One of the things we need to do is to pay attention to is the Bible’s definition of words. For instance, the world uses the words “faith”, “hope”, and “love” most often in ways that bear little resemblance to their biblical definition. We see this not only in sermons Christ preached, but in the way that He interacted with people and in the miracles He performed. Understanding how Christ defines these terms helps us understand their true meaning as used in the writings of the epistles by the apostles to come. In this lesson, it’s crucial to pay particular attention as to how each of these things actually overlap each other and contribute to a deeper meaning both individually and collectively.
Read verses 1-10
Q: Jesus had just visited Nazareth (chapter 4) a short while ago. What is the immediate contrast between events in Nazareth and here in Capernaum?
A: In Nazareth, Jesus “wondered at their unbelief” (Mark 6:6); in Capernaum He was amazed at “such great faith”.
Q: What is particularly ironic when it comes to the specific people involved?
A: In Nazareth, it was the Jews who rejected Him and became angry when He rebuked their unbelief with examples of how whenever God’s people reject Him, He goes to Gentiles (the examples of the widow in Sidon and Naaman). Here in Nazareth, it’s a Gentile whose quality of faith amazes Jesus.
Q: Based on the Centurion’s own words, how does he define “faith”?
A: Trust in the one who has authority. He doesn’t see Christ as someone who can work magic or has knowledge pertinent to the Centurion’s situation; Christ is the higher authority over everything to which everything is subject.
Point: Biblical “faith” is not some kind of hoping or wishing that something will come true, but placing one’s trust in God’s authority to work all things out for good according to His will.
Q: How might the Centurion’s past actions indicate something about his faith?
A: It wasn’t just theoretical or kept to himself; it showed forth publicly in such things as building the local synagogue. He wasn’t just a “hearer” of the Word, but a “doer”.
Q: What might the Centurion’s method of contacting Jesus indicate about his faith?
A: Direct contact wasn’t required; prayer was enough.
Application: How does the example of the Centurion’s faith compare with your own? In what ways are they similar or different?
Read verses 11-16
Q: The loss of a child at any age is always tragic and emotional, but how would this loss be even more burdensome for this particular woman in this culture?
A: Many things were tied directly to family in Old Testament Israel, especially the fact that the land and all family possessions were passed down through the firstborn, and that children took care of their parents in their old age. As a widow losing her only son, she’s in the position of irrecoverably losing everything. It’s a hopeless situation wherein she didn’t just lose a child, but her entire family’s standing, inheritance, and future welfare.
Point: This is why Christ’s first pangs of compassion were not for the dead boy, but for his mother who was facing a hopeless situation in that the death compounded many issues for her to come.
Q: What is actually being revealed in the people’s reaction, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited His people”?
A: It has been several hundreds of years since a true prophet had been sent by God to Israel. In the intervening centuries a lot of poor imitations had come and gone to the point that people of this time talked about the “good old days” when true prophets of God were sent to Israel rather than all the fakes and pretenders of late. This is a very strong acknowledgment of Christ’s authority.
Q: Nowhere does it even hint that someone’s faith was involved or that a request was made for Jesus to do what He did. What did Christ spiritually restore by physically restoring the son to his mother?
A: He restored hope.
Point: Biblical hope is one’s personal trust and faith in Christ to accomplish all things in spite of the appearance of present circumstances.
Application: Some would have thought that there couldn’t possibly be room for hope once the boy actually died, that hope was only possible while he was yet breathing. How might our hope be tested even beyond the limits WE think proper?
Read verses 17-35
Q: Why is John the Baptist another example of someone who might be struggling with having their hope shaken?
A: It’s apparent that Jesus’ ministry was not conforming to John’s personal expectations of how the Messiah would do it. John’s personal dedication was so intense that it landed him in prison and he seemed to need to know that his efforts were not undertaken in vain.
Q: What is the true nature of Jesus’ response to John? What is He basically affirming for John?
A: Even though it might not have been what John expected, Jesus shows that His actions conform to the very Word of God concerning the Messiah. It’s another way of stating that those who trust in God’s Word are able to affirm that Jesus is the Messiah fulfilling that Word.
