Lesson 5

In the Shadow of Calvary

(John 1, Mark 10, Luke 18, Acts 1, Matthew 20)
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Introduction: We see disasters all the time. Some are of epic proportions, such as the Tsunami that killed over 165,000 people a few weeks ago in Asia. Some, like cancer, hit a specific family with devastating force. Last week, I spoke with the wife of a man who is battling against a very aggressive form of brain cancer. Why do these things happen? This wife told me she could see no reason for this happening to her family. She was interested in my thoughts about it. When I was younger and less wise, I would venture an explanation. Now, I believe it is wiser to explain the attitude of God rather than the specific strategy of God. That is the subject of our lesson this week - so let's dive in!

  1. The Battle Plan


    1. Read John 1:29. Why would John call Jesus "the Lamb of God?" (We have discussed this in earlier lessons in this series: John was referring to the sacrificial lamb which was an essential part of the Old Testament sanctuary sacrificial system.)


    2. Read John 1:35-37. We learn later ( John 1:40-42) that one of these two disciples is Andrew who shares this with Peter. They both decide to become disciples of Jesus. Would you make that same decision?


      1. If you say, "yes," what are the positive benefits of following someone who has been chosen for death so that others can live?


        1. When you look at it this way, do you think that Andrew and Peter made a fully informed decision? Did they understand what they were doing? (John 1:41 has Andrew identifying Jesus as "the Messiah." In some way it appears he identified dying with the Messiah.)


    3. Read Mark 8:31-33. This is much later. What understanding does Peter now have about Jesus' future? (He is so certain that Jesus will not be killed, that he rebukes Jesus for saying so.)


    4. Read Mark 10:32-34. What is Jesus predicting? (His own trial, crucifixion and resurrection.)


      1. Read Mark 10:35-37. What explanation do you have for this request?


        1. Do you think they understood Jesus and were referring to a kingdom in heaven?


        2. Or, do you think they completely misunderstood Jesus and are referring to a kingdom on earth?


    5. Read Luke 18:31-33. Do you understand what Jesus is saying to His disciples? How plain is this?


      1. Read Luke 18:34. How can the disciples not understand such a plain statement?


        1. What do you think is meant by "hidden from them?" Who was hiding the meaning? (God certainly was not hiding it from them. God was trying to make it plain. The commentary Word Pictures in the New Testament tells us that Luke three times tries to explain the continued failure of the disciples to understand Jesus. Luke wants us to know they did not understand.)


    6. Read Acts 1:1-3 & 6. What do you think the disciples understood at this point in time?


    7. We have a remarkable thing before us. Jesus has clearly, and repeatedly, from the very beginning of His ministry, told His followers that He was coming to die. Yet, His disciples seemed unable to grasp the battle plan. Why do you think that is? (They were blinded to the real plan of God by their own ambitions and their own preferences. Word Pictures in the New Testament tells us "The words of Christ about His death ran counter to all their hopes and beliefs.)


    8. What does Jesus' mission on earth teach us about our ability to understand God's strategy and thinking? (On its face, it was an unbelievable tragedy for God to become man, and then be tortured and murdered by humans. Just as it was unthinkable to Peter that Jesus would come to die, so tragedies that occur in our lives are unthinkable to us. Jesus did not die because, in the abstract, Jesus said, "Hey, I think I'll get myself killed." It was the problem of sin that created the reason and need for His death.)


    9. What does the reaction of the disciples teach us about our ability to understand God's strategy and thinking? (It shows that is very difficult for humans to understand the will of God because our judgment is clouded with our own preferences and ambitions. We do not see "the big picture," we see only what is happening in our little corner of life.)


  2. The Battle Attitude


    1. Let's continue with the story of the disciples (and their mother)who ask Jesus for the top positions in the kingdom they expected He was setting up on earth. Read Matthew 20:24. Why were the rest of the disciples "indignant?" (They had the same ambition! They were upset that these two asked first.)


    2. Read Matthew 20:25-28. What is the attitude of Jesus?


      1. What should be our attitude?


      2. How would this attitude be applied to tragedies in our life?


    3. I am convinced that the order of the gospel accounts is inspired by God just as the message of the gospel is inspired. Let's continue with the next story in Matthew. Read Matthew 20:29-31. Why did the crowd rebuke the blind men? (They were embarrassing and annoying the crowd.)


      1. Whose interest was the crowd considering? (It's own. It did not care about the interests of the blind men.)


      2. Whose interests were the blind men considering? (Their own. They did not care about the sensibilities of the crowd.)


    4. Read Matthew 20:32-34. Whose interest was Jesus concerned about?


    5. Let's put together what we have learned. When tragedy occurs, is it likely that we will understand God's specific strategy? (No.)


      1. What, generally, is the cause of the tragedy? (The entry of sin into our world. Jesus died not because He wanted to die, He died because the entry of sin made His death the best "servant" solution.)


      2. When tragedy occurs in our life, what can we know with absolute certainty? (Whatever the plan being followed in our life, we know that God's attitude towards us is one of self-sacrifice. Jesus' instruction to the disciples about attitude shows that He (and we) come to serve. The story of the blind men shows Jesus' compassion towards suffering. That should lead us to decide that we do not need to understand the "big picture," or the specific strategy of God to deal with sin, instead we need to just trust Him.)


    6. Friend, the tragedy of Jesus' death on the cross was planned. It shows us that God's battle plan to deal with sin was self-sacrifice. Whatever tragedy may occur in our life, we can know that God is not taking advantage of us. He is not injuring us for His benefit. His attitude is to die for us. We are not God. We do not have His intelligence or His knowledge. What we do have is an understanding of His attitude towards us. Will you agree to just trust Jesus whatever happens in your life?


  3. Next week: The Passion Week.

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