Tuesday, October 25, 2011

“Living as God's People” Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday October 30,2011

Purpose: To listen afresh to the voice of eternal wisdom

Scripture Text: Matthew 5:1-12

Matthew 5:1-12 (NRSV)
(1)When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. (2)Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
(3)“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.(4)“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (5)“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (6) “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (7)“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. (8)“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (9)“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (10) “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (11) “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. (12)Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

Our lessons on “Wisdom” now shift to the teachings of Jesus as found in His “Sermon on the Mount.” Our text comes from Matthew chapter 5. This is very early in Jesus' ministry and comes after Jesus learns of John the Baptist being imprisoned. Jesus returns to Galilee and to His home town of Nazareth, but He does not stay in Nazareth but chooses to go into the area of the Decapolis, originally 10 pagan cities near and on the Sea of Galilee. These cities all contained a high Gentile population and were primarily of Greeco-Roman culture. They had pagan temples, and other Roman structures. Our lesson comes after a series of events that makes Jesus a very popular teacher and healer. His fame had spread all the way to Syria. He had selected a group of young men to follow him, and our lesson may have been exclusively for them. The wording in verse 1 seems to imply that Jesus took His disciples away from the crowd and taught them.

Jesus seems to be teaching the disciples a new thought, not about keeping the letter of the law, as the Pharisees were trying to do, but rather some ground rules for living a righteous life, in contrast to what the scribes and Pharisees were teaching. The lesson Jesus was teaching His disciples was a detailed explanation of how a person should act after they have repented of their sins. If you go back to the previous chapter 4 verse 17b (17From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”) Jesus was not teaching repentance, but rather how one who has repented should live.

The “Law” that was given to and by Moses dealt with living responsibly before God and the community, they are well defined and somewhat easy to follow. The Blessings that Jesus relates to the disciples explains a path that can lead to true happiness both in this world and in His kingdom. The word translated “blessed” in our text, literally means “happiness.”

“Happiness” is somewhat subjective, we see people all the time that look like they are happy, only to find out latter they are hurting inside. We see people that seem to have what everybody else wants, but they are not “happy.” In contrast we see pictures or experience people that should have no reason to be happy, only to find out they are indeed happy even in their poverty.

What makes you happy? Take a moment and inventory your life, are there things you could do to increase your “happiness”? Does your “happiness” depend on you or others?

Jesus taught the disciples that happiness is available in all sorts of circumstances, most of which we would rather not experience. Happiness might best be experienced by sharing and giving to those that are without, or suffering for a greater cause. We know that giving generates more happiness than getting. Most of us can relate to the joy and happiness we get from giving to our children and grandchildren compared to the happiness and joy we get from receiving gifts from those same people.

However we should not miss the fact that some happiness may be delayed, and will only be experienced in the New Kingdom that we will share with Christ. Until then verses 13-16 of this chapter tells us we are to be “salt and light.” 13“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. 14“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

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