John: A Walk with the Messiah: Chapter 12

John12_13

The Anointing of the King

When chapter 11 ended, we were saying goodbye to a freshly risen Lazarus.  At the opening of chapter 12, we are in Bethany yet again six days before Passover.  Jesus is at a dinner once again with His friends: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.  Lazarus is reclining at the table with Jesus, Martha is serving (of course), and where is Mary? At the feet of Jesus! While Jesus and the others eat, Mary brings a very expensive bottle of perfume and pours it over Jesus and wipes the excess off with her hair.  Talk about devotion!  This wasn’t an act that she could hide either, aside from being visible to everyone at the table, the sweet smell of her actions filled the whole house.

Not everyone was impressed with Mary’s actions.  We don’t really know much about any of the apostles aside from maybe Peter, but every time we run into Judas, we are left with a bad taste in our mouths.  I often wonder if he really was as bad as we tend to portray him or if there really were some good intentions in there somewhere.  After all, he was following Jesus.  However, here he is not only described as the one who was about to betray Jesus, but also as a thief! Judas complains about Mary’s act, denouncing it as wasteful: “the money could have gone to the poor”.  John unmasks Judas’s true intentions as not caring at all for the poor but rather for his own purse.  This isn’t the only time that we will see that greed seems to get the better of friend Judas.

We want to condemn wicked Judas here, but what about us?  Do we sometimes sneer at other’s offerings to Christ not because the offerings are unworthy or unacceptable but simply because we are greedy or jealous?  Maybe someone does something better than you, but instead of being happy and praising God for their talent, we ridicule because we secretly wish that we could do something similar?  Or maybe someone else is getting the recognition that you think you deserve?  Something to think about…

Jesus rebukes Judas and tells him to leave Mary alone, that she is preparing him for burial.  Yet another hint at things to come, which is also misunderstood at the current time only to be remembered later on.

Just after this, we read a little aside that because the raising of Lazarus was so convincing of Jesus’s cause, the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus also and thus try to end his damaging testimony toward who Jesus really was.

Hosanna to the King of Kings

The very next day, John says, Jesus went on to Jerusalem from Bethany and the crowds heard that He was coming.  They got ready to welcome Him as before, but this time, it wasn’t any ordinary welcome.

“So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!'” (John 12:13 ESV).

I don’t think there is a coincidence that John juxtaposes Christ’s “anointing” and His entry into Jerusalem with the people hailing Him as King.  Christ is God’s anointed, the chosen One of Israel, the eternal King.

John says the reason these crowds were there and acting such was because of the testimony of those who had seen Jesus raise Lazarus.  Like the chief priests feared, this testimony was very damaging to them and their desire to defraud and humiliate Jesus.

“So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him'” (John 12:19 ESV).

An interesting thing to note here is that even before the true establishment of the new covenant, Greeks (read “Gentiles”) were seeking Jesus.  When His disciples question Him about this, He makes another reference to His coming ordeal and then says “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:26 ESV).  I want to say that when Jesus says “anyone” here, He is including the Greeks that are seeking Him out.  Even before His death, Jesus makes an effort to imply that He came to save all humanity, not just a select minority anymore.

Lifted Up

Jesus attempts once again to give people a glimpse of upcoming events.  This time, He even gets a thundering confirmation from Heaven.

“‘Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour”? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.  Father, glorify your name.”‘ Then a voice came from heaven: ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said,’An angel has spoken to him’.” (John 12:27-29 ESV).

It’s encouraging to note Jesus’s determined resolution here.  He knows what is going to happen soon, but He is determined to face whatever lies ahead for the glory of His Father.  May we have the same resolution!  It is also interesting to note that “save me from this hour” is fairly close to what Jesus prays in the garden just before His betrayal.  Just because we are resigned to something doesn’t necessarily mean that we look forward to it.

Even after all this, there were still some who did not believe Christ.

“Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,

‘He has blinded their eyes
    and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes,
    and understand with their heart, and turn,
    and I would heal them’” (John 12:39-40 ESV).

