LIFE GROUP STUDY

Sermon-based life group study

Week of July 31: The Faithful Witness


Sermon Review:


1- Was there anything that stuck out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week?

2- Did the sermon raise any questions?


Introduction: Jesus’ radical claims have now been made public for the first time. He is the Messiah King of Israel, the Son of God as well as Son of Man, the One who will sit at God’s right hand and come in glory to judge. This, of course, did not endear Him to anyone. He is quickly rejected and abandoned by all, even by His closest friends.


Read: Mark 14:66-72


Group Discussion:


1- How do you think Peter's denial of Jesus and Jesus' response shaped the rest of Peter's life and ministry?

2- How do we deny Jesus in our own lives today?

3- Let’s think about Peter for a minute. As a disciple, he got into a lot of trouble. He argued with Jesus (Mark 14:31), disobeyed Jesus by falling asleep (14:37), used his sword to cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant (14:47, John 18:10), denied Jesus three times and openly cursed Him (14:66-72), and yet after all of that, Jesus essentially makes him the head of the new Church (Matthew 16:18, John 21:15-17). Why would Jesus do that?


Gospel Closing: The contrast between Christ and all who reject Him is not there to encourage us to follow His example, but to show us our helplessness and dire need of His grace. Jesus did not come to call the righteous but sinners (2:17). He did not come to be the kind of King we think we want, and which they falsely accused Him of being in order to kill Him. He came to be the kind of King we actually need, one who will die not only at the hands of sinful men, but also in the place of sinful men; men like Peter, and men like you and me. We are not faithful witness. But Jesus is. And He is all we need.

Week of July 24: Love on Trial


Sermon Review:


1- Was there anything that stuck out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week?

2- Did the sermon raise any questions?


Introduction: The Sanhedrin, before and after the time of Christ, was the highest tribunal of the Jews under Roman occupation. It consisted basically of three groups: the priestly families (mainly Sadducean “liberal” in beliefs), the scribes, and the elders (the latter groups were made up of many Pharisees). Its jurisdiction was fairly wide in Christ’s time. It not only had authority over Jewish religious ceremonial practice, but it had some power with regard to criminal law. It could order arrests. It was empowered to judge cases that did not involve capital punishment, but capital cases needed the confirmation of the Roman procurator.


Read: Mark 14:53-65


Group Discussion:


1- Jesus is accused of saying that he will destroy the temple and replace it in three days. In what way is this charge false? Yet in what way is this charge true?

2- Why is “I am” such a profound answer from Jesus in verse 62? Someone read Exodus 3:13-15.

3- Why did Peter, one of Jesus' closest friends, follow so far behind? If you were in Peter's shoes at this moment in time, how closely would you have followed, and why?


Gospel Closing: We see a theme all through this passage — Jesus is our substitute. Jesus, an innocent man, is receiving the justice due a guilty man. Jesus, though innocent, is counted “worthy of death” (v. 64), so that we, though guilty, can be acquitted. The blameless is blamed so the blameworthy can go free.


Paul writes, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) This tells us of what theologians call “double imputation.” Not only is our sin “imputed” or transferred to Christ, but Christ’s righteousness is “imputed” or transferred to us.


The concept of substitutionary justice is the very heart of the gospel. It teaches us that we are now “holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Colossians 1:22). If we think of the cross as only some sort of expiation and pardon for our sins, and not as also the reception of Christ’s righteous record, we don’t grasp the thoroughness of our salvation. People say, “I can’t forgive myself” or struggle in various ways to try to “prove themselves” and don’t realize that in Christ they are already “holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation”. When God sees us, he sees us clothed in Christ’s righteousness. This is all clearly spelled out in Paul’s letters to the Romans and Galatians, but it is also clearly laid out in narrative form here in the Gospels. Jesus is bound so we can be “released” (15:15). We get what he deserves, and he gets what we deserve.

Week of July 17: The Two Kingdoms


Sermon Review:


1- Was there anything that stuck out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week?

2- Did the sermon raise any questions?


Introduction: We see a very different demeanor from Jesus in this passage than last week's passage. Last week, Jesus was spinning out of control, shaken to His bones with dread. But Jesus is now back to being the Jesus we know from the rest of Mark's Gospel. He has resolved to pay the full penalty for our sin in obedience to His Father, and He is therefore calm, collected, and in total control in the face of Judas and the crowd of armed men, even chastising them for their cowardice in arresting Him at night (Mk. 14:49).


Read: Mark 14:43-52


Group Discussion:


1- Why do you think Judas saw the need for Jesus to be “seized” and “led away under guard” (literally “led away securely”)?

2- What do you think motivated Peter to lash out with a sword? Keep in mind the context and Peter’s actions/words from 14:9 until now.

3- Betrayal and desertion! Someone read Mark 14:29-31. In what ways are you guilty of, or inclined to, betray the name of Jesus, or desert His cause? What do you learn from the disciples’ failures and Jesus’ obedience that will strengthen your faith?


Gospel Closing: Christianity says that all of us, priests and prostitutes, have an obedience problem–a sin problem (Rom. 3:10). In various ways we have all rejected and rebelled against our Creator. No one merits salvation. No one climbs the ladder. No one checks the boxes. No one gets in or stays in Jesus' Kingdom through moral effort. Not even Jesus' chosen disciples.


So, since we couldn't get to God, God came to us. Jesus Christ came to solve our sin problem.


Though we rightly deserved punishment for our lack of obedience, our sin, and our rebellion against God, Jesus took our punishment for us, in our place, on the cross. He obeyed where we would not obey. And through his death and resurrection, salvation and righteousness now come to every person the same way: by grace, through faith, in Christ (Eph. 2:8).


"Righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe" (Rom. 3:21).


This is the gospel. This is Christianity. It's not a morality project; it's a grace project. Jesus' Kingdom is yours because Jesus has made it so.

Week of July 10: The Two Gardens


Sermon Review:


1- Was there anything that stuck out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week?

2- Did the sermon raise any questions?


Introduction: The next three sections of Mark look at how Jesus suffered at the hands of His friends, His enemies, and His Father. This shows us that the suffering of Christ was multidimensional — physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. It is necessary to understand the depths of what He endured for us if we are to appreciate the riches of what He procured for us.


Read: Mark 14:26-42


Group Discussion:


1- Notice in verse 27 that Jesus refers to prophecy regarding the Twelve's betrayal. Jesus will continue to refer to prophecy throughout His suffering. What does that tell us about Jesus' death?

2- The word "Abba" in verse 36 is the most intimate Aramaic name for a person's father. What does Jesus' use of this word in prayer tell us about His suffering?

3- As a group, name all the ways Jesus was obedient to His Father in this passage.


Gospel Closing: Polycarp, who was a disciple of the apostle John, as he was about to be burned at the stake, the magistrate gave him one last chance to recant and deny Christ. And this is how Polycarp responded, “The fire you speak of lasts but an hour and is quenched with a little. But what do you know of the fire of judgment? So, come, why delay? Do what you will.”


What's interesting about this response is that it seems that Polycarp realizes that he is facing something much different than Jesus faced. While Polycarp is only facing physical fire, Jesus faced the fire of judgment from Almighty God. And this fact gave Polycarp great strength and boldness when facing his own death.


Likewise, Jesus' voluntary suffering of hell itself in our place can give us the same strength and boldness every day of our lives. Though we are all sinful, prayerless, sleepy, self-reliant failures, we can still be confident before God, knowing that because Jesus went to the Father and found heaven closed to Him, whenever we go to the Father, we will always find heaven open to us. Heaven closed for Jesus so that it will always be open for us.

