Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (July 14, 2019) Jesus Teaches Us To Love One Another Matthew 5:21-32

Love One Another Matthew 5:21-32

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  This week I review what Jesus said about anger, adultery, and divorce in Matthew 5.  In this chapter Jesus continues to outline what righteousness looks like for his Kingdom.  We can learn at least two things in this week’s lesson.  First, Jesus is more concerned about our relationships with one another than he is with us following the rules and regulations of The Law.  And secondly, Jesus is asking us to truly live a righteous life.  As Jesus reinterprets The Law using literary devices to make his point we should understand that righteousness is based in a love that does right by God and God’s created.  This lesson is about relationships and the spirit of The Law, not the letter of The Law.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

The Law

Divorce

Patriarchy

Background: 

When this text is written the Jewish Temple has already been destroyed and these Jewish Christians are a distinct people of God separate from the Israelites with a completely separate mission.  Their mission is to “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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).  Some of them have Jewish heritage.  Some of them are Gentile.  Some still have Jewish practices.  But they aren’t entirely Jewish.  They are becoming something entirely different from what they used to be.  Matthew is written to give them that guidance and direction as they move from where they were to where God wants them to be.

Our text this week deals with relationships as Jesus talks about the Law.  Notice how Jesus says “you have heard that it was said” and then he follows with “but I say unto you”.  He’s telling them the Law says XYZ, but I say unto you 1, 2, 3.  I think what we see in this text is that Jesus cares more about relationships than rules; even the rules of The Law.  As Jesus continues to outline what righteousness looks like, he is showing us that righteousness is not a strict adherence to The Law; but more so a deeper spiritual righteousness that comes from a changed heart; A heart of love.  This is about the spirit of the Law, not the letter of the Law.  How we handle and care for our relationships with others speaks volumes about who we are and what we value.  Some important words to consider from this text include:

The Law

Hell

Divorce

Patriarchy

Review of Last Week How it Connects to This Week: 

Last week I reviewed the second lesson of this five week series in Matthew.  I explained how Jesus continued to outline what righteousness looks like for his Kingdom.  I also noted how Matthew gives us an honest account of the tension between what I keep calling the “old school” Jewish hierarchy and these new Jewish Christians who aren’t worshipping in the same way or following the same practices as the “traditional” Jews are.  In verses thirteen and fourteen of last week’s text Jesus described his disciples and by extension all of us who follow him as salt and then light.  These two metaphors are descriptors that should help us understand how we should be and how we should be seen in the world.  Salt is both a seasoning and a preserver.  It seasons our food and makes it taste better.  Likewise we should strive to make life “taste” better for those around us.  Salt also preserves.  We ought to preserve the good in our lives and encourage others to do the same.  In preserving what is good we can become lights in a dark world.  I also noted that Saint Francis of Assisi is credited with saying “preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words”.  That’s a great explanation of what it means to be salt and light in this world. 

I noted in verses 15 and 16 how we are encouraged to put our light on a candlestick so others may see our good works.  In other words, our lights should shine bright.  Don’t dim your bright light because others are intimidated, jealous, envious, or any other reason.  Your good works, your example, your ministry, your life’s example should be to God’s glory

Verse 18 told us that nothing would be taken away from the Law; not one word, not one letter, not even a stroke of one letter will be taken away until all has been fulfilled.  I noted how Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the prophets.  Also noted was Standard Lesson Commentary saying “God did not give the law intending that it would last forever.  Ultimately it points to Christ, who makes perfect what the law could not perfect (Rom 3:20-31; Hebrews 7:16-19). 

Verse 19 reminded us how Jesus declares those who break one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.  No one can keep all of the commandments of the Old Testament.  Jesus offers a better testament, a better covenant.

Verse 20 told us that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees or we will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  I noted how the Gospel According to Matthew is not kind to the scribes and Pharisees.  There is tension between these Jewish Christians who are teaching a new way, a new covenant based in Jesus Christ and the “old school” Jewish hierarchy.  Matthew is written to a community who “with much bitterness and conflict have withdrawn from the synagogue.  It assists a now separate community in defining its identity and shaping its faithful way of life within the diversity of late 1st-century Judaism” (NISB).  The point for us today is to recognize and acknowledge Jesus as our Savior.

As we continue to focus on the idea of a heartfelt covenant, this week’s lesson helps us understand how Jesus teaches us to love one another.  This is the third lesson from the Gospel According to Matthew.  As Jesus continues to outline some of the rules of his kingdom, in this lesson Jesus deals with some matters of the heart.   He teaches about anger, adultery, and divorce.  Townsend and Boyd’s Commentary title the lesson Jesus Teaches Us To Love One Another.  Standard Lesson Commentary titles it Love One Another.  The scripture text comes from Matthew 5:21-32. 

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

Verse twenty-one begins with “You have heard that is was said”.  In this way, Jesus is reminding the disciples and listeners of what the Law said long ago.  In our text this week Jesus does this three times.  As he walks through each of these three examples he is making a point.  He is essentially calling the disciples to a higher righteousness.  A spiritual righteousness not based on strict adherence of The Law but on a deeper spiritual level based in love.  His first example deals with murder.  To commit murder is a shocking and atrocious sin.  But notice how Jesus takes it to the next level.  He says even if you are angry with your brother or sister without cause you are in danger of judgement.  He’s making the point that relationship is important and anger against your brother or sister is dangerous.  Anger can destroy relationships.

Verses twenty-three and twenty-four reinforces the point and makes it even more clear that Jesus is more concerned with our human relationships, how we treat each other, than he is with whatever gift we might bring to God.  He is essentially saying stop what you are doing; first be reconciled to your brother or sister and then bring your gift.  Relationships are important!

Verses twenty-five and twenty-six deal with contentious relationships.  The point here is that we should work out our differences quickly.  Don’t let your differences fester. Don’t let your differences linger.  Bad news doesn’t get better with time.  So whatever needs working out, go ahead and work it out. 

Verses twenty-seven and twenty-eight deal with adultery.  Again, Jesus takes it to the next level when he says “whoever looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”.  This is not about the letter of the Law.  Jesus is teaching us about the spirit of the Law.  We need a changed heart.  A heart of love. 

Verses twenty-nine and thirty deal with the relationship we have with our selves. Self-care is important.  In fact, when we fail to take care of ourselves I argue that we are more likely to have “offending members” or causes of stumbling in our faith walk.  It should be noted that plucking out offending eyes or cutting off offending hands is not to be taken literally.  Again, Jesus is making a point.  He is showing us that the righteousness of his kingdom goes beyond following rules.  It goes beyond “gaming the system” to get or do what you want.  The righteousness of Jesus is a matter of the heart; a changed heart.  Also, Townsend Commentary notes that ““hell” comes from the Greek word gehenna.  Gehenna appears often in Matthew to refer to the eternal destination of the wicked.  Hell is not to be confused with Hades (Luke 16:32), which was the underworld for the dead known as Sheol in the Old Testament”.

In verses thirty-one and thirty-two Jesus returns again to this “you have heard it was said, but I say unto you” formula.   This time Jesus deals with another matter of the heart; spousal relationships.   Keep in mind that through much of history, in patriarchal societies, women were treated as property.  Townsend Commentary notes that “Some of the rabbis allowed divorce on the grounds that the wife was displeasing to her husband or that the husband was attracted to a more beautiful woman”.  Jesus is telling us that the spousal relationship should not be abused.  The righteousness of Jesus’ kingdom is in large part based on doing right by others.  As Jesus reinterprets The Law of Moses he takes it to the next level to make guilty the male who divorces his wife and the man who marries a divorced wife.  Again, Jesus is driving home his point and I argue that this too should not be taken literally.  Women are not the property of their husband.  Jesus recognized that abuse and teaches his disciples and the crowd that spousal relationships are important.

Context:

Poetry, figurative language, literary and rhetorical devices, narrative, prose, proverbs, analogies, and other techniques are used in Scripture to instruct and ultimately draw us closer to God.  Our text this week contains examples of literary devices used to make a point.  When Jesus tells us to pluck out the offending eye or cut off the offending hand it is not literal.  He is making a point.  Notice how Jesus used metaphors of salt and light in last week’s lesson.  Jesus’ use of literary devices helps us appreciate, interpret, and analyze his teachings.  I especially like how Rev. Wil Gafney PH.D. explains a portion of this text, writing “Sometimes Jesus says something entirely contradictory to the text. Mostly he seems to be making it harder to do the right thing and some of what he says just seems flat out impossible. In the passages he reinterprets in our gospel today, Jesus accepts the basic meaning but recrafts them to say surprisingly more than they previously said. Jesus takes biblical interpretation to a whole other level”.  Yes, that’s the point!  As Jesus reinterprets parts of the The Law, we should see beyond the mere words on the page and hear the call to true righteousness.  Righteousness rooted in relationship and love.  Jesus doesn’t do away with the old covenant, he makes it better. 

Key Characters in the text:

Jesus Christ – Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and according to the Christian church the incarnate second Person of the Trinity.  He was crucified on a cross and was raised from the dead by the power of God. 

