Editor ’s Page Often we think of faith as being something we work for or that we should be able to have more of if only we would try harder. However, as this series of lessons points out, faith is truly a gift from God. Why is it so important to us? Because, as the author of Hebrews pointed out, “without faith, it is im- possible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6, NIV). This quarter has three units that use the gospels of Mark and Luke to reveal the theme of faith. Unit 1, “Tests of Faith” is a four-session unit leading up to and including the resurrection season. This study in Mark considers four different incidents of healing, wealth accumu- lation, denial of friendship, and resurrection that tested the faith of Jesus’ followers. Unit 2, titled “Restorative Faith,” follows with four sessions in Luke that look at incidents in which followers experienced healing, redemption, and restoration of their faith through inspiring actions of Jesus and a moving parable told by Jesus. Unit 3, “Fullness of Faith,” is a five-session study, also in Luke, of numerous ways Jesus’ followers grew in their faith: gratitude, humility, childlike acceptance, and repentance. My prayer is that through the study of these Scriptures, your faith will also be built up and multiplied as a wonderful gift of God’s grace. To God be the glory, Steve
1. Powerful Faith Mark 9:14–29
Daily Bible Meditations
Sunday Genesis 15:1–6 We know that Abram was in his 80’s when God promised him children. He may have lost hope, but when he called upon the Lord in despair, He got a big surprise. What do you face that seems to be a lost cause—financial stress, unsaved children, health concerns? Think about Job. Even with all that he went through, he would have hope: “You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety” (Job 11:18, NIV). Remember that we serve a God of miracles. He loves to shock us by doing what only He can do. Monday Genesis 50:15–21 God’s power is shown greatly when there is reconciliation among His people. Have you ever been wronged by someone so deeply that the very thought of them makes you shake in anger? Reconciliation seems impossible. It is only through the power of God that forgiveness and love can wash over our hearts for that person. We are not capable of doing that on our own. People may tell us that we have a right to be angry and forgiveness may not make sense by worldly standards, but God’s ways are better! Let His ways wash over you today. Tuesday Isaiah 43:5–13 Lately it seems people are wandering from the church. In the past few years, I have seen several people who were once follow- ing Christ, begin to dabble in liberal thinking, New Age beliefs, and sinful practices. We live in a time where biblical thinking is growing more unacceptable. I feel as though, left and right, we are losing our sisters and brothers to the world—to the evil one—and I mourn for the lost more than ever before. But we are reminded that, “He gathers them up”...even those who have been “blinded!” May we be witnesses for the lost when they return! Wednesday Matthew 9:27–33 What I love about this passage is that the blind men were following Jesus. He went inside. Did they feel He was ignoring their need by walking away? And yet they continued to follow Him. We have all heard of miraculous healings—like when the
Lesson 1 7 cancer diagnosis is grim but then suddenly disappears, leaving the doctors with no explanation. But what about when it is not that easy? We see Christians everyday battling serious physi- cal ailments. Maybe you are facing that today. May this be an encouragement to you. Continue to follow Jesus, even when it seems as though He is walking away. He alone is the one with the power to heal. Thursday John 5:19–24 The God of this universe, who placed the sun in the sky by merely speaking, created the details of human beings. He sent His very own flesh to us. It is mind blowing to think that we can have a personal relationship with a Savior who comes directly from God Himself. Many people say we are just follow- ing an ordinary man who walked the earth just as we do. There are those who follow other powerful leaders or self-proclaimed prophets, but there is no one else who has the power of God in them except Jesus Christ. When we stop to consider His power source, following Jesus should be a no-brainer. Friday John 6:35–40 This world can be a scary place sometimes. Some of us do not always know if there will be enough money for food. We may not feel safe walking the streets of our cities. Sickness can strike at any time. And yet, all that God requires is that we call upon His name. Just by calling on the name of Jesus, we are suddenly safe in His arms. He promised to provide for our every need, to give us safety and rest. And ultimately, He will usher us into the eternal presence of the God almighty. In the midst of our troubled world, there is no greater comfort than this knowledge. Sabbath Mark 9:14–29 This boy was plagued by an evil spirit. There are certainly those who are afflicted in such a way today, but often we are plagued by other nastiness that hinders us in our walk with the Lord. Sometimes they are attitudes, sins, or addictions that have been passed down through generations. As we believe in the power of God to free us from these afflictions and we begin to pray over each other, demanding them to leave, we will see children of God, who once may have seemed dead, walking up- right with Him. Do we believe that He has that kind of power in our daily lives? Oh, may He help our unbelief. Sabbath, March 5, 2016
Study Mark 9:14–29 Background Mark 9:14–29 Devotional Genesis 50:15–21
Key Verse Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do be- lieve; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). Heart of the Lesson It is commonly accepted that people are able to accomplish great things only by changing self-doubt to believing in themselves. How can people believe they can accomplish great things? Jesus encouraged His disciples to believe that with His help they could accomplish great things and then demonstrated that by casting out the boy’s evil spirit. Questions for Studying the Text 1. When have you felt helpless in a situation such as the boy’s father in this event? What would have made you believe you could accomplish great things in your situa- tion instead? 2. What is your impression of the fact that the disciples could not cast out the demon from the boy (v.18)? What was Jesus’ explanation in verses 28-29? What do you think He meant by that? 3. What can we learn about faith in this event from the fa- ther? From the disciples? From Jesus? 4. What does Jesus’ response reveal about His expectations for the disciples in situations like these? What was Jesus teaching them through this event? Do you think His re- sponse encouraged or discouraged them? 5. How will you apply Jesus’ statement, “All things are pos- sible to him who believes” (v.23), in your life? How does knowing that God hears and answers prayers empower your faith?
