Session 1 Questions
- How do the Gospels inform us about Jesus?
- What early Christian convictions about the meaning of Jesus were shared by the Gospel writers?
- What were some consequences of putting oral traditions into writing?
- How are we to read the Gospels?
- What stood out for you in the Deuteronomy passages about what is to be remembered and why?
- What ways or forms did the writers of 2 Timothy and 1 Peter use to present what is to be remembered about Jesus and the purpose for remembering?
- How did use of these words (so that, for, and so as) serve the writer's purpose?
- What is the setting? What is said about Jesus? How does the writer fashion what he says to fit the listeners? To what in their experience does the writer appeal?
- What aspect (or aspects) of Jesus did the writer of this passage consider important enough to be handed on as tradition?
- What purposes were these traditions to fulfill?
- What is your understanding of what constitutes the gospel?
- Where and how is the gospel expressed in these passages?
- What insights, wisdom, and guidance might we glean from study of the connection between how a story is told and why it is told that can help us hand on to others the gospel we have received?
- How can knowing the kind of writing the Gospels are help us know what to expect from them?
- What is the gospel they believed?
- How has the core gospel message that Paul received and handed on been handed on to me?
- Why is it so crucial to hand on the Gospels’ witness that we have received to Jesus?
- What particular challenges face us in accomplishing this task?
- Who is the Jesus you bring with you to this study?
Session 2 Questions
- Why did Matthew include the genealogy?
- What is the significance of the names he included?
- Why does the outline of Matthew’s first few chapters parallel the life of Moses in the Old Testament?
- What was the prophet’s original purpose in speaking the words in each passage?
- What is Matthew’s purpose in claiming that what was spoken by these prophets was fulfilled in Jesus?
- What do the figures in Matthew’s genealogy represent in terms of Israel’s history?
- Why are they important?
- And why is it important for Matthew that Jesus be connected to them?
- Why does Matthew make explicit the connection between Jesus the Messiah and God’s promise to David in the Old Testament?
- What questions do you have about the birth and infancy of Jesus that Matthew leaves unanswered?
- Why do you think Matthew does not answer those questions?
- What questions about Jesus does Matthew answer?
- What response do you think Matthew expects us to make to his account of Jesus’ birth?
- In light of your work, why do you think Matthew states Jesus’ identity as Messiah in terms of relationships?
- What does Matthew accomplish by including the darker elements in the story of Jesus’ birth and infancy?
- What more about Jesus’ identity do we know because we know about these threats to Jesus so early in his story?
- What makes trusting God’s promises difficult when they are kept in ways we do not expect?
- What claims would you say Matthew makes about Jesus in this birth story?
- What claim does the Jesus in Matthew’s “birth story” make on you?
Session 3 Questions
- What do Luke’s major themes suggest about God’s purpose in Jesus?
- What does the idea that Chapters 1–2 are an introduction to Luke and Acts say about Luke’s purpose in telling the story of Jesus’ birth?
- What does Luke’s emphasis on the celebration accompanying Jesus’ birth say about who Jesus is in Luke’s Gospel?
- What would the church miss in its observance of Advent and Christmas without Luke 1–2?
- What does it mean for the angel to call Mary “favored”?
- What does it mean to say “God favors”?
- What do you think Luke is trying to say in using those words so frequently to tell the birth story of Jesus?
- What is Luke saying about Jesus by showing a connection between Hannah’s prayer and the prayers of Mary and Zechariah?
- How is the theme of reversal expressed in the three prayers?
- And why is that theme part of Luke’s story of Jesus’ birth?
- How might these Scriptures have nurtured Simeon’s and Anna’s hopes for the salvation of Israel?
- How might the Scriptures have informed Luke’s understanding of the meaning of the births of John and Jesus?
- How does Luke make clear the roles of John and Jesus by telling about their births in similar ways?
- Why was it important for Luke to situate John and Jesus in devout Jewish life?
- Who are the people each Gospel writer includes in the story of Jesus' birth? Why are they important for understanding who Jesus is?
- How does that emphasis contribute to each Gospel’s distinctive message about Jesus?
- What do you make of each Gospel’s portrayal of Joseph and Mary?
- How do dreams in Matthew and the Holy Spirit in Luke function in the telling of Jesus’ birth? What are similarities and differences in their functions?
- How does each Gospel convey what the writer considers is important about Jesus?
- What is Luke’s purpose in giving the Temple a prominent place in the story of Jesus’ birth?
- By emphasizing the Temple and the Jewish piety of Mary and Joseph in Chapters 1–2, what does Luke want his readers to understand about Jesus?
- How are Matthew 1–2 and Luke 1–2 both more than and less than “birth stories”?
- How would your understanding of Jesus’ birth be affected if the church celebrated Christmas and Easter together?
- What aspects of Luke’s birth story combine to express your faith in Jesus?
Session 4 Questions
- What was central to the message of John the Baptist?
- What about John’s message prompted the Gospels to connect him to the prophet Elijah in particular?
- How do the Gospels see John the Baptist as a messianic forerunner?
- If both John and Jesus insisted on repentance, what is the difference in their message and their mission?
- What does the passage tell you about John? What does the passage tell you about Jesus? What does the passage tell you about the mission of John and its significance or understanding the mission of Jesus?
- What does the passage tell you about Elijah?
- Based on this passage, what parallels do you see between Elijah and John the Baptist?
- What is the significance of Mark’s omission of the content of John’s preaching?
- What is the significance of Luke’s inclusion of John’s words spelling out what repentance entails?
- What do the variations in the length of the quotation say about each Gospel’s understanding of how John the Baptist fulfills Isaiah’s promise?
- Why do you think John’s Gospel has John the Baptist himself claim to fulfill the words of Isaiah?
- How does knowing who his audience is affect our understanding of John’s preaching?
- For Matthew, what is the significance of hearing Jesus preach with words identical to John’s words?
- How do you account for the distinction between John’s baptism and baptism in Jesus’ name?
- How does each Gospel convey Jesus’ view of John’s role in relationship to himself?
- Given how the Gospels describe John the Baptist, what do you think motivated John’s question to Jesus in Matthew 11:2-3?
- Why was Jesus not what John expected?
