Ready for Paul?

Monday, April 16, 2018

What comes next after learning you're blessed?

We looked at the Beatitudes last week - Luke's version and Matthew's - but how did Jesus move on from such a well-remembered snippet... and why can't we just learn everything from snippets?

I decided to follow Luke and he moves straight away to Jesus saying we should love our enemies. Matthew has a few extra bits in between but we'll look  at them later... Do you have any enemies?

(19)Love Your Enemies?

Luke follows his list of the Beatitudes with an injunction to love our enemies. Read Luke 6:27-36.
1.       How might loving our enemies relate (today and in Jesus’ day) to
a.       Blessed are the poor/woe to the rich (Luke 6:20,24)
b.      Blessed are the hungry/ woe to the full (Luke 6:21a,25a)
c.       Blessed are the mourners/ woe to the laughing (Luke 6:21b,25b)
d.      Blessed at the despised, excluded, reviled/woe to the admired? (Luke 6:22,26)
2.       After listing the blessings and woes, Jesus says “But…” Does that help answer the first question? In spite of who we think or know are blessed and cursed, including ourselves,… Is being blessed active or passive? And what does God want of us?
3.       Read Luke 6:27. Who do you think of as “hating” you, your church or your country? Do you love them?
4.       Read Luke 6:28. Who do you think of as misusing you, the Bible, the constitution? Do you love them?
5.       Read Luke 6:29, Matthew 5:38-41 Typically nobody takes your tunic today or strikes you on the cheek, or even demands an eye for an eye. But in Jesus’ day, Roman law demanded that conquered people render aid whenever a soldier asked; Jewish law demanded equal (not excessive) restitution.
a.       What about modern law, local or international?
b.      Modern law in places of war or peace?
c.        In rich or poor communities…?
d.      When are we tempted to hide behind laws and forget love?
6.       Read Luke 6:30, Mathew 5:42 Wouldn’t we all end up with nothing? What’s your first thought when someone asks for something from you? What should our first thought be?
7.       Read Luke 6:31 Is this “the golden rule”? Matthew places it after the “Ask and it will be given to you passage” (Read Matthew 7:7-12). Does the golden rule mean:
a.       I should hug people who hate to be hugged, and keep talking to people who want peace and quiet?
b.      I should leave myself open to being hurt by someone who has hurt me before?
c.       I should teach kids to tolerate being bullied? (How does it apply to zero-tolerance?)
The passage that follows might make the golden rule clearer. Read Matthew 5:43-48, Luke 6:31-36, James 2:1-9
1.       Who are your/our enemies? Who curse you/us? Who hate you/us?
2.       Has anyone you know been prosecuted (justly or unjustly)? How do you feel about that prosecutor?
3.       Do you write your name in books before you lend them out? Do you label items of crockery?
4.       Matthew and Luke both speak of God being kind to wrongdoers, yet the Old Testament frequently speaks of God punishing evil nations. Read Matthew 5:45, Luke 6:35 What might this tell us about how people (in Jesus’ day) viewed the Old Testament stories – merciful God holding back evil, or vengeful God punishing?
5.       Matthew and Luke both ask us to be like God. Read Luke 6:36, Matthew 5:48. So… merciful or perfect? Can we achieve either?

Monday, April 9, 2018

Preaching to People in Glass Houses?

Jesus must have preached lots of sermons. The sermon on the mount might be a "collected works," as might the "sermon on the plain." But it's clear Jesus picked a small group of disciples from the large crowds following him. And he did preach to the crowds. So perhaps it's time to read what he said.

(18) Mountains, Plains and (maybe glass) Houses

Jesus has spent time near Jerusalem. John gets into trouble. Jesus moves north to Galilee, via Samaria where he meets the woman at the well. He stays with Peter’s family in Capernaum, goes walkabout to escape the crowds, can’t escape the crowds and chooses his own particular crowd of 12 disciples. Then… Read Mark 3:14,20, Luke 6:13,17, Matthew 5:1 Everyone’s heard of “The Sermon on the Mount.” But what about “The Sermon on the Plain”? In the house?

1.       Who was following Jesus when he chose the twelve?

2.       What was Jesus doing before he chose the twelve (Read Luke 6:12)?

3.       Why did Jesus go up a mountain? (Do you remember how Old Testament worship took place on mountains?)

4.       Why did Jesus choose the twelve? (Read Mark 3:14)

5.       Would it worry you to think the Sermon on the Mount might happen on a plain? Matthew and Luke will both list the Beatitudes. Are they quoting the same sermon, concatenating sermons, just adding context to a collection of Jesus’ teachings, describing different sermons where the same things were said…? What do you think?

6.       One theory suggests Matthew places the sermon on a mountain because Jesus is the new Moses, and Moses received the law on a mountain. (Matthew also lists 5 “sermons” of Jesus, Matthew 5-7, 10, 13:1-52, 18, 24-25, like the 5 books of Moses… maybe.) Do you have any strong opinions about this or other theories? How do we decide what’s worth arguing about?

Read Matthew 5:2-12, Luke 6:20-26 What difference do you notice first?

1.       Who is listening to this sermon? Try to list at least three groups, then think about which group you would be in.

