Week 13 Summaries and Questions for the Life of Jesus Reading Plan


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Stuck at home with nothing to do? It’s never been better time to binge read about the life and teachings of Jesus. I’ve made it so easy and interesting with the the The Life and Teachings of Jesus 2020 Reading Plan. So turn off the TV and open your Bible and your heart to Jesus.

The Life and Teachings of Jesus – Week 13 – March 30-April 3:

Monday – John 5:19-29: Why did the Jews want to kill Jesus? Simply stated it was, “because not only was He breaking the Sabbath but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18). Did Jesus break the Sabbath? No, He only broke the Pharisees’ traditions regarding the Sabbath. Did Jesus really claim to be equal with God the Father? Yes, He did, and the audacious claims of Christ that we find in our text have colossal implications. Jesus prefaces His claims of equality with “Truly, truly” (v. 19) meaning, “I tell you the truth without the possibility of contradiction. Therefore, you must hear and accept what I have to say.” Jesus makes three great claims: He’s one with the Father in action (vv. 19-20), the power to give life just like the Father (vv. 21, 24-26), and like the Father Jesus has the authority to judge (vv. 22, 27-30). Even if we have already embraced this truth, we must repeatedly affirm it because the world wishes to deny this great truth.

In your own words, restate in what areas does Jesus claim to be equal with God the Father? What are the implications of this equality for you?

Tuesday – John 5:30-47: “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life” Jesus said, “and it is they that bear witnesses about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me that you may have life” (vv. 39-40a). The Pharisees had three problems: One, they regarded the scriptures with such esteem that they linked study and memorization of holy text with salvation (vv. 39-40). They made knowing scripture an end in itself, instead of knowing the Savior of the scriptures. Second, they studied the scriptures with a wrong motive (41-44). They knew the word of God backwards and forwards, but they weren’t saved because they didn’t have the love of God within them. They loved their own opinions of the word of God which brought them the glory and notoriety. Self-love kept them from loving the God of scripture. Finally, the Pharisees didn’t really believe the scriptures they studied (vv. 45-47). Yes they would have died for their scrolls but they didn’t really believe what was written on them. The purpose of the Law of Moses was to expose their sinfulness and drive them to the Messiah. Instead, they hypocritically covered up their sins and rejected Christ. For believers today, there’s a great temptation to get caught up in the minutiae of scripture, which if left unchecked can trivialize our faith. There’s no doubt that as believers it is imperative that we immerse ourselves in the Bible, but it’s vastly more important that we respond to its teachings.

What “witnesses” does Jesus call forward to testify on His behalf and how does their testimony validate His clams? What factors influence your verdict for or against Jesus as being equal with God the Father?

Wednesday – Matt. 12:1-8 (cf. Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5): The disciples were hungry, so “they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat” (v. 1). The controversy that ensues centers not on whether the Sabbath should be observed but on what that observance entailed in practical terms. The Old Testament commandment was clear, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work” (Exodus 20:8-9). But what constituted “work”? Unlike the Pharisees, Jesus doesn’t attempt to define work. Rather, His reply consists of two related Old Testament analogies (vv. 3-4, 5-6), together with a prophetic quotation which exposes the underlying issue (v. 7), followed by a pronouncement which summarizes the thrust of the earlier analogies, “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (v. 8). In other words, Jesus possesses the right to interpret proper Sabbath keeping. According to the Pharisees, a person should go hungry rather than glean on the Sabbath.

How did this view of God’s Sabbath miss its true significance? (cf. Mark 2:27) In what way(s) did Jesus’ answer dodge His opponent’s preoccupations and get to the heart of the matter?

Thursday – Mark 3:1-6 (cf. Matt. 12:9-14; Luke 6:6-11): Continuing on from the grain fields from our last reading, Jesus enters the synagogue (perhaps in Capernaum) “and a man was there with a withered hand” (v. 1). Like gathering grain on the Sabbath, medicine and healing on the day of rest were highly regulated. It was an accepted principle in most Jewish circles that saving a life on the Sabbath was permissible but it must be life-threatening. Healing a withered hand could wait until the next day. So, Jesus takes the initiative in asking what is permitted on the Sabbath, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” (v. 4a). His adversaries remain stubbornly silent (v. 4b). In their eagerness for legal detail they had forgotten the mercy and grace shown by God to man when He made provision for the Sabbath day (cf. Mark 2:27). In their zeal for piety they have become calloused to the purposes of God and to the sufferings of humanity. Restoring the man’s hand demonstrates what it means “to do good” and “to save life” on the Sabbath. As Lord of the Sabbath Jesus delivers both the Sabbath and humanity from oppression.

