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Sabbath School Lessons on Discipleship
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About the Author
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: Gender and Discipleship *
Introduction: Relax. We are not going to be plowing any new ground
with this lesson. Instead, we are going to study how women responded
to the call of discipleship to see what we (of both sexes) can learn
about being disciples today. The good news, ladies, is that the women
look pretty good in comparison to the men we are studying this week.
Let's dive right into our study!
- Read Luke 1:8-9,11-13. Did the angel give Zechariah good
news or bad news? Did he want a son or not? (Verse 13
says, "your prayer has been heard." He had been praying
for a son!)
- Read Luke 1:14, 17-18. Put Zechariah's words into today's
language. ("How do I know you are not lying to me?")
- Read Luke 1:19. Was Gabriel insulted? (It sure sounds like
it. Gabriel seems to say, "Do you know who you are talking
to? Do you understand where I got this message?")
- Is Zechariah already a disciple? (Yes. He was not only a
follower of God, but he held a special role as a priest.)
- Is God calling Zechariah to a larger role as a
disciple? (Yes! He is called to father (thus
disciple) a son who is part of a special plan to
prepare the way for the Messiah!)
- Will this call take Zechariah out of his comfort
zone? Will it embarrass him? (No. Having a son
will bring honor to him. There is simply no
downside to this promise - other than the need
to follow God's directions. (Which is not
supposed to be a "downside."))
- Does Zechariah doubt the answer to his prayers?
- Do we sometimes doubt that our prayers have been
- Was this an understandable reaction for a priest?
(No. He had been praying for this. This is something
he wants! He is a priest, someone who is supposed to
have a closer relationship with God. And, he had the
example of Abraham and Sarah who had a son late in
life. Yet, Zechariah doubted.)
- Just a few months later Gabriel has a similar mission.
Read Luke 1:26-29. When verse 26 says "the sixth month,"
what is it talking about? (The sixth month of the
pregnancy of Zechariah's wife, Elizabeth.)
- Mary was troubled by Gabriel's words. Why? (It would
be unusual for an ordinary person, especially a woman
in those days, to expect to be called "highly
favored" by God.)
- Would this greeting make Mary more or less
likely to believe the rest of Gabriel's message?
- Read Luke 1:30-33. Is this a credible message? How did it
compare in credibility with the message Gabriel gave to
Zechariah a few months before? (It had never happened in
the history of the world!)
- Read Luke 1:34. Did Mary doubt the words of Gabriel? (No.
She simply asked "how will this work?" That seems like a
reasonable question given the nature of the message.)
- Read Luke 1:35-38. What is Mary's response to this
incredible message? (Go ahead, God.)
- What was the downside to having God do as Gabriel
said He would? (Joseph might refuse to marry her. Her
reputation would be ruined. There was even the danger
of stoning (see John 8:3-5).)
- How would you compare Mary's response to this call to
special discipleship with the response of the priest
- Who is the one who reasonably could have said to
Gabriel, "How do I know you aren't lying to me?"
(Zachariah was given a completely plausible
message that fit into his life (he was married)
and was in answer to his prayer. Mary was given
a completely implausible (up to then) story,
that could have serious negative consequences
for her life, and she said, "Okay, Lord. Use me
just as you said.")
- Does this give us an insight into why God chose
Mary to be the mother of Jesus?
- Obviously, God was not going to call Zachariah to be the
mother of Jesus. That would take an even more outrageous,
implausible miracle. But we get as close to a male vs.
female comparison as we can. Why does Mary react so much
more favorably to the call? Do women make better
- Has this anything to do with gender? (It might -
especially in that culture. Last week we discussed
Nicodemus, a guy who had all sorts of power and
authority. When you have a power base, when you have
a set of "tools" that you have used to get things
done in the past, it is more difficult to accept the
idea of giving everything up and following Jesus.
Mary said, "Help me understand." When she understood,
she said, "Alright." Zechariah said, "I understand,
but how can I be sure you are not lying about this?")
- Mary Magdalene
- Read Luke 8:1-3. We see in these verses that Jesus had
women who followed Him in His ministry. How does this
suggest they were helping? (They were supporting His
efforts. "By their own means" refers to "possessions."
They were probably using their money and food to keep the
evangelistic effort going along.)
- Read John 19:25, Mark 15:46-47, Mark 16:1. What do these
texts teach us about the discipleship of Mary Magdalene?
(That she stayed with Jesus throughout the worst times.)
- Read John 20:11-16. What is Mary's reward for sticking
with Jesus through the bitter end? (She was the first to
see Him as the risen Lord!)
- What lesson does this teach us about being disciples
today? (You do not have to be leading the band. God loves
(and rewards) those who faithfully toil in the background
- even when no one but God sees what they are doing.)
- Mary and Martha
- So far, we have seen women disciples in a "supporting"
role. Let's look more closely at that issue by reading
Luke 10:38-40. Is this a problem in the church? Some
people are pitching in and helping out, and others are
just talking (or listening)?
- Is Martha's complaint a fair one? (Why should one
person do all the work?)
- Read Luke 10:41-42. Jesus says that "only one thing is
needed?" What is that one thing? (Listening to Him!)
- How would they eat if Martha did not do the other
- How would they have a place to sit (or recline),
something to drink and eating utensils without
someone worrying about those details? (If someone did
not sweat those details, they would not have
something to eat - short of a miracle from Jesus. I
don't think Jesus says "don't do these essential
things." Instead, He says, "don't get lost in the
details. Remember the main goal is to share the
gospel. Learning the gospel is more important than
cooking and cleaning.)
- What does this teach disciples (of either gender)
- My home church has a troubling situation. On those
days in which we have "fellowship dinner" members are
working away in the church kitchen while the sermon
is being preached. They don't hear the sermon. How
would you apply the story of Martha and Mary to this
- Remember that Jesus did not condemn Martha. He
just said Mary had chosen "what was better." (I
think the "better" thing is not preparing lunch
during the sermon.)
- Samaritan Woman
- If you are not familiar with this story, read John 4:3-42.
If you are familiar, let's focus on a few verses. Read
John 4:6-9. What was wrong with Jesus asking this woman
for a drink?
- If Jews looked down on Samaritans (and women), then
why should she be complaining? (Jesus was crossing
several cultural taboos. Jewish males had nothing to
do with Samaritans, much less Samaritan women.
Worse, Jesus was asking to drink out of her
container. Worse, Jesus would be indebted to this
woman. The violation of cultural norms was so extreme
that she was making a point of it.)
- Read John 4:10, 25-26. Why does Jesus say these things to
this woman? (He is seeking to make her His disciple.)
- Read John 4:39-42. Why did Jesus pick a woman to promote
the gospel in Samaria?
- Read Matthew 10:5-7. How can you reconcile this with
Jesus' work with the Samaritan woman? (At some point
Jesus seems to observe cultural norms. At other
points He does not. We need to seek the guidance of
the Holy Spirit in these things.)
- Is there an underlying moral issue with cultural
issues? (Read Galatians 3:26-29.)
- Friend, God calls you to follow Him regardless of your
gender. Even though the culture might make things more
difficult, God has given the most important tasks to
disciples who are women!
- Next week: Ethnicity and Discipleship.
* Copr. 2008, 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.