2.       Read Matthew 5:3, Luke 6:20,24. Who is this directed to? Which part of the crowd starts cheering?

3.       What’s the difference between poor in spirit and poor in money? Are they ever connected (except here)?

4.       Read Matthew 5:4, Luke 6:21,25 (second half of each Luke verse). Who is this directed to?

5.       What’s the difference between comfort and laughter? Are there different kinds of laughter?

6.       Read Matthew 5:5. Is Luke leaving someone out? What does “meek” mean anyway?

7.       Read Matthew 5:6, Luke 6:21,25 (first halves of the Luke verses this time) Who is cheering now?

8.       What’s the difference between being hungry and being hungry for righteousness—and what’s the connection?

9.       Whose version of these beatitudes seems more spiritual and whose seems more concerned with everyday needs? Why might that be? (Who was there on the day?)

10.   Read Matthew 5:7 Who’s cheering now? Are we merciful? Is our country? Are our churches? Do we need mercy?

11.   Read Matthew 5:8 Who were the pure in heart? Who are they today?

12.   Read Matthew 5:9 Think of the Middle East today—their world had been at war forever. The Sanhedrin were peacemakers, in that they collaborated with the enemy. But who, in the crowd listening to Jesus, would consider this aimed at them? Are we, personally, peacemakers? When and how?

13.   Read Matthew 5:10 What constitutes being “persecuted”? When Christians complain about the “war on Christmas,” are they peacemakers? Can they claim to be persecuted?

14.   Read Matthew 5:11-12 How does Matthew describe persecution in these verses?

15.   Read Luke 6:22-23,26 How does Luke describe persecution? (Is he really only concerned with everyday needs in this passage?) How does the world describe persecution? Do we/should we describe it differently? When have we seen or read about persecution in history?

16.   Who was cheering at the end of this part of Jesus’ sermon? And who was not cheering? Which part of the crowd would we be in?

Monday, April 2, 2018

Have You Read All About It?

Still working our way through the New Testament, we're following Jesus as his Galilean ministry takes off. Crowds gather. Spies ask searching questions. And the overarching issue for everyone is, who is Jesus. It's a question that, just maybe, changed the course of history.

(17) Lord of the Sabbath

Those religious spies from Jerusalem are getting restless, up there in Galilee. Jesus’ disciples never seem to do as they should, and Jesus, as their leader, is obviously to blame. So he can’t be the Messiah, obviously…
Read Matthew 12:1-8 We’ve skipped some chunks of Matthew again (healing, teaching, sending the 12 out to teach, telling John…), but this scene appears straight after the passages we’ve been studying in Mark and Luke (and there may not even be 12 disciples yet to be sent out), so we’ll follow their timeline for a bit.
1.       What law are they being accused of breaking? Read Exodus 20:8-10,34:21
2.       Are they working? Read Deuteronomy 23:25 so taking grain is not the same as harvesting
3.       Could the Pharisees have interpreted things differently? Read Matthew 12:7, Hosea 6:6. But maybe it’s a question of how we “use” law rather than how we “interpret” it…
4.       Is the law meant to limit or teach us? Read Romans 3:20. Do we use the law to limit or teach others?
5.       What’s the difference between law and tradition? And what’s the difference between truth and interpretation?
Mark tells the same story: Read Mark 2:23-28
1.       How would the Pharisees have felt when Jesus asked “Have you read…?” Read 1 Samuel 21:6
2.       How is Jesus’ interpretation of the law different from theirs? And is it different from ours?
3.       How does “the Sabbath was made for man” fit with our interpretation of the law? Read Romans 3:20 again.
And in Luke: Read Luke 6:1-5
1.       Who is the “Son of Man”? Read Daniel 7:13-14
2.       Who is the “Lord of the Sabbath”? What is Jesus teaching by using these terms?
3.       If someone told us that the phrase “son of man” shouldn’t be capitalized here, would it upset you?
4.       What was the extra bit in Matthew, and why do you think he included it? (Read Matthew 12:5)
Now, as might be expected, Jesus walks into a local synagogue. With Sabbath rules in everyone’s mind, what happens next isn’t so surprising.
1.       Read Matthew 12:9-10, Mark 3:1-2, Luke 6:6-7 Why are they so concerned about law? Why are we?
2.       Read Matthew 12:11-12, Mark 3:3-4, Luke 6:8-9. Matthew, writing to Jews, brings up a more detailed example, more specific to Jewish law. When has law (or God’s law) been used to devalue human beings in history?
3.       Read Matthew 12:13-14, Mark 3:5-6, Luke 6:10-11 Why are they so angry?
4.       When do alternative interpretations of scripture make us angry, and why?
It’s not time yet for Jesus to face the religious courts, so he heads away from whichever small town this takes place in, and crowds follow him.
1.       Read Matthew 12:15-21, Isaiah 42:1-4 How does Isaiah’s message fit with trying to escape the crowds?
2.       Read Mark 3:7-12 The small boat will become more significant later. Does it surprise you to find it here?
3.       Read Luke 6:17-19 Are these all Jews, or does this scene bear out what Isaiah said?
4.       Read Mark 3:13-18, Luke 6:12-16 Why might now be a good time to select twelve close companions?
Jesus is healing, the crowds are gathering, and the scene is set for those gathered crowds to listen to Jesus’ teaching. Next time we’ll move on to the Sermon on the Mount (or on the plain).