Matthew – Each of the four Gospels lists Matthew as one of the twelve Apostles.  Most scholars believe Matthew and Levi is the same person.  As a tax collector Matthew would have been associated with the Roman government.  This would have also made him despised by his Jewish countrymen and women.

Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion): 

Beatitudes – Teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount regarding the lives and dispositions of his followers.

Disciples – One who follows and learns from another as a pupil.  Old Testament prophets had disciples, as did John the Baptist and the Pharisees.  It is used specifically for those who follow Jesus Christ. 

Patriarchy – A male authority system that oppresses and subordinates women through social, political, and economic institutions and practices.    

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  What righteousness looks like.

2.  What did I say?   

Questions

1.  Discuss how anger can destroy relationships.         

2.  Discuss why relationships are so important in Jesus’ Kingdom.           

Concluding thought:

This week’s lesson teaches us at least two things.  First, Jesus is more concerned about our relationships with one another than he is with us following the rules and regulations of The Law.  Secondly, Jesus is asking us to truly live a righteous life.  This is about the spirit of The Law, not the letter of The Law.  Righteousness based in an ethic of love ought to be our guiding light.  I can think of no example when doing right by God and doing right by God’s created will lead us away from righteousness.  That’s our task, that’s our goal; to do right in love.   

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson: Next week Jesus continues his Sermon on the Mount using the same “you have heard that is was said, but I say unto you” formula.  Jesus continues to make his point to the disciples and listeners about what true righteousness look like.  As he makes his point Jesus teaches about transforming love.  Next week the text continues at Matthew 5:38-48.  As we keep in mind the idea of a heartfelt covenant I will outline some of what transformative love looks like.

Christianity, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (July 7, 2019) Jesus Teaches About Fulfilling The Law / Fulfilling The Law Matthew 5:13-20

Fulfilling The Law Matthew 5:13-20

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  This week I take a look at the second lesson of the Beatitudes.  In this week’s lesson Jesus continues to outline what righteousness looks like and the rules and regulations of his Kingdom.  Matthew gives us an honest account of the tension between what I keep calling the “old school” Jewish hierarchy and these new upstarts that are telling people about a man named Jesus who can save the world.  “Old school” Judaism and these new Jewish Christians don’t agree and they don’t get along.  Matthew is writing to these new Jewish Christians to point them in the right direction concerning this New Covenant and how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

The Law

The Prophets

Scribes and Pharisees

Background: 

The overall focus for the summer quarter is a heartfelt covenant.  Heartfelt is an adjective.  It is a describing word.  It adds context to or describes a noun which in this case is covenant.  So, we’re talking about a heartfelt covenant.  Heartfelt is defined as “a feeling or its expression that is sincere; deeply and strongly felt”.  When something is heartfelt it is genuine, it’s authentic.  In our lessons this summer we are studying different aspects of this heartfelt, this genuine, authentic, and sincere covenant established by Jesus Christ.  But what I really want to highlight is that WE are the ones who experience this covenant in a heartfelt way. 

With that in mind, I’ll provide some background on the origin of the book of Matthew, a bit of background on the people this Gospel was written to, and then I’ll narrow the focus to this week’s study which is the 5th chapter of the Gospel According to Matthew. 

Matthew is also known as Levi the son of Alphaeus (Mark 2:14).  Matthew is a tax collector when Jesus finds him sitting at a tax booth.  Jesus simply says “follow me” and Matthew got up and followed him.  As a tax collector, Matthew was likely despised by other Jews because he would have been seen as a collaborator with the Roman Empire.  Also, tax collectors were called unclean and often defrauded and cheated people by charging excessive taxes.  So Jews did not associate with tax collectors.

Additionally, keep in mind this text is likely written after 70 A.D.  The Jewish temple has been destroyed and Matthew is writing to Jewish Christians.  The New Interpreter’s Study Bible explains that “although the name Matthew is linked with this Gospel about 100 years after it was written, it is not known who the real author is, when the text was originally written, or why this work is named Matthew”.  An illustrated biographical dictionary explains that “although Mark is the shortest Gospel, Matthew and Luke substantially use the same text as Mark but supplement it with additional writings”. 

The fifth chapter of Matthew begins Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  The sermon covers chapters 5 through 7.  Chapter 5 begins with “blessings and sayings (5:3-16) the middle section of the sermon has six interpretations of scripture (5:17-48), instructions on three distinctive discipleship practices (6:1-18), and teaching on social and economic practices (6:19-7:12)” (NISB).  Over the next four weeks I will cover all of chapter five and close the last lesson with chapter 7.  Some important words to consider from this text include:

The Law

The Prophets

Scribes and Pharisees

Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week: 

Last week was the first of five lessons from the Gospel According to Matthew.  The text was Matthew 5:1-12 which is the beginning portion of the Beatitudes.  I began with a description of verse one and two observing how Jesus took notice of the crowds, and then how he withdrew to an unnamed mountain to address his disciples.  I also noted that “So far there are only four disciples (4:18-22; 10:1-4), but they represent all disciples” (NISB).  I also noted that the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, and those who hunger and thirst after righteousness is important language for a people who are oppressed, persecuted, and subjugated by the Imperial Roman government and their fellow Jewish nationals. I provided a definition of the poor as “those who are economically or spiritually without sufficient resources and noted that God has a special concern for the poor.  Contemporary liberation theology emphasizes reading Scripture from the perspective of the poor.  I also quoted the NISB noting that “The second half of each blessing promises God’s future reversal of imperial situations” (NISB). 

I also mentioned mercy from verse seven.  Mercy is an important descriptor of God.  Our homes are better when mercy is present.  Our communities are better when mercy is present, and our governmental policies make society better when they deal with poverty as a priority. 

A Pure Heart

I also admitted my inability to explain what a pure heart is.  At least in terms of righteousness, I’m certain the only way my heart can be declared pure is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross. 

I also talked about the difference between peacemakers and peacekeepers.  Peace makers do the work of justice and righteousness.  A peace keeper may or may not do this work.

Verses eleven and twelve closed the lesson proclaiming that we should rejoice and be glad because we will receive a great reward in heaven when we are persecuted falsely on the account of Jesus.  It’s important to stress that this applies to those who are falsely persecuted, not justifiably persecuted. 

Now, As we focus on the idea of a heartfelt covenant this week’s lesson deals with how Jesus fulfils the Law.   This is the second lesson from the beatitudes and the second of five from the Gospel According to Matthew.  In this second lesson we hear directly from Jesus as he outlines some of the rules of his kingdom.  The beatitudes are a guide for our everyday living that should be heartfelt by all Christians.  Townsend and Boyd’s Commentary title the lesson Jesus Teaches About Fulfilling the Law.  Standard Lesson Commentary titles it Fulfilling the Law.  The scripture text comes from Matthew 5:13-20. 

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

In verses thirteen and fourteen Jesus describes his disciples and by extension all of us who follow him as salt and then light.  These two metaphors are descriptors that should help us understand how we should be and how we should be seen in the world.  Salt is a seasoning and a preserver.  It seasons our food and makes it taste better.  Likewise we should strive to make life “taste” better for those around us.  Instead of creating problems we can help solve problems.  Instead of simply criticizing others we can offer constructive criticism that makes others better.  Salt also preserves.  We ought to preserve the good in our lives and encourage others to do the same.  In preserving what is good we can become lights in a dark world.  When people see your good works you become a light for them to emulate, a beacon of what can and should be instead of what is.  We should not underestimate the power of a good example.  Because sometimes the only sermon someone may hear is the one they see in how you live.  Saint Francis of Assisi is credited with saying “preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words”.  That’s a great explanation of what it means to be salt and light in this world. 

Verses 15 and 16 encourage us to put our light on a candlestick so others may see our good works.  In other words, our lights should shine bright.  Don’t dim your bright light because others are intimidated, jealous, envious, or any other reason.  Your good works, your example, your ministry, your life’s example should be to God’s glory.  And as long as you’re walking with God, let your light shine. 

Verse 17 deals with the title of this week’s lesson.  Here, Jesus tells the disciples that he has not come to destroy the law or the prophets but to fulfil.  Jesus does not do away with the old, he makes it better.  In next week’s lesson we see some of the ways Jesus makes the Old Testament better. 

Verse 18 tells us that nothing will be taken away from the Old Testament; not one word, not one letter, not even a stroke of one letter will be taken away until all has been fulfilled.  Keep in mind that this is the very beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  He has just called his first disciples in Galilee and they don’t yet know that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the prophets.  Standard Lesson Commentary notes that “God did not give the law intending that it would last forever.  Ultimately it points to Christ, who makes perfect what the law could not perfect (Rom 3:20-31; Hebrews 7:16-19).  In other words, the Old Testament points to Jesus as its own fulfillment.

