STUDY | Spend the week studying Matthew 15:1–20 and Mark 6:1–6. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | Which discussion points and study questions will work best for your group.
PRAY | Pray for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members, and their openness to God’s Word.
LANDING POINT | Give me faith to stand for truth with a heart full of love.
Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion
- Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
- No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
- No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
- Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
To say that Jesus is the only way to salvation is, in a word, offensive to many. When you say that God’s Word is absolutely true and applicable to everyone, you may be regarded as narrow-minded, naïve or even arrogant. Such is life in our world today.
So, what are we to do? We shouldn’t try to offend others, and yet people seem to be easily offended by truth. Thankfully, we have a model for how to handle those who oppose the truth. Jesus encountered people who took offense to many of His statements. He took a stand for truth, even when that meant offending others. Jesus loved people where they were at, but He loved them too much to not tell them the truth.
Q: Why is it offensive to some to say that Jesus is the only way to salvation?
Q: Recall a time when you loved someone enough to tell them the truth.
Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.
WHAT DEFILES A PERSON
The Pharisees were the religious leaders in Jesus’s day. They were the rule-keepers, and Jews revered them for their piety. Jesus and the Pharisees didn’t get along. Jesus came with a message of grace and forgiveness. The Pharisees were more concerned with following every letter of the law, sometimes to ridiculous degrees.
On one occasion, the Pharisees criticized Jesus and His disciples for not following the tradition of the elders by washing before they ate. This angered Jesus, and He responded with a sharp rebuke: “Why do you put your tradition above the commandments of God? You bunch of hypocrites! You honor God with your lips but your heart is far from Him. Your worship is meaningless because you teach the traditions of men like they were the commands of God.”
Of course, Jesus’s words didn’t sit well with the Pharisees. When the disciples told Jesus that the Pharisees took offense at what he said, Jesus didn’t capitulate to them; He didn’t back down from the truth. He said, “Let them be. They are blind guides leading blind people into a pit.” Peter didn’t understand, and asked Jesus to explain what He meant. So, Jesus told him, “Having unwashed hands doesn’t defile you. Whatever someone says, thinks or does comes from their heart. It’s what comes out of the heart that defiles a person.”
READ: Matthew 15:1–20. What was Jesus’s main issue with the Pharisees?
Q: What happens to a community where traditions are valued more than love and mercy?
A PROPHET WITHOUT HONOR
There was another time when Jesus traveled with His disciples to his hometown in Nazareth. When He preached in the synagogue, many were amazed by Him. They said to one another, “Isn’t this Jesus the carpenter, Joseph and Mary’s boy? We know His family. We watched Him grow up.”
These people in Jesus’s hometown were offended by Him. That much is understood in their skeptical—if not derogatory—tone towards Him. How could this simple carpenter speak with such power, wisdom and insight? Jesus marveled at their unbelief and performed only a few miracles in Nazareth before moving on to another town.
The rejection Jesus experienced was no different than what the prophets of old experienced. Jesus was rejected in Nazareth, and it wouldn’t be long before He was rejected in Jerusalem and sentenced to death on the cross.
READ: Mark 6:1–6. Split into pairs and retell the story in your own words.
Q: What are some right ways to handle rejection? What are some wrong ways?
Select 2-3 questions from this section to answer.
STAND IN HIS LOVE
Jesus was God in human flesh. He came to invite others to experience a relationship with the Living God through Him. His message was love and forgiveness of sins, but unfortunately that message was rejected by many. It’s the same for you. Despite your best efforts as a disciple, there are some people who will be offended by you.
God wants you to take a stand for truth in the face of offense and opposition. But He wants you to take your stand in His love. The gospel will offend some, but your words and actions should never be offensive. They should always be delivered with gentleness, kindness and genuine care for the eternal soul of another person.
Q: Only God can change someone’s heart. Why is it important to remember this truth when confronted with someone’s offense?