- Why do both Gospels record Jesus’ speaking highly of John and also contrasting his mission
with John’s mission?
- How do these passages from Isaiah both connect and differentiate the missions of John and Jesus?
- How would you say John prepared the way for Jesus’ mission?
- Who is this Jesus John the Baptist points to?
- What is it about Jesus that makes John important?
Session 5 Questions
- How were the trials of the righteous understood in Mark’s time?
- Why was Jesus tempted right after he was baptized?
- What was God’s role and purpose in Jesus’ being tempted?
- What role did Satan play?
- What was the outcome of Jesus’ having endured temptation?
- What can we draw from Jesus’ example when facing temptation?
- What do those differences say about what each writer wants to emphasize about Jesus?
- What did you observe about the link between baptism and the temptation?
- What more is there to the link than closeness on the page?
- What emphasis is Luke making both in the way he records the genealogy and in his placement of it between his account of the baptism and the temptation?
- How does John’s account of the baptism compare in tone and intention with the Synoptics’ accounts?
- Why do you think John did not include a temptation story?
- What difference does that make in the way you picture Jesus?
- What message was Jesus sending by each comment?
- What message did his hearers hear, and why did they react so strongly?
- What angle on Jesus is Luke emphasizing in his references to the experiences of Elijah and Elisha?
- What is important in Luke 4:16-30 about the coming of the Spirit to Jesus?
- How do the differences in detail affect the telling and the impact of the story?
- How does the parable address temptation?
- Where is temptation present in the passage about Jesus in the garden?
- To what temptation does Peter succumb in Luke 22:31-34?
- What is the connection in the temptation experience between Jesus and Israel?
- What difference, if any, do you think the sequence makes in how each writer wants to present Jesus?
- What does the sequence say about the lure of temptation?
- How does the difference in climax in the accounts affect your understanding of Jesus?
- What temptations do we resist if we heed the exhortations in Hebrews 12:12-17?
- In what forms, shapes, guises, or words do those same issues confront us?
- In what sense can disciples also make choices that settle issues?
- What do the stories of Jesus’ baptism and temptation tell us that is important for the ways we understand Jesus?
- In what ways does the tempted/tested Jesus challenge and comfort you?
Session 6 Questions
- What expectations of the kingdom of God did Jesus challenge?
- According to Jesus, how does the way of the Kingdom manifest itself?
- What kind of response does the Kingdom require?
- How do these insights help us understand what the kingdom of God means?
- What is it about the kingdom of God that prompts Jesus to speak of it with parables? and what about parables makes them appropriate for talking about the kingdom of God?
- What characteristics of God’s kingdom or God’s kingship do the images in these passages convey?
- How are people expected to respond to God’s kingdom or kingship?
- How does the rich young man understand the demands of the Law?
- How does Jesus understand them?
- How does Jesus understand the relationship between the demands of the Law and the demands of God’s kingdom?
- What aspects of God’s kingdom make riches an obstacle for those seeking the Kingdom?
- In what way do the stories of Jesus and the children and Jesus and the rich man— read together—inform your understanding of the demands of God’s kingdom?
- In light of what you have learned thus far about the idea of God’s kingdom or kingship, complete this sentence: The kingdom of God is . . .
- How is the word picture in a parable essential to the meaning of the parable?
- What makes these parables appropriate for speaking of God’s kingdom?
- Why do ordinary images succeed in communicating the extraordinary nature of God’s kingdom?
- How does Luke’s omission of the various yield amounts affect the meaning of the parable?
- How does Mark’s inclusion of Jesus’ rebuke of the disciples at the beginning of the passage affect the interpretation of the parable?
- How does each Gospel writer understand the purpose of Jesus’ speaking in parables?
- In light of Jesus’ use of parables and keeping in mind the lesson title, how do you understand that statement?
- What does it mean to order our life so that it accords with God’s will even before God’s reign is acknowledged everywhere?
- What insights into Jesus do you get through the parables he told about God’s reign?
Session 7 Questions
- How did Jesus carry out his role as rabbi to his followers?
- How would you describe the relationship between a rabbi and a disciple?
- How did each of these three groups serve Jesus’ purpose: followers? disciples? apostles?
- What special purposes did the Twelve serve?
- What does Luke want to tell us through this account (Luke 5:1-11)?
- Who is involved and what part does each person play in the story?
- What are the meanings under the words?
- What does John want to tell us about Jesus by the way he reports Jesus’ acquiring disciples?
- What did Jesus appoint the twelve apostles to do?
- How would you describe the disciples’ privilege in accompanying Jesus?
- Why do you think the disciples so often missed the point of what Jesus said and did?
- What made Jesus’ message hard for the disciples to hear and understand?
- What evidence do you see that as well as not understanding Jesus, the disciples did not understand themselves?
- What does the combination of the disciples’ privilege and failure suggest about Mark’s understanding of discipleship itself?
- How would you describe Jesus’ attitude toward the disciples? the disciples’ attitude toward Jesus?
- How does Matthew soften Mark’s portrayal of the disciples?
- What were the disciples learning about Jesus, his mission, discipleship, and themselves in these stories from Luke?
- What does this story tell us about the disciples’ relationship to Jesus?
- How do you understand the word deliberate in saying that discipleship is a deliberate positive response to Jesus’ call?
- How does Jesus’ mission define our mission as disciples today?
- What sense do you get of Jesus and his mission by the disciples he called and the way he called them?
Session 8 Questions
- How do the stories of healings and exorcisms illustrate Jesus’ message that the kingdom of God has come near?
- What are the Gospel writers saying when they attribute sickness to demons?
- In what sense is the Christian's experience of the Kindgom both present and future?
- How did Jesus heal the person(s), or how did the healing happen?
- How did others on the scene respond?
- What happened as a result of the healing?
- On what occasions and why did Jesus take the initiative?
- What clues to Jesus’ intentions come through in what he said?
- What words and actions were common to the various stories?
- What do you think each Gospel writer wanted to emphasize about Jesus in the way each told the healing stories?
- How might these Scriptures have informed or inspired Jesus’ healing actions?
- What understandings and assumptions in these Scriptures are reflected in the healing stories in the Gospels?
- Where do you see similarities in methods of healing and requirements of the person being healed in these passages and in the Gospel stories?
