Lesson 5

Gender and Discipleship

(Luke 1 & 10, John 4)
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Introduction: Relax. We are not going to be plowing any new ground with this lesson. Instead, we are going to study how women responded to the call of discipleship to see what we (of both sexes) can learn about being disciples today. The good news, ladies, is that the women look pretty good in comparison to the men we are studying this week. Let's dive right into our study!

  1. Mary


    1. Read Luke 1:8-9,11-13. Did the angel give Zechariah good news or bad news? Did he want a son or not? (Verse 13 says, "your prayer has been heard." He had been praying for a son!)


    2. Read Luke 1:14, 17-18. Put Zechariah's words into today's language. ("How do I know you are not lying to me?")


    3. Read Luke 1:19. Was Gabriel insulted? (It sure sounds like it. Gabriel seems to say, "Do you know who you are talking to? Do you understand where I got this message?")


    4. Is Zechariah already a disciple? (Yes. He was not only a follower of God, but he held a special role as a priest.)


      1. Is God calling Zechariah to a larger role as a disciple? (Yes! He is called to father (thus disciple) a son who is part of a special plan to prepare the way for the Messiah!)


        1. Will this call take Zechariah out of his comfort zone? Will it embarrass him? (No. Having a son will bring honor to him. There is simply no downside to this promise - other than the need to follow God's directions. (Which is not supposed to be a "downside."))


      2. Does Zechariah doubt the answer to his prayers?


        1. Do we sometimes doubt that our prayers have been answered?


      3. Was this an understandable reaction for a priest? (No. He had been praying for this. This is something he wants! He is a priest, someone who is supposed to have a closer relationship with God. And, he had the example of Abraham and Sarah who had a son late in life. Yet, Zechariah doubted.)


    5. Just a few months later Gabriel has a similar mission. Read Luke 1:26-29. When verse 26 says "the sixth month," what is it talking about? (The sixth month of the pregnancy of Zechariah's wife, Elizabeth.)


      1. Mary was troubled by Gabriel's words. Why? (It would be unusual for an ordinary person, especially a woman in those days, to expect to be called "highly favored" by God.)


        1. Would this greeting make Mary more or less likely to believe the rest of Gabriel's message?


    6. Read Luke 1:30-33. Is this a credible message? How did it compare in credibility with the message Gabriel gave to Zechariah a few months before? (It had never happened in the history of the world!)


    7. Read Luke 1:34. Did Mary doubt the words of Gabriel? (No. She simply asked "how will this work?" That seems like a reasonable question given the nature of the message.)


    8. Read Luke 1:35-38. What is Mary's response to this incredible message? (Go ahead, God.)


      1. What was the downside to having God do as Gabriel said He would? (Joseph might refuse to marry her. Her reputation would be ruined. There was even the danger of stoning (see John 8:3-5).)


      2. How would you compare Mary's response to this call to special discipleship with the response of the priest Zachariah?


        1. Who is the one who reasonably could have said to Gabriel, "How do I know you aren't lying to me?" (Zachariah was given a completely plausible message that fit into his life (he was married) and was in answer to his prayer. Mary was given a completely implausible (up to then) story, that could have serious negative consequences for her life, and she said, "Okay, Lord. Use me just as you said.")


        2. Does this give us an insight into why God chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus?


    9. Obviously, God was not going to call Zachariah to be the mother of Jesus. That would take an even more outrageous, implausible miracle. But we get as close to a male vs. female comparison as we can. Why does Mary react so much more favorably to the call? Do women make better disciples?


      1. Has this anything to do with gender? (It might - especially in that culture. Last week we discussed Nicodemus, a guy who had all sorts of power and authority. When you have a power base, when you have a set of "tools" that you have used to get things done in the past, it is more difficult to accept the idea of giving everything up and following Jesus. Mary said, "Help me understand." When she understood, she said, "Alright." Zechariah said, "I understand, but how can I be sure you are not lying about this?")


  2. Mary Magdalene


    1. Read Luke 8:1-3. We see in these verses that Jesus had women who followed Him in His ministry. How does this suggest they were helping? (They were supporting His efforts. "By their own means" refers to "possessions." They were probably using their money and food to keep the evangelistic effort going along.)


    2. Read John 19:25, Mark 15:46-47, Mark 16:1. What do these texts teach us about the discipleship of Mary Magdalene? (That she stayed with Jesus throughout the worst times.)


    3. Read John 20:11-16. What is Mary's reward for sticking with Jesus through the bitter end? (She was the first to see Him as the risen Lord!)


    4. What lesson does this teach us about being disciples today? (You do not have to be leading the band. God loves (and rewards) those who faithfully toil in the background - even when no one but God sees what they are doing.)


  3. Mary and Martha


    1. So far, we have seen women disciples in a "supporting" role. Let's look more closely at that issue by reading Luke 10:38-40. Is this a problem in the church? Some people are pitching in and helping out, and others are just talking (or listening)?


      1. Is Martha's complaint a fair one? (Why should one person do all the work?)


    2. Read Luke 10:41-42. Jesus says that "only one thing is needed?" What is that one thing? (Listening to Him!)


      1. How would they eat if Martha did not do the other things?


      2. How would they have a place to sit (or recline), something to drink and eating utensils without someone worrying about those details? (If someone did not sweat those details, they would not have something to eat - short of a miracle from Jesus. I don't think Jesus says "don't do these essential things." Instead, He says, "don't get lost in the details. Remember the main goal is to share the gospel. Learning the gospel is more important than cooking and cleaning.)


      3. What does this teach disciples (of either gender) today?


      4. My home church has a troubling situation. On those days in which we have "fellowship dinner" members are working away in the church kitchen while the sermon is being preached. They don't hear the sermon. How would you apply the story of Martha and Mary to this situation?


        1. Remember that Jesus did not condemn Martha. He just said Mary had chosen "what was better." (I think the "better" thing is not preparing lunch during the sermon.)


  4. Samaritan Woman


    1. If you are not familiar with this story, read John 4:3-42. If you are familiar, let's focus on a few verses. Read John 4:6-9. What was wrong with Jesus asking this woman for a drink?


      1. If Jews looked down on Samaritans (and women), then why should she be complaining? (Jesus was crossing several cultural taboos. Jewish males had nothing to do with Samaritans, much less Samaritan women. Worse, Jesus was asking to drink out of her container. Worse, Jesus would be indebted to this woman. The violation of cultural norms was so extreme that she was making a point of it.)


    2. Read John 4:10, 25-26. Why does Jesus say these things to this woman? (He is seeking to make her His disciple.)


    3. Read John 4:39-42. Why did Jesus pick a woman to promote the gospel in Samaria?


      1. Read Matthew 10:5-7. How can you reconcile this with Jesus' work with the Samaritan woman? (At some point Jesus seems to observe cultural norms. At other points He does not. We need to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in these things.)


      2. Is there an underlying moral issue with cultural issues? (Read Galatians 3:26-29.)


    4. Friend, God calls you to follow Him regardless of your gender. Even though the culture might make things more difficult, God has given the most important tasks to disciples who are women!


  5. Next week: Ethnicity and Discipleship.

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