In verse 19 Jesus declares that those who break one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.  It’s been said many times that no one can keep all of the commandments of the Old Testament.  Again, Jesus offers a better testament, a better covenant.  Here, in the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry neither his disciples nor the gathered crowd know how Jesus will fulfill the Old and make it better.  The writer of Matthew is recalling events that happened about 27 AD.  So when the final version of this text is complete at least forty years have passed.  The disciples may not have known at this point so early in Jesus’ ministry but eventually they would come to understand exactly who Jesus is and how he fulfills the Law and the prophets.

Verse 20 tells us that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees or we will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  The Gospel According to Matthew is not kind to the scribes and Pharisees.  There is tension between these Jewish Christians who are teaching a new way, a new covenant based in Jesus Christ and the “old school” Jewish hierarchy.  Matthew is writing to a community who “with much bitterness and conflict have withdrawn from the synagogue.  It assists a now separate community in defining its identity and shaping its faithful way of life within the diversity of late 1st-century Judaism” (NISB).  The point for us today is to recognize and acknowledge Jesus as our Savior.  And he is our Savior by grace. 

Context:

One of the things I love about Scripture is how is shows both the good and the not so good.  We see the faults and human frailty of the patriarchs through the Old Testament and they serve as an example of both what to do and what not to do.  It’s an honest account of the good and the not so good.  The Gospel according to Matthew is situated in that same vein.  It’s an honest account of the tension between what I keep calling the “old school” Jewish hierarchy and these new upstarts that are telling people about a man named Jesus who can save the world.  “Old school” Judaism and these new Jewish Christians don’t agree and they don’t get along.  When Matthew tells us that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees it’s just one more instance of this tension laid bare for all to see.  What we should be mindful of is that Jesus didn’t do away with the old rules, he made them better.  Jesus offers a new agreement, a new covenant, a new testament that is a better covenant for everyone today. 

Key Characters in the text:

Jesus Christ – Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and according to the Christian church the incarnate second Person of the Trinity.  He was crucified on a cross and was raised from the dead by the power of God. 

Matthew – Each of the four Gospels lists Matthew as one of the twelve Apostles.  Most scholars believe Matthew and Levi is the same person.  As a tax collector Matthew would have been associated with the Roman government.  This would have also made him despised by his Jewish countrymen and women.

Pharisees – A Jewish party during Jesus’ time that obeyed the Law of Moses and its unwritten interpretations, known as the tradition of the elders (Mark 7:3).  They focused on holiness (Lev. 19:2).  Some were hostile (John 7:32) others were helpful to Jesus (Luke 13:31). 

Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion): 

Beatitudes – Teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount regarding the lives and dispositions of his followers.

Disciples – One who follows and learns from another as a pupil.  Old Testament prophets had disciples, as did John the Baptist and the Pharisees.  It is used specifically for those who follow Jesus Christ. 

Kingdom of Heaven – An equivalent term for “Kingdom of God” found in Matthew’s Gospel. 

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  Old school versus new school.

2.  Salt is a seasoning, are you making anyone’s life “taste” better? 

Questions

1.  Matthew is writing to a people who are trying to figure out if they will be “old school” Jewish or this new style Jewish Christian, or something entirely different.  When is it best to go with the new school approach?         

2.  Is Jesus the spiritual fulfillment of the Old Testament Law?         

Concluding thought:

Matthew writes to a marginalized people, a people who are oppressed by the government and even their own brothers and sisters in the faith and reassures them of God’s plan and points them toward a mission to save the world.  This fifth chapter of Matthew shows some of how that mission began.  It also points us toward a coming Savior that in this chapter begins to outline what righteousness looks like.  It’s not the righteousness of a legal system that requires the sacrifice of animals and keeping certain legal requirements.  It is a righteousness based in love and faith in Jesus Christ.  That’s our task; to love others and to love God.

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Anger, adultery, and divorce are a part of next week’s lesson as I will continue where we left off this week.  Matthew 5:21-32 is the text next week and in these verses Jesus teaches us to love one another.  As we keep in mind the idea of a heartfelt covenant I will outline some of what that love looks like.    

Christianity, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (June 30, 2019) Jesus Teaches About Right Attitudes / Right Attitudes Matthew 5:1-12

Jesus Teaches About Right Attitudes

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  This week I take a look at the first of a 5 week series in Matthew.  This week begins a section of the Beatitudes in which Jesus begins to outline what righteousness looks like and what the rules and regulations of his Kingdom are.  Keep in mind that the Roman government severely persecuted the early church and the dominant Jewish community did not accept Jesus as the Savior.  As the writer recounts the words of Jesus these Beatitudes would certainly be a comfort to a distressed and anxious community.  Jesus didn’t do away with the old rules, he made them better.  Jesus offers a new agreement, a new covenant, a new testament that is a better covenant based on his teachings which begins in this fifth chapter of Matthew.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Beatitudes

Disciples

Kingdom of Heaven

Righteousness

Background 

The overall focus for the summer quarter is a heartfelt covenant.  Lessons will deal with “matters of the heart”.  In a broad sense these lessons will speak to why we do, what we do.  Our motivations, inspirations, and aspirations say a lot about why we do, what we do.  With that in mind I’ll provide some background on the origin of the book of Matthew, a bit of background on the people this Gospel was written to, and then I’ll narrow the focus to this week’s study which is the 5th chapter of the Gospel According to Matthew. 

This text is likely written after 70 A.D.  “The name Matthew is linked with the Gospel late in the second century, about 100 years after it was written” (New Interpreter’s Study Bible).  So this text existed about 100 years before people began to call it the Gospel According to Matthew.  Matthew is mentioned only twice in this Gospel (9:9, 10:3).  So, no one definitively knows who the author is.

Most scholars agree that Matthew is also “a rewriting of Mark’s Gospel” (NISB).  Some scholars suggest it is a rewriting to show how Jesus was associated with Roman tax collector’s (Matthew was a tax collector).  The early church was heavily persecuted by the Roman government.  If Jesus was connected to people associated with the Roman Government perhaps these new Christians aren’t such a threat is the thinking behind this rational. 

The Jewish temple has been destroyed and this text is written to Jewish Christians.  The NISB Commentary writes that Matthew’s Gospel is written in part to show “God has intervened to reassert the rightful rule of “the kingdom of heaven” and to impart its blessings to the covenant people of Israel, and ultimately to all nations.  Matthew’s main audience is to the nation of Israel and Jewish Christians in particular.

The fifth chapter of Matthew begins Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  The sermon covers chapters 5 through 7.  Chapter 5 begins with “blessings and sayings (5:3-16) the middle section of the sermon has six interpretations of scripture (5:17-48), instructions on three distinctive discipleship practices (6:1-18), and teaching on social and economic practices (6:19-7:12)” (NISB).  Over the next five weeks I will cover all of chapter five and close the fifth lesson with chapter 7.  Some important words to consider from this text include:

Beatitudes

Disciples

Kingdom of Heaven

Righteousness

Review Last Week and How it Connects to This Week 

Last week we studied how Colossians 2:11 describes Christ as a High Priest of the good things that have come.  Those good things were salvation, restoration, and redemption provided through Jesus Christ.   

Col 2:12 described Jesus as entering once into the Holy Place.  I noted how the New Interpreter’s Study Bible says “this place is ideal and not an actual place, but pointing to the ultimate reality of Christ’s atoning work”.  In other words, Jesus symbolically entered into the Holy Place.  Note that Jesus did not enter with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood.  That’s important.

Verses thirteen and fourteen explained that the blood of goats and calves and ashes only sanctifies the outward flesh.  It is Christ’s blood that purifies the conscience or inner person from the dead works of the Old Testament animal sacrifice system.

Verse fifteen explains that because Jesus replaces the old covenant, he is the mediator of the new covenant.  Verses sixteen and seventeen have terminology dealing with the ideas of wills, testaments, and covenants.  I noted that the Greek word for covenant is interchangeable with testament.  It is the same term for which we get the phrase “last will and testament”. 

In verse eighteen the author got to the point from the previous verses; “not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood”.  I noted how the author was trying to help us understand the importance of Christ’s shed blood.  A sacrifice had to be made for the new covenant to become effective. 

Verses nineteen through twenty-two dealt with how the Old Testament required blood.  The remaining verses describe the other things Moses sprinkled blood on and closed by proclaiming “under the law, almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins”. 

The overarching theme of this week’s lesson is a heartfelt covenant.  This lesson is the first of five from the Gospel According to Matthew.  In this lesson from the first part of the beatitudes we hear directly from Jesus as he outlines some of the rules of his kingdom.  The beatitudes are a guide for our everyday living that should be heartfelt by all Christians.  Townsend and Boyd’s Commentary title the lesson Jesus Teaches about Right Attitudes.  Standard Lesson Commentary titles it Right Attitudes.  The scripture text comes from Matthew 5:1-12. 

What Takes Place in This Passage

Verse one and two begin with Jesus taking notice of the crowds, and then he withdraws to an unnamed mountain to address his disciples.  “So far there are only four disciples (4:18-22; 10:1-4), but they represent all disciples” (NISB).  In verses three through twelve there are nine blessings or beatitudes divided into two groups (vv. 3-6 and 7-12) (NISB). 

