Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany

Jesus is Our Surprising Savior

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

God’s Word for This Week

Jesus did some surprising things during his life and ministry. For instance, he was born in a manger. He instructed the teachers of the law at twelve. He associated with the tax collectors and sinners. He allowed himself to be crucified. He also said some surprising things, things that ran directly contrary to the basic convictions of the world in which we live. For instance, he commands us to love our enemies and to follow him patiently in suffering. And in all these things he promises to be our Savior. Yes, Jesus is our surprising Savior!

Traditional First Lesson – Jeremiah 17:5-8

Whom does the Lord curse in these verses?

The Lord curses those who would put their trust in man and the things of this world. This is the fundamental approach of sinful mankind: they put their hope in things and people that they can see. They desire honor, glory, and power in this world.

Whom does the Lord bless in these verses?

The Lord blesses those who put their trust in him. Such faith is not always easy because we do not see the Lord, and he does not always work in our lives in a most obvious way. But, the Lord promises, when trouble comes our way, we will have no worries when we put our faith in him.

Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

From what was Paul suffering (12:7)?

Paul was suffering from a “thorn” in his flesh. We cannot pinpoint his problem, but it was physical, and it was painful. Satan also tried to send him a message through it—probably to despair: “Give up! God has turned on you. He is punishing you for all your sins.”

Why didn’t Jesus heal Paul, after Paul pleaded with the Lord three times to take away his ailment (12:9)?

Jesus didn’t heal Paul because his grace was enough for Paul. His power is made complete when we are weakest. That is, the weaker we are, the stronger we are—through the strength Jesus supplies, not our own.

Traditional Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 15:12,16-20

What misconception did some of the Corinthian Christians have about the resurrection from the dead?

Apparently, there were some Corinthians who, although they didn’t deny Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, did not believe that all people would one day be raised from death.

What arguments does Paul put forth to prove that there will be a general resurrection from the dead?

Paul argues that the Corinthians can’t have it both ways. If they say that there is no resurrection, then they can’t claim that Christ is raised. And if Jesus is still lying in a grave, then our faith in this dead person is worthless, we are still in our sins, those who died in the faith are eternally lost, and we are to be pitied more than all people. But thanks be to God, Christ is indeed risen!

Supplemental Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

From what was Paul suffering (12:7)?

Paul was suffering from a “thorn” in his flesh. We cannot pinpoint his problem, but it was physical, and it was painful. Satan also tried to send him a message through it—probably to despair: “Give up! God has turned on you. He is punishing you for all your sins.”

Why didn’t Jesus heal Paul, after Paul pleaded with the Lord three times to take away his ailment (12:9)?

Jesus didn’t heal Paul because his grace was enough for Paul. His power is made complete when we are weakest. That is, the weaker we are, the stronger we are—through the strength Jesus supplies, not our own.

Gospel – Luke 6:17-26

Whom does Jesus say are the blessed of this world, and why?

Surprisingly, Jesus says that the blessed of this world are those whom the world would say are the less fortunate and the downtrodden. The reason why these people are blessed, Jesus says, is because through faith in him they will have eternal riches.

What does Jesus suggest we should do when the people of this world hate us because of Jesus?

Surprisingly, Jesus tells us to rejoice when we are persecuted for the sake of Jesus. Our reward will be great in heaven.

To whom does Jesus preach woe?

Surprisingly, Jesus indicates that the powerful, rich, and happy of this world are in danger of eternal woe. Those who have so much in this world don’t often realize their need for a Savior. They have their “reward” in this world but will suffer for an eternity because of their rejection of Jesus.

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Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

Jesus is Our Compassionate Savior

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

God’s Word for This Week

In today’s gospel Jesus calls Peter away from his former career as a fisherman. From now on he will fish for people. Still today, God calls us to trust in Jesus. How does God call? Via strange feelings that pop up within us? No. God calls by messengers who speak his Word, by the power of his Spirit.

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 6:1-8

What did Isaiah see, and how did it make him feel?