Sabbath, March 5, 2016
Understanding and Living
Power, faith, deliverance, and victory are words associ- ated with the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, as recorded in early Christian literature— Mat thew, Mark , Luke , and John. Among these four gos- pels, Mark’s account is the shortest and seems to be the earliest. Mark 9:14-29 descr ibes a powerful account of Jesus confronting evil and carrying out a deliverance, revealing several truths about evil. With Satan as its author, evil is real; it puts us in bondage and can destroy us. While Jesus was on earth, He had every limitation that we have as human beings. However, everything that He did was as a man full of the Holy Spirit and walking in faith. Satan has power and influence over this world. As Christians we require an even greater source of power to overcome Satan and evil. We achieve this only through faith in Christ. Powerful faith is required to overcome evil; it is a steadfast conviction about our position in Christ and God’s preemi- nence. In a sense, to display this faith there is the need for us to commission Jesus Christ as king of our lives—the incar- nated, crucified, resurrected, and reigning Lord. It is through faith that we can benefit from
the work of Christ. There is a constant battle with evil forces, but thank God, Jesus came that we may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10: 10). Powerful Faith Incites Possibility Our text begins with Jesus coming down from the mount of transfiguration to discover His disciples involved in a dispute with the Scribes. However, in verse 17, the focus shifts to the plight of a father whose son had an evil spirit rendering him deaf and mute. The father brought his unwell son to Jesus. Like many of us, and like the woman with the issue of blood in Mark chapter 5, this father must have been frustrated and emotionally drained from witnessing the suffering of his son despite the many attempts over the years to cure his ailment. Faced with the high prob- ability that his son could remain captive in his own body, a father will incite hope or pos- sibility by seeking help. In this sinful world, God also incites hope within us, through Jesus Christ. We often feel helpless seeing ourselves or our loved ones suffer with sin or with what could be the effect of evil forces. Like this father, we should persist with a belief that we can have victory over the effects of evil spirits. “With
10 God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26)! Powerful Faith Relies on Jesus Amidst his son’s suffering, the father deferred to Jesus as the justification of his hope. He looked to Jesus for the desired change. His lack of strong faith was shown in his tentative re- quest to Jesus: “But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us” (v. 22)! He hoped in, and yet at the same time seemed to doubt, Jesus’ capacity or willingness to confront and to overcome the evil. The problem confronting God’s people today is precisely that—a lack of faith. The doubt that things can change. Despite our challenges, and many times what looks like sure failure, we must remember the powerful and unending virtue with which Jesus is endowed to change our life circumstances. This father came into pow- erful faith not when he built up enough faith, but when he placed his son’s deliverance on what little faith he had. He confessed the inadequacy of his faith and person, surrendering his insufficiency to the com- plete sufficiency of Jesus: “I do believe; help my unbelief” (v.24). Like John the Baptist in Mark 1, powerful faith looks to the One coming who is mightier (Mark 1:7). Jesus stands in the
place of God, whose authori- tative Word restores life and order from chaos. Powerful faith is unconditional open- ness to God. Jesus came with a mandate (Luke 4:8-9) to deliver and restore us. Rely on Jesus for the deliverance you desire. “All things are possible to him who believes” (v.23). Powerful Faith Engenders Obedience The father was attentive and obedient to Jesus. Between verses 20-26, the father allowed his son to be taken to Jesus and as a result of the discourse between himself and Jesus, his son was delivered. Halleluiah! The father’s internal responses to Jesus’ encouragement saw him agreeing in obedience that his son could be healed. Jesus spoke and, with alacrity, his command was carried out; even the evil spirit had to be obedient to the authority of the conquering lion of the tribe of Judah: “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again” (v.25). Let us remember that Jesus is highly exalted and that God “bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9). We will now glance at the disciples’ query regarding their impotence: “Why could we not drive it out?” (v.28). Jesus made it clear that the only solution to
Sabbath, March 5, 2016
Hints for Teaching Lesson Goals 1. Recall the details of the failure of the disciples to heal the child, even though Jesus was then able to do so. 2. Contemplate what faith it takes to use the power of Jesus Christ to minister to others. 3. Believe the participants’ prayers have real power and increase their prayer witness in the church. Have the class cooperate to create an acrostic of the word “PRAYER” that demonstrates the faith aspects of personal and corporate prayer. Have participants share examples of times they have seen the power of prayer at work. List prayer r eque s t s t ha t pa r t i c i pan t s have, spend time praying for these requests, and keep track, through this quarter, of any answers to prayer. Looking Forward In this lesson, we have been encouraged to develop a strong faith, believing we can do great things through God ’ s powe r . Ne x t ou r focus will be on a simple faith that surrenders every- thing to follow Jesus. Teaching Activity
