Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Greatness in God’s Kingdom Means Humility

These are the readings for the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

True greatness is a paradox. It grows out of seeing ourselves as small and God as great. Such greatness has its center in love—both God’s great love for us in Christ and our love for our neighbor. Such love leads to genuine, humble service.

Traditional First Lesson – Jeremiah 11:18-20

Why is Jeremiah a good example of one that trusted in the Lord?

Even after the Lord reveals a plot against Jeremiah by the men of his own village, Jeremiah did not change his plans or his message. He put himself entirely in the Lord’s hands. He faithfully followed the Word of the Lord. He did it out of love for his people and to save them from destruction.

What can we learn from Jeremiah’s example?

The Lord taught Jeremiah that he could count on the Lord no matter what the situation. That is true for us also. We will be persecuted for following Jesus (2 Timothy 3:12). If we want to live a godly life in Christ and hold to the truth of God’s Word, confess it and witness to it, we too will find opposition. But even with opposition we know the Lord is with us (2 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 4:18).

Supplemental First Lesson – Numbers 12:1-15

Why did Miriam and Aaron oppose their brother Moses?

Miriam and Aaron opposed Moses because he had married a lady from Cush (the southern part of Egypt, in modern terms).

When God punished Miriam with leprosy, a skin disease, how did Moses show his humility?

Moses showed his humility by crying out to the Lord to heal Miriam, instead of telling her that she had gotten what she had coming to her.

Second Lesson – James 3:13-18

Who are the truly wise whom James mentions?

The truly wise people are the humble. When one is truly wise, it shows in good deeds and in humility. A truly wise person is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, merciful, impartial, and sincere. These virtues are the ones that imitate Christ’s own perfect gentleness and unselfish service to us.

What does James mean when he says that “peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness?”

James speaks of people who are humble and try to keep peace, instead of starting quarrels and perpetuating grudges. They do things that lead to all sorts of good and right results. He compares being lowly to putting a seed low into the ground, later the seed of humility will bring many beautiful results, though at first planting the seed may seem fruitless.

Gospel – Mark 9:30-37

Why were the disciples afraid to ask Jesus about his impending death?

Jesus had told his disciples about the Son of Man (himself). “They will kill him.” The thoughts of the Twelve seemed to stop with those words and not even hear Jesus say, “after three days he will rise.” Betrayal and death did not fit their idea of a Messianic rule.

How are we today like those disciples?

Many Christians today imagine that the chief mark of the church is worldly success and glory, and that the chief purpose of the Christian church relates to activities which put the message of a Savior crucified for sin into the background. They don’t want to hear repeated references to the ugliness of personal sin and the divine necessity of a sacrificial cross to atone for that sin.

What was Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ desire to be first in the kingdom of God?

Jesus, through words and an impressive object lesson, shows that the way to true greatness in his kingdom lies in humble service. (See also Mark 10:43-44 and Luke 22:24-47.)

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Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Preaching the Truth Always Makes Enemies

These are the readings for the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

There are two kinds of preachers. One pushes worldly glory. The other pushes the ugly cross where Christ was crucified for us, alone in the darkness. The former touts worldly success. The latter knows that those who speak God’s truth will always make enemies. “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” the Bible says. So men who preach God’s full truth are bound to experience failure and disappointment. Following our suffering Savior, though, Christians even sing, “Go, then earthly fame and treasure. Come disaster, scorn and pain.” We even pray to God, “In your service, pain is pleasure. In your favor, loss is gain.”

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 50:4-10

Who is the special servant?

The prophesy is of Jesus. He would proclaim God’s Word (instructed tongue). He willingly submitted to the Word of God. He knew what the Lord wanted, and he obeyed (morning by morning). He is the great High Priest, who would offer up himself as a sacrifice for sin. (See Hebrews 7:26-28; 9:6-12.)

Who are those who fear the Lord?

The believers are the ones who possess deep respect and awe for the Lord. They give ear to the words of the Suffering Servant. All who fear the Lord and trust in the Word of the Lord’s Servant will find deliverance, forgiveness, and life.

Supplemental First Lesson – Jeremiah 38:1-13

What bad thing happened to Jeremiah? (See especially 38:6.)

Jeremiah was lowered into a cistern, in which he sank down into the mud.

Why did King Zedekiah allow this to happen?

King Zedekiah let Jeremiah be lowered into the cistern because four officials had told him that Jeremiah was discouraging people in Jerusalem. Jeremiah was telling them that those who stayed in the city during the Babylonian siege would die in terrible ways.

Traditional Second Lesson – James 2:1-5, 8-10, 14-18

How are we to treat our neighbor?

Here the Lord forbids favoritism and urges us to love everyone. God uses the trials of the poor and needy to test the faith of those who love him. “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Why does James say, “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead”?

Real faith inevitably yields good works. And if the works are absent, the faith claimed must be phony (Ephesians 2:10). As we come to faith in our Savior, we are justified, we are born again, we begin to understand God’s will for us, and the Spirit helps us to want God’s will and gives us the power to do God’s will. So if it is all talk and no action, faith is dead.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 Peter 4:12-19

In one word, how does Peter say you should think of yourself if others insult you because of the name of Jesus? (See 4:14.)

If others insult you because of the name of Jesus, you are blessed.

What does Peter mean in 4:17, when he says that it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God, so even worse things are coming for the godless?

In short, Peter means judgment day will be hopeless for unbelievers. Paul Kretzmann answers our question by first quoting Augustine’s analogy: “‘If the sons are being chastised, what will happen to the slaves?’ What will be the fate of the unrighteous, if God does not even spare the righteous, his intention being to instruct and train them? The believers are hardly, but certainly saved; those, however, that have refused to be obedient to the Gospel, that were unbelievers from choice, will miss the salvation of Christ, will go away into everlasting destruction …. That is what the apostle calls out in impressive warning: If the righteous is hardly saved, where will the godless and the sinner appear?”

Gospel – Mark 8:27-35

Why was Peter rebuked for not wanting Jesus to suffer and die?

Jesus rebuked Peter, we could say, for not understanding what the name “Christ” really meant. Peter and the other disciples were looking for an earthly king. Jesus rejected Peter’s well-meant but ill-conceived rebuke. Without Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection, we would still be in our sins and lost forever.

What is meant by taking up the cross?

Taking up one’s cross means denying oneself. It means to follow the One who carried his cross to Golgotha by refusing to make oneself the sole object in one’s life but making God and his will the center one’s life. That will always involve sacrifices, avoiding everything that might come between us and our Savior (Mark 7:20-23), even being ready to suffer shame and death to remain faithful to him.

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Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Ears Opened by God Enjoy His Good Gifts

These are the readings for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

If you can hear, you probably take your sense of hearing for granted. Yet what a wonderful gift from God your sense of hearing is! You can hear how Jesus died for you. You can receive not just into your ears, but deep inside you the whole wondrous message of God’s rescue. You can hear the same good news Adam and Noah heard, the same good news Isaiah, Peter, and Jesus preached—preached even to a man who previously had been a deaf-mute.