- What information and actions are common to all of the accounts?
- How do the demons or unclean spirits affect the persons in whom they reside?
- What is the significance of the demons’ addressing Jesus?
- How does Jesus demonstrate his authority in each situation?
- How would you characterize the difference between exorcisms and healings?
- From these reports how would you say Jesus’ mission was defining the mission of the disciples?
- How does the viewpoint of each writer come through in his choice of what information to include and what information to exclude from the story?
- What does each writer consider significant about Jesus, and how does each account convey that significance?
- What point is Mark making by his placement of the passage?
- How does our physical self affect our inner and spiritual self? How does our inner self affect our body?What does caring for the body include? What does caring for the inner/spiritual self include?
- What do Jesus’ healing activities say about who Jesus is?
Session 9 Questions
- What three issues concerned both Jesus and the Pharisees in their debates?
- What did Jesus and the Pharisees have in common that made them more alike than different?
- What is Oral Torah and what are its functions?
- What are some cautions for Christians who read the Gospels and their accounts of Jesus’ conflicts with the Pharisees?
- What understandings about obedience and God’s will underlie the issue at conflict—for the Pharisees? for Jesus?
- What is the significance of Jesus’ using examples from Scripture to justify the actions of the disciples?
- What is the message in Jesus’ reference to the Son of Man as lord of the Sabbath?
- On what points might Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees have differed in their understanding of what the Scriptures required in terms of obedience to God’s will?
- What have you discovered about Jesus’ distinct understanding of God’s will in Scripture?
- What constitutes blaspheming the Holy Spirit?
- What point is Jesus making through the verses he quotes from Isaiah?
- According to Jesus, what does and does not defile?
- What constitutes obedience to God—for Jesus? for the scribes and Pharisees?
- What is the potential impact of the statement on how we view our own actions?
- How have you experienced or observed the truth of this Scripture [Luke 12:49-56]?
- What are the risks in being loyal to Jesus?
- What side of Jesus comes through in the reports of his conflicts with religious leaders?
Session 10 Questions
- What does Jesus’ sermon teach about the kingdom of heaven?
- What does Jesus’ sermon teach about Christian discipleship?
- How do the Beatitudes challenge the usual understanding of blessing?
- How would you describe the alternative worldview required of Jesus’ followers?
- What conclusions do you draw about Jesus’ teaching and the Scriptures he knew?
- What is Luke telling his readers by placing the woes after the blessings?
- How does the experience of choice differ from the experience of reversal?
- How does Jesus’ promise of reversal of present circumstances address you and your group?
- What is the meaning of perfect?
- What is the meaning of righteousness?
- Why would these words of Jesus have been particularly important to his Jewish followers?
- What is Jesus saying here that Christian readers need to hear?
- What constitutes the higher level of commitment called for by Jesus’ teaching?
- Why is obeying Jesus no easier than obeying Moses?
- What is Jesus doing in putting his teaching next to the Law in this way?
- How do you define the “good life”?
- How does the Bible define the “good life”?
- How did Jesus define the “good life”?
- What are the marks of the “good life”?
- What picture of Jesus emerges in the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain?
Session 11 Questions
- What connections do you see between Jesus’ criticism of accumulating wealth and Old Testament teachings on caring for the poor and loyalty to God?
- What attitudes and actions related to money serve wealth rather than God?
- What words and images in the Lord’s Prayer reveal its roots in Jewish Scripture?
- What makes the Lord’s Prayer the prayer of the community and of the individual?
- How does your believing that the God who sees in secret will reward you express confidence in God?
- What does the desire to be seen by God or to be seen by others have to do with the heart?
- What themes and teachings in this passage likely informed or influenced Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6?
- What does the passage teach about counting on God?
- What does it mean to say that God is not to be confused with the world?
- What does the list suggest about reliance on God?
- What is the connection between our having offended God and our understanding of forgiveness?
- Why do the teachings of Matthew 6 make us uncomfortable?
- How can we begin to assess the difference between necessities and wants?
- If we put the Kingdom first, what happens in how we think about “these things”?
- How does each passage address or express the seductive power of money—whether we have little or much?
- What is involved in making the choice between serving God and serving money?
- What does Jesus teach by word and example about counting on God?
- In what sense are Jesus’ word and example applicable equally to the prosperous and the poor?
- What does the Jesus of Matthew 6 require of you?
Session 12 Questions
- What is the connection between judgment and other biblical themes such as sin? grace? love? forgiveness? hope? God’s lordship over creation and history?
- How did Jesus’ teaching bring together the concepts of the kingdom of God and the “day of the Lord” (final judgment)?
- How does belief in the Last Judgment shape and empower the life of disciples?
- How do Jesus’ teachings both warn and assure his followers?
- How is the disciple’s present connected with God’s future?
- How are these verses generally understood, quoted, and applied?
- How does knowing that the passages are addressed to the church and the practice of correcting one another affect your understanding?
- What new insights come with understanding that the “hypocrite” is the fellow disciple?
- What are the implications of understanding that the meaning here of judge is condemn and that “be judged” refers to God’s judging at the Last Judgment?
- What is the difference between condemning a person and making moral judgments about right and wrong?
- What are the gates, doors, roads that confront us with choices?
- What makes the easy road attractive?
- What causes you to nod in agreement when you read these sayings of Jesus about the road to life and the road to death?
- What answer do these passages give to the question of how to tell the true prophet from the false prophet?
- What is the test of a true prophet?
- What different forms did false prophecy take?
- What characterized the false prophets?
- What is the warning in these verses and what is sobering about them?
- What judgments are ours to make?
- What guidance is here for the judgments we must make?
- In what sense can making moral judgments be dangerous?
- What is the message in the claim that God shows no partiality in terms of judgment?
- How does the passage describe the difficulties and the choices that will come?
- What counsel, encouragement, and warnings here are meant to aid faithfulness?
- In what sense is adhering to the demands of the two sermons a way of allowing ourselves to be judged by the teacher?
- What is difficult and demanding in the Jesus you hear in Matthew 7?
Session 13 Questions
- Why was it important for the Gospels to connect Jesus’ nature miracles with similarly miraculous events in Israel’s history?