Isaiah saw and heard the Lord’s glory filling the temple. Isaiah cried: “Woe to me! I am ruined!” He realized that he was a sinful man standing in the presence of the holy God.

What did the Lord do to ease Isaiah’s anxiety?

The Lord had compassion by assuring Isaiah that his sin was paid for and forgiven. Then he called Isaiah to be his prophet.

Supplemental First Lesson – Judges 13:6-24

Manoah and his wife found out about their son Samson via the angel of the LORD. Who was he? (See 13:22.)

The angel of the LORD is God himself, Manoah realized. (From 1 Corinthians 10:4 we deduce that the angel of the LORD in the Old Testament is God the Son.)

Why was Samson to be a Nazirite, set apart for God from birth? (See 13:5.)

God wanted Samson to be a Nazirite because God’s plan was for Samson to begin to deliver Israel from the hands of their oppressive neighbors, the Philistines.

Traditional Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 14:12b-20

What gift did the Corinthian Christians most desire?

The Corinthians wanted to be able to speak in tongues (real languages that they had never learned, not the gibberish that one often hears).

What goal does Paul suggest we should have as we use our Christian gifts?

Paul says that we should strive to use our gifts to build up or edify the church—our fellow Christians. He also points out that speaking languages that people don’t know is not edifying for them because they don’t know what you are saying. Paul concludes that he “would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.”

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 10:13-17

Who will be saved from God’s judgment on the Last Day?

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved from God’s judgment on the Last Day.

Paul does not envision preachers suddenly feeling “called” into ministry in God’s church. How do they start preaching?

Paul says preachers cannot preach unless they are sent.

How does saving trust in Jesus first arise?

Saving trust in Jesus comes from the power of God’s Word to change hearts. Hearing that Jesus lived and died for us is the way faith arises.

Gospel – Luke 5:1-11

How did Jesus end up on Simon Peter’s boat?

Jesus was preaching to a crowd so large that he asked Simon Peter for the use of his boat so that the people could see and hear him better.

After Jesus finished preaching, what did he ask Peter to do, and what was Peter’s answer?

Jesus asked Peter to put down his nets for a catch of fish. While Peter suggested that they wouldn’t catch anything, he did it anyway because Jesus said so.

What happened when they let down the nets?

When they let down the nets, there was such a great catch of fish that the nets began to break.

When Peter saw the great catch of fish how did he react, and what did Jesus say to him?

In amazement and fear Peter fell at Jesus feet and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” But Jesus had compassion on Peter and called him and his colleagues to be fishers of men.

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Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Jesus is Often a Rejected Savior

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

God’s Word for This Week

Was Jesus’ earthly ministry a huge numerical success? Hardly. After his ascension, 120 believers gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 1:15). He was not the type of Savior many expected. He was not flashy enough. He did not offer instant gratification. He said his followers would suffer. As a result, people in Jesus’ time and today often refuse to follow him.

Traditional First Lesson – Jeremiah 1:4-10

When Jeremiah was called to be God’s prophet, how did he react?

He was not interested in serving God this way. He argued that he was too young and not able to speak.

How long had God planned to use Jeremiah as his representative?

The Lord had planned to use Jeremiah as his specially appointed prophet even before he was born.

What promise did the Lord give to this young man?

Though Jeremiah would face much rejection as a prophet of the Lord, the Lord promised him that he had nothing to fear. He would give him the words to speak, “to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Supplemental First Lesson – 1 Kings 17:7-16

Where was Elijah to go?

God told Elijah to go at once to Zarephath of Sidon (well north of Israel). Evidently his prior pronouncement of no rain made it necessary for him to leave Israel. Authorities would likely have wanted to retaliate against Elijah. Starving people would likely have hounded him for relief.

What did the widow tell Elijah when he asked her for a piece of bread?

The widow told Elijah she had only enough flour and bread to make a meal for herself and her son. Then they would die.

What happened when Elijah told the widow not to be afraid, but to make bread first for him, then for herself and her son?