First Lesson – Isaiah 35:4-7a

In chapter 34 Isaiah foretold horrors—total destruction for all nations, all the stars of heaven being dissolved, and the sky rolling up like a scroll. Now what does Isaiah describe? That is, if chapter 34 pictures judgment day, what will follow judgment day (according to chapter 35)?

After judgment day, everything ruined will be restored in general. The ultimate restoration (35:8-10) will be when all of the Lord’s people walk the Way of Holiness. They will re-enter God’s eternal city, the new Jerusalem, with great gladness; as sorrow and sighing flee away.

What will happen to the blind and deaf, specifically? (See 35:5.)

Isaiah says that the blind will see and that the lame will walk.

Traditional Second Lesson – James 1:17-27

Where does every good gift come from?

It is God’s nature to give good gifts to his children. In fact, those are the only kinds of gifts he can give.

How is the righteous man blessed?

The Christian, because of Christ, will look to the Law as a joyful obligation. He will listen to it and strive to obey it. This will make him truly “religious.”

Supplemental Second Lesson – Acts 3:1-10

How did Peter and John give the lame man ability to walk? (See 3:6.)

Peter and John said to the lame man, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”

How did the man respond to his healing?

The formerly lame man went into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. Note that he did not go around touting Peter and John. They were not the real cause of the healing. God was, through his risen Son, Jesus. The man could not have been more certain.

Gospel – Mark 7:31-37

Why does Jesus use sign language as he heals the deaf man?

Jesus probably used sign language because the poor man could not have understood what Jesus was doing if he had spoken to him. Jesus used sign language to help the deaf man gather what was about to happen, and to give him faith in Jesus.

Once healed, the deaf man “spoke clearly.” What is the significance?

The fact that the deaf man spoke clearly after Jesus healed him shows that Jesus healed the man perfectly. The deaf man did not have to go to a speech therapist to learn how to pronounce words.

Why did Jesus not want them to tell anyone about the miracle that just had taken place?

Jesus told people not to tell anyone about this miraculous healing because he did not want fame and popularity to go to his own head or to hinder his way to the cross.

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Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus Shows the Cause and Measure of Evil

These are the readings for the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

The psalmist wrote, “Oh, how I love your law!” (Psalm 119:97). The three scripture readings give us good reasons to love God’s law. That law shows us how to thank the God who redeemed us from sin, death, and the devil. It guides us in every situation. It identifies the beginning of evil—our own hearts.

Traditional First Lesson – Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8

Why did God command the Israelites not to “add or subtract” to what he commands?

The Israelites were God’s chosen people to whom he himself had given his decrees and laws. The commands were perfect in every respect. Adding or subtracting to what God had decreed was not only unthinkable but intolerable. Obedience to these commands showed their faithfulness to God and attracted the attention of the heathen.

How were God’s laws and decrees so much more righteous than the other nations’ laws?

God’s laws and decrees originated with the righteous and holy God. His moral law pointed to perfect love for God and fellow man. His ceremonial laws had meaning and purpose by pointing to the world’s only Savior. The civil laws demanded fair and just punishment for wrongdoers.

Supplemental First Lesson – Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9

Why did God command the Israelites not to “add or subtract” to what he commands?

At Mt. Sinai God had given his chosen people promises and decrees that were perfect in every respect—even though many of the laws would only bind God’s people until the Messiah came. Adding or subtracting to perfection would dishonor God and his grace. Obeying these commands would show Israel’s faithfulness to God and attract the attention of their heathen neighbors.

How were God’s laws and decrees so much more righteous than the other nations’ laws?

God’s laws and decrees originated with the righteous and holy God and pointed people back to him, not to selfishness. A) God’s moral law demands perfect love for God and fellow man. B) His ceremonial laws pointed ahead to the world’s only Savior. C) Israel’s civil laws demanded fair punishment for wrong doers. No other nations’ laws compared, and no other nation had received their laws when their God had come near them to rescue them from slavery and to adopt them as his people by a holy covenant.

Traditional Second Lesson – Ephesians 6:10-20

Whom does Paul identify as our real enemy?

Our real enemies are not the people or circumstances around us, but the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world, the spiritual forces of evil who are the demons, the fallen angels headed by Satan, a fierce fighter.

Paul mentions only one offensive weapon. What is it? What is it used for?

The Roman soldier carried a sword. Our offensive weapon is the Word of God. God tells us that his Word is truth. The truths and promises found in the Word refute the devil and all his lies and attacks.

Supplemental Second Lesson – James 1:17-27

What tool that God uses to save and sanctify us does James keep highlighting here?

James highlights God’s Word, through which God gave us new birth—the word which God planted in us to save us.

Obeying God’s law cannot save us because we cannot obey it perfectly—just the opposite. Still, what does God’s perfect law give believers when we obey God out of thanks and love?

God’s perfect law gives freedom, James says. Instead of being slaves to our own pride, to all our dirty desires, and to people-pleasing, we are free.

Gospel – Mark 7:1-8, 14, 15, 21-23

How did the Pharisees add to God’s law?

The Pharisees added to God’s law by elevating hand-washing to a religious ceremony that they claimed made them better before God than those who did not wash (literally, “baptize”) their hands.

Why did Jesus call them “hypocrites”?

Jesus called such men hypocrites (literally, “actors”) because they were always finding fault with other people but never with themselves and pretended to love and worship God when they really intended to make themselves appear holier than others.

The Pharisees were afraid of becoming unclean because of contact with Gentiles in the marketplace. How does a man become truly unclean, according to Jesus?

Jesus says sin and filth starts in the heart when we allow the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature to plant evil inside of us. We are dirty due to our sinful hearts. Then we become even more unclean when we embrace evil ideas and expose them to the rest of the world by what we say and do. (The Pharisees exemplified this when they plotted and worked to kill Jesus, while claiming to be especially religious men.)

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Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus Gives the Bread of Life that We Will Trust His Difficult Words

These are the readings for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

God’s Word is not always easy to believe. There are some difficult words that we run up against as we read through our Bible, ideas that seem so contrary to our “modern way of thinking.” We shouldn’t think, however, that these words were any easier to believe back in Bible times. They weren’t. God’s people have always been faced with the difficult words of God. That’s why Jesus gives us the Bread of Life, that we might be led to set aside our worldly objections and see the loving and saving intent of every word from our Savior’s mouth. When we see that intent, it’s easier to trust even the most difficult words.

Traditional First Lesson – Joshua 24:1-2, 14-18

What encouragement did Joshua give the children of Israel after they had entered the Promised Land?

Joshua encouraged Israel to give up their false gods and serve the only true God.

What decision had Joshua made about his own family?

Joshua insisted that he and his family would serve the Lord, even when it sometimes proved to be difficult.

Supplemental First Lesson – Exodus 7:8-13

Who hardened his heart?

Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, hardened his heart.

Why shouldn’t he have hardened his heart?

Pharaoh should not have hardened his heart, even though his magicians did like Aaron, and turned their staffs into snakes, because Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. Clearly, the power of the true God was far greater than the satanic arts of Pharaoh’s wise men and sorcerers.

Traditional Second Lesson – Ephesians 5:21-31

What difficult word does Paul use in verses 21-24, a word with which this world is uncomfortable?

