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Bible Study (September 20, 2015)
Just like the rest of us, there were times when Jesus wanted to be alone. He was under continuous stress, people were always wanting something from Him—and being human, He needed rest. In addition, He wanted to get His disciples alone to lead them into a deeper understanding of Himself. And most importantly, He needed time for prayer. On this particular occasion He knew He had to get away, or a head-on collision with the authorities would take place, and He also knew He could not let that happen, for the time of the final conflict had not yet come.
From Capernaum to the other side of the Sea of Galilee was a distance of about four miles and Jesus set sail. The people could see where He was going, so they simply followed Him around the top of the lake by land. At first Jesus went up into the hills behind the plain and was sitting there with His disciples. Then the crowd began to appear in droves. At sight of the crowd Jesus’ compassion is clear: they were hungry and tired, and they must be fed. Philip was the natural man to go to for he came from Bethsaida (John 1:44) and would have local knowledge. Jesus asked him where food could be found. Philip said that even if food could be found it would cost more than two hundred denarii to give this vast crowd even a little each. A denarius was the standard day’s wage for a working man. Philip calculated that it would take more than six months’ wages to begin to feed a crowd like this.
Then Andrew appeared on the scene. He had discovered a boy with five barley loaves and two little fish. Quite likely the boy had brought them as a picnic lunch. Jesus told the disciples to make the people sit down. He took the loaves and the fishes and He blessed them. The people ate and were filled. When the people had eaten their fill, Jesus told His disciples to gather up the fragments left. Of the fragments twelve baskets were taken up. This miracle was enormously important to the Gospel writers, for it is the only one, save Easter that is in all four Gospels.
- Many people followed Why were they interested in Jesus?
- Like many other times, huge crowds of people are following The people needed to eat some time. Philip was from that area. What did Jesus ask Philip?
- If Jesus already knew His own plans to feed the people, why would He test Philip? Why not just feed the people?
- What did Jesus do? Did He wait for the disciples to figure out an answer?
- Everyone finished Jesus said, “Don’t waste any food.” How much food did they pick up?
- When Jesus tested Philip, how did Philip want to get food? Where should Philip have asked for food?
- Sometimes we pass a test, sometimes we Either way, we can still learn from a test. What do you think the disciples should have learned from this test?
- After the people saw the miracle, what did they want to do? Did Jesus agree with their plans?
- Why do you think the crowd of people wanted to force Jesus to become king? What were they most interested in?
- Jesus tested the disciples, not the Do you think the crowd learned anything good from the test? Why or why not?
The Jews were waiting for the prophet Moses had promised to them. “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brethren—Him you shall heed” (Deuteronomy 18:15). In that moment they were willing to accept Jesus as that prophet. But it was not so very long before another mob was clamoring: “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
• Why was it at that moment that the people accepted Jesus? For one thing, they were eager to support Jesus when He gave them what they wanted. We know this because Jesus says so in about ten verses. He had healed them and fed them; and because of this, they would have made Him their leader. There is such a thing as a bought loyalty, which of course is a rather shameful thing—but are we so very different? When we want comfort in sorrow, when we want strength in difficulty, when we want peace in turmoil, when we want help in face of depression, there is no one so wonderful as Jesus and we talk to Him and walk with Him and open our hearts to Him. But when He comes to us asking us to tithe, asking us to pick up the cross and follow Him, we suddenly are not nearly as interested in Him; not nearly as loyal to Him. When we examine our hearts, it may be that we will find that we too love Jesus for what we can get out of Him.
Another problem was the people’s preconceived notion of what the Messiah should be. They looked for a Messiah who would be king and conqueror, who would set his foot upon the eagle’s neck and drive the Romans from the land. They had seen what Jesus could do; and the thought in their minds was: “This man has incredible power. We can use this power to finally set ourselves free!” Again, are we so very different? When we appeal to Christ, is it for strength to go on with our own schemes and ideas, or is it for humility and obedience to accept His plans and wishes? Is our prayer: “Lord, give me strength to do what You want me to do” or is it in reality: “Lord, please intervene for me, so I get what I want”?
That crowd of Jews would have followed Jesus at that moment because He was giving them what they wanted and they wished to use Him for their own purposes. That attitude still lingers. We would like Christ’s gifts without His Cross; we would like to use Him instead of allowing Him to use us.