Verse three declares that the kingdom of heaven will belong to the poor in spirit.  The poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, and those who hunger and thirst after righteousness is important language for a people who are oppressed, persecuted, and subjugated by the Imperial Roman government and their fellow Jewish nationals.  Keep in mind that the Roman government severely persecuted the early church and the dominant Jewish community did not accept Jesus as the Savior.  As the writer recounts the words of Jesus these words would certainly be a comfort to a distressed and anxious community.  Also, the poor is defined as “those who are economically or spiritually without sufficient resources.  God has special concern for the poor and they are blessed.  Contemporary liberation theology emphasizes reading Scripture from the perspective of the poor”.  It’s my view that God is especially concerned with poor and the oppressed. 

Verse four declares those who mourn will be comforted.  Verse five says the meek will inherit the earth, and verse six promises fulfillment for those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.  “In an imperial world that prizes power, wealth, and status; God’s favor is found among the powerless and poor” (NISB).  “The second half of each blessing promises God’s future reversal of these imperial situations” (NISB). 

Verse seven declares the merciful will receive mercy.  Mercy is defined as kind and compassionate treatment extending biblically to forgiveness and the gracious bestowal of that which is not deserved.  It is an important descriptor of God.  Our homes are better when mercy is present.  Our communities are better when mercy is present, and so are our governmental policies if dealing with poverty is a priority. 

Verse eight declares the pure in heart shall see God.  I admit my inability to explain what a pure heart is.  One definition of the word pure is “unmixed with any other matter” another is “containing nothing that does not properly belong” and another is “free from moral fault or guilt”.  At least in terms of righteousness, I’m certain the only way my heart can be declared pure is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross. 

Verse nine declares that the peacemakers will be called children of God.  Note this verse says peacemakers, not peacekeepers.  There is a difference between making peace and keeping peace.  Peace makers do the work of justice and righteousness.  A peace keeper may or may not do this work.

Verse ten promises those who are persecuted for righteousness sake shall have the kingdom of heaven.  If the kingdom of heaven is the ultimate goal, this verse declares how important righteousness is.

Verses eleven and twelve proclaims that we should rejoice and be glad because we will receive a great reward in heaven when we are persecuted falsely on the account of Jesus.  It’s important to stress that this applies to those who are falsely persecuted, not justifiably persecuted. 

Context

The overarching theme for the summer quarter is a heartfelt covenant.  When it comes to matters of the heart I am reminded of Jeremiah 17:9 as it declares “the heart is devious above all else; it is perverse—who can understand it?”  Matthew 15:18 reminds us “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles”.  Our text today declares those who are pure in heart shall see God.  As Jesus delivers this Sermon on the Mount, he is really outlining the rules for his kingdom.  These are the new rules for the new covenant.  Jesus didn’t do away with the old rules, he made them better.  Jesus offers a new agreement, a new covenant, a new testament that is a better covenant based on his teachings which begins in this fifth chapter of Matthew.

Key Characters in the text

Jesus Christ – Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and according to the Christian church the incarnate second Person of the Trinity.  He was crucified on a cross and was raised from the dead by the power of God. 

Matthew – Each of the four Gospels lists Matthew as one of the twelve Apostles.  Most scholars believe Matthew and Levi is the same person.  As a tax collector Matthew would have been associated with the Roman government.  This would have also made him despised by his Jewish countrymen and women.

Key Words 

Beatitudes – Teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount regarding the lives and dispositions of his followers.

Disciples – One who follows and learns from another as a pupil.  Old Testament prophets had disciples, as did John the Baptist and the Pharisees.  It is used specifically for those who follow Jesus Christ. 

Kingdom of Heaven – An equivalent term for “Kingdom of God” found in Matthew’s Gospel. 

Righteousness – Biblically the term embraces a number of dimensions relating to God’s actions in establishing and maintaining right relationships.  Ethically it is a state of moral purity or doing that which is right. 

Heaven – The place beyond earth that is the abode of God.  In Christian theology, it is the future eternal abode of those who receive salvation in Jesus Christ.  It is portrayed as a place of blessedness, without pain or evil, distinguished by the presence of God. 

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas 

1.  Matters of the heart.

2.  You can’t control everything that happens to you, but you can control how you respond. 

Questions

1.  Matthew is writing to a people who are trying to figure out if they will be “old school” Jewish or this new style Jewish (Jewish-Christian) or something entirely different.  Have you ever been faced with deciding whether to remain “old school” or live differently?       

2.  List ways we can be peace makers when being a peace keeper is not sufficient.        

Concluding thought

This week’s study has a distinct focus on righteousness.  It highlights the rules and regulations of Jesus’s new Kingdom.   If you have a red-letter edition of the bible you will see a lot of red in chapters five through seven.  In his longest recorded sermon, Jesus begins to outline what righteousness looks like and what the rules are for the Kingdom of Heaven.  As disciples of Jesus, our task is to strive to meet the high standard of these next chapters in Matthew as well the other teachings of Jesus.      

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson

Next week I will continue where I left off this week with Matthew 5:13-20. In these verses Jesus teaches about fulfilling the law.  As we consider a heartfelt covenant I will outline what that fulfillment looks like and what our part is toward the new covenant with Jesus. 

Christianity, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (June 23, 2019) Hearts United In Love Colossians 2:1-15

Hearts United In Love

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  This week I take a look at hearts united in love in the second chapter of Colossians.  The Colossians and Laodiceans received Jesus by faith.  Without the extra help of secret knowledge or divination of stars or Gnostic belief systems.  Faith in Jesus Christ is enough for our salvation.  Sometimes things really are just that simple.  For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  Faith in Jesus Christ is enough for our salvation.  When Paul writes to the Colossians he is essentially repeating the message of John 3:16.  He lets the Colossians know how much he cares for them, he encourages them to be united in love, and then he tells them to unite in love.  It really is that simple.  Faith in Jesus is enough for our salvation.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Godhead

Philosophy

Gnosticism

Now, if you have Wi-Fi in your church Sunday School classroom or wherever you share this lesson, this channel is a good way to teach and discuss this week’s lesson.  With Wi-Fi you can start and stop the lesson when you want to discuss parts of the lesson.  What I provide is a concise overview of background, context, characters, themes and topics; that gets to the point, saves you time, and enhances your own teaching and study.  If that’s what you’re looking for you are in the right place.  The ONLY way I know this is helpful is if you subscribe or click the like button.  So please subscribe or like and then share this site with other Sunday School teachers, preachers, and students across your social media platforms. 

So, with that said, welcome again to SundaySchoolPreacher.com and let’s go to work. 

Background 

The focus of this week’s lesson is hearts united in love.  This letter to the church at Colossae was “intended to be read by the church at Laodicea as well.  Colossae was on the coast of the Lycus River in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey)” (New Interpreters Study Bible).  This letter is likely written in the late 50’s or early 60’s AD.  “An earthquake devastated the area in 60 CE, about the time of Paul’s death, and there was probably little left of the city” (NISB). 

Colossians is one of Paul’s prison letters.  He writes these words while imprisoned probably in Rome.  The prison letters also include

Ephesians

Philippians

Philemon

Its central theme is to show the supremacy or completeness of Jesus Christ.  And that the Christian believer does not need anything in addition to Jesus.  In Christ is the fullness of God. 

Paul writes this letter because at some point he heard reports that the Colossians were at least “acknowledging if not worshiping heavenly powers associated with the stars” (NISB). This, in addition to the belief that “food or drink or observing festivals, new moons, or Sabbaths (Col 2:16)” was necessary for salvation all presented a problem that Paul needed to address.  Paul knew there was nothing needed in addition to Jesus Christ. 

This second chapter of Colossians “warns against a particular human tradition about the elemental spirits of the universe, an aspect of astrology that teaches that angels associated with stars controlled human destiny” (NISB).

Some important words to consider from this text include:

Godhead

Philosophy

Circumcision

Baptism

Resurrection

Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week

Last week Hebrews 9:11 described Jesus Christ as a High Priest of the good things that have come.  I noted that those good things are salvation, restoration, and redemption provided through Jesus Christ.  We have these good things now because of the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary’s cross. 

I also noted that verse twelve described Jesus as entering once into the Holy Place.  The New Interpreter’s Study Bible noted that “this place is ideal and not an actual place, but pointing to the ultimate reality of Christ’s atoning work”.  In other words, Jesus symbolically entered into the Holy Place with his own blood.  This Holy Place is what we have to look forward to. 

Verses thirteen and fourteen explained that the blood of goats and calves and ashes only sanctifies the outward flesh.  It is Christ’s blood that purifies the conscience or inner person from the dead works of the Old Testament animal sacrifice system.

In verses sixteen and seventeen we noted terminology dealing with the ideas of wills, testaments, and covenants.  The Greek word for covenant is interchangeable with testament.  It is the same term for which we get the phrase “last will and testament”.   

I noted in verse eighteen that the author makes his point; “not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood”.  A sacrifice had to be made for the new covenant to become effective.  It had to be the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ. 

