(Matthew builds his Gospel primarily around large blocks of teaching materials and then alternating blocks of material where Jesus is moving, healing, working.)
How do Jesus’ teachings and healings work together to reveal the “kingdom” he’s talking about?
How do people respond to him?
When you think about your life, how have you experienced Jesus’ truth and work in your life?
(Mark tends to center his narratives around important questions about the identity of Jesus (e.g. Mark 4:41).)
What do these stories tell us about who Jesus is? What kind of authority does he have?
Why do you think it’s important to John that his readers understand this about Jesus?
Have you ever experienced Jesus’ power at work in your life in an area you didn’t think could change, move?
(Luke was a physician and tends to write about the broken… You get a sense of his compassion and care as a good doctor.)
What does Luke’s portrayal of Jesus reveal about Jesus’ character and compassion toward us?
How have you experienced God’s goodness in your life that you didn’t deserve?
(John structures his Gospel around 7 “I AM” sayings of Jesus.)
What different claims does John make about who Jesus is? What images does he use?
How do these images relate to what God has been doing throughout the Bible?
Is there one of these images that describes God’s work in your life best? Why?
(Matthew, Mark and Luke are called synoptic Gospels… meaning they look through a similar lens. John is unique in make-up. Spend some time overviewing all four).
What do you notice about John’s gospel that’s different from the others?
What differences do you notice between Matthew, Mark, and Luke? Why do you think that is?
Which gospel is the closest to how you would write Jesus’ story if you could?
Why do you think Jesus intentionally goes out into the wilderness before he preaches at all? What specifically does Satan offer him?
What is the significance of Jesus’ first one line sermon (verse 17 – “Repent [turn and go a new way], for the kingdom of heaven is near”)?
If Jesus were going to invite you to follow him, how do you think he would ask? How did you decide to follow Jesus?
How would you have felt if you’d been one of the disciples here (being asked to go do what Jesus has been doing in the face of very real opposition)?
What are the reasons Jesus gives his disciples for not being afraid?
What’s the biggest opposition you’ve ever faced in being bold about your faith?
What are the “signs” Jesus gives John’s disciples that he is the Messiah? If you had been Jesus, how would you have answered that question?
Why do you think Jesus critique people’s expectations (of both he and John)? What are people really looking for?
What characteristics might make you open to understanding what Jesus came to teach and reveal?
What would you say Jesus’ top priority was? Why did that bring conflict with the Pharisees (religious leaders of his day)?
What do Jesus’ actions in this chapter show us about the “kingdom of God” he’s been preaching about?
If you were to rate yourself in the areas of “knowing about God” and “passionately following God,” where would you fall?
What does each of these parables reveal about “the kingdom” that Jesus is bringing into reality?
Why do you think Jesus teaches in these sometimes confusing parables? Does he really want people not to understand?
What would you say it takes to be a part of the kingdom of God Jesus is teaching about?
How does Jesus deal with the death of his cousin? How would you have handled it in the middle of crowds wanting your attention and healing?
What would you say are the most important things to Jesus? What does he desire for people? What doesn’t he seem to care about?
How do we continue to see Jesus revealing “the kingdom” he’s teaching about in his actions?
Why do you think Jesus doesn’t want the disciples telling others who he is (verse 16:20, 17:9)? What does this have to do with what he knows he will have to do (verse 16:21)?
When you hear Jesus talk about denying yourself and taking up your cross to follow him, what has this looked like in your life? How might it look?
Why does Jesus continue to point out people’s faith (or lack of faith)? How do we increase our faith and trust in what Jesus can do?
What is it about children that makes them Jesus’ example of the kingdom of heaven?
Why do you think Jesus is so serious about forgiveness and mending relationships?
What was the most challenging teaching in this section for you? How might God want to lead you in this area?
How is Jesus’ way of “authority” different than the way we normally think of it? Have you ever known anyone who “practiced authority” like Jesus?
Why do you think the religious leaders (Pharisees, chief priests, Sadducees) are so upset by Jesus? Why is he such a threat?
Are there any ways that Jesus has challenged your expectations of who you thought or wanted him to be?
What things does Jesus criticize about the way the scribes and Pharisees lead and practice faith?
(much of what Jesus talks about in chapter 24 happened later in the 1st century) Why do you think Jesus is concerned about warning them?
What does it look like to live “prepared” and “ready” today?
What differences do you notice as Mark begins his telling of Jesus’ story compared to Matthew? What does it seem like he’s concerned about?
What do people’s reactions to Jesus’ teaching and healing in this chapter show us? What was it initially about Jesus that drew you to him?
Several times here, as Jesus is beginning his ministry, it seems like He doesn’t want people to know who He is. Why do you think that is?
