Study | Oversleeping

Matthew 26:36-46

Prayer helps us align our will to God’s through surrender

This Bible story follows the Last Supper and Jesus’ warning to Peter that he would deny him three times over the next hours. More on that next week. Jesus and his disciples leave Jerusalem where they celebrated the Passover meal and head to Gethsemane, a place Jesus frequented, for prayer.

When they arrive at the garden, Jesus’ mood is sorrowful and troubled. He specifically calls Peter, James, and John to go with him farther into the garden than the others, and tells the three to sit while he continues on to another area to pray.

Jesus is feeling intense emotion – “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” He asks the three to stay with him and keep watch with him, to fervently pray with him in his time of great need.

He talks to the God of the universe, and of the Gospel story. “My Father, if it is possible, take this cup from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” While this seems like he is attempting to negotiate, he’s not. Instead, Jesus is taking that final step of surrender, setting his desire aside not reluctantly but intentionally to adopt God’s purpose and will.

Jesus breaks out of his prayer to check on his friends, only to find them sleeping. He wakes them, telling them again to watch and pray. He continues, saying this prayer will help them avoid falling into temptation, as the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. While we humans have the best intentions, while our soul is in the right place, we often have trouble translating our soul’s goodness into full action.

Paul struggles with a similar issue in Romans 7, where he expresses that he often has good in mind, but fails to carry it out. But he refocuses off his own inability and turns to Jesus, who delivers each of us from our sin. What a great model for us to emulate.

Jesus leaves the three, he prays again. “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” He is so aware that he must carry out God’s will through one last, ultimate sacrifice to overlook the wrongs of humanity and restore its relationship with God.

After his prayer, Jesus looks back to find his friends sleeping again, and instead of waking them, goes and prays a third time.

Jesus returns to Peter, James, and John, imploring them to wake. He knows betrayal approaches. Judas Iscariot, temple guards, and some religious leaders arrive, and with a simple kiss of greeting, Judas sets into motion the trials, suffering, and crucifixion of Christ.

Questions for discussion:

  1. What emotions and feelings are in this passage? What is so significant about Jesus’ prayer to God?
  2. What is the cup Jesus is talking about? What does it represent?
  3. Jesus says the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. What does that mean? Where have you seen this in your life?
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Study | Experiencing Glory

Mark 9:2-13

Jesus is amazing – be amazed

This Bible story finds Jesus and his disciples still on their journey to Caesarea Philippi. Jesus has just spoken on who he is as Messiah and how every disciple is called to take up their cross and follow him. Jesus has already turned the disciples’ world upside-down, but he is just getting started.

Jesus selects Peter, James, and John to go with him up a high mountain where an incredible thing happens. Jesus appears bright and shining, his clothes a dazzling, perfect white purer than any human has ever experienced!

That’s not all – Jesus is not alone after this transfiguration. He is accompanied by two heroes of the faith, Elijah and Moses. This shocks the three disciples, frightening them beyond words. They know in their hearts who these men are, and they are dumbstruck to share space with them!

It’s important to remember the legacy of Moses and Elijah from the Old Testament Scriptures. Moses was a major leader who provided Israel with God’s original law (Exodus 20). Yes, the same law that Jesus came to fulfill. What Moses began, Jesus completes in dying on the cross for our sins and overcoming the grave in his resurrection.

Elijah was a prophet who worked to restore Israel to God after they strayed from his laws. Specifically, Elijah stood against Baal-worship when the Israelites adopted Canaanite customs, and showed the glory of God when his faith was challenged (1 Kings 18).

Back to our current story. Our man Peter is the first to pipe up before these heavyweights. He declares that it is good that he and the other disciples are there to witness their presence, and that he will build three shelters, one for each person.

Peter, busy Peter, wants to do something for such worthy visitors. And yet, God calls out to him and to all present. A cloud descends on them and says, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

These words confirm Jesus’ identity yet again. More than that, God gives a simple command for the disciples to listen to him! How often we busy ourselves for the gospel, and forget to abide in the presence of his glory, soak him in, and heed his words.

After God speaks through the cloud, Jesus is alone. He warns the disciples not to say anything about this event until after he rises from the dead. This confuses the disciples, as always.

The disciples accept that they don’t understand Jesus’ words, and instead ask why Elijah must come first. Jesus alludes to both Elijah and his spiritual successor John the Baptist when he says that it is because all things need to be restored to God first. Elijah already came, and people did what they wanted with his message. And so it will also be with Jesus – people will do what they wish with him.

