GOD OF MIRACLES – WEEK 6 (Leader’s Guide)

God of Miracles – Week Six –  Leaders’ Guide

VIDEO: Show tonight’s video here: Week Six Group Video

ICEBREAKER:    If you could meet a celebrity that passed away, who would it be? What would you want to know about them?

SUNDAY REVIEW:

[Q] Briefly discuss the message from Sunday.

[Q] Name one thing that stood out to you from Sunday’s message.

[Q] Is there one question from Sunday’s message that you would like to ask or discuss?

[Q]      Pastor Tim reminded us that the Cross is God saying: “I’d rather die than live without you.” The Cross is a sign of the lengths God will go to save us from our sin & brokenness. It reminds us of that FORGIVENESS comes at a great price.  What is your response to hearing this?

[Q]     Where do you need to declare “not my will, but Your will” in your life today?

APPLY THE BIBLE:

Read together John 11: 1-44.

 

Leader’s Tip – If you have a group that has a hard time reading through long sections of Scripture, try playing an audio Bible Story. It can bring a different dimension to your group as well as helping them engage Scripture in a different way. Or you can try breaking up the reading into different sections.  

 

Leader’s Background: For added insight and context, read John Chapters 10 and 11:45-12:50. This will help you fully appreciate the complete context of tonight’s passage. After Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead (John 11: 43), the same Jewish leaders who wanted to stone him also wanted to kill Jesus. It is here that the plot to kill Jesus and destroy His ministry begins. In fact, this chapter ends with Caiaphas, the high priest saying, “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish (John 11:50).” While the raising of Lazarus seems like the highest point in Jesus earthly ministry (greatest miracle), it is also the catalyst for His enemies to begin plotting to kill Him. Keep this in mind as you study this Scripture with your group.  

 

An interesting perspective to observe is the fact that there is a lot of movement in this passage.  Jesus, his disciples, Mary, Martha, the Judeans, and even Lazarus himself, all move from “here” to “there,” “in” and “out”—across boundaries—in the narration of this account. While at first glance these movements may seem like insignificant details, present simply to keep the plot moving, when considered as a whole, they provide a powerful testament to the theme of border crossing in the Lazarus account.

 

To begin with, the sister’s messenger, and ultimately Jesus and his disciples themselves, cross the geo-political border between Perea and Judea. In the previous chapter, Jesus and his disciples had been in Jerusalem, the capital city of Judea, teaching in the temple (John 10:22). When the Pharisees began to perceive Jesus’ message as a threat, they accused him of blasphemy and attempted to stone him to death. Jesus and his disciples sought political refuge just outside of the territory of Judea, in Perea. In this period, the Pharisees were among the group of Judeans given limited power by the Roman governors in order to hold the broader population in check. In contrast, Perea—the region “beyond the Jordan” (John 10:40)—was outside of the immediate purview of the Roman governors of Judea, since they were still under the rule of Herod Antipas (along with Jesus’ home region of Galilee).

 

Despite the connection of this territory with his home region of Galilee, however, Jesus’ presence in Perea was in a sense as an exile or refugee in this land beyond the Jordan. When Jesus and his disciples cross over again to Judea (11:7, 17), they are both returning ‘home’ and placing themselves in grave political danger: “Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him’” (11:16).

 

Even Martha and Mary cross borders of their own. First, Martha also moves out of a place of security—her home—to meet Jesus and his disciples on the road (10:20). Ultimately, Mary, at the prodding of her sister, does the same (10:28-29). Thus, while the Judeans cross the border into Bethany to be with the sisters, the sisters must cross out of Bethany to meet Jesus and his disciples when they enter Judea (10:30). In this meeting, then, each character is in his or her own way at risk. They meet one another at a place of vulnerability—perhaps signified by their collective weeping (10:33, 35).

