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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 for all his children’s needs, 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 white like 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 kind 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 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 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 follows can 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 Shalishah 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 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 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 his gifts widely 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 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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Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

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 Numbers 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 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? (See 2:15,16.)

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 are 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. (See 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.

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Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus Gives the Bread of Life

These are the readings for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Faithfully proclaiming God’s Word is hard. Public ministers serve as God’s representative to a sinful world, and the world does not want to accept God’s truth. The Old Testament prophet Amos found that out; Paul and Timothy found that out; Jesus’ newly-called apostles would find that out. Yet God has chosen faithful public preachers as a way he will have the good news of Jesus come to his chosen ones in all nations. Thank God for faithful public preachers and teachers of the gospel! By them, Jesus gives us the Bread of Life.

First Lesson – Amos 7:10-17

Was Amos proclaiming a popular message in Israel?

As is often the case today, Amos did not have a “politically correct” message for the people of Israel. He announced that Israel’s popular king would die by the sword and that Israel would go into exile. Interestingly, Amos proclaimed this message during the height of the Northern Kingdom’s greatest prosperity. (See 2 Kings 14:24.)

What did the king’s representative tell Amos to do, and how did Amos respond to the king’s command?

Amaziah told Amos to go back to Judah, his homeland, and to stop prophesying in the land of Israel. Amos responded that he was not a prophet of his own choosing; instead, he had been commanded by the Lord to say these things.

Traditional Second Lesson – Ephesians 1:3-14

What comforting teaching of Scripture does Paul address in these verses?

Paul tells the Ephesians and us that our salvation was planned by God before the creation of the world. God chose us in Christ to be his children. Sadly, some have undermined this comforting doctrine of eternal election with their speculations about God’s hidden will and have frightened the consciences of Christians. Paul wants us to be comforted by his words, not frightened! God loved you and chose you in Christ from all eternity! Believe it; it’s true!

What is the “mystery of [God’s] will?” (See 1:9.)

The mystery (something that is hidden for a time) of God’s will to which Paul refers in this letter is that God’s salvation is for all people, not just for the descendants of his Old Testament people. The “you” of verse 13 is the gentile Christians in Ephesus. (cf. also Ephesians 3:4-6.)

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 Timothy 3:1-7

What is the first qualification of a teaching elder in the church?

The first quality God requires for teaching elders in his church (pastors and other overseers) is that they be ‘above reproach’ or ‘beyond criticism.’ As sinners, they cannot be perfect, but they should be exemplary, with nothing in their past or in their current way of life that makes it hard for the average person to trust them.

What is the only qualification of a teaching elder in the church that does not relate to his character?

Besides all the character qualifications for an overseer in God’s church, that man must be ‘able to teach.’ He must be knowledgeable about God’s truth and be able to communicate it well.

Gospel – Mark 6:7–13

What is an apostle? What were the Twelve called to do?

An apostle is “one who is sent,” an ambassador with a message. Jesus called the apostles to proclaim the good news about him and his kingdom.

What instructions did Jesus give them and why?

Jesus told the Twelve not to take anything with them except a staff. In other words, they were to trust God to provide. If any place did not accept their testimony, they were to move on to another place.

In a word, what not-so-popular but the oh-so-necessary message did the Twelve preach?

The Twelve told people to repent.

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Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Listen for the Message God Gives You in His Word

These are the readings for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Preaching the message of God is not a popularity contest. The size of the crowd and the level of cheering is not what it is all about, but rather being faithful in speaking God’s Word to specific people and situations. That may ruffle feathers. The unwillingness of people to listen humbles God’s spokesmen. May we always pay close attention to God’s message, no matter how lowly the messenger who brings it.

Traditional First Lesson – Ezekiel 2:1-5

What did God call Ezekiel to do?

Ezekiel was to go to the Israelites who had rebelled against God. God had a specific people and a specific message on which he was to focus his life from this point on.

How would God measure Ezekiel’s effectiveness?

Popularity was not to be the deciding factor in determining his effectiveness. He continues to remind Ezekiel that he is going up against rebellious and stubborn people. His effectiveness will be gauged on his faithfulness in saying God’s words to them no matter how much opposition he gets from them.

Traditional Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Does a greater level of faith guarantee God will grant your prayer request?

Often well-intentioned Christians will say that someone’s situation didn’t get better because they didn’t have enough faith. Paul was surely a man of great faith. The Lord had revealed to him things others had never seen and heard. God is not a “genie in a bottle” to respond to our shortsighted requests in prayer. Ultimately God’s loving plans for us dictate his wise, caring response.

Why did God allow that specific struggle Paul was experiencing in his life to remain?

The Lord knew how sinful nature can pull us away from him (especially pride). The “thorn in the flesh” was God’s tool to keep Paul humble and to keep him connected to his real strength—the Lord. When we are “weak,” we despair of ourselves and finally give the task over to God. God’s power stands out more brilliantly with the miracles he accomplishes when we are “weak.”

Supplemental Second Lesson – 2 Timothy 3:104:5

As Paul writes these words to Timothy, he is in prison in Rome. He knows he is about to die. Paul does not say that only apostles will be persecuted or that only pastors and prominent Christians should expect persecution. What does Paul write in 3:12?

Paul says that everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

What does Paul say about the Bible, our only source of strength in persecution? (See 2 Timothy 3:15-17.)

Paul says the Bible is holy, and it can make us wise for salvation (both that we need it desperately, and that we have it for free) through trusting in Christ Jesus. Paul says the whole Bible is God-breathed. It thoroughly equips us for every good work.

Was Timothy supposed to focus on church leadership with Paul about to die?

Timothy was not to focus on leadership. Paul had Timothy swear to preach the Word. Timothy was both to warn and correct others with God’s Word. He was to encourage others with it, using great patience and careful instruction.

Gospel – Mark 6:1-6

What obstacle did Jesus meet while preaching in his hometown?

The people of Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown, remembered Jesus as a child and pictured him as a carpenter. Now he was a preacher? Since they were so familiar with him and his family, they were unwilling to see past the person and listen to what he preached.

What did the reaction to Jesus in Nazareth show?

The reaction of the people of Nazareth to Jesus showed their lack of faith. They were amazed at his wisdom and the miracles he did, but they let their reasoning get in the way. Instead, they should have seen Jesus’ wisdom and miracles as evidence that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, by believing they would have had life in his name (See John 20:30,31.)

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Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

In Death, Believe Only

These are the readings for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

What are we to think when a baby dies? Or a 12-year-old girl? Or we, at any age, see death looming? ‘Believe only,’ Jesus said. Is that ‘just believe’ as if believing is something easy or minor? No. He means no fear! Believe only. God calls us away from all trust in ourselves or anyone else to rely only in him and his promises in Christ, our Risen Savior.

Traditional First Lesson – Lamentations 3:22-33

When things were miserable around him, from what did the writer get his hope?

When we feel we have hit “rock bottom,” we too should be reminded that things could be far worse. God could have given us full punishment for our sins (yes, even the “small” ones). It is because of God’s great love that you are still alive! But look around you. His mercies show themselves faithfully every morning in the sunshine and the rain—in the little joys that come our way. Look for it every day. Since his compassion will never fail us, we should wait patiently for the timing of his blessings.

What good can God be accomplishing for us in sufferings?

There is strength given in the testing field of suffering. It begins as God strips away pride and self-righteousness and teaches us true humility and a greater dependence on him alone. (See Romans 5:1-6, Hebrews 12:7-11, 1 Peter 1:3-9.)

Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Samuel 12:11-25

Why is it significant that David and Bathsheba’s son died on his seventh day?

The boy would have been circumcised on the eighth day of his life, a week after his birth. (See Leviticus 12:3.) God said any uncircumcised male would be cut off from God’s people.

What is the last thing God records about what David said regarding his dead baby?

David said, ‘I will go to him, but he will not return to me.’

What hope does this seem to show?

David seems to have expected to be reunited with his baby after death. David’s sin had cost the child the child’s life, but David remains confident of God’s undeserved love.

Traditional Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 8:1-9,13,14

What was so amazing about the “grace of giving” seen among the Macedonian churches?

The overflowing joy sprang up not from outstanding wealth but from severe trials and extreme poverty. In spite of the obvious needs they had, they were rich in generosity—even giving beyond their ability. What a testimony to God’s power in them.

Of what would the Corinthian’s giving be a “test”?

Paul wanted to test the sincerity of their love by their faithfulness in giving. It is so easy to say you love the Lord and love his people. The proof is in the doing. (Look at the actions of faith displayed in Matthew 25:34-40 or James 2:14-18.)

What was the motivation behind their giving?

The motivation for our sacrificial generosity centers in Christ, who gave up the riches of heaven to come to the poverty of this world in order to win for us the outstanding inheritance of heaven. Who would not want to “give themselves first to the Lord” when they truly understand that? (See 2 Corinthians 5:13-15.)

Supplemental Second Lesson – 2 Timothy 1:8-14

Timothy must not be ashamed of the gospel, though that gospel had gotten Paul imprisoned and soon would get him beheaded. What should Timothy do?

Timothy should join with Paul in suffering for the gospel. He should preach with sound words, just as Paul had. He should guard the truth of the gospel like a prison guard watches a prisoner, knowing his very life is at stake.

Jesus has not just defeated death. What else has he done? (See 2 Timothy 1:10.)