Paul uses the word “submit,” and specifically applies it to how a Christian wife is to approach her relationship to her husband. Submission is actually not the “dirty word” that many make it out to be today. Submission can only take place between two people of equal status, and it is something that is done willingly, out of love for Jesus and his Word. All Christians are to submit to one another (5:21), placing their own prerogatives and ideas under the prerogatives of others. It is a Christian wife’s special calling to place herself under the Christ-like leadership of her husband, even though sometimes it can be difficult.

What are Christian husbands commanded to do?

Christian husbands are commanded to love their wives “just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her.” In other words, a husband is to be primarily concerned with the needs and desires of his wife and family, just as Jesus came to be our willing servant (Mark 10:45). That is not easy to do, but when a husband loves his wife as Christ loved the Church, his Christian wife will willingly submit to his Christ-like leadership.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Hebrews 11:24-28

Which two unique times in Moses’ life does the writer to the Hebrews describe? (See 11:24-26 and 11:27-28.)

First the writer to the Hebrews describes what Moses did at about age 40. He chose to be mistreated along with the Jewish people, the people of God, rather than retaining his status as a part of the royal family in Egypt. Forty years later, when Moses was about 80, he left Egypt, not fearing the anger of the king at that time.

“By faith” Moses did what he did. More specifically, for what two reasons did Moses follow such an unusual course?

The writer to the Hebrews says that Moses ignored all the wealth and power of being part of the rulership of Egypt because he was looking ahead to his reward. He persevered because he saw him who is invisible.

Gospel – John 6:60-6

After his disciples heard what Jesus had to say about “eating his flesh and drinking his blood,” how did they respond?

The people who left said that Jesus’ words were “a hard teaching,” too tough for them to believe.

Did Jesus try to soften his words when people left?

Jesus did not attempt to soften his words, instead he realized that some of his disciples would forsake him in stubborn unbelief.

How did some of Jesus’ followers finally react? What about the Twelve?

John tells us that “many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” The Twelve, however, stayed with Jesus, as Peter asked, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” These disciples trusted the words of Jesus, the Bread of Life, even though they were difficult to understand. Who else’s words could give them eternal life with God?

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Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus Gives the Bread of Life so That We Will Not Stumble in Faith

These are the readings for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Living as a Christian is hard. The devil places many obstacles in our way, all of which lead to sin and unbelief. But by his death in our place (by losing!), Jesus defeated Satan. The risen Christ gives us a way out of every temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). Most of all, our Savior gives us the Bread of Life, his promises of forgiveness and eternal rescue. As we nourish our faith on this Bread of Life, Jesus will give us boldness to fight our spiritual enemies.

First Lesson – Proverbs 9:1-6

What character do we meet in these verses?

In Proverbs 9 we meet Wisdom. Miss Wisdom prepares a feast (hospitable). If we read on we also meet Stupidity.

What are the characteristics of Miss Wisdom?

Miss Wisdom is so industrious she has built her own house at the highest point of the city. She is well-to-do enough that she has servant girls. She is so welcoming that she sends out her servant girls to invite all to come to her feast.

What invitation does she offer to all?

Wisdom invites us to come to her home and eat, to walk in the way of understanding, and to leave our foolish, worldly way of thinking. Such heavenly wisdom leads us on the right path, so that we will not stumble in our faith.

Second Lesson – Ephesians 5:15-20

What encouragement does Paul give in verse 15?

Paul encourages us to be careful in how we live our lives as Christians, to be wise in the decisions we make, understanding the Lord’s will for us.

How are we to speak to one another as Christians?

We aren’t to use unwholesome talk. Instead, we should speak to one another spiritually, “with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs … giving thanks to God the Father for everything.”

Gospel – John 6:51-58

True or false: Jesus is talking about Holy Communion in these verses.

False. Jesus had not instituted Holy Communion when he spoke these words in John 6. Instead, when Jesus says that we must eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life, he means trusting in him as our Savior who came to sacrifice his body and shed his blood to give us the forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God.

What is the main difference between the manna that God gave to his people after they got out of Egypt and the Bread of Life which Jesus gives us?

The sending of manna during Moses’ time came to an end; Jesus, the Bread of Life, lasts forever. He gives eternal life.

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Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus Gives the Bread of Life That We Might Fulfill the Impossible

These are the readings for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Have you ever faced a frustrating, seemingly impossible task? For Christians, believing all of Jesus’ promises and loving others as he loves us sometimes seems out of the question. In today’s lessons, though, we see how Jesus gives us the ability to fulfill impossible tasks by giving us the Bread of Life. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing (John 15:5). But with God, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37).

First Lesson – 1 Kings 19:3-8

What was Elijah grumbling about?

Elijah was complaining about his life as a prophet of God. Wicked Queen Jezebel was chasing him (1 Kings 19:2), and now he simply wanted to give up and die.

Through the angels, what did the LORD command Elijah to do?

The LORD told Elijah to get up and eat. He sustained Elijah when the prophet thought that his situation was impossible.

Traditional Second Lesson – Ephesians 4:30–5:2

What model of love does Paul present in these verses?

Paul encourages us to love others just as Christ loves us. Jesus’ love is a sacrificial and forgiving love.

How is that love going to manifest itself, according to Paul?

Paul gives an extensive list in Ephesians 4:31-32.

Is it easy to show this type of unconditional love to others?

For sinners like us, it is impossible to have this type of love for one another unless Jesus gives us the Bread of Life, his Word of forgiveness. Jesus’ love and forgiveness for us moves us to love others in similar ways.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Hebrews 5:11–6:3

How does the writer to the Hebrews describe the elementary truths of God’s Word? More advanced truths?

The writer to the Hebrews describes the elementary truths of God’s Word as ‘milk’ and the more advanced truths as ‘solid food.’

The writer to the Hebrews does not seem to be upset that his first readers were not leading godly, moral lives. What is he concerned about?

The writer to the Hebrews seems concerned that his first readers were not pressing on as believers, perhaps because of their unwillingness to suffer more for the gospel. Like babies, they could not see and work out the deeper implications of the gospel in their lives.

In a word, what did the writer to the Hebrews want his readers to press on to?

The writer to the Hebrews wanted his readers to press on to maturity.

Gospel – John 6:41-51

With what statement of Jesus were the people having difficulty and why? How did Jesus react?

The Jews in the synagogue in Capernaum (John 6:59) grumbled at the fact that Jesus called himself the “bread that came down from heaven.” His claim that he was from heaven seemed to be blasphemous. Jesus told them to stop their grumbling.

What important truth about our Christian lives does Jesus make clear in verses 44-45?

Jesus points out that apart from the working of his heavenly Father, we are unable to believe in him and come to him. (We could even translate, ‘no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me drags him.’) The Father does this work of dragging/drawing us to faith through the Holy Spirit. (See 1 Corinthians 2:9-10.) The Holy Spirit brings us to faith by supplying us with the Bread of Life, the truth about Jesus our Savior. Apart from the working of the Holy Trinity, we could never trust in Jesus. We would rely on our own goodness.

