Week of Sept 18-24 (Session 3)  

Readings and Reflection Questions

Friday September 18  Matthew 4:1-11 

  1. Barna once included a question in survey of Christians, asking whether the respondent agreed or disagreed, strongly or somewhat or not sure, with the statement, “Satan is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.” How would you answer? 
  2. How would you define “temptation”? 
  3. What kinds of ordinary human fears might the tempter possibly be trying to exploit in these temptations? Do you think Jesus was even affected by the same kinds of fears other human beings typically have? 
  4. What phrase does the devil use to preface the first two temptations?  
  5. How do these temptations relate to Jesus’ sense of his own identity? 
  6. What does this temptation narrative reveal about alternate views (Satan’s view versus Jesus’ view) on how to exercise power? 

Saturday September 19  Matthew 4:12-22 

  1. Once again in this section Matthew quotes the fulfillment of an Old Testament passage, Isaiah 9:1-2. What about this passage might suggest that Matthew was trying to persuade his fellow Jews that Jesus’ ministry, from its very beginnings, would ultimately be directed to those who were not descendants of Abraham? 
  2. Optional: Assuming that Matthew took it for granted that his audience would be able connect the passage he quoted with its context in the Scriptures that preceded and followed, what does Isaiah 9:6-7 imply or state about the identity of the one who would be born to Israel and Judah? 
  3. What in this reading from Matthew indicates that Jesus was following up on, or perhaps taking over John the Baptist’s prior ministry? 
  4. What stands out to you about the sort of men Jesus sought out to become his disciples? 
  5. What do you think makes for a good mentor?  
  6. From what has been read in Matthew’s account of Jesus thus far, what sort of mentoring goals do you think Jesus will now have for these new protegees, or disciples? 

Sunday September 20  Matthew 4:17 

  1. How would you define “repentance?”  
  2. When Jesus said, “Repent!” do you think he was referring to a singular conversion event or an ongoing process? 
  3. Identify God’s part and the human part in the phrase, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near?” 
  4. See if you can remember any moment when you felt especially close to God and spend some time exploring the memory. What led up to it? What or who was around you? What was the temperature like? What colors do you remember? How did your body feel? What emotions were you aware of? 
  5. Ask, “Lord, what are you saying to me about my repentance and your Kingdom in my life?” 

Monday September 21  Matthew 4:23-25 

  1. According to the context in which the word “gospel” or “good news” is mentioned, what are some features of this gospel, or Good News that Jesus preached? 
  2. How does Jesus’ use of power here contrast with or compare to his non-use of power in the temptation narrative? 
  3. Optional: 2 Samuel 18:19-33 shows the ordinary cultural context, or typical kind of situation in the ancient world in which the term “good news” or “Gospel” would be used, but with its own twist. What is the situation in this narrative? Why was the “good news” not good to the one who was waiting for the report? 
  4. Look up and read a bit about the “Decapolis” in Wikipedia. Notice on the map where the five geographical references of this section are to be found: Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and the area across the Jordan river. What does this geographical description imply about the ethnic makeup of the crowds that followed Jesus? Why might this be significant? 

Tuesday September 22  Matthew 5:1-12 

  1. Why do you suppose Jesus chose to begin his teaching with these eight descriptions of being blessed by God? 
  2. If a Pharisee were to list ‘Eight ways to know you are blessed by God,’ what kinds of things do you suppose would be on the list? If a contemporary blogger were to make such a list? 
  3. What is surprising about the descriptions Jesus gives here? 
  4. Each of these descriptions has two parts, a beginning state and one that follows. In which of these is the blessedness contained? 
  5. For each of these cases, how easy is it to see the connection between the beginning state and the ultimate state? If it seems difficult to see the connection in any them, what do you think is the reason for the difficulty? 
  6. Do you see any sort of progression in these states or conditions of blessing from beginning to end? 
  7. Finally, recall that disciples are to obey what Jesus commands. Identify any commands in this section, and consider how well you have been obeying them. Talk with the Lord about that. 

Wednesday September 23  Matthew 5:13-16 

  1. Recall that Jesus is speaking to the crowds who have been thronging to him in search of healing, deliverance, or out of curiosity or just tagging along with others. Consider the mixture of persons in the crowd—their various backgrounds and beliefs. How likely do you think it is that Jesus is actually referring to them when he said, “You are the salt of the earth” (5:13) and “you are the light of the world” (5:14)? 
  2. Optional: See the Wikipedia article, “Salt in the Bible.” 
  3. A lampstand was significant in the Jewish temple, and salt was an essential ingredient in many sacrifices in the temple, but what kind of contexts or situations does Jesus assume here in his references to salt and light? Why do you suppose he focused on non-religious experiences? 
  4. What for you is the biggest faith challenge in this section? 
  5. Finally, recall that disciples are to obey what Jesus commands. Identify any commands in this section, and consider how well you have been obeying them. Talk with the Lord about that. 

Thursday September 24  Matthew 5:3-10 (choose 1 verse from the Beatitudes) 

  1. Which of the “beatitudes” stands out to you most? 
  2. Pretend you are with a friend you can trust not to judge you, and that you are about to explain why this particular beatitude caught your attention or why it is significant to you. Now actually begin that conversation, but direct it to the Lord as a prayer conversation. 
  3. When you have shared your bit, ask the Lord if there is anything he wants you to know about your response to his word. Then let your mind be open and just observe whatever it is that comes into your mind. 
  4. If there is any more to say, carry on the prayer conversation in a similar fashion. 

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