Lesson 7

Jesus and Those in Need

(Luke 4 & 7, John 2)
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Introduction: When we get a new boss at work, when we hear the speeches of candidates running for public office, we listen to see what they say they will do. After the boss has been running the office for some time, or the candidate is elected, we compare what they promised with what they actually have done. Why? We want to know if they are honest. But, another reason is to determine whether we understood the original promise. Our Lord is honest. He is trustworthy. This week we will compare the "promises" about what He did for the least of these with what He did, to be sure we understand what He meant. Let's dive into our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1. Promises


    1. Read Luke 4:16-19. Who is Isaiah writing about?


    2. Read Luke 4:20-22. Who does Jesus say that Isaiah is writing about? (Jesus says this is about Him. Not only is it about Him, but what it describes is being presently fulfilled.)


      1. How do the people react? (Some, at least, are skeptical.)


        1. Are you skeptical? (I am not.)


    3. In our series on how we treat the poor and needy, we have been testing some of the popular claims to see if they can withstand a Bible-based, intelligent appraisal. Let's look at Luke 4:18-19 again and list what Jesus says is being fulfilled through Him. What are those things? (The poor get good news. Captives are freed. The blind can see. The oppressed are set free. The time of God's favor is proclaimed.)


    4. Read Luke 7:20-22. What is at issue here? (Whether Jesus is the promised Messiah. Whether He fulfills what was promised in Isaiah.)


      1. Compare what Isaiah promised ( Luke 4:18-19) with what Jesus says fulfills that promise (Luke 7:22)? Would you be convinced?


    5. Because this is critical to a correct understanding of how we should treat the least of these, let's go through each of these to understand what Jesus has in mind for us.


      1. "Good news to the poor." Can you name a single place in the gospels (or anywhere else in the Bible) where Jesus spoke only to the poor? He had a "keep out" sign for the rich? (No! In fact, the only example is just the opposite, Jesus gave a private audience to Nicodemus, a very rich and powerful man. See John 3.)


        1. If Jesus was not discriminating in favor of the poor, how should we understand this promise? (The Old Testament is filled with stories (think Job and Abraham) and promises (Deuteronomy 28) that being faithful to God makes you wealthy. Being poor or disabled was a sign for all to see that you were unfaithful to God. See John 9:2. Jesus brought the "good news" that the poor could also be saved. Jesus shared the gospel with the rich and poor alike.)


      2. "Freedom for the captives." Can you name a single incident in which Jesus released an incarcerated person? Did He visit a prisoner in jail? (No! The irony of the interpretation that Jesus is referring to prisoners is that our Luke 7 story has the disciples of imprisoned John the Baptist going to Jesus. Jesus did not go to visit John the Baptist in prison. We know from the stories in Acts that jails and prisons existed.)


        1. If Jesus was not visiting prison inmates, much less releasing them, how should we understand this promise? (Look again at Luke 7:22. Being disabled is a restriction on your freedom. Being enslaved to sin is a restriction on your freedom. Jesus' actions show this is what He meant by freeing "captives.")


      3. "Recovery of sight for the blind." Can you name a single incident in which Jesus restored sight to a blind person? (Yes! There are many accounts of this.)


        1. Read Matthew 15:11-14. How does Jesus use the term "blind" here? (People who have a wrong understanding of God's will.)


      4. "Set the oppressed free." When the "oppressed" are mentioned in my country, the argument has to do with financial or political inequality, despite the fact that everyone here has financial and political freedom from government restraints. Did Jesus free anyone from government limits on political or economic freedom? (Look again at Luke 7:22. When Jesus describes His work, we see that His freedom has to do with freedom from evil spirits, disease, and disability.)


      5. "Proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." What aspect of Jesus' life reflects this? (Read Luke 7:22, the last part. Jesus came to live with humans, to obey God perfectly, to pay the penalty for our sins, and to rise to eternal life. That is both good news and the greatest example of God's favor.)


    6. Contemplate what we have just discussed. If you truly wanted to be like Jesus in terms of helping "the least of these," if you wanted to be like Jesus in the promise and the fulfillment of His work, what would you do? (Preach the gospel to everyone! Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the power to heal and cast out demons. Promote Biblically correct teaching.)


  2. Action


    1. Read John 2:13-14. Why would these merchants and money-changers be in the temple? (The Popular New Testament commentary gives two reasons. First, the animal brought as a sacrifice must be "without blemish" ( Leviticus 22:19-20). This gave the priests authority over what animals were acceptable. Second, the temple tax had to be paid in a sanctuary coin. Thus, men had to change their money to the sanctuary currency to pay this tax. This marketplace could have been outside the temple, but the obvious concern is that the priests made money from allowing it to be in the temple.)


      1. What problems do you think could have arisen with this situation? (You would have all the noise and mess connected with barn in the temple area. The financial aspect of all of this could lead to corruption.)


    2. Read John 2:15-16. Is Jesus against trading? (The problem was doing it in the temple, a place where people came to meet God.)


      1. Does Jesus' approach seem sinful to you? Does He seem to have lost his temper? (Jesus did not sin, so this cannot be sinful.)


        1. If this is not sinful, what lesson does this teach us today? (Sometimes strong actions and words are acceptable to confront wrong-doing.)


    3. Read John 2:18. What challenge to Jesus' actions do the Jewish leaders raise? (They challenge His authority. What sign from God can Jesus show to prove His authority.)


      1. Is this a reasonable question?


      2. If this is precedent for those who find wrongdoing in church? Who has authority to take actions like this? Anyone who disagrees?


      3. Over the years, I have been surprised at those who think they have this kind of authority. For much of my adult life I have taught the main adult Sabbath School class in the sanctuary. I recall one first-time visitor who stood up and challenged my teaching because I was not using the King James version of the Bible. Another stood up and challenged that a Christmas tree was on the platform. Do visitors have authority to make these challenges? (Look again at John 2:16. Jesus refers to His "Father's house.")


        1. We are all children of God! Does that mean we have this authority as His children?


    4. Read John 2:18-19. What does this say about our authority as children of God? (Jesus is not claiming the authority that all of us have. Rather, He is claiming authority as God, part of the Trinity. He says that He has authority to rise from the dead. I think visitors need to be concerned about the sins of arrogance and presumption when they stand up to condemn people they do not know.)


    5. Friend, consider what your church is doing for the "least of these." The churches of which I have been a part have given out clothing, helped with homeless shelters or soup kitchens, and organized prison ministries. This kind of kindness is good and mentioned positively in Matthew 25:34-40. But, our study this week shows that those programs are not the gold standard for our work. What if we asked the Holy Spirit for power to heal the disabled, cast out demons, and preach the good news with power? Will you do that?


  3. Next week: "The Least of These."

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Lessons on "The Least of These": Ministering to Those in Need

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