Jesus has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

Gospel – Mark 5:21-24a, 35-43

How did Jairus show faith in Jesus?

Jairus came to Jesus knowing he could do what no one else could. He believed that Jesus could put his hands on his dying daughter, and she would be healed.

What words did Jesus speak in 5:36 that should stick with us? Why?

When Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid, just believe,’ he was speaking to a situation that looked impossible. The child was dead; anyone could see it. But nothing is impossible with God. Jesus lovingly restored the girl to life. Think of all the reasons we can have sure hope. Since Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter back to life:
Jesus is God.
• Death does not faze Jesus.
• Even Jesus’ seeming delays are part of his good plan.
• Jesus is all-powerful; raises the dead effortlessly.
• Jesus promised to raise us from the dead to eternal life.
• Whenever Jesus promises us grace, we don’t have to do anything, for we merit nothing; he tells us ‘Believe only.’

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Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Trust God’s Word; He Stilled the Worst Storms

These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

The world is a confusing place. We often feel it does not deal fairly with us. We go through anger, even terror, when we don’t understand the turmoil around us. But in Word and sacrament, Jesus reminds us of his presence. He forgives our foolish self-centeredness because of his Holy Book. He opens our eyes to the rescue he has won for us. Thus, he gives life in this trouble-filled world new hope and new purpose.

Traditional First Lesson – Job 38:1-11

How did God change around the conversation of Job who challenged the fairness in the way his life was going?

Sometimes we challenge God’s wisdom when we think things are falling apart in our lives, but God is in control. Through several full chapters, he drills Job with questions about the universe that only God can answer. He alone orders the events of this world and he does it for our eventual good.

What impact would that have on Job?

Job stood silent and was put back in his place knowing he doesn’t have the insight that God has into the present and the future. He learned not to discredit the Lord’s justice. He learned his lesson to trust God and turn his situation over to God’s wise plan.

Supplemental First Lesson – Proverbs 30:4,5

Compared to God, how smart and strong are you?

Only God gathers up the wind in the hollow of his hand. Only God wraps up all the waters of the world in his cloak. You are not smart or strong at all compared to God. Trust him, not yourself—not at all.

If every word of God is flawless, what should you believe?

Since every word of God is flawless, even when it seems to make no sense, you should believe every word of God.

If every word of God is flawless, what then should you do?

Since every word of God is flawless, you should do everything God commands you.

Traditional Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

What drove Paul to go to the lengths he did to persuade others, even if he seemed crazy in this pursuit? How does he view other people now?

Paul was convinced (another aspect of faith) that Christ had died effectively for everyone. The eternal impact of that draws people to set their own worldly dreams aside and live only for Christ and his purposes for us.

Do you feel that same passion to fulfill God’s purpose for you in the world?

He no longer looked at them like the world does but saw in the believers a “new creation.” For the rest he saw himself as an ambassador for Christ to bring them the message of peace (reconciliation) between God and all people—the great exchange of Christ’s life for ours.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Acts 27:13-26

In short, what happened to Paul, Luke, and 274 others?

Paul, Luke, and the other 274 people went through a terrible storm and shipwreck in the Mediterranean Sea.

Why would God let Paul and the others on the ship go through such an awful two weeks, then shipwreck them? (See Acts 27:20.)

God must have wanted all 276 people to give up all hope of being saved from the storm. In a similar vein, Martin Luther wrote, “no man thoroughly humbled until he knows that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, devices, endeavors, will, works, and depends entirely on the choice, will, work of another, namely, of God alone … When a man has no doubt that everything depends on the will of God, then he completely despairs of himself and chooses nothing for himself but waits for God to work; then he has come close to grace and can be saved.”

Gospel – Mark 4:35-41

What miracles did the disciples see?

The disciples saw Jesus calm rough waters just by talking to the wind and the waves. Here was another example of Jesus’ divinity, as he did what no other man can.

Why did he rebuke them?

The Twelve should have realized there was nothing to be terrified about, with Jesus nearby. Also, Jesus had promised to make them ‘fishers of men.’ They had not done so yet; so they could not drown. Jesus has to keep his promises! Faith focuses not on what we see around us, but on what God has said. Does your faith rest on Jesus and his work, despite fear inside you and turmoil around you?

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Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

God’s Word Makes Faith Sprout and Grow

These are the readings for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

This 4th of July, people will celebrate the growth and power of our republic. Yet as believers in Christ, we are part of an eternal kingdom. The kingdom of God started so humbly. It makes unnoticeable progress as it conquers hearts for Christ. Yet if you step back to look at it, you can see its tremendous growth. Those who are part of it will be longing for the final outcome when they are “clothed” with immortal life away from the struggles of the world.

Traditional First Lesson – Ezekiel 17:22-24

What will the Lord do with the “top of the cedar tree”?

God uses the picture of breaking off the top of a cedar tree and planting it to vividly prophesy the miraculous success of his people. They would start off insignificant and small, but this kingdom of God would grow more powerful than any other nation because Jesus will be at its core.

What will the new tree attract?

This kingdom of God would have a worldwide influence. People with every kind of background from all over the world will find safety and shelter in its “branches.” (See the parable of the mustard seed—Matthew 13:31,32.)

Supplemental First Lesson – Jonah 3:1-10

Whom did the Ninevites believe when Jonah told them that their city would be destroyed?

When Jonah preached to them about God’s judgment, the Ninevites believed God. God convinced them, not Jonah.

What happened when God saw the Ninevites’ sorrow over their sin?

When God saw the Ninevites’ sorrow over their sin and how they turned from their wicked ways, he relented from his threat to destroy them. (He had not made an empty threat; God is like a father, who punishes children when he has to, but not because he gets pleasure from it.)

Traditional Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 5:1-10

Why does Paul call this life (his body) “a tent”?

Our bodies on this earth are not our permanent dwelling but just temporary (like a tent). We groan with the pains and struggles of our bodies but know that God has given us more—eternal life! The more we understand what is coming up, the more we will long for it. How much is this a part of your daily perspective?

What difference will that make in our lives?

Because we confidently look ahead to the judgment, we make it our goal to please him and do all for the glory of God. Christian living is not a matter of rules and regulations but a joyful response to the gospel as we join in unfolding God’s effect on the world.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Colossians 1:3-8

What was the gospel doing all over the world in Paul’s day?

In Paul’s day, the gospel was growing and bearing fruit all over the world. In other words, more and more people were coming to faith in Christ and growing in faith, hope, and love.

Who came to Paul while he was under arrest (most likely in Rome) to tell him how the gospel was growing in little Colosse?

Epaphras told Paul how the gospel was growing in Colosse. Epaphras—a grateful “slave” of Christ, along with Paul—had started the congregation in Colosse. Later he went to see Paul who was under house arrest. What a report Epaphras could give about God’s grace, despite the doctrinal troubles in Colosse.

Gospel – Mark 4:26-34

How does Jesus help us understand the kingdom of God with the illustration of the growing seed?

The growth of God’s kingdom is God’s work, not ours. God almost invisibly provides progress within us, progress toward bearing fruit for the final harvest. The seemingly powerless seed of the gospel plants God’s ruling activity in resistant, stubborn people. Then faith sprouts. Can you look back and see the progress God has made in your faith life?

What else do we learn about the kingdom of God from the mustard seed?

In a big world, the kingdom of God seems small and insignificant, but it grows to be the largest kingdom of all. The parable of the mustard seed shows the extraordinary power of the word as it brings growth to the church, so people worldwide benefit (“perch in its shade”).

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Third Sunday after Pentecost

Your Dread Enemy

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 the 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 1,000 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 lives 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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Second Sunday after Pentecost

Keep the Proper Focus in Serving God

These are the readings for the Second Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Sadly, in Jesus’, day religious Jewish men (Pharisees) managed to turn even God’s day of rest, Saturday, into a “working day.” Today too, made-up rules and distractions keep Christians from their proper focus. God’s main message to us sinners is not about us or rituals to which we must conform, it is about Christ himself. Relying on what Christ did in our place instead of our own good works empowers our service to God.

Traditional First Lesson – Deuteronomy 5:12-15

How were the Old Testament Israelites to treat the Sabbath Day?

They were to drop everything and rest. What a blessing to the workaholic Israelite and his family.

Why?

Here was a break from the busyness of life to focus on the providing and protecting power of God for good in their lives. How beneficial for us to also sit back undistracted from schedule and demands and be rejuvenated in our relationship to our God—keeping things in proper perspective. Jesus calls to all who are weary and heavily burdened so that he can give them rest (Matt 11:28,29). Our worship on specified days gives us an opportunity for that rest that we find in Jesus.

Supplemental First Lesson – 1 Samuel 21:1-6

What did Ahimelech the priest give David when he and his band of warriors were on the run?

Ahimelech made an exception to the normal way things would have worked. He gave David and his men five loaves of consecrated bread—bread that had been set aside for special use in worshipping the Lord.

Why, probably, did Ahimelech do this?

Ahimelech made an exception because without the bread David and his men might have starved to death. Emergencies may call for special measures.

Traditional Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 4:5-12

What was the central focus of the disciples?

As far as they were concerned, they could become invisible from the attention of others as long as Christ would shine and affect the hearts of others like he had affected their hearts.

How did they view their personal physical welfare?