- What do the nature miracles in the Gospels tell us about Jesus? about God? about God’s kingdom?
- How has your imagination been enlarged by your reading of Jesus’ nature miracles?
- What does Mark say about Jesus and about his disciples by telling two feeding stories?
- Why is Mark 8:14-21 important for Mark as a whole?
- Why does Mark link the disciples’ failure to understand with Jesus’ greatest miracles?
- What connections do you see between the Bible’s view of nature as God’s creation and Matthew’s portrayal of Jesus’ nature miracles?
- How does hearing Mark 6:30–8:30 read without those verses change the Gospel’s picture of Jesus?
- What is the significance of Exodus 16 and Isaiah 55 for understanding the meaning of Jesus’ deeds in John 6:1-34?
- How does John’s emphasis on the crowd’s misunderstanding affect the Gospel’s picture of Jesus?
- How does that emphasis affect the meaning of Jesus’ nature miracles?
- What claim about Jesus’ mission is each evangelist making?
- How do these different explanations of signs all support Jesus’ mission?
- How did Jesus’ sayings about signs challenge the expectations of the Pharisees and the disciples?
- In what ways do Christians today still seek signs to confirm who Jesus is?
- What do the close similarities in the Synoptic accounts suggest about the meaning of the story?
- How do you think the Gospels’ first readers understood the disciples’ response, “Who then is this . . .?”
- How do the differences in the story affect how you see Jesus and the disciples?
- What clues do Jesus’ words give you to the different purposes of the two stories?
- When you read the stories of the nature miracles, who is the Jesus you see?
Session 14 Questions
- How do you explain the difference between Peter’s idea of the expected messiah and Jesus’ idea of himself as Messiah?
- Why would Jews of the first century have been shocked by depictions of a suffering Messiah and a resurrected Son of Man?
- In speaking of his life as a ransom (Mark 10:45), what was Jesus saying about his purpose?
- Where in these statements does the weightiness of the concept of destiny come through?
- How do Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts differ from Mark’s account?
- What do the exchanges between Jesus and Peter (including Peter’s answer to Jesus’ question) in each account contribute to your understanding of Jesus’ identity?
- What significance do you see in the prediction and the command having been placed together?
- What point do you think Mark is making?
- What are the demands in this view of cross-bearing?
- What connection do you see between allowing Jesus’ destiny to shape our own and the statement, “Who we are today works its way into who we will be tomorrow”?
- What is the significance of the inclusion of the words “listen to him” by the voice at the Transfiguration though those words are missing at the baptism?
- What does Jesus’ transfiguration convey about his identity and destiny?
- How does Mark 9:1 serve as a link between Jesus’ first Passion prediction and the Transfiguration?
- What is offensive about a suffering Messiah?
- What do we want to avoid in the image of a suffering Messiah—the detail in the suffering? the reason for the suffering? something else?
- How do you answer Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?”
Session 15 Questions
- According to Matthew’s Gospel, what are some essential characteristics of the church?
- In what ways do Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 18 reflect Matthew’s expectations of those who make up the church?
- What does Jesus’ use of a child to illustrate his teaching about the Kingdom say about (1) what the Kingdom is, (2) what the Kingdom is not, and (3) who may enter the Kingdom?
- How does the context of this passage in each Gospel affect your understanding of the meaning of Jesus’ teaching in each Gospel?
- How does what Jesus says to the disciples indicate what each Gospel wants us to know about Jesus? about the disciples?
- What effect does Mark 9:38 (and Luke 9:49) have on the message of this passage?
- What does the placement of Jesus’ parable of the debtor (Matthew 18:23-35) right after his teaching on forgiveness (18:21-22) say about Matthew’s view of church discipline?
- What does the requirement of repentance in Luke 17:4 but not in Matthew 18:21-22 say about the difference between Matthew’s and Luke’s views of forgiveness?
- What does Jesus mean when he talks about binding and loosing (Matthew 18:18), and what are the implications of this teaching for the church’s role in disciplining itself?
- What clue does Luke give to understanding Jesus’ teaching on divorce (Luke 16:18) by not setting it as a response to the Pharisees’ question, as in Matthew and Mark?
- Why do you think Matthew and Mark include an episode involving Jesus and children immediately after a teaching on divorce (but Luke does not)?
- Why do you think the New Testament writers consider the discipline of individual believers so crucial to the well-being of the cummunity of believers?
- What Scriptures from the week’s readings especially point to the importance of proper attitude?
- Why does Matthew connect the parable of the stray sheep to Jesus’ teaching on church discipline?
- How does the relationship between sheep and shepherd in Jesus’ parable illustrate the responsibilities of the church in maintaining its own internal life (Matthew 18:15-20)?
- What does the relationship between the king and his indebted slave illustrate about the significance and difficulty of forgiveness for the church’s internal life?
- What is Jesus’ message (by way of Matthew) to the church in the harsh ending to the parable?
- How can the church hold in tension Jesus’ instruction to forgive seventy-seven times and his parable of the forgiven debtor?
- To what extent does your church follow the disciplining procedures outlined in Matthew 18?
- What keeps a church today from disciplining its members by these procedures?
- What makes Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness so hard to carry out fully?
- What stumbling blocks to your faith do you encounter in church life?
- What stumbling blocks have you placed in the way of others’ faith?
- What surprises you or shocks you about the Jesus who comes through this week’s readings?
Session 16 Questions
- What is the significance of Jerusalem for Jesus in Luke’s Gospel?
- Why is it so important for Luke that Jesus “set his face” toward Jerusalem?
- How and why does Luke present Jesus’ actions and teachings on the way to Jerusalem with a view to Jesus’ passion and resurrection?
- What overall themes connect the passages in each category? In other words, how are Jesus’ parables connected with his eating meals?
- How are Jesus’ teachings connected with his interactions with Pharisees? with his disciples? with marginalized people?
- What does Luke want readers to know about Jesus in these chapters?
- What does the Jesus in these chapters want to convey about himself and his mission?
- What does Luke’s unique report of the mission of the seventy (10:1-20) add to your understanding of Jesus and his disciples in Luke?
- What do you think Luke intended to communicate by combining various sayings of Jesus in 12:35-59, each containing a warning?