victory in this situation is deep- er obedience—prayer. In a call to obedience, Jesus, on many occasions, urged His disciples to pray. In Mark, He would do it twice again in Gethsemane as the time of his ultimate test drew near (14:32, 38). They were being encouraged to confront their need to believe when faced with a reality of the suffering and struggling. In Luke 18:1, Jesus instructed His disciples “that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart.” Prayer is spending time in openness to the Spirit of God, getting to know Him, and yield- ing to Him. This will inculcate in us a powerful faith response to the challenges of life. Our faith is built with obedience and prayer. During this time of Lent, as many Christians observe a pe- riod of fasting, repentance, and general spiritual discipline, let us be ever mindful of the true reason of this season—Jesus Christ’s victory on the cross, His redemptive death, and His faith inspiring resurrection. Let this truth be our guide and our reflection whenever we seem to have difficulty overcoming evil. We must stimulate to action our hope “walking by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7), looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our powerful faith.
2. Simple Faith Mark 10:17–31
Daily Bible Meditations
Sunday Psalm 49:1–6, 16–19 The measure of respect we have for others is often related to what job they have and how wealthy they are. There is an older man in our town who lives the simplest life. He lives in a tiny cabin on the grounds of a church camp. He drives an old truck and has never been married. He works in ministry and, I am sure, exists on very little funds. However, he spreads more joy than anyone I have ever known. This man’s love for the Lord and hunger for God’s Word just oozes off of him. May we be drawn not to those who love riches, but to those who love Jesus. Monday Proverbs 22:1–4; 23:3–5 What is it that gets the most of your time and attention, that you treasure above all else? Many of us spend our time striving for riches, obtaining possessions, and tending to things of the world. Everywhere we look, we are pressured to acquire more stuff. There was a time when our family felt a calling to sell al- most everything we owned. It was the most freeing experience I have ever had. We were able to put our focus on people and on God’s plans for us. Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Let us learn to treasure time with the Lord and His people above all else. Tuesday Isaiah 55:1–6a In Lesotho, Africa, for weddings and funerals the family sets up a huge tent, slaughters the choicest animals, and prepares a gi- ant feast. People all over town watch the preparations happening. Family and friends come from, but anyone is welcome to partake in the feast. Even the town drunks who sleep under tarps in front of the shops and scrounge for food in the ditches along the road are expected to show up. They will come filthy, dirty, and smelling like yesterday’s alcohol, but they will be given a smile, a plate, and a place in line for the beautiful, abundant buffet. This is a picture of the abundant love of Christ for us. Wednesday Matthew 7:24–29 It seems we have an abundance of options these days upon which to build our lives. There are not only a million different
Lesson 2 13 religions, but there is also the popular philosophy of basically be- ing a “good person” or drawing upon your inner good. There are New Age practices of Raiki & crystals. Then there is the thought that relying on the satisfaction of your life’s work may bring or the wealth you manage to acquire. But a life built on anything but Jesus Christ is not built on a firm foundation. Everything else will come and go, but when we have Christ as our foundation, He is secure and sure. Thursday Galatians 5:1–13 Friday afternoon, I was doing some banking and realized that Sunday would be the first of the month. I needed to drop off pay- ment for a bill. We were settling in for the evening, but decided I did not want that bill hanging over me all weekend. The sun was close to setting as I drove and I thought of what it means to be a Sabbath keeper. I was in the habit of rushing around to get “business” done on Fridays, not because the law prevents me from paying bills on Saturday, but because I would miss out on the complete freedom of the Sabbath. May we all celebrate the freedom we have in Christ. Friday Luke 16:10–14 In most Christian circles, we could be having a lively conver- sation, but as soon as the topic turns to money you could hear a pin drop. Could our reluctance to discuss it be because, if we truly search our hearts, we would realize that most of us probably struggle with the love of money? I knew a financially successful couple who said that every time they received money, they would pray over it, that God would show them how to be faithful with every penny of it. Let us put money in its rightful place today. Sabbath Mark 10:17–31 Many of us know someone who has literally sold all their possessions, left their families and all that they have known in order to commit to mission work in a faraway land. But is this necessary for everyone? What if God does not call you to do that? As someone who has had that experience, I think it is something that happens in our hearts and not always literally. Is our devo- tion solely to the Lord? Are we able to hold on loosely in our hearts to our worldly possessions and even our loved ones, mak- ing sure Christ stays in the place only He deserves—the throne of our hearts? Sabbath, March 12, 2016
Study Mark 10:17–31 Background Mark 10:17–31 Devotional Galatians 5:1–13