Why are the Pharisees and the people confused/frustrated but the way Jesus acts? What do you think they expect him to be/do?
What does Jesus breaking these “rules” and expectations teach us about who He is and what He came to do?
Have you ever had to ignore someone’s expectations for who you should be in order to follow where God was leading? What was the result?
Why (like in Matthew) do we see Jesus teaching in ways that seem intentionally hard for people to understand? How does this relate to the faith described in verses 5:21-43?
Up to this point in Mark’s story of Jesus’ life, what things has he shown Jesus have authority over? Why are people so scared (verse 5:17)?
Why might this authority Jesus shows be important to 1st century Christians (who Mark is writing to)? Why might it be important for us today?
How does Jesus handle the death of his cousin? How would you have reacted in his position?
If you were a first century Christian (most likely facing violent persecution) reading this chapter of Mark, how would it change the way you view Jesus and what he does here?
What do you think the disciples were missing in verses 51-52?
Are there any ways that we (like the Pharisees) may be doing things to make ourselves feel right with God but missing his actual desires for us?
Why do you think it’s only after Peter recognizes who Jesus truly is (the Messiah – God’s chosen one, come to rescue) that he begins to talk to them about going to suffer and die?
In what ways have you had to “take up your cross” in following Jesus? Have you experienced the reality of saving your life through laying it down?
What ways does Mark reveal Jesus’ power in this chapter? If you had been one of the disciples seeing these things, what would you have thought?
What is the irony in Jesus talking to the disciples about giving his life (verses 9:30-32) and the discussion they are having on the road right after?
After reading verses 39-50, what would you say Jesus wants for those following him? How serious would you say you are on the things that matter to him?
Several times in this chapter people try to keep certain types of people, what does Jesus’ response in these situations show about his priorities?
What is the most challenging teaching to you in this chapter? Why? What might it be calling you to do?
Jesus contrasts his way of leading through serving with the other leaders of his day… where would you fit on that spectrum in the way you treat people?
In the Old Testament, a fig tree is used as an image for Israel… what do you think Jesus’ actions toward the fig tree represent in light of what’s going on in the temple just after?
Why do you think this is the last straw for the religious leaders and they choose to kill him?
When you think of the kind of faith Jesus describes here in Mark (and again in verses 10:22-24), how does that make you feel? (encouraged?, frustrated?, inadequate?) Why?
Why do you think Jesus tells the story about the farmers and the vineyard?
What do the religious leaders’ actions toward Jesus (and Jesus’ words about them in verses 11:38-44) show us about how not to practice religion?
When you think about the “greatest commandments” (verses 12:29-31), which is the hardest part for you personally? How might God lead you to grow in that area?
Why do you think Jesus warns his disciples about these coming events? How would you have felt if you had been one of them?
Have you ever been amazed or confused by someone’s expression of worship (like the woman and the perfume)? Why do you think those at the table were so frustrated?
Why do you think none of the disciples can stay with Jesus (they will all either betray or desert him)?
What is Jesus claiming about who he is and his purpose by reading the passage from Isaiah?
What is Jesus saying when he talks about Elijah in verses 4:25-27? Why do the crowds love him the minute before and hate him after he says this?
What would have “amazed you” if you had been in the crowds following Jesus here? Has he ever amazed you in your own life experience?
If you had been Peter (a lifelong fisherman), how would you have reacted to Jesus and the nets full of fish? How about the man dying of leprosy when just a touch healed?
Why do you think Jesus (in the middle of amazing miracles and increasing crowds) “often withdrew to the wilderness” (verse 5:16)? How does this model differ from how we typically live?
When Jesus heals the paralyzed man, he seems to show that forgiving sin and healing are all within his power and part of his mission. Which of these is harder for you to trust him for?
The Pharisees here are stuck on the law about not working on the sabbath, but what is the larger principle Jesus is living out?
Verses 6:24-38 are some of Jesus’ “hardest” teachings. Which part is the most challenging to you? How might you follow Jesus in that area this week?
If you were to take a look at your life, what kinds of “fruit” (verses 6:43-45) would you notice?
As Luke writes of Jesus’ life, he seems to highlight Jesus’ interactions with “outsiders” and people who are often overlooked (like the Roman Officer, the widow, and the “sinful woman” here), Why do you think that is? What is he revealing about Jesus?
If you had been John (most likely in prison – see verse 3:20), what question would you have asked Jesus? How would Jesus’ response have made you feel?
What 2 kinds of people in Jesus contrasting in verses 7:41-48? Which do you feel more like today?
Which type of ground do you feel like this week? How might you allow God to soften your heart to what he wants to say to you today?
Why do you think the people who hear and see the demon-possessed man after he’s healed beg Jesus to leave? How do you think you would have reacted?
