Sermon-based study

Week of April 14:

Spiritual Warfare

Sermon Review:

Did anything stick out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: Ephesians 6:10-20, the believers standing with the armor of God serves as a means of completing the church's gospel mission in the world.

Read: Ephesians 6:10-13

Group Discussion:

1- Paul urges the Ephesians to "be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might." Why does the nature of this war demand that we use Jesus' strength?

2- Based on what Paul has said about activities "in the heavenly places" earlier in the epistle (1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10), what sort of wrestling must believers do in the unseen realms?

3- Why do you think Paul emphasizes the concept of standing?

4- Someone read 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8. What should be the Christian's frame of mind every day?

Gospel Closing: The frail and finite nature of human existence puts all people, including believers, at a severe disadvantage to spiritual powers who are not limited by bodily weaknesses. The believer's only hope of success is in Jesus our Warrior. By going to the cross , Christ defeated the invisible powers who sought absolute rule over the domain of the earth (Col. 1:13). We find salvation's victory--both present and final--in Christ our Conqueror and in His finished work alone.

To quote Martin Luther:

“In conflict with Satan, nothing is better and more vital for victory than learning to look away from self and to cling to the cross. Thus the devil is defrauded and made to miss the boat. 

It works like this: I am nothing. The Lord is all my strength. I am stripped of everything, 

of myself and all that is mine. I can therefore say: ‘Devil what are you fighting? If you try to denounce my good works and my holiness before God, why, I admit that I have none. My strength is not my own; the Lord is my Strength. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip, Satan! And if you try to prosecute my sins, I have none of those either. For Christ has taken them into His own body on the tree. I know absolutely nothing about sins or holiness in me. I know nothing whatever except God’s power in me.”

Week of April 7:

The Gospel for Life

Sermon Review:

Did anything stick out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: Ephesians 5-6 calls believers to Christlike actions in daily life. Each set of instructions will make multiple appeals to the person and work of Jesus, looking back to the one who has blessed the Ephesians with every spiritual blessing (5:22, 23, 25, 29; 6:1, 4, 5, 6, 9).

Read: Ephesians 6:1-9

Group Discussion:

1- Why is it important for a Christian father to avoid provoking his children to anger? What might this instruction to fathers say about the necessity of dependence on the Holy Spirit?

2- Why is threatening one employed as a bondservant contrary to the gospel? How might knowledge of an impartial Master in heaven guide a Christian employer's treatment of his employees (verse 9)?

3- Growing within our current culture is a widespread rebellion against and distrust of authority. How would hard-working respectful service toward our authorities display the gospel to our neighbors?

Gospel Closing: Our Master traded places with us, becoming a slave so that we could belong in His Kingdom forever. His death on our behalf purchased a new status for us before God. We are now counted as perfectly righteous in Him. Therefore, the pressure's off! Christ has freed us for TRULY good works -- good works done not for our own benefit, but for the benefit of our neighbors.

Week of March 31:

The End of Evil

Sermon Review:

Did anything stick out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: One theologian says, "This is the most important passage in the Bible."

Read: Romans 3:10-26

Group Discussion:

1- What does Scripture teach all humans about:

Our posture toward God (verses 10-12)?

Our speech (verses 13-14)?

Our conduct and inner attitudes (verses 15-18)?

2- All humans attempt to earn our own righteousness. In what ways have you tried to be righteous by non-religious works like social or political causes, moral crusades, etc.? In what ways have you tried to be righteous by religious works?

3- Why do you think God is so adamant that only faith in His Son produces righteousness?

4- If the Law doesn't make us righteous, what does it do?

Gospel Closing: Though we have all accrued a massive moral debt with our Creator, amazingly, our Creator Himself takes care of the debt for us. We are "freely justified by his grace" (v. 24). All our vile thoughts and actions have been absorbed by Jesus. As Peter teaches: "He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross" (1 Peter 2:24). This is why the Messiah had to be simultaneously divine and human. Only a divine person is capable of absorbing the sins of the entire world. And only a human person is frail enough to be crucified and die. Jesus Christ, the God Man, is our one and only Savior. He is the one and only crucified and resurrected King.

Week of March 24:

The One True King

Sermon Review:

Did anything sticik out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: The streets of Jerusalem are jam-packed due to it being the national holiday of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (12:1). The crowds are at a near fever-pitch with expectation, wondering if Jesus would make an appearance at Passover (11:55- 56). Raising Lazarus from the dead poured “jet fuel” on the entire situation (12:17-18).

Read: John 12:12-19

Group Discussion:

1- Think back over your relationship with Christ. In what ways has your understanding and expectations of Christ changed over the years to more appropriately align with who He truly is? Be as specific as possible.

2- The crowds who gathered for Passover were eager to welcome Christ, so long as He met their requirements and fit nicely into their pre-formed ideas. In what ways do you continue to struggle with trying to fit Jesus into your thoughts of “how things ought to be”? Are there specific situations during this current season in our nation/world that have uniquely revealed this struggle in your heart?

3- The Triumphal Entry is interesting in many ways, but one significant way is that less than one week after the Triumphal Entry, some of the same people that were excitedly welcoming praising and lauding Jesus as King were going to be the same people that are calling for His crucifixion. How do you explain this?

4- How does the cross help you trust the management of Jesus over the universe?

Gospel Closing: The nail-scarred hands that crushed sin and death are the same hands that comfort the broken and the mourning. The voice who spoke the universe into existence is the same voice who cries out in pain on the cross. Jesus is the King we've always wanted. He is at the same time the triumphant Lion and the slain Lamb. His words melt mountains and mend broken hearts. We are not only completely safe under His rule but we are also completely provided for. Long live the King!

Week of March 17:

What is a Preacher?

Sermon Review:

Did anything stick out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: Today we encounter a story from the perspective of John the Baptist, who was a relative of Jesus and whose entire purpose was to prepare the way for Him.

Read: John 1:29-37

Group Discussion:

1- Dr. Lucas Stamps writes: "For the New Testament authors, the indicative of the gospel always precedes and grounds the moral imperatives they give in their letters." In other words, the apostles are always pointing at the cross. The apostles encourage us toward good works, not to earn God's favor, but because we already and always have God's favor because of what Jesus has done for us. Is this a new concept for you, and if so, how might this knowledge help you moving forward?

2- Have you ever been in a church where the preaching was centered around either felt needs or moral behavior? How did that experience move you toward despair or self-righteousness?

3- Why is it important that Jesus is the Lamb of God and not just another life coach or self-help guru?

4- In verse 30, what is John trying to teach about Jesus and who He is?

5- If John was Jesus' relative, why does he say in verse 31 that he didn't know Jesus? What does that teach us about how any of us come to know who Jesus is?

Gospel Closing: One theologian said, "If we needed healing, God would have sent us a doctor. If we needed power, God would have sent us a politician. If we needed guidance, God would have sent us a teacher. If we needed food, God would have sent us a cook. But what we actually needed was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior."

And not just any Savior, a perfect sacrifice for our sins. John calls him "The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." Lambs in the Old Testament were used by the priests as sacrifices for the people's sins. The lambs died in the place of the sinners. And so, God saw that we are guilty of our sins under the condemnation of the law, and He gave us His precious Lamb, Christ Jesus, to take our sins away once and for all.

