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As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in most marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.

~Mark 12:38-40

Lesson28-image001Materials Needed: Whiteboard or easel.

Notes to the Leader: It is amazing to see how quickly Jesus was proclaimed the King and within just a few days, hung on a cross to die. With this study, you will look at the last week of Christ’s life and try to understand our Savior’s impassioned pleas to His people. The study concluded with a format of open discussion centered around what it means to be a Christian. If you are looking for a study to open up your group and practice sharing opinions in a constructive and open forum, then you might want to consider this study.

Section One: Christ Makes His Triumphant Entry

Read Mark 11:1-11 to your group. Christ was now only eight days from the cross. He would literally go from being praised as King to cursed, condemned and crucified. This must be the world’s record for the fastest drop in popularity.

Now read Zechariah 9:9. They knew He was their Messiah (vv 9-10).

Why was their joy and faith so shallow and short lived?

  • They had the wrong idea of what the Messiah would bring. They expected worldly victory, Christ was bringing victory of another world.
  • The people did not understand God’s word directly. As a result, the Pharisees were able to turn them against Christ.
  • Mankind’s history is to pursue the God he wants rather than the God that is.
  • Help your group understand Passion Week. Have your group read selected Scripture verses from Mark. Then discuss the events as you draw a form of the following information:
  • Day of Week Scripture Events
  • Sunday Mark 11:11 Triumphal entry, visit to temple
  • Monday Mark 11:12-25 Fig tree cursed, temple cleansed
  • Tuesday Mark 11:27-13:37 Controversy in temple, Olivet discourse
  • Wednesday Mark 14:1-11 Anointing in Bethany, plot of traitor
  • Thursday Mark 14:12-72 Passover & Last Supper, Gethsemane, Jewish Trial
  • Friday Mark 15:1-47 Trial before Pilate, crucifixion & burial
  • Saturday Mark 16:1-14 Resurrection

Now lets look that some of the events of that week.

Section Two: A Nation Without Fruit

Have someone in your group read Mark 11:12-14.

Christ is God and, therefore, must have known the fig tree had no fruit. It wasn’t even the season for figs. To curse it was not a petty action on Christ’s part. It was to be symbolic of Israel (who’s symbol was often a fig tree). Israel was a nation abounding in religious profession, but it was barren of the fruit of righteousness.

How is it that we the “Church” today can avoid this same kind of problem?

  • Each of us must first remember that today, we are the church. If each of us works to keep our lives focused upon Christ, He will make sure we bear fruit (John 15:1-2).
  • To measure ourselves by the same criteria Christ used, fruit.
  • To quote William Barclay: ” Christ’s condemnation was for:
    • Promise without fulfillment; and
    • Profession without practice.

Section Three: What is an Effective Prayer?

Have someone in your group read Mark 11:20-26.

Christ used the withered fig tree to teach each of us key elements necessary in prayer. What are they?

  • Faith, belief that God can do all things. (vv 22-24)
  • Forgiveness, both for our sins (forgiveness of God) and the sins of others against us (our forgiveness of others). (vv25-26)

Why do you think it is so important to forgive others?

  • It demonstrates our realization of what Christ did for us on the Cross (Ephesians 4:32).
  • It is necessary to obtain our own forgiveness from God (Matthew 6:14-15).

Section Four: The Defiled Temple

Have someone in your group read Mark 11:15-19, 27-33.

While we can see why Christ was so upset at the merchants, many churches today use bazaars, bingo, raffles, etc. to raise money.

How should we use this story of Christ and the money changers to avoid making similar mistakes?

  • Motives, motives, motives (Proverbs 21:2).
  • Seek God’s view for your plans (Proverbs 2:1-6).

Section Five: Christ’s Plan

Have someone in your group read Mark 12:1-12.

Christ defines His plan. What others were about to reject, Christ would build into His church. Because of our faith, it is hard for us to understand the rejection of Christ. However, Christians all over this world continue to reject Christ in other ways. Using a whiteboard or easel, work with your group to build a list of answers for the next two questions.

What are some of today’s excuses used for not attending church?

  • Too busy;
  • Church is boring;
  • Churches are full of hypocrites;
  • Churches are only after money.

What are some of the excuses used by non-Christians for not becoming a Christian?

  • I’m a good person;
  • Christians don’t have any fun;
  • I am happy with my life the way it is;
  • If God is love, He will welcome everyone.

Do you think that the people who use these excuses understand what Christianity really is? What is it to you?

  • My personal thoughts: “That I am loved by God and He has a plan for my life. But because I am, by my nature, a sinful being, I am separated from God. Christ is my only way to know God’s plan for me. Therefore, I have accepted Christ as my Lord.”

Section Six: Tricky Questions

Have someone in your group read Mark 12:13-37a.

While Christ’s opponents were trying to trap Him in a mistake of doctrine, Christ gave us some important lessons. What were they?

  • Government is recognized by God as necessary. We are, therefore, called by God to be good citizens and to be lawful in all we do. (vv14-17)
  • Do not search for full understanding within man’s intellect. We have a God of power that is beyond human understanding. In all things, remember God’s power is supreme. (vv18-27)
  • Christ simplifies all of the Law. In these passages are the essence of living a fruit-filled life. Christ was not redefining the Law, only re-focusing on God’s original commands (see Deuteronomy 6:4, Leviticus 19:18). (vv28-34)

Section Seven: The Warning

Have someone in your group read Mark 12:37b-44.

Christ was now focused on the followers of empty, formal, ritualistic religion. From His message discuss the following lessons for us:

What relevance can you derive from Christ’s words?

  • The leaders didn’t walk their talk. (v38)
  • Long prayers are not necessary. (v40) How do these affect others?
  • These were for the benefit of ego only, and not for communication with God. Therefore, they were of no value.
  • This discouraged others from praying.
  • Giving large amounts of money to the church to impress people or to gain favor and position is of no real interest to Christ. He was much more impressed with penny’s from the poor (vv 41-42).

Notes: This is a good point to shift your discussion to a current state of events. You may wish to use your group’s experiences at other churches or even your own church. Keep the discussion positive by focusing on what each person can do to minimize the problems that are discussed.

Discussion Points: Empty religion is of no interest to Christ. His measure is of the fruit, not the size of the tree but in how sweet the fruit is.

What are some of the ways spiritual dullness and hypocrisy could manifest themselves in a church?

What can each person do to prevent it?

  • Insulate ourselves and become a self-serving social club. Christ wants us to be active in the community and the world.
  • Let worship become entertaining rather than our humble response to the generosity of our great God.
  • Consider all other churches beneath us and wrong in their pursuit of Christ.
  • Fail to establish the Bible as the Word of God.
  • Believe that bigger means better.

What “fruit ” does God expect of us?

  • To be noticeably different than the non-Christian world.
  • To honor our God above all else and to do this unconditionally.
  • To begin each day with the desire to share the Gospel of Truth with someone and, if necessary, use words.
  • Place our trust, faith and hope in Christ.

What can keep us from bringing forth fruit?

  • Focusing on this world rather than the next.
  • To be unrepentant.
  • Failing to recognize the power and majesty of our great God.
  • Not turning our lives over to Christ.

Bible Truth Being Taught

You cannot worship our God with half a heart. He demands all that we are and to become to be placed in the hands of our Christ.

Our Response

To recognize that hypocrisy is abhorrent to the Lord and to avoid the pitfalls of empty religion. The Christian life is one that is constantly under construction, allowing God’s Spirit to produce the fruit within our lives.