[Thought questions for Discipling the Powerful February 26, 2014]
1. Introduction. Have you ever thought of yourself as powerful? Have you ever held a position of authority that led others to think of you as powerful? When you were a youngster, did you ever long for a position that would place you as the person in charge? As Christians and therefore followers of Christ, are we given the special skills needed to share God’s love with people in positions of power? Should we be fearful of exercising those skills? Why not?
2. Respecting Authority. Today a common phrase to describe a person who is not showing due respect is “disrepect” as in “He disrespected me,” or “Don’t disrespect me.” Is that a fair term to describe how Jesus was too often treated? Do people you know in your church speak in a critical way of local, state, and national officials? How do Christians you know react when they get stopped for speeding? or running a red light? Should we become angry at our government for taxes? laws we don’t like? bad behavior on their part? What are the only conditions under which opposing authority is justified?
3. “Have you not read…?” What was it that kept so many of the people from accepting Jesus’ advice about being merciful? Was the people’s negative attitude towards Jesus a barrier to their salvation? What about ours? Can we do all the right things but still harbor selfish or unkind thoughts? Do you think that God in heaven, looking down on our lives today, feels sorrow when we think of ourselves almost exclusively rather than of the physical and spiritual needs of others?
4. The Centurion. Was the centurion a man of high position and authority? Why was he hesitant to draw Jesus into a conversation about his servant who was ill? What do you think changed his mind? How do you think this Roman official obtained such a measure of trust in Jesus for both His ability and His willingness to heal the servant? Even though the centurion felt unworthy before Jesus, what did He ask Him to do? Why did Jesus say the centurion demonstrated an amazing amount of trust?
5. Judgment Day. In your imagination, can you place yourself in the courtrooms and other rooms of government where Jesus was taken before He was crucified? Can you see, one by one, the powerful figures representing authority that Jesus faced at this time? Do you think any of them–Pilate, Herod, Caiphas–eventually saw the whole picture and gave themselves to God? If not, was Jesus’ witness to these powerful men in vain?
6. The Early Explosion. What happened to the group of early Christians after Jesus’ death and resurrection? What gave them the energy and the conviction that their only purpose was to spread the word about Jesus and His saving power? The apostle Paul encountered several powerful people during his ministry among fellow Christians. What was their response to Paul’s message? How can people be filled with such hatred for witnesses of God’s love? Should we be stirring up anger in our preaching today? Be careful with your answer!