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Lesson 7: The Puzzle of His Conduct *

Introduction: Have you ever had a spiritual leader who had an approach that did not fit your style? Did some new worship ideas make you uncomfortable? Our lesson this week is about some of Jesus' conduct which was quite puzzling. It made a lot of people angry. When we get angry about the actions of our spiritual leaders, how can we know who is truly doing God's will? How can we know when we need to speak out and when we need to just keep quiet? Let's jump into our study and see what answers we can find in the Bible!

  1. Sabbath Work


    1. Read Mark 3:1-2. What made the Jewish leaders think Jesus might heal on the Sabbath?


    2. Read Mark 3:3. The Jewish leaders thought they might "catch" Jesus in a sin - or at least in something others would think to be a sin. How does Jesus react to that? (He calls the shriveled hand guy up front and center so no one can miss this!)


      1. Why would Jesus want to highlight something people thought violated the Sabbath?


    3. Read Mark 3:4-5. Is Jesus teaching us anything about anger? Remember, Jesus is in "church!"


      1. In the story of Jesus and the temple tax (Matthew 17:24-27), Jesus says "so that we may not offend them" pay the temple tax from the money provided by the fish. Jesus could have healed the shriveled hand guy the next day. Why offend the Jewish leaders? (Consider the logic of this situation. For Jesus to be angry, He must have thought that the Jewish leaders were missing an obvious principle of the Kingdom of God. An obvious principle needs to be publicly raised.)


      2. What is Jesus teaching us about observing the Sabbath? What is the "obvious principle" that the Jewish leaders are missing? (Doing good is consistent with Sabbath-keeping.)


        1. Is there anything in what Jesus said which would cause you to believe that He did not believe in Sabbath-keeping? (Jesus is clearly arguing what should be the proper standard for Sabbath-keeping, not whether there should be any standards.)


      3. Why should Jesus be angry at those who wanted to err on the "conservative" side? (When I was growing up in religious schools, I endured all sorts of rules. It never occurred to me that having all of these rules might in itself be a sin. It seemed that only violating the rules could be a sin. Only in recent years have I begun to understand the Deuteronomy 4:2 principle: it is just as wrong to add rules God has not required as it is to teach you can ignore the rules which God has required. Both put you in the position of usurping God.)


    4. Read Mark 3:6. Does this give us clearer insight into why Jesus was angry? (Compare the question Jesus asked in Mark 3:4. Jesus hit the nail squarely on the head! The minds of these Jewish leaders were so clouded by their own selfish opinions that they were willing to plot, on the Sabbath even, how they might kill a guy for the "sin" of healing someone. He was healing. They were killing. The irony could hardly be greater!)


  2. Pig Dunking


    1. Read Matthew 8:28-29. We could devote our entire time to this bizarre little story. How do you think people become demon possessed? How does this story suggest that a demon possessed person can get help? (As far as this story reveals, the individuals who were demon possessed were incapable of asking for help. Coming into the presence of God is the key.)


      1. Humans may not recognize Jesus as God, but what evidence do we have that demons recognize Him and His ultimate triumph over sin? (The demons acknowledge Jesus as the "Son of God" and they recognize their final defeat.)


        1. How can this be? Jesus had not yet triumphed over sin by His life, death and resurrection. (Apparently, the "other team" was pretty demoralized by Jesus' appearance on earth.)


    2. Read Matthew 8:30-32. Our lesson is supposed to be about Jesus' puzzling conduct. I've got a question about the demons' puzzling conduct. Why would they do this?


      1. Why would Jesus allow this?


      2. Let's answer an earlier question left unanswered. What do we learn about how people become demon possessed? (Demons cannot even go into pigs without God's permission. It seems obvious they cannot go into us without our decision to let them in.)


      3. What is the goal of Satan for each one of us? (To destroy us. Want proof of this? Look what happened to these pigs! Destruction is the first rule of Satan's realm.)


        1. Why were the demon-possessed men not destroyed by the demons? Why didn't the demons drown them? (God's Spirit was restraining the demons.)


      4. Has Jesus no respect for private property? Surely He knew the nature of these demons! (Assuming that the owners were Jewish, they knew that pigs were unclean and should not be eaten. Leviticus 11:7-8. Barnes' Notes says that Jews were forbidden by their own laws to keep pigs even for the purpose of raising and selling them.)


        1. If your business is built upon unjust principles, are you at risk?


  3. Gluttony


    1. Read Matthew 11:16-17. Jesus generally has good things to say about children. Are these children put in a good or bad light? (These are more like the young children I'm used to seeing. They want others to do their bidding.)


      1. Should the "others" in the marketplace have danced or mourned?


      2. There is an old American saying, "He marched to the beat of a different drummer." Has this anything to do with the children's singing and flute playing?


    2. Read Matthew 11:18-19. What does this have to with the children? (The children want the "others" to dance or mourn in accord with the wishes of the children. Jesus says that He and John the Baptist did not do what others expected, the result was that they were called names.)


      1. Consider your pastor. Would this text apply to your views on your pastor?


      2. According to this text, Jesus not only ate more food and drank more wine ("drunkard") than John the Baptist (who was a Nazarite - and did not touch grapes), He hung around with bad people. Is this by itself proof that Jesus was doing the wrong things?


        1. If not, how can you know?


        2. Is your spiritual leader allowed to do just anything? (The answer is found in the last part of Matthew 11:19: "Wisdom is proved right by her actions." We should not judge based on the fact that a religious leader does not do what we would do. Instead, we need to look at the results of the leader's actions.)


          1. Does this support the old adage that the "ends justify the means?" (No. Look again at the illustration. "Children" (the spiritually immature) expect the leader to do what they want. Jesus is not endorsing sin as a method of promoting the kingdom. However, He is saying do not impose your personal preferences on your leaders. Contemporary praise and worship not what you prefer? If it brings in the crowds to hear the gospel, don't complain. Especially, don't make false charges.)


    3. Friend, consider these stories. The healing of the shriveled hand on Sabbath enraged the Jewish leaders. The pig drowning enraged the local townspeople. Jesus' dietary habits drew criticism. If you are tempted to criticize your spiritual leaders, ask God to increase your spiritual understanding. Are you on the wrong side of God's will? Are you acting like a child - because the issue is not really a spiritual matter? Maybe you are right or maybe it was simply that your "pig" got drowned! Will you agree today to ask for the leading of the Holy Spirit on these kinds of questions?


  4. Next week: The Intensity of His Walk.
* 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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