The widow kept having more and more oil and flour. We stagger at the miracle, but Alfred Edersheim wisely points out: “It is difficult to know which most to wonder at: Elijah’s calmness, consistency, and readiness of faith, or the widow’s almost incredible simplicity of trustfulness.”

Traditional Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13

What gifts did the Corinthians most desire?

The Corinthians wanted to have those gifts that would most readily put them in the spotlight. They wanted to be prophets, apostles, and teachers. They wanted to perform miracles and speak in other languages.

According to Paul, what is the greatest Christian gift?

Paul argues that the greatest Christian gift is love. It is the gift that we should most desire.

Why does love rate as the greatest gift?

Love is the greatest Christian gift because love is what makes all other gifts valuable. If we have many gifts, but do not use them lovingly in service to others, they will be of no benefit to others and will not bring glory to God. Eventually these gifts will be taken from us and given to someone who will use them wisely. (See Matthew 25:28-30.)

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 10:18–11:6

Did first-century Jews commonly disbelieve the gospel of Christ because God did not want to save them?

No, God very much wanted to save Jewish people, both in Isaiah’s day (about 700 B.C.) and Paul’s day. All day long God held out his hands to them. (Picture it. Imagine the physical weariness/agony.) But they stubbornly refused.

Did God reject his people completely? (See 11:1.)

No, God did not reject his people. Paul was as Jewish as could be. God had chosen to save Paul.

As in Elijah’s day, in what manner did God choose to save anyone? (See 11:5-6.)

God chose ahead of time to save sinners by grace alone. No human merit could figure in or grace is no longer grace.

Gospel – Luke 4:20-32

When Jesus claimed that he was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies, what question did the people raise?

The people of Nazareth asked themselves, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” They had seen Jesus grow up among them. They had a hard time seeing him as the promised Messiah.

What did Jesus say that aroused the people’s anger?

Jesus said that “no prophet is accepted in his home town.” He alluded to the prophets Elijah and Elisha, who helped Gentile foreigners because God’s Old Testament people were, for the most part, unwilling to listen to the prophets’ message. Jesus would have much the same experience. “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:10). Jesus was usually rejected as Savior.

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Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Jesus is Our Long Foretold Savior

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

God’s Word for This Week

Jesus’ “going public” should not have surprised his Jewish countrymen. They had known of the coming Messiah for a long time, dating back to the promise given Abraham (Genesis 12:3), even to Eden (Genesis 3:15). Yet, when Jesus finally arrived, “his own did not receive him” (John 1:10). He was not the kind of Savior that many were looking for. That too was foretold: “He was despised and rejected by men” (Isaiah 53:3).

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 61:1-6

Who is speaking in these verses?

Jesus is speaking through the prophet Isaiah.

What would the Savior come to do according to Isaiah?

Jesus would come to proclaim the good news of salvation, particularly to the spiritually downtrodden of this world. (See Matthew 9:13; Luke19:10.)

What promise does the Lord make to Christians in verse 6?

Jesus promises that we will have a part in his heavenly kingdom (priests and ministers), and that we will inherit eternal riches.

Supplemental First Lesson – Nehemiah 8:1-3,5-6,8-10

In today’s gospel Jesus opens the scroll of Isaiah and reads. In this lesson, from what books did Nehemiah read as he stood in Jerusalem and opened the scroll?

Nehemiah read from the Law of Moses, the first five books of the Bible. (We are not sure whether he read from all the books, some of the books or perhaps just the book of Deuteronomy—the last book of Moses.)

How did the people respond to what Nehemiah read?

The people responded by lifting their hands and saying, “Amen. Amen.” Then they bowed low. “They worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.”

Why were the people not to weep, but to celebrate?

Nehemiah told them to celebrate, not weep, “for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

Traditional Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 12:12-21, 26, 27

How does Paul illustrate the Christian church and our relationship as Christians to one another?

In a beautiful way, St. Paul compares the Christian church to our bodies. As our bodies are made up of many different but essential parts, so also the church is made up of many different but essential parts. We all work together to form the body of Christ.

What encouragement does Paul give to us as Christians?

