November 16 - 22
Read For This Week's Study: Mark 7:24-30; Matt. 4:23, 24; Luke 7:1-10, 36-50; 8:40-56.
Memory Text: "Now Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people" (Matt. 4:23, NKJV).
Key Thought: Because He loves unconditionally, Christ healed unconditionally. He healed Jews, Romans, and Samaritans alike. He did not exact a fee or ask for a commitment to future action or behavior.
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Sabbath Afternoon November 15
NEED WAS SUFFICIENT MOTIVATION. Although fully concerned for people's eternal well-being, their physical needs compelled Him to heal. Jesus asks us to continue His work of disinterested benevolence.
Jesus was accused of being possessed. He was condemned as a glutton, a drunkard, and a friend of sinners. The Pharisees said, "He casts out demons by the prince of demons" (Matt. 9:34, RSV). Note Jesus' response, recorded in Luke 7:33-35.
"Jesus spent a disproportionate amount of time with people described in the Gospels as the poor, the blind, the lame, the lepers, the hungry, sinners, prostitutes, tax collectors, the persecuted, the downtrodden, the captives, those possessed by unclean spirits, all who labor and are heavy burdened, the rabble who know nothing of the law, the crowds, the little ones, the least, the last, and the lost sheep of the house of Israel. In short, Jesus associated with ragamuffins."--Brennan Manning, Ragamuffin Gospel (Sisters, Ore.: Questar Pubs., 1990), p. 49.
Healing Religious Leaders (Luke 7:36-50).
What religious leader did Jesus heal? With what result? Luke 7:36-50; Matt. 26:6-13; John 12:1-9.
Often our focus at the feast in Simon's house is on Mary (John 12:3). But Simon, the Pharisee, was a former leper whom Jesus had healed (Matt. 26:6; Luke 7:36). In the New Testament, Pharisees are viewed as Christ's antagonists, concerned with outward form and behavior, rather than issues of the heart. Christ strongly rebuked them, calling them children of hell (Matt. 23:15). Understanding the Pharisees is essential to understanding Simon, why Jesus healed him, and the lessons Jesus sought to teach him.
The Hebrew term translated "Pharisees" means literally "the separated ones." They separated themselves for study and the interpretation of the law. Numbering about 6,000 during this period, they had preserved strict adherence to Judaism in the late intertestamental period.
They "controlled the synagogues and exercised great control over the general population."--Holman, Bible Dictionary, p. 791.
The Pharisees separated themselves from the "world" and its defilement. Their teaching formed the basis of the Mishnah, a compilation of oral tradition created to interpret scriptural law in order to protect a person from becoming impure by committing sin.
How did leprosy impact those infected? How did it affect Simon? Lev. 13:45, 46.
As a leper, Simon could not practice Pharisaism. He could not live at home, go to synagogue worship, or sacrifice at the temple. In the Jewish mind, he was considered unclean, unholy, and cut off from God. "Biblical purity lays out conditions under which people may approach what is holy, most particularly the divine presence."--Bible Review, June 1995, p. 25.
Simon's mistake was believing that obedience to the law would bring salvation rather than accepting Jesus' saving grace. Until healed, Simon was cut off from society. Knowing he had no hope, he came to Jesus, who healed him physically and restored him to society and worship.
How should we work today for those with illnesses such as leprosy, tuberculosis, and AIDS? How should the local church be involved in caring for these people?
Healing Common Believers (Luke 8:40-42, 49-56).
Why are the healing of Jairus's daughter and the widow's son important to our understanding of Jesus? Luke 8:40-42, 49-56; 7:11-16.
Today we revisit a story introduced earlier in the quarter, but seeking a different perspective. Jairus held the post of "ruler" of Capernaum's largest synagogue. He had been appointed to this position by Jewish community elders. Each Sabbath, he selected readers or teachers, examined speakers' discourses, and saw that services were orderly and in accordance with tradition. He was also responsible for the synagogue's physical maintenance.
He was with an unclean spirit healed in his synagogue (Luke 4:31-37) and was aware of the paralytic's being restored (Mark 2:1-12). He may also have been one of the elders who asked Jesus to heal the centurion's servant (Luke 7:1-10). Jairus was probably wealthy, involved in his community, and respected for his lay leadership.
What impact do you think Jairus's act of falling before Jesus had on the crowd, the Pharisees, and Jairus's future as a synagogue official? Mark 5:22; Luke 8:41.
In Mark 5:22, the Greek word for "falling" implies failing from an erect to a prostrate position. Jairus wasn't kneeling and asking with dignity; he was on his face begging. Jesus was his last hope. Jesus responded immediately to Jairus's request and recognition that He was the only solution to the problem. At the moment when his daughter's death was bluntly announced, Jesus confirmed that faith was Jairus's motivation. Jesus simply said, "Don't be afraid; just believe" (Luke 8:50, NIV).