However, many did believe, and yet even these did not publically claim him because they were afraid of what people might say.  Oh, how like people today!

“And Jesus cried out and said, ‘Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me.  And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.  I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.  If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.  The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.  For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.  And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me’” (John 12:44-50 ESV).

There is only one way to eternal life, that’s through Christ, Himself.

 

Advertisements

John: A Walk with the Messiah: Chapter 10

John10_14

The Lord is my Shepherd

When chapter 10 opens, Jesus is still conferring with the Pharisees over the blind man he had just healed.  At the end of chapter 9, Jesus tells these Pharisees that they are all blind, in chapter 10, He begins to explain what they are blind to.

Jesus loved to speak in metaphor and parable, and this time is no different.  Jesus begins to reference God’s people as sheep.  Nowadays, calling someone a sheep has a negative connotation, but here Jesus is not being negative at all.  God’s people are meant to follow Jesus like a sheep follows a shepherd.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber” (John 10:1 ESV).

Anyone who is not the Shepherd (Christ) who sneaks into the fold is only there to harm the sheep and lead them away from the Shepherd.  Anyone who does indeed follow such a person does so at their own peril.

Christ lists attributes that we can follow to know our Shepherd:

  1. The sheep hear His voice.  Not only do they hear, but they heed His voice: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22 ESV).
  2. He knows the sheep by name.  They are precious to them, each of them, that He calls each by name.
  3. The sheep follow Him: “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me'” (Matthew 16:24 ESV).
  4. He willingly lays down His life for the sheep: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16 ESV).

Jesus eludes here to “other sheep”.  Even here He refers to the inclusion of the Gentiles into the Kingdom of God.  Our Shepherd isn’t picky about what type of sheep follow Him, He only asks that we do.  One flock, one Shepherd.

Just Tell Us Plainly

A little later, Jesus has another conversation with the Jews.  Although the Jews would have been used to metaphor and parables since they were a popular form of teaching at that time, they often get tired of Jesus’s way of speaking.  Here they demand:

“How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24 ESV).

Many times the Jews would get fed up with Jesus’s way of teaching, but when Jesus did actually give a straight answer, they rarely liked it.  How like humans! We only want to hear what we want to hear, not always what we need to hear.

When Jesus gives them their answer this time: “I and the Father are one“, the Jews pick up stones to stone Him (John 10:30 ESV). Is it any wonder why Jesus would choose to speak in metaphors in the first place?  I know I would be reluctant to speak plain truth if I knew it would get me killed.  But even though Jesus knows that what He will say will not be accepted by these people, He gives them what they ask for anyway.  God’s truths are always there for us, it is up to us whether or not we choose to accept them.

Once again, Jesus riles up the people and once again He escapes them.  Why?  His time has not yet come.  With God, timing is everything.  I’d love to know how He did escape though…

 

John: A Walk with the Messiah: Chapter 5

John5_19

The House of Mercy

In John 5, we find Jesus near the temple at a pool called “Bethesda”.  Legend has it that every day an angel would come to “stir the waters” and whoever was first into the water when this occurred would be healed of whatever ailed him or her.  There were many there who where sick and invalid.  Among those who were sick is a man who “had been an invalid for thirty-eight years” (John 5:5 ESV).  It is this man, Jesus approaches.

Ever wonder how Jesus decides who would be healed and who wouldn’t?  Don’t you know that He had the compassion enough to want to heal the whole world right then and there?  But He had to restrain Himself, He had to wait.  Imagine how difficult that must have been for Him, to be surrounded by hurt and pain, to literally be dwelling in a dying body, to have the power to heal all, and to wait… to wait for God’s perfect timing, for God’s perfect plan.  I don’t know that I would have been able to restrain myself…

However Jesus chose, He approaches this one man with a question:

Do you want to be healed?”

Now, what kind of question is that? After thirty-eight years, who wouldn’t want to be healed?  And yet…

To be healed by Jesus required belief in Him.  It required associating yourself with the man who was creating waves all over the country.  And once you were healed, there would be no real denying what He had done for you, you would be in His debt.