Q: What could John have possibly thought was going wrong? Based on his message announcing the impending arrival of the Messiah, what might John have expected?
A: One of John’s major points was that the Messiah’s ministry would be one of judgment. (Luke 3:7-9, 16-17), but the reports back to Him could be characterized as Jesus engaging in a ministry of mercy. Jesus reminds John of additional Scriptural requirements for the Messiah from the same prophet (Isaiah) through whom God predicted John’s ministry.
Q: Why did some people “take offense” (v.23) at Jesus?
A: Their hope was misplaced, having become focused on the kind of Messiah they WANTED, not necessarily the kind promised by God through His Word. By this time they wanted the Conquering King to bring down Rome and raise up Israel, something He won’t do until His Second Coming. Their hope was not established in God’s Word, but their own desires superimposed upon it.
Q: How is Jesus’ dissertation to the people concerning John an affirmation of the points being made here?
A: Just as many were offended by Christ’s works because they misinterpreted Scripture to hope for what THEY wanted instead of what God wanted, so they also missed the point of what John was sent to do according to God’s Word as well. They didn’t want to see Scripture fulfilled according to God’s way, but their own.
Q: So according to v.29-30, what was the essential difference between those who obtained biblical hope and those who did not?
A: In order to participate in John’s baptism, one had to engage in sincere repentance of sin from the heart. The lack of repentance hardened hearts so as to be blind to the renewed hope experienced by those who repented, who had a greater assurance of the future than those who couldn’t move beyond the present conditions.
Point: This is summarized in the final verses where Christ portrays the unrepentant as immature children who aren’t interested in the truth but will argue any opposing viewpoint in order to get their way.
Q: How did Jesus affirm for John that John’s ministry had not failed?
A: Jesus established that it was actually the people and their leaders who had failed by first rejecting God’s Word, and then in their rejection of John himself.
Q: How would you compare and contrast the hope exhibited in the situation with the widow and her son with that of John and the people?
A: The first has more to do with personal trust and faith that one’s hope in God is greater than any personal circumstances; the second has more to do with our personal trust and faith in the hope of God’s Word to accomplish our work in the Kingdom according to HIS will and ways regardless of our personal expectations or misgivings.
Application: How do faith and trust figure into our hope? What role does God’s Word play? What if things in our personal life are not working out like we’d hoped? What if things in our spiritual life aren’t going the way that we thought they would?
Read verses 36-50
Q: How would you characterize the difference between the woman and the Pharisee when it comes to their faith?
A: Her faith was in Christ her Savior; his faith was shaken to the point of doubting that Jesus was even a regular prophet.
Q: How would you characterize the difference between the woman and the Pharisee when it comes to their hope?
A: Her hope was that in spite of the circumstances of her sin that she could be forgiven and reconciled to God through Christ; his hope was in his own works and interpretation of the Law.
Q: What appears to be the crucial difference between them? How does it relate to Jesus’ statement in v.29-20?
A: One was convicted by their sin and sought to repent; the other did not recognize their sin and therefore was blind to their need for repentance.
Q: But how does Christ Himself contrast the end result of the application of these two people’s faith and hope?
A: It’s directly equated to the condition and quality of their love.
Q: The issue of Christ’s authority was revealed in each of the above examples regarding faith and hope. How is it again contrasted between the woman and the Pharisee?
A: She didn’t just acknowledge, but trusted in Christ’s authority; the Pharisee and those present rejected it outright.
Application: What role does biblical faith and hope play in the quality of our love? How might our love be lacking due to weaknesses in our faith and/or hope? Why is it false to think that deficiencies in one’s faith or hope can be overcome with an extra emphasis on love? Why is the salvation process a key to each of the qualities of faith, hope, and love?
What is the relationship of Christ’s authority to each of the qualities of faith, hope, and love?
How might issues with His authority actually be the root cause of problems with one’s faith, hope, and/or love?
How does this in turn bring us back to the issue of repentance?