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Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus Gives the Bread of Life to Nourish our Souls Eternally

These are the readings for the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Many Christian churches stress social action. Feeding the hungry is important for Christians. God commands acts of mercy. Sadly, however, many churches offer little more than physical bread, bread that does not last. Bread is necessary for this life, but Jesus wants his Church to focus on offering the Bread of Life (Jesus himself, the Word of God). This Bread nourishes our souls, not just now, but for all eternity.

Traditional First Lesson – Exodus 16:2-15

In what predicament did Israel find itself?

They didn’t have much to eat.

How did the Lord provide for them?

The LORD provided manna (derived from the Hebrew for “What is it?”) from heaven on a daily basis. It was “white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey” (Exodus 16:31). On this particular day, the LORD also provided quail.

Supplemental First Lesson – Exodus 16:2-20

Why did all Israel grumble against Moses and Aaron?

Israel was in a difficult spot: They had very little to eat.

Whenever we grumble, against whom are we grumbling? (See Exodus 16:8.)

Whenever we grumble, we are grumbling against the LORD. Yet he has put us where we are. He promises to provide all his children need, and he has been so kind, so often. He forbids grumbling. So why do we grumble?

How did the LORD provide for his grumbling people?

From heaven the LORD daily provided manna. It was like ‘white coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey’ (16:31). On this particular day, the LORD also provided quail.

Traditional Second Lesson – Ephesians 4:17-24

Upon what does Paul insist in these verses?

Paul insists that Christians not live like the “Gentiles” (i.e. the unbelieving world). These people have hardened their hearts to the truth of God’s Word and want nothing to do with the Bread of Life.

How are we kept from indulging “in every of impurity, with a continual lust for more”?

Through the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word, we are led to put off our old self (the sinful flesh) and put on our new self (the Spirit-led Christian life). But the Spirit only works through the Word of Jesus, the Bread of Life.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 10:1-5, 11-13

How would you respond if someone says, “I know God severely punished people long ago, but things changed once Jesus died on the cross”? (See 1 Corinthians 10:11.)

If someone claims that Old Testament Bible stories about God punishing people do not apply to us, we should tell them that the New Testament says that all those stories are meant to warn us and to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things, as people long ago did.

Can a Christian lose his or her faith? (See 1 Corinthians 10:12.)

Sadly, yes, a Christian can lose his or her faith. We need this warning whenever we think we are standing firm on our own. When we feel unsure of our future and sorry for our sins, we need the comfort only the gospel gives.

Gospel – John 6:24-35

What kind of bread were the people interested in having from Jesus? What kind of bread did Jesus offer? How did the people misunderstand?

The people were interested in having physical bread. Jesus offered “food that endures to eternal life.” The people still thought that Jesus was offering physical bread that would last forever.

What did Jesus mean when he said: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Jesus is talking about faith in him as the Savior from sin. While Jesus also promises to provide for our daily, earthly needs, here he is focusing on the eternal needs of our souls. Through faith in Jesus, the Bread of Life, we can be assured that we will never go spiritually hungry or thirsty.

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Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus Gives the Bread of Life to Unify Us in Faith, Love, and Purpose

These are the readings for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Christian congregations easily get distracted. Sometimes false teaching or overly strong opinions, and the resentment that can follow, destroy a church’s unity. Congregations may get caught up in too many projects or programs that divert them from their divine purpose. Only Jesus can overcome such disasters. He gives us his Word, the Bread of Life, to unify us in faith, love, and purpose.

Traditional First Lesson – Exodus 24:3-11

How did the people respond to the words and laws that Moses brought them from the Lord?

They said with one voice that they would do everything the Lord had commanded.

In what two ways was this covenant (agreement) with the Lord sealed?

Moses sealed the covenant by sprinkling the people with the blood of the covenant. The Lord sealed the covenant by eating and drinking with the seventy elders of Israel.

Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Kings 4:42-44

What did the man from Baal Shalishah bring to the prophet Elisha?

The man from Baal Shalisha brought 20 loaves of barley bread, as well as some heads of new grain. We should probably not picture tall loaves of bread, such as we find in our stores, but flatter loaves, like pita bread, large tortillas, or pancakes.

Not only did those few loaves suffice for 100 men, but there was food left over. How did the miracle take place? (See the end of 2 Kings 4:44.)

The miracle took place according to the word of the Lord. “It came because of what the Lord had said, just as the Lord had said.” (The miracle of the Lord’s Supper works the same way–completely by the power of what Jesus said when he first started his sacrament.)

Traditional Second Lesson – Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16

What concept does Paul emphasize in verses 2-7?

Paul emphasizes that Christians are to desire unity and “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” That means being “humble and gentle.” We need to “be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

What special gifts has Jesus given to his Church? What is the ultimate purpose of their work in the Church?

Jesus has given the Church public ministers of the gospel (“pastors and teachers”). The ultimate purpose of their work is that the Church might “reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature.”

How is unity attained in the Church?

Unity is reached through a faithful proclamation of the truth, the Word of God, the Bread of Life.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 9:8-11

When we give generously to the Lord and to the poor, we often fear we will have less. What does God promise?

The Lord promises that instead of having less when we give to him and the poor, he will make all grace abound to us, so that having all that we need, at all times, in all things, we will abound in all good activity.

What is the righteous man like? (See 9:9)

Quoting Psalm 112:9, Paul says that the righteous man is generous. He scatters widely his gifts to the poor. His righteousness lasts forever. That is, God will never forget the selfless good he has done but will bless him for it forever.

Instead of just enriching us, what is God’s bigger plan?

God’s plan (bigger than just enriching us when we are generous) is to make us able to be even more generous, and then to have thanksgiving to God result from our generosity to others.

Gospel – John 6:1-15

What concern did Jesus have for the great crowds who were following him? What was Philip’s response?

Jesus wanted to feed the crowds. Philip thought that it was the people’s own job to find food for themselves.

Once Jesus fed the crowd, miraculously, how did some wrongly react to Jesus’ miracle?

First Jesus fed the entire crowd (5,000 men, plus women and children) with just two fish and five loaves of bread. Some people, seeing this miracle, wanted to make Jesus king by force. Jesus hadn’t come principally to give physical bread, though, but spiritual bread, the “Bread of Life.”

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Third Sunday after Pentecost

Your Dread Enemy, the Devil, Won’t Win

These are the readings for the Third Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Adam and Eve ruined everything for everyone. They destined themselves for death. They took the perfect world that God created for everyone and put it under constant attack from all the demons. But God made a promise almost immediately. God said he would send a descendant of Eve to crush Satan’s power. Jesus, that descendant, demonstrated his authority over Satan even before he rose from the dead.

First Lesson – Genesis 3:8-15

Why were Adam and Eve hiding from God?

Adam and Eve hid from God because his nearness exposed their guilt. Satan had promised Eve that she would be like God; instead, Adam and Eve became fools, thinking they could hide from the One who sees all. And Adam and Eve ran away from their best friend, rather than turning to him and repenting. How tragic when we do the same!

How did Adam and Eve respond to being “found out?”

Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the snake. Adam, in effect, blamed God for the situation he was in that supposedly made him fall (“the woman you put here with me…she gave me…”) Look at your own response to being found out for your sin. Real repentance owns up to the full guilt of your reactions, as well as your previous actions.