 

However, these are not the only borders to be crossed. After all of the characters meet on the road in their vulnerability, they cross together from a place of life to a place of death: “Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb” (10:38). And here, Jesus demonstrates that there is no border separating God from us that God will not or cannot cross. Noticeably, Jesus does not command Lazarus to “get up” as might be expected from his previous reference to Lazarus’ condition as asleep (10:11) and as he does to raise the little girl in Mark 5:42. Neither does Jesus proclaim Lazarus as “alive” as he promises that the official’s daughter will live in John 4:46-54. Instead, Jesus commands Lazarus to “come out!” (10:43). Lazarus moves from the ‘location’ of death represented in the cave that has been his tomb, while Jesus shows the power of God to cross even the borders between this world and the next—between life and death—which recalls Martha’s proclamation earlier when “She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world” (10:27, emphasis added).

 

The disciples, Thomas in particular, had feared that returning to Judea would lead to certain death for Jesus (11:8, 16), and they were right. Jesus’ return to bring Lazarus back to life leads directly to his own death in Jerusalem. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep (10:11, 15).

Background on John 11: 1-44

 

This passage is Jesus’ 7th sign, the raising of Lazarus from the dead. This comes at a difficult time in Jesus’ ministry. In chapter 10, Jesus is starting to reveal that He is actually not just a Jewish teacher or a potential military Messiah, but that He is actually God Himself! This was such a shock for Jews living in the Judean area that they picked up stones to try to kill Him. So Jesus retreats to Galilee only to hear the difficult news that His friend Lazarus is sick. For Jesus to heal Lazarus, He has to go close to Jerusalem in the same area where they tried to stone him. Jesus is starting to go back to Jerusalem where eventually He will be crucified.  

 

Have a few people in your group summarize the story in their own words.

 

[Q] What stuck out to you as you read? What seemed hard to understand?

 

[Q] Why do you think Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that their brother is sick?

At this time, Jesus had built up a reputation as a great healer and they also had a relationship with Jesus. They knew that Jesus loved Lazarus and would do anything to help him. Their act of sending word was their way of requesting Jesus’ help. Mary and Martha must have known how dangerous it had become for Jesus to be in the vicinity of Jerusalem. They might have known that Jesus could heal at a distance (cf. 4:49-53), yet they seem to want him to come to heal Lazarus (11:21, 32). Perhaps their anxiety for their brother led them to summon Jesus. But love is the laying down of life (cf. 1 Jn 3:16), and the sisters seem to think that Jesus would be willing to risk his life for the sake of their brother, whom He loves.

Mary and Martha are no strangers to the ministry of Jesus. In the other gospels, we read about Martha’s struggle with busyness (Luke 10: 38-42) as well as Mary’s desire to worship at the feet of Jesus (John 12: 1-11). These three siblings were Jesus’ friends and benefactors (which meant they would take care of Jesus while He did ministry). Because of this, they had a close connection to Jesus.  

It is worth taking the time to read the accounts of Martha, Mary, Lazarus and Jesus with your Group Members to remind them of the relationship Jesus had with them.

 

[Q] How do you think Jesus feel about Lazarus, Martha and Mary?

 

Verse 5 tells us that Jesus loved them.  Another interesting fact is that while we know that they were friends, we don’t actually know a lot about their friendship.  As a reminder to us of the power and impact of Jesus’ ministry here on earth, John tells us at the end of his Gospel that there were so many other things that Jesus did, the world could not contain the books that would be written!

[Q] What is Jesus’ response when he hears that Lazarus is sick?  How do you respond when you hear Jesus’ answer?

Jesus actually delays his trip by 2 days. He doesn’t go back right away. Even if Jesus left right away, He would not have gotten there in time to save Him. The Jews had a belief that the person’s spirit would hover over the body after death for 3 days, believing that after the third day, the person would truly be dead. Jesus’ delay was to show that Lazarus was truly dead!  A natural response for us would be, “If Jesus loved Lazarus so much, why did He let him go through death?”

[Q] Read verse 4. What do you think Jesus means when he says: “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”  What can we learn from Jesus’ actions?

The purpose of Lazarus’ sickness was not to ultimately end in death. Jesus is telling us how this story will end. Jesus’ desire is that God would be glorified through this miracle.  All that Jesus does from the time He begins His ministry and the way he ends it has one purpose: that God be glorified. The term glory is found all throughout Scripture.