They were willing to undergo the gamut of sufferings in order to carry the treasure of the gospel to the world. It was that very good news of Jesus that kept them strong through hardships. They realized that their weaknesses displayed the power of Jesus. The “life” they saw at work in others made their efforts worthwhile.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Colossians 2:13-17

Since by his death in our place Jesus erased all the debts we owed God and disarmed all demonic powers and authorities, what should we not let anyone do?

We should not let anyone judge us by what we eat or drink or by when we worship. Saturdays are not better than Sundays. Sundays are not the day God commanded us to set aside for him. Old Testament ceremonial laws no longer bind us.

All of God’s Old Testament laws about Jewish worship, purity, and the like were only shadows of the things that were to come. Where is the reality found?

The reality is found in Christ. For instance—from Moses to Christ, Jewish people had to rest every Saturday. That was a shadow of the real rest for our souls Christ gives us.

Gospel – Mark 2:23-28

What activity of the disciples were the Pharisees condemning?

The Pharisees condemned Jesus’ disciples for grabbing grain and eating it on Saturday, the Sabbath (day of rest). With the picky rules those men had added to the Old Testament, they turned such harvesting-by-hand into a violation of God’s order to rest.

How did Jesus respond to the Pharisees?

Jesus responded with the story of David and Ahimelech, re-explaining what the Sabbath was all about and saying that he himself was Lord of the Sabbath (a shocking statement). With the illustration of David, Jesus showed that human need overrides religious ritualism. The Sabbath law was not made to enslave man but to give rest—physical and spiritual. Jesus’ forgiveness for sinners was the spiritual rest that the Old Testament Sabbath had foreshadowed.

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Holy Trinity

The Holy Triune God Works Together for Us

These are the readings for Holy Trinity.

God’s Word for This Week

On this Sunday, we celebrate the mystery of God being three-in-one, a mystery he reveals both for his glory and on our behalf. Isaiah rightly trembled at God’s holiness. But to Nicodemus, Jesus reveals something even more profound about the Trinity. The Father sent the Son to die in our place; whoever trusts in the Son, by the new birth the Spirit gives, has life with the Trinity forever.

FIRST LESSON – Isaiah 6:1-8

What did Isaiah have the unique privilege of seeing?

Isaiah saw God in his heavenly temple. Magnificent angels were singing the holiness of the Almighty God, in whose presence Isaiah had been brought. (Do you see God’s utter superiority as even holy angels cover their faces and feet before him? And do you hear a hint of God being three-in-one, as the angels sing, “Holy, holy, holy” to the One who rules all the angel armies?)

What was his initial reaction?

Isaiah was petrified in the presence of the holy God. The Lord’s holiness made Isaiah’s sinfulness stand out even more (like dirt on a pure white shirt). Isaiah felt unworthy and feared God would condemn him in court.

How did Isaiah receive a call into prophetic service to God?

God called and purified Isaiah by having an angel touch a coal from the sacrifice altar to Isaiah’s lips. The Lord removed the guilt of Isaiah’s sin by the sacrifice of the holy Messiah whom Isaiah would describe in amazing accuracy.

SECOND LESSON – Romans 8:14-17

What relationship does the Holy Spirit create between God and us?

We used to be God’s enemies, but those whom the Holy Spirit leads to trust in Jesus begin to see another side of God. He is our Father; we are his adopted sons.

What practical changes does the Spirit create in us when he makes us sons of God through faith in Christ?

Because the Father has adopted us, the Spirit shows us that we can come confidently before the holy, mighty God. Not only can we feel fearless, even comfortable (though still reverent) in his presence, but we can see ourselves as people sharing our brother Jesus’ eternal inheritance.

GOSPEL – John 3:1-17

What did Jesus tell Nicodemus was the only way “to see the kingdom of God”?

The only way for Nicodemus to see God’s kingdom was to be born again of water and the Spirit. Evidently, Nicodemus had refused to go down to the Jordan River and be baptized by John. Today too, without rebirth, even smart, religious people who respect Christ do not have God ruling in their sinful hearts. Without rebirth, no one is spiritual.

What is this “new birth” all about?

Just as no one decides to be born the first time, new birth is a gift from God, not a human decision. New birth involves trusting in what God has done to save us by sending his Son to live and die for us. It gives us eternal life.

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Pentecost

God the Spirit Does the Impossible for Us

These are the readings for Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Many problems seem unsolvable, but in Christ, our God is the God of the impossible. The day of Pentecost gave clear evidence of the power of the Spirit of Jesus to change things dramatically. Just as dead bones became living, breathing beings in Ezekiel’s vision, so people dead in sin become spiritually alive through the message the Holy Spirit has orchestrated and communicated through believers.

FIRST LESSON – Ezekiel 37:1-14

What was the condition of the bones, and what in your life do they represent?

The bones were very dry. There was no life at all in them. The people of God felt hopeless. There seemed no chance to be released from captivity to return to their homeland. Sin leaves us dry too (Ephesians 2:1-4). It makes us unable to do anything to return to God and the blessings he intended for us. It makes us feel trapped and hopeless.

What made these dead bones live? What does that mean for you?

The Holy Spirit does the impossible by bringing what was dead to life by God’s Word. He would restore Israel and bring it to its feet to return home. He also creates a new heart and renews a steadfast spirit within us (Psalm 51). What seems impossible becomes real. God promises!

SECOND LESSON – Acts 2:1-21

What was so amazing about these men boldly speaking in tongues?

The men speaking were common men—Galileans who would not have had schooling to speak so many other languages fluently. They were men who had hidden for fear of people connecting them with Christ. Now they were boldly telling that message of the crucified and risen Savior in languages that foreigners could clearly understand.

What was Peter’s explanation of this event?

Peter said the fire, wind, and tongues fulfilled God’s prophecy to send his Spirit in a special way. This outpouring began at Pentecost and continues wherever the gospel is preached. The purpose was to get the news out so that all could call on the name of the Lord and be saved.

GOSPEL – John 14:25-27

Whom was the Father going to send in connection with the name of Jesus?

The Father and Son would send God the Holy Spirit.

On what would the Holy Spirit focus when he came on Pentecost and afterward?

The truths Jesus was sharing with the disciples seemed so confusing at the time. They had so much to learn, so much that differed from what they had imagined. The Holy Spirit would come, Jesus said, to “teach you all things” and “remind you of everything I have said to you.” The Holy Spirit was not coming to draw attention to him but turn our eyes and hearts to Jesus. Like a spotlight operator, he focuses the gospel light on Jesus, so we can clearly see what he has done, understand what he has taught, and grow firm in faith.

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Seventh Sunday of Easter

Our Ascended Lord Watches Over Us

These are the readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

Our ascended Lord watches over his Church. He intercedes for us with the Father. He protects us with his power. He guides us with his Holy Word of Truth.

TRADITIONAL FIRST LESSON – Acts 1:15-26

This takes place soon after Jesus’ ascension and before Pentecost. What did Peter propose to the early believers?

That they choose a replacement for Judas the Betrayer. He suggested that they choose a man who had been with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry.

The disciples let God choose who would take Judas’ place. Explain.

Even though the disciples “chose” the final two candidates, they did it prayerfully according to the criteria mentioned above. Then they prayed and cast lots. The lot fell to Matthias. This was not luck, but rather God’s decision.

SUPPLEMENTAL FIRST LESSON – Acts 7:54-60

Where/how did Stephen see Jesus? (See Acts 7:55.)

Stephen saw heaven open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

Luke does not say that Stephen “died.” What does Luke say?

Luke says that Stephen fell asleep. What comfort for us! In Christ, we have nothing to fear from death. We will rise again with Christ on the Last Day.

TRADITIONAL SECOND LESSON – 1 John 4:13-21

According to verse 15, how can we know that God lives in us?

Only through the power of the Holy Spirit can we know and trust that Jesus is the Son of God and our Savior. Therefore, our trust in Jesus is proof that God dwells within us.

What does our love for God lead us to do?

Out of thanks for God’s love, we seek to show love to others.

Verse 18 says that there is no fear in love. So if I am afraid at some point, have I lost my faith?

Our faith, which trusts solely in God’s love, does not fear anything. Faith says boldly with the apostle Paul, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Our trust in God’s love shows no fear. Yet, we are at the same time saints and sinners. Our sinful nature does doubt. Our sinful nature does fear. The life of a Christian is a struggle against that sinful nature. Moments of fear and doubt should not drive us to despair of our salvation but rather to the loving promises of our Savior God, who strengthens our faith and takes away our fears.

SUPPLEMENTAL SECOND LESSON – Hebrews 7:11-27

Jesus did not ascend into heaven to retire and rest. What is one vital thing Jesus is doing for us right now?

One vital thing Jesus does for us is to act as our high priest before the Father. He intercedes for us. (See Hebrews 7:25.)

Since Jesus rose from the dead, he lives forever. Since Jesus lives forever, what kind of priesthood does he have? (See Hebrews 7:24.)

Since Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.

Old Testament priests also interceded for God’s people. Why is Jesus’ priesthood better? (And why, therefore, should we never leave Jesus?)

Jesus’ priesthood is better than any Jewish priest of old (and therefore we should never leave Jesus) because he was sacrificed for our sins once for all. He is holy and blameless, exalted above the heavens.

GOSPEL – John 17:11b-19

Jesus prayed these words on the night before he died. It is commonly known as his High Priestly Prayer. For what things did Jesus pray?