The irony in this second Sabbath assault by the Pharisees is that while Jesus is healing on the Sabbath, the Pharisees are making plans to kill Him. How does Jesus’ attitude toward people and Scripture differ from that of the Pharisees?

Friday – Matt. 12:15-21: Immediately after the two Sabbath day clashes, Jesus withdraws from those hostile to Him. Nevertheless, He heals those who flock to Him but is anxious to prevent the people from forcing the issue of His Messiahship by prohibiting inappropriate publicity (v. 16). Through a quote from Isaiah, Matthew paints a portrait of Jesus as God’s chosen servant; one who is not quarrelsome but gentle. Thus, the confrontations Jesus has encountered are not of His making. Matthew draws a sharp contrast to Jesus’ critical opponents, they seek to kill Him, but Jesus won’t even break a “bruised reed” or quench a “smoldering wick.” They live to condemn, however Jesus lives to encourage the damaged and vulnerable people and will do so until God’s purpose of “justice” has been achieved.

To describe the Messiah’s character, Matthew quotes Isaiah 42:1-4. What does this Old Testament passage confirm about Jesus? Based on this description, why is He worth following?

Week 12 Summaries and Questions for the Life of Jesus Reading Plan


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During times like these it’s important to stay spiritually grounded. One great way to that is with the The Life and Teachings of Jesus 2020 Reading Plan. There’s so much anxiety and fear going around don’t contribute, rather be a light of hope and love in your community. It’s not enough to read about Jesus, we’ve got to live like Him! Remember two things: He>covid-19 and pray for a vaccine. Blessings to you my friends. By the grace of God we’ll get through this together.

The Life and Teachings of Jesus – Week 12 – March 23-27:

Monday – Matt. 7:24-29 (cf. Luke 6:47-49): Jesus’ great Sermon on the Mount concludes with a fourth warning and summary statement. The last warning is a parable about one man building on rock and another man building on sand, emphasizing the importance of acting in accordance with Jesus’ teaching. We neglect the warning at our peril. “And when Jesus had finished speaking these words” (v. 28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1) the crowd responds with awe. What amazes them so much about our Lord’s teaching is not His use of beatitudes, parables, hyperboles, or others forms of teaching; rather what astonishes them is His authoritative teaching, “He taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes” (v. 29).  Jesus declares God’s word, and the people recognize that He speaks with authority unlike any other.

In what ways was Jesus’ authority demonstrated in His sermon? What difference does it make to you that Jesus teaches with authority?

Tuesday – Mark 1:40-45 (cf. Matt. 8:1-4; Luke 5:12-16): “If You will, You can make me clean.” Afflicted with the worse disease of his day, a man with disfiguring leprosy doesn’t questions Jesus’ ability to heal, but rather His willingness to heal. Unfortunately, too many think that they are beyond help. Yet, we see Jesus’ answer to the man in v. 41 through His compassion, His touch, and His word. Mark tells us that Jesus was “moved with pity” when He heard the man’s request. Deep down in the pit of His stomach, Jesus felt a gut-wrenching compassion for this man. Then what follows is the Lord’s touch, He “stretched out His hand and touched him.” Mark delighted in telling the stories of Jesus’ touch (cf. 1:31; 1:41; 5:41; 6:5; 7:33; 8:23; 9:27, 36; 10:16). There’s no doubt that this was the first time in a long, long time that this man had felt the warmth of human contact. Finally, the Lord spoke, “I will; be clean.” Unbothered by the man’s question or grotesque appearance, Jesus compassionately heals him and sends him on his way.

What does Jesus’ interaction with the leper tell you about His character and how He will treat you with your “unclean” sins?

Wednesday – Mark 2:1-12 (cf. Matt. 9:1-8; Luke 5:17-26): Four men struggling with a litter on which lay a paralytic, prone and motionless man, approached the fringe of the impossible crowd. Their attempts to get through to Jesus were met with noisy rebuffs. So they did what any desperate person would do… they tore the roof of the house and lowered their beloved friend down to Jesus. What a picture of faith! “And when Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven” (v. 6) and “Rise, pick up your bed, and go home” (v. 11). Jesus’ power to heal the paralytic’s physical infirmities proved the veracity of His claim and power to forgive sins.