The NT uses doxa to express glory and limits the meaning to God’s glory…The NT carries forward the OT meaning of divine power and majesty (Acts 7:2; Eph. 1:17; 2 Pet. 1:17). The NT extends this to Christ as having divine glory (Luke 9:32; John 1:14; 1 Cor. 2:8; 2 Thess. 2:14).

Divine glory means that humans do not seek glory for themselves (Matt. 6:2; John 5:44; 1 Thess. 2:6). They only look to receive praise and honor from Christ (Rom. 2:7; 5:2; 1 Thess. 2:19; Phil. 2:16). – C. Brand “GLORY”   Jesus would use Lazarus’ sickness and death as an opportunity for the power and majesty of God to be displayed to the world.

[Q] How can Jesus’ response to Martha and Mary’s request make us reflect on the way we pray?

We see that God always has a greater purpose for our lives (Romans 8:28).  You want to help your Group Members see that while it is absolutely correct to ask for whatever we want in prayer, we always want to surrender ‘our will’ to ‘God’s will’ for His Glory!  Ask them how often they think of praying in this way?

 

[Q] After two days, Jesus tells his disciples they are going back to Judea. Knowing what you do from Chapter 10, why do you think the disciples were so shocked about going back to Judea?

 

The people there had picked up stones to kill Jesus. The memory of His visit there was probably still fresh on their minds. They were scared for the life of Jesus but also their own lives as well.

 

[Q] Imagine how Mary and Martha felt. They had sent Jesus a message, and hadn’t heard back. They didn’t even know if He was coming or not to help them. Have you ever felt that way — that you may not be sure if Jesus heard you or that he would respond to you?  Share with your group.

 

Of course, vulnerability begins with us as leaders.  Share a time when you felt like God didn’t show up when you needed Him. For some in your group, this may be a very tender place and they may not want to share right away. But take time to lead by example. Share a time when you needed God to come through whether it was financial, or something at work, a struggle with your kids, but God didn’t do it in the time or the way you wanted. Share how you felt, and what it made you think about God.

 

Many Jews believed that the soul remained near the body for three days after death in the hope of returning to it. By four days, all hope would be gone, Lazarus would be irrevocably dead. Jesus knew that raising Lazarus from the dead would be perceived as a far greater miracle than healing a sick man, even from a distance, as he had already done with the official’s son (John 4:50–53).

 

Jesus was at work bringing God’s rule and reign to earth. He alludes to this when He says: “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”  John 11:9

 

C.G. Kruse says this about the following verse:

 

The Jewish day was reckoned from sunrise to sunset, and night from sunset to sunrise. The 24-hour period was divided roughly into 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. One who goes about in the day does not stumble, because he has light. The one who walks about in the night stumbles, because ‘he has no light’. Jesus regarded the period of his ministry as the ‘day’ (9:4), and during the day he would accomplish his Father’s purpose without stumbling, i.e. without being deflected by reminders of previous attempts by ‘the Jews’ to stone him, or because of the possibility that they would try to do so again if he returned to Judea. Despite his disciples’ fears, then, Jesus was determined to go into Judea, in his own time, to respond to the request of Mary and Martha.

 

[Q] Jesus must have felt some fear at the prospect of going back to Judea, but He did not let His fear keep Him from His purpose. What are some of your fears and anxieties that keep you from trusting fully in Christ’s purposes for you?  How do you respond to these fears?

 

Let your group share some of the things that may keep them from God’s purposes. It could be a fear of what those purposes are. We may be afraid that God’s purpose for us may not be what we want, but we want to be reminded that they are always life giving (John 10:30; Jeremiah 29:11). Our fears could be anxiety about the current state of our marriages or our relationship status. We may need to surrender it to God no matter the outcome. It could be struggling with a career or at work, it could be in parenting. You may feel anxious that your kids are not honoring Jesus with their lives and you desperately desire that they will love and serve Him. Our anxieties and fears often manifest in unhealthy actions such as overeating, overworking, drugs, alcohol, netflix binging and other ways to escape.  Share with your group, as the leader, be prepared to model this by going first. Help your Group members think what it could look like to do what will honor Jesus even though it is may seem daunting, hard and can seem impractical.