How did God respond to Adam and Eve’s deadly fall?

God responded in amazing love by providing a way of escape. He set up the only plan to undo the damage of sin. He promised that a “seed” of the woman (Jesus) would crush Satan’s head, even when his own heel was struck. That promise came true when Jesus died for us and rose again.

Traditional Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 4:13-18

What gave Paul and the apostles boldness to speak?

What you have in your heart and mind will show itself in what you say. Their “spirit of faith” was based on the assurance that since Jesus was raised from the dead, all believers will follow suit.

How did this affect them in their daily pains and troubles?

They didn’t “lose heart” even though their health was deteriorating, and circumstances were hitting them hard. They saw those as “momentary” in comparison with what they were going to experience in eternity with Jesus. Instead those things helped them keep focus on what is eternal rather than the common short-sightedness connected with the material world.

Supplemental Second Lesson (Revelation 20:1-6)

In Revelation 1:18, Jesus said he holds the keys of death and Hades. Who, then, is the angel?

This angel seems to be Jesus himself.

Will Jesus reign on earth for 1000 years before judgment day?

No, Jesus will not reign visibly on earth for 1000 years before judgment day. He is reigning right now in heaven for 1000 years (a picture of the New Testament era). Those beheaded for their faith reign with him. They are winners, though when they died, they seemed losers to the world.

Gospel – Mark 3:20-35

What accusation did the religious leaders level against Jesus?

The leaders said that Jesus was demon-possessed (possessed by Beelzebub, “Lord of the Flies”). They claimed Jesus must be one of them if he could drive demons out.

How did he counter their argument?

Jesus said Satan could not survive if he worked against himself. “A house divided against itself will not stand.”

Is there any sin for which people will not be forgiven?

Those who turn against the Holy Spirit’s workings in their life through the gospel and fall away from Christ shut him out. They persistently wall themselves off from the only thing that could save them—God’s forgiveness.

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Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Jesus is Revealed by His Tireless Compulsion to Preach the Gospel

These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.

God’s Word for This Week

In all three lessons we read today, people are hurting. Jesus reveals himself as God by healing the people of Capernaum. Why doesn’t he take all hurts and troubles away from us now? We do not know, but his Word promises that he has power over sickness and the devil, and his Word gives many examples of God using evil for our good. Jesus himself did not stay in Capernaum to be their miracle man. He traveled throughout Galilee. First he prayed—perhaps that his popularity would not go to his head and keep him from going to the cross for us.

First Lesson – Job 7:1–7

How was Job feeling about his life?

Job was frustrated with his lot in life. Tired and depressed, Job figured that he would never be happy again. Job had lost his desire to proclaim good news about his Savior God.

Why did Job feel the way he did?

Job had lost his fortune, his children, and his reputation. Then he lost his health, too. His friends figured that he had done something terrible to deserve such treatment from God. Job resented them and their accusations. God seemed distant and unfair. Job’s suffering led him to discouragement and despair.

Job had not lost his faith in God. How can you tell?

Though frustrated, tired, and depressed due to all the calamity touching his life, Job still addressed God in prayer (verse 7).

Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 9:16-23

How much was Paul being paid to preach?

Paul was preaching to the Corinthians free of charge, not using his right as a minister of the gospel to be paid for his work among them (cf. 1 Co 9:15). Normally this would bring disappointment, but Paul boasted of the situation. He was motivated to preach by the gospel, not by payment.

What does Paul mean: “I have become all things to all men”? (Verse 22)

Paul is referring to the servant attitude he had taken toward his listeners. Although as a Christian Paul had been given complete freedom in Christ in matters of conscience, he surrendered his Christian freedom in order “to please everybody in every way” (1 Co 10:33). He did this so that he might have an opportunity to preach the gospel.

What was Paul’s motivation to preach?

Paul was motivated by the freedom that Jesus gives through the gospel of forgiveness. He couldn’t help but proclaim that message of forgiveness to others. He had a tireless compulsion to preach the gospel.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 8:28–30

Earlier Paul has said that we know that the whole world is groaning as in pains of
childbirth. What else do we know?

We also know that all things work together for good to those who love God, whom God has called to faith.

God’s purpose is not necessarily to make us happy now. What is his eternal purpose?

God’s purpose now and forever is to conform us to the likeness of his Son. This is why he chose us to be believers before he made the world. (What grace!)

What unbroken chain does Paul want us to picture?

The unbroken chain of God’s grace is that those God predestined in eternity to be his children, he also called to faith in Jesus here in time. Those he called he also declared innocent in his courtroom for Jesus’ sake, and those he justified, he also glorified. We are not on the new earth yet, shining like the sun, but because of God’s grace it is as good as done. (What amazing grace!)

Gospel – Mark 1:29–39

How did Jesus feel after a long day of ministry?

Jesus was worn out and looking for solitude. People were demanding an audience with him. Sadly, it seems that they were more interested in earthly blessings (miracles of physical healing) rather than the heavenly blessings that Jesus had to offer: the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

How did Jesus respond to the demands of the people?

Jesus left and went to other villages, realizing that his primary mission from the Father was to preach the gospel and bring eternal healing to souls. He had a tireless compulsion to preach the gospel.

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Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 28, 2017

The Church is Meant for all People

These are the readings for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

The Church is meant for all people. The Prayer of the Day reminds us that it is only by God’s gift of grace that we come into his presence to offer true and faithful service. Today’s lessons teach that the gift of grace given to Israel, God also intended to give through Israel to the world. The Church is meant for all people: a display of God’s mercy and a result of the living and active Word of God.

Prayer of the Day

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift of grace that we come into your presence and offer true and faithful service. Grant that our worship on earth may always be pleasing to you, and in the life to come give us the fulfillment of what you have promised; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

First Lesson – Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

Agree or disagree. In the Old Testament, God intended the promises of salvation only for the Israelites, his chosen people.

Disagree. While God generally spoke his promises to his chosen people, he did not abandon those of other nationalities. In the Old Testament, God extended his forgiving love to the Ninevites through the prophet Jonah, blessed a Syrian officer through the testimony of a young Israelite servant girl, and inspired King David to write: “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all people,” to name but a few.

The words of this lesson came to the mind and mouth of our Savior when he confronted the gross perversion of temple worship in Mark 11. Through Isaiah God told the world that God-fearing Gentiles would always have a place within his temple. Yet in his temple on earth, the religious leadership turned the court of Gentiles into a marketplace that robbed both man and God. Jesus cleansed it of both the commerce and corruption and quoted this lesson. The godly Gentiles described are the exact opposite of the Jews in Matthew 15. God in his grace calls the Gentiles into his presence and makes his Church a house of prayer for all nations.

Second Lesson – Romans 11:13-15, 28-32

How was Israel’s rejection of the Gospel a blessing for the world?

The rejection by the people of Israel finally caused the apostles to direct their preaching instead to the Gentiles. While we do not rejoice in the loss of souls among the Jews, this new focus did bring unprecedented numbers of Gentiles into the family of God.

What hope still exists for the Jewish people?