To be healed by Jesus would be saying goodbye to the life you were currently living, goodbye to all that was familiar, perhaps even comfortable, to say hello to the unknown.  As painful as your predicament might currently be, would you be ready to leave what you know?  To possibly new pains later on?  Would you also be willing to attempt to follow the command given by your Healer, “Sin no more“?

I don’t know if any of these things crossed the mind of the invalid man on this morning by the pool of Bethesda, but these are things we ponder when we are asked by the same Jesus, “Do you want to be healed?”  We may not by physically ill or lame, but we all bear the same sin sickness in our souls.  And the only one we can turn to is Christ.  He offers.  We have to say yes.

Jesus compassionately heals the man by the pool, creating an occasion for rejoicing, however, it seems the only ones rejoicing are the man and Jesus.  “Others” (read “religious rulers”) have a problem…

“Now that day was the Sabbath.” (John 5:9 ESV)

Jewish law required rest on the Sabbath day, the seventh day of the week, in line with the day of rest God established for Himself after He created the world.  The day was meant to be dedicated to praise and worship of God.  The rest was meant to enrich the people of God.  There were laws given to them as to what types of work were allowed and disallowed on that day.  However, over the years, those laws had been twisted and embellished on so much that the day had ceased to be enriching and restful for the Jews, but a burdensome ritual.

First of all, when the religious rulers saw the formally invalid man walking in the temple with his mat, instead of rejoicing with him over his healing, they begin to berate him over the fact that he is carrying his mat on Sabbath.  This man had a reason to praise God in the streets and he is being reprimanded for carrying a mat…

When these hostile Jews find out that it was Jesus who had told this man to pick up his bed, they turn to Him and start fussing at Him.  He just healed a man! A power that comes from God, Himself.  And they are worried about their traditions.

Jesus doesn’t make any apologies.  Instead He makes them even more angry with the words, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17 ESV).  Not only did Jesus do “work” on the Sabbath, but His statement implied that He was an equal to God.

So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise’” (John 5:19 ESV).  What a beautiful example for us!  We, too, are to look to the Father, see where He is working and join Him in His own work.  Nothing of ourselves, but only the Father’s plans in mind.

Jesus explains that He does have work to do, work given to Him by God.  He gives life to those who believe in Him and He judges those who do not.

Testimony

There’s that word again.  John once again enforces the testimony about Jesus.  Jesus points out here that His testimony comes not from Himself, but from three other sources.

1. John the Immerser testified about Him, burning with the light of Christ within him.  Many people believed John, but had a hard time believing in Jesus.  Even though they had John’s testimony, Jesus says there is another source that speaks even louder than John…

2. The works Jesus performs that God has given to Him and could only be accomplished through God are a very strong witness.  As if those were not enough…

3. God, Himself testifies for Christ in His Word, the Scriptures written about Christ.  The Pharisees often used the Scriptures as sources of power.  The promises God had given the Israelites they felt gave them superiority,  yet they missed the most important promise, Christ, Himself.  How would it feel if you had spent your entire life studying the Scriptures feeling sure of your own salvation only to be told that you missed the point of the whole thing?  The realization would have been devastating.  After all, what are God’s promises without Love, what is salvation without Christ?

Before we wag fingers and “tut tut” at the Pharisees, how often do we quote Scripture at people because we think it somehow makes us superior to them and yet completely forget to live the love found in those Scriptures?  To live as Christ commands?  To believe in His message and actually use it as a salve for our own souls’ wounds instead of a weapon to wound others?  Do we, too, miss the message of Christ?  Oh, how would we shudder to hear the words of Christ spoken of us “But I know that you do not have the love of God within you” (John 5:42 ESV).  We must be careful to look for life in Christ, instead of our own self-importance,  it is only found in Him.

 

 

Multiply: The Great Commission

King of LoveWelcome once again to our weekly “Multiply” study.  After this week, we only have 4 weeks left until the conclusion of this study.  I’m am debating on what to follow next.  If any of you have any suggestions, I welcome them.  For now, we pick up again in Part V: Session 2: The Great Commission.  As always, follow along in your book or on the site: Multiply!

