Curriculum: Encountering Jesus

Groups@First        ©2018 FBC Wimberley

Session 1: Come and See

Luke 5:1-11

Ice Breaker:

Can you think of a time someone invited you to do something you really didn’t want to do but you ended up having an unexpected pleasant experience?

Discussion:

“Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”

Luke 5:4b

There is a remarkable symmetry between this early encounter with Jesus, and Jesus’ post-resurrection breakfast on the beach with the boys. Peter is a principal character in both stories, and the unexplainable catch of fish in both instances causes Peter to recognize his Lord. It is almost as if Jesus uses these miraculous catches to revitalize Peter to prepare him for the spiritual work that follows each encounter. Further, these undeniable displays of Jesus’ dominion over nature point us to deep spiritual lessons that lie just below the surface[1].

Luke 5:1-4        Jesus Calls Us to Obedience

(Read division verses aloud)

Although it is early in Jesus’ ministry, nonetheless word of His power to cure diseases and His message about the Kingdom of God have spread and He is already being pursued relentlessly by crowds of people eager to hear more. On this particular morning, Jesus is by the shore of the Sea of Galilee (aka Lake Gennesaret) with the crowd pressing in on Him. He looks around, observing a typical morning sight of fishermen washing their nets after a night of fishing, preparing to go out again the next night. Aha! There is Simon! Jesus and Simon have met before, so Jesus asks him for the use of his boat. They put out a short distance from shore and Jesus begins teaching from the boat.

  1. Read about Simon’s first encounter with Jesus in John 1:35-42. What did Jesus say when Andrew asked where He was staying?
  2. After meeting Jesus and spending a day with Him, what did Andrew do?
  3. Luke 4:38-39 records another encounter with Jesus. What happened? And, what is the implication about Jesus going to Simon’s house after he left the synagogue?
  4. Glance through the next three verses (Luke 4:40-42) and briefly discuss what Simon observed Jesus doing throughout a long night.

When Jesus finishes teaching, he tells Simon to put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch. Let’s take a moment to flesh this out a bit. Simon and his partners have just returned from a long, unproductive night of fishing. The dragnets they used would have weighed more than 100 pounds wet! All night, they have cast their nets and then dragged them back to the boat hand-over-hand with nothing to show for their efforts[2]. They are worn out from a night of hard labor!

And that is when Jesus calls Simon! Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.

  1. Why do you think Jesus chose this particular moment to call Simon?
  2. Have you experienced a similar situation of hearing a clear call from Jesus when you least expected it?

Luke 5:5        Jesus Lets Us Choose How to Respond

(Read division verses aloud)

This is almost hilarious! Jesus is asking a man who has not slept all night, who in fact spent that night in demanding physical labor, to beach his boat, reload the fishing nets (heavy, wet fishing nets!), row out to deep water, and do it all over again, under the glare of the midday sun! On top of Jesus’ outrageous request, Simon Peter is a professional fisherman and Jesus is a carpenter from Nazareth (landlocked Nazareth). Professional fishermen know that 100% of the fish are found in 10% of the water[2] … what could anyone from dusty Nazareth possibly know about fishing?

  1. How does Simon Peter respond?
  2. What do you think caused him to comply with Jesus’ request? (Think about your answer to Question #4, above)

Luke 5:6-11        Obedience Changes Lives

(Read division verses aloud)

Next, note the immediacy of the miracle … when they did this… immediately they catch so many fish their nets start to tear. They call to some companions who quickly row over to help, and there are so many fish that both boats begin to sink. Historians and archeologists tell us the typical fishing boat of this time would have been 7 ½ - 8 feet wide, and 27 – 30 feet long[3] … that’s a lot of fish!

Amid the frenzy of flopping fish and sinking boats, Simon Peter realizes something profound. Only God commands nature. He is in the presence of God…just as his brother Andrew had told him months earlier…we have found the Messiah! Peter falls at Jesus’ knees and implores Him to leave the presence of a sinner. And, what does Jesus tell him? Don’t be afraid! When we stand humbly before God, recognizing our own frailty and God’s sovereignty, we find ourselves not in the presence of judgment, but of one who calls us to join in dedicated labor[4], fishing for lost souls to bring into the Kingdom.

  1. Compare Simon Peter’s distress at finding himself in the presence of Jesus, Messiah, with others who encountered God (see Isaiah 6:5; Job 42:1-6; Revelation 1:17, or other scriptures you know).
  2. How does Jesus’ response, don’t be afraid, comfort you?
  3. Can you draw any similarities between the miraculous catch of fish, and the events at Pentecost recorded in Acts chapter 2?

