Bible Study week 4 reflections



Last week the recurring theme had seemed to be how much of a learning curve everyone was on: the disciples, Jesus’ family, particularly Mary, and even Jesus himself. The healing of the blind man, which occurred in two stages, seemed to symbolise this and had been later echoed in Paul’s great sermon on love “Now we see through a glass darkly but then face to face.”


It was interesting to see last week’s journey plotted on a map. We saw that it had taken place largely north of Lake Galilee, outside of their normal area and well into Gentile territory.  At the beginning of this week’s section we see Jesus and the disciples first turning north again to Caesarea Philippi, a primarily non-Jewish city, before turning south towards Jerusalem. Perhaps it had been chosen to get away from the crowds in order to focus on teaching the disciples. We learned that geographically it was a pleasantly cool, beautiful, mountainous region near what we now call the Golan Heights.


This week, also, we were aware of difficulty the disciples experienced in accepting what Jesus was telling them. The section begins well, with Peter declaring that Jesus is the Messiah but when Jesus begins explaining that he will be put to death Peter cannot accept it. We sympathised with the disciples who had followed Jesus, only to be told, after a short ministry of three years, that it appeared to be coming to an end.


Also difficult for them to accept was the teaching on the cost of discipleship.  We recognised that in many countries today the cost of discipleship is still very high and people still die for their faith.  We wondered whether our own faith would stand strong in the face of persecution.  It was pointed out that while Christians in this country were not persecuted for their faith per se, they might well encounter hostility for standing up for Christian values.  One of our group described how, as a young lad, he had encountered hostility at work.  His work mates, knowing he was a Christian, tried to provoke him into abandoning his principles.  He held firm and eventually they gave up, but it had been a difficult time.


We acknowledged that, as Christians, it was important to practice what we preach and not have double standards.  On the other side of the coin we recognised that many people demonstrate Christian values without necessarily having a Christian faith.  This led us to the story about the disciples questioning Jesus about the man healing people in Jesus’ name, who was not part of their group.  Jesus reply was, “Whoever is not against us is for us.”  We wondered whether the man actually was a follower, as he healed in the name of Jesus.  It was interesting that the disciples seemed to consider that they were an exclusive group and had tried to stop this “outsider” from his work of healing.  They still had much to learn!


We ended by admitting that the “Us and Them” attitude was deeply ingrained in human nature.  It was evident in all sorts of ways from people’s loyalties to football teams to attitudes on immigration.  However, we also recognised that we were called to be brothers and sisters in Christ, which does not allow for superficial boundaries between groups.