Jesus’s life, death and resurrection should affect every day of your life” (267).  It should, but does it?  “Jesus’s mission on earth was to see God’s power, love, and healing permeate every aspect of this broken world and our broken lives” (267). Every aspect.  And one day, He’ll come back and renew everything.  Until then, He left us with something.  He left us with a message and a mission.

The Mission of the Church

The disciples must have realized the importance of Jesus’s message and mission on earth as they began to accept Him as the Messiah of God.  Can you imagine what they must have felt when He died?  Imagine the shock, the devastation.  Disappointed doesn’t even cut it.  So imagine their joy and elation when He rose! Amazing!  Jesus’s mission to restore was back on the docket.  Now He can take the throne of Israel and rule the world forever.

Or so they thought… That’s not how the story goes, yet.  Instead, Jesus gave the disciples an all-important task, and then, He left!

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matt. 28:18-20 ESV).

Of course each individual church in different places and times the mission will have different nuances, but it is all part of one mission.  It is the same mission that Jesus began while He was on the earth and it was the same mission He left the church when He returned to heaven.  We are to spread Christ’s rule on earth through making disciples.

Discussion Question #1: Read Luke 24 and Acts 1:1–11. As you read, place yourself in the scene and try to feel the significance of these events. How do the circumstances surrounding the Great Commission add significance to Jesus’s words?

The Authority of Jesus

The foundation of the “Great Commission” is found in the beginning line that Jesus gives to His disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18 ESV).  Our Ruler has absolute authority over all of creation, including me and you.  While this may be intimidating, it should give us confidence to carry out our mission, even in a world that seeks to stand against us.  And because of what we share with Christ, “we should want every person on earth to experience this great salvation” (270).

A Worldwide Mission

Even though Jesus was born Jewish, He was not just sent for the Jews.  His salvation is for all people, and because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God“, everyone needs that salvation (Rom. 2:23 ESV).  “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 ESV).

Bringing the message of Christ to all the nations of the world may seem like a monumental task… because it is.  But thankfully, we aren’t alone in our task.  “Making disciples is ultimately God’s work, and He will accomplish it in His power” (271).  God is going to reach the entire world, and He’s going to do it through us.

Discussion Question #2: We can get so caught up in our own personal relationships with God that we forget to think about the global implications of the Great Commission. Why is it important to see the mission of the church as a global calling?

The Call to Make Disciples

So we have come full circle to where we began in Part One.  It’s all about disciple making. Hopefully, now, however, you have a better understanding of God’s plan for redemption and where we fit into that plan.  As a recap, we said that a disciple is simply a follower of Jesus.  So the process of disciple-making is really just telling others about Christ and inviting them to follow Him too. “Discipleship is a lifelong process where we are continuously made more and more like Jesus” (272).

According to the Great Commission, in making disciples, we are to “[baptize] them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” and then “[teach] them to observe all that [He has commanded us]” (Matt. 28:19-20).  The first step for anyone who chooses to follow Christ is to follow Him into His burial and then be raised again to new life.  Baptism is the way we symbolism this, the new Christian is buried in the water and then raised again to their new life in the body of Christ.  This step is commanded by Jesus and it is how we identify ourselves with Jesus.  Who wouldn’t want to be identified with Christ?

Once we make disciples, our teaching doesn’t stop there.  Training is on-going.  “Salvation is not like receiving a train ticket to heaven, where the ticket gets us aboard, but after that we can put it in our pocket and forget about it. Rather, it is like a marriage, where we enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ and become a part of His family, the church” (272).

Discussion Question #3: Why do you think Jesus would give us the strategy of disciple making as the means for accomplishing our mission on earth?

Discussion Question #4: Take a minute to consider the significance of baptism. Write down some thoughts below. If you have been baptized, include some reflections on your own experience with baptism.

Discussion Question #5: What role should teaching play in our Christian lives and in the life of the church?