Paul encourages us to work together in unity as a body. Just as our own bodies wouldn’t work well if the eyes, ears, or feet decided not to work anymore, so also the church is thrown into disarray when one of its member parts becomes divisive and schismatic.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Acts 4:23-31

When Peter and John were released from imprisonment, the believers in Jerusalem responded with prayer. Why did they begin by reminding God of all he had made?

The believers did not need to help God with his forgetfulness; he is not forgetful. By mentioning all God had made, they were praising him and reminding themselves that God is all-powerful, so he could handle their frightening situation.

Why did the believers turn next in their prayer to what God had said in Psalm 2, about a thousand years earlier?

When the believers quoted Psalm 2, they were praising God and reminding themselves that God always keeps his promises. He fulfills his Word. What he had done in the past, he would do again in the future.

Were Herod and Pilate helpless pawns on God’s chessboard?

No. Herod and Pilate were not helpless pawns on God’s chessboard, though they did what God had decided ahead of time. They conspired against Jesus. (The fact that God runs all things, yet people are responsible for their own evil deeds, will always mystify us.)

Gospel – Luke 4:14-21

What Scripture did Jesus read in Nazareth’s synagogue?

In his hometown’s synagogue, Jesus read the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, chapter 61.

What amazing words did Jesus use to conclude his reading?

After Jesus read from Isaiah 61, he explained: “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” In other words, Jesus was emphatically declaring that he was the fulfillment of the words of Isaiah, that he was our long-foretold Savior. The people who first heard Jesus make this claim were furious” (Mark 4:28-29).

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Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Jesus is Our Miraculous Savior

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

God’s Word for This Week

In today’s Gospel Jesus performs his first miracle: He turns 120 gallons of water into wine. Jesus doesn’t touch the water. It’s no trick. It’s a real miracle. He does it because the Father now wants him to go “public” and reveal his glory. As a result, his disciples trust in him as the Son of God.

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 62:1-5

Who is speaking in these verses through the prophet Isaiah? For instance, who’s the “I” of verse one?

The pre-incarnate Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, is the speaker.

For whose sake would Jesus do what he did as our Savior?

Jesus says that he would speak “for Zion’s sake” and “for Jerusalem’s sake.” (In the Old Testament “Zion” and “Jerusalem” often represent the people of God, the Church. That is the case in these verses.) In other words, Jesus serves as our advocate; he speaks on our behalf before his heavenly Father. (See 1 John 2:1; Romans 8:34.)

What is the result of Jesus’ gracious work for his people?

No longer are we estranged from our heavenly Father because of our sin. Instead the Lord delights in us (Hephzibah) and we are “married” (Beulah) to him. All this is a result of Jesus’ work as our gracious Savior.

Supplemental First Lesson – Exodus 7:14-24

Why did God demand that Pharaoh let his people go? (See Exodus 7:16.)

God demanded that Pharaoh let his people go so they could worship him in the desert (east of Egypt).

What else besides the Nile turned to blood?

Besides the Nile, the water in streams, canals, ponds, and reservoirs turned to blood. So did the water in buckets and jars.

Did the great miracle convince Pharaoh?

No, the miracle did not convince Pharaoh. His heart stayed stubborn.

Traditional Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

What subject does St. Paul begin to address in these verses?

Paul begins to address the subject of spiritual gifts. The Corinthian Christians were extremely gifted (1 Corinthians 1:5-7), but they were not putting their gifts to use according to Christian love, which is the greatest gift (1 Corinthians 13).

Who is the giver of all Christian gifts?

No matter what gift we have, the Holy Spirit is the gracious giver of that gift. Christians have many different gifts, but the Holy Spirit is the giver of them all.

For whose sake does the Holy Spirit give us gifts?

Christians are not to use their gifts for their own selfish gain or benefit. Instead, Paul explains that all gifts are “given for the common good.” In other words, each Christian is to use their gifts to benefit their fellow Christians.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Ephesians 3:14-21

Jesus came to visit a wedding in Cana. What does Paul pray for the Christians in Ephesus, by contrast? (See 3:17.)