So, as a believer, you can go confidently to God at any time without the weight of your sins hanging over your head, for Christ has permanently removed them. Go live in this remarkable freedom, and while you're at it, why not share it with others? Point them to the Lamb of God who has taken away our sins. He is what we all need.

Week of Mar 3:

Worshiping What We Know

Sermon Review:

Did anything stick out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: When reading John chapter 4, it is important to understand that the Samaritans and the Jews had a long and difficult relationship. Though both traced their ancestry and religion back to Moses, the Samaritans and Jews thought different mountains were the sacred places of worship (Mt. Gerizim versus Mt. Zion), used slightly different Scriptures (Samaritans used only the Torah; Jews used the entire Old Testament), and had a great dislike for one another culturally. It is also important to know that Jewish men did not relate publicly with women, whether Jewish or otherwise. 

Read: John 4:4-26

Group Discussion:

1- In every way this woman was the definition of an "outsider" to religious Jews. She was to be marked an avoided. So, the fact that Jesus went out of His way (verse 4) to befriend her was an astonishing act of grace (verse 27). What kinds of people today would be considered total outsiders to religious Christians? How do Christians typically treat them?

2- American Christians are often worried that if they befriend a known sinner, it will damage their reputation. Why wasn't Jesus worried about this?

3- When the Samaritan woman asked for the living water, Jesus responded by asking her to go get her husband. Tim Keller says that Jesus’ response alludes to the fact that this woman has been seeking satisfaction from men. If that's true, what is Jesus doing by offering her "living water"?

4- How does your heart lie to you about your standing with God and your ability to access Him? Are you ever tempted to believe that your church attendance, tithing, serving, and good works are part of your "sacrifices" to God?

Gospel Closing: This is not the last time in John's Gospel that Jesus would be thirsty. In John 19, He cries out from the cross, "I thirst!" Jesus was thirsty so that we would never thirst again. Jesus, who felt the deepest spiritual thirst and separation from God on the cross, freely gives us the living water of His love and mercy. Only this can fill our spiritual needs and be the source of everlasting life within us.

Week of Feb 25:

Bad News for Pharisees

Sermon Review:

Did anything stick out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: Our good works and self-righteousness make us think we're doing good with God and have no need of His love and forgiveness. Jesus directly combats this thought with a Jewish religious leader.

Read: John 3:1-17

Group Discussion:

1- Why do you think Nicodemus comes to see Jesus at night instead of during the day?

2- Why do you think many Christians' first instinct is to "yeah, but!" the message of grace?

3- Have you ever noticed the context of John 3:16 before, and if not, how does the context change your thinking about the verse?

4- Why do you think verse 16 is so famous but verse 17 isn't? Why is verse 17 so important for us to understand?

Gospel Closing: Though Jesus seemed harsh with Nicodemus, it was purely from a place of love. And it's likely that Jesus' direct tone with the Pharisee worked. Later, we see Nicodemus defend Jesus (John 7:50-52) and even help Joseph of Arimathea prepare Jesus' body for burial (John 19:39), an incredibly intimate act. This suggests that Nicodemus did indeed eventually lay aside his own works and trust in Jesus' works for salvation: His perfect life, His sacrificial death, and His triumphant resurrection.

Week of Feb 18:

The Temptation of Christ

Sermon Review:

Did anything stick out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: Immediately after Jesus’ baptism, the Spirit sends Him into the wilderness where He fasts for 40 days.

Read: Matthew 4:1-11

Group Discussion:

1- People are sometimes surprised to hear that Jesus was hungry or that He could be tempted to sin. What are they failing to understand? Why does this point matter?

2- When Jesus responds to Satan, He does so by quoting Scripture, and specifically parts of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy is Moses’ last sermon to the new generation of Israelites after the people had wandered through the wildness for 40 years. How does this help us to understand what Jesus is doing?

3- In each temptation, Satan challenged Jesus to use His abilities, will, and resources for His own benefit, instead of simply trusting in His Father’s plan and timing. Where are you currently being tempted to use your abilities, will, and resources to achieve your desired ends without trusting in God’s plan and timing?

4- How often are you tempted to doubt the promise given to you in your baptism? How do you usually fight this temptation?

Gospel Closing: God with us; God for us. This is the promise of the gospel. It's that the One who is “with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20) has already gone ahead of you, even to the most forsaken places of the wilderness; He meets you in the most difficult tests of your life. No place is so desolate, so distant, or so challenging that Jesus has not already been there for you; no test or temptation is so great that Jesus has not already overcome it for you. 

Week of Feb 11:

Married in Christ

Sermon Review:

Did anything stick out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: After describing God's amazing salvation and incomparable riches that all believers in Christ possess (chs. 1-3), Paul turns his attention to the practical ramifications of the gospel.

Read: Ephesians 5:21-33

Group Discussion:

1- This teaching from Paul is highly controversial in today's culture because it says wives should submit to their husbands. But ironically, in the first century, this teaching was controversial for the exact opposite reason -- because it says husbands should serve their wives. In a male dominated society, it was unthinkable that husbands should serve their wives in any manner. How does a wife's submission to her husband bring glory to Christ? How does a husband's self-sacrificing service for his wife bring glory to Christ?

2- Why is the marriage bond so sacred?

3- In what ways does the gospel help a Christian marriage?

Gospel Closing: There is a mystery associated with marriage--the mystery of the gospel. In the history of salvation, the initial relationship God establishes between Adam and Eve is that of a marriage. God identifies Israel as His wife on the basis of His covenant with them. Though Israel commits adultery on God, He Himself makes provisions to receive back His wife. Jesus calls the church His bride. And when the people of God are finally glorified, we all will enjoy marriage to Christ, rejoice in the marriage supper of the Lamb, and enjoy the consummation of the eternal marriage forever and ever.

Week of Feb 4:

The Way of Love

Sermon Review:

Did anything stick out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: After describing God's amazing salvation and incomparable riches that all believers in Christ possess (chs. 1-3), Paul turns his attention to the practical ramifications of the gospel.

Read: Ephesians 5:1-21

Group Discussion:

1- What are some ways the Christian's walk of love contrasts with the counterfeit ideas of love found in the world?

2- Though believers are forever safe in God's grace, why should we still not participate in sinful deeds?

3- This list of ethical commands could weigh heavy on you when you first read it, realizing that you fall short of the standard presented. Someone read verses 1 and 2. How do these verses ease the burden of this list of commands?

Gospel Closing: Scripture records Noah making the first offering described as a "pleasing aroma" (Gen 8:21). Noah sheds the blood of several clean animals and offers them as burnt offerings. The fragrance from the offering--indicating an atoning sacrifice--sufficiently satisfies God's displeasure against man's sin. The various offerings of the Law provide this same pleasing aroma. The goal of these offerings is to make sinful people pleasing to God. And, despite the failure of Israel to follow the Lord in obedience, the Lord nevertheless promises to make them a pleasing aroma (Ezek 20:41). And a few hundred years later, on Good Friday, that promise comes to pass. Jesus is the fulfillment of the fragrant offering and acceptable sacrifice that provides the pleasing aroma to God, making sinful people like us pleasing in His sight.

Week of Jan 21:

The New You

Sermon Review:

Did anything stick out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: Now that Paul has laid out the spectacular blessings believers have been freely given in Christ, he now turns the page to answer the question What now?

Read: Ephesians 4:17-24

Group Discussion:

1- How is the "old self's" way of thinking different than the "new self's" way of thinking? In what ways do you still think like your old self?