It is still God’s desire that all should be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. The amazing condition is that their very life of disobedience is an opportunity for God to extend his mercy. The same call God gave them in the Old Testament he gives them today—God’s promises are irrevocable.

This is the twelfth in a series of sixteen lessons that run through Pentecost 17. On this day celebrating faith for the Gentiles, St. Paul warns his Gentile readers against any pride on their part or prejudice against the Jews. Note the point of this Apostle to the Gentiles: he reaches out to the Gentile with the hopes of also winning the Jew. Verse 15 makes the point of our Gospel lesson. Rejection by the people of Israel meant Christ would be preached to the Gentiles. How personal this statement is for Paul! How many synagogues had he preached in, only to be cast out and make his way to the Gentiles? But yet Israel retains its dual status: enemies that are beloved. When the nation of Israel turned from its Savior God and his Messiah, God set his face against them as enemies of the Gospel. But yet God’s call and his Word of promise remain. Such is grace, that God does not love the lovable, but makes the unlovable his dear possession. Just look at what he did with the disobedient Gentiles! Both Jew and Gentile apart from Christ languish in the fearful prison called “Disobedience.” God shut them up together that locked thus, all hope and all self-help were gone. Disobedience was all they had and all they could bring forth. Only one door permits one to leave this prison, and it is inscribed: “God’s Mercy.” (R.C.H. Lenski)

Supplemental First Lesson – Joshua 2:8-21

It is reasonable that spies would hide themselves in a house of prostitution. It is reasonable, too, that this prostitute Rahab tried to cut a deal to preserve her life in the face of the Israelite onslaught that the whole city knew was coming. But what reason is there that she did it out of faith in the LORD? What reason did she find to have faith in the God of free and faithful love?

There is no reason for that but the unreasonable gift of God worked in her heart by the living and active Word of God. Clearly, God meant his Church to be for all people. But he didn’t stop there! What reason could there be that this foreign woman, this prostitute from a godless country, that hers would be the womb through which line of the Blessed Seed would descend? There is no reason for that at all. That can only be grace. Grace meant for all people.

Gospel – Matthew 15:21-28

Note the context of chapter 15. The children of Israel—and especially their religious leaders—found nothing but fault in Jesus of Nazareth. The chosen people of God to whom belonged the patriarchs, the promises, the covenant and the temple, could see nothing in Christ but a breaker of man-made traditions. Jesus’ words to them could not be harsher. They were the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy: their outward rites and rituals belied an inward spiritual emptiness. The very people who should have been closest to Christ were most distant. So Jesus distances himself from them and goes to the Gentile land of ancient paganism, Tyre and Sidon. There he finds a most inexplicable thing: the Greek text notes it as both surprising and extraordinary: ἰδοὺ γυνὴ Χαναναία (Look! A woman, a Canaanite woman). After leaving the land of God’s chosen people, Jesus finds a woman—a Canaanite woman—who received the Word of God and trusted in God’s promises in a way that shamed every one of the religious teachers. The male leaders of God’s people failed to recognize him, but behold! Look carefully! A woman, a Canaanite woman, cries out, “Kyrie eleison!” (Lord, have mercy!) And to whom does she cry? She called him “Lord, Son of David,” with all of its messianic implications. How amazing is the grace of God that chooses the weak and lowly things of the world to shame the wise and proud. Only twice are we told that Jesus called someone’s faith great. Both were Gentiles, and both exhibited a God-given trust in the Word and promises of God made man.

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Tenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 7, 2017

The Christian Seeks Spiritual Wealth

These are the readings for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

The Christian seeks spiritual wealth. This Sunday’s readings are centered on the very ancient Prayer of the Day. For nearly 1600 years God’s people on this day have prayed that God might give them true spiritual wealth. “Teach us always to ask according to your will that we may never fail to obtain the blessings you have promised.” What a magnificent prayer for the materialist world in which we live! Our lessons today show people who have come into great wealth, but yet this earthly wealth only serves to illustrate where true treasure lies. Today we see that true, spiritual wealth can only be found in God and his eternal blessings for us in Christ.

Prayer of the Day

O Lord, your ears are always open to the prayers of your humble servants, who come to you in Jesus’ name. Teach us always to ask according to your will that we may never fail to obtain the blessings you have promised; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

First Lesson – 1 Kings 3:5-12

What would you have asked for? If anything in the world could be yours, what would be your request? God only gave one man the choice between unlimited riches and spiritual wealth. Can you imagine facing his dilemma? What should I pick, temporal blessings or eternal ones? What should I value, the things of this world or the things of God? How well Solomon expressed the words of our prayer for today, to ask according to God’s will. We marvel at his faith in choosing great wisdom over great riches—especially since we so often fail in the pitifully small choices we make! It’s not for all the riches in the world that we turn down spiritual wealth, but for paltry over-time hours, or a little extra in the check book that we shaved off our offering. For such small things we are willing to trade away opportunities for true spiritual wealth. Look at Solomon and see an example of what God means by spiritual wealth. He doesn’t mean we need to live as mendicant monks; he doesn’t ask us to forgo all earthly treasure. He just doesn’t want us to value them more than the pearl of great price. After choosing spiritual treasure, God blessed Solomon in unbelievable ways. (Do the math on the twenty-five tons worth of gold that was part of Solomon’s annual income.) Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given you as well.

Second Lesson – Romans 8:28-30

This is the ninth in a series of sixteen lessons that run through Pentecost 17. Paul explains the spiritual wealth that belongs to every Christian. Like the man who found treasure buried in the field, we brought no merit or worth to our calling. Rather, we were chosen. The surprising grace of God found us and gave us the ultimate treasure: predestined, called, justified, and glorified.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 Timothy 6:17-21

Could Paul’s words be more timely or appropriate for this generation? He instructs preachers everywhere to warn the rich about the two pet sins of the wealthy: arrogance and false hope. Mankind so easily falls in the error of thinking that earthly treasures can provide security or a sense of worth. In our affluent society both of those sins run rampant in many a Christian heart. God commands us not to trust in earthly treasure because he wants us to have a firm foundation on which to stand, a certainty on which to place our hope. That can only be found in spiritual wealth. God richly provides for us, and then we give thanks by being rich in good deeds. Spiritual wealth is certain and secure, for it is treasure laid up in heaven. How can we possibly carry out this command? Teach us to ask according to your will that we may never fail to obtain the
blessings you have promised.

Gospel – Matthew 13:44-52

Jesus’ parables teach us to seek spiritual wealth. Both of the men in the parables found great treasure. For one it was a complete surprise, as unexpected as it was valuable. For the other it came from an expert search by a discerning man. Before they found these new treasures, both men no doubt valued what they previously owned. But once they saw this new treasure, see how little they valued all else they had! The spiritual wealth of Christ and his Gospel puts everything else into perspective; in fact it marginalizes all else. The importance of this truth comes to light in the parable of the net. All people, rich and poor, will be caught up. Only those who found true spiritual wealth are spared the furnace. Jesus concludes with an encouragement for the preacher of the Gospel: you have found true wealth in Christ; you have been given a storeroom full of treasures new and old. Bring them out to God’s people with joy and delight.