Paul prays that Christ may not just visit, but dwell in the hearts of believers through their trust in Christ.

Nobody knew how Jesus turned water to wine. Likewise, what does Paul want Christians to know? (See 3:19.)

Paul wants Christians to know the love that surpasses knowledge, the immense love Christ has for us. (Note the irony. How do you truly know something that surpasses knowledge?)

How much is God able to do? (See 3:20-21.)

God is not just able to do what we ask. God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.

Gospel – John 2:1-11

What problem arose at the wedding in Cana to which Jesus and his disciples were invited?

The wedding had run out of wine. It was customary in Jesus’ day for weddings to be celebrated several days. It seems clear that the wedding hosts had not adequately prepared.

How did Jesus react when Mary told him that they had run out of wine? Why did he react this way?

Jesus wondered why Mary involved him, stating, “My time has not yet come.” Jesus seems to be suggesting that it wasn’t yet time for him to publicly reveal himself as the promised Savior through his miracles. As it was, the forthcoming miracle seemed to be performed quietly.

What did Jesus do to resolve the problem?

Jesus changed water into wine. Although his disciples trusted in him, it seems his miracle went otherwise unnoticed. (Note also the wondrous kindness of Jesus in performing a miracle that was not necessary but improved a celebration. What a Savior we have, one who loves to do more than he promises and more than we need!)

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The Baptism of Our Lord

Jesus is Our Unlikely, Yet Perfect Savior

These are the readings for the Baptism of Our Lord Sunday.

God’s Word for This Week

“Why did Jesus need to be baptized? I thought baptism was for sinners.” That’s a common question. It does not make sense that our sinless Savior would need to be baptized. Why was he? Because a) the Father wanted him to, and b) Jesus came to be our perfect substitute. His baptism shows him to be just that. Even from birth he endured the effects of our sin. Jesus did no wrong, but he carried our sickness and pain (Isaiah 53:4). He needed the assurance of God’s love, just as if he were a sinner himself. He needed strength. Jesus received such gifts in baptism, like we do.

First Lesson – 1 Samuel 16:1-13

Whom had God rejected as the King of Israel?

God had rejected Saul.

When Samuel went to anoint a new king, did he and the Lord agree on who would be the “perfect” king?

They did not agree. Samuel was impressed with the oldest sons of Jesse because they were big and handsome. But the Lord had different ideas, as he explained: “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Whom did the Lord finally choose as Israel’s new king?

God chose the youngest son of Jesse—David—the forefather of our perfect Savior, Jesus. Jesus, too, would seem like an unlikely choice to be our perfect Savior (cf. Isaiah 53:2-3).

Second Lesson – Titus 3:4-7

According to St. Paul, why did God save us?

Paul plainly states that God did not save us because of righteous things we had done (our good works) but because of his mercy. In other words, our salvation depends entirely upon God’s love for us and not our love for him, a concept that seems unlikely to human reason.

According to St. Paul, how did God save us?

Paul explains that God saved us “through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” The Christian church has always understood this to be a reference to Holy Baptism, where God washes away our sin through this water connected to his Word of promise.

Gospel – Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

What was the purpose of the baptism given by John?

The purpose was the same as the baptism we have today: it was “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4).

If Jesus was sinless, why was he baptized?

In Jesus’ baptism God commissioned him to “go public” and save us, and the Father anointed him with the Holy Spirit and power (Acts 10:38). Also, though Jesus did not have any personal sin, Jesus was not aloof. In his role as Savior he carried the world’s guilt. He had come to be our perfect substitute and to identify with every sinner.

Which three special persons were present at the baptism of Jesus?

The Father spoke from above and sent the Spirit to the Son. Likewise, we were baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). We are all sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26).

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The Epiphany of Our Lord

Jesus is the Savior of All People

These are the readings for the Epiphany of our Lord.