Last week compared the Old Testament sacrifice to the complete and fulfilled sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Last week’s lesson connects to this week’s lesson by showing that the new covenant is fulfilled in Jesus Christ and nothing else is required.  Jesus fulfills the new covenant and in him is the fullness of God.  Townsend, Boyd’s, and Standard Lesson Commentary all title this week’s lesson Hearts United In Love.  The scripture text comes from Colossians 2:1-15. 

What Takes Place in This Passage

The text begins with Paul telling the Colossians and Laodiceans that he is struggling or contending for them.  He wants them to know how much he cares for them.  You might have heard the saying that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.  Even though Paul has never visited the Colossians, he wants them to know that he is concerned and that he cares. 

In verse two he mentions four things he desires for the Colossians.  His desire for the Colossians is

For their hearts to be encouraged

United in love

Full richness and complete understanding

To know the mystery of God in Christ.

Keep in mind that one of the reasons Paul writes this letter is because he has heard reports that they have some involvement with spiritual teachings other than Jesus Christ.  “For Gnostics, knowledge of secret lore was the key to salvation.  For Paul, the only knowledge necessary for salvation was knowing Christ” (NISB).

Verse three continues the same thought mentioning that in Christ are hid the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  Paul writes this to tell the Colossians that there is no salvation in wisdom and knowledge.  But if you desire wisdom and knowledge you can find it in Jesus Christ.  In other words, get to know Christ and you’ll get to know wisdom. 

Verse four is important.  Paul is getting to the point.  He knows there is no salvation in secret knowledge or watching the stars or any of the Gnostic beliefs.  He warns them not to be deceived by fine sounding arguments.  That holds true today, we ought not be deceived just because it sounds good.  You should know what you believe and why you believe it. 

Verse five is a restatement that he cares for them.  Even though he isn’t physically present he is with them in spirit.  He also offers another word of encouragement.  He tells them of his joy that they are disciplined and firm in their faith in Christ. 

Verse six is the central point in this passage and seven underpins it.  Paul is telling them in the same way you received Jesus, just continue that way.  In other words, you don’t need to add anything to what you already have.  You don’t need to add secret knowledge or anything else.  In verse seven he is telling them your foundation was in Christ by faith.  So just stick with faith in Christ Jesus.

Verse eight is a warning against three things rather than complete trust in Christ.  He warns against: 

Hollow and deceptive philosophy

The tradition of men

Spiritual forces of this world

Townsend Commentary notes that “Paul warned the church against believing in human philosophies that were based on empty human traditions instead of the true and divine revelation of Christ”. 

Verses nine and ten says in plain language what all the previous verses were building up to.  In Christ Jesus is the fullness of God.  If you have Christ, you have God, if you have Christ, you don’t need secret knowledge.  If you have Christ, you don’t need to consult the stars for advice.  If you have Christ, you don’t need to Gnostic teaching, beliefs, or anything else.  You are complete in Christ Jesus.  There is no power or authority greater than Jesus.

Verses eleven through thirteen uses symbolism that Paul is familiar with.  Here he talks about:

Circumcision

Baptism / buried and risen

Dead in sins / risen in Christ

Paul is not talking about a physical circumcision.  It’s a spiritual circumcision where the sins of the flesh or unrighteousness is cut away.  When he speaks of being buried with Christ in baptism he uses the symbolism of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.  In the same way, our sinful attitudes, behaviors, and unrighteousness is put to death and buried and we arise to a new life of righteousness with our sins forgiven. 

The lesson closes with verses fourteen and fifteen dealing with the legalism of charges against us that has now been replaced by the grace of Jesus on Calvary.

Context

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him.  The Colossians and Laodiceans received Jesus by faith.  Without the extra help of secret knowledge or divination of stars or Gnostic belief systems.  Faith in Jesus Christ is enough for our salvation.  Sometimes things really are just that simple.  For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  Faith in Jesus Christ is enough for our salvation.  Paul is essentially repeating the message of John 3:16.  He lets the Colossians know how much he cares for them, he encourages them to be united in love, and then he tells them to unite in love.  It really is that simple.  Faith in Jesus is enough for our salvation.   

Key Characters in the text

Jesus Christ – Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and according to the Christian church the incarnate second Person of the Trinity.  He was crucified on a cross and was raised from the dead by the power of God. 

Paul – A leading persecutor of Christians in the first years of the new faith.  He became a believer in Jesus and one of the most influential voices in the Christian New Testament. 

Key Words

Godhead – The nature or essence of God as Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.    

Philosophy – Love of wisdom.  The study of ultimate reality by the use of human reason, logic, ethics, etc., to answer such questions as: What is real? How do we know? What are we to do?

Gnosticism – An amorphous movement during the early church period which featured complex views that focused on the quest for secret knowledge transmitted only to the “enlightened” and marked by the view that matter is evil.  Gnostics denied the humanity of Jesus.

Unity – Used theologically to describe the oneness between the members of the Godhead, the relationship between God and believers through Jesus Crist, and the relationship of believers in Christ with one another.  Also, a religious movement stressing positive thought and prayer. 

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas

1.  Jesus is enough                                                        

2.  False teaching faces a real Savior.

Questions

1.  This letter warns the Colossians against false philosophies based on secret knowledge and Gnostics beliefs.  No one would believe something that is completely ludicrous.  How do we guard against good sounding arguments that are false?   

2.  Unity sounds like a great goal to achieve.  When should unity be rejected?        

Concluding thought

This week’s study is titled hearts united in love.  I can think of no example where this isn’t a great and admirable goal.  The key here is “in love”.  You can never go wrong operating in love.  However, you can go wrong simply operating in unity.  We should always be united in righteousness and love.  Going along to get along is not a unity that we should strive for.  Unity at the expense of doing what is righteous is also something we should not strive for.  If your unity results in the unrighteous subjection or oppression of others it’s a unity that isn’t based in love.         

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson

Next week we move to the Gospel according to Matthew.  I will explore how Jesus teaches about right attitudes as we study the beatitudes.   We are now focused on the heartfelt covenant of Jesus Christ. 

Christianity, religion, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (June 16, 2019) The New Covenant’s Sacrifice Hebrews 9:11-22

The New Covenants Sacrifice Hebrews 9:11-22

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  This week I take a look at the ninth chapter of Hebrews as it explains the new covenant’s sacrifice.  Of course that sacrifice is the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  Everything the Old Testament required for redemption and restoration is fulfilled in the New Testament with Christ.  In the Old Agreement the high priest went into the tabernacle and the Holy Place to sprinkle blood for the redemption of the people.  In the New Testament Jesus symbolically goes into the Holy of Holies with his own blood.  In the Old Testament the high priest had to continually offer sacrifices for the people.  In the New Covenant, Jesus needs only go in once and it is for all humanity and for all eternity.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Tabernacle

Covenant

Testament

New Covenant / Agreement

Redemption

Now, if you have Wi-Fi in your church Sunday School classroom or wherever you share this lesson, this channel is a good way to teach and discuss this week’s lesson.  With Wi-Fi you can start and stop the lesson when you want to discuss parts of the lesson.  What I provide is a concise overview of background, context, characters, themes and topics; that gets to the point, saves you time, and enhances your own teaching and study.  If that’s what you’re looking for you are in the right place.  This is all about helping you understand the lesson in ways that are helpful to you and your listeners.  The ONLY way I know this is helpful is if you subscribe or click the like button.  So please subscribe or like and then share this site with other Sunday School teachers, preachers, and students across your social media platforms. 

Background: 

The focus of this week is the new covenant’s sacrifice.  Of course that sacrifice is Jesus Christ.  With that in mind I’ll provide some background on the book of Hebrews, a bit of background on the chapter preceding this weeks study, and then narrow the focus to this week’s study which is the ninth chapter of Hebrews. 

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible notes that the book of Hebrews “is not really a letter, and certainly not written by Paul.  It does not begin like a letter, and in fact, is more of a sermon/treatise”. 

Hebrews is likely written about 65 Common Era.  Scholars date its composition before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (70 CE).  “It is extremely difficult to believe the author would not mention the destruction of the Temple if it had already occurred, since that would have been the validation of his entire argument concerning the outmoded character of the Old Testament sacrificial system” (NISB).  “One of the main emphases in Hebrews is the superiority of the new covenant to the old and its regimen of animal sacrifices” (NISB). 

The eighth chapter of Hebrews deals with the true high priest (Jesus) and the two covenants (old and new).  It naturally, takes a Christological interpretation of the Old Testament book of Jerimiah 31:31-34.  This is the longest quotation from the Old Testament in the New Testament (Townsend Commentary). 

The ninth chapter deals with the sacrifices of the Old Testament in verses 1-10. This was the first covenant.  It describes some of the protocol for priests entering into the Old Covenant tabernacle to atone for the sins of the people and to offer gifts.  Verses 11-22 of our study will contrast Jesus Christ with the Old Covenant as the one and only High Priest that fulfills the new covenant.  These verses deal with the “definitive nature of Christ’s work” (NISB).