2- In what ways do you think/act like you're living FOR God's acceptance instead of FROM God's acceptance?

3- What role does the gospel play in renewing your thinking?

Gospel Closing: All of us were at one time just as "ignorant" of the things of God as the Gentiles Paul writes about here in Ephesians (Eph 4:18). How did we become "unignorant"? By behaving better? By trying harder? By making a New Year's resolution? No. It was only the proclamation of the truth of Christ in the gospel that removed our ignorance about God and made it possible for us to experience His love and blessings (Rom. 1:16-17). And just as the gospel initially brought us out of ignorance, the gospel continues to do so every time we hear it.

Week of Jan 7:

What Now?

Sermon Review:

Did anything stick out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: Now that Paul has laid out the spectacular blessings believers have been freely given in Christ, he now turns the page to answer the question What now?

Read: Ephesians 4:1-2

Group Discussion:

1- How is the concept of two different kinds of righteousness helpful to you?

2- What is the "calling" that Paul refers to in verse 1? How would you describe it?

3- How would daily reflecting on your calling help you live a life worthy of that calling?

Gospel Closing: The epitome of humility, gentleness, and patience is found at the cross. Jesus used every drop of His infinite power and resources, not to dominate us, but to serve and save us. And that same Spirit lives inside every believer, steadily molding us into the humble image of our Savior.

Week of Nov 26:

Grasping the Love of Christ

Sermon Review:

Did anything stick out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: Just as he did in the beginning of the book, Paul again reminds us that we have riches and resources beyond measure available to us in Christ. We have the capacity to experience an abundant life (John 10:10).

Read: Ephesians 3:14-21

Group Discussion:

1- Paul uses the idea of being "rooted" in Christ's love to speak of believers' lives. What is Paul hoping believers will become, if love does for them what soil does for a tree?

2- Breadth and length and height and depth express the incredible dimensions of the love of Christ. Why is strength from God needed to comprehend Christ's love?

3- How do you think your life would be different if you truly grasped the full measure of Jesus' love for you?

4- Paul concludes the first three chapters of Ephesians with a doxology (verses 20-21). How is this a fitting end to what Paul has written in the first three chapters? How are you encouraged by the phrase "at work within us" in verse 20?

Gospel Closing: The gospel is love. It is love that moved the Father to send His Son to suffer for us (Jn 3:16). The towering love of God in Christ is where Paul wants us to draw our nourishment and strength for daily life.

Week of Nov 5:

One New Humanity

Sermon Review:

Did anything stick out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: Paul reveals an element of the cross that many today don't think enough about.

Read: Ephesians 2:11-18

Group Discussion:

1- What “dividing walls of hostility” are still active in churches and in the world today?

2- How does our identity in Christ begin to heal divisions among us?

3- First Jesus IS our peace (v.14) then He MAKES peace through His blood (v.15). Why is this progression important? Why must I have peace with God before I can have peace with others?

Gospel Closing: The same blood that removes the stain of sin also removes the dividing walls of hostility between us. Jesus not only puts to death the wrath of God against people, He puts to death the wrath of people against people.

Week of Oct 29:

From Death to Life

Sermon Review:

Did anything stick out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: Paul knows that all humans, even Christians, have a desire to boast. In these verses, Paul intends to end all boasting from Christians.

Read: Ephesians 2:1-10

Group Discussion:

1- In his letters, why does Paul continually remind believers of the gospel?

2- Ephesians 2:8-9 are the Bible's most concise statement of "salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone." What does the word "this" in verse 8 refer to? How does this end all possibility of Christian boasting?

3- Underline the word grace in this passage. What other words does Paul use in the passage to describe God's actions toward rebels? What does this reveal about God?

4- The terms in 2:10 indicate that the "good works" of believers are wholly of God: believers are "his workmanship," things "prepared beforehand" by God and "created in Christ Jesus." What encouragement does this offer to Christian living? In what ways does 2:10 reveal that the gospel must be an integral part of the daily walk of believers and of the ministry of the church?

Gospel Closing: God characterizes Himself in one of His earliest covenantal revelations to the nation of Israel as "the LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious" (Exodus 34:6). This revelation shines most brightly in the incarnation of Jesus. Though we are by nature deserving of wrath, Jesus stands in our place and takes God's wrath for us. Grace operates in the whole of salvation and all that attends it, including the faith of believers.

Week of Oct 22:

Knowing the Riches

Sermon Review:

Did anything stick out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: Paul has just said that all the wonderful things the Jesus has done for His church is a mystery now being revealed (Eph 1:9). However, without the working of the Lord to reveal His will, much of these spiritual treasures will remain hidden and ineffective in the lives of believers. Paul therefore prays for divine illumination.

Read: Ephesians 1:13-23

Group Discussion:

1- Before the sermon on Sunday, what was your idea of spiritual growth?

2- Someone read aloud Acts 14:21-22. According to this passage, is a disciple something different than a Christian? Before the sermon on Sunday, what was your idea of a disciple?

3- How should the truth that Christ rules over all things for the sake of His Church (1:20-23) alter the way you live every day?

4- Why do you think God chose ordinary means of grace to get the gospel to us rather than extraordinary means?

5- In what ways do you need the eyes of your understanding to be enlightened? How can you begin fully appreciating the riches of God's grace in your life?

Gospel Closing: Prior to our salvation, we were doomed to perish. But the gospel brings hope––ironclad assurance of our resurrection and inheritance. Because Christ cancelled sin and defeated death, those in Him have the certain hope of eternity.

Week of Oct 15:

Truth, Hope, and Glory

Sermon Review:

Did anything stick out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: Lots of people accept or reject Christianity without really knowing what it is. Paul helps succinctly define Christianity in this passage.

Read: Ephesians 1:11-16

Group Discussion:

1- Paul says the Christians gospel is "the truth." Why is it so critically important for objective concrete truth to exist?

2- How does the fact that Christianity is based on historical events make it different from every other religion or worldview? Why is this good news?

3- How might the biblical concept of hope (a certain glorious future) change the way you live today?

4- Everyone turn to Romans 3:21-26 and have someone read it out loud. How does this passage compare and contrast with Ephesians 1:11-16?

Gospel Closing: The death of Jesus is the centerpiece of Christianity and all our spiritual blessings. As the Levitical code states, "It is the blood that makes atonement by the life" (Lev. 17:11). Christ's life-giving act provided the blood sacrifice that atones for the sins of believers. The cross of Christ is central to Paul's theology and all the spiritual blessings he writes about in Ephesians. We do not earn our salvation nor our blessings, Christ earns everything for us through His death and resurrection on our behalf.

Week of Oct 8:

In Christ

Sermon Review:

Did anything stick out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: Paul explains that even his extraordinary good works for God count for nothing where God is concerned.

Read: Ephesians 1:1-14

Group Discussion:

1- Are you ever tempted to believe that you're a second class citizen in Jesus' Kingdom? Why or why not?

2- Martin Luther said our spiritual lives are extra nos, which is Latin for "outside ourselves." Is this a different mindset for you, thinking about your spirituality being "in Christ" rather than in yourself? If so, how might this concept change your walk with God?

3- Someone read verses 8-10. What is God's grand scheme for the universe, as described here? In what way can being let in on this grand scheme affect how you approach life today?

4- What “deposit” does Paul tell us we can consider a guarantee of our eternal future? Notice that this guarantee is also extra nos. Does this awareness make any difference for you?