What Simon Peter may not have realized at the time is that admitting our own inability to accomplish anything on our own, and our sinful nature are pre-requisites for service. The disciples listened to Jesus’ call and that was the last day they spent as just fishermen. Jesus changed their priorities and their lives.

  1. What additional qualities prepare us for service, and why do you think they are necessary attributes of effective servants?

Engage

Jesus was actively recruiting individuals who were committed to His ministry and obedient in the face of overwhelming odds and circumstantial evidence to the contrary. Simon Peter’s experience of the preceding night argued mightily against his obedience. His empty nets, his aching muscles, and the burning midday sun all told him it was useless. In fact, he could have easily given in to discouragement and abandoned his occupation before Jesus even showed up that morning. But he didn’t. He persevered. And, we too, should persevere, because just like Peter, we don’t know what may happen later today.

Jesus involved Peter in his teaching that morning by borrowing his boat. He knew for Peter’s life to be changed he needed to hear, and he needed the opportunity to be obedient in the small thing (putting out to deep water) so he could learn to be obedient in the larger things. Zechariah 4:10 tells us do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin… If you wonder sometimes why you are not in the deeper waters of ministry, is it because you have not been obedient in launching out in the little things, the simple callings, the unnoticed tasks? The Lord wants us involved in active service, because just like Peter, we need to be where we can hear, and we need the opportunity to be obedient in the small things.

Peter’s call to ministry did not come in the quiet, or on his day off, or when he was enjoying the company of family and friends. It came in the press of a crowd, at the end of a long hard workday, in the panic of boats in danger of sinking. But above the frenzy his heart was listening.

Finally, Christ will be in no man’s debt! Peter loaned Jesus his boat, and two boats were filled to the point of sinking; the Apostles gave Him their hearts and they were filled with the Holy Spirit; Martha gave Him her hospitality and her brother Lazarus was returned to life[5].

  1. How are you actively involved in serving King Jesus, right now?
  2. Has Jesus called you to something that you are hesitating about? How can your group pray for you in this?
  3. Do you long to be used mightily by God? Is there a small thing you need to be obedient about first?

Prayer

Possible prayer points:

Grow my heart for service. Open my eyes to opportunities I have missed because they were the small things. Train me in obedience. Train my ears to listen for your voice in the middle of my busy, frantic days.


Session 2: Do You Want to Get Well?

John 5:1-11

Ice Breaker

Finish the sentence: One of the habits I have broken, that makes me feel so much better is …

Discussion:

For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.

Luke 19:10 (NLT)

Jesus is the protagonist; all of the action centers on Him; He comes, He seeks, He saves. We are utterly helpless and hopeless without Him … just like the paralyzed man at the Pool of Bethesda.

John 5:1-4        Jesus Seeks the Helpless

(Read division verses aloud)

Jesus comes to Jerusalem for a festival. But, regardless of circumstances or distractions, Jesus is focused on seeking the lost. He doesn’t wait for us to come to Him…He goes looking for us. And, He knows where to look. He doesn’t go to the trendy places where the in crowd gathers to celebrate their privileged position. No, He goes to the Pool of Bethesda, where only the outcast, the marginalized, and the forgotten are found. It is hard for us to imagine the scene. Not only did these poor people have mobility challenges, they would have suffered social isolation, more than likely they were poverty-stricken, and personal hygiene issues for many of them are just beyond our comprehension[6].

  1. What is the name of the city gate close to the pool, and what is its significance?
  2. John uses three adjectives to describe the people gathered at the pool: blind, lame, and paralyzed. How do these same words paint a picture of our spiritual condition without Jesus?

John 5:5-7        Do You Want to Get Well?

(Read division verses aloud)

Amid this dismal collection of broken humanity, Jesus stands unnoticed, unrecognized, and unacknowledged. His tender eyes take in the misery surrounding Him, and finally come to rest on one of the worst cases. Can you imagine what Jesus must have seen? Unable to move about, the man would have to rely on others to carry him to the pool, or crawl. More than likely his hands were calloused, bruised, bloody, and filthy.

The man had been this way for 38 years. Surely the duration of his condition had stripped away almost all of his hope. Even in the 21st century, we tend to expect a negative correlation between the length of time someone has been ill and the likelihood they will recover[7]. Yet, Jesus stands in the breach between human expectations and supernatural restoration. With love and compassion, Jesus asks a provocative question, do you want to get well?

