Our Call To Discipleship
teacher's guide Lesson 9

Lesson Nine

"Jesus, What Do You Mean?"

Texts: Matthew 13:10-23, 36-43; Mark 10:23-31

The purpose of this lesson: to increase the students' awareness that Jesus alters the perspectives and thinking of his disciples.

Numerous times in many contexts people have said, "That just blew my mind!" What does that mean? Something so astounding was said or done that those who heard or witnessed the happening struggled to comprehend it.

The experience of "thinking thoughts we never thought previously" or "considering perspectives we did not know existed" is not a new experience. It is a fairly common occurrence in every area of life.

Discipleship often "blows the mind" of the disciple. Following Jesus is a "mind blowing" experience. That fact is not new. Jesus' first disciples were frequently astounded by Jesus' words, teachings, and deeds. When you follow Jesus, he demands that you think from perspectives you never considered.

Jesus intentionally alters the thinking and perspectives of men and women who follow him. That alteration is essential. Jesus introduces us to God's thoughts and priorities. God's thoughts and priorities are holy, untouched by evil. Evil is the common reality in our world and in our existence. It is essential for Jesus to teach us how to think and how to see things. Those thought and perspective alterations must not be superficial. They will be fundamental, basic.

For examples, consider Matthew 13. This chapter contains a series of kingdom parables. Jesus' concept of God's kingdom was distinctly different from any kingdom concepts the disciples knew. On this occasion Jesus taught a large crowd using parables for his teaching method. His first parable was about a sower. The story was based on a common occurrence. However, the meaning was anything but common. His teaching declared spiritual acceptance and productiveness was not a matter of heritage [genealogy], but a matter of "heart receptivity." The fact that a person was a descendant of Abraham was insufficient to be in God's kingdom.

This is the fact to note: even Jesus' disciples had significant difficulty in understanding Jesus' emphasis. Understanding Jesus' perspective did not come to them "naturally." They had to learn to think as Jesus thought.

Matthew 13:10 states his disciples asked him why he taught in parables. This likely indicates they did not understand his teaching. Jesus answered that question, and then explained the parable. In essence, the disciples asked him, "What are you talking about? What do you mean in this parable?"

Jesus' method of using parables confused them. They were accustomed to the rabbinic style of teaching. This style verified its conclusions by citing a sequence of authority. Parables make understanding necessary. They were accustomed to a teaching form that required acceptance even if there was no understanding.

In the same chapter, Jesus taught the parable of the tares in verses 24-30. Verse 36 says after the crowds left, Jesus and his disciples went into a house. When finally alone with Jesus, the disciples asked him to explain his parable. Jesus obviously called to their attention matters they did not understand. Jesus often did that to those who followed him. He continues to do it today to those who follow him.

This is another illustration of their struggle to understand. Their struggle verifies they were unaccustomed to such thoughts and perspectives.

Perhaps one of the more striking examples is found in a conversation between Jesus and his disciples in Mark 10:23-31. Mark indicates this conversation occurred after a disappointed rich young man left Jesus. It began when Jesus observed it is very difficult for those who have wealth to enter God's kingdom. The disciples reacted to the statement with amazement. Jesus knew his statement astounded them. Yet, he did not soften his observation. In fact, he illustrated the difficulty of entering God's kingdom. He made two observations. (1) It is difficult for anyone to enter God's kingdom. (2) The difficulty is increased for the rich.

On this occasion, it is clear that Jesus' statements caused the disciples to be bewildered. Note their bewilderment did not alter Jesus' emphasis. They needed to learn a new way to think. Jesus did not need to change his emphasis.

The result: the disciples' astonishment increased. They could not begin to comprehend his statement. To them, its emphasis was so astounding that it bordered on the unbelievable. For that reason, the disciples asked, "Then who can be saved?" Or, paraphrased, "If it is so difficult for the rich to be saved, for whom does the possibility of salvation exist?"

Instead of removing their astonishment, Jesus increased it. He demanded they think thoughts they previously had not considered.

To grasp the disciples' amazement and astonishment, we need some background. First, read again Deuteronomy 28. In Deuteronomy Moses reminded second generation Israel of their basic responsibilities in keeping covenant with God. If they kept Israel's covenant with God, they were promised blessings. If they broke Israel's covenant with God, they were promised consequences [curses]. Note Deuteronomy 28:1-15 stresses the blessings promised Israel if they obediently kept covenant with God. Note Deuteronomy 28:16-37 stresses the consequences promised Israel if they disobediently broke covenant with God.