Key Verse Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Mark 10:21). Heart of the Lesson It is very difficult even for good people to be willing to give up all their possessions to follow some altruistic goal. What can persuade someone to forfeit her or his possessions for others? Jesus said that faith in God makes it possible for people to sacrifice all they have for the benefit of others. Questions for Studying the Text 1. Why do you think so many people are possessed by their possessions? What would be the most difficult thing you own for you to give up? 2. Compare and contrast Mark’s record of this event with those in Matthew 19:16-22 and Luke 18:18-23. Are there significant differences? What is the primary focus of all three? 3. What two things had this man put his faith in? How did Jesus expose each one? How had these things become barriers to the man finding entrance into the Kingdom of God? 4. What did Jesus mean that it is difficult to enter the King- dom of God? Is the difficulty the same for everyone? Was Jesus saying that everyone must give up all their posses- sions? If not, what was He saying? 5. What is the relationship between self-sacrifice and the Kingdom of God? What has been the biggest sacrifice you have made in following Jesus? Are there things in your life that you are holding on to that He may be asking you to give up?
Sabbath, March 12, 2016
Understanding and Living
Seventh Day Baptists Believe We believe that eternal life begins in knowing God t hr ough a commi tmen t t o Jesus Christ. We believe that because Jesus died and lives again, resurrection with spiri- tual and imperishable bodies is the gift of God to believers. (Taken from the SDB Statement of Belief.) In our materialistic and in- creasingly narcissistic society, there is a constant push towards less work for more pay or even no work for pay in the selfie/ You t ube/ I n s t agam “wo r k” world. If a job is considered too much work compared to the compensation we are offered, we may believe it is our right and our duty to reject such an offer. This lesson highlights just that. A man asked Jesus about earning eternal life and got a “simple” response that led him to the conclusion that the cost of gaining eternal life was more than he was willing to surrender. One Thing You Lack The answer he received was actually the basis of the real cost to human beings of becom- ing disciples of Jesus—simple faith. Ephesians 2:8 declares, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
In contrast to Matthew, neither Mark nor Luke were among the original disciples of Christ. Mark had, however, lived in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12), been a companion to Peter (1 Peter 5:13), and accompanied Barnabas and the apostle Paul on a mission trip (Act 12:25). These associations provided Mark with the basis he needed to be considered sufficiently familiar with Jesus Christ to author one of the Gospels. The key theme verse in Mark is 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” That life was ransomed in order for us to access Eternal Life. Many people mistakenly be- lieve that to attain eternal life through salvation they must engage in certain Herculean pursuits to earn merits to pay for their sins. Jesus’ death is the once and only payment of the debt for all our sins. We cannot work for eternal life and we do not deserve eternal life. It is inherited through faith in Jesus Christ (who died and lives again) and seeking for- giveness of our sins, in order to spend eternity with God. “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life” (John 6:40).
Thanks be to Jesus, the Good Teacher, that all things are possible with God! Simply Change Your Focus. The rich man simply lacked faith—a be l i ef sys tem that , had he accepted it, would have sepa- rated his fate from his worldly possessions. Then Who Can Be Saved? “Looking at them, Jesus said, ‘With people it is impos- sible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God” (v. 27). At this point in the story, the disciples were perplexed because, in those days, the assumption about the relationship of rich people with the kingdom of God was that they were specially blessed. The thinking was that the rich were already present in the Kingdom of God. Instead, what Jesus identified is the struggle that is present for rich people getting into the kingdom. The disciples understanding of the rich and Jesus description of how hard it is for rich people to enter the kingdom of God gave rise to them wondering if anyone could be saved. Although it appeared as if no one could become part of the Kingdom of God and be saved from the wrath to come, Jesus’ response was comfort- ing. There i s not anything that anyone can do, includ- ing selling all that they have
Jesus said to the rich young ruler, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (v. 21). The rich man’s question that initi- ated this whole incident, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” already hints at a deeper issue—which is that with all his possessions, he still had lack. And it was a lack that ma- terial things could not satisfy. Unfortunately for him, Jesus’ answer, which is hinged on simple faith, was so alarming and unthinkable that he could not fathom it. Thus he rejected the offer of eternal life based on the flawed value system of the world not understanding the great opportunity that he had lost, since his choice would lead to a truly dead end. Leaving everything and fol- lowing Jesus, as the disciples had done, brought them into a new family. This household of God is an incredibly rich present reality, but one that is marked with persecutions. It is also a future reality char- acterized by fullness of life where first and last will no longer have any relevance. Finally, keep in mind that for an inheritance to be given and experienced, someone has to die.
