Term 1 2020

The Servant King

This term we take a fresh look at Mark’s biography of Jesus. Mark wants us to understand that Jesus is God’s chosen saviour king who gives his life as a ransom price for us. A leader who genuinely serves his people is rare. Jesus serves us by dying for us. Mark points us back to the Cross as the ultimate demonstration of the love of God for people who have turned away from him. He invites us to share the assessment of the Roman Centurion who watches Jesus die and says “Surely this man was the Son of God.” This assessment is vindicated by Jesus’ resurrection victory over death.

Justice Denied    Mark 14:53-72   5th April

  1. From your reading of Mark’s Gospel to this point, make a list of things Jesus has said and done that got him off side with the Jerusalem authorities.
  2. Read Mark 14:52-65. What impressions do you have of the fairness or otherwise of these proceedings? What evidence is there that this has been both well planned and rushed? Why do you think the authorities wanted to get this trial over and done will as quickly as possible.
  3. Compare the testimony of verse 58 with the actual words Jesus used in John 2:18-20 and perhaps Mark 13:1-2. What is the difference?
  4. Jesus directly answers the High Priest’s question “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”. Why do you think Jesus accepts this title here when he has been so reluctant to accept it before (e.g. Mark 8:27-30)?
  5. In his answer Jesus identifies the Messiah with the Son of Man. Read Daniel 7:9-14 and Psalm 110. What is the theme of these passages? What irony can you see in Jesus’ claim and his situation in Mark 14?
  6. Reflect on Peter’s “denial” in Mark 14:66-72. What evidence do we have of both his courage and his failure of nerve? What practical warnings are there for us in Peter’s example? What do we know of Peter’s subsequent ministry? What encouragements are there in this for us?
  7. Think back on a situation in your life when you failed to stand up for Jesus. What lessons would you take from Mark 14 to give advice to your “former self” that may have helped?
  8. How does this section of Mark’s Gospel inform our prayers for Christian brothers and sisters facing hardship and persecution for their faith? You might want to pray for them now.

Jesus, the Man of Sorrows   Mark 14:32-52   29th March

  1. The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus was tempted in every way as we are. Read Mark 14:32-52, making a note of every temptation that Jesus encountered. How do you think Jesus would have felt at each stage of this account?
  2. The writer of Hebrews also says that Jesus learned obedience though suffering (Heb 5:9). What does obedience mean for Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane?
  3. At the end of his struggle in prayer Jesus prays for God’s will to be done. How would our prayers be impoverished if we only prayed this prayer and not for what we desire? How are our prayers impoverished if we only pray for what we want and not for God’s will to be done?
  4. What practical things can we do to genuinely embrace the prayer for God’s will to be done?
  5. Why do you think Jesus orders his disciples to leave when his enemies arrive (Mark 14:42)?
  6. In verse 49 Jesus indicates that his arrest fulfills the Scriptures. How would you reconcile this with his statement in Mark 14:21 that his betrayer is responsible for his actions and will face judgment?  (i.e. In general terms “What is the relationship between the sovereignty of God and human responsibility?)
  7. What encouragement and challenges to our faith do we see in the current pandemic? How does knowing that God is sovereign both comfort and challenge our faith?  How can we pray about this? 

Lead Us Not Into….    Mark 1:9-13 & Matthew 4:1-11   22nd March

  1. CS Lewis says we should not give the Devil credit for anything and certainly not become obsessed with him.  Why do you think he says this? Do you agree with him?
  2. What can we learn about handling temptation from Jesus in Matthew 4:1-11?
  3. Jesus says men and women do not live by bread alone. What difference would it make if he had just said we live by the word of God alone? Why is the word and bread balance important?
  4. When you go shopping think about every temptation you face in that experience (including the temptation to envy the person who just snapped up the last toilet roll). How does the word of God help you handle these?
  5. Read 1 Corinthians 10:1-13.  Some see verse 13 as a promise and then when they give in to temptation they blame God for not keeping his promise. I believe it is (in large part) a warning. What exactly is this warning us against? How does the context (verses 1-12) support this interpretation? What is the ”way out” that God provides?

Bad Tenants   Mark12:1-12      15th March

  1. What are your best/worst bad tenant stories? Did they ever become good tenants?
  2. Why does Jesus choose to speak in parables? Read Luke 8:9-10. Does this apply in Mark 12:1-12?
  3. How do the chief priests, etc know that Jesus was speaking about them? Why do they respond to him the way they do?
  4. Why are they afraid of the crowd? what do you think the crowd’s response is to this parable is? What would your response be if a parable like this was spoken about you?
  5. Read Psalm 118, then compare and contrast the psalm with Mark 12:1-12.
  6. What are the characteristics of a good tenant? In the Old Testament, in the New Testament, and in the present day?

A Troubled Homecoming   Mark11:1-25   8th March

  1. Is Jesus the kind of King the people were expecting? Why/Why not?
  2. What kind of expectations do people have of God that he doesn’t fulfill?
  3. What are some examples of how people sometimes bear lots of leaves but no fruit?
  4. Why is forgiving others sometimes really difficult? (v25) Why is it important to forgive others before you pray?
  5. What different aspects of Jesus’ character can we see in this passage?
  6. How would you divide up this passage, and what would you rename the sections if you could?
  7. Read Galatians 5:22-25. Which Fruit of the Spirit do you find easy/difficult? Why? Which one would you like to work on in your life?