It is a compelling question. Think about it for a minute. Getting well changes things. If you suddenly become capable, then people will expect you to care for yourself, provide your own means of living, maybe even help someone else. Getting well means getting out of our comfort zone. Regardless of how bad some situations are, we are all capable of becoming comfortable in them.

  1. What are the implications of getting well spiritually?
  2. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 indicating robust spiritual health, how would you rate your own condition? (Please answer this privately unless you are comfortable sharing your answer.)

Do you see the evasiveness inherent in the man’s answer to Jesus? Jesus has asked him a yes or no question, but instead of answering directly, he tries to deflect Jesus’ intensity by offering an explanation designed to elicit sympathy. Nonetheless, the man is in a terrible situation. The traditional belief was that from time to time an angel would stir the waters, and the first person to touch the waters when this happened would be healed. Leave it to humans to create a competitive situation, complete with rules and regulations, even when it involves people in dire, desperate straits. Even for these, the world says, be first, be the best, try harder, fight your way to the top, God helps those who help themselves! (See Hezekiah 6:1 for the last one!)

  1. Why do you think Jesus asked the man if he wanted to get well?
  2. Why do you think the man evaded Jesus’ question?
  3. How do you sometimes evade Jesus?
  4. Do you want to get well?

John 5:8-9a        Obedience and Outcome

(Read division verses aloud)

Well, Jesus is not distracted by the man’s answer. He stays right on target. He gives the man three commands: get up, pick up your mat, walk. John tells us the man got well instantly, picked up his mat and walked. John does not record for us the man’s reaction, but surely he did not calmly get up and walk … not after 38 years! He must have felt a surge of electricity coursing through his limbs as the muscles in his legs became firm; his mind must have struggled to understand that what he felt was really happening; his heart must have been on the verge of bursting with ecstatic elation. Maybe he whooped and hollered for joy! May he jumped up and down, or ran around the pool shouting, look! Look! Look! 

  1. Does Jesus have your yes before He even asks?
  2. How much joy do we miss by not obeying quickly and happily?

John 5:9b-11        Opposition

(Read division verses aloud)

A man who has been paralyzed for 38 years is miraculously healed, but the Jews (read, the religious ruling class), found nothing to celebrate. They focused on their rules, and took exception to the fact that Jesus had performed this miracle on the Sabbath. This marks the beginning of their plots to undermine Jesus’ authority and end His earthly ministry.

  1. How do we miss the miracle and get mired in the minutia?

Engage

Do you want to get well? Do you genuinely want to be healed? Or, do you embrace the hurts, the bitterness, the unresolved conflicts hidden deeply within your heart? Do you try to cauterize them, cover them over, and pretend they don’t exist? Jesus is seeking you among the infirm. Will you respond? Will you say, yes! I want to get well!

  1. What spiritual, emotional, or habitual ailment do you cling to? (Please answer privately unless you are comfortable sharing with your group.)
  2. Will you turn it over to Jesus?
  3. Do you want to get well?

Prayer

Possible prayer points:

Jesus, I am weak and broken. I am hopeless and helpless without you. Heal my heart and my mind. I want to get well. I want to belong to you.


Session 3: The Adventure

Luke 9:1-6

Ice Breaker

Where have you traveled that was the most different from all your other experiences?

Discussion:

Then He sent them out to tell everyone about the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

Luke 9:2

The disciples are being sent out on the King’s Business. Jesus is such a considerate teacher to give them the chance to experience first-hand how they will be received or rejected, while He is still among them. And, while they have certainly received very special training, they are still ordinary men going about the extraordinary work of advancing God’s Kingdom. To teach that God loves sinners often involves concrete examples of caring for sinners with your own hands. That can be very draining. Jesus cares about them, and He will tend to their needs when they return.

Luke 9:1-2

(See also Matthew 10:1-5a)        Commission

(Read division verses aloud)

Jesus summons them, empowers them, and sends them out 2-by-2 (as noted in Matthew). They were not to travel alone! Jesus knows that all of us need a close spiritual friend.

  1. Describe the power and authority Jesus gave His disciples.

Look over the personality traits and characteristics of the twelve apostles listed below.

