Were you born on third base?
(This article can also we found on our website
at http://www.bethelkingston.com under the tab called "Blog")
This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
What base were you born on? “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.” (Barry Switzer) This was a statement tagged on to George Bush Junior. Bush was born intelligent, healthy, handsome, tastefully wealthy, with the best social and school connections and a lust for adventure, to a mother and father who taught him the virtue of public service.
So what base were you born on?
What are the criteria for how you answer that question?
How does travelling overseas and seeing how many others live impact your answer?
A look at our text
Our text this past Sunday was Luke 5:17-26. Read it and become familiar with the flow, emotion, tension and message. The story begins with the cameras focusing in on third base. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law, in comparison to the paralytic, were “third base” guys. The paralytic on the flying carpet is not even on base. Perhaps he is outside the stadium begging for some loose change. Jesus is the umpire calling balls and strikes. What I love about this story is that Jesus (once again) takes someone who has no doubt been marginalized, and brings them into the center of the story.
Who are these third base guys?
The Pharisees had, earlier in their history, helped the Jews maintain the purity of their religion by teaching how the Mosaic Law and the traditions that grew up along side it ought to be applied in daily life. But many of them became rigid, imbalanced, and hypocritical (cf. comments on 11:37-54).
The "teachers of the law" were not a religious party, like the Pharisees, though most of them were also Pharisees. They were respected as having expert knowledge of the details of the Jewish legal tradition and so would be expected to form an opinion about the correctness of Jesus' teaching.
Comment about the friends of this paralytic man. What do you admire about them? Who was instrumental in bringing you to Christ? What were the biggest barriers that your friends had to help you work through in order to come to Christ?
On Sunday I talked about forgiveness and what this text teaches us about this issue.
1. God forgives, and forgiveness deals with the root issue of our broken world.
Note how the beginning of this story only allows us to see the physical, yet Jesus sees a much deeper issue. What are the words in the first four verses that demonstrate that Jesus sees a much deeper problem? What role did the faith of the friends play in this story? What must have Jesus seen in the faith of the paralytic to forgive him?
Read the story that follows (Luke 5:27-32) and comment on how forgiveness defines the central ministry of Jesus.
One observation worth noting in our story is that the Pharisees were present. This is the group that Jesus had to scold for making religion all about outward appearances. He explained (Matt 5-7) that true righteousness is a matter of the heart and not external religious practices alone. What they witnessed in this story went to the heart of the matter! Forgiveness always does.
Forgiveness means to cancel a debt, to send something away, to let go or release, as in Psalm 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”
2. Only God can truly deal with the sin issue
While we may be critical of the third base guys, they do make a good point. Check out what they are thinking in v.21. They accused Jesus of blasphemy (sacrilege, irreverence) for misleading the people and claiming to forgive sin. Discuss how Jesus handles their thoughts. Discuss what he does and what he says. What was his point?
To appreciate the statement “Son of Man” you need to understand the context of this title. We often think that it just refers to Jesus’ humanity. However, it is a multifaceted title that also references His deity. The Pharisees and teachers of the law would have known the context of this title and the well-known Jewish text that it was associated with it, Daniel 7, predicting the coming of the Messiah. It is a title that makes bold claims about his messianic mission. As one writer says, it declares that the messiah would be divine. This is why, in Mark 14:62, the high priest is irate at Jesus calling himself the Son of Man. Its messianic connection and reference to deity made the religious leaders accuse Jesus of blasphemy. You don’t get accused of blasphemy for declaring to be a mere human being.
My big idea on Sunday was: Jesus can forgive, don’t forget it!
Do you think these guys on third base ever forgot it? Did they become followers (mere speculation but interesting to discuss because for some, no amount of evidence will cause them to come to faith)?
What about the paralytic? Did he ever forget this day? Do you think he ever questioned God’s goodness in forgiving him? What’s the greatest miracle as we watch this man walk off toward his town?
On Sunday I concluded with several questions, asking if we ever forget that God can forgive sin. Think through these questions and discuss and then take some time to respond in prayer.
Have you forgotten?
Do you live with the shame of your sin even though you have asked for God’s forgiveness? If so, maybe you have forgotten.
Do you at times find yourself attempting to earn God’s forgiveness, which he has already told you is a free gift? If so, maybe you have forgotten.
Do you try to bury your sense of guilt or shame with busyness or drugs, alcohol? If so, maybe you have forgotten.
Are you attempting to deny or justify various actions, all in an attempt to deal with your own sin? If so, maybe you have forgotten.
Do you refuse to forgive those who have sinned against you? If so, maybe you have forgotten.
Are you allowing your own sin to shape you, limit you, taunt you, play over and over again in your mind, making you feel like a second class citizen? If so, maybe you have forgotten.
Do you feel that God would in no way forgive you? If so, maybe you have forgotten.
Perhaps you have not forgotten but have never been told. The majority in this story had never been told, until this day, that Jesus forgives.
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