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 grape vine. 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 or not 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. That being said, however, 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. They are still necessary.

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 (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 (20:28)?

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

Who are the “savage wolves” whom Paul mentions (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 (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 (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.

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 literally 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 too 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.

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 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.

TRADITONAL 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.

Easter Day

He has Risen! Alleluia!

These are the Scripture 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 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 “first fruits”?

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 (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!

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. 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.

Lent 5

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 says 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 9 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.

Lent 4

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 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 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 in 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 which highlight 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 (John 5:24).

Lent 3

Jesus Rescues Us From God’s Law

These are the readings for the Third Sunday in Lent.

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 mind 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 verse 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 verse1.)

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.)

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Jesus is Revealed by His Tireless Compulsion to Preach the Gospel

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

God’s Word for This Week

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

First Lesson – Job 7:1–7

How was Job feeling about his life?

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

Why did Job feel the way he did?

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

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

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

Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 9:16-23

How much was Paul being paid to preach?

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

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

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

What was Paul’s motivation to preach?

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

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 8:28–30

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

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

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

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

What unbroken chain does Paul want us to picture?

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

Gospel – Mark 1:29–39

How did Jesus feel after a long day of ministry?

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

How did Jesus respond to the demands of the people?

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

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 28, 2017

The Church is Meant for all People

These are the readings for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

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

Prayer of the Day

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

First Lesson – Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

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

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

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

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

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

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

What hope still exists for the Jewish people?

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

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

Supplemental First Lesson – Joshua 2:8-21

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

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

Gospel – Matthew 15:21-28

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

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 7, 2017

The Christian Seeks Spiritual Wealth

These are the readings for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

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

Prayer of the Day

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

First Lesson – 1 Kings 3:5-12

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

Second Lesson – Romans 8:28-30

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

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 Timothy 6:17-21

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

Gospel – Matthew 13:44-52

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

Fifth Sunday of Lent – March 7, 2016

Jesus Is the Cornerstone of Our Faith

These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent.

God’s Word for This Week

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

First Lesson – Isaiah 43:16-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

Traditional Second Lesson – Philippians 3:8-14

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

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

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

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

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 11:11-21

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

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

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

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

Gospel – Luke 20:9-19

What does this parable teach us about Christ?

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

What does this parable teach us about men?

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

What does this parable teach us about God?

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

Pentecost 22 – October 19, 2015

Jesus Shows Us True Greatness

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

God’s Word for This Week

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

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 53:10-12

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

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

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

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

Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Chronicles 26:16-23

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

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

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

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

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 4:9-16

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

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

What superior “rest” does Jesus give?

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

How is Jesus a superior High Priest?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gospel – Mark 10:35-45

How did the disciples define greatness?

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

According to Jesus, how should we define greatness?

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

Pentecost 21 – October 12, 2015

Jesus Warns Us to Guard against Greed

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

God’s Word for This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Kings 5:14-27

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

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

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

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

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 3:1-6

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

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

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

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

Supplemental Second Reading – Hebrews 13:1-6

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

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

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

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

Gospel – Mark 10:17-27

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

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

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

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

Pentecost 9 – July 19, 2015

Jesus Gives the Bread of Life by his Faithful Word

These are the readings for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost.

 

God’s Word for This Week

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

Traditional First Lesson – Jeremiah 23:1-6

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

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

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

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

Supplemental First Lesson – Numbers 27:12-23

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

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

How did God describe Joshua, Moses’ replacement?

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

Traditional Second Lesson – Ephesians 2:13-22

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

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

Upon what does Paul say this Christian Church is built?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gospel – Mark 6:30-34

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

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

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

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

How did Jesus respond to the people’s needs?

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