Pair

1st Apostle

Characteristics

2nd Apostle

Characteristics

1

Peter

A businessman; regularly in a position of leadership

Andrew

Peter’s brother; highly sensitive to God’s leading; overshadowed by his brother

2

James
(son of Zebedee)

Left a successful family business to follow Jesus; 1st apostle martyred

John
(son of Zebedee)

Fiery temper and profound love for God

3

Philip

Never quite one of the inner circle; took a leadership role among lesser-known apostles

Bartholomew

Known for his outspoken honesty

Pair

1st Apostle

Characteristics

2nd Apostle

Characteristics

4

Thomas

A skeptical rationalist who eventually had one of the most profound theological understanding of Jesus’ identity as God-man

Matthew

The tax collector (a traitor to his own people to support himself); became a missionary to his own people by writing his Gospel

5

James
(son of Alphaeus)

Either younger, shorter, or less well-known than the other James; faithful throughout his life but never given much recognition for it

Thaddeus

Aka Judas, son of James; often confused with Judas Iscariot; didn’t develop much of his own reputation

6

Simon the Zealot

Before accepting Christ, a guerilla fighter who wanted to bring in God’s Kingdom by force

Judas Iscariot

Betrayer of Jesus; love of money and power drew him to abandon and betray even his closest friends

[8]

  1. Which apostle(s) can you identify with? Why?

Luke 9:3-4

(See also Matthew 10:5b-13)        Provision

(Read division verses aloud)

The disciples were to go as Jesus did … without material provisions. He was teaching them to not only trust God for the power and authority to heal and exorcise, but to trust Him in everything, including their own daily strength, food, and shelter. Jesus wanted the 12 to focus on who they represented as they ministered to those in need. If they could make His Kingdom their sole focus, the Father would provide their daily needs through those they ministered to.

  1. What specific commands did Jesus give the 12 on this mission? (See Matthew passage)
  2. What attitude did Jesus instruct them to adopt? (See Matthew 10:8)
  3. Where did Jesus tell them to go (Matthew), and why? (See Ephesians 2:14 for help.)

Luke 9:5-6

(See also Matthew 10:12-15)        Resolution

(Read division verses aloud)

Just as rejection and hostility confronted Jesus, the disciples too, should not expect to be welcomed everywhere. Jesus specifically prepared them to not take rejection personally. When they met with hostility, Jesus told them to shake the dust off their feet when they left. And, He told them things would go better for Sodom and Gomorrah on the Day of Judgment than for those who have heard the Gospel and rejected it.

  1. Jesus’ warning about the Day of Judgment is a sobering thought. Do you think it is possible to study the Bible and yet reject the truth of the Gospel? Explain your position.

Engage

Jesus sent the 12 out on a mission to proclaim the good news … what are we doing with this good news? In our comfortable, modern lifestyles, have we become hoarders of all the blessings we have received from God? Have we become comfortable with our little sins? Have we forgotten that it does not require great, public sins to separate a soul from God for eternity? Have we convinced ourselves we can go on hearing without believing, listening without repenting, or going to church without going to Christ, and still be OK with God?

  1. What sin in your life needs to be laid at the foot of the cross?
  2. Will you turn it over to Jesus, today?

Prayer

Possible prayer points:

Jesus, reveal the sins I have hidden so well in my heart that I myself don’t even recognize them anymore. Help me rid myself of my insensitivity and numbness so that I can live fully alive and joyously in your boundless love and compassion. Train me to serve you by serving others as I learn to lean on you moment-by-moment.


Session 4: The Uncommon Encounter

Acts 9:1-19

Ice Breaker

If you had to pick one thing in your life (aside from your salvation!) that has made the greatest difference, what would it be?

Discussion:

Saul, Saul! Why are you persecuting me?

Acts 9:4b

If you ever have doubts about God’s providence, think about Saul. The last thing Saul ever intended to do was to become a Christian. His conversion was the direct result of a most uncommon encounter with Jesus … an encounter that not only involved his conversion, but a very specific commission as well. And, that truth applies to every believer. Once we come to Jesus, we become His ambassadors with the responsibility and high privilege of representing Him to everyone we meet.

Acts 21:37-39        Who Was Saul?

Acts 22:27-29

Acts 22:2-3

Acts 26:4-5

Acts 23:6

Acts 26:9-11

  1. According to the scriptures above, who was Saul? What was his cultural heritage? How many languages did he speak? To which of the ruling religious leadership groups did he belong? What new information about Saul did you discover?

Acts 9:1-2        The Hunter

(Read division verses aloud)

Saul loathes the idea that Jesus could be the promised Messiah and is committed to annihilating His followers. He has written authority from Caiaphas, High Priest (the same Caiaphas), to travel to Damascus, approximately 135 miles northeast of Jerusalem to hunt down believers, arrest them, and bring them to Jerusalem for justice. He has no regard for men or women … all are equally guilty and deserving of punishment.

