This week we walk between the elation of Palm Sunday’s triumphal entry and the darkness of Good Friday. Then from that dark hopelessness to the joy of Easter morning’s miraculous resurrection. All in that, in the space of 1 week.
Spend a little bit of time talking about Palm Sunday and Easter. What is this week typically like for you? Is there any significant difference in your time with the Lord during the passion week compared to the rest of the year? If not, do you think there should there be?
In this message Pastor Jeremy looked at 3 different sections of scripture from the Gospel of Luke which lead into the passion week. The story of the rich ruler, the story of Zacchaeus, and the story of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
Read Luke 18:18-30 together.
Profile this rich ruler. Together dig into what was going on here with him. Think the 5 w’s. Who, what, when, where, why? Who was he (according to the sermon), What was his true motivation? When in his life did this conversation take place? Where did he approach Jesus and what are the implications of that? Why was he interested in talking to Jesus? Why did he want eternal life? Why was he preserved in biblical memory like this? How would you identify this type of person in a church today? Or possibly a better question, how would you ever know if you are this type of person?
What did Jesus tell him, and what was his reaction?
What is your reaction to this encounter? Is Jesus being reasonable in his requirements for eternal life? Is Jesus actually demanding this level of commitment from people today? The answer is ‘yes’, but in what way?
Jesus demands us to be all in, in every way. Yet, this is seemingly impossible.
Look at the next passage together. The story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10
Let’s ask the same questions of him that we did of the rich ruler above. Think the 5 w’s. Who, what, when, where, why? Who was Zacchaeus (it’s ok to be honest here, there’s really no charitable way of characterizing him), What was his motivation? When in his life did this conversation with Jesus take place? Where did he approach Jesus and what were the implications of that for him? Why was he interested in talking to Jesus? In what ways did his encounter with Christ defy his expectations.
In terms of who he was before encountering Jesus, how would you identify this type of person in a church today? Still a better question, how would you ever know if you are this type of person? Maybe not in terms of money, but there are a lot of ways to use those around you.
Now we have here the stories of 2 very different men. Both were well established. One was ruler, one was wildly wealthy. One was deeply moral, the other was morally despicable. One walked away from true salvation to preserve himself, the other gave himself up and received salvation. In the upside down kingdom of heaven we’re left with this perpetual paradox.
In Matthew 20:16 Jesus says, “So the last will be first, and the first last.” And in Matthew 16:25 Jesus says, “For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it.”
Time for the passage. Read Luke 19:28-40 together.
What are your impressions of this passage? Who are the players here? Ask some W questions of them. Think of the disciples, the crowds, the religious rulers, and finally of Jesus.
Pastor Jeremy, in reflecting on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, noted that our Lord was rejected because of the religious leaders attempt to cling to power. Power, and influence offered them by Rome as long as they kept the peace. How does Jesus statement in v40 push against this idea of maintaining a false peace?
Notice the theme established. At every encounter, Jesus is intentionally, actively, and sometimes forcefully (think the cleansing of the temple) pushing against people false and misplaced peace. For anyone who took the time to pay attention and take stock of their life, we see that they were challenged to give up comfort, control, and recognize that they never had these things in the first place. Jesus is not just our hope for the next life, but he is the hero of this life here and now.
Like we said above, Jesus demands that we're all in. But since that's impossible, Jesus did the impossible for us. He went all in when we couldn't and gave up his very life so we would be saved.
Rhonda summed this all up well when she posted, “The triumphal entry. The “experts” who “should have known” didn’t get it. The unlikely and unwanted were the ones who cried out....
“B L E S S E D is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”...
Nothing and no one that sees and understand can remain silent.“
This passion week, take stock. Who is the real hero of your story? Who is the hero of your family story, your career story, your neighbourhood story, your church story, your future? When you dream of great things yet to come, who is the hero of those dreams? Remember Matthew 16:25 when Jesus says, “For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it.” He lost his life so yours could be saved…. But saved for something. This week, spend some time meditating on what the Bible says your life has been saved for. Spoiler alert: The answer involves you talking to non-Christians how he saved you! Like Rhonda wrote, once you see this, you can’t keep silent!