Let’s think through this story in spiritual terms. What sorts of sins may psychologically, emotionally, or spiritually “paralyze” you? Is there any such “paralysis” in your life from which you might be freed if you asked Jesus to forgive you? Who are some trusted friends who will go to any length to help you? Bring them into your struggle with spiritual paralysis.

Thursday – Matt. 9:9-17 (cf. Mark 2:13-22; Luke 5:27-39): “As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and He said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he rose and followed Him” (v. 9). Can you imagine writing your own conversion story in your very own gospel account of Jesus’ life? That is what we’re getting in this passage. To most first-century Jews, tax collectors, were easily the most hated men in Jewish society. They were viewed as religious and political traitors, trained extortionists, and thugs. Nevertheless, it’s that very type of person whom Jesus called to be His disciple, and later an apostle. Excitedly, Matthew threw a party and invited his friends to meet Jesus. This was too much for the religious hard-liners, who questioned, “Why does [He] eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (v. 11). In response Jesus made three statements: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (v. 12), “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (v. 13a), and “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (v. 13b).  Each declaration demonstrated that our Savior’s mission was (and still is) to save those who acknowledged their sinfulness.

From your perspective, what does each one of Jesus statements mean, and how does each relate to you?

Friday – John 5:1-18: Although opposition to Jesus smoldered beneath the surface, the story of Jesus’ healing at the Pool of Bethesda highlights the beginning of open hostility toward Him by the Jewish leaders. John repeatedly ties his narrative to various Jewish feasts (ref. 2:13; 5:1; 6:4; 7:2; 10:22; 11:55), and so he does with this story, “After this there was a feast of the Jews and Jesus went up to Jerusalem” (v. 1). Entering the holy city, Jesus encountered the blind, lame and paralyzed (v. 4). To one invalid He asked, “Do you want to be healed?” (v. 6). The text states that this poor man had suffered in his condition for thirty-eight years. “Yes I do,” the man desperately replied. So Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed and walk. And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked” (vv. 8-9). Just as the thirty-eight years proved the gravity of the paralysis, so the carrying of the bed and the walking proved the completeness of the miracle. John briefly mentions that the healing took place on the Sabbath day, thereby setting the stage for the confrontation that followed.

The fourth commandment says, “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” (see Exodus 20:8-11). In their zeal to apply this command, what do the critics of Jesus fail to realize? What does this say about them? Are you ever tempted to exhibit this same type of narrow-mindedness?

Week 11 Summaries and Questions for the Life of Jesus Reading Plan


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The Life and Teachings of Jesus – Week 11 – March 16-20:

Monday – Matt. 7:7-11 (cf. Luke 11:9-13): When you pray, do you make your petitions with timidity as if you’re requesting something from a grudging giver or with impudence as if you’re requesting something from a generous giver? In our reading today, Jesus calls for us to approach the throne of our Father with boldness. Now, carte blanche approach to prayer taught by prosperity preachers is not supported from scripture. Perhaps it is wise to read the unqualified offer of vv. 7-8 against the backdrop of Matt. 6:11, 16-24, 25-34. But for all the necessary caution, there is a sense that Jesus invites not merely a resigned acceptance of what the Father gives, but a willingness to prayerfully explore the extent of His generosity. The point Jesus is making is not that human persistence wins out in the end, but that the heavenly Father who loves His children will certainly answer their prayer… if only they would ask, seek, and knock.

What encouragement does Jesus give those who ask, seek and knock? How can we be assured of these promises?

Tuesday – Matt. 7:12 (cf. Luke 6:31): “Therefore, whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” For ninety-one verses Jesus has been teaching us what He expects from His disciples. Yet, in one verse He summarizes His whole sermon, not to mention all of the Old Testament. In these few words, our Lord gives us a guide to how unselfish love should work itself out in our relationships with others. Our actions, He teaches, are not supposed to be dictated by the actions of others. If a person is mean to us, then we’re to be good to them because that’s how we want to be treated. The person who consistently lives according to this rule is totally excluding selfishness and replacing it with love and care for others. An ancient Jewish teaching stated in the negative, “What is hateful to you, do not do to anyone else.”

How does Jesus’ positive rule go beyond this command? In what ways would your life change if you followed Jesus’ teaching from this verse?

