My friend Matt Williams, at Biola, has (re)produced a wonderful series of DVDs for adult Bible study contexts, and here is his summary of the lot:
The “Life of Jesus” in the Deeper Connections Bible study series is the fourth DVD and participant’s guide to be released by Rose/Hendrickson Publishing. Along with “The Last Days of Jesus” DVD, one has a 12-study overview of the main events and teachings from the life of Jesus, one of the most popular Bible classes in any Christian University. These studies, taught by top New Testament scholars, are now available for personal, church, and small group use. These studies are unique among many other DVD Bible studies in that they really emphasize three important aspects of good biblical teaching:
- Historical and cultural background
- An engaging, close look at the biblical text, and its meaning
- Accurate, encouraging, and challenging applications of the Bible’s message to life today
Here is the list of teachers:
Dr. Darrell Bock, Dallas Theological Seminary
Dr. Gary Burge, Wheaton College
Dr. Scott Duvall, Ouachita Baptist University
Dr. Susan Hecht, Denver Seminary
Dr. Mark Strauss, Bethel Seminary
Dr. Matt Williams, Biola University
The Life of Jesus DVD and participants guide covers the first six main lessons on Jesus’ life and ministry:
- Birthday Surprises—Birth of Jesus (Luke 2:1-16)
- John Prepares the Way—Baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:11-17)
- The Victorious Son of God—Temptation of Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11)
- Fishing with the Master—Jesus Calls Disciples (Luke 5:1-11)
- Diseases Conquered—Jesus Heals the Sick (Matthew 9:27-34)
- Defeating the Enemy—Jesus Casts Out Demons (Mark 1:21-28)
Each of the lessons begins with an introduction filmed on location in Israel in order to better understand the cultural and geographical background. Then the lesson switches to a creative location in the United States that helps bring out the main emphasis of the passage. So, for example, the baptism of Jesus is filmed next to a river in Little Rock, Arkansas; Jesus heals the sick is shot in the mountains of Colorado Springs, in a location that was thought to contain magical healing waters by native Americans.
I have successfully taught these studies to groups of people from the ages of junior high school all the way up to 80-year olds. I highly recommend these creative studies for any group that you might lead—and they are easy to lead: they are truly plug and play. Let the New Testament scholars teach your lesson with all of their experience: your group simply follows along in the participant’s guide, which allows one to take notes and highlights important points. The participants guide also contain a five-day personal Bible study to help one to reflect further on each lesson during the week.
The Baptism of Jesus
The “Life of Jesus” in the Deeper Connections Bible study series is the fourth DVD and participant’s guide to be released by Rose/Hendrickson Publishing. Here is a preview of the session about Jesus’s baptism.
The baptism of Jesus is easily misunderstood. We often understand this important event as Jesus simply going into the Jordan River and being baptized just like any other human being is baptized. What we fail to grasp is the deep significance of the meaning of God’s voice from heaven at Jesus’s baptism. The biblical text tells us that, “a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’” Without a deeper connection with the Old Testament, we fail to see that Jesus is telling us exactly who Jesus is, and what his mission will be as the Son of God. Let me explain.
God’s heavenly voice combines three Old Testament texts to tell us about Jesus and his mission:
- “You are my Son” comes from Psalm 2:7. Psalm 2 is a Royal Psalm, first applied to King David and probably read at the coronation of subsequent Davidic Kings. When we understand this background, we see that God the Father is identifying Jesus as a Sovereign King in the line of King David, the highest ideal in Judaism.
- “whom I love” comes from Genesis 22:2. Remember when God told Abraham, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love” and sacrifice him on the mountain? As that story unfolds, Isaac is spared and a ram is sacrificed instead. When God speaks to Jesus at his baptism with these words “whom I love,” he is stating that Jesus is the unique Son of God and as the Lamb of God will sacrifice himself for the sins of the people. Jesus will be offered as a sacrifice, just as Isaac was. Jesus will die as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). This is very important, and easy to miss if we do not grasp the Old Testament connection.
- “with you I am well pleased” – this phrase is taken from Isaiah 42:1, the first of four servant songs in Isaiah 42-53. Jesus as the Servant would accomplish his purpose through suffering, as prophesied in Isaiah 53:5: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
Using these three Old Testament texts at Jesus’ baptism, the Father indicates that Jesus, the promised King and Messiah is also the Suffering Servant who will sacrifice himself to conquer sin and death. How important is that deeper understanding!! Moving out of the Jordan River waters, Jesus knows his identity and his purpose! His teachings and actions throughout his ministry try to make these two facts known to the world: Jesus is the kingly Messiah, but a warrior king, rather, Jesus will be a suffering Servant King who dies on the cross for our sins. Amazing. Thank you, Jesus!
THE TEMPTATION OF JESUS
The “Life of Jesus” in the Deeper Connections Bible study series is the fourth DVD and participant’s guide to be released by Rose/Hendrickson Publishing. Here is a preview of the session about Jesus’s temptation.
I remember asking my son after church one week what he had learning at church that day. His reply, “Jesus was tempted by….that other guy.” I laughed. That was not the deeper meaning of the temptation that we should understand in this event. While we often understand this temptation simply as Jesus defeating Satan, and thus concluding that Jesus is our role model in our own temptations, we fail to see the deeper connections.