A Question Of Identity   Mark8:27-9:1   1st March

  1. How might people in your school, workplace or neighbourhood answer the question, ‘Who is Jesus’? How would you answer? If someone answered, ‘Jesus was a good man’, what might be a good follow up question?
  2. Why does Jesus move straight from confirming his identity as Messiah, to talking about his death? What is the significance of the word ‘must’ in v31? Why is the cross so important to Christians?
  3. What was going on for Peter, and for Jesus, in v32-33? In everyday living, how can we avoid focussing on merely human concerns rather than the concerns of God?
  4. What event/events might Jesus have been referring to in 9:1?
  5. How might the original hearers have reacted to Jesus’ words, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’?  How can we avoid watering down this shocking statement? Pray for Christians who are imprisoned or tortured for following Jesus.
  6. How do v34-38 speak to the belief that following Jesus will give you a happy, healthy or prosperous life?
  7. What are you tempted to gain in exchange for your soul? Pray that members of your group will get stronger in identifying and resisting temptation.

You are NOT what you eat   Mark 7:1-23  23rd February

  • Why do we say the phrase “You are what you eat?” Why is the sermon titled “You are NOT what you eat?”
  • Why are the Pharisees angry at Jesus? Why does Jesus respond the way he does to them? Does he see them as a lost cause? Can you think of any teachers of the law who converted to Christian faith? 
  • What might the disciples be thinking as they witness this exchange?
  • Who are the Pharisees of today? What traps might these people fall into? 
  • What is it that defiles, according to the Pharisees? According to Jesus? What is the difference, both spiritually and practically seen in their lives? How might your life be different if you were living under the Law? 
  • Do we use our laws and traditions, both in and out of church, to get away with doing ungodly things currently? 
  • What are the positives and negatives of tradition? Is routine a better word to use instead of tradition? 
  • What is a tradition that we hold on to that might not actually be Godly? How can we judge if it is or isn’t? What is a Godly tradition? 
  • It is easier to know what we are ‘eating’ but harder to know what is already in the heart. How do we know what is in our heart? Discuss  

Does God Work on His Day Off?   Mark 2:23 – 3:6  16th February

  1. Compare the Sabbath commandment in Exodus 20:8-11 with Deuteronomy 5:15. Describe the different reasons given for observing the Sabbath.
  2. What sins can Sabbath observance protect us from? What benefits can Sabbath observance bring?
  3. The Jewish Sabbath went from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. Most Christians have observed the Sabbath on a Sunday. What is good about this? Are there any drawbacks?
  4. How might the following Christians observe the Sabbath:

a) People who work on Sundays, either regularly or when rostered on
b) Unemployed job seeker
c) Retiree with many voluntary responsibilities
d) Couple who both work full time and have three children in primary school
e) Person caring full time for family members
f) Yourself

5. Why was Jesus being provocative in this passage?
6. Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Discuss.
7. Jesus said, “The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Discuss.
8. How can we observe Sabbath without legalism? How does Jesus fulfil the Sabbath?

 

A Disturbing Diagnosis   Mark 2:1-12   9th February

  1. Read Mark 1:29-45. What do these verses tell us about Jesus’ popularity and his priorities? What pressure is he under?
  2. Mark tells us that Jesus “preached the word” to the crowd in the house. What do you think Jesus’ message was (check Mark 1:14-15)?  Where does forgiveness fit in this message?
  3. Read Mark 2:3-5. The paralysed man’s friends go to extraordinary lengths to get him to Jesus. What do you think Mark means when he says “Jesus saw their faith”?
  4. What were the man and his friends hoping Jesus would do? How do you think they felt when Jesus said “Son, your sins are forgiven.” What does this tell us about how God sees people?
  5. In what ways is this different from the way we forgive someone?
  6. How exactly do the teachers of the law (in verse 6) understand Jesus’ statement and the implied claim behind it? From this verse, how would you define blasphemy?
  7. Read verses 8-12. How would you answer Jesus’ question in verse 9? Discuss your reasons. What are the implications for the teachers of the law if they choose each of the alternatives as the harder thing?
  8. Jesus links forgiveness and healing in this case. What are the dangers for us if we link these two things in every case?
  9. Do you think it is possible to forgive someone if they don’t repent? Discuss your answer and your reasons. Do you think God forgives us if we don’t repent?
  10. How does Mark 2:13-17 help us to understand Jesus’ willingness to forgive vs the teachers of the law and the Pharisees’ attitude?  What practical steps can we take in our situations to be more like Jesus and less like his opponents when it comes to sin and forgiveness?

 

A New Beginning   Mark 1:1-15   2nd February

As a group you could choose to read Mark’s Gospel from cover to cover over 2 or 3 weeks or just in one sitting (take a break every 4 chapters or so). You could also listen to David Suchet read it. The YouVersion Bible app has him reading the NIV 11 (we use this version).

  1. As you read the Gospel in large “slabs”, or even in one sitting, note down and discuss the impact it has.
  2. What portrait of Jesus does Mark paint?
  3. How is Mark’s style different from the other Gospel writers?
  4. What are the main divisions in the Gospel?  What do each of the sections focus on?
  5. What fraction of the Gospel is devoted to the account of Jesus’ arrest, trial, death and resurrection?