[Q] Why do you think Jesus told the disciples that Lazarus was sleeping and that He was going to Bethany to wake him? Was He just using a euphemism, if so, why would He? Do you think Jesus was trying to elevate their viewpoint — trying to get them to think from the natural to the spiritual? What do you think?

 

A euphemism is a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing.  The disciples were great at missing the point as we so often can be. Jesus knew that Lazarus would not stay dead, but the disciples probably didn’t realize how serious His condition was. Jesus actually had to explain it to them (John 11: 14). Jesus always spoke in parables, but the disciples didn’t always catch on. This is why Jesus seemed to indicate in vs. 4 to follow Him, because He is the light and when we follow Jesus we find illumination. We may not always understand God’s plan, but we are called to walk with Jesus and follow Him even when we don’t see what He is doing. Let your group discuss this, and see where the discussion lands.

[Q] Read vs. 17-20. Why did Martha and Mary respond the way they did when they heard Jesus was coming?

In accordance with Martha’s activist manner, she ran out of the house and went to Jesus. Martha wanted to get answers from Jesus so she went to Him directly to talk with Him. She shared with Jesus her struggles and frustrations, also demonstrating trust in Christ. Martha and Mary had two different responses. John tells us that Mary stayed at home.  While we are not sure why Mary doesn’t come with Martha, it could be that Mary feels so hurt or is grieving so deeply that she isn’t ready to talk with Jesus. Sometimes when we are in pain, whether it’s the loss of someone close to us, the pain of divorce or the betrayal of a close friend and we’re bleeding on the inside, it can be really hard to talk to God.  Be sure that we don’t make people feel guilt or shame when they confess their doubts. Remind your Group Members that there is Good News! Jesus is still coming!

[Q] Whose response do you relate to more? Martha’s or Mary’s? Why?

Leader’s Tip There is no wrong answer. In fact, you may already know how your group would respond. We all respond differently at different times and seasons in our lives.  Allow your Group Members to make connections between their responses and their relationship with Jesus! The point is to remind your Group Members that Jesus came in love to Martha and Mary and His response pointed to God’s Glory!

[Q] Read verses 21-27. Have someone in your group summarize the conversation between Martha and Jesus.  What do we learn about Martha’s faith in this conversation?

Jesus wants to help Martha’s faith go from “if only” to “only Jesus!” Jesus says to her that her brother will rise again. Martha, being a good Jew, knows that one day the dead will experience Resurrection at the judgment. Martha responds by accepting that Jesus is the Messiah, that she has access to Resurrected life because of who Jesus is.

 

[Q] Jesus tells Martha that the one who believes in Him will live even if they die. What is He helping her to see?  Do you believe this? How can you experience this Resurrection?

 

While Jesus affirms the resurrection, that is not what He is trying to help Martha understand. He wants her to see that there is GREATER hope not in a future age, but in Himself. This is why Jesus responds to her with this statement: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;  and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”  Allow your Group Members share what difference this makes in our lives as lovers of Jesus.

 

This can be an opportunity to lead some in your group to Christ if they don’t have a relationship with Jesus. Jesus asks Martha and she responds that He is the Messiah. Be bold! Invite those who don’t know Christ in your group to begin a relationship with Him. At Liquid, we believe it is as simple a ABC.

 

A – Admit Your a Sinner.

B – Believe in Jesus.

C – Commit Your Life.

 

If there is someone in your group that wants to begin a relationship with Jesus have them pray this prayer with you. Feel free to rework some of the words or phrases so that it makes more sense for you.

 

Lord Jesus. I admit that I am a sinner and I need to be saved. Thank you for the cross, for dying for my sins so now I believe that you died so that I could have everlasting life. I commit to following you all of my days because like Martha expressed, you are the Resurrection and the Life! Amen!