Note the areas of the promised blessings and the areas of the promised consequences. As you note these, remember that this is an agriculturally based nation and society.

Second, remember many of their great men of faith were wealthy men. Abraham, their forefather, the man from whom Israel descended through Isaac, was a wealthy man. King David, the man after God's own heart who symbolized Israel's golden age, was a wealthy man. Job, the man who belonged uniquely to God as did no one else, was a wealthy man.

Their role models for great faith were men of great wealth.

Third, recall the numerous promises to Israel that promised repentance and obedience would produce peace and prosperity. Wars would not consume Israel. Enemies would not place Israel in captivity. These frequently were a part of the messages from God's prophets to Israel.

Frequently the prophets pleas contained calls to repentance and obedience. God's promise: He would bless them if they repented and obeyed. A good example is Hosea 14. This is the last chapter of the prophecy. This statement was made after the prophet enumerated ways in which these people were wicked.

From these considerations [and others], Israel developed a particular perspective on wealth. The disciples knew and embraced this perspective. The perspective: wealth was proof of God's blessings. Thus for an Israelite to have wealth meant his relationship with God went beyond correct genealogy. When an Israelite had wealth, the wealth proved he walked with God.

A long held conclusion in Israel: among Israelites, wealth was God's gift and blessing granted to the godly.

The disciples realized specific wealthy Israelite individuals [like the rich young man who just left Jesus] might not devote themselves to God as they should. However, they also accepted this as general truth: wealth equaled God's blessings; God's blessings equaled God's favor; God's favor equaled an approved relationship with God. That was the common understanding in Israel for hundreds of years. Since this view was commonly accepted in Israel, how could Jesus suggest it was extremely difficult for a person of wealth to be in God's kingdom?

While the disciples understood exceptions existed, their general understanding [for Israelites] was this: wealth was a gift from God to the righteous.

Jesus gave them two assurances. (1) Because of God's character and nature, it was not impossible for a rich Israelite to be in God's kingdom [difficult, but not impossible]. (2) The disciples would be rewarded for their sacrifices and dedication, but their reward would go beyond material considerations and would include persecutions.

Note that Jesus' assurances did not validate their perspective on the meaning of wealth.

Any man or woman who has the courage to follow Jesus must also have the courage to allow Jesus to introduce him or her to the unthinkable. Jesus will retrain [transform] the way a disciple thinks. Jesus modifies a disciples' behavior by giving him or her a new way to think [remember Paul's statement in Romans 12:1,2?]. It takes little courage to think as do the masses who do not follow Jesus. It takes great courage to allow Jesus to give you a whole new perspective. Jesus' perspective always focuses on eternal priorities. People living in this material world as they deal with physical circumstances rarely maintain a focus on eternal priorities. The challenge: understand what Jesus means. Let Jesus "blow your mind."

Any person who is Jesus' disciple must understand that the process of spiritual maturing leads to thoughts and perspectives never before considered. Jesus will not confirm our thinking. He will redirect our thinking.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why is it difficult to permit Jesus to confront us with perspectives we never considered?

    Typically, virtually no one enjoys thinking in ways he or she has never before considered. It is demanding. It is uncomfortable. It often includes inward struggle. It involves this process: "If that is correct, then I must rethink this." It also includes the understanding that this is an endless process.

  2. Why is it easier to force Jesus' statements to fit our thinking instead of permitting Jesus to change our thinking?

    If a person forces Jesus' statement to fit his or her thinking or conclusion, he or she does not have to change his or her way of thinking or conclusion.

  3. Jesus radically altered the disciples' basic concepts such as God's kingdom and God's blessing. Identify ways Jesus radically alters our concepts.

    Some of our concepts that Jesus can change radically include these:

      Godliness (the meaning of having God's priorities in our hearts and behavior)

      Holiness (the meaning of separating ourselves for God to serve His purposes)

      Purity (God's standards about freedom from evil's influences)

      Repentance (godly sorrow that redirects behavior rather than merely being regretful)

      Obedience (understanding that obedience is internal and external, not merely external)

      Reverence (a respectful awe that is life-centered rather than place-centered)

Link to Student Guide Lesson 9

Copyright © 2003
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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