(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 Homeless Beggers
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.
Jesus amazed his disciples, saying they should forgive “Even if someone sins against you seven times in one day.” (We more often hear the “seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22) version.) “Increase our faith!” the disciples said. But Jesus said faith isn’t a matter of quantity. He healed ten lepers who showed just a little faith. Only one (a Samaritan) bothered to say “thank you.” When Pharisees asked when (in the future) God’s Kingdom would come, Jesus’ answer focused mainly on the need for his hearers’ to recognize and trust God daily.
Jesus contrasted God with an unjust human judge. The real issue, he said, was not if we can trust God, but if God can trust us: “Will the Human One (or, Son of Man) find faithfulness on earth?” Jesus’ culture devalued tax collectors and children. Jesus said those “nobodies” were more likely to receive God’s favor than a self-satisfied Pharisee or a ruler who loved things more than God. “Who then can be saved?” his startled hearers asked. Jesus replied, “What is impossible for humans is possible for God.”
“We are going up to Jerusalem,” Jesus said again at the start of this passage—and he was nearly there. These stories happened in Jericho. You can see Jericho and Jerusalem marked on this map near each other at the north end of the Dead Sea (click here). The disciples still failed to understand Jesus, but at Jesus’ touch a physically blind man and a spiritually blind tax collector both began to see.
Jesus used a bold story about a king and his servants to teach a lesson about faithful service. This story (told a bit differently in Matthew 25) praised the servants who went all out to serve their master—the master even rewarded them with more responsibilities. This story also cautioned against playing it too safe, as it told of the king rebuking the “worthless servant” who was too afraid to risk anything.
The long journey that began in Luke 9:51 ended, and Jesus entered Jerusalem. He very deliberately entered in a way that echoed history (cf. 1 Kings 1:32-39) and prophecy (Zechariah 9:9-10), and made a clear claim to peaceful kingship. But he wept over the city, tears that tell us he loved the city’s people. Yet their heedless leaders did not love him. As they plotted his death, Jesus told a story that exposed the murder in their hearts.
Jesus’ enemies, “somebodies” all, tried urgently to create a cause for his death. They tried to get him to criticize paying Roman taxes, or to agree with them that faith in a resurrection was absurd. But neither their trick questions nor their great outward show of piety fooled Jesus. For him, greatness lay not in earthly rank, but in people like the humble widow, whose tiny gift only he noticed.
To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.
Lord Jesus, fill us with the insight you shared with your disciples and with confidence in eternal resurrection. Help us to make room for you in our hearts and to serve you every day. Help us to use our gifts faithfully and boldly. Grant that we might see your purpose for our lives and that we might be satisfied. Amen.
CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)
What are some of the ways that people find themselves homeless? Did they “do this to themselves”? Should we feel less sympathy if they were the cause of their own homelessness? How close are we, our family and friends to homelessness?
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 17:1-37. Why didn’t the nine lepers say “thank you”? What were they thinking? What does this say about humankind and our relationship to God? How much do Christians take for granted? What kinds of things do we take for granted? Are we proud of ourselves for things when we should be thanking God? Luke used the Greek words entōs humōn, which could mean either that God’s kingdom is “among you” or “within you” (or, perhaps, both). What does this comment by Jesus mean to you?
Read Luke 18:1-30. “Jesus told his disciples…that they should always pray and not give up.” What does this mean to you and how might it affect your prayer life? What is the message of the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector? What does verse 17 mean? Do we own our possessions, or do our possessions tend to own us?
Read Luke 18:31-19:10. What is the significance of Jesus restoring the sight of the blind man? Why did Jesus ask, “What do you want me to do for you?” when that must have been obvious? Is Jesus asking the same question of us every day? Why does he ask if he already knows our needs? Do we tend to answer from a worldly or spiritual point of view? Has God ever changed any part of your life quickly or dramatically?
Read Luke 19:11-28. In what ways are we called to “risk” something as followers of our master, Jesus Christ? How do our God-given gifts point to the tasks God has given us? How are we tempted to hide or bury our gifts, rather than using them? Did Jesus, our example, play it safe, even though he knew what was going to happen in Jerusalem? What kinds of risks do we sometimes have to take for Christ?
