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Lesson 6: The Challenge of His Sayings *

Introduction: Do you ever wish that God would sit down with you and explain exactly what He thinks you should and should not do? No need to be in doubt. Now you can know! I've had those thoughts many times. Sometimes Jesus' teachings are confusing. On the other hand, I know myself well enough that sometimes I like a little ambiguity. That way I can do what I want and still hold on to my self-deception that I'm doing God's will. This week we look at some sayings of Jesus that, if we understand them correctly, challenge us to a very high level of obedience and a very high level of trust. Let's dive into our lesson and learn more!

  1. Divorce


    1. Read Matthew 19:3. Why do you think this is a test for Jesus? Wouldn't it be natural for Him to say, "Of course, you can't divorce your wife for any reason!" (There were two schools of thought among the Pharisees. The liberal school of Hillel taught that a man might divorce his wife for trivial reasons: such as burning breakfast. The conservative school of Shammai thought you could only divorce your wife for immodest or indecent conduct.)


    2. Read Matthew 19:4-6. Did Jesus endorse either of the two prevailing views among the Jewish leaders? (Jesus says that the model is marriage for life.)


    3. Read Matthew 19:7. Did Moses, being lead by God, allow divorce? (Read Deuteronomy 24:1-4. This is the source of the two schools of Jewish thought. Logically, the "indecent" conduct would be something less than pre-marriage fornication or adultery, because death, not divorce, was the penalty for fornication or adultery. Deuteronomy 22:13-22.)


    4. Read Matthew 19:8. Moses is not off on an adventure of his own. He wrote under the inspiration of God. How does Jesus explain the difference between what He (God) is saying directly and what God said through Moses? (He says God accommodated the sinful hearts of the people. The Wycliffe Bible Commentary says that Moses' regulation was "a protection of wives from men's caprice, not an authorization for husbands to divorce at will.")


      1. Let's stop and consider this a moment. Are the rules against sin subject to being bent? Will a righteous God compromise on sin?


      2. If hardness of heart is an excuse, are those who are hardhearted today excused?


    5. Read Matthew 19:9. What does Jesus say about divorce apart from "marital unfaithfulness?" ("Sexual immorality" is the way this Greek word is often translated.) (Jesus says it is adultery!)


      1. As we have seen, the penalty for adultery was death. It is one of the Ten Commandments ( Exodus 20:14). Jesus confirms casual divorce is a major moral problem. Isn't sin, sin for all times? Why was divorce "okay" in Moses time and not "okay" in Jesus time?(What I see in this is grace. Jesus does not equivocate on the standard, the ideal. But God showed grace to His people.)


        1. I'm sure some of you are saying, "Wait a minute! What about grace to the women who were divorced for trivial reasons?" (In Jewish culture only men could divorce. God shows grace to sinners. These women were not sinners in this context. God's ideal was that they not be divorced by their husbands.)


    6. Read Matthew 19:10. How would you summarize the disciples reaction? (They were shocked. If the rules are going to be that strict, it is best not marry.)


      1. What does this tell you about the state of marriage in those days?


    7. Read Matthew 19:11-12. What you think this means? To which "word" is Jesus referring?


      1. Is Jesus teaching that those who cannot accept His strict teachings on divorce are released from them?


      2. Or, is Jesus teaching that only those who can follow the rules should get married?(If you look at the context, Jesus is saying the second - don't get married if you cannot follow the rules. The disciples just got through saying "It is better not to marry." Jesus then goes through a list of reasons why a person might choose or be forced to refrain from marriage.)


      3. Is there a logical application of Jesus' statements to the argument that homosexuals are born that way and therefore homosexual marriage is a natural right? (Yes, although the logic is not perfect. Jesus says that some were born with barriers to marriage, some were made that way by others, and some make that decision to please God. There are a number of reasons, some involuntary, why some people should not marry.)


  2. Money


    1. Let's turn to another difficult subject. Read Matthew 19:16-17. So much for righteousness by faith! Do you think that Jesus meant what He said?


    2. Read Matthew 19:18-19. What is odd about this list of commandments? (It lists only five of the Ten Commandments and throws in an extra "summary" commandment.)


      1. What is left out? (All of the Ten Commandments that have to do with our obligations to God.)


    3. Read Matthew 19:20-22. Do you think that this man would have gone to heaven if he had sold all he had? Would he then have become "perfect?"


      1. Where does Jesus find this "command" to become perfect through yard sales? (This summarizes the missing Ten Commandments about our obligations to God. This young man relied on his wealth for his safety and his reputation. Jesus invites him to simply rely upon God.)


      2. How about you? On who or what do you rely?


    4. Read Matthew 19:23-25. The disciples are having a hard day. They find out they are supposed to be married for life and money is a bad thing. Why were the disciples astonished about Jesus' statements about wealth? (Read Deuteronomy 28:1-2, 12 and Ecclesiastes 10:19. The disciples knew their Bible, wealth was a blessing from God! It was the answer to everything. Jesus was contradicting their understanding of wealth.)


      1. If wealth is a blessing from God, why is it difficult for a rich man to enter heaven? Should we not expect that all who enter heaven will be rich because that reflects the blessings of God? (I think this is a very long discourse on salvation. We are not saved by keeping the commandments. Obeying God does bring blessings and wealth. But what brings salvation is trust and reliance on God. Wealth is a temptation, because it inspires us to trust it instead of God. Why? As King Solomon pointed out, "money is the answer for everything." Just don't make it your answer!)


    5. Read Matthew 19:27. Peter says, "Lord, we passed that test!" "What do we get?" What do we get for reliance on God? (Read Matthew 19:28-29. Jesus responds you get heaven, thrones, glory and a 100 fold increase on your investment!)


    6. Read Matthew 19:30. What does this mean? Does it mean that the man who had wealth, and appeared to be first on this earth, would now be last?


  3. Work


    1. Let's move on to the next story. Read Matthew 20:1-2, 9-15. Is Jesus now advocating unfair wages?


    2. Read Matthew 20:16. What is the punch line to this story?


      1. Have we seen this point before? (Yes. Matthew 19:30.)


        1. If so, how does it apply here? Why does mere failure to get up early mean you get rewarded? What about "early birds" and "worms?"


    3. Let's review these last two stories:


      1. Did the rich man think that he could get to heaven by doing something? (Yes. Matthew 19:16 "What ... must I do....")


      2. Jesus showed him that he couldn't do enough.


      3. Did the disciples think that they could get to heaven by what they did? (Yes. Matthew 19:27: We have done everything, what is our reward?)


      4. What does the parable of the laborers tell us about the relationship between our work and our reward? (There is no relationship!)


      5. What did all the workers do in common? (Agreed to work when asked.)


      6. Does this shed light on God's historic teaching on marriage? (God's ideal is plain: Marriage for life, no divorce. But, a life-long marriage does not get you into heaven.)


    4. What does get you into heaven?(Your response to Jesus' invitation to come. Repent and come. Heaven is Jesus' gift.)


    5. What does it take to accept this gift? (This is the meaning to the "first shall be last" statement. The rich ruler was used to being "better" because of his money. The workers were used to getting paid more because of their diligence. This is not the operating system for the Kingdom of God. The less you trust yourself, the more you are likely to trust God.)


    6. Friend, will you accept the challenge of trusting God? Will you strive for the ideal of holiness in your life?


  4. Next week: The Puzzle of His Conduct.
* 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.

© 2017 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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