- Comparing Luke 14:1-6 with Luke 13:15 and Matthew 12:11, how does the setting for Jesus’ teaching affect the meaning of the teaching?
- How does noting that the stray sheep in Matthew 18:12 is the lost sheep in Luke 15:3-4 affect your understanding of each Gospel’s emphasis in Jesus’ teaching?
- What insights did you discover in comparing the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8 and the persistent friend in 11:5-8?
- How do the images Jesus uses define his teachings about the cost of discipleship? How do his hearers respond to what he says? How do you respond?
- Why is Jesus’ healing on the sabbath met with such opposition? How does Jesus justify his actions as appropriate on the sabbath?
- What does Jesus say about the dangers of wealth for would-be followers?
- How would you summarize the similar message in Jesus’ parable of the dishonest manager, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16), and in his response to the rich ruler (18:18-30)?
- What response does Jesus’ message receive in today’s world? What is your response to it?
- Who hears Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom as bad news and why? Who hears Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom as good news and why?
- According to Jesus, what determines how we receive his message as bad news or good news?
- What would be missing from Luke’s portrayal of Jesus without this material?
- How do you respond to hearing these contrasting messages of Jesus?
- When in this week’s reading did you find Jesus telling you what you needed to hear, not necessarily what you wanted to hear?
- What questions do you have of the Jesus in this week’s readings?
- Who is this Jesus who determines the shape of your discipleship?
Session 17 Questions
- What were expectations of devout Jews living in or near Jerusalem regarding the Temple?
- How did the expansive size of Herod’s Temple contribute to (1) the dispelling of the Temple’s aura of holiness in Jesus’ day and (2) the impact of Jesus’ claim, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”?
- How does awareness of the magnitude of the Temple and its place in Jewish life inform our understanding of Jesus’ actions and teachings related to the Temple?
- What point does Jesus make by cursing the fig tree?
- In what ways do Mark’s placement of the story and Matthew’s placement of the story affect the point of the story?
- How do the passages from Jeremiah 7:1-15 and Isaiah 56:1-8 illuminate the meaning of the story?
- In what way might the message of Jesus’ action in the Temple be different if Mark had left out the story of the fig tree?
- What do the Gospel writers accomplish by quoting passages from the Old Testament (Zechariah 9:9-10; Psalm 118:26) in their accounts of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem?
- Regarding Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, what do the Old Testament quotations reveal about (1) Jesus' understanding of what he is doing? (2) the crowd's understanding of what Jesus is doing? (3) the Gospel writer's understanding of what Jesus is doing?
- To what extent was Jesus’ action in the Temple a continuation of the prophetic call for authentic worship or a call for a new form of worship?
- How does the church’s worship lose its sense of the Holy One today?
- What actions are needed to bring about a correction?
- What do you make of what you see?
- What do you make of Jesus?
- How would you explain what you experienced to someone who did not witness the event?
- What questions or feelings linger with you after the event is over?
- What message about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem does the church’s celebration of Palm Sunday convey?How does that message compare to the message the Gospel writers convey?
- How do these unique features signal what each Gospel writer wants to say about the event?
- How did the disciples reconcile these images of Jesus? Or did they?
- Of these two differing images of Jesus—riding humbly into Jerusalem and driving sellers out of the Temple—which one do you think the church holds up more often and why? Which one do you find easier to identify with and why?
- Describe the Jesus who confronts you both by riding into Jerusalem on a donkey and by overturning tables in the Temple.
Session 18 Questions
- What issues were at stake in the Pharisees’ questioning of Jesus?
- How does knowing that Jesus attacks Jewish leaders from the perspective of a Jewish rival help in understanding the meaning and purpose of his attacks?
- How are we to understand the tough indictments in Matthew 23?
- (1) Who asked the question of Jesus?
(2) What was the question?
(3) What was the purpose in asking the question?
(4) What was Jesus’ answer, and what form did it take?
(5) What response did Jesus’ answer receive?
- What do these passages contribute to the Gospel writer’s portrayal of those opposed to Jesus? of Jesus himself?
- How would the significance of these passages change if their setting were not the Temple?
- What is the relationship between the message of Isaiah’s song of the vineyard (Isaiah 5:1-7) and Jesus’ parable?
- What effect does Matthew’s pairing of the parable of the two sons with the parable of the vineyard have on the messages of both parables?
- Why do you think Luke shortened the quotation about the rejected stone?
- According to Matthew 21:43, who is deprived of the Kingdom and who receives it?
- How does Luke’s omission of Jesus’ accusatory remark in Mark 12:24 change the way Jesus comes across?
- What meaning does Jesus’ fuller response in Luke 20:34-36 add to what Mark and Matthew record?
- Both the Sadducees and Jesus appeal to Torah to make their points. What does that say about the relationship between Jesus and his opponents?
- What does Jesus’ concluding remark convey about what he wants the questioner to understand?
- How does Luke 10:25-28 set the stage for the parable of the Good Samaritan?
- Why does Jesus appeal to John’s authority in responding to a question about his own authority?
- What connection do you see between the issue of Jesus’ authority and all the questions put to Jesus in the Temple?
- How do Jesus’ responses to questions of authority serve each Gospel’s purpose?
- How do Jesus’ words of condemnation differ from the prophets’ words in terms of tone and purpose?
- How might the questions be phrased differently? What different shape might Jesus’ responses take?
- To what extent do the questions the world, the church, or you put to Jesus today relate to the issue of his authority?
- When have you heard these issues raised in the “Temple,” that is, in church life?
- What are your most urgent questions of Jesus at this time in your life of faith? How do you answer these questions: Whom shall we obey? and What may we hope for?
- Why is this Jesus decisive for you?
Session 19 Questions
- What factors in Israel’s history led to the development of apocalyptic writing?
- How is apocalyptic writing related to the promise of God’s covenant in the Old Testament and to the coming of God’s kingdom in the New Testament?
- What apocalyptic themes did Jesus’ message include or reinterpret?
- How does the setting of Jesus’ warnings affect their meaning?
- What does the disciples’ question in each Gospel reveal about what they want to know about the future?
- Why is Jesus concerned about his disciples’ being led astray?
- What connection do you see between the prophet’s judgment of Israel and Jesus’ prediction of what his disciples will face?