Week of June 26: The So-Called Friends of Jesus


Sermon Review:


1- Was there anything that stuck out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week?

2- Did the sermon raise any questions?


Introduction: This chapter begins the actual “Passion Narrative” of Mark — the account of Christ’s suffering and death. The foreshadowing and explanations are over. Now we watch it happen. “The account of Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, condemnation, and execution furnishes a climax to the Gospel and brings together the motifs and themes developed throughout the account.” (Lane; The Gospel According to Mark, p. 485).


Read: Mark 14:12-26


Group Discussion:


1- Judas is a chilling example. Here is a man who looked like a strong believer in every way, but was not. a) In what ways are we all like Judas? b) In what ways is a genuine Christian unlike Judas?

2- Why does Jesus stress the fact that His betrayer is one of the Twelve? What do they reveal about themselves by their response? How are they different than the woman who broke the jar of perfume?

3- When Jesus presides over the Passover meal, and says, “this is my body and blood,” he is drawing parallels between the Passover event and his own mission. Everyone read Exodus 12:1-20. What are the similarities between the original Passover and this one?


Gospel Closing: The New Testament writers go out of their way to tell us that Jesus is the Passover Lamb. In John 19:29, John tells us Jesus was given vinegar to drink on a hyssop branch; the hyssop branch was the bush God commanded the Israelites to use to spread the lamb’s blood on their doors. In John 19:36, the point is made that Jesus died before His legs could be broken (a common practice to hasten the death of crucified criminals). In the same way, the Passover lamb had to be perfect — without blemish or broken bones. Much is made of the fact that during Jesus’ trial, He was silent most of the time (Mark 14:61). Isaiah 53:7 foretold that the Messiah “was brought like a lamb to the slaughter and as sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.”


If you stopped an Israelite in the days of the Exodus and said, “Who are you and what is happening here”? They would say: “I was a slave, under a sentence of death, but I took shelter under the blood of the lamb and escaped that bondage, and now God lives in our midst and we are following him to the promised land.” In other words, that Israelite would say exactly what a Christian would say today.

Week of May 15: King of the Afterlife


Sermon Review:


1- Was there anything that stuck out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week?

2- Did the sermon raise any questions?


Introduction: The Sadducees, priests with great power and prestige, have now turned squarely against Jesus. They did not believe in the resurrection of the dead or an afterlife. They did not believe in angels, and they only believed the Pentateuch (first 5 books of Scripture) to be true.


The argument that the Sadducees are making in this text is one from the law of Moses. The law is called Levirate Marriage. In Levirate Marriage, if a woman’s husband dies, then her husband’s brother should marry her and produce an heir. The Sadducees present an absurd scenario where the woman marries seven brothers, all of whom die. The idea is that in the afterlife she cannot be married to all seven brothers; therefore, there must be no afterlife. The question is trying to force Jesus to either deny the afterlife or deny the law of Moses.


Read: Mark 12:18-27


Group Discussion:


1- Read Exodus 3:1-6. When Jesus confronts the Sadducees, He tells them that they do not know the Scriptures or the power of God, and then He quotes from Exodus 3:6. How does Exodus 3:6 prove the Sadducees wrong about the afterlife? 

2- Read John 11:25-26. Jesus doesn’t teach us how to achieve resurrection––He teaches us that He is the resurrection. True Christianity is a spiritual resurrection of our hearts that Christ alone brings about and produces love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, etc that will go on for eternity. False Christianity, on the other hand, is a behavior-improvement project that results in self-righteousness or despair. Have you experienced more of false Christianity or true Christianity?

3- Jesus’ teaching on the resurrection reveals that there will not be marriage in heaven. This must mean that marriage, sex, and sexuality do not define us. Have you ever made an idol out of marriage, sex, or relationships? How does this passage help you?


Gospel Closing: The resurrection of Jesus changes everything. It proves the power and faithfulness of God. It grounds our faith in reality, not our feelings or circumstances. It removes all guilt by proving that we have been declared “not guilty” by God. It provides meaning for our lives, for something to have ultimate meaning it must be both eternal and perfectly good. The resurrection proves Scripture true, as all Scripture points to the resurrection and the resurrected One. The resurrection gives us the strength and courage to live a life of love toward our neighbor. And the resurrection proves that there is an amazing afterlife that all believers will enjoy forever.


"For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his."

-Romans 6:5

Week of May 1: The King’s Authority


Sermon Review:


1- Was there anything that stuck out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week?

2- Did the sermon raise any questions?


Introduction: Today's passage shows us Jesus repeating himself. The repetition of themes in Mark is not a lack of imagination on the author’s part. Rather, it conveys a very important lesson for us. Jesus has only a few very basic things to say, but they are very difficult to learn. Discerning Christians sometimes realize their entire lives have been one long process of learning one or two gospel lessons.


Instead of Jesus instructing his disciples in the meaning of his death, we see him again confronting religious leaders and the crowds through the next couple of chapters. We are brought back to the theme of the first half of Mark — ”Who is Jesus?” Jesus’ triumphal entry and overturning of the money-changing tables in the Temple has forced the hand of the “chief priests, teachers of law, and the elders” (Mark 11:27). They can ignore him no longer — they must discredit him or destroy him. With His actions, Jesus is boldly telling them, “crown me or kill me.” There is never a doubt on which option they'll choose.


Read: Mark 11:27-12:1-12


Group Discussion:


1- What could you say in response to the person who asserts that Jesus never claimed to be the divine Son of God?

2- What practical lessons can be learned from the way Jesus responds to the charges of the Sanhedrin?

3- Someone read Psalm 118:22-27. In the parable of the vineyard tenants, Jesus quotes from Psalm 118:22-23, the same passage that excited worshipers were singing a few days before on Palm Sunday (Mk. 11:9). The crowd quoted Psalm 118:25-26, and by their waving palm branches, fulfilled the prediction of Psalm 118:27. By using this quote, Jesus refers to Himself as THE ‘cornerstone.’ What "cornerstones" (money, wealth, intellegence, talent, children, etc.) have you tried building your life on, and did any of them work? Why or why not?

4- What’s so marvelous about what God has done in this world and in Jesus His Son? How can you/we better communicate this marvelous work to the unbelievers we know?


Gospel Closing: Commenting on this parable in Mark 12, Martin Luther said, "If I were God and the world treated me as it treated him, I would kick the wretched thing to pieces." What would you do if this was your vineyard and the tenants treated your child like this? Would you send in the troops? Would you round up your militia and march on the vine-growers and butcher all of them? Here’s what God did:


“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).

Week of April 24: When Love Becomes King


Sermon Review:


1- Was there anything that stuck out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week?

2- Did the sermon raise any questions?


Introduction: One commentator has written, “The earliest Christian groups must have stood out as strangely distinctive by the fact that they practiced no sacrificial ritual, named no one as priest, and looked to no temple, like that at Jerusalem” (J. Dunn, Epistle to the Romans). This is an important point. Every culture and religion at this time in history sensed that there was a need for constant mediation to bridge the gap between the divine and humanity. Everyone sensed the need for temples, priests,sacrifices, oblations, rituals, etc. Jesus’ cleansing of the temple was a clear sign that things were about to 

change. The real and ultimate Mediator has arrived.


Read: Mark 11:11-25


Group Discussion:


1- Jesus was upset that the Temple system was not producing any fruit. What kind of fruit do you think Jesus was looking for in the Temple?