 

Let anyone know that prays that prayer that they are now part of the family of God and their next step is BAPTISM!   They can sign up for Baptism at Liquid at the Shore on June 2, in Ocean Grove. Here is the link: Baptism Sign up

 

Read verses 32-37. In verse 35 find the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept.”The Scriptures tell us that Jesus is a man that is well acquainted with grief. Scholar NT Wright puts it this way:

 

Jesus bursts into tears at the moment when he sees Mary, and all the Judaeans with her, in tears. ‘He has borne our griefs’, said the prophet, ‘and carried our sorrows’ (Isaiah 53:4). Jesus doesn’t sweep into the scene (as we might have supposed, and as later Christians inventing such a story would almost certainly have told us) and declare that tears are beside the point, that Lazarus is not dead, only asleep (see Mark 5:39). Even though, as his actions and words will shortly make clear, Jesus has no doubt what he will do, and what his Father will do through him, there is no sense of triumphalism, of someone coming in smugly with the secret formula that will show how clever he is. There is, rather, the man of sorrows, acquainted with our grief and pain, sharing and bearing it to the point of tears. – NT Wright John for Everyone, Part 2

 

[Q] Does it comfort you to know that  Jesus weeps with us in our pain? Why or why not?  Have you experienced His love and comfort in your grief?  Would you be willing to share with the Group?

 

As Wright says, even though God knows how our situations will end, and that we have eternal life to look forward to, Jesus is with us in our pain. He’s not rushing our grief, He’s not forcing us to feel better or put a smile on things, but He feels our pain with us. He’s walking with us, weeping with us, even getting angry with us. We have a God that is fully acquainted with our suffering and bears it with us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 tells us that we have a God who comforts us in our sorrows.  You may want to read this with your Group because there may be some going through a very difficult time and these verses will hopefully help them find comfort.

 

[Q] Look at verses 38-44. Jesus commands that the stone be moved, when Martha objects because of the smell Jesus asks her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” Then Martha and Mary experienced the glory of God with the resurrection of their brother from the dead! How did Jesus bring glory to God in this situation?

 

Jesus did a work that no one else could do! This final sign, foreshadows Jesus as the Messiah and HIs own resurrection! This was the ultimate reason Jesus came to this earth —  His Resurrection. All fame, all credit and all joy would go to God and Jesus.  See if your Group can identify the parallels between Lazarus’ resurrection and Jesus’.

 

New Testament scholar NT Wright makes an interesting point about this section of Scripture. He says:

 

John doesn’t have Jesus’ answer to [Martha], except with an oblique comment: if she believes, she will see God’s glory. Somehow, what he is going to do will achieve [displaying the glory of God]. But the question remains: what has happened to Lazarus’s body? Will it have started to decay?

 

The other unexplained bit of evidence is what Jesus says when they take the stone away. He doesn’t pray that he will now have the power to raise Lazarus. He thanks the father that he has heard him. And he adds an odd little extra sentence about wanting to show the people around that they should believe in him.

 

[Q] How do we put these two bits of evidence together and make sense of them?

 

John has omitted—but surely wants us to understand, and to be struck all the more powerfully for having to work it out—that when they took the stone away from the tomb there was no smell. From that moment on, Jesus knew that Lazarus was not dead, or was dead no longer. His body had not begun to decompose. All that was required now would be a word of command, and he would come out, a shuffling, sightless figure, to be unwrapped and released into the world of life and light. But we are left pondering how Jesus had got to that point.

 

There is only one conclusion that we can draw, and it’s very striking. In those two silent days the other side of the Jordan (11:6), before he even told the disciples of the problem, he was praying: praying that, though Lazarus would die, he would be preserved from corruption; praying that, when eventually they arrived at Bethany, the body in the tomb would be whole and complete, ready to be summoned back into life. And when they took the stone away he knew that his prayer had been answered….So often we find two or three parts of our life which pose to us the same sort of puzzle that we find in this text, things that should go together, but we can’t quite see how. We should remember that in this story the unspoken clue to it all was prayer and faith. If Jesus needed to spend time praying and waiting, how much more will we.

 

[Q] Dr. Wright is saying that Jesus was actually praying the entire time for the Resurrection of Lazarus! Spending multiple days praying and then seeing God move as a result of those prayers. Are there places in your life where you are puzzled at what God is doing in your life? How can you set aside dedicated time to seek Jesus to ask you to show you how these pieces will come together?

