Sermon-based Life Group study

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.