- What did the Gospel (Luke 21:28)?
- Why has that urging been necessary for succeeding generations of Christians?
- Why are the Scriptures in this lesson difficult to hear and to heed for many Christians? for you?
- Why do Mark 13, Matthew 24, and Luke 21 all outline a sequence of future events but keep secret the exact time of the end of the age?
- According to the parable in Matthew 25:1-13, what constitutes being prepared for the coming of the Kingdom?
- What are the consequences of being unprepared?
- What does Luke 12:35-36 add to the parable’s call to preparedness?
- What is Luke’s purpose in introducing the subplot and how does it affect the meaning of the parable?
- What does each parable teach about preparedness and accountability in light of the coming Kingdom?
- What message do you hear in the harsh ending to each parable?
- How does Matthew’s parable of the talents (25:14-30) prepare you for understanding the Last Judgment (25:31-46)?
- What does seeing the needy recipient of deeds of mercy as judge in the end, contribute to your understanding of Jesus’ teachings in this week’s readings?
- What is it about Jesus as judge that calls you to be obedient in the present and unafraid of the future?
Session 20 Questions
- What images do the Gospel writers use to connect God's covenant with Israel and God’s redemptive purpose through Jesus?
- What does Jesus’ acceptance of the cup accomplish?
- Why is the meal with the cup pivotal and decisive for our salvation?
- What does it mean to say that the word must establish the perspective of the Passion story?
- What role did each person (the anointer, the betrayer, the denier) play in Jesus’ passion?
- How did Jesus respond to each of them?
- When you hear them mentioned, what comes to mind?
- Why do the Synoptics call the meal “Passover”?
- What is the relationship between Jesus’ actions and his words in the ritual?
- What is your understanding of why the actions and the words must never be separated?
- How do Jesus’ actions enact the meaning of his death?
- What action of the disciples made them participants in the meaning of Jesus’ death?
- What words and images from covenant-making between God and Israel in the Old Testament did Jesus draw on in his saying about cup and covenant?
- How then did Jesus restate the meaning of his death at this meal?
- How does Jesus’ Gethsemane prayer confront the disciple?
- How is Jesus’ agony in the garden good news for the disciple who is resisting God’s will?
- Picture Jesus at each event in the Passion story and then describe the whole Jesus you see.
Session 21 Questions
- What was the purpose of crucifixions in Palestine of Jesus’ day?
- What was the purpose of Jesus’ crucifixion?
- How did Jesus challenge both religious and political authorities?
- In what way was Jesus’ death on the cross inevitable?
- What is the connection between Jesus’ death on the cross and his identity?
- How do the Gospels portray the disciples’ understanding of Jesus’ destiny achieved?
- How are Jesus’ passion predictions important for our understanding of Jesus’ destiny achieved?
- Identify the titles used to describe Jesus in each Gospel. Who uses them, and what role do they play in the Passion story?
- Identify the last words Jesus speaks in each Gospel.What do they disclose about how the Gospel writer wants the reader to view Jesus in his dying?
- Of what importance is Pilate to each Gospel’s telling of the story of Jesus’ last hours?
- Of what importance is Pilate to each Gospel’s depiction of the Jewish authorities opposed to Jesus?
- How do you regard Pilate—as a villain? a saint? what?
- How is the message proclaimed about Jesus’ passion in early preaching like or unlike the message proclaimed in the Gospel stories?
- What effect does the Gospels’ lack of detail in telling the events of Jesus’ suffering and death have on the way you picture the scene? What is your response to the scene you picture?
- What details of information or insight do these passages add to the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ passion?
- If we did have more information about Jesus’ passion, would we find it easier to become his followers? Why or why not?
- Why are these people important enough to be included in the Gospel accounts? How would their absence affect the meaning of Jesus’ passion?
- As a result of their experience of Jesus’ crucifixion, what do you think they understood about Jesus?
- In what ways do the experiences in your life influence how you read the Passion story, particularly at this time?
- Having studied the story of Jesus’ crucifixion, how do you understand Jesus’ call to take up your cross and follow him?
- The Gospels alert us to the uncomfortable fact that the same realities that animated those hostile to Jesus also animate us. When has that been true for you?
- Why is this crucified Jesus the one you look for and want to follow?
Session 22 Questions
- How was Jesus’ resurrection unlike other examples of raising the dead in Scripture?
- What does it mean to say that the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection are “the complement of events in the life of God that constitute the mission of the Son of God in the world”?
- How does God use the Resurrection to get our attention, and what does the Resurrection mean for our lives?
- According to Paul, why is the Resurrection central to the good news of Jesus?
- Where in Paul’s letters do you see support for the claim that what is really at stake in resurrection is the nature and power of God?
- What other image might express a similar insight about the concept of resurrection?
- What truth about Jesus’ resurrection does each Gospel writer express through this portion of the story.
- According to the Gospels, why is the Resurrection central to the good news of Jesus?
- Why is the distinction between resuscitation and resurrection so important to make in understanding the first Easter?
- Where do you see evidence today of the Sadducees’ misunderstanding of the concept of resurrection—status quo ante?
- Which of the five things helps you most appreciate what the Scriptures do say about Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearances?
- Which of Jesus’ appearances—to Mary Magdalene, to the disciples, to the two at Emmaus, to Thomas—leaves you most able to confirm, “God raised Jesus from the dead”?
- Which of the two endings of Mark do you think is most consistent with the Gospel’s purpose?
- Assuming Mark does end with 16:8, what response do you think the Gospel intended readers to make?
- What is the significance of Matthew’s setting the concluding scene on a mountain?
- How do Jesus’ words in 28:20 convey the character and content of Matthew’s Gospel?
- What response do you think Matthew intended his readers to make at the end of his Gospel?
- What meaning does Jesus’ appearance to the disciples on the road to Emmaus add to Luke’s conclusion?
- How does Jesus’ being recognized in “the breaking of the bread” fit with the overall message of Luke?
- What response do you think Luke intended his readers to make at the end of his Gospel?
- What does Thomas’s expression of doubt and ultimate confession of Jesus as Lord say about the intent of John’s Gospel?
- Why doesn’t John report the Ascension, even though Jesus often predicts it (John 14:2, 3, 28; 16:5-11, 28; 20:17)?
