Archive for March, 2012
The text for this lesson is Mark 14:26–72.
- Though we, like Peter, deny Jesus and His gifts, Jesus cannot deny us because we are part of Him, baptized members of His own Body. Instead, He forgives us and welcomes us back.
- Law: To deny Jesus is to commit spiritual suicide.
- Gospel: Even when I deny Him, Jesus will never turn His back on me, never refuse me, and never stop loving me.
- Often we call this day “Palm Sunday” and celebrate by adorning the church with palms and processing. Yet this Sunday is also called the Sunday of the Passion, and in most churches around the world, the full Passion account from one of the Gospels is read during the service (in Mark’s Gospel, it would include chapters 14–15). What is the “Passion,” and why is it commemorated in this way? How does this fit with the celebration of palms and Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Mark 11:1–11)?
- What do you think of Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s denial (Mark 14:26–31)? Is Jesus setting Peter up for an “I told you so”? What are we to think of Peter’s emphatic refusal to believe Jesus’ prediction?
- Read the descriptions of Jesus being distressed, sorrowful, and praying that “this cup” be removed from Him (vv. 33–36). When Jesus faced the devil in the desert after His Baptism, He is confident and unwavering, countering each temptation with the Word of God (Luke 4:1–13). But here He seems less sure of Himself, and certainly more shaken. Does this bother you? Does it make you wonder if Jesus ever wavered in the face of temptation? How does the text actually reassure us that no such wavering occurs?
- Look at Mark 14:42–52 again. What is similar about verses 42 and 50? Who has betrayed Jesus and who remained supporting Him?
- The next section is verses 53–65, Jesus’ trial. Although there are no witnesses for the defense, even the “prosecuting” witnesses are unable to accuse Him justly. They can only bear “false witness against Him” (v. 56). Yet there is one nearby who could witness for Him. What does this potential witness do? Who is the only one, finally, who can testify on Jesus’ behalf?
- Finally, we have the account of Peter’s denial (vv. 66–72). Who challenges him? What threat do they really present to Peter? What does this show us about Peter’s state here at the end of the trial?
- Look again at the account of Jesus praying (vv. 32–41). What does Jesus’ prayer teach us about our own life of prayer?
- Read Luke 12:8–9. What does Jesus say here about those who deny Him? Read the verses that follow (vv. 10–12). What can we rely on to save us from our denials and failures?
The text for this lesson is Luke 19:1–10.
- Like Zacchaeus, we are among the lost whom the Son of Man seeks and forgives. We are called to forgive those who sin against us, no matter how Zacchaeus-like they may be in their sins.
- Law: I sin by ignoring my sinfulness and focusing on the sinfulness of others, casting them aside in shame.
- Gospel: Christ’s blood covers all the sins of every sinner, no strings attached.
- Are there any situations in your life where you remember the pain and distress of someone’s sin against you? Is there a situation like this in which you haven’t forgiven the person who has sinned against you? Are there situations you can recall where you caused someone pain and distress by your sin?
- What city is Jesus passing through, and where is He going? Can you think of why this travel information may be significant? Verse 1 gives us a little background, but check Luke 9:51; 17:11; and 19:11, 28–48.
- Who is Zacchaeus? How does Luke describe him and his actions? Does this tell us anything about Zacchaeus’s faith or attitude?
- What does Jesus do when He reaches Zacchaeus? What does it mean for Jesus to say that He must stay at Zacchaeus’s house? How does Zacchaeus, in turn, respond to Jesus?
- What is the grumbling complaint of those who see this? How does St. Luke respond to this accusation?
- Reflect more on Zacchaeus’s promise to amend his life and Jesus’ comment that follows (vv. 8–10). Is Jesus saying that salvation has come to Zacchaeus because he will give his goods to the poor and make restitution with those whom he defrauded? Why or why not?
- Who does Jesus come to seek and save? Who is included in this? Who is excluded? How do we know if we’re included?
- What, then, is to be our attitude toward others who commit great sins? What about those who sin against us personally? Read Ephesians 2:14–18 in answering this question.
The text for this lesson is Mark 12:41–44.
- Just as the widow gave all she had to God, trusting Him to provide and care for her, so Jesus gave His all for us, who fail to trust in God for all things.
- Law: God demands that I love Him with all my heart, all my soul, and all my might and that I be willing to hand over to Him all that I am and have.
- Gospel: Christ loves me with all His heart, all His soul, and all His might, and willingly gave up His life and poured out His blood for me to ransom me and make me His own.
- How do you view the offering during the Divine Service? Is it an inconvenience? Do you feel guilty that you don’t give enough or bothered that you pay more than you can afford? What is the theological basis for the collection?
- Whom does Jesus first see putting money into the offering box? Does Jesus judge them? Is what they have done wrong?
- What is the real criticism of these rich people? What is the commandment God is using to judge them? Why is money such a pivotal thing, and what does the faith of the widow really tell us about life priorities?
- Even while Jesus makes this point of contrast between the widow and these rich people, are they fundamentally different? Why or why not? We think of this story as emphasizing the right response that the faithful person should show toward God. But what does this story tell us about God’s grace and mercy?
- So far, we have been speaking primarily of earthly wealth and goods, and how God provides for all of these things. But what other wealth and goods does God provide through His Son, Jesus Christ? See Ephesians 1 and 2, especially 1:7–10 and 2:4–10. What are the riches of God?
- What is the Offertory in the Divine Service and what purpose does it serve?
- How do we really avoid trusting in money and instead put our trust in God? Can we be sure that God will always provide for our physical needs?
- What is the right response of faith when it comes to our money? How do we know what the “proper” amount is to give? How do we do it cheerfully and with a right heart?
The text for this lesson is John 2:13–22.
- Jesus’ cleansing of the temple carries a twofold message for the Jews and for us: first, that the true Lord of the temple was here in the flesh; and second and more important, that Jesus is the true temple, who houses and perfects us, raising our bodies to be like His.
- Law: I sin when I turn God’s house into a place of business, soiling His sanctuary.
- Gospel: Jesus is my holy temple who, by His sacrifice on the altar of the cross, purged my sin and made me a member of His Body.
- What feast is being celebrated at the time of these events? Recall the meaning and significance of this feast. On how many different occasions does St. John refer to this feast? What great acts does Christ perform on these different occasions?
- Who is gathered in the temple? Why are they there? What is the problem with what they are doing?
- Describe what Jesus does in verses 15–16. Does this seem characteristic of Jesus when compared to the other parts of the Gospels? Consider the perceived inconsistencies in Jesus’ behavior, and discuss how His actions really are consistent with the rest of His ministry.
- From where does the quote about “zeal for Your house” come? What is the context and meaning of that original passage, and what does it have to do with Christ clearing the temple?
- Jesus’ very act of cleansing the temple is a sign: it confirms the prophetic words of Psalm 69. Yet the Jews stubbornly seek another sign. What is the significance of their question and Jesus’ answer?
- In the days before Jesus was born, God was worshiped in His temple. Where do we worship God today? In what ways do we make our Father’s house a house of trade?
- How has God consecrated us to make us His temple? See 1 Corinthians 3:16.
- What is the significance for us that Jesus is the temple of God?