Sabbath, March 12, 2016
Hints for Teaching Lesson Goals 1. Know the facts of the encounter of the rich young man with Jesus. 2. Celebrate the direct link between making sacrifices and receiving God’s salvation. 3. Commit to making greater sacrifices for others in the name of Jesus Christ. Teaching Activity Have participants role-play the encounter of Jesus with the rich, young man. Afterwards, analyze together the possible character and thinking of the rich man in his response to Jesus’ request. List sacrifices that Jesus might ask each of us to make in following Him and discuss what it would take to make such sacrifices.
and giving it to the poor, that makes it possible to be saved. Because it is not dependent on us; God in His love has made provisions for all who simply have faith in Christ Jesus to be saved. “This is good and ac- ceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:3-4a). We Have Left Everything Peter said to Jesus, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You” (v. 28). In His response, Jesus assured Peter that whatever sacrifice is giv- en for His and the Gospel’s sake shall be rewarded a hun- dredfold. We did nothing to motivate God to save us and we do not follow Him to be saved but because we are saved. Jesus went on to explain that many will be saved, but many who are first in this age will be last. Furthermore, “the last” will, in the age to come, be first. The paradoxes of the rela- tionship between wealth and the Kingdom of God are graphi- cally experienced in this story. It is noteworthy that Jesus did not say it is impossible for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God but difficult. It is hard for everybody, but we all have the chance. This is because every- one is dependent on the grace of God. All that is required is faith.
Looking Forward Th i s week we have ex - plored how a simple faith can help us give up all to follow Christ. Next we will consider what to do when we struggle in our faith.
3. Struggling Faith Mark 14:26–31, 66–72
Daily Bible Meditations
Sunday Jeremiah 3:12–18 In the midst of rebellion, God promised to gather the Israelites to Himself and pour out blessings onto them. We often think that we have to take the first steps back towards the Lord; that we have to clean up our behavior and somehow be worthy of Him, just hoping that He will notice how desperately we are seeking Him? When I imagine myself in the pit of my own sin or loved ones who seem to have hopelessly wandered from Him, I love the image of Him being the one to seek us out and to gather us to His side. It is such a wonderful picture of His grace. Monday Isaiah 2:1–6 I have not spoken to my sister in a year. My brother just an- nounced his divorce, after 23 years of marriage. Most of us have in our circles those who are affected by divorce or strained relation- ships among families. Crime rates are soaring. There is conflict all around us—not just among individuals, but within our government and among nations. What a great comfort God’s promise is—that He will settle all disputes and even the need for weapons will disap- pear. He will establish a place where people and nations who once opposed each other will be gathered together in peace. Tuesday 1 Peter 4:10–19 Have you ever noticed that when we are going through the hardest times in our lives, people are watching us the closest? Financial hardships, rebellious teens, the loss of a loved one—it is in these times that non-Christians or those new to the faith want to see how we handle it. We want nothing more than just to be left alone, but they keep coming around. Instead of trying to have all the answers or pretending like everything is fine, God gets the most glory when we simply say, “This is really hard, but He is still God and I will follow Him.” What an awesome testimony! Wednesday Psalm 85:4–13 I knew a couple who were struggling greatly in their marriage. The wife had continuous affairs and was in rebellion towards God. The husband and wife were barely on speaking terms. The anger and resentment was so palpable in their presence. They eventually
Lesson 3 19 sought godly council and began to seek the Lord for healing. I ran into them years later and they were laughing with their arms around each other. Their marriage had never been stronger. This kind of forgiveness, healing, and restoration can only come from our God. Thursday Romans 12:14–21 There is a reason why Jesus told us to pray for our enemies in Matthew. Most of the time we would rather complain for days about what horrible things this person did to us, plotting with others on how we can get even. But have you ever prayed for someone who has made you burning mad? A miraculous thing happens! God has a way of changing our hearts. Suddenly we find ourselves with unexplainable feelings of compassion and love for the offender. We think we should be angry, but somehow our hearts are softened. Imagine how powerful it is to go to someone who has hurt you with only an attitude of love and forgiveness. Friday Galatians 5:22–26 When our family first arrived on the mission field in a remote part of Africa, we were told that we should not have a goal of hold- ing a huge meeting, preaching the gospel to hundreds of people. Instead, we were just to live among the people, taking every op- portunity to display the love of Christ and seeking intimate times to share Him. When we operate this way, people see the fruit of the Spirit active and alive in our everyday lives. As we strive to live in the Spirit daily, we will be people who exude His charac- teristics. This draws people in and they will long to know more about what we have. Sabbath Mark 14:26–31, 66–72 The world is increasingly unfriendly towards Christians. I at- tended a lunch with a few hundred other health care providers. As the speaker began, I realized the lunch was funded by Planned Parenthood, the largest U.S. provider of abortions. The event had a strong political bend and people in the room were very passionate about their unbiblical beliefs and their fear that they were under threat. I sat silently, becoming more uncomfortable with the clear hatred towards “right-wing Christians” in the room. It was the only time in my life that I thought I might have actually been in physical danger for my beliefs. I would like to think that, if put on the spot, I would have been truthful. We must always be ready to stand for Christ. Sabbath, March 19, 2016