Q: What are some practical ways you can deliver God’s truth with gentleness, kindness and a genuine care for someone’s eternal soul?
A GREAT PROMISE
Perhaps you know a friend or family member who is offended by Jesus. For years they have resisted the Spirit’s call to repent and turn to Jesus for salvation. The pain of their rejection is real, but God gives real hope for them, too! Romans 9:30–33 tells us that Jesus is a stumbling stone that offends others. People are offended by Jesus because He exposes the truth of their sin and their inability to save themselves. However, if anyone would but turn to Jesus in repentance and faith, this rock of offense would become a rock of salvation for them.
Q: Think of someone who now resists Jesus. Pray for God to change their heart and lead them to repentance and faith.
Q: What’s one area in your life where you need to turn to Jesus in repentance and faith?
Select 1 question from this section to ask your group.
FAITH TO TRUST
What if you feel offended by God? You question His goodness because you asked Him to do something and He didn’t do it. You doubt whether He’s trustworthy because He allows things to happen that you think are unfair or unjust. It could be losing your job unexpectedly, having a child die too young, experiencing the betrayal of a friend or watching a loved one suffer through a debilitating disease.
Just because God doesn’t do what we ask Him to do doesn’t change His character. What He does might seem offensive to you. It might cause you pain and grief. And you’re often left to sit in the mystery of His ways rather than have answers. But this may be the place where God wants you, because it’s only there that you can give yourself entirely to Him in trust.
Even when your experiences make you wonder if God is really good and trustworthy, you can exercise faith. You can take a stand for God’s truth in yourself.
Q: Have you ever doubted whether God is good or trustworthy? Explain.
Q: What does it look like to take a stand for God’s truth in yourself?
Pray to the Father for you to respond to offense with grace and truth like Jesus. Be honest about any areas where you have yet to give yourself entirely to Him in trust.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
- Read 1 Peter 2:1–12 and reflect on how Jesus is both a precious stone and a rock of offense.
- Ask the group to share any stories or lessons learned where they see God at work in their lives.
Extending the Law
“Ritual hand washing was not a requirement for Jews before every meal, but the Pharisees were trying to extend the level of purity demanded of priests (cf. Exod. 30:17–21) to the entire people of Israel.”1
Sacrifice Replaced by Mercy
“Jesus’s logic here parallels His use of Hos. 6:6 in Matt. 9:13 and 12:7, in which sacrifice has replaced mercy. How much church attendance and ‘Christian’ activity preoccupy believers today with things they assume please God yet without ever really ministering materially or spiritually to the desperately needy people of our world? How much of our money is tied up in church buildings or spent only on programs and activities to make ourselves happy rather than caring for the hurting in our midst and across the globe?”2
Rejected Again in Nazareth
Another account of Jesus being rejected in Nazareth occurs in Luke 4:16–30. On this occasion, the people were so offended by Jesus that they wanted to throw Him down a cliff.
Miracles and Faith
“We need to consider the purpose of Jesus’ miracles. They pointed to His claims of divinity and his offer of salvation. Some people would not believe, even if Jesus raised a person from the dead. Doing a miracle in these circumstances could only harden hearts and make a mockery of the gracious God who heals physically and spiritually.
While it is not ‘faith’ that heals, the presence of faith does have positive effects. And the opposite is also true. The absence of faith hinders receptivity to God and his activity. Healing takes place in many different forms in the Bible regardless of the faith of the person involved, but healing is never granted as a reward for having enough faith. For example, Luke recounts the story of Jesus seeing a dead man being carried away. He was the only child of a widow. Jesus raised the young man with no evidence of the faith of the widow, the crowds, or the dead man (Luke 7:11–15).”3
1. D. A. Carson, “The Gospels and Acts,” in NIV Zondervan Study Bible: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 1961.
2. Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 239.
3. Rodney L. Cooper, Mark, vol. 2, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 100–101.