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Fifth Sunday of Lent – March 7, 2016

Jesus Is the Cornerstone of Our Faith

These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent.

God’s Word for This Week

Jesus makes clear that he is the cornerstone of our faith. Those who believe in him will receive the blessings of which St. Paul speaks in the second lesson, telling us to put away the “former things” of this world. Sadly, those who continue to cling tightly to the rubbish of their own righteousness will be broken into pieces or have this “stone of Christ” fall on them and crush them. Let us instead look to the “new thing” of God, the deliverance won by our Savior Jesus, the cornerstone of our faith.

First Lesson – Isaiah 43:16-21

What famous event is God talking about when he says he made a way through the sea, drew out the chariots and army, and extinguished them?

God is referring to Israel’s miraculous escape through the sea from slavery in Egypt. God’s rescue through Moses was ancient history by Isaiah’s day, yet was the most vivid example to that point in history that the LORD saves!

What “new thing” is God foretelling that will make the people forget what their favorite story of rescue, the Exodus was?

God says he will make a way in the desert, leading his people back from their coming captivity in Babylon. Then God will trump that rescue. He will send the Messiah, who will bring the water of life. Today as we tell people how great a deliverer God is, we tell the story of Jesus delivering from sin, death, and the devil. The once-famous Exodus goes to the “back burner.”

People talk about finding purpose for their lives. For what purpose(s) does the LORD say he formed us? (v. 21)

The LORD formed his chosen people for himself. Our nature rebels at the thought that we do not exist to seek our own goals and interests. Also, we were formed to proclaim the LORD’s praise. Since we have pardon in Christ, our new self gladly adores God and tells others how marvelous he is.

Traditional Second Lesson – Philippians 3:8-14

How many great things did Paul gain in Christ that made him ready to consider his past honors as a Pharisee rubbish?

He gained righteousness from God by faith, knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection, and fellowship with Christ through suffering. Paul gained his own resurrection from the dead on the Last Day and the prize of eternal life!

Compare Lot’s wife as she left Sodom with Paul leaving behind his comforts and status to follow God’s call.

Both were called to leave behind earthly things that had filled their lives. Lot’s wife kept thinking about what was behind and looked back, to her loss. Paul made a point to forget what he gave up and focused on his heavenly goal.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 11:11-21

Paul’s main analogy here is of an olive tree. Jewish people formed the root of the tree. Jewish unbelievers are like branches broken off from the tree. How do Gentile believers, wild olive shoots, become part of tree?

Gentile believers become part of the tree by being grafted into it. (Note: Wild olive shoots don’t graft themselves into trees.) Paul warns Gentile believers not to be arrogant. We might expect him to tell us, therefore, to be humble. What does he say, instead? (See 11:20‒21.)

Paul tells Gentile believers to be “afraid.” Why?

Because we could repeat the stupidity of Jews before us who lost their place in God’s olive tree. Like dead branches, they got broken off from the tree, due to their unbelief. We get grafted in by faith. But if God didn’t spare them, God will not spare us, either, if we follow their foolish example.

Gospel – Luke 20:9-19

What does this parable teach us about Christ?

Jesus is the son sent as the last opportunity for the evil tenants. He is the heir and holds a unique place as the son. The other messengers came as servants. Christ identifies himself in this parable as the unique Son of God.

What does this parable teach us about men?

God’s chosen people were given a good land, but they mistreated his messengers (prophets) and were about to kill his own Son! God rightfully expects “fruit” from the people he puts in his vineyard, also today!

What does this parable teach us about God?

God is patient and merciful, like the owner giving the tenants many chances. But God’s patience can be exhausted; in his wrath, God treats hard-hearted rebels severely.

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Pentecost 22 – October 19, 2015

Jesus Shows Us True Greatness

These are the readings for the Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

“I am the greatest,” shouted Muhammad Ali after one of his more famous boxing victories. “I am,” he later added, “the greatest heavy weight of all time.” How would you define greatness? Is it power? Wealth? Fame? In our readings for this Lord’s Day, the Greatest who ever lived, he who died for us all and rose again, shows us that true greatness comes through humble service.

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 53:10-12

In the verses preceding this reading, Isaiah describes in detail Jesus’ suffering on the cross some 700 years before he was even born. Why does this suffering servant deserve a portion among the great?

Because he gave his life for the world. Jesus willingly allowed himself to suffer the punishment of all the sins of all people of all time. He paid the price with his humble service and won the victory for all people.

What does it mean that this suffering servant has justified many?

“Justify” is a courtroom term. It means, “to declare innocent.” Jesus, the righteous or innocent servant, suffered the punishment of the guilty in order that they might be declared innocent of all charges. Through Jesus the suffering servant, we have been justified, i.e., declared innocent of all sin. We are now free to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Chronicles 26:16-23

What did King Uzziah do wrong that caused God to afflict him with leprosy?

In his pride, Uzziah went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the golden incense altar inside the holy place. Only priests were allowed there.

Therefore, what couldn’t Uzziah do for the rest of his life? (See 26:21.)

For the rest of his life, due to his skin disease, Uzziah could not enter even the outdoor courts of the LORD’S temple where other Jewish people could go.

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 4:9-16

The Book of Hebrews demonstrates how Jesus is superior to every aspect of the Jewish religion. In the Old Testament, what was the “Sabbath”?

The word “Sabbath” literally means, “rest.” Just as God rested on the seventh day of creation, he commanded his Old Testament believers to rest on the seventh day and dedicate it to him and his Word.

What superior “rest” does Jesus give?

The Sabbath Day symbolized the eternal rest that God would give his people in heaven—the perfect rest that comes only through faith in Jesus. Even today through the double-edged sword of his Word, God gives us the spiritual rest that we need to make it through this sinful world and prepare ourselves for the one to come. May we never despise preaching and his Word!

How is Jesus a superior High Priest?

Part of the High Priest’s job in the Old Testament was as intercessor, i.e., he was to offer up prayers on behalf of the people. Jesus is our perfect intercessor who understands our trials because he has faced them. Yet he did not sin. He won for us the right to approach God with confidence.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 9:7-12, 19-23

Did Paul and Barnabas have a right to be paid for the labors among the Corinthians?

Yes, Paul and Barnabas had a right to be paid for their gospel work. Both logic (Paul cites soldiers, vineyard owners and shepherds in 9:7, and plowmen and threshers in 9:10) and the Old Testament (Paul cites Deuteronomy 25:4 in 9:9) show that Paul and Barnabas had a right to be paid. Pastors and other hard-working servants of the gospel today have the same right.

Why didn’t Paul and Barnabas make use of this right? (See 9:12.)

Paul and Barnabas did not make use of their right, so as not to hinder the gospel of Christ when they were in Corinth.

Why was Paul so adaptable and flexible in his ministry methods? What was his goal?

Paul was so adaptable and flexible in his ministry methods so that all in all, he might save some people (9:22) and that he might share in the gospel’s benefits himself (9:23).

Gospel – Mark 10:35-45

How did the disciples define greatness?

Jesus’ disciples considered greatness to be a position of honor among themselves. They considered greatness to be having a seat right next to Jesus when he came into his glory.