- Why do you suppose the people were blinded by their expectations of a Messiah, therefore were unable to see what God foretold or what they needed?
- What can you do to make sure that you never take God’s provision for granted or waste it? How has Jesus met your needs? Seeing this, how can you now trust Him even more?
- What do you think you need to be challenged in your faith and expectations? If Jesus were to test you to see what is real and worthwhile in you, what would He find?
- What decisions/actions can you make to improve or to refine your faith?
In this letter, St. Paul commends the Philippians for doing a good job in solving problems, rejoicing in the Lord, praying and learning from godly teaching. They have continued to generously give both the volunteer help and financial support they should give to the ministries of God. They have supported the missionary efforts of Paul and the worldwide spread of the Gospel. Paul is not thanking them so that they will continue to support his ministry. He acknowledges that he really does not need other Christians to take care of him. He knows that God will supply everything needed for the work of the ministry (vs. 11-13).
- So, what do you suppose was his motive for doing this? The Philippians have allowed God to supply for the needs of Paul through them. For that, he is thankful. Paul was confident that God could supply through anyone He chose. It was the willingness of the Philippians to be used of God that Paul was grateful for.
- How do we as the church do this today?
- Why do some people not do this, or do it so sparingly?
- Paul also thanked them for communicating with him, and caring for him. What are the two results that Paul mentions which come from their care of him?
Again, Paul is not thanking them because he wants more money, help and physical goods from them. Paul is encouraging them to stay involved in the ministry because the fruit that comes from his work will build the Kingdom and makes disciples, and be added to their account in heaven (v. 17).
Secondly, Paul says that God’s blessings will be on them because they have been involved in God’s work. After Paul thanks them for their involvement in the missionary effort, he turns around and says that as they have supplied his needs, God will supply their needs (v. 19). Many people want to quote this verse out of context and say that we don’t need to worry about anything financial because God will supply it all. If you read this verse as it is presented in Philippians 4 you will see that it is conditional on the church people being involved in the ministry of others. We are blessed when we choose to be a blessing to others.
- List the ways that you volunteer to help at church, the ministries that you are CURRENTLY volunteering in. How does it look?
- If it is not what you know it should be, what ministries could you help with?
- Are you generously (according to God) supporting the ministries of God at Valley Park with financial gifts? If your financial support is not what God expects, what are you going to do to correct that?
Jesus says that worry is a characteristic of those with no faith, and not of one who knows what God is like (verse 32). Worry is essentially distrust of God, and the Christian should not worry because we believe in the love of God.
Jesus lifts up two ways to combat worry. The first is to seek first, to concentrate upon, the Kingdom of God. To be in the Kingdom and to do the will of God is one and the same thing (Matthew 6:10). To concentrate on the doing of, and the acceptance of, God’s will is the way to defeat worry. We know how in our own lives a great love can drive out every other concern. Such love can inspire our work, intensify our study, purify our life, and dominate our whole being. It was Jesus’ conviction that worry is banished when God becomes the dominating power of our lives.
The second way to combat worry according to Jesus is to choose (and of course it is a choice) to live one day at a time. We should handle the demands of each day as it comes, without worrying about the unknown future and the things which may never happen. Worry is worse than useless; it is often destructive. Stress has terrible health implications. The worry which wears out the mind wears out the body along with it. There may be greater sins than worry, but very certainly there is no more disabling sin.
- Do you (deep down, honestly) trust Jesus to save you from your sins and give you eternal life?
- Do you (deep down, honestly) trust Jesus to provide for your needs in this life?
- If you can trust Jesus to give you eternal life, can’t you trust Him to provide for this one?
- Which of the two matter more?
Prayer is not a vending machine where we can pick what we want, and what we want to do. Rather, it is submission—it is making the conscious choice to align our desires with God’s. This passage has led many people to think that God is a cosmic Santa Claus who will give us what we seek, what we want if we just have enough faith. But, that is plainly not the message this passage gives to us. Yes, we are to seek, we are to knock, we are to be persistent with our prayers. But, we are not to seek just to help our selfish concerns. Prayer is seeking the Son-ship/Lord-ship of Christ because He is in control, not just because of a friendship with Him. Prayer is the instrument for seeking how to get His Will done, not our will.
