God Wants Us to Value Everyone

Explore the Bible Series

January 20, 2008

 

Background Passages: Genesis 1:27; 9:6; Matthew 5:21-22; 22:36-40; Mark 10;46-52

Lesson Passages: Genesis 1:27; 9:6; Matthew 5:21-22; 22:36-40; Mark 10:46-52

 

Introduction: Jesus lived in a society torn by strife.  Romans occupied Judea and Galilee, and the Jews chafed under the oppressive heel of their political masters.  Various underground groups, like the Zealots, undermined the Romans any way possible: passive resistance, sabotage, and violence.  Other Jews made the best of a bad situation and cooperated, in some ways, with their Roman oppressors.  In fact, the author of Matthew, before he became a follower of Jesus, complied with Roman occupation by collecting taxes from his Jewish countrymen.  This kind of political tension poisoned the social climate of the entire region.

 

In addition to the tensions between Jews and Romans, this region was rife with intramural discord.  Some of the conflict was ethnic and regional. Jews hated Samaritans. Samaritans disliked and distrusted Jews, as well.  Other tensions centered on religious and theology issues. Pharisees and Sadducees imposed unbearable burdens on the population and engaged in constant theological wrangling which confused and troubled sincere worshippers.  The Essenes rejected their co-religionists and lived in isolated, separatistic communities in the Dead Sea region.  All of these groups judged, attacked, and insulted one another, immersing their culture in a seething cauldron of hatred and distrust.  These groups devalued and demeaned their Jewish brothers.

 

The Lord Jesus offered his followers a different way.  Everywhere he went, Jesus treated people with dignity and compassion; indeed, he elevated and affirmed the lowly, the poor, the outcast, the sinful, and the helpless.  Age, economic status, gender, ethnic background, social standing; these things meant little to Jesus.  He cared for the poor, defended the oppressed, invited the young, healed the infirmed, affirmed the alien, welcomed the outcast, forgave the failing, and loved the unlovable.

 

 

Outline of Lesson Passages:

 

I.                   The Sanctity of Human Life (Genesis 1:27 and 9:6)

A.    The creation of mankind (Genesis 1:27): The first two chapters of Genesis record two accounts of the creation of man, one story building on the other.  In Genesis One, the more general statement, the author provided a clear, concise affirmation of God’s special concern with the creation of mankind, male and female.  In addition, this verse asserts the unique nature of humans, made in the image of God.  Chapter Two expands the story. God formed man from the dust of the earth and blew the breath of life into Adam’s nostrils, and man became a living soul. In time, God determined that man should not be alone, and, according to the text, the Lord fashioned Eve from the rib of Adam.  Both accounts affirm the Lord’s special creative concern for the human race.

B.     God’s judicial affirmation of the value of human life (Genesis 9:6): In the aftermath of the Flood, God allowed Noah’s descendants to eat meat, but he forbade the consumption of blood.  As an extension of the prohibition on consuming blood, God endowed man with judicial authority to take the life of murderers.  The Mosaic Code makes clear that this passage does not condone personal vigilantism; rather, God invested civil governments with authority to execute murders.  Capital punishment is a complex issue that deserves greater treatment than this forum can provide; however, Christians should devote thoughtful, prayerful consideration to this important subject.

 

II.                Anger and Murder (Matthew 5:21-22): These verses appear in the Sermon on the Mount, in a section devoted to Jesus’ challenge to the Pharisaical interpretation of the Mosiac Law.  Six times, the Lord corrected the misinterpretations that characterized the teaching of the religious authorities, each challenge beginning with “You have heard that it has been said…” or some variation. The first challenge related to the Pharisees’ interpretation of the Sixth Commandment (See Exodus 20:13). 

A.    The Sixth Commandment (v. 21):  The Pharisees rightly understood that God forbade murder, but the text implies that they misunderstood the root of murder. 

B.     Jesus’ correction of the Pharisees’ misunderstanding (v. 22):  The Lord understood that murder, like all sin, grows from the heart, and he made three applications of his point.

1.      “everyone who is angry with his brother…”: Murder grows from an angry heart, and God demands that Christians deal with murder at its very root. 

2.      “whoever insults his brother…”: This verse prohibits the use of foul, abuse insults hurled at someone in anger.

3.      “whoever says, ‘You fool’…”: this word (”Raca”) is difficult to translate.  It denotes emptiness, and it may mean to speak to someone as if they have little value; that is, they are without weight or significance.  Each of these sinful impulses of the heart carries serious consequences.  Ultimately, Jesus compared the angry person to the city garbage dump near First-Century Jerusalem. The Valley of Hinnom (“Gehenna”) served as the refuse heap of the ancient city; smoldering, reeking, repulsive. Hateful lives, in time, degenerate into a seething, stench-filled garbage piles. Ultimately, the garbage heap symbolizes the possibility of eternal judgment of those who persist in hatred and anger.

 

 

 

III.             The Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40)

A.    A challenge to Jesus’ authority (vv. 34-36): During Passion Week, the religious leaders in Jerusalem intensified their efforts to snare Jesus in his words. To that end, a group of Pharisees approached the Lord to ask him a question concerning the Law.  An expert in the Mosiac Code served as spokesman for the group, and he asked the Lord to identify the greatest commandment. This question characterized many of the rabbinic debates of Jesus’ day.

B.     Jesus’ answer to the lawyer (vv. 37-40): The Lord answered the query about the Law by quoting the Law (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18).  The substance of the Law, Jesus said, was summarized in the commands to love God and love one’s neighbor.

 

IV.             Jesus’ Concern for a Blind Beggar (Mark 10:46-52)

A.    The Lord’s encounter with Bartimaeus (vv. 46-47): As Jesus and the disciples entered Jericho, on their way to Jerusalem, a large crowd attended the Savior. The scene must have generated great, intense energy.  From the periphery of the crowd, a persistent, annoying voice interrupted the agenda of the crowd.  An unimportant man, a blind beggar, insisted that his Jesus’ hear his plea for mercy and healing.

B.     The angry response of the crowd (v. 48): The intolerant crowd grew agitated with the relentless cries of Bartimaeus, and the impatient horde sharply rebuked (translates a very strong verb that denotes demeaning, sharp, abusive language) the outcast man.  The people clearly saw this man and his petition as insignificant. Bartimaeus, undeterred by their rebukes, cried all the more for mercy.

C.     The Lord’s response to Bartimaeus (vv. 49-52): Jesus, for a few moments, turned his attention from the agenda of the crowd and centered his full attention on this poor man.  Jesus invited Bartimaeus to come near and make his request.  The poor man bounded to his feet, came near Jesus, and asked the Lord to grant him sight.  Jesus, moved by the man’s faith, healed the blind man, and Bartimaeus joined the entourage as they followed Jesus.

 

 

Points for Discussion:

1.      What common theme ties together the lesson passages?

2.      How do these texts relate to Sanctity of Life Sunday? 

3.      While most evangelical Christians would agree on the abortion issue, do the principles of sanctity of life extend to other issues?  If so, how?