Each of us live our life in the midst of a host of constantly changing circumstances. Think about just the smallness of your world as a child and how much more pain, suffering, and trials you're aware of now that you're an adult. For many, the natural inclination is to be somewhat reactionary in our prayer life, reacting to circumstances. Yet Paul casts a different vision for our potential prayers. Read Ephesians 1:15-23 together.
This prayer is broken down to three basic parts. The petition, the purpose, and the practicality.
Petition - Colossians 1:9
To be filled with the knowledge of God’s will.
Practicality - Colossians 1:10b-14
“bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
TAKING IT DEEPER:
While you’re still together, make a list on your phone (or a paper) and keep it with you. There are 2 parts to this list…
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Do you remember the first time you said, “I love you”?
What did you mean by that word, love? What was your hope for the person you were saying it to? What did you hope they heard or felt when you said it?
Obviously this is different than when we say that we love cheeseburgers, or hockey, or a good cup of coffee. In our contemporary culture, is the word LOVE by nature a relative term, subjective to the situation and the person who is using it? Or have we taken a profound concept that is not subjective, and made its meaning weak and empty through overuse or misuse? For either of these possibilities, what are the possible effects on how we understand love within the body of Christ, the church?
Read how John describes the substance of love in 1 John 4:7-12
Are John’s words here useful in establishing what the substance of God’s love really is? Use verse 10 in particular to evaluate your definition of love. Is it more than emotional?
Loving each other through prayer.
Read 1 Thessalonians 3 together to get a sense of Paul’s heart for the people of this 1st century church.
Paul exhibits, or demonstrates at least 4 things in this passage. Read each verse again and look at how these actions are described.
Walk through these 4 points together and discuss each in the context of your life at Ness.
How have you, or how can you….
Now make a plan. Keep it private or discuss if you want, but how will your prayer life this week be different as a result of the discussion today?
Think about the last time you were a part of a group who had to make a major decision together. What was that like for you? How did the discussion go? What type of information was brought into the process (factual, emotional, psychological, logistical, etc.). How did the outcome leave you feeling?
This was the situation in at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. Read Acts 15:1-5.
What were these men teaching?
Pastor Jeremy said that the fate of the Christian faith hung in the balance at this point in history. Do you agree or do you feel that this is an exaggeration?
He said that doctrine and theology are vitally important in the keeping of the faith. What do you think? Why?
You can chat about this one first if you want…. What is the gospel?
1 Corinthians 15:1-4
Watch this video from Tim Keller. Talk through how what he’s saying relates to what the men in Act 15:1-5 were teaching.
There are 2 sides to how this conversation in relevant today. On the one hand, without a clear understanding of the gospel we can swing too far toward legalism as we see in this weeks passage. On the other hand, without being able to clearly articulate the gospel we are in danger of being too inclusive. What are some issues you’ve encountered this week that you need to speak into with the truth of the gospel and not a legalistic (moralistic) or overly inclusive reaction? How did you handle it? What were you unsure of?
What questions do you still have after thinking through this stuff?
If you have time, discuss how circumcision relates to the gospel and communion. This is a very big question that will take some theological heavy lifting. But the thing to focus on is, how can we look at this and end up with solid hope?
If you want some help on this one, check out Timothy Brindle’s “Circumcision Song” and the lyrics.
In light of the events of Acts 14, today let’s dig into the big idea of joy. We want to end up with a clear idea what bringing the gospel to a post-Christian world looks like and how it is our path to joy. In this discussion, Pastor Jeremy points us to some incredible tools in scripture that can help us out.
(All the questions here are worth going through, but #5-7 are the most important.)
Today we’re talking about shattering the myth of comfort. What does that mean?
Perhaps it’s best to first talk about what it is that makes us comfortable. In your life (personal, familial, vocational, spiritual, experiential) what things have you put in place to ensure comfort? Maybe a better way to explore this is to ask, what are the discomforts you actively, consciously avoid in your life?
Looking at the personal cost of the early Christian mercy ministries, Pastor Jeremy pointed to Rodney Stark’s excellent book The Rise of Christianity. We’ve ordered this for the church library if you’re interested in taking a look. (This book also comes with Pastor Brennan’s personal thumbs up!)
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