Gospel Closing: The one and only reason we have full access to the blessings of God is because Jesus took the wrath of God for us. He took our wrath so that we could get His blessings. Ephesians 1:7, "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us."

Week of Oct 1:

Two Kinds of Righteousness

Sermon Review:

Did anything stick out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: Paul explains that even his extraordinary good works for God count for nothing where God is concerned.

Read: Philippians 3:4-9

Group Discussion:

1- Is the existence of two different kinds of righteousness a new concept for you? If so, how does it help and encourage you?

2- Have you heard preaching where the preacher made it sound as if there was only one kind of righteousness? If so, how did that kind of preaching make you feel?

3- Martin Luther and other theologians of the Reformation claimed that it was offensive to God that you would even think you could provide a righteousness to God. Why would God be offended at you trying to offer your own righteousness to Him?

Gospel Closing: The doctrine of “two kinds of righteousness” makes clear that it is the vertical (passive) righteousness that defines our persons––the righteousness that comes from God alone. In receiving it as “the real me” I am completely passive. In contrast, my horizontal righteousness is active and experienced in my own behavior and the thinking and willing that goes on behind it, under the direction and with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

There are not two parts of a child of God that can be turned on or off at different times. There is one righteous person, a person defined by God’s grace and the death and resurrection of Christ. His death and resurrection have placed the old sinful identity of the person in the Lord’s tomb and resurrected the person as a new creature, trusting and hearkening to the Lord. God’s declaration that I am forever righteous in His sight is met by my faith’s affirmative response of agreement. The same faith that throws itself completely on God’s love and faithfulness concludes that if God thinks that I am righteous, I want to—and do, though falteringly— practice being His righteous child. My trust in the fact that God has forgiven me and through His Word made me this new creature leads naturally to the obedience that carries out the identity that the vertical word of righteousness bestows. 

Week of Sep 24:

What We Really Need

Sermon Review:

Did anything stick out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: The God of fire, smoke, and miracles has now become the God who dwells with us.

Read: Exodus 40

Group Discussion:

1- Have you ever been guilty of desiring God's stuff more than God? If so, how does it encourage you that ancient Israel did too and yet God STILL wanted to dwell with them?

2- Looking back on our Exodus series, which characteristic of God caught your attention the most? Was there something about the character of God that surprised you? Was there a trait you needed to be reminded of?

3- How does Exodus uniquely contribute to and clarify your understanding of Jesus?

Gospel Closing: Throughout the book of Exodus we have seen many instances where God's grace is evident and the gospel is reflected. God saw His people in misery and suffering, and due to His compassion and covenant commitment He responded by saving them. He showed His power through the plagues and His mercy through the Passover, and despite Israel's doubts and grumbling as He delivered them, God continued to provide for them along the way. God's grace was the foundation upon which the law was given, and His mercy was demonstrated after Israel quickly violated that law. In the end, Israel experienced God's gracious presence as He descended upon the tabernacle and came to live in their midst.

"In the end and at the end, what we get from God is God." -Dr. Tim Chester

Week of Sep 17:

Clothed in Forgiveness

Sermon Review:

Did anything stick out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: God has called a terribly sinful man named Aaron to be the high priest of Israel. How exactly is this going to work?

Read: Exodus 39

Group Discussion:

1- How does God's calling of a man like Aaron encourage you in God's calling on your life?

2- The high priest's garments were every bit as rich as the makings of the tabernacle itself. One scholar writes, “The priest is like a walking tabernacle.” The symbol of God’s glory and beauty was in the high priest who was in their midst. Now, imagine that you're an ancient Israelite and you see the high priest's enormously expensive clothing drenched in animal blood for your sins. What would that tell you about God? What would that tell you about your sin?

3- Three times in Exodus 39, it is mentioned that the construction of the tabernacle was just as the Lord had commanded. Why do you think it so important that the tabernacle and Aaron's clothing be put together exactly as God instructed? Have the group answer first and then have someone read Hebrews 8:1-6.

Gospel Closing: Out of all the furnishings in the tabernacle, there is not chair. Why not? It's to symbolize that the work of the high priest is never done. The people continue to sin and he continues to offer sacrifices for them.

But look at Hebrews 10:11-12:

“And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.”

Notice that. The high priest’s work was never done. But when our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, died on the cross, He declared, “It is finished!” And what happened next? He sat down! Hebrews 10:13-14, “waiting from that time until His enemies should be made a footstool for His feet. For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”

Your sins and my sins need to more atoning. They are removed and forgiven forever by the work of our eternal High Priest.

Week of Sep 10:

Gospel in the Courtyard

Sermon Review:

Did anything stick out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: God tells Israel He wants to dwell in a tent in their midst. Israel then quickly and shockingly commits spiritual adultery on God with a little golden calf. Then, even more shockingly, God tells Israel again that He wants to dwell in a tent in their midst. At this point in Exodus, the tabernacle where God will dwell is being constructed.

Read: Exodus 38

Group Discussion:

1- A lot of resources were needed to build the tabernacle. Considering the Israelites’ circumstances, how did they get these resources in the first place? Why do you think the Israelites were willing to give such an extravagant amount of their riches to help build the tabernacle?

2- The tabernacle was meant to teach us a lot about God. It provides a list of contrasting characteristics about God, including the following: God is real and present but God remains holy and distinct. He is friend but He is also fire and power. He wants to be known and yet He cannot be fully known. A lot of us tend to view God on one end of the spectrum or the other. Which side of the spectrum do you tend to fall on, and why?

3- How does the author of Hebrews describe the tabernacle, its contents, and what happened there in the following verses? Hebrews 8:5, Hebrews 9:23, and Hebrews 10:1-4

4- Read Hebrews 10:19-22. How do these verses encourage you?

Gospel Closing: Behind the innermost veil of the tabernacle is the Most Holy Place. This inner sanctuary houses the ark of the covenant, which represents God's kingly presence on earth. When Solomon later constructs the temple, the Most Holy Place becomes established more permanently in Israel's midst, thereby providing a longstanding place for God to reside with His people. However, after centuries of Israel living in idolatry, God departs the Most Holy Place in judgment. The same would be true of us, were it not for Jesus. On the cross, God removed His presence from Jesus so that His presence would never be removed from us. Jesus took our judgment for us, and when He died on the cross, the veil to the Most Holy Place was torn in two, showing that the barrier between God's presence and sinful people had been removed forever.

Week of Sep 3:

Gospel in the Tabernacle

Sermon Review:

Did anything stick out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: God tells Israel He wants to dwell in a tent in their midst. Israel then quickly and shockingly commits spiritual adultery on God with a little golden calf. Then, even more shockingly, God tells Israel again that He wants to dwell in a tent in their midst. At this point in Exodus, the tabernacle where God will dwell is being constructed.

Read: Exodus 37

Group Discussion:

1- Though God identified with His people in choosing to dwell in a tent, He also chose a dwelling fit for a king. What about this tent was different from the Israelites’ other tents? For example, think about the materials used, the position in the camp or other things that may come to mind.

2- How does it help you to know that God deeply desires your prayers?

3- In Exodus 25:16, we discover that the tablets of the Law were placed in the ark. Why would Law and mercy be the focal point of the worship space?

4- How does the tabernacle furniture contribute to and clarify your understanding of Jesus?