Some important words to consider from this text include:

Covenant

Testament

New Covenant / Agreement

Redemption

Review Of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week: 

Last week Mark 15:6 reminded us that it was customary for Pilate to release a prisoner during the Passover feast.  Barabbas was in prison with people who had committed murder during the insurrection.  So Barabbas was charged with murder whereas Jesus was charged with insurrection.  Yet the crowd cried out to release Barabbas instead of Jesus.

I also noted that “the Jewish council had the power to put offenders they condemned to death”.  If the Jewish high council wanted to put Jesus to death themselves they could have done so.  But remember that only a few days ago a great crowd welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem shouting Hosanna to the highest.  Perhaps the crowd was the same; perhaps it was a different crowd.  But the high priests didn’t want to order the death of Jesus so they turned Jesus over to the Roman government.    

I also noted the importance of the distinction between who was responsible for the murder of Jesus.  Ultimately, it was the Roman government that crucified Jesus not the Jewish council leaders.  That’s important because across the centuries people have used the crucifixion of Jesus to provoke anti-Jewish feelings in those who blame the Jews for Jesus’ crucifixion.  While it’s true the Jewish council turned Jesus over to Roman authorities, it cannot be said that the Jews crucified Jesus.

I also noted in verse 25 that the third hour was nine o’clock in the morning.  It was 9AM when they crucified him.  Verse 26 was the charge against him.  He was charged with being king in Caesar’s place. 

Verses 33 through 39 spoke to the death of Jesus.  The sixth hour was 12 o’clock noon.  The ninth hour was 3PM.  It was at 3PM when Jesus cried out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”. 

In verse 37 Jesus breathed his last breath.  In verse 38 the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.   This tearing of the curtain was significant.  It symbolizes the new direct access to God through Jesus Christ.  Now the high priest no longer needs to enter into the holiest of holies on our behalf.  Now we have direct access through this New Covenant with Jesus Christ. 

Verse 39 closed the lesson with the centurion proclaiming “Truly this man was God’s Son”!  It was the Roman centurion that proclaimed Jesus as God’s son. 

This week’s lesson continues with the theme of a fulfilled new covenant through Jesus Christ.  We have returned to the book of Hebrews as Hebrews references the Old Testament extensively to prove the point that Jesus fulfills the new covenant.  It is through the righteousness of Jesus Christ and the grace of God that we now have a new covenant with God.   This would not be possible without the new covenant’s sacrifice.  That sacrifice is Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross.  Townsend, Boyd’s, and Standard Lesson Commentary all title this week’s lesson The New Covenant’s Sacrifice.  The scripture text comes from Hebrews 9:11-22. 

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

Verse eleven describes Christ as a High Priest of the good things that have come.  These good things are the salvation, restoration, and redemption provided through Jesus Christ.  We have these good things now because of the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary’s cross. 

Verse twelve describes Jesus as entering once into the Holy Place.  The New Interpreter’s Study Bible notes that “this place is ideal and not an actual place, but pointing to the ultimate reality of Christ’s atoning work”.  In other words, Jesus symbolically entered into the Holy Place.  This Holy Place is what we have to look forward to.  It is what will ultimately become our reality.  Note also that Jesus did not enter with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood. 

Verses thirteen and fourteen explain that the blood of goats and calves and ashes only sanctifies the outward flesh.  It is Christ’s blood that purifies the conscience or inner person from the dead works of the Old Testament animal sacrifice system.

Verse fifteen explains that because Jesus replaces this old covenant, he is the mediator of the new covenant so that we may receive the promised eternal inheritance.  This is possible because his death redeems believers from transgressions under the old covenant. 

In verses sixteen and seventeen we see terminology dealing with the ideas of wills, testaments, and covenants.  The Greek word for covenant is interchangeable with testament.  It is the same term for which we get the phrase “last will and testament”.  The author makes a play on this term to highlight the double meaning of covenant and testament. 

In verse eighteen the author makes his point from the previous verses; “not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood”.  The author is trying to help us understand the importance of Christ’s shed blood.  A sacrifice had to be made for the new covenant to become effective.  But a sacrifice of goats and calves would never be sufficient.  It had to be the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ. 

Verses nineteen through twenty-two deal again with how the Old Testament required blood.  In verse nineteen the author reminds us of Moses sprinkling blood on the scroll and the people saying “This is the blood of the covenant that God has ordained for you”.  The remaining verses describe the other things Moses sprinkled blood on and closes by proclaiming “under the law, almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins”. 

Context:

The new covenant’s sacrifice is the shed blood of Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross.  This was a gracious way for God to deal with our sin.  It was a once and for all eternity sacrifice that held the key for humanity’s salvation, restoration, and redemption back to God.  One of the central points the author of Hebrews makes is the importance of the shedding of blood.  It was required in the Old Testament.  Hebrews makes the point that Jesus fulfills that requirement with his own blood in the new covenant.  The blood of Christ is defined by Westminster’s Theological Dictionary as a theological symbol of his atoning death effecting a new covenant, reconciliation, and salvation.  It is the central point Hebrews makes in our lesson. 

Key Characters in the text:

Jesus Christ – Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and according to the Christian church the incarnate second Person of the Trinity.  He was crucified on a cross and was raised from the dead by the power of God. 

Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion): 

Tabernacle – The portable tent in which the Hebrews worshiped during the wilderness period of wandering.  The Jerusalem Temple replaced it.  In the Roman Catholic tradition, the “tabernacle” is the boxlike receptacle for the Eucharistic elements. 

Mediator – One who stands between parties in order to effect reconciliation.  The term is applies to Jesus Christ as the “one mediator between God and humankind” in I Timothy 2:5, who has effected reconciliation by overcoming sin. 

Sacrifice – Something of value offered as an act of worship or devotion to God.  Sacrifices were offered throughout the Old Testament, accompanied covenant making, and were of various types.   

Redemption – A financial metaphor that literally means “buying back”.  Used theologically to indicate atonement, reconciliation, or salvation wherein liberation from forms of bondage such as sin, death, law, or evil takes place through Christ. 

Covenant – A formal agreement or treaty between two parties that establishes a relationship and in which obligations and mutual responsibilities may be enacted.  Many biblical covenants are found, some providing only divine promises while others entail obligations. 

Testament – A person’s last will to dispose of property.  Also, a covenant – as at Sinai.  Both senses are found in Gal 3:15-18.  The term is also used for the division of the Bible into Old and New Testaments (covenants). 

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  The only acceptable sacrifice (Jesus Christ).

2.  The Old Covenant and the New You.

Questions

1.  We are no longer under the Old Testament system of animal sacrifices.  What sacrifice do we need for salvation today?   

2.  The Old Testament tabernacle was destroyed.  The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed.  Is there a temple or tabernacle for Christians today?  (See verse 11)      

Concluding thought:

This week’s study of Hebrews compared and contrasted the Old Testament or Old Agreement with the New Testament or New Agreement.  What was needed to remit sins in the Old Testament is fulfilled once and for all in the new agreement or the new covenant with Jesus Christ.  The Old Testament required the shedding blood.  That requirement in the New Testament is fulfilled in the shed blood of Jesus Christ.      

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson: Next week we move to the book of Colossians.  As we understand the fulfilled covenant in Jesus Christ we will discuss the fullness of Jesus Christ in the Godhead and how to avoid false teaching.  Colossians will show us the importance of Heart’s united in love. 

Christianity, religion, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (June 9, 2019) Jesus Seals The New Covenant Mark 15:6-15, 25-26, 33-39

Jesus Seals The New Covenant Mark 15:6-15

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  This week I take a look at how Jesus Seals The New Covenant.  In the forty-seven verses of this 15th chapter of Mark we see Jesus before Pilate, Pilate handing Jesus over to be crucified, the soldiers mocking Jesus, The crucifixion of Jesus, The death of Jesus, and the burial of Jesus.  In this text we see a crowd ask for Barabbas instead of Jesus.  Only a few days ago a great crowd had welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem shouting Hosanna to the highest.  Perhaps the crowd is the same; perhaps it’s a different crowd.  I think one point we can take away from this lesson is that crowds can’t be trusted.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Covenant

Son of God

Son of Man

Background: 

This week we continue to focus on how the New Covenant came to be.  With that in mind I’ll provide some background on Mark the person, a bit more on the book of Mark, and then a bit more on this week’s chapter of study. 

Who’s Who In The Bible notes that “the second century Christian writer Papias first recorded the tradition that this gospel was written by Mark”.  This Mark would have been a follower of Peter name Mark (I Peter 5:13).  The New Interpreter’s Study Bible adds that “Augustine seems not to have known this tradition, for he argued that the Gospel of Mark was merely an abbreviation of the Gospel of Matthew”.  Additionally, “Jerome, the translator of the Bible into Latin, believed that the author of Mark was John Mark of Acts 15:37-38 (NISB).  This is the same Mark who’s other name was John in Acts 12:12.  John would have been his Hebrew name and Mark would have been his Latin Name.  Having two names like this was a common practice for Hellenized Jews (WWITB).  This is the same Mark who accompanied his cousin Barnabas and Paul on their first missionary journey.  When Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem it displeased Paul because when Barnabas asked that Mark go with them on a second missionary journey Paul refused (WWITB).  Acts 15:39 tells us this refusal created a sharp contention between Paul and Barnabas.  The writer of this Gospel may also be associated with Peter who referred to him as “my son” in I Peter 5:13.  However, most modern scholars are hesitant to make this link (NISB).  With that in mind, “The Gospel of Mark, like the other canonical Gospels, probably originally circulated anonymously among Christian groups” (NISB).  In other words we cannot definitively know who the author is.