Wednesday – Matt. 7:13-14: The concluding section of the sermon is taken up with impressing upon hearers the difference between real and nominal discipleship. In four short warnings (vv. 13-14, 15-20, 21-23, and 24-27) Jesus calls for wholehearted commitment to Himself and the Father’s kingdom. To start, Jesus makes it clear that there are only two paths in life that are set before people; therefore it is important that the right choice be made. He presents a scene where a broad road leading to a splendid gate is obvious and easy to be seen, whereas a way that brings a traveler to the unimposing gate is inconspicuous and is perceived only by those who look for it carefully.  The first road “leads to destruction,” a fact that doesn’t alter its popularity. While the second road is “narrow” (or “difficult” NKJV) and few find the way “to life.” (We must not press “few” too hard, for elsewhere in Matthew Jesus speaks of “many” that are saved cf. 8:11; 20:28.) The contrast is stark and clear between the two roads in their character, popularity, and in their destination. Without using the words, this saying sets before us the alternatives of heaven or hell. Those are our only two choices, choose wisely.

In what sense is “the gate wide and the way easy” that leads to destruction? Conversely, in what sense is “the gate narrow and the way hard” for those who follow Jesus? Which road are you on?

Thursday – Matt. 7:15-20 (cf. Luke 6:43-45): The second warning focuses on the danger posed by false prophets, who are, by implication, contrasted with true prophets who may be trusted. How can followers of Jesus recognize false teachers? From their fruits; their fruits will in the end betray them. It is not outward appearance that is important (ravenous wolves may be dressed in sheep’s clothing) but the things that the false prophets teach and the manner of their life. For their teaching and lifestyle proceed from what they are in their hearts. The fruit is the test of the tree; if there is no good fruit, there is no good reason for the tree to exist. And the fruit is the test of one who claims to be a prophet (or in modern terms, preacher, pastor, etc.). “Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” Jesus asks. Obviously not, if there is no fruit there, then there’s no good reason for the person to be treated as a prophet worthy of an audience.

List several “fruits” a false teacher would produce and several “fruits” a true teacher would produce.

Friday – Matt. 7:21-23 (cf. Luke 6:46): In the third warning, we’re confronted with a profoundly searching and disturbing scene for all professing disciples. Here we meet people who confess their allegiance to Jesus as “Lord” and who can back up that claim with impressive spiritual achievements, all carried out explicitly in the name of the Lord. Nevertheless, Jesus says to them, “I never knew you, depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness” (v. 23). Even good works by themselves are not enough. There are good people who claim to follow Jesus as “Lord” and who do good works, nonetheless they are on the broad way leading to destruction. Despite their good deeds, they were carried out by people who still lacked the relationship with Jesus which is the essential basis for belonging in the kingdom of heaven. While the words and actions may be good, their lives were lawless denying Him in their hearts. Since they didn’t really know Him, He didn’t know them.

In spite of their admirable statements or actions, why does Jesus condemn these people? Why do you think people so often confuse religious activity with knowing and doing the will of the Father?

Week 10 Summaries and Questions for the Life of Jesus Reading Plan


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In the first section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught us that our righteousness must be greater than that of the Pharisees (they only obeyed the letter but not the heart of the Law) and greater also than that of the pagans. Now, in this week’s reading, Jesus draws the same two contracts regarding our religion. He teaches we shouldn’t be hypocritical like the Pharisees, nor mechanical or materialistic like the pagans. Remember, so long as you’re breathing it’s a good time to start The Life and Teachings of Jesus 2020 Reading Plan.

The Life and Teachings of Jesus – Week 10 – March 9-13:

Monday – Matt. 6:5-15: Just as in the case with almsgiving, there is a tendency for people to use their prayers as a means of impressing others with their piety. Prayer is to be communion with God, not a means of increasing one’s reputation in the manner of the “hypocrites” (vv. 5-6). Rather, Jesus calls on praying disciples to, “Go into your inner room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (v. 6). He further instructs believers to not pray in the manner of “Gentiles” heaping word upon word as a means to entice a reluctant God. Jesus turns this image of God as a grudging giver on its head, “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (v. 8). Jesus’ example prayer (vv. 9-13) guides us to see God as the source of glory and supplier of our spiritual and physical needs. Lastly, our Lord supplies one bit of commentary on His prayer, in short He says, only the forgiving will be forgiven. In a way then, prayer is a transformative exercise that aligns the disciple’s heart to God.

In what ways do your prayers need to: align with Jesus’ instructions on how to pray (vv. 5-8), more closely resemble His model prayer (vv. 9-13), and a proper heart (vv. 14-15)?

