Lesson 9

The Tenderness of His Love

(Matthew 5, 15 & 18)
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Introduction: When I first started driving a car, I was concerned about how to stay in my own lane. This was important because 99% of the roads in my area only had two lanes. People in the adjacent lane would be driving towards me at a high rate of speed! I came up with the theoretical idea that I should line up the hood ornament with the dividing line on the road. (This can only work from the passenger-side seat or the back seat - which is no doubt where I was when working out this great theory.) Any experienced driver knows this is foolishness. Experienced drivers automatically "know" when they are in their own lane. Driving is like the Christian life, except a whole lot of people seem to be off in the weeds or at least on the wrong side of the road. One area in which people seem to get "off in the weeds" has to do with Jesus' love. It seems they have one of two extremes. Either they cannot trust Him to love them, or they know Jesus so little that they are shocked to hear that He is also the Judge in a final judgment in which the penalty is eternal death. This week we look at Jesus' attitude of love. Let's see if we can get the feel for the right side of the road!

  1. Feeding the Healed


    1. Read Matthew 15:29-30. Have you heard the phrase "time on task?" What does it mean? (It means the time you spend accomplishing your work, as opposed to the time you spend on matters which distract you from your work.)


      1. What was Jesus' primary task during His three years of ministry on earth? (Showing that He was the Messiah and explaining how He fulfilled the plan of salvation had to be a big part of it.)


      2. Do you think healing the people who keep coming was "on task" work for Jesus?


    2. Read Matthew 15:31. What lesson did the people learn from this? (The text says that they praised "the God of Israel.")


      1. Do you think they were calling Jesus "the God of Israel?" (I don't think they were making that explicit connection. Assuming they were not, praising God is a good thing, but it does not seem to be directly "on task" work. The healing showed that Jesus had special power, or access to special power, but it did not explain His special mission.)


      2. If the time available is short, and this is not directly "on task" work for Jesus, why did He do it?


    3. Read Matthew 15:32. What insight does this give us into Jesus' motive for the healing? (He healed them because He cared about them. See Matthew 14:14. They could take care of the simple task of feeding themselves. Jesus not only has the compassion to heal their diseases and infirmities, He is concerned about them going hungry.)


      1. How do you explain people going hungry today? Did Jesus stop having compassion after He returned to heaven? (Notice that Jesus did not heal everyone on earth. He did not feed everyone on earth. He healed and feed those who came to Him in faith.)


      2. Why did Jesus share His concern with His disciples? What were they supposed to do about it?


    1. Read Matthew 15:33-34. What is the obvious answer to the disciples' question? (Jesus had been giving sight to the blind, would it be more difficult to make bread? Worse, if you look at Matthew 14:14-21 you will see that Jesus had recently fed the 5,000 in a very similar way. The disciples knew Jesus had the power to make food for these people.)


      1. Consider what is going on. If the disciples showed proper faith in Jesus they would have turned to Him to feed the people. But, Jesus starts them off on the wrong path by turning to them for a solution and then even discussing the number of loaves of bread available. Why does Jesus seem to lead His disciples into self-reliance?


        1. Do you think He ever does this to you? (Realizing that they could not do it themselves made the disciples more clearly understand the power of God. Sometimes we just have to flounder to get a full view of God's love and power.)


    2. Read Matthew 15:35-38. Did the disciples have a role in this miracle?


      1. What lesson do you find in this for your life? (We need to rely on Jesus as the loving miracle-worker, but He has a role for us. Our role is to believe in Him and to work with Him in showing compassion to others.)


  1. Care For Children


    1. Read Matthew 18:1-3. Does this mean the disciples asked the wrong question? (They ask who leads in heaven. Jesus responds by saying "Let's talk first about how you get into heaven.")


      1. Let's look at this a minute. We have all sorts of formulations about being saved. Matthew 24:13 tells us to "stand firm to the end" and we will be saved. Luke 13:23-24 tells us those who enter the "narrow door" will be saved. John 10:9 tells us that if we enter through the Jesus' "gate" we will be saved. Acts 2:21 and Romans 10:13 tell us that if we call on the name of the Lord we will be saved. Now we are told that we must become like little children to be saved. What is Jesus talking about here?


        1. Do you see a consistent thread of logic in these texts about salvation?


    2. Read Matthew 18:4. What is your experience with little children - here a child old enough to walk, talk and be standing around? Don't you find them to be immature and selfish? (Any parent realizes that children have serious character flaws that are directly related to a lack of maturity. Surely, Jesus is not talking about that. Instead, when He speaks about being "humble," He is talking about dependency. From Matthew 15 (our last story) through this story we see Jesus teaching reliance on God. The question "Who is greatest" means "Who will rule?" Jesus says "forget ruling," instead develop dependence on Me. Working on humility means to work on being dependent on God, not working on ruling over others.)


        1. What has this to do with the topic of Jesus' love? (We might love others more if we were less concerned about ruling over them.)


    3. Let's read on. Read Matthew 18:5-6. What comes with dependence? (For children, dependence means they are easily led or influenced. If you are teaching children, your obligation is very great. As an adult, make sure you are led and dependent on God.)


    4. Read Matthew 18:7. What does this say about Hugh Hefner? What does this say about drug-dealers who sell around playgrounds? What does this say about you passing your bad habits on to your children? (We cannot say "Everyone is doing it." We cannot say, "If I don't supply this need, someone else will." Every one of us must carefully look at our influence and ask "Am I causing others to sin?" Is my influence positive or negative?)


  2. Loving Pagans


    1. Read Matthew 5:43-44. How many enemies do you have? (If you have more than just a few, you need to examine your Christian walk!)


      1. Can you find a parallel between exercise and loving your enemies? (Consider the opportunity for character building by loving and praying for your enemies. You get bigger muscles when you strain, when you work at it. You get bigger character "muscles" when you have to work at it.)


    2. Read Matthew 5:45-47. How is "love" to our enemies defined in these verses? Is it "hug" love? (Jesus' example is even-handed treatment of those who are God's "enemies." If you would do something for your friend, do it for your enemy.)


    3. Read Matthew 5:48. Why should we be better than pagans when it comes to our enemies? (Because we have a higher standard. Perfection is our goal. It is not to gain salvation, but because we are sons and daughters of God!)


    4. Friend, picture your worst enemy. What will you do today, this coming week, for that person to show you are a son or daughter of God?


  3. Next week: The Meaning of His Death.

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