Jesus seems to continue to call people to deeper faith in his ability to change situations… how have you seen him deepen your faith?
How would you have felt (as one of the disciples) if Jesus asked to go “cast our demons and heal all diseases”… with “nothing for your journey”? Has God ever asked you to do anything that seemed beyond your ability?
Have you ever had an experience of God’s amazing power or providing in your life (like feeding 5000 at a time or being on the mountain when he transformed before their eyes)?
Why do you think Jesus talks so often to his disciples here about his coming death and the sacrifice it takes to follow him?
Do you believe God has given us the kind of “authority and power” that Jesus talks about in verse 10:19? Why or why not? How would it change your life if he has?
Why does Jesus use a Samaritan (people Jews hated) as the hero of the story in response to the man’s question in verse 10:29? What kind of person might he use if he were telling the story today?
In light of the Mary and Martha story, are there any “details” in your life that are worrying you right now (and possibly overshadowing your ability to hear and listen to Jesus)?
Which line of the prayer Jesus teaches (verses 11:2-4) are the easiest for you to pray? Which is the hardest? How insistently would you say you “seek” God out in prayer?
What does it look like to be united in direction toward Jesus (like a unified kingdom or body where there is no darkness)? What might it take to be more filled or unified in purpose?
What are the real priorities for Jesus (in contrast to the people’s desire for miracles and the Pharisees outward religious practices)? What’s the cost of focusing on the wrong things?
Where would you say you fall on the spectrum of worry and trust? What does Jesus prescribe in the place of worry and the need to “store up” for ourselves?
If you knew Jesus was going to return in a week, how would it change the way you live? What would take priority?
When Jesus says he came not to bring peace, but division, what does he mean? Why is it that conflict seem to follow Jesus wherever he goes?
Why do you think Jesus’ is so intense here on how we live our lives?
How would you have felt as a Jewish person (a part of God’s chosen people) hearing Jesus teach that many will not be allowed to enter God’s house and be told “I don’t know who you are?”
What is the most challenging part of this teaching for you? Is there anything comforting here?
If Jesus were going to point out the situations in which we (today) try to gain status and position, what would he bring up? How would he suggest we act?
What “costs” have you come across while following Jesus? How has the reality of following Jesus compared to what you expected when you first made that decision?
If you had been one of the Pharisees hearing these stories of lost things, how would you have felt? How about if you were one of the “notorious sinners”?
How might the “lesson” in verse 16:9 and 13 apply to your own life? Is there any way this week that God might call you to use your resources for the benefit of someone else?
Do Jesus’ teachings on temptation, forgiveness, and faith (verses 17:1-10) seem too strict? appropriate? other? Why do you think you feel that way?
Why do you think Jesus says “the Kingdom of God can’t be detected”? What does he mean that it’s “already among you”? Have you seen God’s kingdom at work in and around your life?
What has your experience been of prayer? Do you feel more like the widow, the Pharisee, or the tax collector?
What (if anything) have you given up to follow Jesus? Is there anything in your life (like the rich man) that seems too much to give in order to follow?
If you had been one of the servants in the story Jesus tells in verses 19:11-27, what would you have done with the money? How would you have felt about the master?
Why do you think Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem? (See Zechariah 9:9-10 and note that kings would ride war horses coming back from battle.)
What would have amazed you more if you’d witnessed these events… the parade into town? Jesus clearing the temple? or the way he outwits the religious leaders?
What ways are we like the Pharisees? (threatened by the authority Jesus claims and the way he disrupts the way life has been going)
In verses 20:45 – 21:4, Jesus points out several people using their faith to “look good” instead of humbly, sacrificially, for the sake of others. Are their any challenges he might have to the way we live out our faith?
How would you have felt if you’d been one of the disciples, hearing about the destruction that was coming for Jerusalem and their own suffering?
Why do you think Jesus went to the Mount of Olives every night after teaching? (verse21:37) Why might this have been even more important with what he was facing?
Why does John start his story off the way he does (instead of telling the story of Mary and Joseph and the birth)? What does this show us about what John’s purpose in writing the story?
What does John (the writer) say about who Jesus is in this first chapter? What kinds of titles and authority does he reveal?
Why do you think the word spread so fast about Jesus (verses 35-51)? Who was instrumental in your life in helping you find Jesus?
Why do you think Jesus’ first miracle was to spare a couple the shame of running out of wine at their wedding? What might you have expected Jesus’ first display of power be?
Does Jesus making a whip and driving merchants out of the temple fit with the picture you have of Jesus? Why or why not?
Are their any areas of your life that you might need Jesus to clear out… or even tear down and rebuild the way he would want it?
If you had been Nicodemus, hearing Jesus talk about being “born again” for the first time, what would you have thought? Is there anything else in what Jesus says to him that still seems confusing?