Tuesday – Matt. 6:16-18: In his third, and last, example of the proper practice of piety, Jesus turns to the act of fasting. In biblical terms, fasting is never about health or weight loss, but rather it was about “afflicting” oneself before God to entreat His favor. As with almsgiving and prayer, it is assumed that disciples will fast; the issue is not whether to do it but how. In a culture where few now give serious attention to fasting as a religious discipline this assumption can cause surprise. Fasting is often mentioned in the Old Testament as a response to a distressing situation, whether by an individual or a group (2 Samuel 12:16-23; Daniel 9:3; Ezra 8:21-23; Jonah 3:5-9 to just name a few). Several fast days were prescribed for the people the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29-31; 23:27-23) and later, during the exile, the fast established in memory of the destruction of Jerusalem (Zechariah 7:3-5; 8:19). It’s not until New Testament times that we read about the weekly fast of the Pharisees (Luke 9:14). However, their faux fast were not to draw the favor of God, but the favor of men (v. 16). The sort of fasting Jesus envisions here is presumably of choice, not routine. Whether individually, or in a group, for the disciple, during a fast everything is to be outwardly normal. Fasting like almsgiving and prayer, is to be between the believer and God.

Jesus’ instructions assume His followers will fast (for spiritual reasons, not health reasons), describe a time when you fasted. Why were you fasting? How did this spiritual discipline help you? If you’ve never fasted why not?

Wednesday – Matt. 6:19-24: Jesus’ words on money and treasure strike at the core of human selfishness, challenging both the well-to-do who have possessions to guard and the poor who wish they could acquire them. He challenges us with three truths: If disciples really trust God, they will live as if treasure in heaven is what matters most (vv. 16-21). Second, the person whose perspectives are distorted by materialism is blind to God’s truth (vv. 22-23). Lastly, one must love God or money; there is no middle ground (v. 24). Perhaps the greatest threat to Christians in America is not Islam, spiritualism, or atheism, but rather the all-pervasive materialism of our affluent society. Our Lord demands from His followers a wholehearted devotion to Him. Therefore, whatsoever tethers one’s heart to the earth should be released.

Why is it impossible to serve two masters? How does this principle connect with the Lord’s teaching on laying up “treasures on earth” verses laying up “treasure in heaven”?

Thursday – Matt. 6:25-34: In our last reading, Jesus has exhorted His disciples not to value earthly treasure of heavenly possessions (vv. 16-24). Now He goes one step further, He also exhorts us not to value possessions enough to worry about them (vv. 25-34). Christians must not agonize over seeking material gain, but should trust God’s power to provide our needs. If God cares for the birds, lilies, or grass, how much more for people created in His image and for His blessed children? Anxiety will not add even a single hour to one’s life (or cubit to one’s stature as some translations read). Indeed, worry does just the opposite; it shortens life. Yet when Jesus forbids His disciples from worrying about tomorrow this does not suggest that He expects us to ignore whatever concerns arise. Rather, He expects us to express dependence on God in each of these concerns, praying for our needs (ref. Matthew 6:11). The pagans, Jesus says, seek after the necessities of life in a worried pace. In contrast, the believer seeks God’s agenda instead, fully trusting He will provide.

From your perspective, how will the crucial choices we make between serving God or money (Matthew 6:24) affect our ability to live free from worry?

Friday – Matt. 7:1-6 (cf. Luke 6:37-42): Moving from materialism, Jesus addresses interpersonal relationships. “Judge not, that you be not judged” (v. 1). Judging others assumes a divine prerogative. The final judgment belongs to God alone, and those who seek to judge others usurp God’s position. Nevertheless, Jesus is not opposed to offering correction, but only offering correction in a judgmental attitude, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (v. 3). Consider the absurdity of walking around with a thick beam protruding from one’s eye, totally ignorant of one’s grotesque state. In spiritual terms, one must first pluck out any impediments to their own sight before they can see well enough to help others remove the source of their blindness. However, even when one is right, one should not impose the truth on others against their will (v. 6).

How does vv. 3-5 help define the kind of “judging” Jesus is talking about in vv. 1-2?

