Last night was the second of two bible studies that I got to lead while my boss is away. Last week went so well and I was excited to teach again. The bible study is the regular Jews for Jesus bible study on Tuesday nights, open to anyone. Usually there are about 12-15 people there and the people are as diverse as you might expect in New York. Some are Jews, some are Gentiles, some have been believers a long time, some not so long. Men, women, businessmen, students, manual laborers. It's a very diverse crowd. Before last week I had never taught a co-ed bible study before. I had led, kinda, women's studies, but always with my friends and not more than 5 or 6 of us. This was a whole new experience.
At Westminster I had taken a class on preparing a sermon, and another on how to counsel someone with the Word, but never on how to lead a bible study. Bible studies are not as personal and specific as counselling, but they also are more didactic than preaching. They are somewhere in the middle of these two forms. I have learned SO much these past two weeks in preparing for these bible studies. I studied the passage hard, looking at the Greek and what some others have said concerning the passage. And then I wrote out a general flow of where the study would go. I had the points I wanted to stress, the main message of the passage and some kind of movement into application. But as I learned last night, somethings are hard to plan for.
So last nights passage was an introduction to the parables, Mark 4:1-20. It was a difficult passage to begin with, one that opened up a lot of questions.
I had my flow chart ready. I knew the passage well and knew how to answer the questions that I thought would come up. And the questions did. I found it really hard to stay on my flow chart. To bring it back to the passage, to focus in on what the Lord would teach us out of this particular passage and not get caught up in the various side topics that could so easily distract us.
For all the frustration with my under-developed study leading skills, the Holy Spirit encouraged me beyond belief last night. I asked the group, What is the mystery of the kingdom of God? Jesus told his disciples that to them had been given the mystery of the kingdom, and it had NOT been given to the outsiders. So what was this mystery? Well, it was Christ Himself. Now, all that I went into the study prepared to share. But then as I was explaining it to the group, how Jesus is the mystery who has been given to us beleivers, the coolest thing happened. I was given an illustration to explain it that made the whole concept come to life. It has to do with puzzle pieces. Let me see if I can explain it again:
The Jews had been awaiting the Kingdom of God, when God's order would be restored to the whole earth through the ruling of Israel as the good King over the land. There would be the seed of David who would overthrow the oppressors and take the throne. And they waited with great expectations for this king. They had the puzzle in front of them, but the key piece, the Messiah, was missing and they were looking for him. The problem is that the key puzzle piece, who is Jesus, when put in the puzzle, redefines the whole puzzle. It is a glorious picture, but not what the Jews were expecting. So when Jesus showed up on the scene, He wasn't the piece they expected, he didn't make the puzzle look like what they thought the puzzle would look like. He is the mystery of the kingdom, and in order to see the kingdom as it really was, you have to trust that he is the missing piece. Once you place your faith in Him, you see the puzzle in all its glorious newness! You see the Kingdom of God is here, not as we had expected it, but better! The scribes denied that Jesus was the missing piece, all they heard in the parables were stories. Empty, foolish stories. But to those of us who recognize Jesus as the mystery of the kingdom, the parables are full of life.
Praise God for being in control of all things and giving us the words to say when we are teaching His people!