You were made to
rest in God’s grace.
Small Group Questions – Week 4
- As we’ve done before, let’s begin with a definition. What is grace? For the sake of this question, though, let’s define grace by answering these questions…How would you describe a PERSON who is gracious?…OR…What are the characteristic of a PERSON who has grace? (and not like a ballerina)
27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
This Levi is more famously known as Matthew, author of the first gospel and one of the twelve disciples. At this point as a tax collector, he would have been almost universally despised. Tax collectors were known to be in cahoots with the Romans and to overtax their fellow Jews in order to pad their own pockets.
- It’s understandable, then, why the Pharisees would be bothered by this, and they are quite convinced that Jesus should be bothered by it, as well. Why do you think he wasn’t?
- It’s not just Levi. It’s the house full of “sinners” that have the Pharisees on the verge of a conniption fit. Who, or what groups, today would be put into this category of sinners? This question might be harder than it seems at first, and it may become a bit controversial. Still, take a few moments and think this through. Who among us do today’s Christians mock or despise or dismiss because of their beliefs or their life choices?
- It’s quite probable that you or someone else in the group made the list. (Congratulations!) What do we do with that? And how does this interaction between Jesus and Levi challenge or provoke your view of the others on your list?
Go back a few verses in the chapter & read Luke 5.12-13
12 While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him.
- For those of us who have been around church for a while, it’s easy to get the impression that grace is just about ME and my ability to overcome sin. It’s not that grace isn’t personal, it’s that it’s so much more than that. Easy question…Who’s life is transformed by this encounter?
- Huge taboo – Jesus actually touched the man, and yet, Jesus didn’t get leprosy. In God’s kingdom, the sickness isn’t contagious. Wholeness is contagious. How does this encounter alter or affect your view about God’s grace?
In between these two stories, there’s another interaction worth considering.
Read Luke 5.17-26
17 One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”
- Here, Jesus has the audacity to forgive the man’s sins (before he heals him), and the Pharisees are absolutely appalled. And yet, verse 26 records the crowd’s response. When have you been filled with awe at the remarkable things you’ve seen God do? -Another way to ask that question…When have you seen God’s grace bring transformation to your life? To others in your life? To someone on the list of “sinners”?
- In The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning writes,
The sinners to whom Jesus directed His messianic ministry were not those who skipped morning devotions or Sunday church. His ministry was to those whom society considered real sinners. They had done nothing to merit salvation. Yet they opened themselves to the gift that was offered them. On the other hand, the self-righteous placed their trust in the works of the Law and closed their hearts to the message of grace.
This wasn’t just a publicity stunt. Jesus truly cared about these folks, and his commitment to open the Kingdom of God to everyone ultimately cost him his life. Of course, we have done nothing to merit salvation, either.
In what ways do you live and act as if you must earn God’s favor & grace?
In what ways do you need the contagious & transformational power of God’s grace to work in your life?