Mt 16:13-23; 17:1-23; 20:25-28; Jn 1:29-34; Acts 10:38-39
In the Shadow of Calvary. In this week’s lesson, the God-Man moves closer to his ultimate destiny, death on the cross. But before the resurrection, no one believed His mission as He had laid it out. Those who saw Him as the promised Messiah thought he had surely come to bring all earthly kingdoms to an end. Those who did not accept the messianic label simply ridiculed Him.
Discussion questions and themes.
- Mixed expectations (Matt. 16:13-23). When Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (vs. 13), they named several candidates: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or another prophet. But when Jesus pressed the disciples for their verdict, Peter spoke up: “The Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:10). Jesus blessed him, but the conversation which followed showed that Peter did not understand Jesus’ mission as the Suffering One (Matt. 16:21-23).Question: How did Jesus conclude that His mission was first of all to suffer when the Old Testament does not explicitly identify the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 as a “messianic” experience?
- From mountain top of glory to valley of despair (Matt. 17:1-23). According to Matthew, Jesus is now reminding his disciples quite frequently of his date with destiny in Jerusalem.Question: What does the roller coaster of Matthew 17 contribute to our understanding of Jesus’ mission: From the glorious revelation of the mount of transfiguration to the epileptic boy whom the disciples could not heal, to another announcement of His coming death. Is this kind of “disappointment” an essential part of Christian growth?
- Greatness in serving (Matt. 20:25-28). When James and John asked for the top places in the kingdom, Jesus said, in effect, that God Himself had come, not to be served, but to serve (Matt. 20:28). Does that illumine the nature of His kingdom.Question: Given Jesus’ goal of humble service which He lived and taught, what should be our stance and demeanor as Christians in a hostile world? Is our world any more hostile than it was when Jesus was on earth?
- The Lamb who takes away the world’s sin (John 1:29-34). Typically, Christians think of John’s words in terms of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. But is the willingness to be abused an essential moral quality in the Messiah? In the followers of the Messiah?Question: To what extent should Christians portray lamb-like qualities? In John, Jesus is actually quite bold and assertive. Can that be a model for His followers too?
- The despised king (Acts 10:34-43). Peter describes Jesus’ mission in terms of “doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38). But Peter then goes on to say that through Jesus comes forgiveness of sin.Question: What are the links between the Jesus who goes about doing good, the Jesus who is put to death, and the Jesus who grants forgiveness of sins to all who believe in Him?
C. S. Lewis: “The earliest converts were converted by a single historical fact (the Resurrection) and a single theological doctrine (the Redemption) operating on a sense of sin which they already had – and sin, not against some new fancy-dress law produced as a novelty by a ‘great man,’ but against the old, platitudinous, universal moral law which they had been taught by their nurses and mothers. The ‘Gospels’ come later, and were written, not to make Christians, but to edify Christians already made.” – The Screwtape Letters (ch. 23, para. 3)