Since he was leaving his disciples visibly, Jesus asked the Father to watch over his disciples, unite them, and protect them. He also prayed that the Father would sanctify them.

What did Jesus mean when he said, “Sanctify them by the truth, your word is truth”?

When Jesus asked the Father to sanctify his first disciples, he meant to “set them apart” for God and for holiness. God, through his Word and the trust worked by that Word, sets apart believers for himself. In other words, we are in the world, but we are not of it. We are heaven-bound. Jesus prayed that God would continue to keep them from sin, the devil, and the evil of this world through his Holy Word. God continues to set us apart through that same Word of Truth.

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Sixth Sunday of Easter

Love One Another

These are the readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

What one word summarizes all of God’s commands? Love. Luke tells us about a Christian lady full of love for the widows of her city. The apostle John teaches us that love for God and his Word compels us to carefully examine all teachings and churches in the light of Scripture. Jesus himself commands us to love one another as he has loved us.

TRADITIONAL FIRST LESSON – Acts 11:19-26

According to verse 21, what happened to the church despite persecution?

Because of the persecution of the Jews, many Christians were scattered, and the Word of God spread to other regions. In Antioch, many non-Jews heard the gospel and came to believe.

Believers were first called Christians at Antioch. What is the significance of being called Christians?

By bearing the name “Christians,” we give testimony to the fact that we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Savior of the world. We bear the name proudly. We also recognize that the life we live reflects upon him whose name we bear.

SUPPLEMENTAL FIRST LESSON – Acts 9:36-42

Why were the widows of Joppa so upset when Dorcas died?

The widows of Joppa were so upset when Dorcas died because, out of her love, she had sewn clothes for them.

What loving, amazing words did Peter speak when he raised Dorcas from the dead?

Peter said, “Tabitha, get up.” (In Aramaic, this sounded very similar to the time Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead, saying, “Talitha [little girl], get up).”

SECOND LESSON – 1 John 4:1-11

Who/what are the “spirits” of which John speaks here?

The spirits about whom John speaks here are those who make spiritual claims.

What are we to do with such spirits?

We are to test such spirits, to see whether they are from God. That is, we are to test teachers and churches against the Bible. If they disagree with Scripture—if they deny that Jesus is the Christ—then they are not from God. Note that we are not to test other people’s hearts (we can’t), or count other followers, or try to gauge their pizzazz. Any of those would be unloving. Rather, we lovingly check out what a spirit, a person making spiritual claims—teaches.

Evaluate the following statement. “If we do not always show true love for others, that means that we are not true believers.”

If we believe in Jesus as our Savior, we will produce fruits of love. Sinners, however, are hardly perfect. The fact that we don’t always show love doesn’t mean that we aren’t believers; it means that our faith needs to grow. We will not use that need as an excuse to not show love, but rather as a reason to grow in our faith through the use of the gospel.

GOSPEL – John 15:9-17

The world often portrays true love as weak and God’s commands as burdensome. According to verse 11, why did Jesus command us to show love?

Jesus commands us to show love that we might have his joy and that our joy may be complete. God does not give us his commandments to make our lives boring or more difficult but rather because he knows that it is for our good. We are happier when we follow his commandments.

What is love?

Love is self-sacrifice in attitude and action. Love is the opposite of selfishness. Love does everything for the other person. Jesus gives us the ultimate example of love in verse 13: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

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Fifth Sunday of Easter

In Christ, We Will Bear Much Fruit

These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

Through faith in Christ’s sacrifice for us, we are connected to the risen Savior as a branch is connected to a grapevine. The result of being connected to Jesus is that we will now bear fruit. The fruit of a Christian is a life of love. Out of thanks for God’s love, we now seek to love others in many ways, including telling them the good news of Christ. As believers, we seek to show love not only in what we say but also in what we do.

TRADITIONAL FIRST LESSON – Acts 8:26-40

The only way to truly understand the Old Testament is to know Jesus. Explain.

The Old Testament reveals to us God’s loving promises of a Savior from sin. Those promises find their fulfillment in Jesus. Without Jesus, the Old Testament promises are left unfulfilled, and there is no hope of salvation. Jesus, speaking of the Old Testament, said, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me” (John 5:39).

What fruits of faith did the Ethiopian eunuch show after speaking with Philip?

He asked to be baptized. After being baptized, he went on his way rejoicing in his newfound salvation.

SUPPLEMENTAL FIRST LESSON – Acts 16:11-15

Paul and Silas met a group of women in Philippi. What made Lydia notable?

Lydia was well-to-do. The Lord opened her heart, and she asked to be baptized, along with the rest of her household. She then asked Paul and Silas to stay with her.

No one can decide to ask Jesus into his or her heart. What is the only way someone becomes a believer in the risen Savior today?

When people come to faith today, like Lydia, the gospel must first come to them in some way. Then the Lord must open their hearts to pay attention to it and believe it.

SECOND LESSON – 1 John 3:18-24

What aspect of love does John emphasize in verse 18?

In verse 18, John emphasizes that love is more than words. It is very easy to say, “I love you,” but John encourages us to show that love in everything we do.

At times we can begin to doubt whether we have true faith and are saved. According to verses 18-20, what evidence of faith can put our hearts at ease?

A desire to serve God and show love to others is evidence of the faith that God has given us.

What is the relationship between our faith in Jesus and our love for one another?

Our love for others is a result of faith. Through faith, we receive forgiveness, life, and salvation. Out of thanks for God’s great love, our faith now wants to live a life of love and service to others.

GOSPEL – John 15:1-8

By being connected to Christ through faith, we are saved and produce fruit. How do we stay connected to Christ?

If faith is what binds us to Christ, then the means of grace (the gospel in Word and sacraments) are what keep us connected to him. Through the means of grace, we are united with Christ and are able to produce fruit. If we do not make frequent use of the means of grace, we become weak, do not produce much fruit, and are in danger of separating ourselves from Christ.

Evaluate the following statement. “It is important that a Christian produce fruits of love.”

We receive heaven as a gift of God’s grace through faith. Fruits of love are not necessary for salvation. However, that being said, faith will always produce fruit. The stronger the faith, the more fruit it produces. God wants us to produce many fruits of love and commands us to do so. So even though fruits of love are not necessary for salvation, they are still very important and necessary.

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Fourth Sunday of Easter

The Risen Lord Is Our Shepherd

These are the readings for the Fourth Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

Jesus is our Good Shepherd. We are his sheep. Our Good Shepherd loves us so much that he gave his life for us. He knows us all by name. He protects us from our enemies. He gives us courage and strength. He continually brings more sheep into his fold. He promises heaven to all who believe in him. How great is the love that God has lavished upon us!

TRADITIONAL FIRST LESSON – Acts 4:23-33

How did the believers in Jerusalem respond when the Sanhedrin ordered Peter and John to no longer preach in Jesus’ name? (See 4:24.)

They responded by turning to God in prayer. What a great example for us today! When we are faced with difficulties, trials, and setbacks in the Church, let’s always take it to the Lord in prayer.

What did they ask for in verses 29 and 30? How did God respond?

They asked for boldness to preach, along with the special gift of healing and miracles. Luke tells us that they received a special measure of the Holy Spirit and preached boldly. We see in other sections of Acts that some were given the gift of healing and miracles.

Evaluate the following statement: As Christians, we should ask for such things today.

God encourages us to ask him for whatever we desire in our hearts, and he promises to give us whatever is for our good. Therefore, it is good and right that we pray for boldness to preach. Through the power of his gospel, God answers our prayers and gives us strength and courage. Today God does not give all the same gifts that he gave to the early church. Gifts such as healings, tongues, and prophecy were given at that time according to their needs. God could still give such gifts today, but we should never expect them or doubt God if he decides not to give them to us.

SUPPLEMENTAL FIRST LESSON – Acts 20:28-32

How did God acquire the church? (See 20:28.)

God acquired the church by buying her with his own blood.

Who are the “savage wolves” whom Paul mentions? (See 20:29.)

The “wolves” to whom Paul refers to are false teachers, men who distort God’s truth and seek to gain followers. They lure away former believers by those distortions.

What is our true hope and strength against such difficult enemies? (See 20:32.)

Our hope and strength against such enemies is God’s Word itself, the same Word that the false teachers distort. God’s Word builds up believers in faith, and it gives us a place among those who are being set apart to lead holy lives for God.

TRADITIONAL SECOND LESSON – 1 John 3:1,2

What have we become because of God’s love?

Though we were rebellious sinners and slaves to sin, God, in his love, has adopted us as his dear children. Through the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ, we are now heirs of heaven. We are sons and daughters of the King. Through God’s great love, we have become the greatest rags to riches story ever told!

What does John mean when he says, “what we will be has not yet been made known”?

Though we are sons and daughters of the King, in this world, many times what we are is not so obvious. As believers, we may suffer sickness, poverty, and disaster. Only when we get to heaven will the glory that is ours be fully revealed.

SUPPLEMENTAL SECOND LESSON – 1 Peter 5:1-4

Instead of calling himself an apostle, or even “the leading apostle,” what did Peter call himself?

Peter called himself a “fellow elder” and a “witness to Christ’s sufferings.”

Why does Peter say that Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, will “appear,” not “arrive” or the like?

Peter says Jesus will “appear” because, though we cannot see him, Jesus has not left us. He is right here with us in his Word and sacraments. On the Last Day, we will finally see him when he makes himself visible.