 

If you don’t already know, let your group reveal where they are struggling to understand where God is at work. Rather than try to offer answers, pause right now and pray for each Group Member. Encourage your group to create, set, and dedicated times to pray. Some people actually schedule into their calendars alerts and appointments to pray for a specific breakthrough. Encourage your group to find practical ways to keep prayer at the forefront.

 

Even as Jesus prayed, God was preparing to do a miraculous work. In the same way, let us be encouraged that we don’t know how God is preparing to answer our prayers and bring about His breakthrough in our lives.

 

[Q] In this story, we saw that Jesus’ delay in coming was not a denial of what Mary and Martha had asked for, but to demonstrate God’s goodness and glory! Think of the needs in your life. Where do you think you need to trust that God’s delay is not His denial?

 

This is a similar question to the previous one, you may want to ask either this or the previous question.  As the Lazarus story shows us, God’s delay is not His denial. Sometimes His delay is because He has something better that He wants to reveal and show off to us!  However, there can be things that God wants to grow IN US.  Have your Group think about some of these:

  • God may not be bringing about the financial breakthrough we need because He is waiting for us to manage our money better and take steps to budget.
  • God may not have healed your marriage yet, because He’s challenging you to make changes in your own life before He can bring you back into alignment with your spouse.
  • Before God can heal the relationship with your kids, He is changing your own heart and preparing you to be more receptive to them.

 

[Q] What are some other scenarios that you think God is delaying His answer before He fully answers your request?

 

[Q] Like Martha, running to Jesus with her doubts, questions and pain, what do you need to bring to Jesus today?

 

While we are waiting for God, we can actually come to him with our confusion and doubts. It is how we surrender to Him. In this way, have your group share through prayer things they need to give to Jesus.

 

BEAR BURDENS:

 

Is there a Lazarus in your life? Is there a situation or a circumstance in your life that just seems dead and hopeless? Martha and Mary told Jesus to “Come and See” the tomb. What do you need Jesus to come and see? Where does He need to bring the miraculous to your life? Take some time to lift all of those situations and circumstances to God.

 

CHANCE TO SERVE:

Are you and your Group Members part of our Sunday Dream Team?  There are many opportunities for you to get involved every week.  Check out the Dream Team page on our Website and encourage one another to use your spiritual gifts to help others draw closer to Jesus Christ!  

 

DIGGING DEEPER

 

Mary and Martha were essential part of Jesus’ ministry throughout his life. Today we saw Martha’s bold faith in the face of pain and confusion, but in this section on digging deeper, we’ll take a look at her sister Mary who chose to lovingly contemplate before Jesus.

 

Read John 12: 1-8.

 

[Q] When is this dinner taking place? Why is that significant?

 

The dinner is taking place 6 days before the passover. This is the final week of Jesus’ life before He is to die on the cross for our sins.

 

[Q] Where are Martha and Lazarus?

 

It had probably been a few weeks since Jesus rose Lazarus from the dead. He was sitting at the table with Jesus. Martha was behind the scenes taking care of all the preparations that were needed. All of the logistics, food, hand and foot washing for all the men that were in attendance.

 

What do you think Jesus and Lazarus were talking about? You don’t have to ask this to your group, but it would be interesting to be a fly on the wall for that conversation.

 

Read verse. 3. Mary gave to Jesus an extravagant worship gift. Craig Keener explains:

 

The “pound” (NASB) or “pint” (NIV) may have been about twelve ounces. A flask would normally contain not more than an ounce, so Mary is tremendously extravagant here.

It was customary to anoint the heads of important guests, but a host would provide only water for their feet. – Craig Keener The IVP Bible Background Commentary.

 

What Mary was doing was worshipping Jesus.

 

[Q] How did other people respond?

 

Leader’s Tip: Remember in Luke 10 where we first meet Mary and Martha? Where Martha complained to Jesus that her sister wasn’t helping. We notice that John doesn’t record this. This could indicate a growth in Martha. That she sees her serving as her spiritual act of worship and therefore is not getting angry with her sister. She can even appreciate Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus and anointing him as her way of celebrating and worshipping Jesus.

