Key Passage: Matthew 4:17-22
As Jesus launches his ministry, one of the first things he does is invites several young men to join him as disciples. In understanding the culture of the day (teaching explores the Galilean Education System), we recognize quickly they were teenagers. What’s astounding isn’t their age – that was the cultural norm – it was that they were chosen. They weren’t the best of the best, and yet Jesus pursued them! For many of us, we simply see Jesus as someone who saves us from our sins. Or additionally, we live with a belief that Jesus is annoyed with us, frustrated that we struggle to get things right. It’s almost as if we subtly believe that we are projects that Jesus has to deal with – problems that need to be fixed or solved. But we learn in Jesus calling his first disciples is that Jesus pursues us not as projects, but as partners to join him in bringing restoration and goodness into the world. The story is so much bigger than just our individual salvations.
Good Friday is the day Christians commemorate the death of Jesus on the most shameful instrument of death conceived in the ancient world – the cross. Crucifixion wasn’t invented by the Romans; but it was perfected by them. And in the eyes of everyone, a crucified messiah was no messiah at all. Just another victim in the Roman rampage to take over the world and eliminate anyone threatening their “peace.” Which is why Mark’s gospel and how he tells the crucifixion story is so fascinating because not only is he writing to Rome, the heart of the empire, but the way he tells the crucifixion story would have left his audience speechless. Only when you understand the Roman Triumph can you appreciate more fully Mark’s message of Jesus’ Triumph.
Key Passage: Mark 15:16-39
This teaching tackles “Palm Sunday.” Due to the title we ascribe to it (“The Triumphal Entry”), it is often understood to be a time of great joy and excitement. And yet, Jesus cries vehemently in the midst of it. Why? Because he’s met face-to-face with the reality that many missed the heart of his message. The majority in the crowd were looking for a military leader who would take care of their problems – namely Rome, and Jesus was good to them as long as he fulfilled their expectations. Jesus was going to deal with a much bigger enemy (sin and death), but he realized in that moment that the people weren’t going to trust him to do what he needed to do in the manner he needed to do it. Jesus was going to disappoint them because there was going to be a gap between expectation and reality. We understand that gap as well. The questions becomes, “how do we respond well when we’re disappointed by Jesus?” What we learn is that in our disappointment, God desires to birth something new within us. And until we die to our expectations, we won’t experience the new life waiting to blossom.
Key Passage: Luke 19:39-44
Moses prophesied that at a future point, God would raise up another prophet like himself (i.e. a 2nd Moses) from among the Israelite people. Moses was known for leading the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt. Ironically, when Jesus enters the New Testament story, he also comes out of Egypt, symbolizing that his story is going to be lived out on the canvas of the Exodus, and he’ll do so as the 2nd Moses leading a New Exodus. Whereas, the first Exodus entailed freedom from the Israelite’s slavery to Egypt; this Exodus entailed freedom from humanity’s slavery to sin. Jesus came to destroy the controlling power of sin in our lives, but all too often, we get caught back in Egypt – the place that serves as a metaphor for the things that enslave us today (debt, addictions, busyness, unforgiveness, fear, bitterness, etc.). The season leading up to Easter is an invitation to leave Egypt behind, and to walk in the newness of life that Jesus came to give. For as Jesus made clear, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
Key Passage: Deuteronomy 18:15, 17-19
In one of the most stunning moments recorded in the Bible, Boaz lives into his role as a kinsman redeemer and comes to the aid of Naomi and Ruth. This teaching traces the redemption in the book of Ruth and how it serves as the foundation for the life of Jesus. It also challenges us to embody the heart of Boaz and Jesus to come alongside and take responsibility for those in need. Following the teaching, I received an email from a couple who shared how God spoke to them during the teaching and immediately after the service they went and bought a pre-owned vehicle for a single mom in need (and they mentioned God told them the exact amount to spend). Simply amazing how God speaks through the Bible today!
Key Passage: Ruth 4:1-10
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