What will you receive when the Chief Shepherd appears?

When the Chief Shepherd appears, we will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

GOSPEL – John 10:11-18

What, above all, proves that Jesus is our Good Shepherd? (See 10:11.)

Jesus proved that he is our Good Shepherd by willingly giving up his life for us his sheep.

What else does Jesus do for us?

Jesus also protects his sheep. He knows and loves each of his sheep personally. His sheep know and love him. He regularly brings new sheep into his flock, too.

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Third Sunday of Easter

We Are Jesus’ Witnesses

These are the readings for the Third Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

Does telling others about Christ intimidate you? Do you fear how people will react? Today we see that Jesus’ death and resurrection give believers confidence. Our sins have been washed clean in his blood. We have forgiveness for any and all sins. Such truths give us the courage to witness boldly to the lost about Christ’s love and the rescue we have in his name.

TRADITIONAL FIRST LESSON – Acts 4:8-12

Peter stands before the Sanhedrin, the religious court of the Jews, to defend his healing of a crippled beggar. What does it mean that the man was healed “by the name of Jesus Christ”?

Peter did not heal the crippled beggar. God healed him. Moreover, to heal by the name of Jesus does not mean that his name is some sort of magical incantation. It just means that Jesus was the one who healed him. Such a miracle shows God’s incredible mercy along with the authority that Peter and John had to be preaching what they were preaching.

Peter here quotes Psalm 118:22. What does it mean that Jesus is the capstone?

The capstone in a building is either the stone that is placed at the top of an arch or the cornerstone that guides the dimensions of the building. The capstone is the most important stone of a building. Without it, a building could not stand or even be built. Jesus, the stone rejected by the Jews, is the one stone that is necessary for our salvation. Without him, there is no salvation. Without him, the Church cannot stand.

SUPPLEMENTAL FIRST LESSON – Acts 12:1-19

Compare 12:5 with 12:15. What is ironic?

In 12:5, the believers pray earnestly that Peter will be released. When he is released, though, they can’t imagine how it could be true.

This story does not prove that a Christian will never suffer unjust imprisonment or death. What does it prove?

This story shows the power of God’s Word; it changed Peter from a man scared of a slave girl, denying his Lord three times, to a man who can sleep peacefully in prison. This story also proves that God answers prayer for the good of the spread of the gospel. It proves that God gives the holy angels great power; we should thank God for his holy angels and ask him to guard our loved ones.

TRADITIONAL SECOND LESSON – 1 John 1:1–2:2

How could John be so sure about what Jesus did for our salvation?

He was an eyewitness to Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection.

With what confidence do we confess our sins to God?

The confidence that God will always forgive us because Jesus, with his sacrifice on the cross, washed away all of our sins.

What does the word “atonement” mean?

To atone means to make “at one” with someone. It has the idea of reconciliation. Our sins separate us from God, but Jesus’ sacrifice reconciles us to God and makes us “at one” with the Father.

SUPPLEMENTAL SECOND LESSON – 2 Corinthians 2:12–3:6

How does God always lead Paul and those who spread the gospel with him?

God always leads Paul and his companions in triumphal procession in Christ. The picture of “triumph” calls to mind a lavish victory parade through the streets of Rome after a Roman general and his army won a great victory.

What does Paul mean, practically, when he says that to some, we are the aroma of life, and to others, the smell of death?

In Roman triumphs, according to one historian, “garlands of flowers were prepared to decorate every shrine and image. Incense smoked on every altar.” Victorious Roman soldiers enjoyed those sweet smells, but the same sweet odors told Roman captives being dragged through the streets that they were soon to die. In the same way, Jesus’ resurrection attracts believers but repels unbelievers.

What does Paul mean by “the letter” and “the Spirit” in 3:6?

Paul means law and gospel. The letter of the law kills, for we are sinners. But by the gospel, the Spirit gives life.

GOSPEL – Luke 24:36-49

What did the disciples think when Jesus appeared to them?

The disciples thought Jesus was a ghost. Even after Jesus rose, the disciples were slow to catch on. At first, they did not grasp the meaning of what Jesus’ dying and rising meant. Only after a special outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost did they “get it” and receive the strength to be witnesses to the gospel.

We have not seen Jesus with our own eyes. In what way are we also witnesses?

We also are witnesses of the resurrection, even though we have not seen Jesus physically. We have come to know him through his Word. We now have the privilege and responsibility of sharing that precious message with others.

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Second Sunday of Easter

Faith Is Being Certain of What We Do Not See

These are the readings for the Second Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

Our faith is based on the firmest possible ground: Jesus, our risen Lord. We cannot see him. We cannot touch him. We have not yet experienced the joy that will be ours forever. We come to know and trust in him as our Savior only through the precious gospel that is revealed to us in the words of Scripture.

TRADITIONAL FIRST LESSON – Acts 3:12-20

Peter here is responding to the crowds after healing a crippled beggar in the temple. According to verse 16, why was the man healed?

The man was healed “by faith in the name of Jesus.” Through faith in Peter’s words and Jesus’ promises, the crippled beggar received salvation and the added blessing of healing.

What does Peter encourage the people to do in verse 19?

Peter is speaking to the Jews who had only a short time before allowed and even asked for the crucifixion of Jesus. Peter tells them that forgiveness is found in Jesus Christ alone. He encourages them to repent of their sins and turn to Jesus their Savior.

SUPPLEMENTAL FIRST LESSON – Acts 26:19-29

Before which two rulers was Paul testifying?

Paul was testifying before Agrippa and Festus.

In what two ways did Paul describe his teaching about the resurrection, after Festus told Paul that he was insane?

Paul said his teaching was “true and reasonable.”

Isn’t the resurrection of all believers unreasonable? Explain.

The resurrection of all believers on the Last Day might seem unreasonable (how can a dead person come back alive, bodily?). Still, if a) God is all-powerful, if b) Jesus rose from the dead, and if c) Jesus promises to raise us too, we would be “insane” not to believe in our bodily resurrection.

TRADITIONAL SECOND LESSON – 1 John 5:1-6

According to verses 2 and 3, now that we believe in Jesus as our Savior, what does that faith lead us to do?

Faith leads us to love God and obey his commandments.

What does Paul mean in verse 6 when he says that Jesus came by water and blood?

Water is a reference to Jesus’ baptism, and blood is a reference to his sacrificial death on the cross. John wrote this letter as a reaction to those who were teaching that Jesus was not true God, but only true man. They were teaching that God somehow descended upon Jesus after his baptism and left him before he died. John tells us that Jesus is God’s eternal Son made man. As true God and true man, Jesus lived, suffered, and died for our sins.

SUPPLEMENTAL SECOND LESSON – 1 Corinthians 15:12-22

What were some people in Corinth falsely claiming?

Some in Corinth were falsely claiming that there was no resurrection and there will be none on the Last Day either.

Why was that claim disastrous?

That claim was disastrous because if there is no resurrection, then Christ was not raised from the dead either. And if Christ has not been raised from the dead, a) the apostles’ preaching about Christ was useless, and b) so is our trust in Christ.

GOSPEL – John 20:19-31

Why are Jesus’ words in verse 29 so important for us as Christians today?

Jesus’ words are so important for us because, unlike those first disciples, we did not have the opportunity to see Jesus in the flesh and witness his saving work. Even though we have not seen him, we have God’s promise that we will receive the same blessing of eternal life through trusting in him.

Why did John write the words of his gospel?

John did not record every last detail of Jesus’ life in his gospel. He wrote what he wrote so that we might believe that Jesus is the Son of God and Savior of the world. Through faith in Jesus we, as those first disciples, will receive God’s eternal blessings in glory.

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Easter

He Has Risen! Alleluia!

These are the readings for Easter Sunday.

God’s Word for This Week

What does Jesus’ resurrection mean for us? It means that just as he lives, we also will live—bodily, eternally. Through faith in Jesus, we have the victory of death and the devil. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have a place in God’s heavenly banquet where there will be no more sorrow, suffering, or death.

FIRST LESSON – Isaiah 25:6-9

Here Isaiah describes heaven as the “mountain” of the Lord. What will God do for us on that mountain?

God describes the glory and splendor of eternity as a great and luxurious banquet. At God’s holy banquet the “shroud” of mourning and death will be removed. We will be with God in perfection. After judgment day there will be no more sorrow, no more suffering, and no more death for believers.

What will our reaction be to such glory?

Isaiah 25:9 tells us that we will recognize the great things that God has done for us. We will acknowledge that he is the one who saved us. We will rejoice in that salvation and thank God continually. But why wait? Let us today and everyday rejoice and be glad in the God of our salvation.

SECOND LESSON – 1 Corinthians 15:19-26

What does Paul mean when he calls Jesus the “firstfruits”?

Paul calls Jesus the “firstfruits” because for centuries Jews had to offer to God the first fruits of the harvest: the first grain stalks, the first grapes, etc. In the same way, Jesus is the first to be raised (harvested, if you will) from the dead. His bodily resurrection is a sign of things to come. On the Last Day, all will be raised. Those who believe in Jesus will be given glorified bodies and will be with God in glory forever.

What does Paul mean when he says that death came through a man? That the resurrection of death comes also through a man?