Study Mark 14:26–31, 66–72 Background Mark 14:26–31, 66–72 Devotional Jeremiah 3:12–18
Key Verse And Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you, that this very night, before a rooster crows twice, you yourself will deny Me three times” (Mark 14:30). Heart of the Lesson People often overestimate their ability to remain loyal to a cause and bear witness to it. What happens when they discover they cannot do something they truly believed they could do? Peter was convinced of his faith, but he grieved mightily when he understood that his failure to stand up publicly as a follower of Jesus Christ was evidence of the weakness of his faith. Questions for Studying the Text 1. When have you failed to meet the expectations of someone you loved and respected? What kinds of feelings did you experience as a result of your failure? 2. In verse 27, Jesus quoted Zechariah 13:7 in describing how the disciples would respond. What similarities do you see between Zechariah 13:7-9 and the situation the disciples would face in the hours, days, and weeks to come? 3. Upon what did Peter base his claim of loyalty? What was wrong with his claim? Why do you think Peter’s claim is emphasized when apparently all the disciples made the same claim? What was Jesus teaching Peter, even in his betrayal? 4. Compare and contrast Peter’s being accused of being with Jesus (v.67) with a later situation where the same thing was recognized by the scribes and elders (Acts 44:13-22). How did Peter respond differently? What had changed? What can we learn about loyalty from Peter’s experience? 5. Do you feel it is obvious to those you meet each day that you have been with Jesus? What can you do to make it more obvious? How do you respond when someone asks you about it?
Sabbath, March 19, 2016
Understanding and Living
Jesus’ ministry on earth started with His miraculous entry (the virgin birth) and continued with Him selecting twelve men to accompany Him in ministry. Their mandate was to develop their faith in Christ in order to share it after His resurrection and ascension. Prior to His death by crucifixion, Jesus spent His final moments with His disciples— among other things sharing a meal. In the account of the Last Supper, Jesus prophesied of two instances of His disciples’ betraying Him. The first was Judas and the second, found in our focus text, involved the rest of the disciples—with Peter named—denying their connec- tion to Jesus. According to the Evangelical Training Association’s New Testament Survey course, the amount of space Mark allotted to Jesus’ death and resurrection mean it is the most important activity of Christ’s life, in the writer’s estimation. This topic of struggling faith is timely as we approach the season la- beled Passion Week—when some Christians commemorate Jesus’ death and resurrection, starting on Palm Sunday. This is a time of reflection on His triumphal entry into Jerusalem knowing that the journey would end in His sacrificial death on the cross for the sins of all mankind. Jesus as
a sacrifice for us is the ultimate revelation of God’s love and for- giveness: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God’s people have always shown consistency in being inconsistent. This mental fight to find faith in God over the temptations and lure of the world is exacerbated by lack of knowledge and the earthly desires of the flesh. At the same Last Supper, Jesus washed all the disciples’ feet—an act to which Peter initially objected but there- after submitted himself when informed of the implication of his denial (John 13:1-11). This is an indication that Peter never truly understood the Lordship of Christ, but that his heart was to honor Christ as he reacted appro- priately when it was explained to him. God Plans for Struggling Faith As Jesus predicted, when the test came, Peter denied any association with Him, as did the other disciples. Although they have been much judged and found wanting for what many consider acts of cowardice, the disciples are to be pitied for what could only be a very confusing and fearful time. They had great difficulty coping with the possi- bilities of physical danger—even death and social isolation—while
22 trying to reconcile the teaching they got from Jesus. They never dreamt that their association with Jesus would lead them to that place. We also contend with similar thoughts and difficulties and God knows this! Everything is determined by the divine Creator and He plans, with our future actions in mind, to accom- plish His will. Earlier, Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32). God understands man’s personal inability to have victory over sin and his need for a Savior, He said to Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel” (Genesis 3:15). Jesus is God’s plan for man’s struggling faith. We should take comfort in the fact that God planned for our weakness. Struggling Faith is Part of the Journey Jesus predicted even the exact moment when Peter was going to deny Him. Many of us would ask, if God knew what bad thing was going to happen, why did He allow it? Why did He allow Peter to sin? Why did