2- The design of the Temple included a large place for Gentiles to congregate because God had called Abraham to be a blessing to all nations. But the Jews, who hated the Gentiles, turned this portion of the temple into a marketplace. Jews hoped that the Messiah would cleanse the temple of Gentiles. But Jesus cleansed the temple for the Gentiles. What are some practical things you can do personally and we can do as a church to make it easier for outsiders in our community to get to God?

3- The scribes and Pharisees were overly concerned with human credentials and tradition. Have church traditions ever hurt your walk with God? If so, explain. 

4- The question, “By what authority are You doing these things?” is not just a question for first century scribes and Pharisees. It is the supreme question for every human being. “Who is Jesus to tell me what to do?” So, let's answer that question together. Who is Jesus?


Gospel Closing: There has simply never been anyone like Jesus. He alone unites two extremes of character. The King who ambles into Jerusalem on a donkey, then storms the Temple with the audacity to say, “This is my house!” The King who throws open the gates of His kingdom to everyone, then warns His most devout followers that their standing is in jeopardy without fruitfulness. The same man who was weakened by a touch of His robe is also the One who called out to a dead man, “Come forth!” The crucified Lamb is also the resurrected Lion of Judah. Jesus is both the rest and the storm. So, take heart today! Though religious systems will often fail and disappoint us, Jesus never will. We must always remember that Christ has torn down the old Temple and replaced it with a new and better one––Himself!

Week of April 10: A Different Kind of King


Introduction: Chapter 11 really begins the last chapter of Jesus’ life. We notice that in chapter 10:46-52 he allows people (like blind Bartimaeus) to call him the Messiah openly. This can mean only one thing — nothing else needs to happen before he is crucified! He knows that an open declaration of his identity will lead to execution, so the countdown begins. Chapters 11 through 15 cover only a week of his life, but it consumes nearly a third of Mark’s gospel. The disproportionate length shows that the Gospels are not simply biographies. As one theologian puts it, "The Gospels are passion narratives with long introductions." These chapters are the climax and fulfillment of Jesus’ ministry, not the end of it.


Read: Mark 11:1-11


Group Discussion:


1- A full six verses are devoted to finding a colt for Jesus to ride. Read aloud Zechariah 9:9. What does it teach us that Jesus has everything so well planned out?

2- In verse 2, Jesus makes it clear that this is a colt “which no one has ever ridden.” Why would that be of significance? And since the colt has never been ridden, why do you think it doesn't try to buck Jesus off?

3- Besides fulfilling prophecy, why does Jesus ride into Jerusalem on a donkey instead of a war horse?

4- What do we learn from the response and cries of the crowd in verses 8-10?

5- In verse 11 Jesus does not simply ride in to Jerusalem. This verse shows his triumphal entry was actually to the Temple. Why is this significant?


Gospel Closing: The praise of Jesus from the crowds comes mainly from Psalm 118:25-26, declaring Jesus to be the Davidic king, the Messiah. This is the climax of all the miracles He has done and the acclaim He has earned. They are pronouncing Him to be the Messianic leader they are expecting. And in this “snapshot” we have a synopsis of the story at the heart of the Bible and indeed at the heart of all human history. Here is “the return of the King.” This is what every heart longs for. The true King returns to finally put everything right. 


But “Hosanna” literally means “Save us”! Surely Mark must expect us to see the irony of this cry. Of course, the crowd has no concept of the kind of salvation Jesus is bringing nor of the strategy for bringing it. They expect a political and military salvation, but Jesus is bringing a complete salvation of soul and body. They expect a savior for only Jews, but Jesus is the Savior of the world. They expect a salvation through might for the good and the strong, but Jesus is bringing a salvation through sacrifice for the repentant and the weak. Jesus will indeed bring blessings on God's people (v. 10), but He will do so by becoming a curse in their place.


"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree'" (Galatians 3:13).

Week of April 3: Believing is Seeing


Introduction: This is Jesus’ last healing miracle. At first glance, it is puzzling that Mark chose to recount yet another of Jesus’ healings at this point in time, when Jesus was moving so resolutely toward Jerusalem and the cross. Mark likely places this story here to contrast Bartimaeus with the rich young ruler and the disciples who just previously squabbled among themselves for status and rank. As you read the story, keep in mind that Bartimaeus was a blind beggar by the road, which, in Hebrew categories, was the lowest of the low in terms of his situation in life, in terms of status and rank. 


Read: Mark 10:46-52


Group Discussion:


1- Why do you think Bartimaeus, a person at the lowest status in society, understood Jesus better than the rich young ruler or James and John? What does this teach you about Jesus' Kingdom?

2- The people around Bartimaeus mocked and criticized him for being so persistent in seeking Christ. Have you ever been mocked or criticized for your desire to follow Christ? If so, explain. 

3- What does Jesus' treatment of Bartimaeus teach you about His character?

4- Mark tells us that Bartimaeus immediately threw aside his garment, got up, and followed Jesus. It stands to reason that most blind people, having their sight restored, would want to run through the city in order to see all the sights that they have known only by the descriptions of others. Why do you think Bartimaeus didn't do that?


Gospel Closing: As we move from the tenth to the eleventh chapter of Mark, we will see something astonishing: We will see Jesus and Bartimaeus trade places. We will see Bartimaeus, blind and in the lowest place, receive his sight, and we will see Jesus enter into the lowest of all places and become blind. Why? Because you and I are not very different from Bartimaeus. We are spiritually bankrupt and blind. But, out of His infinite love for us, Jesus took our place in the darkness. He became blind so that we can see. Let us now sing together one chorus of Amazing Grace.

Week of March 27: True Greatness


Introduction: We have seen that as soon as Peter confessed that Jesus is the Messiah in chapter 8, Mark shifts his focus from the person of Christ to the work of Christ. Now that we know who He is — what did He come to do?


In the passage before us we have Jesus’ third attempt to teach His disciples about His death. This time, Jesus gives us more details about His death than previously. But the major advance for the reader is that, for the first time, we are told not just that He will die but why He will do so. Here He begins to explain the meaning and purpose of His death. Many scholars believe that 10:45 is the key verse of the entire Gospel, summarizing and combining all the Markan themes about who Jesus is and what He came to do.


Read: Mark 10:32-45


Group Discussion:


1- Read 8:31, 9:31, and 10:33-34. Discuss as a group the new details and concepts Jesus has added to His teaching about His death.

2- James and John appear to be on a different planet than Jesus. He has on multiple occasions clearly described His “glory” and “greatness” in terms of humility and suffering, while James and John still define “glory” and “greatness” in terms of status and accomplishment. Why do you think James and John misunderstood Jesus so badly?

3- James and John say (so cluelessly) that they can indeed share in the cup and baptism of Christ, not realizing He is referring to His suffering and death (Is. 53:2-12). On one hand, Jesus explains that it would be impossible for anyone but Him to drink the cup of God’s wrath. But on the other hand, He explains that in some sense, every follower of His will drink from that cup. What cup will all believers drink from and why is it so important that we do so?

4- According to Jesus in verses 42-45, what manner of leadership will be practiced by Christians?

5- Read verse 45. When we hear the word "ransom," we think of a kidnapping. But in the first century, a "ransom" was the price a person paid to purchase the freedom of a slave. What is Jesus revealing about His death and what is He revealing about the condition of humanity?


Gospel Closing: Since Mark 8:32, the Twelve have consistently failed to accept the necessity of the cross and have failed to accept the truth about themselves. It will not be until after the resurrection that the Twelve will understand that our sin is so egregious and so serious that it required the suffering and death of God to save us. When we start to grasp the weight of that, our delusions of our own greatness can finally can begin to dissipate, and we can begin to see Jesus for who He really is: the one and only great Person.