  1. How do you think Saul’s position as a Pharisee, his claim to be a Hebrew born of Hebrews, and his presence at the stoning of Stephen motivated him to exhibit such vehemence toward Christians?
  2. Read Deuteronomy 21:23 with 1 Corinthians 1:22-23 and discuss how Jesus’ crucifixion was a stumbling block to Jews.

Acts 9:3-9        The Uncommon Encounter

(Read division verses aloud)

Spurred on by seething murderous thoughts, Saul is stopped dead in his tracks just outside Damascus. A blinding light flashes, knocking him from his horse. Even more disconcerting, he hears a voice asking him Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? Confused, Saul asks who is speaking. He is astonished by the response, I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting.

  1. Can you draw an analogy between the blinding light which left Saul unable to see and his life up to that point?
  2. Has the light of the Gospel caused the appeal of other things in your life to dim?
  3. Why do you think Jesus identified Himself by His earthly name instead of His divinity?

Jesus tells Saul to continue to Damascus and await further instructions.

  1. What additional information do we learn about Jesus’ purpose for Paul in Acts 26:16-18?

So, the fire-breathing terrorist ends up being led by the hand into the city he had intended to terrorize.

Acts 9:10-19        The Uncommon Assignment

(Read division verses aloud)

While Saul, convinced of the truth that Jesus is the Christ, spends the next few days fasting and praying, Ananias, one of the Christian leaders in Damascus receives a highly uncommon assignment. In a vision, Ananias is told to go to Saul of Tarsus and lay his hands on him so that Saul can regain his sight. Surely Ananias must have shaken his head, or pinched himself to see if he was in his right mind. Saul? THE Saul? Are you sure you have the right man, Lord? When the Lord assures him He’s got it right, that Saul is His chosen instrument to take My name to Gentiles, kings, and Israelites, Ananias obeys. This is courageous obedience. More than likely, Ananias’ name was on Saul’s extradition list.

  1. What lessons can we learn from God’s call to Ananias and his attitude?
  2. Can you think of a time when you felt called to do something that made no rational sense whatsoever? How did you respond?

We are not told much about Saul’s thoughts during those three days as he waited for Ananias. He must have been overwhelmed with new insights into how he had persecuted the Son of God. How wrong he had been in his convictions. At the same time, he may also have harbored some degree of fear and uncertainty about his own safety. Here he was, in enemy territory, completely unable to defend himself. What joyous relief he must have felt when Ananias’ first words to him were Brother Saul

  1. What can we learn from the interaction between Ananias and Saul that helps us deal with difficult people in our own lives?

Engage

There is no such thing as an ordinary or common encounter with Jesus. Jesus divides time and separates life from death. Isaiah 9:2 says, The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. When Saul was persecuting Christians, he was in spiritual darkness. Blinded by the light on the road to Damascus, he saw truth. Saul’s spiritual transformation reminds us that no one is beyond the love of Christ. Light is a special manifestation of divine presence and glory.

  1. What are you doing with the light that has shone in your life?

Prayer

Possible prayer points:

Jesus, shine your Light ever brighter in my life. Help me lean on you for insight and guidance; show me how you want me to be an ambassador of truth; counter my doubt with flashes of light and focus my efforts with a laser beam of purpose.


Select Bibliography

1.        Ryle, J.C., Luke. The Crossway classic commentaries, ed. A. McGrath and J.I. Packer. 1993, Wheaton: IL: Crossway Books.

2.        Hughes, R.K., Luke: That you may know the truth, in Preaching the word commentary series, R.K. Hughes, Editor. 2014, Crossway: Wheaton, IL.

3.        Bock, D.E., NIV application commentary: Luke. 1996, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

4.        Butler, T.C., Luke, in Holman New Testament commentary (Vol. 3), M. Anders, Editor. 2000, Broadman & Holman Publishers: Nashville, TN.

5.        Meyer, F.B., Matthew to John. Vol. V. 1918, Philadelphia, PA: American Sunday-School Union.

6.        Burge, G.M., NIV application commentary: John. 2000, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

7.        Gangel, K.O., John, in Holman New Testament commentary (Vol. 4), M. Anders, Editor. 2000, Broadman & Holman Publishers: Nashville, TN.

8.        Wilkins, M.J., NIV application commentary: Matthew. 2004, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Revision Date: October 25, 2018                Page  of 14