Read Luke 19:29-20:19. Why did Jesus weep for Jerusalem? Why did the priests and teachers want to kill Jesus? How would we feel and react if today some preacher other than our own were to walk into our church and begin preaching? What did the parable of the tenants mean at that time? Does it have implications today?
Read Luke 20:20-21:4. How can we avoid being like those Jesus spoke of in verses 46-47, like those who walk around in “flowing robes”? Instead, how should we, even as believers, see ourselves in our heart of hearts? Why was it so important for Jesus to assure us that death was not the end, neither for him nor for us? How can this belief change our day-to-day lives?
From last week: Did you prayerfully consider whether you are being a faithful steward of God’s gifts of faith? Did you review the seven items listed last week and try to make any adjustments you thought were needed? Please share any discoveries with your group.
FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT
From Pastor Scott Chrostek’s sermon, April 6, 2014:
Have you ever had a moment where you are immersed in something ordinary and simple, only to have something about that specific encounter heighten your awareness of the divine, something bigger, something so full that it causes you to wonder, could this be? Might this be? Is this heaven?
Celtic tradition calls these kinds of moments ‘thin spaces.’ These are the moments in time, here and now, where the space between heaven and earth feels paper thin, almost transparent. These are moments where we experience the fullness of God here on earth, where we experience eternal life here and now, even in the most ordinary encounters this life has to offer….
In Luke 10, we meet a young attorney seeking this kind of experience. This young attorney, this “legal expert” (probably in the Pharisees’ religious laws), approaches Jesus asking, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25) What must I do to experience this, to be assured of your presence, to taste and see and know of your salvation?
This Pharisee wanted to experience life, to feel it, inherit it. So he asks Jesus, what must I do, meaning clearly that he’s missing something, lacking something. Even though he’s spent his whole life studying the law of Moses, pouring over God’s promises and commandments, he was lacking something…and he needed to know, what must I do to inherit eternal life…to experience your kingdom come here on earth just as it is in heaven?
Rather than offering an answer right away, Jesus extends the conversation and responds with a question of his own, a question that should be a slam dunk for this attorney. Jesus asks this expert of the law, “Well, what does it say in the law?”
Without any hesitation, this faithful Pharisee answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) Jesus replies, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” Another translation says, “Do this and you shall have life,” meaning you’ll have the life you’re looking for. Do this and you’ll experience eternal life, thy kingdom come here on earth just as it is in heaven….
When I read this story, I find myself thinking that this conversation should be over here. The attorney had a question, he answered his own question, Jesus confirmed that he was correct….What’s crazy to me is that this conversation doesn’t end here, it continues. This young attorney, this Pharisee, wasn’t satisfied. Something was missing. He needed more.
From what I can guess, this Pharisee is the kind of person who knows the right things to say. He’s the kind of person who knows the answers to all the teacher’s questions. He knows the pathway toward spiritual freedom. He knows the law backward and forward. He knows all the religious equations. He was an expert, he knew it all and yet something was still missing….He was suffering from what most every other Pharisee was struggling with, maybe even what most of us struggle with as well. He had trouble pushing beyond his head knowledge of God’s commandments or Scripture to how that works into our experience in the world. He knew of God’s law, but wanted to experience God’s heart, he wanted to experience the fullness of God’s love, to inherit eternal life. He wanted to bridge the divide between his head and his heart, between knowing and loving or experiencing.
So the story continues…“Wanting to justify himself”…wanting to be assured that he was understanding everything correctly, this young attorney presses Jesus a little further asking, “Okay, Jesus, who exactly is my neighbor?”
And that’s when Jesus launches into the story of the Good Samaritan. If you want to experience eternal life, if you want to taste and see the kingdom of heaven, if you want to live fully, to have life, if you want to step into a thin space…listen up…
There was this man, sitting on the side of the road, the same exact road you travel down every day of your life. This man was beaten, bruised and begging for help, for an act of mercy, for anything. As he lies there, people pass him by continually. First one of your priests passes him by, then a Levite, one of your worship leaders. Finally, a Samaritan, a nobody maybe even your enemy, comes down the road. This Samaritan stops to help out in the most extravagant ways. He picks him up, dusts him off, bandages his wounds and throws him on a donkey. He takes him to an inn, pays the innkeeper a crazy wage and then sees fit to ensure his safety for the unforeseeable future. This Samaritan, when everybody passed him by, stopped to help out in the most merciful way.
