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Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 5: In the Shadow of Calvary *
Introduction: We see disasters all the time. Some are of epic
proportions, such as the Tsunami that killed over 165,000 people a
few weeks ago in Asia. Some, like cancer, hit a specific family with
devastating force. Last week, I spoke with the wife of a man who is
battling against a very aggressive form of brain cancer. Why do
these things happen? This wife told me she could see no reason for
this happening to her family. She was interested in my thoughts
about it. When I was younger and less wise, I would venture an
explanation. Now, I believe it is wiser to explain the attitude of
God rather than the specific strategy of God. That is the subject of
our lesson this week - so let's dive in!
- The Battle Plan
- Read John 1:29. Why would John call Jesus "the Lamb of
God?" (We have discussed this in earlier lessons in this
series: John was referring to the sacrificial lamb which
was an essential part of the Old Testament sanctuary
- Read John 1:35-37. We learn later ( John 1:40-42) that one
of these two disciples is Andrew who shares this with
Peter. They both decide to become disciples of Jesus.
Would you make that same decision?
- If you say, "yes," what are the positive benefits of
following someone who has been chosen for death so
that others can live?
- When you look at it this way, do you think that
Andrew and Peter made a fully informed decision?
Did they understand what they were doing? (John
1:41 has Andrew identifying Jesus as "the
Messiah." In some way it appears he identified
dying with the Messiah.)
- Read Mark 8:31-33. This is much later. What understanding
does Peter now have about Jesus' future? (He is so certain
that Jesus will not be killed, that he rebukes Jesus for
- Read Mark 10:32-34. What is Jesus predicting? (His own
trial, crucifixion and resurrection.)
- Read Mark 10:35-37. What explanation do you have for
- Do you think they understood Jesus and were
referring to a kingdom in heaven?
- Or, do you think they completely misunderstood
Jesus and are referring to a kingdom on earth?
- Read Luke 18:31-33. Do you understand what Jesus is saying
to His disciples? How plain is this?
- Read Luke 18:34. How can the disciples not understand
such a plain statement?
- What do you think is meant by "hidden from
them?" Who was hiding the meaning? (God
certainly was not hiding it from them. God was
trying to make it plain. The commentary Word
Pictures in the New Testament tells us that Luke
three times tries to explain the continued
failure of the disciples to understand Jesus.
Luke wants us to know they did not understand.)
- Read Acts 1:1-3 & 6. What do you think the disciples
understood at this point in time?
- We have a remarkable thing before us. Jesus has clearly,
and repeatedly, from the very beginning of His ministry,
told His followers that He was coming to die. Yet, His
disciples seemed unable to grasp the battle plan. Why do
you think that is? (They were blinded to the real plan of
God by their own ambitions and their own preferences. Word
Pictures in the New Testament tells us "The words of
Christ about His death ran counter to all their hopes and
- What does Jesus' mission on earth teach us about our
ability to understand God's strategy and thinking? (On its
face, it was an unbelievable tragedy for God to become
man, and then be tortured and murdered by humans. Just as
it was unthinkable to Peter that Jesus would come to die,
so tragedies that occur in our lives are unthinkable to
us. Jesus did not die because, in the abstract, Jesus
said, "Hey, I think I'll get myself killed." It was the
problem of sin that created the reason and need for His
- What does the reaction of the disciples teach us about our
ability to understand God's strategy and thinking? (It
shows that is very difficult for humans to understand the
will of God because our judgment is clouded with our own
preferences and ambitions. We do not see "the big
picture," we see only what is happening in our little
corner of life.)
- The Battle Attitude
- Let's continue with the story of the disciples (and their
mother)who ask Jesus for the top positions in the kingdom
they expected He was setting up on earth. Read Matthew
20:24. Why were the rest of the disciples "indignant?"
(They had the same ambition! They were upset that these
two asked first.)
- Read Matthew 20:25-28. What is the attitude of Jesus?
- What should be our attitude?
- How would this attitude be applied to tragedies in
- I am convinced that the order of the gospel accounts is
inspired by God just as the message of the gospel is
inspired. Let's continue with the next story in Matthew.
Read Matthew 20:29-31. Why did the crowd rebuke the blind
men? (They were embarrassing and annoying the crowd.)
- Whose interest was the crowd considering? (It's own.
It did not care about the interests of the blind
- Whose interests were the blind men considering?
(Their own. They did not care about the sensibilities
of the crowd.)
- Read Matthew 20:32-34. Whose interest was Jesus concerned
- Let's put together what we have learned. When tragedy
occurs, is it likely that we will understand God's
specific strategy? (No.)
- What, generally, is the cause of the tragedy? (The
entry of sin into our world. Jesus died not because
He wanted to die, He died because the entry of sin
made His death the best "servant" solution.)
- When tragedy occurs in our life, what can we know
with absolute certainty? (Whatever the plan being
followed in our life, we know that God's attitude
towards us is one of self-sacrifice. Jesus'
instruction to the disciples about attitude shows
that He (and we) come to serve. The story of the
blind men shows Jesus' compassion towards suffering.
That should lead us to decide that we do not need to
understand the "big picture," or the specific
strategy of God to deal with sin, instead we need to
just trust Him.)
- Friend, the tragedy of Jesus' death on the cross was
planned. It shows us that God's battle plan to deal with
sin was self-sacrifice. Whatever tragedy may occur in our
life, we can know that God is not taking advantage of us.
He is not injuring us for His benefit. His attitude is to
die for us. We are not God. We do not have His
intelligence or His knowledge. What we do have is an
understanding of His attitude towards us. Will you agree
to just trust Jesus whatever happens in your life?
- Next week: The Passion Week.
* Copr. 2005, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.