Week 9 Summaries and Questions for the Life of Jesus Reading Plan


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Just like it did 2,000 years ago, the Sermon on the Mount challenges disciple’s resolve to live the distinctness of the Christian counterculture.  Jesus calls us to us fidelity in marriage no matter what, truth telling at all cost, humiliation in the form of nonresistance, and above all to show our attitude of total love even to an enemy. His words here are both most admired and most resented. Yet, despite the difficulty of living our these teachings, our Lord’s word is good – intrinsically good for individuals and society. If you haven’t already, it’s always a good time to start The Life and Teachings of Jesus 2020 Reading Plan.

The Life and Teachings of Jesus – Week 9 – March 2-6:

Monday – Matt. 5:31-32: The third teaching of Jesus follows naturally from the second, inasmuch as sexual sin often leads to divorce. Again, Jesus requires a more exacting standard of His followers than was the norm of His day. The process for divorce under the Law of Moses is outlined in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. The bill of divorce, demanded by Moses and mentioned here by Jesus, was a protection for the woman that freed her to marry someone else. The religious teachers of Jesus’ day wrongfully assumed divorce was a part of God’s will and simply sending away one’s wife with a divorce certificate satisfied the Law’s demands (this is especially clear in Matthew 19:1-12). It’s against such a backdrop that our Savior calls on people to appreciate the true meaning and solemnity of marriage. For Him, marriage is intended to be a lifelong union of one man and one woman, and it is not to be dissolved lightly. Jesus’ teaching on divorce clearly contrasts with His and our culture.

Why do you think our Lord has such a high view of fidelity to one’s spouse? What would make your Top Ten List for how to avoid divorce?

Tuesday – Matt. 5:33-37: The fourth, “You have heard…” statement doesn’t actually appear verbatim in the Old Testament, but is perhaps a conflation of Leviticus 19:12, Numbers 30:2 and Deuteronomy 23:23. The situation described is one in which many Jews viewed swearing an oath by “heaven or earth, “or by “the temple,” or even by “one’s head” was not as binding as swearing “by God.” Jesus stresses that each one of these items belongs to God, so that the conventional distinctions were spurious. The point of our Lord’s teaching is not avoiding oaths all together (Paul makes oath statements on several occasions i.e. Romans 1:9; 9:1); rather the issue is telling the truth because God witnesses every word one speaks. Therefore, Jesus says, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one” (v. 37; cf. James 5:12).

According to Jesus, what’s the problem with making oaths? Why should oaths be unnecessary for the Lord’s followers?

Wednesday – Matt. 5:38-42: Revenge comes easily to us, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” the saying goes. However, in this fifth saying, the Lord Jesus calls His disciples to a higher ethic that transcends tit-for-tat retribution. His teaching stresses the need to decisively break the natural chain of evil action and reaction that often characterizes human relationships. Jesus invites His hearers to grapple with the application of His points. Nonresistance means disdaining one’s honor (vv. 38-39), one’s most basic possessions (v. 40), one’s labor and time when others seek them by force (v. 41), and one must also disdain these things in view of the needs of the poor (v. 42); then, when the kingdom comes, one’s deeds, rather than one’s wealth and honor will matter (cf. Matthew 25:34-46). One’s vested interest must be in heaven, not on earth; if one cannot value the kingdom that much, one has no place in it.

Looking closely at vv. 39-42, how would you contrast our natural responses in such situations with the responses Jesus expects of us? What do you think is accomplished by turning the other cheek or going a second mile?

Thursday – Matt. 5:43-48 (Luke 6:27-36): With this, His sixth and last commentary on how the Law of Moses had been taught, our Lord teaches that one whose righteousness would surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees (ref. Matthew 5:20) must exemplify a higher standard of virtue than loving those friendly to one’s own interest. We all love our friends, but love for our enemies is quite another matter. As disciples of Jesus we are not to take our standards from our human nature but rather, from the God we serve. Our God is a loving God who indiscriminately gives good gifts to all, regardless of whether they are friend or foe. Therefore, we must be like Him loving even our enemies.

How is Jesus Himself an example of what it means to “Love your enemies” (v. 44)? How might you reflect the Lord’s character when you are mistreated? Focus on the one person who could be considered your chief enemy and, this week, reach out to him or her with some practical act of love.

Friday – Matt. 6:1-4: Today’s reading begins a new section in the Sermon on the Mount. In the next three readings, Jesus will teach on the proper practice of piety: Almsgiving (vv. 1-4); Praying (vv. 5-15), and Fasting (vv. 16-18). The overarching thesis of this section is: Do your righteousness for God to see you, not others (v. 1). In all three examples, Jesus warns us to not be like the “hypocrites” seeking public praise (vv. 2, 5, 16). Rather, our focus should be on God’s glory, which in turn will solicit His praise (vv. 4, 6, 18). Jesus begins this teaching with almsgiving. It’s an accepted fact that it is a religious duty to help the poor but, as in all ages, some are more interested in public reputation rather than relief of poverty. Our Lord teaches that it is indeed important to give, just not to be known to give.