He allow sin to infest the world? The answer to all these questions is free will. Although God did not bring sin into the world, He gave us the ability to make our own choices and a possible con- sequence of that is bad choices. When our faith is not steady, our acts are untrustworthy. James 1:8 says that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. Struggling faith is certainly not a quality to be desired or to be accepted with complacency, as it can be painful and even derailing to our spiritual journey. Jesus’ detailed foreknowledge also helps to underscore the degree to which everything that is going on is known by God. A welcoming thought on this matter of wavering faith is found in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able.” Another point on which to meditate is found in 1 Corinthians 1: 25, “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” The extent to which God allows things to be part of our experience seems to be, ultimately, for our individual and collective good. Struggling Faith but Still in Sight of Christ. Peter’s actions beyond the denial were significant: 1) As Jesus was taken by the soldiers, Peter followed at a distance, right
Sabbath, March 19, 2016
Hints for Teaching Lesson Goals 1. Remember all that happened when Jesus foretold Peter’s denial and when Peter acted as Jesus said. reactions when one fails to meet the expectations of those who are loved and respected. disciplines in order to build a stronger relationship with God. Teaching Activity Discuss real examples of people who have turned their backs on trusted friends or groups. Try to identify the factors that often differentiate between loyalty and disloy- alty. What spiritual disciplines can help keep our faith strong enough to avoid being disloyal to Jesus? How can we practice those spiritual disciplines in our lives? Looking Forward In this lesson, we consid- ered , a l ong wi th Pe t er , what to do when we strug- gle in our faith. Next, a look at the Resurrection wi l l help us unders tand how having faith confirmed can bolster our faith. 2. Explore feelings and 3. Practice spiritual
up to the courtyard of the high priest (v. 54); 2) After denying Jesus three times and the rooster crowing twice, Peter wept as he recounted Jesus’ prophecy (v. 72). There was hope for Peter. Despite his shameful denial of his Lord, he was still concerned enough about Jesus to follow, though from afar. His action was not one of heart denial—it was an act of fear. Peter knew what it meant to stay with Jesus as he was one of three disciples who were with Him more than the others. Peter may have lost perspective but he did not lose “sight” of his master. The fact that he felt driven to keep Jesus in sight, among those hostile to Jesus and at personal risk, seems at odds with his denial, but that act speaks volumes of his commitment. In the book of Mark, after Peter wept, nothing else is said of him. It is not said why he wept but it would not be a stretch to conclude that he regretted his action and therefore his weeping could have been an expression of his regret. Peter was con- cerned about his action towards Jesus. Though outside our text, it is helpful to recall that Peter recovered and became very instrumental in the start of the Early Church. As we go through our struggles, let us always keep Jesus in our sight.
4. Resurrection Faith Mark 16:1–8 Daily Bible Meditations
Sunday Deuteronomy 6:1–9 Did you know that if you drop a frog in boiling water, it will jump out, saving itself? But if you put the frog in cold water, then slowly heat the water to a boil, it will not notice the change and will die. Sin is like that. Most people who have wandered far from God, deep in a sinful lifestyle, did not get there suddenly. It happens bit by bit. We begin by compromis- ing in small ways and soon things are out of control. The Lord gives us clear instructions to live by and, as we abide in Him, the power to obey them. Monday 1 Samuel 12:19–24 Have you ever wronged someone or made a horrible mistake, causing you to avoid the person? You just hope that you do not run into them because that would mean facing what you have done. Adam and Eve did this in the Garden of Eden. They were trying to hide from God after they sinned. Today, we sometimes stop attending church when we feel ashamed of something we have done. But the Lord tells us to keep on serving Him. We can run to Him, even in the midst of our guilt and shame. We do not have to be worthy to follow Him. It is following Him that brings righteousness into our lives. Tuesday Psalm 23 In Lesotho, Africa, there are many shepherds who live in the mountains. Their job is to watch over a flock of sheep and lead them safely home each night. There was one who would walk past our house each morning and evening with all his sheep trailing faithfully behind him. If one wandered away, or went to close to a car, he would nudge it back in with the others. He led them safely to a source of food and water. Often, I would see a little lamb struggling to keep up. The shepherd would gently pick it up and carry it the rest of the way—a living example of the Good Shepherd. Wednesday Romans 1:1–7 So often we talk about Christianity as something we have done or chosen. We say we have “chosen to follow Christ” or