Through the sin of one man, Adam, death entered into the world. We who continue to sin as Adam did, deserve God’s eternal punishment in hell. Jesus, God’s Son and also true man, came and suffered the punishment of sin and death. With his resurrection, we have the guarantee that we too will live forever with God in resurrected bodies.

GOSPEL – Mark 16:1-8

What was the concern of the women as they walked to Jesus’ tomb?

The women wanted to anoint Jesus’ body, in line with Jewish tradition, but they wondered how they would remove the large stone that blocked the entrance to the tomb.

Who was the young man dressed in white sitting in the tomb? What did he tell the women?

Matthew tells us that the young man in white was an angel. (See 28:2.) The angel announced to the women that Jesus was not dead but had risen. He commanded them to go and share the good news with Jesus’ disciples. We have received the same command to share the good news of life and salvation with all people. He is risen! Death has been swallowed up in victory!

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Palm Sunday

Jesus Humbly Rides Into Jerusalem to Die

These are the readings for Palm Sunday.

God’s Word for This Week

Our Lord is so different from earthly rulers. On the first Palm Sunday, Jesus was coming to finish history’s most crucial battle, yet he did not enter Jerusalem as a mighty warrior. He had no army. Jesus came on a lowly donkey, with twelve average men following him. Crowds greeted him with words from Psalm 118; words that rang to the heavens then, words still lifted to Jesus today: Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

FIRST LESSON – Zechariah 9:9-10

Zechariah writes 520 years before Christ. What is he prophesying about in verse 9?

Jesus coming as a lowly king into Jerusalem. We now know this as Palm Sunday.

Look at 9:10. What amazing gift would this King riding on a donkey bring?

Salvation—eternal life—for all people.

How does Zechariah give us a picture of the salvation our King would bring in verse 10?

What a picture: There would be no more instruments of war. In Zechariah’s day, the instruments of war were chariots, warhorses, and bows. Today we would say that there would be no more guns, missiles, tanks, bombers, or fighters. Instead, there would be peace throughout the earth and the King (Jesus) would rule over all. This picture finds its fulfillment in heaven, and on the new earth, where sin and war will rage no more for God’s people.

SECOND LESSON – Philippians 2:1-10

As followers of Jesus, what kind of attitude are we to have?

We are to have the same attitude as Christ Jesus, who humbled himself in service to his Father and others.

Why is it such a surprising thing that Jesus humbled himself all the way to the most cursed death, that of a cross?

If we had been in a position of authority over all things, we wouldn’t want to give it up to serve others, let alone die under God’s curse on the cross. Jesus left the glory of heaven to live in a world filled with sin, violence, and death. What great love for sinners!

Because Jesus was willing to endure so much for us, what glory did God the Father give him?

The Father gave the Son back the full use of the position the Son had always had from eternity: equality with the Father in every way. Now when we worship Jesus as Lord, God the Father receives the glory he deserves. Let us do this now and forever!

GOSPEL – Mark 11:1-10

If Jesus knows details about the colt, etc., ahead of time, what else must he know in advance?

If Jesus knew about the colt, etc., Jesus must have known all that would happen in his betrayal, suffering, and crucifixion. What love for us and for the Father he had!

What does the word hosanna mean?

Hosanna literally meant, “Please, save.” It was a plea for deliverance. Because we generally only call for rescue to people great enough to help, over the centuries hosanna became a shout of exclamation or praise to someone great.

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Fifth Sunday in Lent

Jesus Is Our High Priest Who Offers Himself

These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday in Lent.

God’s Word for This Week

Before Jesus was born, believers had to regularly offer up sacrifices for sin. Only the high priest could go before God with the blood and prayers of the people. These sacrifices would go on and on for the entire life of the Old Testament believer as a vivid reminder that God would send a Savior who would be sacrificed on the behalf of all people. Today the Word of God shows that Jesus, our High Priest, would sacrifice himself and bring a new covenant of life that would last forever.

FIRST LESSON – Jeremiah 31:31-34

What is the old covenant that the Lord had made with Israel when he took them out of Egypt?

The old covenant the Lord revealed to the children of Israel in the desert was a covenant that regulated everything the children of Israel did. They had laws of what to eat, how to clean, what to touch and not touch. They had Sabbath laws. God required animal sacrifices for many reasons; some happened daily.

What would be the new covenant that the Lord would make?

The Lord said the new covenant “will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers.” It would not contain any laws, rules, or regulations that must be kept or symbolic repeated sacrifices. Jesus would fulfill all of God’s demands. Jesus would keep all the laws and rules for all people. Jesus’ death would be the only sacrifice that would finally pay for the sins of the whole world. Jesus’ death would open the way to God; the veil in the temple was torn in two. Instead of a covenant of “You must do this and not do that,” Jesus’ new covenant comes through the assurance, “It is finished.” All of Jesus’ work is bestowed to us as the Holy Spirit uses the Word and sacraments to create and sustain faith in our hearts.

SECOND LESSON – Hebrews 5:7-10

How did Jesus show “reverent submission” when he prayed with “loud cries and tears”?

Jesus’ “reverent submission” is seen clearly in the agony of his prayers in Gethsemane the night before his death. There he said, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Does verse nine mean that only those who perfectly obey Jesus can be saved?

No. The apostle John writes, “We obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 3:22-23). Faith is obedience to God and is worked in the individual by God’s grace through the Word and sacraments.

GOSPEL – John 12:20-33

How would the death of Jesus be judgment for the world?

Jesus paid for the sins of the whole world at the cross. Those who reject this truth will be judged and condemned. Those through faith, who believe Jesus’ sacrifice was good for all eternity, will enjoy heavenly bliss for all eternity.

Who is the prince of the world that would be driven out of his position of power?

Satan is the prince of the world. Jesus defeated him by apparent surrender to death.

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Fourth Sunday in Lent

Jesus Must Be Lifted Up On the Cross

These are the readings for the Fourth Sunday in Lent.

God’s Word for This Week

A drowning man will not complain about the size of the boat that comes to rescue him. Yet today’s first lesson shows us people complaining not long after God had freed them from slavery in Egypt. Note in each lesson how God shows his heart of grace―undeserved love that rescues sinners.

FIRST LESSON – Numbers 21:4-9

Which flaws of human nature led to the painful, in some cases deadly, lesson of venomous snakes?

The snakes came when people got impatient, complained, and were not thankful. They even criticized free daily food. It started with a lack of trust and love for God. (“You brought us… to die in the desert.”)

God could have saved the people without having them look at something. What did he want to teach them (and us) by having them look at the snake on a pole?

By putting the snake on the pole, God said: “trust me.” God found a way to heal their soul and body at the same time. Their main problem was spiritual—lack of trust—and God taught them to trust his promise. Sure enough, anyone was bitten who looked at the bronze snake lived.

Today we don’t look at a snake on a pole to save us. Where does God direct us to look?

God has us look at his Son in baptism’s waters and his body and blood, united with bread and wine in his supper.

SECOND LESSON – Ephesians 2:4-10

Find five different words or phrases in this precious section that highlights God’s goodness.

Five key phrases which emphasize God’s goodness: his great love for us, who is rich in mercy, riches of his grace, his kindness to us, it is the gift of God.

Find four different words or phrases Paul uses to emphasize that no part of the rescue is our doing.

Four key phrases, emphasizing that we cannot save ourselves at all: “We were dead in transgressions,” “not from yourselves,” “not by works,” and “no one can boast.”

If our good works have no part in paying for our eternal life, why do we still do good works? (See 2:10.)

Good works result when people realize the great gift God has given them. A living fruit tree will naturally bear fruit; so also, a person who realizes he has received eternal life at the cost of God’s own precious blood will then respond to that love with love for God and others. The reason God created us was to produce fruits of faith and love.

GOSPEL – John 3:14-21

How is Jesus like the bronze snake of today’s first lesson?

Both the snake and Jesus were lifted up. Both were lifted up so many could look, see the solution promised by God, and be saved. Both required no payment or effort. Instead, both called dying people to look with trust to the only savior for their problem.

What is the criterion for God’s judgment? When does this judgment take place?

Whoever believes in Jesus shall not perish. God’s criterion is that you trust in Jesus. This judgment is already valid, not just a future “will be so,” but already “is condemned.” Believers already cross over from death to life. (See John 5:24.)

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Third Sunday in Lent

Jesus Rescues Us From God’s Law

These are the readings for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

For centuries Christians have spent Lent meditating on Jesus’ suffering and death, which atoned for our guilt. Lent is the “serious season” of the church year in which we put extra emphasis on recognizing and confessing our own sins. Congregations with special mid-week services usually keep a somber, reflective tone. The Sundays in Lent, however, serve as “mini Easters;” their readings and hymns bring comfort to the believers who are reflecting on their sins and Jesus’ passion. The third Sunday in Lent reminds us of God’s perfect law and his demand that we fear and love him. Thankfully, Jesus has fulfilled God’s law in our place.

FIRST LESSON – Exodus 20:1-17

Why does God remind the Israelites that he brought them out of Egypt before giving the Ten Commandments?

The holy God who demands we keep his commandments wants love and trust from his children. His law cannot instill that love and trust. Only his gospel can. By reminding the Israelites of how he rescued them from Egypt, he is putting in the forefront of their minds his love and mercy. That rescue from Egypt reminds us that the same holy God sent Jesus to rescue us from our sin.

Since God already put his commandments on our hearts, why did he etch them on stone (and in the Bible) for us?