Gospel Closing: The central feature of the tabernacle is the mercy seat. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest was allowed to enter the Most Holy Place. On this day he would take the blood of a sin offering and sprinkle it on the mercy seat to make atonement for the sins of the whole nation. The great act at the mercy seat was a prefiguring of the saving work of a much greater High Priest: Jesus the Messiah. The New Testament not only describes Jesus as the High Priest who makes atonement through His blood (Heb. 9:11-14), but it also describes Him as the mercy seat itself! Temporary atonement under the old covenant was made through the mercy seat; permanent atonement under the new covenant is made through Jesus.

Week of Aug 26:

Constructing the Tabernacle

Sermon Review:

Was there anything that stuck out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: God tells Israel He wants to dwell in a tent in their midst. Israel then quickly and shockingly commits spiritual adultery on God with a little golden calf. Then, even more shockingly, God tells Israel again that He wants to dwell in a tent in their midst.

Read: Exodus 35-36

Group Discussion:

1- Since even the highest heavens can't contain God, what does it mean that God came to dwell with Israel?

2- In this part of Israel's history, God decides to dwell in a tent just as they dwell in tents. What do you think is the significance of that?

3- The people were asked to stop bringing their freewill offerings for the construction of the temple because they had brought so much. Why do you think the people gave so willingly? Of what value and importance would it be for the Israelites to give their own possessions and to build the tabernacle themselves?

4- How does the building of the tabernacle excite you about the new heavens and new earth that it pointed to, and that God's people are headed to?

Gospel Closing: A precious truth of the gospel is that not only does God save us by His grace, but He also comes to live with us. This truth is evident in the story of the Exodus, as God saves His people from Egypt and then comes to live with them in the tabernacle. These two gospel elements––salvation and presence––are also reflected in the names given to Jesus at His birth. According to Matthew's Gospel, when Christ is born, He is called Jesus, "for he will save his people from their sins" (Mt 1:21), and He is also called Immanuel, "which means, God with us" (Mt 1:23).

Week of Aug 20:

The New Old Covenant

Sermon Review:

Was there anything that stuck out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: Israel has quickly and shockingly broken their covenant with God. Yet, even more shockingly, God still desires to be in a covenant relationship with them.

Read: Exodus 34:10-35

Group Discussion:

1- How does God's self-identification as a jealous God in Exodus 34:14 give us a glimpse into His very heart for His people? How is His jealousy radically different from our own?

2- Even after Israel's shocking idolatry, God renews His covenant with them and He promises "awesome things I will do for you." How should this truth effect your view of your future?

3- Since it's true that we are only changed by beholding God's glory, why do you think we instead have the tendency to focus our Bible reading on how to apply it to our lives rather than on how it reveals God's glory in Christ?

4- In what ways does Moses in this passage foreshadow Jesus?

Gospel Closing: The catalyst for God's forgiveness of the people in this section of Exodus is Moses' intercession. Four times in the last three chapters Moses intercedes for Israel, asking God to forgive their sin and continue to accompany them to the Promised Land. This focus on intercession that leads to forgiveness ultimately highlights God's merciful heart: He will forgive His people who have gone astray based on the appeals of another. This theological truth is shown forth most clearly through the intercessory work of Jesus. Because Jesus stands before God and thereby intercedes for us, NO ONE has grounds to condemn us. We are forever forgiven and free on account of Christ, our Great Intercessor before God.

Week of April 30:

The Lord is My Banner

Sermon Review:

Was there anything that stuck out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: God is bringing His people to His mountain, but before they arrive, He has a lot to teach them.

Read: Exodus 17:8-16

Group Discussion:

1- Have you ever been too physically or spiritually tired to pray or to hope? How does this passage encourage you?

2- This story is the very last time "the staff" of Moses is mentioned in the Book of Exodus. Why do you think that is?

3- At the Red Sea, God fought for Israel. At Rephidim, however, God fights Amelek through Israel. What might this illustrate for us concerning God's role and our role in the spiritual battles we face?

Gospel Closing: God is still fighting for and through us. He will never leave us nor forsake us. In fact, just like Moses did for Israel, Christ, our leader and Shepherd, is at this very moment praying and interceding for us before the throne of the Father.

“Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). This verse (and others like it) tells us that although Christ’s work to secure our salvation was completed on the cross, as evidenced by His cry “It is finished!” (John 19:30), His care for His redeemed children will never be finished. 

Jesus did not go to heaven after His earthly ministry and “take a break” from His role as Shepherd to His people. He is still and will always be our Great Shepherd––leading, guiding, and protecting us.

Week of April 16:

The Ascension

Sermon Review:

Was there anything that stuck out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: Luke opens his historical book to Theophilus by recording the last moments the disciples have with Jesus. Acts helps the reader see that the mission of Jesus will continue as the Holy Spirit powerfully works through the Church to advance the gospel throughout the world.

Read: Acts 1:1-11

Group Discussion:

1- Before this past Sunday, what was your understanding of the ascension? Has that changed after Sunday's sermon?

2- Verse 8 is part of Jesus's Great Commission, and is the thesis of the entire book. Have someone read it then answer the following:

- What are they called to do?

- Where are they called to do it?

- How are they going to be able to do it?

3- Many Christians believe providing humanitarian aid to poor people around the globe is missions. How does verse 8 invalidate that view?

4- If Jesus really is King of Everything, why is that a cause for great joy?

Gospel Closing: Why did the Father give Jesus the throne of power? What made Him worthy to sit in that seat?

"And they sang a new song, saying:

'You are worthy to take the scroll

    and to open its seals,

because you were slain,

    and with your blood you purchased for God

    persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.

You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth'” (Revelation 5:9-10)

The person who is seated on the highest throne, ruling and reigning over all things, is the person who gave His life for you. Though you and I have not been obedient to the Father, Jesus was always obedient to the Father, even to the point of death. And His obedience unto death has given Him the seat of power, and incredibly, His obedience has seated us with Him in heavenly places.

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:4-9).

Week of April 9:

Tears, Rage, and Resurrection

Sermon Review:

Was there anything that stuck out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: John 11 is rich with gospel-centered hope that has been consistent all throughout the Gospel of John. Found in this chapter is arguably the greatest miracle performed by Jesus, aside from His own resurrection.

Read: John 11:20-44

Group Discussion:

1- Read John 11:4-6. Is it shocking to you that it is BECAUSE Jesus loved Lazarus, Martha, and Mary that He allowed Lazarus to die? What does this tell you about the suffering you experience in your own life?

2- In this passage, we get a wonderful picture of the person of Jesus. On the one hand, the extreme power of Jesus. And on the other hand, the extreme tenderness of Jesus. Which of these aspects of Jesus speaks to you the most in this moment of your life?

3- Mary and Martha both ask a common question: “God, where were you when I was suffering?” But Jesus doesn't answer their question. How is the hope of resurrection more compelling than a simple answer to this question?

4- How does this passage impact you when you think about the coming resurrection, not only of your body from the dead, but also the whole creation?

Gospel Closing: Once Lazarus is dead, Jesus makes the decision to return to Judea to resurrect him. In doing so, at the conclusion of this chapter, the Jews will begin their plot to kill Jesus. So, in a very real sense, the raising of Lazarus will lead directly to Jesus's own personal death.Jesus laid down His life so that not just Lazarus will experience life, but that ALL who are dead in their sins, might be brought to life in Christ, through faith in Him.

If your faith resides in Jesus, then you have been brought to life because of His willingness to lay down His life. If your faith resides in Jesus, then your life won’t end in death, either. Because if He has been raised, so will you.