Why do you think John 3:16 is such a well-known verse? What does is actually mean to “believe in him” in the whole scope of verses 5-21? (Is it just a mental thing?)
What could we learn from John the Baptist here (in verses 22-36) about how to aproach doing anything for/with God in the world?
If you had been the Samaritan woman (hated by Jews), what would you have thought of Jesus starting up a conversation? How about as the disciples coming back and seeing Jesus in conversation with this woman?
What does Jesus’ words in verses 13-14, 21-24, and 34-38 show about his priorities and how they transcend the human social boundaries that were at play in this situation?
See far in John, he has focused a lot on people “believing” in Jesus (here in verses 39, 50). What kinds of things strengthen your belief and trust in Jesus?
Why do you think Jesus asked a man who had been unable to walk for 38 years if he wanted to get well? Are there any parts of your life that have been there so long, you may have given up on them ever being made right?
Why do you think the Jewish leaders couldn’t see (or believe) who Jesus was when it seems like everyone else could?
What does Jesus’ response to the leaders reveal about his relationship with God the Father? How might these things apply to how we relate to God? Are there any differences?
What do you think Jesus means when he says “I am the bread of life”? Why does he make this statement?
What would you have been thinking if you had heard Jesus say that everyone must eat his flesh (verses 53-58)? Why does he use this cryptic language?
What are the people hoping to get from Jesus versus what he is actually offering them? Are there things that you hope to “get” from Jesus? What might he be offering to you today?
What do Jesus’ brothers think is the right path for Jesus? Why do you think Jesus refuses? What does it mean when it says here that, “his time has not yet come”?
Why do you think it was hard for people to accept who Jesus was? Would you have believed him if he had come from your hometown?
Have you ever felt like the woman in verses 8:1-11? Have you ever been like one of the Pharisees? What does Jesus’ response to both teach us?
What is Jesus’ purpose in claiming to be light (and living water), knowing that these are things that the people believe God is and provides? Why is that such a big deal to the Pharisees?
What kinds of questions have you had or what things have gotten in the way of you believing Jesus is who he says he is? Is there anything that’s helped you work through those questions?
Why does Jesus challenge even the people who “believe” in him so strongly? What’s his purpose in questioning their identity as “descendants of Abraham (aka. God’s chosen people)?
What is the significance here of Jesus saying again that he is the “light of the world” and sending the main to the pool in Jerusalem (where the “living water ceremony happened”)?
Why does this miracle confuse the Pharisees so much? What of their “typical understanding of how God works” has it challenged?
Are there any ways that we “think we can see” (verse 39) but may still be blind? How would we allow God to open our eyes?
What do the illustrations of the gate and shepherd reveal to us about Jesus’ purpose and nature?
With all the claims Jesus has made about himself, why are the people still asking in verse 24? Why does his response anger them so much?
What is Jesus’ defense when they claim that he is blasphemous (claiming God status)? What ways have you seen God’s evidence in your life? How has this effected your belief and trust in him?
How would you have felt if you were Lazarus’ sister and Jesus didn’t come immediately to heal him? How about when he finally showed up and said, “Your brother will rise again.” (verse 23)?
Why do you think Jesus brought Lazarus back to life? Is there any part of your life right now that feels in need of new life?
Why do you think Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume? Does Jesus really not care for the poor (verse 8)? What’s his point here?
What would you have thought if you had seen Jesus riding into Jerusalem like a king on a donkey? Why do people have such a hard time understanding that Jesus is going to willingly give up his life?
What was Jesus trying to teach his disciples by washing their feet? What would it look like for you to follow that model in your own life this week?
Why does Jesus say that “love for one another” is what will “prove to the world that you are my disciples?” (verse 13:35). What other things could he have said?
What does it mean that “no one can come to the Father except through [Jesus]”? Why is Jesus so concerned here that the disciples understand that he and the Father are one?
When Jesus says, “anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done,” do you think he’s serious or just exaggerating? How might that be possible?
Why do you think peace is the “gift” Jesus wants to leave to his followers? Where have you experienced Jesus’ peace in the past few weeks?
How does the vine analogy reflect the kind of relationship Jesus wants us to have with him? How does he suggest we have that relationship?
What is the result of “remaining in Jesus”? Have you seen any of these results because of your connection with Jesus?
Why do you think Jesus gives them such a serious warning in verses 15:18-25? Have you ever experienced this kind of opposition?
Why does Jesus say it is “best for you that I go away” (verse 16:7)? What is the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives according to Jesus?
Why do you think the disciples finally say they believe Jesus came from God (verse 16:30)? Why is this so significant?
If you consider that Jesus’ prayer is meant for you (as well as the disciples he was with), what part is the most encouraging, inspiring, challenging?