How was Jesus' action at Nain different from His reaction to Jairus? Luke 7:13, 14.
Jesus doesn't ask for faith from the mother, He just acts. The widow's need and His great compassion for her loss causes an immediate outflowing of His resurrecting power. The result? "They were all filled with awe and praised God" (Luke 7:16, NIV).
Why did Jesus act at times without any expression of faith on the part of the healed person?
Healing Outcasts (Luke 8:43-48).
What were the restrictions and responsibilities for the woman with the issue of blood? Lev. 15:19-30.
For twelve years, the woman who touched Jesus had lived in a perpetual state of ritual impurity. Her alienation was surpassed only by that of a leper or someone touching the dead. Her condition caused impurity of her bed, her clothes, and the places she sat. It kept her from engaging in marital relations. Her uncleanness involved continuous ritual cleansing responsibilities for those who touched her.
According to the Mishnah, the codified Jewish oral tradition, "The Temple Mount is still more holy, for no man or woman that has a flux, no menstruant and no woman after childbirth may enter therein. --"Mishnah, Kelim 1.8. The purification law was given "lest they die in their uncleanness by their defiling My tabernacle that is among them" (Lev. 15:31, NASB). This woman was excluded from worship in the temple, from the presence of God (in the Jewish mind), and from the synagogue worship experience with family and friends.
Why did the woman want to be healed secretly? Why did Jesus call attention to her? Because of her "unclean" state, being in the crowd was improper. The woman hoped for secret healing to avoid embarrassment caused by the public announcement of her "uncleanness." But her healing, if allowed to remain secret, would have prevented the public proclamation of her faith and her public recognition of Jesus as the sole source of restoration.
"Imperfect though her faith was, the Lord rewarded it. The recovery, moreover, was instant. In one moment the hemorrhage stopped completely. Health and vigor began to surge through every part of her body."--William Hendriksen, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Bk., 1978), p. 457.
Jesus' healing brought physical, spiritual, and social restoration. The woman was restored to full fellowship with her community and with God.
"The Lord has a work to be done for the outcasts.... This will have its place in connection with the proclamation of the third angel's message and the reception of Bible truth."--Medical Ministry, p. 311.
Are there any people in your local church who might feel like "outcasts"? What kind of healing do they need to experience? What role could you play in bringing such "outcasts" into full participation in church life?
Healing Foreigners (Luke 7:1-10).
Why did the Jews consider the centurion worthy of Jesus, attention? Luke 7:4, 5.
Capernaum was a large town in the first century. Owing to its location on the road between Sepphoris, Herod Antipas's royal city, and Damascus, it was normal for it to be garrisoned by Roman troops. It was not uncommon for such troops to remain in the same city for many years. The centurion had broken down prejudice toward "Gentiles" and had become an admirer of Judaism.
The centurion had contributed to the construction of the synagogue where Jesus preached and healed. This synagogue was large enough to seat 500 people for Sabbath services. Its foundation still can be seen under the ruins of a later synagogue. More important, the centurion was said to be worthy "for he loves our people" (Luke 7:5, NRSV). To the Jewish elders, this was meaningful because it measured the Roman centurion's attitude towards Jews, an unrespected ethnic group.
Why did the centurion think of himself as unworthy? Luke 7:6-8.
"Though a believer in the true God, the centurion was not yet a full proselyte and therefore not eligible to participate in religious services." --SDA Bible Commentary, p. 754.
The centurion had possibly witnessed some of Jesus' miracles. He knew His authority and power. He could see it in the lives of many whom Jesus touched and healed in Capernaum. He felt unworthy of Jesus' presence in his home and wanted to honor Him as a Jew. Thus his request, "Say the word, and my servant will be healed" (Luke 7:7, NIV).
"The centurion, born in heathenism, educated in the idolatry of imperial Rome, trained as a soldier, seemingly cut off from spiritual life by his education and surroundings, and still further shut out by the bigotry of the Jews, and by the contempt of his own countrymen for the people of Israel--this man perceived the truth to which the children of Abraham were blinded."--The Desire of Ages, p. 317.
Who are the "Gentiles" in your community? How have you reached out to make them part of your personal life and your church life? Would they feel comfortable in your church and in your home? Would you be comfortable in their homes?
Healing Unbelievers (Mark 7:24-30; Matt. 15:21-28).
Why did Jesus first reject the woman's pleas to heal her daughter? Matt. 15:23.
Jesus initially responded to the woman as a Jew normally would. She was a Canaanite (Matt. 5:22). This woman worshiped the same pagan deities, Baal, Asherah, Anat, that had led to Israel's destruction. To a faithful Jew, she was seen as lost, condemned to hell, and unworthy of salvation. Because of their ancestry, Jews called themselves the "children of God" and called the heathen "dogs." This is why Jesus used these metaphors in His response to the Canaanite's plea (Mark 7:27).