- How has the transformed Jesus effected change in someone’s life because of a change he made in your life?
- How does this resurrected Jesus reveal to you the purpose and power of God?
Session 23 Questions
- What connections does John want his readers to make between Jesus’ story and the Creation story in Genesis?
- What is the relationship between God and the Word?
- What is the role of the Word?
- Why is John’s story of Jesus a story of God?
- What is your understanding of the Incarnation? of Jesus as the incarnate Word?
- How does the passage describe the relation of Christ to Creation?
- From John’s perspective, what does this passage from Genesis tell us about the relation of Christ and Creation?
- How is wisdom described here? What is her relationship to God?
- How does she describe her role in Creation?
- How do these passages celebrate wisdom’s role in Creation?
- What does Jesus’ promise to Nathanael (John 1:51) reveal about Jesus’ mission?
- Where do the Isaiah passages indicate that the Redeemer is the Creator?
- How does the John passage insist that the Redeemer is the Creator?
- Who is the Word according to John?
- According to the Prologue, whom is the story of Jesus about?
- What are we to expect in the story of Jesus?
- Why is Jesus so important?
- How does the Gospel of John subordinate the Baptizer more strongly than do the Synoptics?
- Why is John not jealous of Jesus’ popularity?
- Why do you think John the Baptizer is so confident that he knows who Jesus is and why Jesus is decisive for humankind?
- How does Jesus as the Word broaden, challenge, or confirm your understanding of who Jesus is?
Session 24 Questions
- What is the life Jesus gives in each of the five stories?
- What is John’s concept of eternal life?
- How does the conversation between the Samaritan woman and Jesus overcome the barriers of gender, nationality, and religion?
- Where in these stories do you see Jesus as the fulfillment of Israel’s hopes?
- What does the word glory in these verses mean?
- How did Jesus reveal his glory in the sign in Cana?
- How did Jesus’ turning water into wine at the beginning of his story foreshadow the significance of his death at the end?
- What does Jesus’ sign in Cana signify about Jesus?
- How does Jesus’ response to the request for a sign (John 2:19) illustrate the way Jesus uses words in the Gospel of John?
- What is the significance in the fact that Jesus’ sign in Cana and his action in the Temple both have to do with Jewish religious practices?
- What words did Jesus use that Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman heard but did not hear what the words conveyed?
- How are such words of Jesus like signs?
- How is believing manifested in these stories?
- What do you learn from Jesus’ words and the men’s responses about seeing and believing?
- What is the implication for us in Jesus’ response to Thomas?
- What do these chapters convey about Jesus’ mission?
- Describe the Jesus you encountered through his signs.
Session 25 Questions
- How does Jesus speak about his relationship with God to define his origin, mission, and authority?
- What does Jesus’ relationship to God enable him to accomplish?
- How does Jesus’ teaching about eternal life depend on his teaching about God as his Father?
- What is Jesus saying about the source of his words and deeds?
- Why is it crucial for John’s Gospel that Jesus clarify the nature of his relation to God?
- How does this healing show God “is still working”?
- In light of Genesis 2:2-3 (when God rested on the sabbath), what is the implication of Jesus’ claim in John 5:17 that God works on the sabbath?
- How do Jesus’ two views of “life”—eternal life (5:24) and life after death (5:28-29)—express Jesus’ mission?
- Why are Jesus’ opponents “astonished” at his teaching?
- What meaning do the allusions give to Jesus’ claim to be the “bread of life”?
- What part do the allusions play in provoking the complaints of the Jews (6:41) and the disciples (6:61)?
- What issues do the allusions raise for our understanding of Jesus’ mission?
- How does the question about the source of Jesus’ teaching in John 7:15 compare in tone to similar questions in Mark 6:2-3 and Luke 4:22?
- What do the question in John 7:15 and Jesus’ response say about the issue of Jesus’ authority?
- How is the issue of the Messiah’s origin (7:25-31) related to the issue of Jesus’ authority?
- How is Jesus’ offer in John 7:37-38 the answer to the question of his messiahship?
- What does John reveal about Jesus through what others say against him?
- How does what John’s Prologue says about Jesus help make sense of what Jesus says about himself?
- What do Jesus’ words about the life he offers say about God? about Jesus’ mission? about the expectations of those who receive it? about the fate of those who reject it?
- Why do Jesus’ teachings about his relation to God cause controversy among the Jews in John?
- Why are those teachings important to John’s portrayal of Jesus?
- In what ways do those teachings continue to cause controversy among Christians today?
- What fresh understanding of Jesus did the crowds get from hearing his discourse on bread?
- What fresh understanding did the disciples get? do you get?
- In John 6:60-68, Jesus asks his disciples whether his teaching offends them. How would you answer that question?
- When have you experienced Jesus’ words as offensive or uncomfortable?
- Would you agree that being offended by Jesus’ words at times is essential to your discipleship? Why or why not?
- What do Jesus’ claims about himself reveal to you about his relationship to God? What response do his claims require of you?
Session 26 Questions
- Identify the meanings of images of light and darkness in the Old Testament.
- How does John’s use of light and darkness reflect Old Testament meanings?
- How is the dualism of light and darkness important for John’s portrayal of Jesus’ identity and mission?
- What challenges to Jewish faith would a devout Jew at the festival have heard in Jesus’ words?
- What role does the setting of these teachings—in the Temple—play in what Jesus says about his identity and mission?
- (1) Where is the story set?
(2) What prompts Jesus to perform the healing?
(3) How does Jesus accomplish the healing?
(4) How do the blind in the stories respond to being healed?
(5) Who besides the blind are present in the stories,and how are they involved?
- What do the unique features of John 9 say about Jesus’ purpose in healing the man born blind and about John’s purpose in telling the story?
- What connections does John’s telling of the story make between sin and blindness? between healing and judgment? between religious tradition and divine authority?
- In what way is John 9:39-41 a commentary on the entire story of Jesus in John’s Gospel?
- How do Jesus’ words promise to fulfill Ezekiel’s words?
- How do Jesus’ words go beyond the prophet’s words?
- Why does Jesus use shepherd imagery to speak of both his mission and his death?
- What do the accusations of being demon-possessed and a blasphemer say about Jesus and about his opponents at this point in John’s Gospel?