Week of April 2:

The Woman Caught in Forgiveness

Sermon Review:

Was there anything that stuck out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: It's important to note that though the Law of Moses did require the stoning of a man and a woman caught in adultery, the death penalty was virtually never handed out for such sin in Israel. Why not? Because the Law of Moses also made the evidence required to convict remarkably high. Therefore, adultery, though rampant in Israel, was very hard to prove.

Read: John 8:2-11

Group Discussion:

1- Why do you think it’s so natural for people to assume that God is quick to judge and condemn them? To what extent has that assumption shaped your relationship with God?

2- Jesus used the Law against the Pharisees, but didn't use it against the woman. Why not? What does this tell you about the difference between the Law and the Gospel?

3- This woman never repented, never said she was sorry, never promised straighten up her life, and never asked Jesus to forgive her. And yet He still says, "I do not condemn you." What does this tell you about the way Jesus saves people?

Gospel Closing: Just like this woman, every one of us have been "caught" in our sins. God knows the heart of every person. And we rightfully deserve divine punishment for our wickedness. But our Rescuer steps in and says, "Yes, stones should be thrown. But they'll hit Me. Yes, spears should be launched. But they'll go into My side. Yes, thorns should be brought down. But they'll go into My skull."

Because of our Substitute, we are guilty and we're free to go.

"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him" (John 3:17).

Week of March 26:

Zacchaeus's Friend

Sermon Review:

Was there anything that stuck out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: Jesus is traveling through southern Palestine on His way to Jerusalem. This trip will culminate in His death and resurrection. As He journeys, Jesus makes the most of every opportunity to do ministry. Jericho, a rich agricultural town and popular resort for royalty and priests, was in Jesus’ path. Zacchaeus was one of the last people Jesus met before His death. 

Read: Luke 19:1-10

Group Discussion:

1- Zacchaeus has a few obstacles to seeing Jesus - some are personal (his height) and some are social (the crowd). What barriers keep people from seeing Jesus in our modern world?

2- Do you think church people today would ‘mutter’ or complain if they saw Jesus sharing a meal with someone as sinful as Zacchaeus? Why or why not?

3- How did Zacchaeus’s identity change from the beginning of the story to the end of the story? What caused this change?

Gospel Closing: Jesus intentionally made headway into virtually every segment of society written off by the religious and political leaders of His day. And when the Pharisees criticized His scandalous fellowship with the corrupt tax collector Zacchaeus, He answered curtly: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Jesus had come to seek those left behind by everyone else. He came to save those deemed not worth the effort. He loved those whom no one else would love. He came to die for a world that didn’t see the need for His salvation. The Good Shepherd went looking for His sheep, not because He needed the sheep, but because the sheep would die without Him.

We all would be doomed to eternal separation from God if not for a Savior who came seeking and saving the lost.

Week of March 19:

It's Raining Bread

Sermon Review:

Was there anything that stuck out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: Through this section of Exodus, the people are depicted as faithless and grumbling, yet God still provides for all their needs.

Read: Exodus 16

Group Discussion:

1- Someone read Exodus 16:21-30. What do you think is God’s desire in having the people rest on the 7th day?

2- How is the manna in Exodus 16 a pointer to the true Bread? In other words, how does the manna function similarly to Jesus as the Bread of Life?

3- The Israelites experienced God’s deliverance in remarkable ways through the exodus from Egypt and the remarkable rescue by walking through the Red Sea. What are some ways you have experienced God’s deliverance in your life? This would, of course, include your salvation, but it could also include deliverance from a difficult life situation, an illness, or an addiction.

Gospel Closing: Just as He did with Israel, Jesus has given us the bread (His body) and the cup (His blood) so we may always remember that through His life and death He is our perfect Provider. In every way that we fail to measure up and live the Christian life, Christ has already accomplished it for us. We look to Him––nothing else––as our guarantee that the Father loves and accepts us. In Christ we lack nothing. He has given us everything we need for all time.

Week of March 5:

Song of Victory

Sermon Review:

Was there anything that stuck out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: A stunning victory has been won for Israel by their God. They respond in the most rational way.

Read: Exodus 15:1-21

Group Discussion:

1- With Christ as the primary subject, what should be the primary themes of our songs as Christians, and why?

2- In verses 13-17, God's faithfulness in the past is presented as grounds for God's people to trust Him concerning the future. What does this look like for the Christian?

3- What are some worship songs that have greatly strengthened you and helped you in your Christian walk?

Gospel Closing: Israel's song of praise exalting God for His salvation ends by saying, "The LORD will reign forever and ever" (Ex. 15:18). In creation, God had sought to establish His reign on earth with humanity as His royal representatives, but Adam and Eve rejected God's kingship. Although the Old Testament affirms that the Lord reigns as king, throughout this period God's kingdom is not represented well on earth, due to Israel's continuous sin and idolatry.

However, the New Testament proclaims the good news concerning Jesus. That is, through Jesus' death and resurrection, God has redeemed His people and has begun to rule over them as their king. One day, Jesus' reign will fulfill Israel's ancient song of praise: "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever" (Rev. 11:15).

Week of Feb 26:

Be Still and Be Saved

Sermon Review:

Was there anything that stuck out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: This famous story is the climax and end of Act I of the Book of Exodus.

Read: Exodus 14

Group Discussion:

1- In Exodus 14:13-14, Moses told the people not to be afraid but said that “the Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Would it be hard to be in that situation and “be still”? Why or why not?

2- How does it make you feel that you played no role in your own salvation? Angry, relieved, confused, etc.? Why does it make you feel this way?

3- Why would God intentionally put us in situations that we cannot overcome by our own strength?

Gospel Closing: When God delivers Israel, He doesn't wait for them to believe before He saves them. Despite their fearful disbelief, He saves them by His grace, which then causes them to believe. As the Egyptians approached Israel at the sea, the Israelites "feared greatly" (14:10) and showed their unbelief by rebuking Moses for bringing them out of Egypt (14:11-12). Nevertheless, God saved them by bringing them through the Red Sea and sweeping the Egyptians away, after which "the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD" (14:31).

Similarly, Jesus accomplished His saving word on the cross for us while we were still unbelievers. As Paul says, "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

Week of Feb 19:

A Life of Freedom

Sermon Review:

Was there anything that stuck out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: The LORD brings Israel out of bondage and into freedom. But as the rest of Exodus will make clear, living as free people doesn't come easily.

Read: Exodus 13

Group Discussion:

1- Why did God lead the people of Israel on the longer way? Have you ever found that the “long way” was the best way in your faith journey? In your experience, what is it about the long way that makes it better?

2- Exodus 13:3-10 reiterates further instructions concerning the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Question: Were the particulars of this feast kept in order to enjoy a relationship with God, or because God had already brought about a relationship with Israel through His saving grace? How might this affect how we view the relationship between our salvation and the good works to which God calls us?

3- Read Exodus 13:13-15. What does this foreshadowing of Jesus, hundreds of years before the cross, tell us about the role of the cross in God’s plan? What role should the cross play in our daily lives?

Gospel Closing: The Passover was only symbolic. The Israelites were free from slavery, but only from slavery to Egypt, not slavery to sin. And they were free from death, but only death on the night of Passover, not from eternal death. The death of the lambs brought life, but not eternal life.

