hebrews 7 (14/8/22)

Read Hebrews 7, Psalm 110 (the most quoted psalm by the New Testament)

  • What do we learn about Melchizedek from Hebrews 7:1-10?
  • How does 7:4-10 make the case that Melchizedek’s priesthood is superior to Levi’s?
  • How are Jesus and Melchizedek similar as seen in these verses?
  • In what different ways or areas of your life do you gain assurance knowing that jesus is king but is also our high priest?
  • What further contrasts are outlined in verses 11-19 between Jesus’ priesthood and the priesthood of Levi and his descendant Aaron?

The word often translated as ‘perfection’ in 7:11 and 19 can also be translated as ‘completeness.’ It is when everything has been put into place for the final great purpose to be achieved.

  • What is this great purpose (v11-19)?

The word better (or the Greek word) occurs more times in Hebrews than in the rest of the New Testament. Jesus is better than the old religious system.

  • What was the purpose of the old religious system?
  • What examples have you seen of God, through the new system of Jesus, bringing this world to completion?

In chapters 4 and 5, we noted one half of the meaning of Jesus’ high priesthood. He is a truly human being, tempted in every respect just as we are. Now in v20-28, we discover the other half of the picture.

  • What does Jesus’ superiority to other priests mean for our salvation?

Some Christians are in danger of forgetting just how central and vital Jesus himself was and is to every aspect of Christian faith.

  • How do we tend to forget the centrality of Jesus?

This chapter should bring us to gratitude and hope after we truly grasp the work of Jesus in his death and resurrection.

  • In what ways can you express your gratitude to Jesus this week?

Jesus, the better covenant – Hebrews 8-9 (18/9/22)

Read Hebrews 8

  • How does the writer describe the present and continuing role of Jesus in v1-6
  • What do you think and feel in response to this?
  • What evidence does the writer of Hebrews provide that the tabernacle was a copy of the real thing (Hebrews 8:5 and Exodus 25:40)?
  • How do v1-6 contrast Jesus with the priesthood before him?
  • How do we see people today choosing to focus on a ‘copy’ instead of on the reality of Jesus?
  • How does the writer use v7-13 which quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34 to continue the theme of something better?
  • What reasons do these verses give for the necessity of a new covenant?
  • Why do internal changes (heart and mind) better help you do what’s right than external constraints (like the law)?
  • What does v12 highlight about the new covenant?
  • What does it mean to you that God forgets your sins?
  • How does it help you want to hold onto Jesus?

Read Hebrews 9

  • In what ways is the new covenant ‘better’ or more superior to the former things in v11-14
  • Why do you think such a liberating and healing message would be so hard to believe and remember?
  • What more does the writer say in v23-28 about how Jesus’ sacrifice is better than the sacrifices of the old covenant?
  • How do v26-28 tell us Christ’s work is ultimately fulfilled?
  • What difference does the hope we have in Christ make to you now?

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New Book – Soma Life ($10)

We put this book together to celebrate our tenth anniversary as a church. We’re paying homage to the original Soma Life papers from Soma Tacoma. Those papers meant so much to us ten years ago and inspired us to start Soma Blue Mountains. It’s been great to review them and make some edits to reflect what we now understand.

If you’re new with us, we hope this book will help you understand our church, and we hope it’ll be a great tool to refer to as you participate in one of our Gospel Communities.

Contents –

  • Our Story
  • How Soma Grows
  • Missional Communities
  • Identity & Rhythms
  • DNA Groups
  • What is the Gospel?
  • Missional Community Covenant