"Christ did not immediately reply to the woman's request. He received this representative of a despised race as the Jews would have done. In this He designed that His disciples should be impressed with the cold and heartless manner in which the Jews would treat such a case."--The Desire of Ages, p. 400.
A woman addressing a man in public was culturally unacceptable. Only women of ill-repute would persistently approach men and try to engage them in conversation.
This woman had never been to a synagogue, she didn't understand Judaism, she hadn't kept the Sabbath or heard Jesus preach, and she didn't worship the true God. She didn't care about reputation or status in her community or in the eyes of the disciples. She recognized her daughter's great need for release from demon possession and trusted that Jesus held the answer to her healing.
Jesus didn't ask her to change her lifestyle, become a Jew, listen to a sermon, or become a disciple before He acted. Falling prostrate before Him she cried, "Lord, help me" (Matt. 15:25, RSV). This demonstration of need and faith, Jesus honored. "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows riches upon all who call upon him. For, 'everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved' " (Rom. 10:12, 13, RSV).
Jesus' visit to Tyre and Sidon ended this mother's struggle to save her daughter from Satan's grip. It is our challenge to interact with society, to learn its heartfelt needs, and in fulfilling them, to help others see Jesus as the solution to life's problems and as the source of hope.
Who are the "unbelievers" in your community? How can you help bring them into a faith relationship with Jesus?
If someone does not know about Christianity, how can you help them understand God's love for them?
Friday November 21
Further Study: To strengthen your understanding of Christ's work with unbelievers, study the accounts of the demon-possessed Gerasene (Mark 5:1-19) and the deaf man (Mark 7:31-37). How do these stories influence your witnessing and healing efforts?
Read "Our Example" in The Ministry of Healing, pp. 17-28, and "Barriers Broken Down" in The Desire of Ages, pp. 399-403. From these sources, develop principles that might be applied in our work for others.
"Christ recognized no distinction of nationality or rank or creed. The scribes and Pharisees desired to make a local and national benefit of the gifts of heaven and to exclude the rest of God's family in the world. But Christ came to break down every wall of partition. He came to show that His gift of mercy and love is as unconfined as the air, the light, or the showers of rain that refresh the earth. . . . He passed by no human being as worthless, but sought to apply the healing remedy to every soul."--The Ministry of Healing, p. 25.
|1. Share one way Jesus has given you
2. In your church, are there barriers to welcoming people of religious backgrounds and social and economic standing different from those of the existing members? How can these barriers be removed?
Summary: Religious leaders, lay persons, outcasts of culture and society, foreigners and unbelievers--all experienced Christ's unconditional healing power. We are called to bring mental, physical, social, and spiritual healing and restoration to those we contact in our daily activities. Our kindness and concern for others stands as a living example of God's unconditional healing in the world.
Suffering With Christ
As told by Januario de Pena
Januario Pena often wondered why his childhood had been so difficult. When his Adventist parents died when he was 8 years old, he was sent to live with an unbelieving uncle. There he lived in virtual slavery, forbidden to attend school and forced to work hard all day. Often he was beaten for the other children's misdeeds.
When Pena was 16, he left his uncle's home and joined the guerrilla army fighting for Mozambique's freedom. Pena served in the army for several years before he was wounded in combat and discharged.
Pena returned to his hometown where he met an Adventist pastor who reintroduced him to Jesus Christ and the faith of his parents. It was then that Pena realized God had repeatedly saved his life during his troubled youth. Pena accepted God's love and Jesus' sacrifice and was baptized. Then he set out to work for God.
Living off the military retirement pay he received, Pena traveled from district to district, telling people about God's grace. Because the war created a deep suspicion of strangers, Pena introduced himself as an evangelist to the traditional authority or district leader. The area leader was compelled to introduce Pena to the people and provide him a place to hold meetings. This made Pena's work somewhat easier because the people knew who he was before he started witnessing. He studied with anyone who showed interest and prepared many for baptism. When a group was ready for baptism, Pena would summon a minister to baptize them. Then he moved to another area and began again. In eight years Pena planted 15 new churches, all of which continue to grow and multiply.
But Pena has suffered for his faith. Once he was accused of being a spy. He was tied up and spent the night in prison, under threat of death. After praying well into the night, he received assurance from God that his life would be spared. Three of the churches Pena planted were in Muslim areas, where he met with intense persecution. And after one young man accepted the Adventist message, his family tried to kill Pena.
The civil war in Mozambique is over, but the war for the human soul continues, and Pena continues to seek recruits to enlist in God's army. And God continues to reward his efforts with baptisms and new churches.
Januario Aissone de Pena is a lay evangelist living and working in Mozambique, East Africa.
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