The Continuing Presence of Jesus

As if reaching every human being on the earth wasn’t daunting enough, we have some serious opposition.  Satan, the world and our own sinful desires work against us fulfilling the mission Christ gave us.  We’re going to face some persecution.  “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12 ESV).  If you pay even slight attention to news, you know that even today, there are Christians being persecuted, beaten, and even killed for claiming Christ.  Our message will not always be a welcome one.

While the opposition is real, we can find courage in the last words of Jesus’s commission: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20 ESV).  The Son of God is by our side.  That’s His promise.  He will never leave us.  Remember God’s promises throughout the ages and how He has never given up.

Discussion Question #6: Most likely, you already believe that God’s presence is with you as you seek to honor Him in this world. But take some time to meditate on that simple truth: “I am with you always.” How should this statement affect your daily life and the way you view your God-given mission?

The Power of the Holy Spirit

Jesus makes His final instructions sending the apostles out to the world and then He gives them one last command: “Wait”.  Wait? Isn’t there all of humanity that needs to be saved?  Don’t we have to get out there and rescue people?

But here’s the thing, the Great Commission will never be accomplished by human effort alone.  We need the power of God in order to succeed.  Without Him, we are powerless.  This is why Jesus tells His disciples to wait, He didn’t want them to run off unequipped.  The disciples needed to be empowered, they needed to be empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Discussion Question #7: Have you ever tried to follow Jesus apart from the power of the Holy Spirit? Why is this approach bound to end in frustration?

Discussion Question #8: Given your specific setting, what would it look like to pursue the Great Commission through the power of the Spirit?

Finished and Unfinished

When Jesus left the earth, there were several things that were completed and things that were uncompleted.  “The New Testament is very clear that the work of salvation is complete” (276).  “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:12 ESV).  Jesus reconciled humanity and then sat down because His work was finished.  “This means that our message is simple and straightforward: ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved'(Acts 16:31)“(276).

However, we still have work to do.  What remains uncompleted is the task of bringing the good news of what Christ has completed to the rest of the world.  “This is our calling in life” (276).  And remember we are not alone.  Christ will always be with us and we are empowered by the Holy Spirit.  The church will succeed.

Discussion Question #9: Read Revelation 7:9–12. This passage gives us a vision of the end of the story. This life will conclude with an enormous community of redeemed people from every nation, tribe, people, and language praising God together for His salvation. How should this vision of the end of the story affect the way we think about our mission now?

Discussion Question #10: Spend some time in prayer. Ask God to affect your heart with the urgency of the mission He has given you and the other Christians in your life. Ask Him for the strength, wisdom, and perseverance to pursue His mission in the strength of His Spirit.

I think this was a great session and I hope it leaves you all feeling empowered to go out and fulfill our mission! God bless!

Harm from the Lord

Ernst_Josephson__-_David_och_Saul_resized“Then a harmful spirit from the Lord came upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand” (1 Samuel 19:9 ESV).

Saul was Israel’s first human king.  He was supposed to lead Israel in obedience to God. Unfortunately, time and again, he disobeyed himself and lead Israel in disobedience.  Because of this, God stripped Saul of his reign and declared that Saul was going to be replaced.  When God rejected Saul as king, God send a “harmful spirit” to torment Saul.  It was often this spirit that lead Saul seek the life of David, the next chosen king.

It might be hard for us to imagine harm coming to us from our loving Father, but it is important to remember here that Saul rejected God first.  He wanted God’s blessings without having to do all the work of obedience.  It was Saul’s disobedience that lead to his downfall and his torment.  And we all know that an important part of earthly fatherhood is discipline.  Heavenly Fatherhood is no different. God will discipline His children.

God’s creation is His to use for His will.  We often speak of “free will” but many of us do not know what that means.  It means that we are given the right to choose to obey.  We are not given the right to choose whether or not we are used by God.  God will use all of us according to His will.  The choice for us is whether we are used willingly (like Abraham or David) or unwillingly (like Pharaoh or King Saul).  Either way, God will accomplish His goal.  I know which I would rather.

