Scriptures
Isaiah 50:4-9; James 3:1-12; Mark 8:27-38

Open your mind and heart as you read the passage of Scripture aloud and then again quietly to
yourself. Listen for God’s word to you.

NB During this time, take up your cross and offer anointing, prayer and healing to those who need it during the discussion time, whether physical, financial, relational, spiritual etc. As a group and as individuals, step out of the box for Jesus.

Observation
Isaiah 50:4-9
This passage, Isaiah’s third Servant Song emphasizes the cost of being faithful to God’s call on His people’s lives and His vindication of such loyalty. Christ speaks here in the name of all believers. Verses 4-5 speak of God’s calling. The obedient servant speaks out the message he is given and offers support to those who are disillusioned and exhausted; but she also listens to and hears both God and the people. In both cases, it is God who gives and enables this calling to be fulfilled. Verse 6 is the pivotal verse, describing the faithful servant’s suffering at the hands of his enemies.

Isaiah wrote these words during the exile of Israel and the servant could have been rejected and physically beaten by both those in power and those who were exiled. In this instance the servant chooses to accept the conflict produced by his obedience in delivering the message he has received. As in verses 4-5, verses 7-9 speak of the Lord as the One who vindicates the honour of the servant.

God empowers those who follow Him and maintains the servant’s righteous name, sustaining their confidence and hope in the midst of suffering.

James 3:1-12
James warns teachers to be careful what they say, for misguided teaching may easily lead people astray. James expands on the power of the tongue by comparing it to the bit in a horse’s mouth and the rudder of a ship. Even though they are small, the tongue, the bit and the rudder determine the direction to be travelled. The tongue can be as destructive as fire and do irreparable damage. James is warning that careless or misguided words are capable of doing great damage to the body of believers. But whilst the tongue can be dangerous, it is also an instrument of praise. Christ- followers should be careful they use their tongues to honour God and encourage others.

Mark 8:27-38
Jesus took His disciples to an area beyond Galilee known as Balinas (modern day Banias) which
was a place where the god Baal was worshipped. On the hillside was a cavern which was believed to be the birth place of the god Pan. Higher up was a white marble temple which Philip had built in praise of Caesar the Roman Emperor who was considered to be a god. One of the sources of the River Jordan, so meaningful to the Jewish people, gushed out of a cave on the hillside.

Here, surrounded by places where false gods were worshipped, on the banks of the Jordan with its strong reminder of the history of the Jewish people, Jesus asked His disciples ‘Who do people say I am?’ Then, in response to their answers He asks, ‘But what about you?’ This event takes place in the middle of the Gospel of Mark. It is as if Jesus knows matters are coming to a head and He wants to find out whether His message has touched those who follow Him. So He asks His twelve closest companions. Peter gives His answer and Jesus knows He has passed His message on.

The command to be quiet about this revelation seems strange, but there was more to Jesus’ message than just recognising Him as the Anointed One of God. Jesus had to teach these ordinary men what His coming as the Messiah meant, for the Jewish concept of the Messiah was far removed from who He actually was. Their picture was of a Messiah who would come and violently conquer all the nations (ie any nation that was not Jewish) so everyone but the Jews would be destroyed. Jesus knew He had to teach a totally new idea to His followers.

When Peter denied that Jesus would suffer in the way that He was describing to them, Jesus
immediately stopped him. Often it is a well-meaning friend who tries to change a person’s mind. Someone who loves us can stop us from following God’s call and command on our lives.

Peter spoke words of encouragement and then, moments later tried to dissuade Jesus – the Man he loved and followed – that God’s plan would not take place.

Jesus went on to give the requirements for membership in the kingdom of heaven to those who
wanted to follow Him. The idea of suffering was not popular then and it is not popular now. It is only in putting aside self, says Jesus that the way opens to spiritual life. A true disciple is willing to put up with shame in the world’s eyes to receive the eternal reward God offers.

Icebreaker:
What is the bravest thing you have ever done for Jesus? What was the result?

Application
• On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 all compartments of your life amalgamated and 1 different
compartments being clearly defined) how would you rate the compartments in your life?
Where there is separation (eg on the soccer field or in the office and in church on a Sunday)
why do you think that happens for you? How do you feel about living on the soccer field or in
the workplace as the person you present to the congregation on a Sunday? What difference
would it make to who you are and how others see you?
• As a Christ-follower, what is the ministry of your healing? What do you do to grow the
kingdom of heaven? How do you help others see and follow Christ?
• How well do you listen? Share a time when you knew you were heard well. How did that
make you feel? How has it affected your own listening? If this has never happened for you,
what would you like to say now so the group can listen and let you know you are heard? How
does that make you feel?
• Are you willing to step out of the box for Jesus and take up your own ministry of healing in
whatever shape that may have? Why/why not? How do you feel about doing so? What, if
anything, holds you back?
• How can the group help you with the struggles you have mentioned during this session?

Prayer
Lord God, may we hear your call on our lives and respond according to Your will, so You can use
our brokenness to bring healing to others. Empower us and our leaders that we may be strong, able and willing to stand up for truth and right. Show us the way, Lord, and help us to bring healing to Your people.

Pray for one another in regard to the issues that have been raised during your discussion time, and in regard to other needs of the group.

Service
In the coming week, look for ways to offer healing to those around you – by listening so they feel heard, by encouraging so they are filled with hope, by feeding so they are satisfied, by empowering so they can, in turn, help others. Report back next week and tell the group what happened.

Bibliography
Adeyomo, Tokunhoh, et al. Africa Bible Commentary. WordAlive Publishers, Nairoi, Kenya, 2006 Barclay, William. The Gospel of Mark. The Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh 1981
https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=23&c=50 https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/ordinary-24-2/commentary-on-
isaiah-504-9a-5

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