According to Jesus, how are we to do acts of charity? Why is it important that we give this way? It what way(s) are you tempted to violate this principle?

Week 7 Summaries and Questions for the Life of Jesus Reading Plan


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The Life and Teachings of Jesus – Week 7 – February 17-21:

Monday – Matt. 4:12-17 (Mark 1:14): As Jesus starts His ministry, Matthew first sets the time frame, “when He heard that John had been arrested” (v. 12; cf. Mark 6:14-29 we’ll discuss John’s arrest and death with May 26th’s reading). Then he sets the geographical scene, “leaving Nazareth [Jesus] went and lived in Capernaum by the sea” (v. 13), followed by the theological significance “so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled” (v. 14). Lastly, Matthew summarizes Jesus’ message, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (v. 17).

One feature of Matthew’s gospel is that he constantly connects Jesus’ life back to prophecy from the Old Testament (ref. 1:22; 2:15, 17, 23; 4:14; 8:17; 12:17; 13:35; 21:4; 27:9). What does Matthew want you, his reader, to see with the references?

Tuesday – John 4:46-54: Nothing can shatter a parent more quickly or more completely than affliction falling upon their child. Regardless of one’s station in life, trouble, sorrow, and death come to us all. Death was knocking at the door of an “official” (literally a noble-man or king’s-man perhaps from Herod Antipas’ court). Desperate, he comes to Jesus and begs, “Sir, come down [to Capernaum] before my child dies” (v. 49). Note Jesus’ reply in the first part of v. 50a, “Go; your son will live.” These words contain a partial granting and a partial denial. Jesus granted the healing, but He refused to go do to Capernaum. He gave the man no sign, He simply gave him His word. “The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way” (v. 50b). Believing is seeing!

Many were believing in Jesus because they saw His “signs and wonders” (v. 48). How did Jesus require a deeper faith from the official? In what way(s), is Jesus requiring a deeper faith from you?

Wednesday – Luke 5:1-11 (Matt. 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20): Jesus already knew these men. He met them some time ago (cf. John 1:35-42).  Jesus had performed a miraculous sign in their presence (cf. John 2:1-11), and He even had them baptize believers for Him (cf. John 3:22; 4:12), but now He’s going to call them to a greater work. Luke’s account makes Simon (“who is called Peter” Matthew 4:18) central to the call of discipleship as he alone records the miraculous catch of fish and Peter’s reaction. Jesus begins Peter’s journey of discipleship not by calling him away from his profession but by challenging him to a bolder practice of it, “From now on you will be catching men” (v. 10). When the boats reached land, Peter and his partners left “everything and followed Him” (v. 11).

Jesus seized Simon Peter’s attention when He demonstrated His authority not just in religious teaching, but over fish. Why do you think authority over fish affected Simon so much more profoundly that what he had already witnessed? What kind of authority would get your attention that strongly?

Thursday – Mark 1:21-34 (Matt. 8:14-17; Luke 4:31-41): With the four disciples in tow, Jesus “went into Capernaum and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching” (v. 21). As the people sat thunderstruck by His teaching, “immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?’” (v. 23). The Christ has been challenged. Very likely there was stone-silence for a moment in the synagogue by the sea. Then Jesus responds, “Be silent and come out of him!” (v. 25). With wild convulsions the man was loosed from his demonic tormentor. Dumbfounded, the crowd questions, “What is this? A new teaching with authority!” (v. 27a). The same measure of authority with which they had been confronted by His teaching was the same word of command to the demon, “He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him” (v. 27b). 

Imagine yourself there at the synagogue that Sabbath day and in Peter’s home afterwards, describe what you see, hear and witness, along with how you and others respond.

Friday – Mark 1:35-39 (Matt. 4:23-25; Luke 4:42-44): The early days of Jesus’ ministry were spent going from town-to-town “throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons” (v. 39). Matthew’s parallel account gives us a glimpse at our Lord’s exhausting travels, healing work, and the swelling crowds that followed Him. Yet, Mark shows us what sustained Jesus during this time, “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He departed and went out to a desolate place, and there He prayed” (v. 35).