The book of Mark was likely written “in the decade of 65 to 75 Common Era when Nero’s persecutions of Christians in Rome was soon followed by the first Jewish-Roman war.  In this war Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by the Romans” (NISB).  Most scholars agree that Mark is the first Gospel to be written.  It is written to suit the needs of Christians under persecution.  This Gospel does not mention the name of its author and it is not written as a letter to anyone in particular.  Mark intends to portray Jesus as a Servant Redeemer.  “Mark shows his Gentile readers how the Son of God – rejected by his own people – achieved ultimate victory through apparent defeat” (Nelson’s Bible Handbook).  

The forty-seven verses of this fifteenth chapter of Mark show us

Jesus before Pilate

Pilate handing Jesus over to be crucified

The soldiers mocking Jesus

The crucifixion of Jesus

The death of Jesus

And the burial of Jesus.

Our Scripture text is interspersed through most of this chapter.  Some important words to consider from these two texts include:

Son of God

Son of Man

King of the Jews

Review Of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week: 

Last week our lesson came from two separate texts in the New Testament but the Hebrews text was really a long quote from the Old Testament.  We studied parts of Mark 14th chapter and Hebrews 8th chapter.  The text in Mark began with the 14th chapter 17th verse where Jesus and the twelve disciples were gathered together for the evening Passover meal.  As they ate the Passover meal Jesus told his disciples one of them would betray him.      

Distressed, upset, and sorrowful the disciples took turns asking “is it I”.  Jesus explained “it is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me”.  We mentioned how the NISB noted that “Dipping bread into the bowl emphasized the bond of hospitality and intimacy that was about to be broken by betrayal”. 

We discussed verses twenty-two through twenty-four where Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper otherwise known as Holy Communion.  We also discussed verse twenty-four where “He said to them, this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many”.  This was where Jesus mentioned the covenant that was the basis for the new and better covenant mentioned in the text in Hebrews.  That closed the discussion of Mark and then we skipped to Hebrews 8.

Hebrews 8:6 began by explaining that Jesus was the mediator of a better covenant with better promises.  We noted that verse seven explained if the first covenant had been faultless, there would be no need to look for a second one.  No one could keep all the rules and regulations of the Old Testament.  But more importantly, this new covenant would replace the practice of animal sacrifices.  Jesus was the one sacrifice for all eternity to absolve or release humanity of the consequences of sin and separation from God.     

This week’s lesson is the second lesson of the Summer quarter and the second lesson in the Gospel According To Mark.  We will return to Hebrews in the third week of the quarter.  The focus for each lesson remains on the idea of covenant and specifically the New Covenant established by Jesus Christ.  The aim of this week is to show us how Jesus Seals the New Covenant.  As the Nation of Israel rejects Jesus he is turned over to Pontius Pilate for crucifixion.  It is the sacrificial death of Jesus that seals the covenant and establishes our relationship with God.  Standard Lesson Commentary, Townsend and Boyd’s Commentary all title this week’s lesson Jesus Seals The New Covenant.  The scripture text comes from Mark 15:6-15, 25-26, and 33-39. 

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

This Gospel is probably written in the decade of 65 to 75 Common Era.  The events of this chapter take place thirty-five to forty-five years earlier.  Mark 15:6 begins by reminding us that it was customary for Pilate to release a prisoner.  This was customary during the Passover feast.  It could have been any prisoner.  Barabbas was in prison with people who had committed murder during the insurrection.  So Barabbas was likely charged with murder whereas Jesus was charged with insurrection.

It should be noted that “the Jewish council had the power to put offenders they condemned to death.  So this second trial on different charges before Roman authorities seems unnecessary” (NISB).  It also seems remarkable that this crowd would ask for Barabbas instead of Jesus.  Only a few days ago a great crowd welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem shouting Hosanna to the highest.  Perhaps the crowd is the same; perhaps it’s a different crowd.  I think one point for us to take away is that crowds can’t be trusted. 

It’s important to also note that ultimately it is the Roman government that crucifies Jesus not the Jewish council leaders.  That’s an important distinction.  Across the centuries people have used this event to provoke anti-Jewish feelings in those who blame the Jews for Jesus’ crucifixion.  While it’s true the Jewish council turned Jesus over to Roman authorities, it cannot be said that the Jews crucified Jesus.

Verse 25 identifies the time of Jesus’ crucifixion.  The third hour was nine o’clock in the morning.  It was 9AM when they crucified him.  Verse 26 was the charge against him.  Although it read “The King of the Jews” the crime was insurrection.  He was charged with being king in Caesar’s place. 

Verses 33 through 39 speak to the death of Jesus.  The sixth hour is 12 o’clock noon.  The ninth hour is 3PM.  It was at 3PM when Jesus cried out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”.  In this text, these are the last words Jesus speaks before his death, burial, and resurrection.  When the some of the bystanders hear his cry they think he is calling for Elijah.  After someone filled a sponge with sour wine and gave it to him to drink they said “wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down”. 

In verse 37 Jesus breathes his last breath.  In verse 38 the text leads us to believe that the curtain of the temple was immediately torn in two from top to bottom.   This tearing of the curtain is significant.  It symbolizes the new direct access to God through Jesus Christ.  Now the high priest no longer needs to enter into the holiest of holies on our behalf.  Now we have direct access through this New Covenant with Jesus Christ. 

Verse 39 closes our lesson text with the centurion proclaiming “Truly this man was God’s Son”!  It is the Roman centurion that proclaims Jesus as God’s son.

Context:

Anti-Semitism is opposition to or hatred of Jews.  It may take the form of discrimination, arrest, or extermination.  Throughout Christian history anti-Semitism has been a real problem spread by the view that Jews crucified Jesus.  It’s important that all Christians prevent the spread of this false narrative.  Although rejected by his own people, It was the Roman government that crucified Jesus.  The good news is the crucifixion, the willing sacrifice of Jesus was part of God’s plan.  Through this sacrifice now all of humanity has direct access to God through Jesus Christ. 

Key Characters in the text:

Jesus Christ – Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and according to the Christian church the incarnate second Person of the Trinity.  He was crucified on a cross and was raised from the dead by the power of God. 

Barabbas – a man who had been arrested and sentenced to death by crucifixion for insurrection against Rome and murder.  He was freed by Pilate, instead of Jesus, at the request of the crowd during the Passover feast.

Pilate – The Roman governor of Judea from about 26 to 37 Common Era.  Pontius Pilate presided over the trial of Jesus and ordered his execution. 

Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion): 

Son of God – An individual who stands in a special relationship with God is a son or child of God (Gal 4:6-7).  The concept is used in the Old Testament for Israel as a nation, David, and kings.  In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is God unique Son.

Son of Man – A Hebrew or Aramaic expression that may be a synonym for humankind or refer to an apocalyptic figure who will judge the righteous and unrighteous at the end time.  It is also used as a title for Jesus in each sense. 

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  What shall I do with him?  (see vs 12)

2.  The Centurion called Him Son of God.  What do you call Him?

Questions

1.  The title of our lesson is Jesus Seals The New Covenant.  What is the seal?

2.  Mark 15:10 identifies the chief priests as the ones who handed Jesus over to Pilate but it was the Romans that crucified Jesus.  Why should Christians refuse to entertain the idea that the Jews crucified Jesus?

Concluding thought:

We’ve been focused on how the New Covenant came into existence.  The short answer is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ in Calvary’s cross.  But just as important is the fact that this New Covenant brings reconciliation.  We are reconciled to God through the grace of Christ on Calvary.  If God would go this far for our reconciliation, shouldn’t we also do the work of reconciliation with our family members, friends, and acquaintances?   

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week we return to the book of Hebrews.  As we focus on how the New Covenant came to be I will bring the New Covenant’s sacrifice into view.  That sacrifice is the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  It’s this same sacrifice that gives us hope to look forward.  I Corinthians 15:17 reminds us “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins”.  The good news is that Christ is risen and we have salvation through his sacrifice. 