Another thing to learn from Saul is that Saul’s choice for disobedience not only hurt him, but everyone around him: Saul’s son, Jonathan, and his daughter, Michal, David, and all of Israel.  We often think that our sin is our own and we harm no one but ourselves, but often the ripples of our actions spread out farther than we will ever known.  Thankfully, our good choices also have similar ripples.

Just Call Me Mara

healthy-grains

Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age…” (Ruth 4:14-15 ESV).

Naomi thought that her hope for a fulfilled life was over. “Just call me ‘Bitter’,” she tells her friends (Ruth 1:20).  Have you ever felt like that? Like your “ship has sailed” and there is no more hope for your life.  For Naomi, hope came from an unusual place, from a woman of Moab who renounced her foreign gods to follow the true God.  A seemingly simple choice, but one that had a huge impact, not just on Ruth, but on everyone around her and for generations to come. Because of this choice, God was able to bless many people.  Naomi had a family again, Ruth and Boaz were married and had a child, and later on David was born and through David’s line, Christ.  Through Christ all people are blessed.  All made possible because of Ruth’s life-changing choice.

Often, we feel that our day to day choices don’t matter much and don’t affect many people.  However, we can see from the story of Ruth, when we make the choice to follow God, great things can and will happen, not just for us, but for everyone around us.  Because of our choice, God can do wonderful things through us.  Through us, God can bring a Redeemer, a Redeemer who will be a nourisher and a restorer of Life for all people.  Isn’t it amazing what God can accomplish through ordinary people like Ruth and you and me?  Praise God!

Multiply: The Fall

I have had a busy and full weekend.  I hope you have been blessed this Easter weekend and you were able to celebrate our Jesus and His victory over death (as we should every single day 😉 ).  It is somewhat fitting that we should continue our study today with what is known through the biblical world as “The Fall”. Fitting in the fact that it is the Fall that necessitated Christ’s death in the first place.  I hope you’ll follow along with us this week as we dive into Part IV: Session 2: The Fall.

Whether you realize it or not, you have felt the effects of the Fall today.  We see the effects in the pain, brokenness, selfishness, and hopelessness that runs rampant in our world.  Even within ourselves, we are in a constant battle between what is and what we know should be.  “Every one of us has a profound sense that the world is not now as it was intended to be” (151).  The world we know now doesn’t sound at all like the world we read about in the first two chapters of Genesis.  So, what happened?

The Story Takes a Sudden Turn

It is easy to fall in love with the world we first read about where everything was “good”, but move on to the very next chapter and the story takes a sudden tragic turn and the world has not been the same since.

Chapter 3 introduces us to a new character, the serpent (Revelation 12:9 reveals this serpent to actually be Satan in disguise).  He is crafty and conniving.  Out of pure hatred, he decides to make “trouble in Paradise”.  He begins to speak to Eve, to encourage her to question the word of God (tactics that he continues to use to this day).  Even though God has blessed Adam and Eve with food a plenty, the serpent focuses Eve’s attention on the only one tree she is not allowed access to.  Sound familiar?  Even though God has blessed us with innumerous blessings, we tend to focus on what we don’t have rather than what we do.  “Of course, life in the garden of Eden was full of good things enjoyed through the grace and presence of God. But Satan began to promise goodness apart from God. With this simple twist, the world that God created to be “very good” changed dramatically” (152).

Discussion Question #1: Read Genesis 3. Based on the first three chapters of Genesis, why was it such a big deal for Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?

Pay close attention to how Satan operates in this story.  He doesn’t make threats, he doesn’t push outright rebellion, he doesn’t blatantly state that he is trying to ruin Man’s relationship with his Creator.  He is very subtle, very sly.  He doesn’t offer rotten fruit.  He offers what seems good in the moment.

Another thing to mention is that Satan only enters creation as part of the creation.  He doesn’t have unlimited power.  Because he is not more powerful than our God, we should not fear him because of his power, however, we need to be very very wary of his skill with manipulation and deception.

This story not only gives a good look into the craft of Satan, but it also gives us a look into the heart of sin.  At the heart of every sin is a rebellion against God, a declaration that we have a right to govern ourselves.  Adam and Eve decided that they would reject God’s direction and take their own path.