God’s Word for This Week

The season of Epiphany (the Greek word for “appearance”) recalls how Jesus proved himself to be the Son of God and the Savior of all people. The Festival of the Epiphany of Our Lord is celebrated on January 6, the twelfth day of Christmas, and is often called the Gentile Christmas. In the lessons and the Gospel, God makes it abundantly clear that his salvation is not only for his chosen Old Testament people but also for the Gentiles (non-Jews). Jesus is the Savior of all people!

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 60:1-6

To whom is the Lord speaking in these verses?

The Lord is speaking to the New Testament Christian church, which has Jesus as its head. Jesus once said that he is the light of the world (John 8:12). He also said that Christians are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). When the prophet announces that “nations will come to your light,” he is speaking of Christ and the Christian church in the New Testament era, when people throughout the world would come to faith in Jesus.

From where will people come to fill up the New Testament Christian church?

From all nations, both Jews and Gentiles. (See Isaiah 60:3-4.)

Supplemental First Lesson – 1 Kings 10:1-9

Who came to visit Solomon? Why?

The Queen of Sheba came to visit Solomon, both to test him with hard questions and to bring him costly gifts.

How did King Solomon compare to what she had heard about him in her home country?

Solomon far exceeded what the queen had heard about him.

What did she say in the end?

In the end the queen praised the LORD for all he had given to Solomon. She gave the LORD all the credit for his eternal love to Israel.

Second Lesson – Ephesians 3:2-12

Who wrote the letter to the Ephesians? (cf. 3:1)

St. Paul wrote Ephesians, probably during his first imprisonment in Rome in about A.D. 60. The congregation in Ephesus was made up of both Jews and Gentiles, two groups that often disliked one another. Paul wanted these two groups to live peaceably with one another. (See Ephesians 2:14-18.)

What job had God given to this apostle? (See Ephesians 3:8-9.)

Paul’s specific mission was to proclaim the good news about Jesus to the Gentiles (non-Jews). The fact that Jesus was the Savior of all people, and not just the Jews, was the big “mystery” that God wanted Paul to proclaim.

Gospel – Matthew 2:1-12

From where did the Magi come to worship the newborn Savior?

From the east, perhaps from Persia or Arabia.

Were the Magi Jews or Gentiles?

We really don’t know, since the Scriptures don’t make that clear. It has always been assumed that they were Gentiles.

What gifts did they bring Jesus? (cp. Isaiah 60:6.)

They brought him gold, incense, and myrrh—all quite expensive items. The prophet Isaiah had predicted such gifts in Isaiah 60:6.

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First Sunday after Christmas

Jesus Goes to the Temple Obediently

These are the readings for the First Sunday after Christmas.

God’s Word for This Week

The readings today give us a window into our salvation and eternal glory, via the boyhood years of Jesus. The early life of Samuel has some interesting parallels to that of Jesus. In Hebrews, Jesus willingly becomes one of us and calls us “brothers.” Look in wonder at Jesus, the almighty God, going through early learning years just as we all do.

First Lesson – 1 Samuel 2:18-20,26

What was the yearly present Samuel’s mother would give him?

Each year Samuel’s mother gave him a robe (linen ephod) she made herself. Compare her thoughtfulness to the care put into some Christmas presents. She was thrilled to see Samuel serve in the temple. The influence of a godly mother blessed Samuel.

How are his childhood years described (v.20)?

Samuel grew in height, and the LORD and people were very pleased with him—the result of training him up in the way he should go.

Second Lesson – Hebrews 2:10-18

What is Jesus not ashamed to call us?

Jesus is not ashamed to call us his brothers—part of the same eternal family. What a miracle of grace that God in the flesh could feel so close to us…and we to him!

Why did he have to become human like us?

In order to take up our battle against sin, death, and the devil, Jesus had to be like us. Jesus had to win, too. During his perfect human life all the way to the cross, even in boyhood, he lived as one of us. That way God could substitute his perfect human life and atoning death in place of ours.

What comfort do we get in everyday life from the fact that he faced the same things we do?

We have great comfort knowing that Jesus experienced what we go through. He faced daily struggles and temptations like ours. He can relate to our fears and challenges. He can help us, because the temptations he faced never took him down.