Week of March 20: The Poor Young Ruler


Warm Up: What is your favorite memory as a child?


Introduction: Carved in the Reformation Wall in Geneva, Switzerland is the phrase Post Tenebras Lux, which means “After darkness, light.” That motto was adopted because it so well expressed what the Reformation achieved––the recovery of the gospel in its purity after it had been hidden for centuries by man-made traditions in the Church. The Reformation was not about man-made religion. It was about the gospel, specifically the doctrine of justification by faith alone, which Martin Luther described as the article on which the Church stands or falls.


This doctrine answers the question, “What must I do to be saved?” This is an age-old question and we see it voiced again in this passage of Mark by a man so often described as the rich young ruler. But even before Jesus dealt with this man, He touched on the same question when He received and blessed a number of children.


Text: Mark 10:13-27


Group Discussion:


1- In general, do you think of yourself as a good person or a bad person, and why do you say that?

2- Read verses 13-16. What do you think it means to receive the kingdom of God as a little child?

3- In light of verses 13-16, Jesus’ first answer to the rich young man in verses 18-19 seems contradictory. If Jesus is not contradicting Himself, what is He getting at? (Remember pastor Dustin's law/gospel distinction)

4- Jesus’ second answer to the rich young man in verse 21 seems odd as well. Nowhere else does Jesus ever tell someone that they must become poor to be saved. So, what is He getting at here?

5- Jesus strongly confronted this self-righteous and spiritually obtuse man. But verse 17 says that Jesus “looked at him and loved him.” What does this tell you about Jesus' other harsh demands in the Gospels?


Gospel Closing: Read 2 Corinthians 8:9. This verse reminds us of something important. Jesus is saying to us, “I was a rich young ruler too. I had wealth, comfort, and status infinitely beyond your imagination. And I laid it all down. Why? For you. To save you, I left my infinite wealth behind and entered the depths of poverty and misery. And I was glad to do it, because that's how much I love you.”


Jesus is the true rich young ruler, the only truly obedient One. And He is our real treasure, our real hope, and our real security. It's because of Jesus that there's nothing left for us to "do" but rest in His grace as His beloved children.

Week of Nov 28: Accessing God's Power


Warm Up Question: What's the tallest mountain you've ever been on? What was it like?


Introduction: Peter, James, and John just experienced their greatest high at the Mount of 

Transfiguration. But immediately after descending the mountain, they will experience one of their 

greatest points of confusion and failure as a group of disciples.


Read Aloud: Mark 9:14-29


Group Discussion:


1- Why do you think Mark puts this story here, sandwiched between two passages on how the Messiah must suffer and die (8:31-9:13 and 9:30-32)?

2- So far in Mark's Gospel, Jesus’ teaching concerning his death is insulting and confusing to the disciples and they resist it. They are interested in power, popularity, acclaim, and success. How do you identify with the disciples?

3- The disciples tried prayer-less exorcism for the same reason that they couldn’t understand why Jesus had to die — they didn’t see how weak and sinful they were and they underestimated the power of evil in themselves. Do you ever underestimate the power of evil in yourself and if so, what causes you to do that?

4- Why do you think Jesus was so harsh with His disciples here and what can you learn from it?

5- Why do you think Jesus was so pleased with the boy's father and what can you learn from it?


Gospel Closing: Some commentators notice that when Moses comes off Mt. Sinai after seeing God, he finds the people worshipping the golden calf. In the same way, Jesus and the disciples come off of the mountain into confusion and evil. It may be that the parallel is intentional, to continue to show how Jesus is the Lord of Sinai and the new Moses come to deliver us. But also it could just be instructive to us in the most practical way possible: mountaintop experiences don’t last! Peter, James, and John have just been literally “on the top of the world,” full of glorious assurance that Jesus is the Lord of Glory. They had worshipped in a spiritual reality beyond which it is impossible to go in this life. Yet immediately they are plunged into problems and confusion. No matter how strong your walk with Jesus is, there will be many times of darkness and misery while this world continues. But take heart. There is no darkness or misery you will ever endure that is greater than what your Savior experienced in your place. He suffered the greatest misery possible for you, enduring the wrath of Almighty God on the cross for your sin. Though following Jesus entails suffering, it never means going to places He Himself would not go.

Week of Nov 21: Where Glory is Found


Warm Up Question: What's the tallest mountain you've ever been on? What was it like?


Introduction: In the last chapter of Mark, we saw that the very instant Peter confessed that Jesus was the Messiah (8:29), Jesus immediately began to teach, “Yes, but I am the Messiah who has come to die.” Peter immediately rebukes Jesus (8:31-32), making it clear that only relentless teaching on Jesus’ part is going to make any “dent” in the prejudices of the disciples. Now we are in the second half of Mark, and the contrast with the first half is already evident. Jesus now constantly speaks of his death and suffering, and he does it in ways that the disciples find extremely hard to swallow. The passage this week begins to answer the questions about the nature of Christ’s life and the reasons that the Messiah has to die.


Read Aloud: Mark 9:1-13


Group Discussion:


1- What does the presence of Moses and Elijah tell us about Jesus’ person and work? After the group answers, someone read Hebrews 1:1-4.

2- The voice from the cloud emphatically says to Peter, James, and John about Jesus, “Listen to Him!” What was it that Jesus was saying that the disciples were not listening to?

3- Why do you think the transfiguration occurs right after Jesus’ first teachings on his death? Why is this not just important for the disciples but for us?

4- How has the last two passages in Mark changed your views on suffering?


Gospel Closing: On the Mountain of Transfiguration we see Jesus surrounded by God’s glory––embraced and clothed in the love of God. But Jesus would soon go to another mountain––a mountain called Golgotha. And on that mountain, we will see Jesus forsaken and clothed in rejection from God. This was His mission. Jesus was cast off so that you and I could be embraced. Jesus was torn so that you and I could be made whole. The more you see Jesus’ sacrifice on your behalf and sense the loving arms of the Father around you, the readier you'll be to face the trials and sufferings of this life.

Week of Nov 7: The Way of the Cross


Warm Up Question: What was the worst trip you've ever been on?


Introduction: As we have said, the first half of Mark’s gospel tells us much about the person of Jesus, but leaves us with unanswered questions about the work of Jesus — i.e. how He will be bringing salvation and the kingdom. As Jesus now begins to reveal more explicit details about His mission, He also reveals more explicit details about what it means to follow Him.


Read Aloud: Mark 8:31-38


Group Discussion:


1- Read Philippians 1:29; 3:10-11, Acts 5:41, 2 Timothy 1:8, and James 1:2-3. How do these texts and Mark 8 change your views on suffering?

2- How are these verses different from what our society thinks about suffering?

3- There is a strange mixture of strength and weakness in Christianity. How does Jesus show this strange mixture in his mission?

4- How can you follow Jesus’ example of strength and weakness?


Gospel Closing: Though in this world you will suffer, no one will ever suffer as much as Christ suffered for you. Christ bore the full wrath of God against your sin, in your place. He took the chaos you deserved so you could get the joy and peace He deserves. So, in your pain, remember the pain Jesus endured on your behalf, and suffer well.


As the hymn writer states:


Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul.


It is well with my soul

It is well, it is well with my soul

Week of Oct 31: The King and The Cross


Warm Up Question: Who was your favorite superhero growing up, and why was he/she your favorite?


Introduction: As we have said, the first half of Mark’s gospel tells us much about the person of Jesus, but leaves us with unanswered questions about the work of Jesus — i.e. how He will be bringing salvation and the kingdom. As Jesus now begins to reveal more explicit details about His mission, He also reveals more explicit details about what it means to follow Him.