Discussion Question #2: Analyze the sin in your life in light of the rebellion of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. Do you see the same tendency toward independence and rebellion in your actions? How so?

The World Became a Different Place

Now we have reached a major turning point in our story, a turn for the worse.  With a simple misjudged choice, the world becomes drastically different.  “The effects of the fall are also known as ‘the curse.’ In response to the sin of the first human beings, God cursed (1) the serpent, (2) Eve, (3) Adam, and (4) the rest of creation” (154). The creation who so desperately needs its Creator who it has, until now, enjoyed perfect communion with, is now separated from Him.  The beautiful world that was built to so perfectly fulfill our needs now only yields under hard, laborious work.  The garden that was home would no longer be accessible.  The close, intimate relationship Adam enjoyed with Eve is now full of blame and mistrust.

Even if you have heard the story of the Fall many times before, take some time now to ponder the very real tragedy that happened here.  Adam and Eve lost more than their innocence and their home.  They lost a perfect relationship with God.  Today we are so far from that perfection that we can hardly even imagine it.

Discussion Question #3: Think back to the world of Genesis 2. Spend a few minutes imagining what our world would look like without sin, if everything had stayed the way God intended it to be. Make some notes.

Discussion Question #4: Now consider the ways that sin has affected our world. How is our experience of the world shaped by the fall? Be specific and describe how it affects you today.

From Cain to Babel

The story doesn’t end in the garden, but we don’t see it get less tragic yet.  The effects of sin continue to run rampant.  Adam’s first offspring are effected when Cain kills Abel.  This leads to more murder further down the road with Lamech.  And the world continues to get more and more corrupt.  So bad, in fact, that God decides to destroy the earth and everything on it in Genesis chapter 6.  God spares only Noah and his family and the animals on the ark (read the story if you haven’t before, it’s a good one!).

Even though the flood caused world-wide devastation, Man doesn’t learn his lesson.  In Genesis chapter 11, we see Man ignoring God’s supremacy again as they band together to build a city and a tower spectacular enough to make a name for themselves.  God punished their arrogance by confusing their language and scattering them over the face of the earth.  When we come to the end of chapter 11, things look pretty grim indeed.

Discussion Question #5: Think about the current state of the world. In what ways is humanity still caught in the rebellion that led to the flood and the tower of Babel?

Discussion Question #6: In what ways are you involved in this rebellion?

The Story Continues in Spite of Sin

Things get pretty messy because of Man’s rebellion, but God wasn’t willing to end the story here.  He had a plan for redemption and renewal right from the beginning.  If you take another look at Genesis chapter 3, right in the middle of God’s curse on creation, He makes a promise:

“And I will put enmity
Between you [the serpent] and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel” (Gen. 3:15 NASB).

This is actually the first prophecy or promise that alludes to the coming of Christ.  God promises an encounter between Christ (the seed of a woman) and the serpent. The outcome is promised too, Christ wins.

In these first few chapters of Genesis we also see the first covenant God makes with His creation when He makes a promise to Noah.  God uses covenants or promises to establish a relationship with His people and guidelines for that relationship.  We will continue to see these types of covenants as we progress in the story.  With Noah, God promises to save a people for Himself and promises to preserve creation no matter how corrupted it gets.  God will save it.  We will learn more about this plan later on, but we can see even in these first few chapters of Genesis God had a plan to save His creation.

Discussion Question #7: As you think back over Genesis 1–3 (and even the events we discussed from chapters 4–11), briefly describe how these chapters lay the groundwork for what is to come in the biblical story.

Discussion Question #8: How should our understanding of the first chapters of the Bible affect the way we view ourselves and the world around us?

We have a lot to consider this week.  We have become a very corrupted race because of sin, but isn’t it wonderful to know that we have a God that wants to win us back and isn’t willing to give up on us no matter how bad things get?  I hope you are blessed this week and don’t forget to give thanks to God for all that He is.  Happy Easter!