Ask and it will be given–this is a very bold and direct statement, which is rare, if not non-existent in other languages and cultures of the time, including Hebrew law and writings. This passage is saying that we have the right, and ability (by what Christ has done on the cross) to go directly to God in prayer. There is no need for intermediaries or special priests or rituals. There is a promise in this passage that gives us the confidence that He hears our prayers and even answers them. But, we are not to assume that God answers our whims and desires. We are not the focus of true prayer, nor are we God. He, God and Lord of the universe, is sovereign, and His Will is to be sought, brought into our hearts and minds, and then put into practice. We also have to have confidence that His answer is best! We often seek those things that are not beneficial or right for us because our view, understanding, and thinking do not include all of the information. We only see our temporary and immediate needs, whereas God sees it all–the outcome that we do not see. God’s answers are conditioned upon our abiding in Him and His Will (John 15:7; James 4:3; 1 John 5:14-15). How sad it is that so many Christians never enjoy God’s favor, simply because they do not ask!
- Have you asked, sought, or knocked today? If you did, did you take the time and effort to LISTEN?
- How much time do you spend in prayer? How much should you? What is in the way?
- Have you considered the value of perseverance and its application to prayer?
- Why would some Christians think that prayer is like a vending machine or God like a bellhop, so we seek what we want, and what we want to do if we have enough faith? Why is that appealing to some people? How appealing is seeking His will? Which really requires more faith, to get what you want or to serve Him?
- Prayer is getting our mindset aligned with God’s. What are some of the things that get you sidetracked from pursuing your faith more deeply though prayer?
- What are the conditions we must meet in order to have our prayers answered?
This passage is one of the most enormously influential passages in all of the New Testament. Unfortunately, Paul’s writing seems to be a little ADD here. Paul starts a sentence, and then seems to get sidetracked and never finishes his thought! If we were to take liberties with Paul, and finish the sentence, it would go something like this: By the sin of Adam all people became subject to sin and were alienated from God; by the righteousness of Jesus Christ, all people can become righteous and restored to a right relationship with God. Paul actually says this more clearly in 1 Corinthians. (Please read 1 Corinthians 15:21)
Paul’s analogy is easier to grasp if we understand how Jews understood themselves. For the Jew, there is always a radical solidarity. In Biblical times, the Jew would not think of himself as an individual, but as a member of a tribe. It is much the same as the clans of Scotland. If you ask the Chieftain of a clan to identify himself, he will say “McIntyre of McIntyre”. He does not see himself as an individual as much as a member of the clan. There are many illustrations of this in the Old Testament. One such is in Joshua 7. At the siege of Jericho, Achan kept certain spoils for himself, in spite of the fact that God commanded all spoils to be destroyed. The next time the Israelites went to battle, at the siege of Ai, they failed disastrously, in spite of the fact that Ai should have been an easy victory. Why? (READ Joshua 7:10-26)
This is how Paul sees Adam. Although Adam was an individual, he shares a solidarity with all of us, so when Adam fell, humanity fell. This passage has often been interpreted as meaning “each person is his own Adam”, meaning, that just as Adam sinned, so all people sin—but there is no real direct link between Adam’s sin, and our fall.
It could mean that we inherit from Adam a flawed nature that makes us very prone to sin. It could mean that because of the solidarity that all humans share, all humans fell when the first human fell. This certainly goes with the Jewish understanding of the individual being a part of the whole.
A second idea of Paul is the fact that if it were not for sin, human beings would be immortal. We were made in the image of God, therefore we were made one with Him, therefore immortal. God is life—and there is no life outside of Him. It was sin that separated us from God, thus separated us from life, thus caused our death. So, into this situation, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ; and Christ brought with Him perfection, so that just as in Adam all people die, in Christ, all people can live. By what Christ did, by Who He is, He gives us a way out of death into life.
- People accuse God of being unfair, such as if a relative was killed by an accident or by someone else’s fault. Why do we do that?
- How is God being unfair if a loved one is injured or killed by someone else’s sin?
- How can you explain the contrast from Adam’s offense to Christ’s free gift? List what is similar and what is different?
- What can you say to a person who is upset over original sin and says that God is unfair?
- What does the fact that Christ chose to die for you to take away your sins mean to your daily life and walk? At work, at school, at the grocery store…?