Questions for discussion:

  1. Why does it matter that Moses and Elijah disappear and leave only Jesus after this miraculous event?
  2. When was the last time you sought Jesus’ presence and focused on him alone?
  3. Do you struggle to follow God’s command to simply listen to Jesus? How can you be more intentional about listening?

Study | Arguing with Jesus

Mark 8:31-38

Jesus doesn’t conform to our expectations of him; he asks us to conform to who he knows himself to be and follow his example of self-denial

This story from the Bible picks up where we left off last week. If you recall from the previous study post, this Scripture directly follows the passage where Jesus declares that Peter has correctly named him the Messiah. Peter has a deep understanding of who Jesus is – and yet, here we are. How quickly we see our man abandon his Heavenly perspective for shortsighted, human understanding.

Jesus and his disciples are journeying to Caesarea Philippi. He wants to make something very clear to his followers, his friends. Jesus speaks plainly, saying that he must suffer, be rejected, and be killed so he can rise from death after three days.

Peter isn’t having this. He pulls Jesus aside, and tells him that he will not allow this to happen to his Lord.

Jesus calls Peter out on this. He turns Peter’s rebuke on its head with words that are so well known today: “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Jesus says that if Peter refuses to conform his will to God’s, he is working directly against God!

The next thing Jesus says cannot be divorced from the context of Peter’s rebuke. Peter had presumed to tell Jesus what is and is not in the very will of God. So Jesus makes this a teachable moment where he delivers one of the most important messages on what it means to be a true disciple.

To gain a deeper understanding of the full ramifications of what Jesus says, let’s read this backwards (more details here). Being ashamed of the ransom I [Jesus] paid for you cuts you off from me (38), so that there’s no ransom that can be paid for your soul (37), not even if you gained the whole world (36). You will only have your life forever if you treasure me enough to lose it for my sake, for sake of the gospel (35). Treasure me more than your own comfort and safety. The opposite of self-denial is the idol of self-gratification, and the opposite of cross-bearing is self-preservation (34). 

Wow. I am humbled by Jesus, his self-denial, and his invitation to follow. Jesus, help us set our selfishness aside and be sold out for you. Help us to see we can’t limit you, or tell you what to do. Help us understand who you are as our self-sacrificing savior, and reflect that love in our relationship with you and with others.

Questions for discussion:

  1. What does Jesus mean when he says Peter only has human concerns?
  2. Why does Jesus distinguish that a person should suffer for him and the gospel?
  3. Self-denial shows life isn’t about us or our control, but about God and his control. What does it mean for you to deny yourself?
  4. Have you ever felt like you were arguing with God? Was it over a piece of Scripture, or a conviction, etc.? What did you learn?

Study | On This Rock

Matthew 16:13-20

The Church is established on the divine revelation of Christ’s deity and followers’ profession of faith

In this Bible story, Jesus and his disciples are traveling to Caesarea Philippi after an encounter with the Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus strikes up a conversation as he and his friends go. “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” he asks. The replies range from John the Baptist to Elijah to Jeremiah to other prophets.

But these answers reflect others’ opinions. Jesus follows his first question with one more pointed – “What about you, who do you say I am?”

Our main man, Peter, speaks truth. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus calls Peter blessed, telling him that this knowledge was not revealed by flesh and blood, but instead by God. He continues, “Peter, on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

There are many interpretations of what Jesus means by “on this rock”.  Jesus had already given Simon his name of Peter (Petros) meaning rock in Greek – Jesus could be building the church on Peter’s testimony as he plays a major role in starting the church (read more in Acts). Jesus could mean that the disciples together are the foundational rocks on whom the church is built, as referenced in Ephesians 2:20 and Revelation 21:14.

The prevailing thought on what Jesus means is that he intends to build the church on the Truth that he is the Christ, the Messiah. Maybe all of these play into Christ’s meaning – Jesus is the cornerstone who brings the church (his bride!) into existence, and the church carries on because of the faith of his disciples, including us today.

If you’re reading the Scripture, Jesus doesn’t stop after he tells of the church ultimate victory of sin and death. Jesus goes on to tell the disciples that the very keys to the Kingdom of Heaven are theirs. Heaven isn’t far, but is near to them. Heaven is not achieved by good works, but by their belief in the deity of Jesus and the way he bridges the gap between sinful humans and a perfect God.

This story ends with Jesus insisting the disciples keep the knowledge of Christ’s deity to themselves for the time being. Again, there are so many explanations of why Jesus would say this. Please, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts on the this topic, the questions below, or anything that sticks out to you. Happy Wednesday!