Lesson 4 25 have “accepted Him as our Savior.” We are also pretty proud of the things we do not do as Christians: excessive drinking, gam- bling, smoking, affairs, etc. I think we forget that it is actually all because of what Christ has done. He chose us! As Romans 5:8 says, “[W]hile we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” He chose us in the midst of our sin and bestowed grace upon us. We did not choose Him, He chose us (John 15:16). Thursday 1 Peter 1:21–25 I recently broke my leg. For 7 weeks, I was on crutches. At church, I would park myself in the back with my leg up, far from where I normally sit. I was stuck there, at the mercy of whoever came to talk to me. I seemed to attract the elderly, down-trodden, or other infirmed. They would come over and share their sad stories. It was frustrating at first—I just wanted the safety of my normal circle of friends. But as I asked God to reveal what He wanted to teach me during this time, I began to see the wisdom and joy in spending time with everyone in the body of Christ. Our time is short—let us spend it loving each other. Friday 1 Peter 3:14b–22 A wise person once asked, “What have you given up to follow Christ?” Are we truly following Him if we have not had to give up anything? For me, it was a relationship with my brother. We spent our early years bonding over alcohol. I distinctly remem- ber the day I told him I was going into the city with a church group instead of attending his birthday party at a bar. He was so disappointed, but it was a defining moment for me. Years later, he died of alcoholism at age 49. As I reflected back on giving up this relationship for the Lord, I realized that He gave back so much more! Sabbath Mark 16:1–8 Do you ever wonder why Christ’s followers were so surprised when He rose from the dead? Did He not warn them several times? They just did not seem to get it. Are we that way in our own sin? We sometimes just do not understand that we are to put our sin to death, once and for all, and to walk alive in Christ, just as Paul explained in Romans 6. Many of us struggle with the same old sin we have been carrying around for years. It peeks its ugly head out when we are the most vulnerable. But Christ set the example of death so that we might walk in glorious Life. Sabbath, March 26, 2016
Study Mark 16:1–8 Background Mark 16:1–8 Devotional Psalm 23
Key Verse And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him” (Mark 16:6). Heart of the Lesson People hold strong beliefs that may be severely tested and then come to an outstanding vindication. What can confirm strong beliefs? Jesus’ closest followers were devastated when He was crucified, but their faith was validated when Jesus was raised from the tomb. Questions for Studying the Text 1. What has been your greatest moment of vindication in life? How did that event impact your willingness to express strong beliefs? 2. What must the women who came to Jesus’ tomb have been feeling as they came? Why do you think they felt it was important to anoint Jesus’ body? How did their outlook change as a result of what they found there? 3. Review Jesus’ predictions of His resurrection in Mark 8:31; 9:9, 31; 10:32-34; and 14:25. What do you think Jesus’ followers believed about these predictions prior to His death? After His death? How would these predictions impact their faith after Jesus’ resurrection was confirmed? 4. What important elements of our faith are grounded in the authenticity of Jesus’ resurrection? How do we know it really happened? How confident would you be of your eternal life without confirmation of Jesus’ resurrection? 5. How does our belief in the resurrection help us to deal with grief differently? In what ways can we encourage one another of the good things Jesus promised?
Sabbath, March 26, 2016
Understanding and Living
As we continue our study in the Book of Mark, it is instruc- tive to remind ourselves that, according to theologynetwork. org, Mark’s Gospel was written to inform people about Jesus: His teaching, His deeds, and, especially, His identity—in that Jesus Christ did not come as a king nor a victorious conqueror in the way that many expected, but as someone who was going to save people by dying a shameful death. It is noteworthy that some of the earliest manuscripts end the book of Mark at 16:8 while later ones include Mark 16:9-20. Jesus revealed that He was the Savior of the world (John 10:9). He also prophesied that He was going to suffer, be killed, and then raised again after three days (Luke 9:22). Jesus, along with His disciples, ministered for about three and half years. Then He was arrested, tried, and, though found not guilty, was crucified and buried (Matthew 27). Our text explains that after the Sabbath, the women arrived at the tomb in order to anoint Jesus, who was already laid to rest. Reaching where His body was laid, they had a few sur- prises—the greatest of which was that the body of their Lord was missing. It was the dawn of a new day—Jesus has been resurrected! Easter, the climax of Holy Week,
is a time of hope, assurance, and jubilation. It is man’s turning point from death to glory and salvation. Miraculous Confirmation Mark’s account now brings us in the early dawn hours on the first day of the week to the tomb where Jesus was buried. The Sabbath had passed and Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought spices to anoint the body of Jesus (v.1-2). On arrival, they found an empty tomb and an angel, who explained that Jesus’ resurrection had transpired. Jesus ’ resur rec t ion was not only miraculous; it was a miraculous confirmation. The confirmation was that Jesus Christ was who He said He was—Son of the living God, the promised Messiah, God made manifest in the flesh of man. “Resurrection Faith” is faith stemming from being a part of a life altering, miraculous event. Though devastated by His death, Jesus’ followers then were re- minded that Jesus had said He would rise from the dead. Any discussion of the res- ur rec t ion event mus t be a multifaceted one. Among the major themes would be the sal- vation element, the fulfilment of prophesy, and the significance of these two factors to the disciples after the crushing blow of His