But, though the Passover was a symbol, Christ is the reality. Christ is our Passover Lamb, who died in our place. He is the fulfillment of the promise embodied in the Passover. Jesus is the son of Adam who died and was resurrected as the firstborn of a new humanity (Col. 1:8). And we who have faith in Christ have died with Him to the slavery of sin and condemnation of death. And so we have also risen victoriously with Him to new and everlasting life. Let us then live as free people, for the Son has set us free.

Week of Feb 5:

The Story of the Lamb

Sermon Review:

Was there anything that stuck out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: As severe as the first nine plagues were, nothing could have prepared the Egyptians for the tenth and final plague, the death of the firstborn.

Read: Exodus 11:1-12:30

Group Discussion:

1- Before Sunday's sermon, had you ever thought of the Bible as one long story of the Lamb? How does this change the way you view of the Bible? How does it change the way you view God?

2- The Israelites were warned and instructed how to protect their families from the Destroyer. What does this teach you about God’s heart toward His people? 

3- The Passover celebration wasn’t meant to be just a one-time event for Israel but was to be celebrated every year according to Exodus 12:14- 17. Why do you think the LORD wanted the Israelites to celebrate this every year?

4- The central figure and hero of the book of Revelation is a slain Lamb. Revelation offers us a glimpse into what role the Lamb will play for all eternity. Read aloud Revelation 5; 7:17; 15:3-4; 19:9; 21:22-27; 22:1; 22:3. Which one of these realities of the Lamb of God are you most looking forward to and why? How can that eternal reality make a difference in your life today?

Gospel Closing: The sacrifice of the Passover is one of the clearest pictures of the gospel in the Old Testament. The Israelites were to sacrifice a spotless lamb and smear its blood on their doorframes. The blood allowed God's judgment to pass over them. Building off this image, the New Testament presents Jesus as "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (Jn 1:29). Just as the shed blood of the Passover lamb covered the people of Israel so that God's judgment passed over them, so does Jesus' shed blood bring forgiveness to those who put their faith in Him (Eph. 1:7). Therefore, it is no accident that the Gospels record Jesus' sacrificial death as occurring during the Passover festival, making Him the fulfillment of this Old Testament ritual. In fact, Paul actually identifies Jesus as "our Passover lamb" (1 Cor. 5:7).

Week of Jan 29:

God of the Plagues

Sermon Review:

Was there anything that stuck out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: The deliverance of Israel has now begun. God demonstrates His supremacy over Egypt and His faithfulness to Israel.

Read: Exodus 7:14-24; 10:21-29

Group Discussion:

1- Several times throughout the plagues, Moses intercedes with God on behalf of Pharaoh. Read the following examples: 8:12-13; 8:29; 9:33; 10:16-19. Why might these intercessions be recorded throughout this section? What do they contribute to this narrative filled with judgment?

2- When have you seen God's glory and goodness through His allowance for sin, suffering, or trials in someone's life? Have you seen God's goodness through your own trials?

3- Read Exodus 12:37-38. The text here implies that "many" Egyptians left Egypt with the Israelites. Why do you think that is? What does that tell you about the primary purpose of the plagues?

Gospel Closing: Through the plagues God is powerfully conquering Pharaoh in order to save His people and even many in Egypt. Likewise, the gospel of Jesus is not simply the good news that we are saved from the divine wrath our sins deserve, but also that through the death and resurrection of Jesus God has conquered our enemy Satan. In Revelation 12:10, after seeing Satan cast out of heaven, John hears a loud voice exclaim, "Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down."

Week of Jan 22:

Proof of the Promise

Sermon Review:

Was there anything that stuck out to you as interesting or surprising in the sermon this week, or did it raise any questions?

Introduction: Whereas the previous section highlighted God's repeated promises of deliverance and Israel's struggle to believe, in this section God begins to deliver Israel by showcasing His sovereignty over Egypt.

Read: Exodus 7:8-13

Group Discussion:

1- Earlier in Exodus 4:1-5 this same sign had caused Israel to believe, but here Pharaoh refuses to listen and believe. What do these different responses reveal about the effectiveness of miraculous signs for bringing about faith?

2- Take a moment to read Romans 1:18-28. What does this passage tell us that people do even though they know truth about God? How can this passage help you in conversations with unbelievers?

3- If Moses' staff was a tangible sign that brought hope to Israel, how does the tangible sign of the crucifixion/resurrection of Jesus bring hope into your life right now?

Gospel Closing: Exodus emphasizes that the driving force behind the judgment of God is the word of God. Repeatedly we see phrases such as, "the LORD said to Moses", "as the LORD and spoken", "as the LORD commanded", and "Thus says the LORD." Just as God's word was the primary means by which He created the world, so is His word the primary means by which He saves His people through judgment against Egypt. In the same way, the Son of God came to earth as the Word of God, and through Him God again brought salvation through judgment. However, in the case of Jesus, He did not come to dole out God's judgment, but to take God's judgment upon Himself in order to bring salvation to His people. You are forever free from God's judgment because Jesus has already taken your full punishment for you, in your place.

Week of Nov 5:

A Bloody Business

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: After giving Moses wondrous signs and promises in order to reassure him on his task, God does the most bizarre and unexpected thing, just as Moses is beginning his journey to Egypt.

Read: Exodus 4:18-31

Group Discussion:

1- When tragedies or difficulties have come your way in the past, have you been tempted to believe it was the Devil's fault? Does this passage change your view on things?

2- If it's true that God is completely in control of all things, including your suffering, what are some negative and positive implications of that truth?

3- After such a traumatic experience, what would Aaron’s arrival in verse 27 have affirmed to Moses? What does it affirm to you?

Gospel Closing: Passages like these often make us confused and uncomfortable because they call into question the character of God. But we don't get to decide who God is. God has already plainly stated to Moses: "I AM WHO I AM." So, how then can we be confident that God is good? Because, while it is shocking that God tried to take the life of Moses, it is far and away more shocking that God actually did take the life of His Son, for your sins and for mine.

"Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished.

He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer."

Isaiah 53:4-10

Week of Oct 30:

What is in Your Hand?

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: Though God repeatedly promises Moses that He will make good on His word and accompany Moses in leading Israel out of Egypt, Moses struggles to believe God in the midst of His difficult call.

Read: Exodus 4:1-17

Group Discussion:

1- Have you ever felt like you don't have what it takes to serve God in a meaningful way?

2- Exodus 4:14 tells us that God grew angry with Moses. Why do you think God was angry with Moses?

3- What is significant about the fact that Aaron was already coming out to meet Moses?

Gospel Closing: To reassure Moses, God gave him 3 incredible signs. To reassure us, God has given us even greater signs: the death and resurrection of Jesus for our sins. That is all we will ever need to know the power and the love of God.

Week of Oct 23:

God's Call

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: Though God repeatedly promises Moses that He will make good on His word and accompany Moses in leading Israel out of Egypt, Moses struggles to believe God in the midst of His difficult call.

Read: Exodus 3:4-22

Group Discussion:

1- Someone read verse 5. What is special about this location that makes it "holy ground"?

2- In verse 13, what is Moses fearing will happen? Have you ever been afraid of the same thing?

3- Does God seem unsure of what will happen when He describes His plan? Why is it a good reminder for your own life that God proclaims future events with such confidence? 