Our own sin and the sin around us combine to darken and callous our hearts, so we need God’s law written down―in detail―for us so we know exactly what his will is.

SECOND LESSON – 1 Corinthians 1:22-25

How is ‘Christ crucified’ foolishness to many people?

Later in this letter, Paul explains that people don’t naturally understand or believe in Jesus, but only by the Holy Spirit can people recognize God’s wisdom in sending Jesus. Without the Holy Spirit, the message of Jesus dying on a cross to save us makes no sense. With the Holy Spirit, we see God’s wisdom and love in providing the perfect Savior.

What is the essence of a Christian’s message to the world?

“Christ crucified” is the heart of the gospel. The only way sinners can stand before a holy God is if their sins are removed. The only way sins are removed is by Christ being crucified for us.

SUPPLEMENTAL SECOND LESSON – Romans 8:1-10

Were you born neutral toward God and his commands? Or even favorable toward them? (See 8:7.)

No. We were all born hostile to God. We did not submit to God’s law. We could not.

How much does God blame you in his courtroom now? (See 8:1.)

You are completely innocent in God’s courtroom because of Jesus’ blood. There is no condemnation for all who are in Christ Jesus. None.

GOSPEL – John 2:13-22

Why do you think the Jewish leaders allowed the buying and selling of animals in the temple courts?

The Jewish leaders let people buy and sell in the temple courts, presumably, because those who sold animals and changed money made a profit. Nothing should disturb God’s people from hearing God’s Word, though, or coming to God in prayer and praise in thanks for God’s mercies.

How do you know that Jesus was not sinning by angrily overturning the tables and driving out the money changers?

Jesus was not sinning because what was at stake was the glory and honor of God. His temple was to be a place for worship. But isn’t anger always sin? No. God the Father “expresses his wrath every day,” but never sins (Psalm 7:11). Jesus never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). He could not.

Why are Jesus’ words in verse 19 significant?

In John 2:19 our Savior predicted his own resurrection from the dead. When he fulfilled his promise, he proved he truly is God and keeps his Word. That truth gives us sinners hope and comfort. Only God can save us; Jesus is God. He has rescued us! (See Romans 4:25.)

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Second Sunday in Lent

Jesus Calls Us To Follow Him

These are the readings for the Second Sunday in Lent.

God’s Word for This Week

To follow Jesus, we must carry our cross. This means our faith will bring us severe burdens and shame. But through Jesus’ cross, we have such good news: Heaven is open! We can rejoice in our sufferings! By losing our lives for Jesus, we will find them!

FIRST LESSON – Genesis 28:10-17

Whom did Jacob see on the stairway? Above it?

God’s holy angels were going up and down the stairway. The Lord God himself was at the top of the stairway.

What promises did Jacob receive, which include you?

Promises: a) God is the God of all believers, both dead (Abraham) and alive (Isaac and Jacob). Even dead believers are alive with God! b) With all people on earth, we are blessed in Jesus with a holy Savior. c) God will keep all his promises to us, for Jesus’ sake.

SECOND LESSON – Romans 5:1-11

What amazing gifts do we receive by trusting that Jesus died for our sins? (See 5:1,2.)

By trusting that Jesus died for our sins, we stand innocent before God in his court. We have peace toward God. We have entrance into God’s grace. We rejoice because we are sure that we will share glory with God forever.

Why do we rejoice in our sufferings? Isn’t that a bizarre way to act? (See 5:3.)

It might surprise the rest of the world but rejoicing in our sufferings fits with faith in God’s promises. We know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces proven character, and proven character produces confident hope of eternal life.

In Christ, what three things are no longer true about us? (See 5:6,8,10.)

We were powerless; we were sinners; we were God’s enemies. Relying on Jesus’ blood, we are none of those things anymore in God’s sight. We have God’s strength. We are holy in God’s sight. We are God’s friends.

GOSPEL – Mark 8:31-38

Why did Jesus have to suffer and die? (See 8:31.)

Jesus had to die because he had said so. God the Father told him so. God the Spirit said so in the Old Testament in many places. There was no other way we could have eternal life. “For the joy set before him” Jesus endured the cross and scorned its shame (Hebrews 12:2). His joy was seeing us sinners receive the gift of eternal life.

When Jesus told Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” he didn’t mean Satan had taken total control of him and made Peter helpless. What did Jesus mean?

Jesus meant that for Peter to try to keep Jesus from dying for us was satanic. If Jesus hadn’t died for us, we would all have spent eternity with the devil in hell.

Why is trying to become rich apart from God such a poor choice?

Even if we gain the whole world, it won’t do us any good if we lose our souls and end up in eternal fire, body and soul.

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First Sunday in Lent

Jesus Defeats the Devil

These are the readings for the First Sunday in Lent.

God’s Word for This Week

In Lent, we see Jesus go to the cross to suffer and die for us. Today’s lessons show that when God tests us, and the devil tempts us (every day!), Jesus is our holiness before God. He is also our strength and our example. Jesus says we do not live on bread alone. We live on God’s promises. They come to us in holy baptism, in Holy Communion, and straight from the Bible—the book in which every word is from the mouth of God.

FIRST LESSON – Genesis 22:1-18

Abraham believed God would somehow quickly raise Isaac from the dead. (See Hebrews 11:19.) How did Abraham show this to his servants?

See the end of verse 5. Abraham assured his servants that after he and Isaac worshiped atop Mt. Moriah, they would both come back down the mountain.

Who is the Angel of the Lord?

The Angel of the Lord is God the Son himself. The proof is in verses 12 and 16, where the Angel of the Lord speaks of himself as God. 1 Corinthians 10:4 says that the Angel of the Lord was Christ. This does not mean Jesus is a created angel; “angel” in both Hebrew and Greek means “messenger,” essentially. Even before he became man, the Son of God was the Father’s messenger to us.

By what two unchangeable things, which he said to Abraham, did God encourage us to trust in Jesus?

God both made a promise to Abraham and swore by himself. What could be surer? (See Hebrews 6:18.)

SECOND LESSON – Romans 8:31-39

What do we have to endure, for God’s sake? (See 8:36.)

We get killed all day long, so to speak. We suffer great grief and pain. Paul says this by quoting from Psalm 44:22.

Do we conquer in Christ now, forever, or both? (See 8:37.)

We conquer both now and forever. In all our troubles, we are more than conquerors, not just after all our troubles.

Where is God’s love? (See 8:39.)

God’s love is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Since Jesus lives forever, God’s love for us will never end.

GOSPEL – Mark 1:12-15

Who sent Jesus into the desert to be tempted?

God the Holy Spirit drove Jesus (in overly-literal Greek “threw him out” into the desert). We can take comfort that the devil never tempts us unless God allows it.

Wild animals in stadiums threatened some of Mark’s first readers. What comfort did Jesus’ temptation give them?

When Jesus was tempted in the desert, he too was with the wild animals. He overcame all temptations by the same Word that steadied the hearts of martyrs whom Roman officials fed to lions. No matter how God allows us to be tempted, he will always make a way out for us. (See 1 Corinthians 10:13.)

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Transfiguration

Jesus Reveals His Future Glory

These are the readings for Transfiguration Sunday.

God’s Word for This Week

Scripture only records one time when Jesus showed his divine glory. That was on a hilltop in northern Israel. On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter, James, and John got a firsthand (and terrifying) look at Jesus’ perfect glory. Why did Jesus do this? He did it, among many reasons, to give his disciples a glimpse at what the future holds for all believers. They were about to enter a difficult time as disciples. They would see their Messiah crucified. But future glory would follow, by God’s grace.

FIRST LESSON – 2 Kings 2:1-12a

Why was Elisha upset?

He realized that his master, Elijah, was going to be taken away from him.

What request did Elisha have for Elijah?

Elisha asked Elijah for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. He knew he would need spiritual strength when Elijah was gone. In those days the oldest Jewish son would inherit a double portion of the estate, so Elisha seems to be asking to be Elijah’s heir/successor.

How was Elijah taken away into heaven?

A chariot and horses of fire separated Elijah and Elisha, then Elijah was taken to heaven in a whirlwind.

SECOND LESSON – 2 Corinthians 3:12–4:2

To which Old Testament event does Paul refer in this lesson?

When Moses returned from Mt. Sinai, his face shone because he had seen a portion of the Lord’s glory. Moses put a veil over his face because the people couldn’t stand to look at him. Paul says that the stubborn Jews who rejected Jesus as Savior still have a veil over their hearts.

True or false: The old covenant (the law) is more glorious than the new covenant (the gospel).

False. The law brings sin, guilt, and death to sinful people. It is glorious because the law is truth and shows us that God is holy and perfect. But Paul says that the gospel is more glorious because it brings freedom from sin, life, and salvation (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:10,17,18).

As ministers of the glorious gospel, how do we proceed in our mission?

We don’t need to use trickery or sleight of hand. We don’t need to distort the word of God. Instead, we set forth the truth plainly and trust that God works life and salvation through the simple gospel. There’s no need to manipulate the truth to make it more acceptable; glory comes only through the truth of the gospel.

SUPPLEMENTAL SECOND LESSON – 2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Why don’t all people trust in Jesus’ blood?

All people do not trust in Jesus’ blood because the devil, “the god of this age,” has blinded the minds of unbelievers. Result: They cannot see the light of the good news.