From both a practical and spiritual point-of-view, why do you think Jesus needed to do this? How do His actions speak to you?

Week 6 Summaries and Questions for The Life of Jesus Reading Plan


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So if you’re one of those people who thought reading the Bible cover-to-cover was a great idea you’ve probably hit a brick wall in Leviticus. Let’s face it, Leviticus is some hard reading. May I make a suggestion? Don’t give up on reading, shelve the cover-to-cover plan and start reading some more familiar material (and might I add more life changing). It’s not too late to pick up The Life and Teachings of Jesus reading plan. Download your copy today, I promise it’s a whole lot better than reading about how to spot leprosy.

Week 6 – February 10-14:

Monday – John 3:1-21: He was an earnest “Pharisee,” an aristocratic “ruler of the Jews” (v. 1) and “the teacher of Israel” (v. 10) and yet he had questions. Nicodemus couldn’t overlook the weight of the evidence, “we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with Him” (v. 2). Today’s text is rich in truth.  Two popular verses are a part of this exchange, “You must be born again…” (v. 3) and “For God so loved the world…” (v. 16). Throughout their discussion (one-sided as John records it), our Lord brings Nicodemus face-to-face with the necessity of breaking from religious norms and giving one’s self wholly to God’s transforming love.

Meditate on the truths that Jesus reveals to Nicodemus. What difference does (or should) it make to your attitudes and priorities that God calls for us to live renewed lives because of His great love for you?

Tuesday – John 3:22-36: As the popularity of Jesus grows, the many crowds that flock to Him to be baptized cause some to be jealous. A few of John’s disciples go to him complaining, “Rabbi, He who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness – look, He is baptizing, and all are going to Him” (v. 26). Rather than responding with jealous fear or anger, John displays the proper philosophy (vv. 27-28), proper attitude (v. 29), and the proper conduct (v. 30). Then, in vv. 31-36, he continues his ministry of bearing witness of Jesus the Christ, the Son of God.

Does John’s attitude toward himself and his own ministry, and toward Jesus and His ministry, suggest any example for you to follow? How do your actions reflect v. 30? Pray about how you can further grow in this area.

Wednesday – John 4:1-30: Samaria… any good Jew would spit as that word slid through their lips. The hatred between Samaritans and Jews was legendary (cf. Luke 9:53-54; John 8:48). Nevertheless, at times Samaritans featured prominently in Jesus’ ministry (cf. Luke 10:33-36; 17:16-18) and in the early church (cf. Acts 8:1, 4-8; 9:31). Looking past any animosity held between their peoples, the Lord Jesus reached out to this nameless woman sharing with her the satisfying “living waters” (v. 10) of the gospel.

Who are the “Samaritans” in your world – the people with whom decent or orthodox people have nothing to do with? How can you treat one of them as Jesus treated the woman of Sychar? What can you do to help such a person to recognize and believe in Jesus?

Thursday – John 4:31-45: When the Samaritan woman left Jesus she was happy. Her interaction with Christ stirred her very soul. Regrettably, the disciples evidently had not moved beyond the social and cultural conventions about the woman, as we see in v. 27, “Just then His disciples came back. They marveled that He was talking with a woman.” So we have a vivid contrast between the disciples’ narrow incredulity and the woman’s happy enthusiasm: they brought no one to see the Christ, but she brought the entire village (vv. 39-42).

After His encounter with the Samaritan woman, what specific lessons does Jesus teach to His disciples and to us?

Friday – Luke 4:14-30: Following Jesus’ fairly extensive ministry in Jerusalem and Judea (cf. John 2:1-4:1), He returns to his home region of Galilee where news of His teaching and healing exploit quickly spread throughout the countryside (v. 14b, 23). Then one Sabbath, at his hometown synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus read a Messianic passage from Isaiah and made an unambiguous claim that He was the Messiah who fulfilled the prophecy. Then He highlighted that He will be rejected by the Jews (vv. 23-24) and accepted by faithful Gentiles (vv. 25-27). These two themes run throughout the book of Acts and part of the Epistles. At this word the crowd wants to kill Him, but Jesus will have none of this ethno-nonsense, so miraculously He passed through the raging mob and went his way.

Observe the Nazarenes’ swiftly-changing attitudes toward Jesus – from praise in v. 22 to fury in v. 28. How do you account for the change? If you could address a person who made such a radical shift of faith, what would you say to them?