Read Aloud: Mark 8:27-38


Group Discussion:


1- The events recorded in verses 27-30 are also recorded in Matthew 16:13-20. Read Matthew 16:13-20 together. Why do you think that even though Jesus has been traveling with these men for three years, He still has to ask them who they think He is?

2- Read verse 31. In light of the teaching of the entire first half of Mark’s Gospel on who Jesus is, how is this verse completely unexpected, even (apparently) contradictory to it? 

3- Jesus goes directly from blessing Peter to rebuking him. Why? Because Peter tried to separate the person of the Messiah from the work of the Messiah. He tried to take Jesus off the cross, and it made Jesus furious. How does this serve as a warning to you personally today? How does this serve as a warning to the Church today?

4- Not only is Jesus’ cross hard to accept, Jesus’ call in Mark 8:34-38 for us to take up our own crosses to follow Him might be even harder. Why was this so difficult for Peter–and for us–to accept? 

5- How has this passage changed your views on suffering?


Gospel Closing: The word “must” appears twice in Mark 8:31 and makes this verse one of the most profound in the entire Bible. “He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” Why did Jesus create us knowing that we would reject Him and thereby force Him to redeem us at an infinite cost to Himself? Because He loves us. And His love is perfect love––unconditional and radically vulnerable. When you begin to understand that, when you begin to experience it, it will change you from the inside out. This is why Paul prayed for us:


"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray 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—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:16-19).

Week of Oct 24: What Do You See?


Warm Up Question: What's the most beautiful sight you've ever seen?


Introduction: In this story, the disciples travel from Bethsaida 25 miles north to Caesarea Philippi. Caesarea Philippi could not have been more different than Bethsaida. Caesarea was a thoroughly pagan area. Herod the Great had constructed a temple for the worship of his patron, the deified Augustus. Next to this temple was the cave of Pan and its temple. Pan was a mythological creature, a satyr with the legs of a goat and the body of a man. He was worshipped as a god of the shepherds and the mountains. In time there would be a temple to Zeus in the same complex.


It is as if Jesus intends to lead the Twelve into the heart of paganism to ask them a supremely important question.


Read Aloud: Mark 8:22-30


Group Discussion:


1- Why do you think Mark places this story about the blind man right after the story of Jesus rebuking the Pharisees and His disciples (Mark 8:1-21)? Is there some connection between the gradual (two-step) healing of this blind man and the disciples’ slowness to understand Jesus? (8:21, 24-25)

2- The events recorded in verses 27-30 are also recorded in Matthew 16:13-20. Read Matthew 16:13-20 together. Why do you think that even though Jesus has been traveling with these men for three years, He still has to ask them who they think He is?

3- What does Jesus' question in verse 27 tell us about Jesus?

4- What is the connection between the healing of the blind man and Jesus' question in verse 29?

5- Read verse 30. Why would Jesus tell Peter to be quiet about His identity? Should we be quiet? Why or why not?


Gospel Closing: If we skip to the end of Mark’s Gospel, we will see our story today play out in reverse. Mark 15:33-34 says, “At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).”


You see, in our story today, the blind man went from darkness into the light. But on the cross, Jesus went from light into the darkness––the anguishing darkness of being forsaken by God–– the darkness of hell itself. On the cross, Jesus lost the eternal cosmic light of His Father’s loving presence. But why? For you and for me. Jesus willingly left the light of His Father to be plunged into absolute darkness so that He could bring you out of darkness and into glorious light. 

Week of Oct 17: Eyes to See; Ears to Hear


Warm Up Question: What's the most beautiful sight you've ever seen?


Introduction: We are now moving from Act I of Mark's Gospel into Act II. Act I centered on the identity of Jesus. Act II will center on the mission of Jesus. Mark will show his readers why the cross was necessary and what it purchased.


Read Aloud: Mark 8:1-21


Group Discussion:


1- In verses 1-10, what differences are there between this feeding miracle and the one in 6:30-44? What might be Mark’s purpose in including this one that makes the disciples look so foolish?

2- How did Jesus feel toward the crowd of people that followed him? (8:2-3) How do you think his disciples might have felt? How would you feel?

3- In verse 11, why do the Pharisees ask for a sign, and why won’t Jesus give them one?

4- When we ask so-called faith healers to do miracles today to prove they have the power, they often cite passages like this to justify refusing. How should we respond?

5- What is Jesus trying to get across to his disciples in verses 14-21? What does their failure to understand teach us about ourselves?


Gospel Closing: Jesus here gives His disciples a humbling rebuke. Yet, it is not without hope. Notice two tiny words in verse 17: yet and still. Though their hearts are shrouded in darkness to the things of God, Jesus has not given up on them. Jesus knows that a day is coming when He Himself will be shrouded in darkness on their behalf. He knows that on the cross, He will take on their darkness in order to bring them into the light. And He did the same for you and for me. As fallen creatures, our hearts were dark and far from God. But, God so loved us, that He sent His Light into our darkness to rescue us and bring us home.


"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:5)

Week of Oct 10: The Deaf Hear; The Mute Speak


Warm Up Question: What do you think it would be like to not be able to hear or speak?


Introduction: As Jesus and His disciples come back southward, they find themselves once again within the region of Decapolis, meaning “ten cities” (Damascus, Raphana, Hippos, Dion, Kanatha, Gadara, Scythopolis, Pella, Gerasa and Philadelphia). Because of the high percentage of Greek immigrants to these cities, they had formed a political league among themselves and had developed a tradition of self-government. It was a land of heathen temples, marble amphitheaters, and Greek culture and art.


Jesus had come to this area before (Mark 5:1-20) and had been confronted with a man who was possessed with a legion of demons. He had cast the demons out of the man and had allowed them to enter a herd of pigs. The pigs had stampeded down the hillside and into the waters of the Sea of Galilee to drown.


The man, now healed, had wanted to follow Jesus. Instead, Jesus instructed him to go home and to tell everyone about what had happened to him. Some time has now passed. Jesus has returned to the Decapolis. And it seems as though the man who had been delivered from the legion had done his job. Everyone in the area has now heard about Jesus. It is not long before people come to him for healing.


Read Aloud: Mark 7:31-37


Group Discussion:


1- What is so different about Jesus' method of healing here as opposed to other healings?

2- Why did Jesus use this unusual method and what does it reveal about Jesus' heart?

3- Why do you think Mark continues to tell us stories of Jesus healing people?

4- Look at verse 37. When was the last time you were simply amazed at Jesus?

5- How could you use this story to explain the gospel to someone?


Gospel Closing: Even the deaf are not out of Jesus’ reach. Though the man could do nothing about his condition, Jesus solved it in an instant. When we realize that we are all spiritually deaf to Jesus and can do nothing about our condition, but that He has saved us and caused us to “hear,” it should fill our hearts with gladness and gratitude. What a Savior we have! What great news that it is not up to our moral efforts nor our own cleansing of our motivations, but that Jesus does it all. 

Week of Oct 3: At the Master's Table


Warm Up Question: What is your favorite meal?


Introduction: We must see this incident as having a direct connection to the previous teaching of Jesus about the nature of cleanliness and sin in Mark 7:1-23. The Mosaic law required that worshippers be ‘ritually clean,’ physically healthy, have no contact with dead animals or people, abstain from a list of prohibited foods, and so on. The purpose of these rules were to act as a ‘visual aid’ to show us that we needed to be holy before God. Disease, decay, and dirt symbolize sin. The religious leaders, however, saw ritual purity not as a symbolizing holiness, but as constituting holiness. As a result, they added even more rules and regulations, the ‘tradition of the elders,’ on top of the Biblical laws. They believed that you could make yourself acceptable to God by scrupulously staying separate from profane and unclean people, places, and practices. Jesus says that they completely missed the point of the Old Testament regulations. Sin is first of all internal, a matter of the heart. Sin can’t be dealt with by external washing but only through internal spiritual intervention.