In short, who is Jesus, this man who appears in such glory on the Mount of Transfiguration?

Jesus is the image of God. When we see Jesus, we see exactly what God the Father is like.

If you trust in Jesus―unlike many―why is that? (See 4:6.)

The God who did the miracle of making light at the beginning, just by saying, “Let there be light,” did a similar miracle in you. He made light where there was only darkness. He gave you light to know the glory of God in the face of Christ.

GOSPEL – Mark 9:2-9

Who met Jesus and his disciples when they climbed this high mountain?

Jesus and his three disciples met Moses and Elijah, who were generally considered by the Jews to be the two greatest prophets in the Old Testament.

Why did Peter make the suggestion he did in verse 5?

Peter wanted to build shelters on the mountain for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah in order to keep the glory of God all to themselves. Mark the evangelist suggests that Peter was speaking foolishly. Jesus needed to head for Jerusalem, where he would suffer death on a cross to secure eternal glory for his followers. (See 9:9.)

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Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

Jesus is Revealed by His Tireless Compulsion

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. (See 7:7.)

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?” (See 9:22.)

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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Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Jesus is Revealed by Setting Captives Free

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

God’s Word for This Week

We call Jesus our Redeemer. The word “redeem” means to buy back from capture and captivity, to pay a ransom. As sinful human beings, we were captive to the law of God because of our sin and the consequences of sin, principally death. But Jesus has set us free from the law, its threats, and its curses, by keeping God’s law for us perfectly. As Christians, we are no longer “under law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14). But we are not to abuse our Christian freedom. Instead, Jesus has set us free so we will become slaves to righteousness, serving others in love, always thanking our Redeemer.

First Lesson – Deuteronomy 18:15-20

What request did the people of Israel have for the Lord when they had previously assembled at Mt. Horeb (Sinai)?

The Israelites asked that the Lord no longer speak to them with his own voice—in all his majesty. They feared they would die. We sinners cannot deal with holy God in his full glory, as the Lord had told Moses: “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live” (Exodus 33:20).

Whom was the Lord going to send?

The Lord was going to send a prophet from among the people of Israel who would speak on God’s behalf. He meant his own Son, our Savior Jesus.

Which is worse, for a preacher to speak a little that God has not commanded, or to speak in the name of other gods?

Preaching a little false doctrine is just as bad as advocating idolatry. God insists on passing along his Word of Truth 100 percent. Only the truth can combat the father of lies. (See today’s Gospel, Mark 1:21-28.)

Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

What Corinthian problem does Paul address in this chapter?

Paul addresses the important issue of adiaphora (things neither commanded nor forbidden by God). For instance, in the New Testament era, Christians are given the freedom to eat all things, but some Jewish Christians were still having difficulty understanding that they were free from Old Testament ceremonial laws about meat sacrificed to idols.

Whom does Paul address in this chapter?

Paul addresses those who understand that they are free from the ceremonial laws (the strong Christians).

What command does he give them?

Even though they are free as Christians, Paul encourages the strong Christians to surrender their freedom out of loving concern for their fellow Christians (the weak), so that the weak Christians might not sin against their consciences.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Hebrews 3:1-6

Who was greater, Moses or Jesus? Why?

Jesus was greater than Moses. Moses was a faithful servant over God’s house, but Jesus is God’s Son who is over God’s house. Jesus was faithful even when God told him to die on the cross for us with the world’s guilt on him.

Who or what is God’s house on this earth?

We are God’s house, as long as we hold onto our courage and don’t fall away from Christ when others try to influence us. God’s Spirit lives in all Christians together and individually. We have become God’s holy house by faith.

What will happen if we don’t fix our thoughts on Jesus and don’t hold onto the eternal hope Jesus gives?

If we do not, God will not live in us anymore. We will not live with God forever. We will die apart from him, with the devil.

Gospel – Mark 1:21-28

What struck people, when Jesus taught?

Jesus amazed people because he taught others based on his own authority (verses 22, 27), while the Jewish teachers of the law often based their teachings on quotes from famous rabbis.

How did Jesus demonstrate his authority?

Jesus shows his authority by casting out an evil spirit. (Note how the demon tried to scare/ deceive people by screaming out the truth.) Jesus is God. He has the power, ability, and willingness to set us free from the devil and all harm.

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Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Jesus is Revealed by Preaching Repentance

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

God’s Word for This Week

Is God calling you today to sell everything you have, give it away, and move to a foreign country to be a penniless missionary? His Word does not say that. God does call some people to public ministry. He sends some far from home. He gives some of his ministers hard assignments. Note: He calls all believers by our baptisms to be ready to leave anything for him. He left everything for us. He gave his holy life for us.

First Lesson – Jonah 3:1-5,10

What message did Jonah have for Nineveh?

Jonah preached a message of repentance.

What is repentance?

Normally when the Scriptures use the word “repentance,” it not only means that people are sorry for their sins, but that they believe that God forgives them in Jesus. Repentance, then, includes both sorrow over sin and faith that our sins are forgiven. St. Paul explains: “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

What fruit of repentance did the people of Nineveh show?

They declared a fast and put on sackcloth.

Supplemental First Lesson – 1 Kings 19:19-21

Elisha seems to have been from a wealthy family; he plowed with twelve yoke of oxen. Still, what did Elijah call Elisha to do?

Elijah called Elisha to leave behind his family and former duties and to become Elijah’s successor as God’s prophet.

What did Elisha do before leaving his family?

He slaughtered his yoke of oxen and burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat.

What example is God giving you here?

God is giving you an example of full dedication to his call.

Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 7:29-31

What does Paul mean, “the time is short?” (See 7:29.)

Jesus will soon be returning on the Last Day.

What Christian attitude should we have as we look toward the Last Day?

We should live with a penitent attitude, expecting that Jesus will return at any moment. Paul warns that we should not become “engrossed” in the things and people of this world.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Acts 13:1-5

Which of the seven men in Antioch is now known as Paul?

Saul is now known as Paul.

How did other believers set apart Barnabas and Saul for the work to which God the Spirit had called them?

The other believers set apart Barnabas and Saul for public ministry elsewhere as missionaries by fasting, praying, and laying hands on them. (We do similar things today.)

Gospel – Mark 1:14-20

What message did Jesus proclaim?

Jesus preached: “Repent and believe the good news!” Here Jesus uses the “repent” in a more narrow way, referring only to sorrow over sin.

Did Jesus preach his message of repentance by himself?

No. He began to call his disciples to proclaim that message too. What faith they showed by dropping everything and following Jesus!

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Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Jesus is Revealed by His Gospel Call

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

God’s Word for This Week

How is Jesus revealed to the sinful people of this world? Not by threats. God is serious about his “Do’s” and “Don’ts,” but he does not force people to be Christians. Instead, Jesus is revealed to blind sinners by the call of the gospel, God’s word of forgiveness. The Holy Spirit shows us our sin, then calls out “Jesus died for you” in God’s Word and sacraments. He changes unbelievers into believers who want to live for God.

First Lesson – 1 Samuel 3:1-10

Who did Samuel think was calling him?

Samuel thought Eli was calling him.

Who was really calling Samuel?

The Lord was calling Samuel.

What model attitude does Samuel display for Christians?

Samuel displays a humble willingness to hear the Word of the Lord. Today, too—only through the gospel does the Holy Spirit awaken and strengthen faith.

Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

True or false: Christ has freed us from the law.

True. The law is no longer the determining factor for our conduct as Christians. Christians are motivated by the gospel to love God and love one another.

How were some Corinthians abusing their freedom from the law?

Some Corinthians were abusing their Christian freedom to justify sins of the flesh, including sexual immorality.

Why do Christians honor God with their bodies?

Christians do not belong to themselves; Christ has bought us by shedding his blood, rising again, and calling us to faith in him. We no longer live to please ourselves, but him. Our motivation for living Christian lives comes from the gospel, not the law.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

Paul has just warned us about believing the lie that our good works can save us from hell. Now he changes topics. Who gets the credit for saving us?

God gets the credit. God gets all the credit. From the beginning, he chose us to be saved through trusting in Jesus as our Savior. We didn’t decide to become believers. We could not have.

Why did God call us to believe in the truth?

God called us to believe in the truth so that we would share forever in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

True or false? As long as we trust that Jesus died for us, it doesn’t matter if we believe a few lies.

False: Paul urged the Thessalonians to stand firm and hold onto the teachings he had given them face to face and had written to them. We must hold onto all the teachings of the Word of God. We must hold onto what we have learned from the Bible via trustworthy parents, pastors, and teachers. The result? We will get eternal encouragement, good hope, and strength to serve God and our neighbor in whatever callings God has placed us.

Gospel – John 1:43-51

What did Philip do when Jesus commanded: “Follow me?”

Not only did Philip follow Jesus, but he went and told his friend Nathanael also.

How did Nathanael react to Philip’s news?

Nathanael could not believe that the Savior would come from such an insignificant place as Nazareth.

When Nathanael met Jesus, how did he react?

After Nathanael met Jesus, he trusted wholeheartedly that Jesus was the Messiah, the Chosen One.

What now unites heaven and earth like a stairway?

Something more amazing than the stairway Jacob once saw in a dream (Genesis 28) now unites heaven and earth. Jesus is the mediator between God and all sinners. He opens heaven to all believers. Trust only in him.

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