 

Judas, one of Jesus’ disciples did not respond well. He accused Mary of being wasteful. She could have used that money to take care of the poor for at least a year.

 

It says that the entire room was filled with the smell of the perfume.

 

[Q] What did Judas fail to understand when he objected to Mary’s action?

 

For Mary, it wasn’t about the money. It was actually about worshipping Jesus. Mary understood that Jesus was the Messiah. Because of this, she wanted to give Him her best! In this sense, it was this perfume. By giving Jesus her best, her most extravagant, she was surrendering herself to Him. Her finances when to Him first, her devotion went to Him first, He was the center of her world.

 

Judas, being the disciple that betrayed Jesus, did not understand that level of devotion. In fact, John calls him a thief. He was the treasurer of the disciples, but would help himself to what was inside. John says that he didn’t even care about the poor, only about his own greed. Because Judas’ heart hadn’t been transformed by Christ, he couldn’t understand why Mary did what she did.

 

[Q] What can we learn from Mary’s act of worship?

 

Mary did a couple things that we should try to imitate. First, Mary was bold. In that culture, a single woman approaching a single Rabbi would have raised eyebrows. But Mary wasn’t afraid of pleasing people because she knew that Jesus was God. He was her Messiah, so when she came to Him at dinner in front of other men it was a picture of bold faith. When we practice bold faith in our prayers, bold faith in sharing the gospel and bold faith in trusting Christ these are all part of our spiritual acts of worship.

 

Second, Mary brought her best. The perfume she brought was extravagant. And more than most people could afford. She brought Jesus her best because she wanted to honor Him. In fact, her gift filled the entire room.

 

[Q] What can you expect from God if you are extravagant in your worship to him? (See Luke 6:38 and Matthew 6:33.)

 

[Q] Both Mary and Martha gave extravagant worship to Jesus: Mary by being with and contemplating Jesus; Martha by doing and serving. How do you lean towards your worship of Jesus?

 

Extravagant worship doesn’t have one size to it. Mary expressed her worship towards Jesus through a contemplative way. But Martha expressed it through serving and running the kitchen. For some, going to worship night and singing and dancing helps them connect and give extravagant worship to God. For others being alone outside does that, and for still others being generous with what God has given them enables them to worship with extravagance.

 

Several years ago, Liquid Church did a series called Spiritual Pathways. In it we described a few pathways that people have to best worship Jesus. Here is the list:

 

Naturalists — love God best outdoors. These people worship in the midst of God’s creation. They celebrate His majesty and discover spiritual truths through nature.

 

Sensates — love God through their senses. These people worship through sensual experiences — sights (like art), sounds (music), smells, and more.

 

Traditionalists — love God through religious ritual and symbols. These people worship through traditions and sacraments of the Church. They believe structure, repetition, and rigidity, like weekly liturgy, leads to a deeper understanding of God and faith.

 

Ascetics — love God in solitude and simplicity. These people worship through prayer and quiet time, and the absence of all outside noise and distraction.

 

Activists — love God through confrontation, fighting for godly principles and values. They worship through their dedication to and participation in God’s truth about social and evangelistic causes.

 

Caregivers — love God by serving others, and worship by giving of themselves. They may nurse the sick and disabled, “adopt” a prisoner, donate time at a shelter, etc.

 

Enthusiasts — love God through mystery and celebration. These people worship with outward displays of passion and enthusiasm. They love God with gusto!

 

Contemplatives — love God through adoration. These people worship by their attentiveness, deep love, and intimacy. They have an active prayer life.

 

Intellectuals — love God with their mind and their hearts are opened up to a new attentiveness when they understand something new about God. These people worship through intense study, apologetics, and intellectual pursuits of their faith.  

 

[Q] Look over the list of different spiritual pathways. Pick one or two that resonate with you the most. Share with your group.

 

Compare and contrast this list with your group. You may find areas where more people have in common and can relate, while others may learn to appreciate different aspects that they hadn’t been able to before.       

 

     

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