- What do you think John intends his readers to understand by ending the narrative in Chapter 5–10 with 10:40-42?
- What distinguishes Jesus’ references to “the Jews” from the narrator’s references?
- What impression of the Jews did you get from reading Jesus’ references? from reading the narrator’s references?
- What do you make of the fact that it is Jesus who speaks harsh words to the Jews, and John’s narrator who says harsh words about the Jews?
- How does the observation that “Jesus never argues with anyone who is not a Jew” affect your understanding of John’s portrayal of “the Jews”?
- What do you think it means to say this verse “is the great nevertheless that becomes the story of Jesus”?
- In what way does the Jesus in John continue to confront “the world” in our day?
- On what does “the world” rely to discredit Jesus and his teachings?
- When do you as a disciple experience the Jesus in John as confrontational?
- When have you found that understanding of Jesus’ teachings in John has eluded you, causing you to “struggle along in his company”?
- What kept you from turning back?
- How do you hear the voice of the Good Shepherd speaking to you?
- Where are you being led in your discipleship?
- Who is this Jesus that the world you know does not recognize or accept?
Session 27 Questions
- What responses to the anointings did you hear or read about?
- What do you make of the fact that we learn of Mary’s motivation not from Mary but from Jesus?
- What common elements as well as differences did you notice in the four stories?
- What messages do the stories convey about Jesus?
- What meaning is found in each phase of the story?
- How might the meaning in the story be different for persons in the story and readers of the story?
- What part did each person (or group) play in the story?
- How would each have viewed and understood the event?
- Why is the raising of Lazarus considered Jesus’ greatest sign?
- How do you account for the fact that people responded both with belief and rejection?
- What differences did you see in the reports of those who went for the colt?
- Why do Jesus and John put such emphasis on the action believe?
- What does Jesus mean by believe?
- What does the study manual mean when it says “This Gospel does not make it easy for us to understand Jesus’ view of his death”?
- Who is this Jesus you believe in?
- How does what you believe conform to what Jesus says about himself?
Session 28 Questions
- In what ways do Jesus’ signs in John reveal God’s glory?
- What does it mean to say that “in John’s Gospel the Crucifixion is the central act of glorification”?
- How is the coming of the Spirit related to Jesus’ glorious works of power on earth and his return to heavenly glory?
- (1) How does the narrator set the scene? (2) What does Jesus do at the table? (3) How does Jesus interpret what he does? (4) What command and promise does Jesus give his disciples?
- What does John’s emphasis on the footwashing rather than on the meal say about John’s view of Jesus’ mission? of the disciples’ mission?
- What does the love command (John 13:34) coming for the first time in this context say about the meaning of the last meal in John?
- What message about discipleship does John convey in the way he portrays Peter and Judas in Chapter 13?
- What do the disciples’ requests reveal about their understanding of who Jesus is?
- How does John’s arrangement of these teachings as direct responses to disciples’ requests help us understand what Jesus means?
- How would you characterize the believer’s relation to Jesus according to John 14?
- How do love, joy, and obedience intertwine to produce the fruit of discipleship?
- How would you describe the relation of the Spirit to the life of the believer, to the world, and to Jesus?
- What understanding of the Spirit is necessary in order to avoid making the Spirit a substitute for Jesus?
- How does the church’s mission benefit from unity among believers—according to Jesus? according to Paul?
- How would you describe the kind of discipleship the word “abide” suggests?
- What do you think is the greatest hindrance to “abiding” discipleship in our day?
- According to John 13–17, what is required of believers to receive any of the three (love, peace, and joy)?
- What have you learned about Jesus that you want to pass on to others?
Session 29 Questions
- What are some reasons persons might ask the question, Why did Jesus have to die?
- What is the larger context that gives the cross its significance?
- How do the Gospels make clear that Jesus’ death on the cross was the working out of God’s purpose of saving the world?
- In what way does Jesus’ death serve as a model for disciples?
- What sense do you have of Jesus and of Pilate in this account?
- What is the meaning running under the words and actions in this account but not apparent in what is happening?
- What do other assigned passages contribute to understanding the event John reports?
- What feelings or emotions come through the story?
- How are the emotions related to what the people discover and experience?
- Why does John emphasize Jesus’ glorification rather than his suffering?
- How do Jesus’ final words in John express the distinctive character of John’s Gospel?
- What message do you take from Jesus’ words, “It is finished”?
- “The fulfillment of Scripture means that God’s word has been kept in Jesus and his mission.”
What is the meaning in that statement?
- How do you make sense of Jesus’ innocent suffering?
- In what sense are you a beneficiary of who Jesus is and what he did, and what difference does that make in your living?
Session 30 Questions
- How does the Gospel of Matthew end by looking forward?
- How does the end of Matthew’s Gospel reflect what led up to it?
- How does the Gospel of Mark end by looking forward?
- How does the end of Mark’s Gospel reflect what led up to it?
- How does the Gospel of Luke end by looking forward?
- How does the end of Luke’s Gospel reflect what led up to it?
- How does the Gospel of John end by looking forward?
- How does the end of John’s Gospel reflect what led up to it?
- What images and recollections do you have from past study of the people present that morning on the beach?
- What words or actions of Jesus call up earlier events or images?
- What do you see and hear in actions and exchanges?
- What sense do you have of what is going on between the two of them?
- We get some idea of how Simon was feeling as Jesus questioned him, but what do you imagine others were thinking and feeling as they heard the exchange between Jesus and Simon Peter?
- What, if anything, do you make of the fact that it was the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” rather than Simon Peter who recognized the man on the beach as “the Lord”?
- In what sense were the disciples aware that the Jesus who served them breakfast was the same Jesus they had known and yet was no longer the same?
- What has changed for those who are at the breakfast on the beach?
- What does this episode show about the resurrected Jesus that is important for the disciples in the future? for today’s disciples in the future?
- What is the message to you in this statement: “When the resurrected Jesus exited the tomb, he entered the future as its Lord”?
- Jesus’ call to follow expects an answer and leaves no room for negotiating. How do we try to negotiate? What issues do we raise to which Jesus might respond, “What is that to you . . . ?”
- Who is the Jesus you take with you from this study?