Questions for discussion:

  1. Why does the knowledge of Christ’s deity matter in His story? Not His actual deity, but others’ knowledge of it. Does Christ’s deity affect you?
  2. What did Jesus mean when he told Peter “on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it”?
  3. Have you seen the power of the church? How can you make known Christ’s power through the Church and through you?

Study | Rock the Boat!

Matthew 14:22-36

Even when we fail, Jesus being there to pick us up is a testimony to others who will see he truly is the Son of God

This story from the Bible begins after Jesus has concluded yet another day of intensive teaching near the sea. It’s getting late, and Jesus decides to retreat to a nearby mountain to pray and connect with his Father. He sends his disciples on to the other side of the Sea of Galilee ahead of him.

That night, while Jesus is away, a storm starts brewing on the sea. The wind picks up and the waves grow, and the boat the disciples are on is tossed this way and that. Jesus knows of their distress. He comes to them, walking on the waves.

The disciples think it’s a ghost! They cry out in fear of the wind and waves and this figure approaching… But Jesus reassures them to take courage, for it was their Lord.

Peter, bold, daring Peter responds, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come.”

The disciples witness a second miracle. Jesus is walking on water, and now Peter steps out to join him. But the wind and waves don’t stop when Peter takes that first step in faith. Not at all. They continue, and although Peter starts out strong, he is distracted from keeping his eyes fixated on Jesus. In that moment of despair when he looks at his circumstances, Peter begins to sink, fast.

He cries out, “Lord, save me!” The Bible notes that immediately, right then, Jesus goes to Peter, stretches out his hand, and lifts him from the tumultuous sea.

Jesus and Peter return to the boat, and as soon as they step into the boat from the waves, the wind dies down. Jesus sees Peter through from the moment he responds to the call to come, to when he steps into the safety of the boat. When Peter seems to fail and Jesus needs to pick him up out of the rocky circumstances he’s put himself in, the glory of God shines through Jesus most.

“Truly you are the Son of God,” the disciples declare. They recognize Jesus’ authority. And they worship.

Jesus does not hesitate to save, even when the reason we’re sinking is completely on us, our own decisions. In fact, it’s when we are humbled by our own inabilities and rely fully on Christ to save us that our story becomes an unmistakable testimony of Jesus’ power to others.

Questions for discussion:

  1. What do you learn about Jesus’ identity, authority, and power through this story?
  2. What do you learn from how Jesus relates to and ultimately saves Peter after he steps out in faith?
  3. When have you experienced failure? Did your reaction show people Jesus? If not, how could you have acted differently?

Study | Gone Fishin’

Luke 5:1-11

No matter where you started, Jesus calls all to work with him to “fish for people”

In this story from God’s Word, we read about how Jesus meets his first disciples, those in his inner circle who learned from him while he was on Earth and then continued on after his death, resurrection, and ascension to carry his name and the Good News to all.

The scene opens with Jesus teaching a crowd by the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus spies two boats and their owners who are cleaning their nets after a long, fruitless day of fishing. He asks a man named Simon to borrow his boat to finish his lesson to his growing audience. After the crowd disperses, Jesus tells Simon to go out into deep waters and let down his nets one last time. Simon replies that his efforts have come back empty, “But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

The nets are filled until they are bursting, and Simon calls for help. His friends join him, and they all fill their boats with so much fish they start taking on water!

In the chaos, Simon recognizes that Jesus is a holy man and cries, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” This is so significant because Simon at once declares who Jesus is, and acknowledges his own place in his presence. Despite the sin in Simon’s life, Jesus performs an incredible miracle that defies logic – this can only be credited to him!

Jesus responds to Simon, assuring him to not fear. He doesn’t just let Simon walk away from this miracle, but charges him to do something about what he’s witnessed. Jesus calls Simon and his friends James and John to fish for people.

The end of this story is so hard-hitting. These brand new disciples leave their boats – their livelihood – sitting on the shore. They leave everything. Everything. And they follow Jesus.

Imagine the testimony of seeing those unattended boats on the shore.

Questions for discussion:

  1. Jesus performs a huge miracle – what is it? What barriers did he overcome to do so? (Think of the men’s disbelief, their exhaustion, the lack of fish earlier)
  2. What do you learn about Jesus in this story of how he begins his ministry?
  3. What would it look like for you to respond to Jesus like the fisherman did? What’s one practical thing you can do to partner with Jesus & bring word of his Good News to others?