Gospel Closing: Despite God's repeated assurances of His personal presence in redeeming His people, Moses and Israel repeatedly doubt and disbelieve. Nevertheless, the story moves forward, God's covenant love for Israel moves Him to deliver this doubting people anyway. Similarly, though we were once chronic spiritual doubters––indeed, we were "dead in our trespasses and sins," totally faithless, but as Paul says, "because of the great love with which he loved us...God made us alive together with Christ––by grace you have been saved" (Ephesians 2:4-5).

Week of Oct 9:

Your Desert; God's Mountain

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: Now that the stage is set with Israel in slavery and God poised to act on his covenant promises, chapter 3 begins God's call and preparation of Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt.

Read: Exodus 3:1-15

Group Discussion:

1- Have you ever felt like you've "blown it" with God, that you've gotten yourself off on a long spiritual detour? If so, how does this passage encourage you?

2- Moses was afraid to approach or even look at God. Have you ever been afraid to approach God, and if so, why?

3- Read verse 11. Moses claims to be unqualified for the mission God gave him. Have you ever felt unqualified to serve God?

4- In 3:8, God says that He will bring Israel up out of Egypt, but then two verses later He tells Moses, "Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt." What does this reveal about how God carries out His salvation plan in the world?

Gospel Closing: Moses is an unlikely leader. He's a murderer, he isn't seeking a leadership role, he feels insignificant for the task, he isn't a good speaker, he tries to get out of the job, he doesn't follow the rules, and he's a complainer. But he is the kind of leader God most often chooses. By choosing such unlikely leaders to carry out His work, God highlights His own spectacular grace and power in salvation. None of us are up to the task, but Jesus was and is, and that's all that matters. Now we boast about our weakness and Jesus' strength.

Week of Sept 25:


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 first two chapters of Exodus set the stage for the rest fo the book. As Israel expands into a great nation, fulfilling God's promise to Abraham, Pharaoh oppresses them and seeks to curtail their growth. The birth of Moses is presented as the climactic, ironic reversal of Pharaoh's oppressive attempts.

Read: Exodus 2:1-15

Group Discussion:

1- The story now focuses on just one Hebrew family dwelling in the midst of this chaos. What must daily life have been like for this mother hiding her son for 3 months?

2- What point is God making by bringing deliverance through midwives, a Jewish mother, a servant girl sister, and the daughter of Pharaoh?

3- Why do you think God very often works through people of weakness to accomplish His purposes? (read: 1 Cor. 1:26-31)

Gospel Closing: This passage presents the birth of Moses––who will be the human instrument of God's salvation of Israel––as the climax of a series of ironic reversals of oppression. This pattern of God ironically bringing redemption through oppression can be traced as far back as the promise of Genesis 3:15, where God declares that the seed of the woman will triumph over the seed of the serpent, but will do so while being oppressed ("he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel"). This ironic pattern reaches its apex in the cross of Christ, in which salvation unto life is achieved through suffering unto death, and it continues as the church grows today despite the persecution brought against her (Acts 8:3-4; Rev. 12:10-11).

Week of Sept 18:

Promise Keeper

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: Chapter 1 of Exodus sets the stage for the rest of the book. Although Pharaoh oppresses Israel, God's promises of Israel's growth and deliverance from Egypt being to take shape.

Read: Exodus 1:1-22

Group Discussion:

1- In this passage we see that God's covenant promises for His people are ironically accomplished in the midst of oppression. Can you think of other biblical examples of this?

2- Someone read aloud Genesis 12:2 and Genesis 15:18-21. Would these promises be easy for the Israelites to believe after 400 years of slavery? Why or why not?

3- How does seeing that God was working on the Israelites’ behalf, even when they didn’t realize it, provide comfort and hope for you today?

Gospel Closing: Exodus is at least partially famous for the Ten Commandments God gave the nation of Israel at Mt. Sinai. But it's critical to see that the book starts off with a focus on God's supremely merciful character. It is only after He has lavished mercy on His people that God gives them commands. This extravagant mercy of God is reflected elsewhere in the Old Testament, but it is most evident in the cross of Jesus. Just as God looked at the plight of Israel in slavery to Egypt and moved to rescue them, so He saw the plight of our slavery to sin (Jn 8:34) and moved to rescue us. This is where our hearts can always find rest, even in our darkest hour.

As the famous hymn states so beautifully:

Though Satan should buffet, 

Though trial should come,

Let this blessed assurance control:

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate

And has shed His own blood for my soul.

It is well

With my soul

It is well, it is well with my soul

Week of Sept 11:


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: In the Old Testament, if you want to learn about faith, you turn to Abraham; if you want to learn about suffering, you turn to Job; if you want to learn about worship, you turn to Psalms; and if you want to learn about redemption, you turn to Exodus.

Read: Exodus 1:1-10

Group Discussion:

1- In the opening chapter of Exodus, we see how the Israelites quickly go from enjoying fruitfulness in the land of Egypt to being oppressed and enduring unimaginable cruelty. If you were in the Israelite’s situation, what do you think you would be feeling? What would you ask God? 

2- Compare Genesis 50:24-25 and Exodus 1:1-10. What has changed from Genesis 50 to Exodus 1? What does verse 7 tell us about the Israelites, and how is this a fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham? How does this clue you in on how the Exodus story will turn out?

3- How does knowing the ultimate redemption – the death and resurrection of Christ – help you in the "wilderness" phases of your life?

Gospel Closing: If redemption is not accessed by our works, deeds, or actions, then how does the sinner come in contact with Jesus' saving work? The apostle Paul answers this question in nearly all his epistles but perhaps most succinctly in Romans 3:22-24“the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” 

Romans 3 helps explain how a sinner is justified before God. The means are not from within ourselves—rather they belong to God alone, who out of His great love sent His Son to die for wretches like you and me. Notice the Object in these verses upon which the means of our salvation rests. It is Jesus Christ alone who is named as the Worker of redemption. Christ is the answer to both the who and the how of our extra nos salvation. The incarnate God comes and does the work that we cannot. He gets His hands bloody and gives up His life that we might gain ours. The Christian life is one gifted extra nos, that out of our hopeless lives of sin we have the sure hope of salvation on account of the blamelessness of Christ.

Week of Sept 4:

The Resurrection of God

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 brevity of Mark’s account of the resurrection is notable and has aroused a great deal of discussion. And yet for all its brevity, Mark’s treatment lays out some of the most compelling evidence for the historicity of the resurrection.

Read: Mark 16:1-20

Group Discussion:

1- What are we to learn from the fact that the witnesses and people showing faith in Jesus are Joseph, a Pharisee (15:40-47), women (16:1-8), and a Roman centurion (see 15:39, 44)?

2- List all the possible alternative explanations that skeptics might use for the resurrection. Now consider all the ways that Mark’s information and accounts undermines these explanations.

3- Read 16:7. What is the significance of the angel’s assignment to “go, tell his disciples and Peter?” What does this mean for you?

Gospel Closing: Mark has gone to great lengths to show us that Jesus is not just a good teacher, a wise sage, or the founder of another religion; He is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, the Passover Lamb of Exodus, the Son of Man of Daniel 7, and the crucified and resurrected King of Glory. If that is true, then all our longings, all our hopes, and all our joys will find their ultimate fulfillment in Him alone, forever and ever.

The hymn-writer says it well:

God sent His son, they called Him Jesus;

He came to love, heal and forgive;

He lived and died to buy my pardon,

An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,

Because He lives, all fear is gone;

Because I know He holds the future,

And life is worth the living,

Just because He lives!

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.