Read Aloud: Mark 7:24-30


Group Discussion:


1- After Jesus' run in with Jewish leaders about cleanliness law, why is this trip into "unclean" Gentile territory significant?

2- Read aloud verses 24-26. Name all the ways in which Mark is pointing out what an ‘unclean’ situation Jesus now involves himself in.

3- Read aloud verses 26-27. What is so unusual and striking a) about the woman’s request, and, b) about Jesus’ response to her?

4- In verses 28-30, how does she react to Jesus' insult? What does this teach us about how to meet Christ by faith?


Gospel Closing: This Gentile woman gives us a perfect example of what true saving faith really is. On the one hand there is no hostility. She says, “You are right! I am a dog! I am a sinner, unclean and unfit.” So she accepts the humbling statement from Jesus. But on the other hand, there is no despair. She says, “But I know you are merciful and your love is superabounding. Therefore, I know there is some for me. I don’t deserve it, but I need it.” This woman understood both sides of the gospel coin: Side A- You are more sinful and wicked than you ever dared believe. Side B- And yet you are more accepted and loved than you ever dared hope.

Week of Sept 26: The Stain


Warm Up Question: What is your favorite family tradition?


Introduction: The Mosaic law listed a number of physical conditions that disqualified someone from worship:

• contact with a dead body (Numbers 19:11-22); 

• infectious skin diseases such as boils or sores or rashes (Leviticus 13:1-46); 

• mildew in clothing, article, or home (Leviticus 13:47-14:57); 

• any bodily discharges, either natural (as semen, menstruation, fluids from

childbirth) or unnatural (diarrhea, yeast, hemorrhages of blood or puss) (see

Leviticus 12 and 15); 

• and eating any food in the lists of those items called unclean (Leviticus 11 and

Deuteronomy 14). 


If a person became defiled through any of these things (or through contact with someone who was defiled), he or she could not come into the sanctuary of God for a period, and then had to wash with water for purification (Leviticus 15:8-10). The Bible only required washings of the priests at the temple (Exodus 30:19 and 40:13), not of all people. But the Jewish elders developed a “fence” of more specific and strict rules than those of the Bible. They demanded that everyone wash their hands in order to be pure. Jesus, however, refused to have his disciples bound by such traditions.


Read Aloud: Mark 7:1-23


Group Discussion:


1- Intentionally or not, every community of Christians sets up man-made traditions they expect people in good standing with God to follow. Name some of those traditions you’re familiar with.

2- Why are people offended by Jesus’ claim that no one is made righteous by good works

3- Do you ever have the tendency to focus on the sins of others rather than the sins in your own heart? Why or not?

4- That’s quite a list of ‘unclean’ things that come from within a person’s heart in 7:21-22. What evil attitudes or actions would you add to this list?

5- Discuss this quote: “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn


Gospel Closing: There are two different ways to reject Jesus as Savior: pride (not believing you’re a sinner) and despair (not believing in grace). Both are forms of faithlessness. So, the solution for the problem of sin is not striving for moral perfection, but simply admitting you are a moral failure and trusting completely in Christ’s saving work on the cross. The gospel reveals that you are more sinful than you ever thought but also more loved than you ever dreamed. Come to Jesus and find forgiveness and rest for your soul.

Week of Sept 12: The Upside-Down Revolution


Warm Up Question: What's the tiredest you've ever been?


Introduction: Jesus and His disciples are tired. Jesus was taking them away to a place of rest in the 

desert. They hadn’t even had time to eat. But many followed. What would you have done? Surely they 

just wanted to be alone. “Jesus, send them away!” must have been their thoughts. But Jesus “had 

compassion” on them, (literally in the Greek, His guts wrenched). So He began to teach. Once again, the 

teaching of Jesus was of constant importance.


Read Aloud: Mark 6:30-44


Group Discussion:


1- Because it is included in all four gospels, this story must have had great significance for the early Christian community. How do you think this story might have been understood at the time in comparison to how we view it today?

2- What do you learn about Jesus from His response to the crowds, even when He was tired and spent?

3- In verse 34, Jesus sees us as sheep and sees Himself as our Shepherd. What does it tell us about ourselves that He sees us as sheep?

4- This story teaches that seemingly inadequate resources can be multiplied. In the hands of the Shepherd, the insignificant becomes significant, the insufficient becomes sufficient, the few loaves become a feast. Have you ever felt like you were inadequate to serve in God’s kingdom and if so, what does this story teach you?

5- Read Psalm 23 aloud. What does the psalm and the feeding of the 5,000 teach you about the Shepherd?


Gospel Closing: Just as bread must be broken for our bodies to live, so must the Bread of Life be broken for our spirits to live. All we have to do is eat, have our fill, and be satisfied, just as the 5,000 did in our story. Verse 34: "They all ate and were satisfied."


A hymn by Reginald Heber:


Bread of the world in mercy broken,

wine of the soul in mercy shed,

by whom the words of life were spoken,

and in whose death our sins are dead.


Look on the heart by sorrow broken,

look on the tears by sinners shed;

and be thy feast to us the token

that by thy grace our souls are fed.

Week of Sept 5: A Tragic Life


Warm Up Question: What's the best gift you've ever received?


Introduction: In the Gospels, Jesus and His disciples are often hated and rejected. In fact, in this text, one of the great heroes of the emerging faith is killed (John the Baptist). While this might be a bit surprising, it should also be a source of encouragement for us.


Read Aloud: Mark 6:14-29


Group Discussion:


1- Why do you think Mark places this story about John the Baptist right after the story of Jesus sending out the Twelve?

2- What are the potential costs for us as we play our part as agents of Jesus' kingdom?

3- There is no indication that Herodias thought John was wrong in his indictment of her marriage. It appears that she hated him because he was right. Romans 1 tells us that humans know the basic truth about God but they suppress that truth. How does this explain why Christians are so often hated?

4- Has the pressure to please people ever affected your relationship with Christ?

5- How does the execution of John foreshadow the death of Jesus?


Gospel Closing: Many of us, even long-time believers, are more like Herod in this story than John, lacking the moral courage and boldness to stand up for Christ for fear of rejection. But, in Christ, all those sins are forgiven. Jesus was rejected and humiliated for us, in our place, so that we can by faith stand confidently before God unashamed. We must remember that John never pointed people to himself; he pointed them to the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). The point of this story is not to see John as our example, but to see Jesus as our Savior.

Week of Aug 29: How to Reach the World


Warm Up Question: What is the most interesting place you've ever visited?


Introduction: So far in Mark's Gospel, Jesus has done virtually all of the ministering. But in this week's text, Jesus tags His disciples into the ring.


Read Aloud: Mark 6:7-13


Group Discussion:


1- What is Jesus preparing His disciples for in this passage?

2- Why do you think Jesus sent the Twelve out without Him?

3- Jesus is readying His disciples for rejection from the world to the message of the gospel. How are you currently prepared to handle rejection for your faith?

4- How is this passage a model for discipleship today?


Gospel Closing: British missionary C.T. Studd once said: "If Jesus Christ be God, and He died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him." It is not Christian duty that compels us to reach the world, it is the love of Christ. In Jesus, we have the ultimate missionary who left everything to come and rescue us in our sin. He came into this world with nothing; He cared none for the comforts of the world; His disposition toward us was gentleness and humility; and His word to us was forgiveness.

