Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36 , NIV)
“Because it shows that you should be kind even if someone is mean.”
How has God shown mercy to you and others you know?
Why is showing mercy to someone such a challenge, at times? Why do you think the world advocates more a system of getting back at one another than one that seeks mercy?
What are ways you can show mercy to others today?
Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”
19 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”
20 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.” (Luke 9:18–20 , NIV)
Peter’s confession of Jesus as God’s Messiah was what we might call a game-changer. This one who was sent by God was the one to redeem the world … even if the way he went about doing so did not look exactly like his followers expected.
If Jesus was going to ask the same question he did in verse 18 to us today, how would we answer: Who do the crowds say that I am?
Why do you think people had such a difficult time understanding who Jesus was? Why do they still have a difficult time doing so today?
What does it mean for Jesus to be God’s Messiah?
One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.” (Luke 5:17–26 , NIV)
“I have always loved this story. What wonderful friends this man had. Friends that had faith that Jesus would heal him. Friends that went into action. It reminds me sometimes when our friends don’t have the strength to carry themselves we need to carry them in prayer and sometimes physically carry them. And hopefully we have friends that will do this for us.”
Think about a time when you were committed to do anything–anything–for a friend. What caused you to be focused on doing whatever was necessary for this friend, regardless the cost to you?
What could this paralyzed man offer his friends?
What remarkable things have you see God do today?
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36–37, NIV)
The point of our parable is not who is our neighbor, but how do we be a neighbor.
Why do you think this wise teacher of the law wanted Jesus to answer the question of how to inherit eternal life? In what ways do we ask similar questions?
As you think about what it means to follow Jesus, what are ways you try to justify yourself, that you are either following Jesus enough or that certain aspects of following him do not really matter all that much? How do we keep from doing this?
To whom can you be a neighbor today?
“ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ” (Luke 15:31–32, NIV)
“Luke 15 is an amazing passage detailing the importance of our seeking out those who are lost, yet also having comfort that we are God’s and do not have to fear the certainty of our relationship with him.”
When you read the three stories in Luke 15, what is similar and what is different? Why are these things important for our understanding the point of the chapter?
How do you think you would have reacted to the younger son who took everything and left if you had been the father? If you had been the older son?
Why do you think it is so easy for people to worry about themselves more than it is those who are lost?
“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? 8 Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 9 Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ” (Luke 17:7–10, NIV)
“This section talks about the expectations we have for our obedience. We are to serve for the Lord without reward for correct behavior. We are to do right because it is right, not for some benefit.”
The image of a servant such as this may seem foreign to us, yet what expectations do we have of the people who serve us?
What are some ways you have acted simply because it was the right thing to do, not because it was because you were getting something for it?
Why is it so easy for us to assume we deserve something for simply doing what we ought?
When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:36–50, NIV)
How do we think about people who are “sinful?” Do we see people like Jesus does?
How do you think we would react if someone came into one of our times of worship whom we knew to be a “sinner?” Why do we tend to react in negative ways toward such people?
How have you been forgiven? How often do you stop to recognize–and thank God–for that forgiveness?
In what ways can we demonstrate love towards those who are seeking his forgiveness, even if they have lived lives outside of what we might consider “decent moral behavior?”
He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Luke 10.2, NIV)
Do we include in our prayers a request for people to go and share God with those in the “harvest field?”
In your estimation, would you say the harvest is plentiful or sparse? What causes you to think this?
We at times will pray for specific individuals we want to hear about Jesus, but how often do we pray for the people who will take that message to those people?
Someone once said: Don’t ever ask God to do something you are not willing to have him do through you? How willing are YOU to be the harvest worker sharing Jesus with others?
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
9 Jesus said to him, ‘”Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19.1-10, NIV)
Two things stand out to me about this passage. The first is the desire for Zacchaeus to see Jesus. He would do anything … even climb a tree. (Adults do not typically do that sort of thing!) The second is the way he was changed by Jesus, willing to give back even more than he cheated out of people. Jesus has a way of making a difference in our lives, doesn’t he?
How hard do you work to learn more about Jesus? Are you willing to do things that might be seen as “out of the ordinary?”
In what ways do people today–even or especially church going folk–ignore or shun those who are “sinners?” How should Jesus’ response to Zacchaeus and those around him affect our desire to reach out those we might consider “sinners?”
How has following Jesus changed your life in amazing ways?
“Glory to God in the highest heaven
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2.14 NIV)
We have just finished the “Christmas season.” As you reflect back on this time when we remember the birth of Jesus, how did you see the glory of God in the midst of the typical holiday rush?
In what ways is Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus sort of anticlimactic, just a mention that Mary gave birth to a firstborn son? In what ways might this tell us about what Luke considered most important about the story of Jesus’ birth?
How has the good news of Jesus provided you and the people you know joy?
How have you given glory to God today?