Jesus is tempted three different times, but the main issue in all three is that Satan is tempting Jesus about power. As we learned in the baptism event, Jesus is announced by God’s heavenly voice as the King, but a King who will suffer. In the temptation, Jesus is tempted to misuse his kingly powers. And Jesus’s successful rebuttal of Satan over power is the key lesson for us today: Will we use the resources God has given to us for self or for others? Will we accumulate power or will we distribute it? Will we be a nation or a person that serves or one that conquers? This is the root of Moses’ warning in Deuteronomy 8. He says, “Beware that you don’t say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand got me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God for he is the one who gives you power to get wealth” (8:17-18).Those who have much can wrongly think that their position is their own doing. The voice of Satan echoes through everyone’s history: We can sustain ourselves, we can protect ourselves, we can rule how we wish. But this is vanity and sin and hubris all wrapped up together. The desert forces us to see our empty hands, to realize that we must learn to depend on God, and that power belongs to him—and that power that is given to us should be held very carefully.
These temptations to power represent the truest voice of Satan, and they can be heard every day. And if we are to become like Christ, we need to develop an ear for hearing those temptations, identify them as Satanic, and defeat them. As James says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jam 4:7); or Peter, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith” (1 Pet 5:8-9).
How do we defeat these temptations? Keep in mind that in each of Jesus’s temptation, his response was the same. He used scripture, Deuteronomy 1-10. This is a solid strategy since we are defeating Satan not by our own resources but by the Word given to us in scripture. This is also God’s fight and our reach for scripture is the first evidence that we have learned our first lesson: That in temptation we rely on what God provides and not on our own resources. Like Jesus, we often find ourselves “in the desert,” but when temptation comes in the desert, we see that God powerfully stands by us, honing our faith through every one of our difficult experiences. May we, like Jesus, learn to see temptations for what they are: power encounters. And may we, like Jesus, learn to trust God in those situations, leaning upon the Scriptures and God’s power for victory.
JESUS CASTS OUT DEMONS
The “Life of Jesus” in the Deeper Connections Bible study series is the fourth DVD and participant’s guide to be released by Rose/Hendrickson Publishing. Here is a preview of the session about Jesus casting out demons.
When we begin to talk about spiritual warfare, Christians either overemphasis it, or underemphasize it. It is important to have a balanced and proper understanding of spiritual warfare, which is what the last lesson in “The Life of Jesus” tries to do in a lesson entitled, Jesus casts out demons. In this blog, I would like to quickly look at the deeper meaning of one power encounter between Jesus and an evil spirit in Capernaum, as recorded by Mark 1:21-28.
Mark tells us that a man “cried out” in the presence of Jesus, saying that the man has an “evil spirit.” Luke’s parallel says he was “possessed by a demon, an unclean spirit.” Just a few verses prior to this text, Jesus battled Satan himself in his temptations, now he battles Satan’s demonic forces. The battle takes place in the synagogue, the place where the people of God went to pray and worship God.
The demon tries to overpower Jesus in two ways. First, he says, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” What we often fail to understand is that this was a confrontational way of trying to get the other person to have nothing to do with you. It could be translated this way, “Go away and leave me alone!”
The demon then says, “I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” In the first century, they thought that if you knew someone’s name, you had power over them. So, it appears that the demon is trying to overpower Jesus by stating that he knows Jesus’s name. Of course, neither of these attempts works against Jesus. This demon has run into a more powerful foe.
The demon then asks, “Have you come to destroy us?” Judaism expected the Messiah to come and destroy Satan and demons at the end of the age. This demon is scared and knows he is in trouble.
Jesus takes command of the situation, “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” Let’s look at each of these phrases, as we can easily miss the deeper meaning.
“Be quiet!” can be translated as “Be bound.” Jesus is binding the demon from being able to do anything, including speaking. Jesus has absolute power and authority over the demonic realm.
“Jesus said sternly” was a technical phrase that was used to bring evil powers into submission. The NASB translates this phrase, “Jesus rebuked him.”
He then commands the demon to “Come out of him!” The word translated “come out” is from a Greek word from which we get the English word exorcism. While the English word exorcism often brings with it connotations of crazy possessed madmen who are foaming at the mouth (perhaps from the influence of Hollywood films), this term simply means “coming out.” So, Jesus is casting this demon out, or doing an exorcism.
Often the demons come out with no physical sign, though in this case, we see that the demon shook the man before it came out with a shriek. Luke’s parallel adds that the demon came out “without injuring him.” Jesus brings deliverance and freedom over the unseen demonic forces that bring suffering.
The text ends by saying that the Jewish people in the synagogue are not only amazed at Jesus’s authority in teaching, but also with his authority in casting out demons. Why were they amazed? Perhaps it is due to the fact that Jesus cast out the demon with a word; without using magical formula or magical “props” or calling upon other higher powers.
This exorcism is unlike other exorcism accounts known to the people of Jesus’ day: there is no long struggle between Jesus and the demon, there is no uncertainty in the outcome. Jesus authoritatively commands the demon to come out, and it did—immediately. Jesus came to set the prisoner free from demonic bondage. No demon has a chance before Jesus.
Jesus makes it clear that he will build his church and all the powers of Satan cannot overcome it (Matthew 16:16-18), but, that does not mean that Satan is powerless! To ignore him is to invite trouble. We must fight this battle by relying on prayer, tapping into the authority and power of Jesus—so that we “can take our stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11).