Week of Aug 22: The Offensive Carpenter


Warm Up Question: How has your life been influenced by the place where you grew up?


Introduction: Reading the Gospels, you might at first expect to see a glowing reception to Jesus everywhere He goes. However, in many cases this does not happen. Often Jesus is outright rejected.


Read Aloud: Mark 6:1-6


Group Discussion:


1- The rejection from His hometown was likely painful for Jesus. How does Jesus handle the rejection and what does it tell you about Him?

2- If Jesus faced rejection, as a follower of Jesus, you will too. Have you ever ever experienced outright rejection because of your faith? If so, explain.

3- What does Nazareth's rejection of Jesus as Messiah tell you about Jesus' childhood?

4- The Nazarenes found it difficult to believe in Jesus. Have you ever found it hard to believe in Jesus?

5- You never see Jesus doing overly spectacular miracles like setting a mountain on fire or writing words in the sky. Obviously someone who calmed a hurricane and raised the dead could do such things. Why didn’t He do so?


Gospel Closing: Surely it hurt Jesus to be rejected by His hometown. But that pain was nothing compared to Him being rejected by His heavenly Father. If an acquaintance of yours says, "I never want to see you again," you will feel pretty bad. But if your spouse tells you, "I never want to see you again," you would be devastated. The longer and deeper the love, the greater the torment of its loss. But the forsakenness experienced by Christ on the cross was between the eternal Father and the eternal Son, who had loved each other from eternity past. So, Jesus was literally experiencing hell when He said, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Why was Jesus forsaken by the Father? For you and for me. Jesus was rejected by the Father so that we never will be. The judgment that should have fallen on us fell instead on Jesus. If that is true, even if the whole world rejects you, you can rest knowing that because of Jesus you are fully accepted by God.

Week of Aug 15: The Power of Imperfect Faith


Warm Up Question: What's the most physically sick you've ever been?


Introduction: Today's text involves two people from opposite sides the tracks. One was a wealthy community leader and the other was a total outcast. This passage interweaves their two stories. In the New Testament, whenever two stories are juxtaposed in this way, it is safe to assume that the author wants us to make comparisons and draw contrasts as a way to learn from the two incidents.


Read Aloud: Mark 5:21-43


Group Discussion:


1- Jesus committed medical malpractice here. He prioritized a woman with a long-time chronic disease over a child with a life-threatening acute illness. What does this tell you about Jesus and His kingdom?

2- Someone read verses 32-34 aloud. Why do you think Jesus has this woman 'go public' about what happened to her?

3- There were lots of people around Jesus here and many were touching Him. Why weren’t any of them healed? Why doesn’t Jesus stop for any of them?

4- What do these two stories teach you about faith? How is it an encouragement to those who have small or weak faith?

5- What does Jesus' method of raising the little girl teach you about Him?


Gospel Closing: Jesus takes this dead girl by the hand and essentially says, “Sweetheart, it’s time to get up.” Exactly the words her mother or father might say to her on a beautiful Saturday morning. What a show of power! With Jesus even the greatest enemy of all––death––becomes just a good night’s sleep. What a show of tenderness! Here’s the real parent we need, one who has us by the hand and will bring us through our very darkest nights. We can be confident that Jesus will take us through our darkest nights because He has already walked through the darkest of all nights for us. On the cross, Jesus took all the darkness in the universe onto Himself in our place. Paul writes, "For our sake he made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). If someone this powerful and this loving has us by the hand, tell me, whom shall we fear?

Week of Aug 8: The End of Evil


Warm Up Question: What was the scariest moment of your life?


Introduction: This story takes place in the Gentile county of the Gerasenes across the Sea of Galilee. For Jewish people, Gentiles were the root of many of their problems. Jews believed that the Messiah, if he were to come, would surely rid the land of Gentile swine.


Read Aloud: Mark 5:1-20


Group Discussion:


1- The demons had correct beliefs about Jesus––He was Son of the Most High. This must mean that having correct beliefs about Jesus is not sufficient for us. What is it about our belief that needs to be different than that of demons'?

2- If you read verse 21, you'll see that Jesus immediately headed back to Capernaum after this event. So, Jesus made the five mile trip across the lake to heal this man and then immediately returned to Capernaum. What does this tell you about Jesus?

3- Why do you think Jesus allowed this Gentile to go tell other Gentiles about Him when He wouldn't allow Jews to go tell other Jews of Him?

4- What are the implications for your life that Jesus has total power over the forces of hell?

5- In what ways are you similar to the Gerasenes?


Gospel Closing: Jews did not care about Gentiles. In fact, the Jews would rather the Gentile "pigs” be sent to their death in the sea. Yet Jesus, a Jewish Rabbi, made a special trip to rescue a Gentile man possessed by evil. But that wasn't even the end of the rescue. Jesus would bring about an even greater rescue in the man's life. But how? How would Jesus further rescue this "man of the tombs"? By going to His own tomb. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus would conquer the power of evil forever and set both Gentiles and Jews free from the grip of Satan. In Christ, all our sins are forgiven.

Week of Aug 1: Lord of the Storm


Warm Up Question: What's the worst storm (tornado, hurricane, etc.) you've ever been in?


Introduction: Christians often highlight Jesus' divinity while forgetting about His humanity. Skeptics often highlight Jesus' humanity and ignore or dismiss the idea of His divinity. This story in Mark is a profound illustration of both of Jesus' natures. Christ is truly human and truly divine.


Read Aloud: Mark 4:35-41


Group Discussion:


1- Someone read aloud Job 38, and as you listen, think about this question: How does Job 38 underscore the fact that the disciples were terrified after Jesus calmed the storm?

2- In the Gospels, most of the responses to Jesus' power were shock, awe, and/or fear. Has Jesus ever moved in your life in such a way that it left you with one of those responses? If so, explain.

3- Have you ever been frustrated with God during a storm in your life?

4- Instead of comforting the disciples. Jesus scolded them. What should the disciples have already known about Jesus' power? What should they have already known about Jesus' character?

5- In what areas of your life do you need Jesus' loving power right now?


Gospel Closing: Jesus not only conquered this storm, He conquered the ultimate storm: the storm of sin and death. Through His crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus annihilated the power of sin and put death to death. And this Jesus, the most powerful and terrifying force in existence, is on our side. He loved us so much that He laid down His life for our sins, in our place, and then rose again to bring us to glory with Him.


Canadian scientist G.B. Hardy once said: "When I look at religion, I have two questions. One: Has anybody ever conquered death? Two: If they have, did they make a way for me to conquer death? I checked the tomb of Buddha, and it was occupied. I checked the tomb of Confucius, and it was occupied. I came to the tomb of Jesus, and it was empty. And I said, 'There is One who conquered death.' And then I asked the second question, 'Did He make a way for me to do it?' I opened the Bible and discovered that He said, 'Because I live, you shall live also.'"

The Master's Touch


Warm Up Question: What's the kindest thing anyone's ever done for you?


Introduction: Mark's Gospel is fast-paced and hard-hitting, but right here, Mark slows his story down to show us a remarkable encounter between Jesus and a leper.


Read Mark 1:40-45


Group Discussion:


1- The Jews believed that whatever a leper touches becomes "unclean." How do you think the crowds reacted when Jesus touched the leper?

2- The leper broke Levitical and societal laws by approaching Jesus. Leprosy not only infected a person’s skin, but their entire life. They were completely cut off from society. What is so amazing about how Jesus responded to this man?