Gospel – Luke 2:41-52

What was Jesus’ priority and desire as a 12-year-old child?

Unlike many 12-year-old boys, Jesus eagerly wanted to learn and discuss Scriptural truths. The Jewish teachers were amazed at the depth of Jesus’ understanding. We are amazed to see Jesus making us saints in God’s sight as he obeyed Gods Third Commandment perfectly.

What phrase does Luke use that you already heard in the 1 Samuel 2?

Jesus grew “wiser and taller and won the approval of God and of people” (GWN). This is the only section in the Bible that gives us insight to Jesus’ growing years. What a thrill it must have been to be around Jesus; on the other hand, how meekly and quietly he walked before God and people.

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Fourth Sunday in Advent

God’s Great Promises Become Reality

These are the readings for the Fourth Sunday in Advent.

God’s Word for This Week

The birth of a baby usually thrills parents, family, and friends. Today’s readings about the births of the world’s first children and the birth of Jesus excite us—and more. They show us how the wages of sin is death. They comfort us with Satan’s inability to nab Jesus. They renew our faith that God in Christ casts down the mighty from their thrones but lifts up the lowly.

Traditional First Lesson – Micah 5:2-5a

What is going to make little Bethlehem great?

In connection with Christmastime, the city of Bethlehem will be known throughout the world because the Ancient of Days, the Ruler of Israel, the Savior will be born there.

What effect will that child of Bethlehem have on us today?

He will be our peace and calm our hearts. He will be the one who watches over us like a shepherd but with the power of the universe at his disposal. Such a picture of his tender care for us will reach throughout the world. (Do you realize that peace?)

Supplemental First Lesson – Genesis 4:1,2,6-8,25; 5:1-5

The birth of the world’s first son must have been joyful. Cain killed his brother years later, though. How could this have happened? (See Genesis 5:3.)

Cain killed Abel because Cain had not been born in God’s image (holiness) but in his father Adam’s image (sinfulness), and Cain had failed to resist the power of sin inside him.

Adam lived 930 years. Then what happened?

After Adam lived 930 years, he died. The same thing happened generation after generation. The wages of sin is death.

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 10:5-10

Why wasn’t God pleased with the sacrifices of the Old Testament times?

The ritual offerings of the sacrifices could not do away with sin nor could they calm the guilty conscience. They did however help the nation of Israel realize the death sentences of sin as well as look forward to the promised substitute, the Messiah who would provide eternal forgiveness.

What assurances do you have now that Jesus has finished his work?

Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross of Christ had to be done only once and it became effective for everyone. Because of it, we are considered holy in God’s sight and prepared for being transformed to be like him. (Is this the central part of your faith and life?)

Supplemental Second Lesson – Revelation 12:1-6

Who was the male child? The dragon? (See Revelation 12:9.)

The male child in John’s vision was Jesus. The dragon was the devil, or Satan.

We would assume a dragon could easily devour a brand-new baby. What happened, though, in John’s vision?

In John’s vision, the dragon was not fast enough to seize the child. Jesus was born and went straight to heaven. What a comforting picture: The devil wanted to harm Jesus as he walked this earth, but he could not lead Jesus into sin or defeat him. Jesus lives. Jesus reigns!

What did God do, meanwhile, for his church on earth (the woman)?

He fed her in the desert. Ever since Jesus’ ascension, God feeds his church on earth by Word and sacrament.

Gospel – Luke 1:39-55

What happened when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting?

The baby in Elizabeth’s womb, John the Baptist, leaped for joy. Then the Holy Spirit filled her with new insight into what was happening. What awesome things the Spirit does in connection with the message of Jesus!

What does Mary first call God in her song?

In her song, Mary calls God her “Savior.” She was a sinner, just like all of us. No one should pray to her.

Summarize the content of the song in your own words.

Mary knew God was fulfilling the promise he had made to Abraham and had repeated for centuries. Generations to come would look at this event and see how God powerfully lifts the humble up to experience the great things God has done for us by his grace in his Son.

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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.