Jesus finishes this story by asking the attorney a second question: “Which one of these was his neighbor?” Again, knowing the right answer, the attorney replied without hesitation, “The one who showed him mercy.” That’s who my neighbor is…a nobody…my enemy, who offers mercy to those around him, regardless of who they are or what they’ve done.
If you want to experience eternal life, if you want to live fully, if you want to taste and see the extraordinary power and presence of God, Jesus says, if you want to experience heaven here and now, then be like the Good Samaritan…be like this nobody, your enemy and show mercy to those around you wherever you go. Go and do likewise and experience the life you’re looking for.
What I love about this parable is that it points us toward an understanding of eternal life, that doesn’t limit it as something we need to wait for at some time in the future. It assures us that we can experience it here and now….It’s not that Jesus is saying that we need to perform works of mercy in order to make it into heaven, but rather that when we love our neighbors as the Good Samaritan loved the man on the side of the road, we can experience heaven here and now, we can inherit eternal life.
Jesus reminds us as he describes the kingdom of heaven this way, saying, whatever you do to the least of these you do unto me. For there I am and there you’ll meet me. This is how you can experience eternal life, have those pregnant moments in the most ordinary of circumstances…Have you ever experienced one of those moments? When’s the last time you showed mercy to someone on your journey from here to wherever it is that you are going?…
In the Gospel of the Nobodies, Jesus shows us that we find life whenever we show mercy those in need. God gives us opportunities all the time, wherever we go, to be useful…God gives us opportunities to do unbelievable things in the simplest ways, that we might together build the kingdom of God here and now.
Luke 18:1 – We should always pray and not give up? How should we understand this?
Note: Read in the context of Luke 18:1-8.
Barnes’ Notes on the Bible: Always – At all times. That is, we must not neglect regular stated seasons of prayer; we must seize on occasions of remarkable providences as afflictions or signal blessings to seek God in prayer we must “always” maintain a spirit of prayer, or be in a proper frame to lift up our hearts to God for his blessing, and we must not grow weary though our prayer seems not to be answered.
Not to faint – Not to grow weary or give over. The parable is designed to teach us that, though our prayers should long appear to be unanswered, we should persevere, and not grow weary in supplication to God.
Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible: Men ought always to pray – Therefore the plain meaning and moral of the parable are evident; viz. that as afflictions and desolations were coming on the land, and they should have need of much patience and continual fortitude, and the constant influence and protection of the Almighty, therefore they should be instant in prayer. It states, farther, that men should never cease praying for that the necessity of which God has given them to feel, till they receive a full answer to their prayers. No other meaning need be searched for in this parable: St. Luke, who perfectly knew his Master’s meaning, has explained it as above.
Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible: …that men ought always to pray. This is opposed to them, who pray not at all, or have left off prayer before God, or who pray only in distress; and suggests, that a man should pray as often as he has an opportunity; should be constant and assiduous at the throne of grace, and continue putting up his requests to God, though he does not presently return an answer: and not to faint; by reason of afflictions, temptations, desertions, and delays in answering prayer; and prayer itself is an admirable antidote against fainting under afflictive providences. This is not to be understood, that a man should be always actually engaged in the work of prayer; that he should be continually either in his closet, in private devotion to God, or attending exercises of more public prayer, with the saints; for there are other religious exercises to be performed, besides prayer; and besides, there are many civil affairs of life, it is every man’s indispensable duty to regard: nor does our Lord mean in the least to break in upon, or interrupt the natural and civil duties of life; but his meaning is, that a man should persevere in prayer, and not leave off, or be dejected, because he has not an immediate answer.
People’s New Testament: People ought always to pray. Prayer is a privilege and a duty. Persistence in prayer is requisite to making it effectual. Augustine says: “God reserves for thee that which he is slow to give thee, that thou mayest learn to entertain a supreme desire and longing for it.”
CEB Study Bible: to pray continuously and not to be discouraged: Don’t quit praying if what you want doesn’t always happen.
Source: http://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/18-1.htm and CEB Study Bible (available at The Well)
This week, consider the health of your own prayer life. Find ways throughout your daily life to incorporate your interaction with God by thinking of him often. Be sure to lay your needs before him and never tire of inviting him to participate in your day-to-day activities. Next week, consider sharing your experience with your group (was this rewarding or an interruption?).