3- Why do you think the leper asked to be "made clean" rather than to be healed?

4- What does verse 44 show you about Jesus' attitude toward the Law of Moses? How does the Law of Moses fit with Jesus' message of grace?

5- Why do you think the leper disobeyed Jesus?


Gospel Closing: Professor Reynolds Price notes: "What I have never seen noticed is the silent and astonishing fact that virtually no one in Mark's tale appears to obey one of Jesus' moral injunctions or to heed one of his admonitions. In fact, we are shown several instances in which the exact opposite occurs." This is no accident on Mark's part. Neither the leper nor you and me can faithfully obey God's Law and Jesus' commands. Romans 3:12 says, “All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” We can't obey the Law, but there is One who did. Jesus said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them" (Mat. 5:17). Where we failed, Jesus succeeded. And now, incredibly, His righteousness is credited to us simply by faith in Him. “But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe" (Rom 3:21-22).

The Healer


Warm Up Question: What's the sickest you've ever been?


Introduction: Mark has shown us Jesus' powerful authority to teach God's Word and drive out demons. Now Mark is going to show us another side of Jesus.


Read Mark 1:29-39


Group Discussion:


1- What sticks out to you the most about this passage?

2- What do we learn about Jesus' kingdom in this passage?

3- Why do you think Jesus wouldn't allow the demons to speak (verse 34)?

4- Why do you think Jesus spent so much time in prayer if He was the Son of God? Jesus made a habit of getting by Himself and praying before He made major decisions. What do you typically do when faced with major decisions?

5- Why didn't Jesus stay in Capernaum when there were so many more people who needed healing there?


Gospel Closing: Though Jesus can and does heal our physical illnesses, Jesus desires above all else that we experience the ultimate healing of the gospel. That’s why He couldn’t stay in Capernaum to set up a healing factory. As Mark’s Gospel makes crystal clear, Jesus’ face was always set toward the cross; toward dying for our sins to bring us to eternal glory with Him.

A King Like No Other


Warm Up Question: What is the strangest thing you've ever witnessed?


Introduction: Mark has already told us who Jesus is––the long-awaited divine King. But now Mark is introducing us to the character and nature of the King.


Read Mark 1:21-28


Group Discussion:


1- Now that the King has arrived, what are His first actions and why are they significant? What do they teach us about Jesus?

2- What do Jesus’ actions tell us about His beliefs regarding the Sabbath?

3- Why do you think Mark emphasizes Jesus' authority rather than the exorcism itself?

4- Given our current culture’s emphasis on atheism and naturalism, what does this story teach the modern listener?

5- What does this passage reveal to us about the world's problems and the answer to those problems?


Gospel Closing: Many in our modern society hate authority. And often for good reason. For eons men have used their authority to manipulate and abuse others. But what did Jesus do with His authority? Did He lord it over others? Did He abuse others? No, the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mk. 10:45).


We may fear the authority of men, but when we come to Jesus, we have nothing to fear in His authority. All authority in heaven and on earth was given to Him, and what did He do with it? He went to the cross; our cross. He suffered and died for our sins, in our place. And with that same authority, He rose again, bringing many sons and daughters to glory!

The King’s Ministry Begins


Warm Up Question: What's the best advice anyone's ever given you?


Introduction: We, the readers, have already been given the identity of Jesus in Mark 1:1-4, where He is identified as the Divine King. The big mystery, however, is the nature of His kingdom. What is it like? How do we enter it? In this passage, we start to see what the kingdom of God is all about. 


Read Mark 1:14-20


Group Discussion:


1- The Bible is often thought of as good advice for how to live one’s life–a set of moral behaviors, opinions, and positions. But in verse 15, Jesus says that He has come with good "news,” not good advice. What is the difference between good news and good advice? Up to this point in your life, have you viewed Christianity more like good news or more like good advice? 

2- Having announced that the kingdom is near, Jesus calls his hearers to repentance and belief. Repentance is different than simply saying, “I’m sorry”–it means to completely turn away from something and turning toward something else. What does Jesus want us to turn away from and what does He want us to believe?

3- What does Jesus teach us about the kingdom of God in the calling of these fishermen?

4- Brainstorm together as a group a short description of a perfect earthly president or king. Consider his key roles and responsibilities and how he relates to those under his authority.

5- How often do you think of Jesus as King and Supreme Ruler over all things? How would it help you to think about it more often?


Gospel Closing: Jesus’ call to the disciples is His same call to us. Jesus is saying, “Follow me because I’m the King you’ve always been looking for. Follow me because I have authority over everything, yet I have humbled myself for you. Follow me because I died on the cross for your sins. Follow me because I rose again and sit at the right hand of the Father. Follow me because I have brought you this good news. Follow me because I am your true love. Follow me because only in Me will you find life."

The King’s Family


Warm Up Question: What is your favorite family memory?


Setting the Scene: The Trinity, though a concept that is hard to grasp, is one of the most profound and beautiful doctrines of Christianity. In this passage, we see all three members of the Trinity working together for your redemption.


Read Mark 1:9-13


Group Discussion:


1- Some people teach that Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God the Father are all the same individual. What does the account of Jesus’ baptism say about that idea? 

2- Why did Jesus have the approval of His Father before He even started His ministry?

3-  Why do you think the Spirit sent Christ out into the wilderness "immediately" after He heard the encouraging words from His Father?

4- What do we learn about the temptation of Christ from verses 12 and 13?

5-  The Spirit sends Christ into the desert “with the wild animals”. For Mark’s first-century Christian readers, wild animals also awaited them in the Roman coliseum. The prospect of real persecution loomed before them. How does Jesus' experience in the desert help Christians facing persecution and suffering?


Gospel Closing: After being strengthened by the voice of the Father, Christ is sent out as the “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah 53. The Suffering King introduced by Mark and Isaiah, confirmed by the Father, is now sent to face Satan in the desert. The irony is thick. Here we have the model of Jesus’ life and ministry. He will teach and He will heal, but how He teaches and heals will be the true mark of His character––He will do it all as a suffering, humble, servant, leading eventually to the ultimate humble act of service at the cross.

Making Way for the King


Warm Up Question: What is the curviest road you've ever driven on?


Setting the Scene: Mark’s Gospel is about “the gospel of the kingdom.” The word gospel means “good news.” The good news of Mark's Gospel is that the kingdom of God has come into the world in Jesus Christ, the long-awaited true King. But this King is unlike what anyone was expecting. He comes in a way that completely reverses the values of the world — in weakness and service, not strength and force — to die as a ransom for us (Mk. 10:45).


Read Mark 1:1-8


Group Discussion:


1- Read Romans 1:16-17. What is "the gospel" according to these two verses? Is this a different gospel than Mark's gospel?

2- Mark opens his account with a reference to an Old Testament passage. Read Isaiah 40:3-5, and then compare it to Mark 1:2-3. Why do you think Mark opens up his story about Jesus with a quote from the Old Testament?

3-  At this point in your life, tell us who you understand Jesus to be.

4- Describe John’s lifestyle. What does it make you think about him?

5-  Though John had thousands of followers, how does he compare himself to the One who is to come? Read Acts 19:1-5. What is the difference between John's baptism and the baptism of the gospel?


Gospel Closing: John the Baptist, by preaching about sin and God’s law, is preparing a "straight path" for the God of the gospel to come. The law is the bad news that you are sinful and can never live up to God’s standard of morality. The gospel is the good news that though you sin, all your sins are forgiven in Christ through faith. His work, not our work, is therefore the very essence of Christianity.