Christianity, religion, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (June 2, 2019) Jesus Institutes The New Covenant Mark 14:17-24, Hebrews 8:6-7, 10-12

Jesus Institutes The New Covenant – Mark 14:17-24

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  This week we take a look at how Jesus institutes the New Covenant at the Passover meal and how Hebrews shows the new covenant was foretold in the Old Testament.  There are several covenants throughout Scripture but this New Covenant is the one covenant available to all humanity for salvation throughout eternity.  The old covenant had its purpose but the new covenant fulfills the requirement for righteousness through Jesus Christ and for all eternity.  Hebrews will tell us that now; there is no need for the Jewish practice of animal sacrifice.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Testament

Covenant

Holy Communion

Background: 

This week’s lesson is focused on how the New Covenant came into existence.  Jesus plainly institutes the New Covenant in Mark and this section of Hebrews reflects back to how the New Covenant was foretold in the book of Jerimiah.  But before we go any further, it’s important to understand what we’re really talking about when we use the term New Covenant.  So I’ll define covenant, New Covenant, and then take a look at the backgrounds of Mark and Hebrews. 

The term covenant and testament are used interchangeably.  We have the Old Testament and the New Testament.  The Old Testament can be called the Old Covenant and the New Testament can be called the New Covenant.  It is an Old Agreement and a New Agreement. 

Covenant = Testament

Old Covenant = Old Testament

New Covenant = New Testament

Covenant is defined as a formal agreement or treaty between two parties that establishes a relationship and in which obligations and mutual responsibilities may be enacted.  Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms defines New Covenant as the anticipated action of God in establishing a personal relationship with people (this was foretold in Jeremiah 31:31-34).  Christians see this New Covenant as fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  The term New Covenant is used by Jesus in relation to his death (Luke 22:20; I Cor 11:25) and elsewhere in the New Testament for the effects Jesus Christ brings.  New Covenant is also, a term for the New Testament. 

So the main point is there is an old covenant or an old agreement.  I should also note that there are at least seven covenants in Scripture.  In a general sense when we are talking about covenants; Protestant Christians recognize the Old Covenant as the 39 books of the Old Testament.  There is a New Covenant, and Protestant Christians recognize this New Covenant as the 27 books of the New Testament. 

So with that in mind, I’ll take a look at the background of Mark and Hebrews as they both help us understand this New Covenant. 

 The Gospel of Mark does not mention the name of its author.  “Biblical scholars have tended to date the composition of the Gospel to the decade of 65 Common Era to 75 Common Era” (New Interpreter’s Study Bible).  “Mark was believed to have written the Gospel after Peter’s death in Rome during Nero’s persecutions (NISB)”.  Nelson’s Bible Handbook notes that Mark’s theme is to portray Jesus as a Servant and as the Redeemer of men. 

In the fourteenth chapter of Mark Jesus is at the Passover meal.  Christians recognize this as The Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion.  It is here that Jesus institutes the New Covenant.  It is a new agreement that is a better agreement.

Now, for some background on Hebrews.  The book of Hebrews is one of eight general epistles or letters that are not addressed to a specific church.  The author is not known and Hebrews is more of a sermon/treatise than a letter (NISB).  One of the main emphases in Hebrews is the superiority of the new covenant to the old and the old covenant’s practice of animal sacrifices (NISB). 

The eighth chapter of Hebrews deals with the true high priest (Jesus) and the two covenants (old and new).  It naturally, takes a Christological interpretation of the Old Testament book of Jerimiah 31:31-34.  This is the longest quotation from the Old Testament in the New Testament (Townsend Commentary).

Some important words to consider from these two texts include:

Covenant

Testament

New Covenant / Agreement

Holy Communion

Review Of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week: 

Last week we discussed how Paul began Romans 8 by imploring, pleading with, urging, and what seemed like begging the believers at Rome to “offer their bodies as a living sacrifice”.  We discussed how Jesus Christ is the ultimate sacrifice for all humanity and that we should bring our entire life, all of who we are, our entire bodies as a living, breathing, thinking, sacrifice in service to Jesus Christ. 

We also talked about the different translations of the end of verse one.  The King James Version ends verse one saying “this is your reasonable service”.  The New Revised Standard Version says “this is your spiritual worship” and the New International Version translates it as “your true and proper worship”.  The idea is the same in either translation; we are expected to offer our complete selves holy to God. 

We discussed how verse two tells us to not emulate or conform to the world but rather be transformed or changed and how it is this transformation that is the new life in Christ.  We are transformed by the renewing of our minds.  We discussed how verse three is a gentle reminder and warning not to boast.  This was not doubt wise advice for both the Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians coming from different cultures, customs, and practices who needed to work together. 

We also listed the six spiritual gifts that Paul mentions in verses six through eight.  Those are gifts are prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, leading, and mercy.  Those various gifts are given to each of us by grace.  Paul mentions other spiritual gifts in I Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4.

This week’s lesson is the first lesson of the Summer quarter.  The theme for this week and this quarter will focus on ideas surrounding covenant.  In particular we will try to understand how the New Covenant came to be, how Jesus is the embodiment of the New Covenant and what that means in our day to day living.  Standard Lesson Commentary, Townsend and Boyd’s Commentary all title this week’s lesson Jesus Institutes The New Covenant.  The scripture text comes from Mark 14:17-24, and Hebrews 8:6-7, 10-12.

What Takes Place in These Passages: 

Mark 14:17 begins with Jesus and the twelve disciples gathered together for the evening Passover meal.  As they eat the Passover meal Jesus tells his disciples one of them will betray him.  They all knew betrayal would mean a cruel and painful death.  They also knew that betrayal would likely put them in danger as well.  Can you imagine sitting at the dinner table with friends and someone says one of you will have me killed?  Just knowing that someone close to you is capable of this kind of betrayal is astonishing.    

Distressed, upset, and sorrowful the disciples take turns asking “is it I”.  Jesus explains “it is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me”.  The NISB notes that “Dipping bread into the bowl emphasizes the bond of hospitality and intimacy that is about to be broken by betrayal”. 

In verses twenty-two through twenty-four Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper otherwise known as Holy Communion.  Note especially verse twenty-four.  “He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many”.  Here Jesus mentions the covenant that is the basis for the new and better covenant Hebrews mentions. 

Hebrews 8:6 begins by explaining that Jesus is the mediator of a better covenant with better promises.  Note that verse seven explains if the first covenant had been faultless, there would be no need to look for a second one.  No one could keep all the rules and regulations of the Old Testament.  But more importantly, this new covenant would replace the practice of animal sacrifices.  Jesus was the one sacrifice for all eternity to absolve or release humanity of the consequences of sin and separation from God.      

Context:

Jesus institutes the New Covenant.  When I think about the New Covenant I am also reminded of new life in Christ.  “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (II Cor. 5:17).  We have taken off the old and put on the new.  The old ways, the old habits, the old routines that created problems, caused sin, and produced confusion in our lives should be put to rest.  We have a new covenant, a new agreement, a new testament that is created in Jesus Christ.  This new covenant is based on righteousness, but its Christ’s righteousness, not ours.  We live in an age of grace and it is that grace that finds us in the newness of Christ’s covenant. 

Key Characters in the text:

Jesus Christ – Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and according to the Christian church the incarnate second Person of the Trinity.  He was crucified on a cross and was raised from the dead by the power of God.   

Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion): 

Covenant – A formal agreement or treaty between two parties that establishes a relationship and in which obligations and mutual responsibilities may be enacted.  Many biblical covenants are found, some providing only divine promises while others entail obligations. 

Covenant of grace – The relationship into which God entered to provide, by grace, the promise of salvation to sinful humanity.  It extends throughout the Old Testament by means of various covenants to its final fulfillment in Jesus Christ.    

Testament – A person’s last will to dispose of property.  Also, a covenant – as at Sinai.  Both senses are found in Gal 3:15-18.  The term is also used for the division of the Bible into Old and New Testaments (covenants). 

Passover Meal – The commemorative Jewish meal recalling the deliverance of the nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt through the exodus event. 

Lord’s Supper – The sacrament of Communion, or the Eucharist. (Baptist believers use the term ordinance, not sacrament)  It celebrates the death of Christ, his presence with the church, and his future kingdom (reign).  It was instituted by Jesus (I Cor. 11:23-26) at the Last Supper, the last meal which Jesus shared with his disciples before his crucifixion.  

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

  1. A better way
  2. A new agreement.  (Compare and contrast agreement with contract, bond, indenture, testament, etc.)

Questions

1.  What does it mean when Hebrews 8:7 says “For if the first covenant had been faultless”?  Does this mean there was an error in the Old Testament?

2.  There are several covenants throughout Scripture.  Jesus established the New Covenant.  Does that mean we are bound by the old covenants? 

Concluding thought:

Jesus institutes the New Covenant.  The old covenant required the shedding of blood from animals for the remission of sins.  This New Covenant is established by the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary’s cross.  His sacrifice was once and for all humanity because Jesus lived a sinless life. 

It’s now up to us.  We will never be sinless, but that should be the goal we strive for.  Jesus has established the new covenant and that agreement requires each of us to follow the teachings and example of Jesus.  

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week we continue in the Gospel according to Mark.  The aim of next week is to show us how Jesus Seals the New Covenant.  As the Nation of Israel rejects Jesus he is turned over to Pontius Pilate for crucifixion.  We will look at what it means to be in relationship with one another, Jesus Christ, and God.  These relationships are made possible by the unselfish sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary.