(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)
The Good Doctor
A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.
In Nazareth, Jesus defined his mission by claiming that God was fulfilling the words of Isaiah 61:1-2 through Jesus’ healing, liberating actions. There he met rejection and anger. In Capernaum, on the other hand, the townspeople wanted him to stay there and be their local healer (verse 42). But Jesus steadfastly followed a course that he and God chose. He did not allow either human popularity or rejection to govern his actions.
Luke (probably Paul’s companion called “the dearly loved physician” in Colossians 4:14) catalogued many different ills Jesus healed. No wonder people were “filled with awe” (verse 26)—clearly an awe-inspiring spiritual power was at work in Jesus. And it’s important to know that in Jesus’ day, illness was not just physical—many people thought it was a sign of God’s curse. Jesus’ healing acts bore powerful witness to God’s forgiveness and love, as well as God’s power.
Jesus was challenging the status quo, and he used a parable to do so. (The word “parable” occurs 26 times in Luke—5:36 is the first time.) Goatskins often held wine and other fluids in Palestine, but new wine would burst a rigid old skin. Through Jesus, God was establishing new ways of working in the world that would burst old cultural norms. The response to Jesus’ Sabbath healing showed that his message could burst old, rigid spirituality, too.
After choosing the Twelve, Jesus laid out his “platform,” to use a modern political analogy. These are the principles of life in his Kingdom. Luke used much (but not all) of the material from “The Sermon on the Mount” (cf. Matthew 5-7) in this passage. That is not a conflict, however—most scholars believe these ideas were likely the core of most of Jesus’ sermons as he proclaimed “the good news of the Kingdom of God” (Luke 4:43).
A Roman commander trusted Jesus’ implicitly, and Jesus healed his valued servant. Jesus brought a widow’s dead son back to life, and the people of Nain said, “God has come to help his people.” But in prison (Luke 3:20), stalwart John the Baptist began to wonder. When was Jesus going to “clear his threshing floor,” “burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:17)? Was he “the one,” as John had preached? He sent the question to Jesus.
A religious leader invited Jesus to eat at his house, but he seems to have treated Jesus quite rudely (Luke 7:44-46). A “woman from the city, a sinner” found Jesus there, and poured out her love in tears and perfume. Jesus told a story that taught that he sowed the seed of God’s love and grace everywhere. Human eyes can’t always tell where it will find fertile ground in which to grow, and where it will land on rocky ground that causes it to wither away.
To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.
Lord God, please shape us into people with rich and productive “soil” in our hearts as you sow the seeds of your message in us. May we always overflow with a harvest of the fruit of your Spirit. Strengthen our foundation of faith so that we might weather life’s storms. Nourish our spirits so that we might be disciplined followers of yours. Amen.
CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)
“March madness”—can any significant “life lessons” be learned from participating in or simply watching college games? Do you watch with the attitude of “it’s only a game” or with unbridled passion over the outcome?
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY
NOTE: We encourage study groups to have several different Bible translations available for these readings. Reading aloud from the Common English Bible or The Message may help to clarify the meaning of some passages.
Read Luke 4:14-44. What were the people thinking when they said, “This is Joseph’s son, isn’t it?” What was it that made them angry (verse 28)? Why did Jesus address both physical and spiritual issues? What reason did Luke give for Jesus silencing the demons? What made it important, in verse 42, for Jesus to go to “a deserted place”? What drawbacks does constant attention seem to have? When do you need “alone time”? How important is it? How do you carve out that time?
Read Luke 5:1-32. Healing often involves the physical, emotional and spiritual. Did Jesus involve himself in all three areas of healing? In Christ’s time (and today), did many people view illness as merely physical? When Christ healed someone’s physical ailments, do you think that healing was limited to the physical? Jesus was often followed by people whose intent was to criticize. What was their motive? Are ministers, teachers and doctors immune from this kind of criticism? Why do some people seem intent to criticize others regardless of the good works being done?
Read Luke 5:33-6:16. Using parables, Jesus was introducing new ways of thinking that would burst old cultural norms. Do we have cultural norms today that need to be re-thought? Is America a single-culture society? Is your church a single-culture church? How can a mixture of cultures be a positive? Has God transformed you from old ways of living to new ways? Jesus chose his apostles only after an entire night of prayer. Is prayer important to you when you face significant decisions? Why?
Read Luke 6:17-6:49. These passages are often considered to be much of the “core” of Christ’s message. Which parts of his sermon most challenge our culture’s wisdom on how to “succeed”? Which of Jesus’ promises in this sermon mean the most to you? Who can you think of in history and among Christ’s followers who have stood with the poor and the oppressed? Do we do enough to live as Christ has instructed us? How can we train ourselves to follow his teaching more closely? How important is it that we do this – and why?
Read Luke 7:1-35. Jesus was born a Jew. What evidence do we have that his message of salvation was for gentiles as well as for Jews? Why was Jesus so impressed with the Roman centurion’s attitude? Why did Jesus have so much compassion for the widow whose only son had died? How did Christ’s response in verses 22-23 point clearly for John to the fact that Jesus was indeed the Messiah? When speaking of John the Baptist, what did Jesus mean when he said, “Yet whoever is least in God’s kingdom is greater than he”?
Read Luke 7:36-8:21. Human eyes can’t always tell where seeds will find the most fertile ground in which to grow. Jesus was describing the “human soil” in which the seeds of the “good news” would land. Among the four kinds of soil Jesus described, which kind best characterized the Pharisee? Which characterized the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet? What can we do to ensure that our own “soil” is rich and productive? Was Jesus also teaching that he sowed his seeds of love and grace everywhere in the world? What does this mean to you?
From last week: Did you prayerfully consider all the “invisible people”, many of whom do thankless but essential work for our benefit? Did you make a special effort to extend your thanks and kindness to all of those who do this work and who may seldom receive any recognition? Please share your experiences with your group.
FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT
From Pastor Scott Chrostek’s sermon, March 16, 2014:
By Luke 4, Jesus, after his baptism and temptation in the wilderness, finally goes back home to Nazareth. In Luke 4, Jesus goes to his home church, the Synagogue in Nazareth. While there he surrounds himself with his friends and family. The only thing is, when he begins teaching in the synagogue people are astounded; they take offense. Luke states that, “All in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff.” (Luke 4:28-30)
“Who does this guy think he is? Isn’t he Mary and Joseph’s boy?” “Don’t we know his sisters and brothers?” “He doesn’t have any real power, why does he feel that he can speak to us like that?”
What is going on here? I’m always amazed by this story, because by the time we finally get to the part of Luke’s story that we might expect, that part when we meet up with the somebodies, Jesus’ family and friends, we get this totally unexpected response. Jesus goes home to Nazareth and is rejected. All these “somebodies” could see was a “nobody,” the son of a lowly carpenter….
One of my favorite hymns in the church has shaped my thinking on this, that has changed the way that I see things, is the hymn “Open My Eyes that I May See.” We used to sing it every month in the hopes that it would help us to remember that we are called to live a life with eyes that see the presence of God-sized possibilities wherever we went. It serves as a soundtrack to my life as I walk from place to place. I walk singing or thinking to myself:
“Open my eyes that I may see,
glimpses of truth thou hast for me;
place in my hands the wonderful key
that shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for thee,
Ready my God, thy will to see.
Open my eyes, illumine me,
As the gospel continues, through Jesus we learn that God sees possibilities even when others do not….Lepers were kicked out, humiliated, and forced to out themselves or demean themselves wherever they went….In Luke 5, Jesus meets one of these people. This is what we read: “When he was in one of the cities, there was a man covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground and begged him, ‘Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.’ Then Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, ‘I do choose. Be made clean.’ Immediately the leprosy left him. And he ordered him to tell no one. ‘Go’, he said, ‘and show yourself to the priest, and, as Moses commanded, make an offering for your cleansing, for a testimony to them.’ But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases.” (Luke 5:12-15)….
All through the gospel of Luke, the unexpected nobodies are able to see possibilities where the rest of the world sees nothing. What’s more is that seeing Jesus for who he is compels them to place their illness, their burdens, all that they have and all that they are at his feet. When the leper declares his faith in Jesus’ healing power and asks Jesus to heal him, Jesus responds saying, “I do choose. Be made clean.” (Luke 5:13) Jesus moved with compassion heals this man….
Leprosy wasn’t just a medical condition, it was a social disease. It extended beyond just an ailment. It was repulsive. It was mysterious, feared and little understood. Often leprosy was a natural symbol for sin.
What I find interesting about this story specifically is that when Jesus makes the leper clean, the term he uses to heal him is the Greek term katharizo, which could mean “forgiveness” as well as “healing.” Katharizo was often used to signify freedom from the defilement of sin, to purify from wickedness or even to free from guilt of sin….
This story is about Jesus touching upon something in us that evokes repulsion, namely our sin, our shame, those things that cast us out, hold us back or isolate us in the darkness and he takes it upon himself. This story is the Gospel in miniature. Jesus becomes like us, so that we might become like him. The Apostle Paul says it this way, Jesus “who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited but [instead] emptied himself, taking the form of a slave (a servant), being born in human likeness and being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-11)
Jesus came to free us from all that cripples, binds, and enslaves. He didn’t come to support religious orthodoxy, ritual cleanliness or rule following. His only concern was that we might have life and have it abundantly, and that is rooted in our ability to love God with everything we have and all that we are…and to love one another in the same way.
What Are People Around the World Searching For in the Bible?
Visitors to BibleGateway.com come from 92% of the world: 242 countries or territories out of a possible 263, including Vatican City, Israel, Palestine, China, Vietnam, Cuba, and North Korea. These visitors spent more than 76 million hours last year searching, reading, studying, comparing, and sharing the Bible in their own languages.
But what, exactly, were they looking for in the Bible? And do Bible readers in different parts of the world gravitate toward different sections of the Bible?
Here’s a breakdown, taken from the data, of the most popular (or most often read online) Bible passages in the ten most populous countries:
1 Corinthians 13
1 Corinthians 13
1 Corinthians 13
1 Corinthians 13
1 Corinthians 13
1 Corinthians 13
1 Corinthians 13
What conclusions can we draw from this? We’ll leave that up to you, but as the list shows, people in the ten most populous countries in the world are reading Psalms, Genesis, the Gospels, and 1 Corinthians 13.
This week, prayerfully consider all the helpless, sick and disabled people of the world. Offer prayers for them to find relief and healing. Pray also for their emotional and spiritual peace. If possible, try to visit any of these people who you personally know. Next week, consider sharing your experiences with your group.