According to Jesus, how should we define greatness?

Jesus, the Great One, gave us the greatest example of greatness. He humbly offered his life to pay for the freedom of all mankind from eternal death. True greatness comes through humble service. May we follow Christ’s example of humble service, not out of selfish ambition, but out of thanks and love to him who loved us first.

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Pentecost 21 – October 12, 2015

Jesus Warns Us to Guard against Greed

These are the readings for the Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

“I’m a little envious,” we claim. It is far worse. Envy is wishing God were not so good to someone else while ignoring how good God is to us. And our greed? “Greed is idolatry,” God says (Colossians 3:5). Still, God in Christ provides for all our needs, including the greatest–forgiveness of sin. He places in the repentant believer’s heart proper priorities. God even promises everlasting treasure in his holy presence, all by his grace.

Traditional First Lesson – Amos 5:6, 7, 11-15

Amos addresses people who had lost their priorities. What does seeking the Lord involve?

Seeking the Lord involved giving up the worship of false gods in Bethel, Gilgal and Beersheba. For us it means the same—to give up worshiping the false gods of our society. Those gods include sexual immorality, consumerism, selfishness, etc.

Amos states that we are to “hate evil.” When is hate appropriate?

There is a place among Christians for righteous anger. Following Christ Jesus means loving what God loves and hating what God hates. God gives us his word to guide us in our thought life. When you think about it, hell is God’s righteous wrath that burns forever on those who reject his gospel of salvation.

Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Kings 5:14-27

How did Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, lie to Naaman? What did Gehazi request?

Gehazi lied to Naaman by asking him for clothes and money for two young men from the company of the prophets (perhaps seminary students, in our terms–future pastors). Naaman gave Gehazi about 150 pounds of silver and two sets of clothes– tens of thousands of dollars.

How much did Elisha know about what Gehazi had done? (See 5:26.)

Elisha not only knew about Gehazi’s deceit, he knew that Naaman had stepped down out of his chariot to speak with Gehazi. He knew that Gehazi had started thinking about the olive groves, vineyards, flocks, herds and servants he would soon acquire. In other words, Elisha knew everything. Today, too, God knows everything about our greedy thoughts, words and actions. We must never try to conceal them, but confess them and find mercy in Christ.

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 3:1-6

Compare Jesus to Moses. In what way is Jesus superior to Moses?

Moses was God’s servant and mediator of the old covenant. The Israelites got their identity and status from Moses. Christians get their identity and status from Jesus. Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant. In every way Jesus is superior to Moses.

What determines if “we are in his house”? What is the “courage and the hope of which we boast?”

Though Moses was part of the house in which he served, Christ is the builder of the house. Though Moses was a servant in the house, Christ is the head of the house.

Supplemental Second Reading – Hebrews 13:1-6

As the writer to the Hebrews (Jewish Christians) wrapped up his letter with specific encouragements, which of them had to do with money?

Many of the writer’s encouragements had to do with money: a) being hospitable, b) keeping our lives free from the love of money, c) being content with what God has given us, and d) confidently trusting in the Lord instead of people.

In Deuteronomy 31:6, aged Moses told his successor, Joshua, something that the writer to the Hebrews says God promises all of us. What was Joshua to trust, according to Hebrews 13:5? And what are we to trust, as well?

God told Joshua, and God tells us, “Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.”

Gospel – Mark 10:17-27

What is Jesus trying to accomplish with the request he makes of the rich young ruler?

The rich young ruler thought he was good enough to get eternal life on his own, so Jesus served the rich young ruler a big helping of law–telling him to go and sell everything he had, give to the poor, then follow his Lord. Jesus wanted the man to see that his possessions had become his god. In doing so, Jesus wanted the young man to despair of being good enough for God on his own, and trust in him.

What does Jesus want the disciples to realize when he contrasts the camel with the eye of a needle?

Jewish people in Jesus’ day were familiar with the camel as the largest beast of burden they used. They were also aware of just how small the eye of a needle was. When Jesus compared the largest with the smallest, he quickly conveyed the idea that it was impossible by human means to save oneself from sin and enter God’s kingdom.

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Pentecost 9 – July 19, 2015

Jesus Gives the Bread of Life by his Faithful Word

These are the readings for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost.

 

God’s Word for This Week

Last week we saw how Jesus gives the Bread of Life through faithful public ministers. This week we focus more on their message. Public ministers must faithfully proclaim God’s Word. When pastors do not preach the whole truth of God, they destroy faith and turn people away from Jesus, for “faith comes from hearing the message” (Romans 10:17).  Nothing else will do.

Traditional First Lesson – Jeremiah 23:1-6

Who were these “shepherds” (prophets) who were destroying and scattering the Lord’s flock (his people)?

The shepherds to whom God refers are the false prophets in Judah during the days of Jeremiah.

Since others were not faithfully proclaiming his Word, what did the Lord plan to do?

The Lord would come himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, to shepherd his flock by his faithful Word.

Supplemental First Lesson – Numbers 27:12-23

Why did Moses ask that God appoint a man to replace him as leader of God’s people? (See 27:17.)

Moses asked God to appoint a replacement for him so that the LORD’s people would not be like sheep without a shepherd. (Isn’t Moses’ love for the Israelite people amazing, considering how often they complained about his leadership over the years?)

How did God describe Joshua, Moses’ replacement?

God described Joshua, Moses’ replacement, as a man in who was in the spirit.  This may mean a bold spirit of leadership or the Holy Spirit who gives such boldness.

Traditional Second Lesson – Ephesians 2:13-22

How did Jesus bring together the Jews and the Gentiles into one Christian Church? (vv 15-16)

Jesus brought these two groups together by fulfilling and abolishing the Old Testament law, which separated the Jews and Gentiles. Salvation and membership in the Church is not to be based on following certain rules and regulations, as so many still preach today. Instead, Jesus won forgiveness, salvation and entry into eternal life for all people through his death on the cross and powerful Easter resurrection from the dead.

Upon what does Paul say this Christian Church is built?

The Church is founded upon the faithful word of the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles. Jesus, who is himself the Word of God, is the chief cornerstone. (John 1:1)

Supplemental Second Lesson – Hebrews 13:7-8, 17-21

What is the one reason why believers should obey faithful pastors and submit to their authority? (See 13:20.)

Christians have good reason to obey faithful pastors and submit to their authority because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever: Jesus’ words do not change. The grace we receive from him does not change.

How does the writer to the Hebrews describe Jesus, now that the Father has raised him from the dead? (See 13:20.)

The writer to the Hebrews (we are not certain who he was) describes Jesus as “the great Shepherd of the sheep.”

Gospel – Mark 6:30-34

What did Jesus want his disciples to have? What stopped them?

After they returned from a preaching trip, Jesus wanted his disciples to have a vacation. They didn’t get it, for large crowds followed them when they tried to get away.

How did Jesus feel about the crowds that followed him? Why did he feel that way?

Mark says that he had compassion on them because, spiritually-speaking, they were wandering aimlessly like lost sheep with no shepherd.

How did Jesus respond to the people’s needs?

He began to give them the Bread of Life by his faithful Word, teaching them the truths of God.