Faith

God the Savior: Jesus’ Birth and Ministry

 

Matthew–John

Welcome

None of us likes to wait. We get impatient at traffic lights. We get edgy when the line at the grocery store doesn’t seem to move. We get irritated when people talk too slowly and won’t get to the point. We don’t like the inconvenience of having to wait for just a few minutes. But no amount of waiting on our part compares to what the people of Israel had endured. By the time the events of the New Testament unfold, they had been waiting 400 years for the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that a king would reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom (Isaiah 9:7). Four hundred years is a long time to wait… and when their promised King did finally arrive, He was nothing like the figure from their Scriptures that they were expecting.

Watch the Video

Video Teaching Notes

Welcome to session one of God the Savior. If this is your first time together as a group, take a moment to introduce yourselves. Watch the video (see the streaming video access provided on the inside front cover) and use the following outline to record some of the main points. The answer key is found at the end of the session.

• Jesus’ life is filled with _________ from the beginning — illegitimate child, scandalous teaching, and a scandalous death on a Roman cross. Even His __________ would end up leading scandalous lives.

• The one in the womb of Mary has never been ________________ by the seed of a man but by the Holy Spirit. This means the _____ __________ has not been transmitted to the child in her womb. He had been conceived without sin.

• Immanuel means “________ ______ ____ .” The Baby growing in Mary’s womb is none other than God Himself. He is leaving the upper story to not only be with us in the __________ _________ but to actually become one of us.

• The only place Mary and Joseph could find to deliver God was a cave-like __________ behind one of the local Bethlehem inns. How unfortunate that the best we could do for the arrival of ___________ into our world was a birth in a barn!

• But in the upper story, God wanted Jesus to be born in a manger. To fulfill _____________, Jesus had to be born in Bethlehem in humble circumstances.

• We want all the people in our lives to see Jesus because His birth is not the __________ of a scandal but a _____________ to our scandal — to our sin.

Getting Started

Begin your discussion by reciting the following key verse and key idea together as a group. Now try to state the key verse from memory. On your first attempt, use your notes if you need help. On your second attempt, try to state it completely from memory.

Key Verse:

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. — John 1:14

Key Idea: Every story of Israel, including 353 Old Testament prophecies, have pointed to this day of Jesus’ birth. It begins when the Lord orchestrates an empire-wide census that moves Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem in time for the delivery. Jesus is not born of man, but of God, and is the second man to walk on earth without sin in His nature. But unlike Adam, the first man, Jesus will remain sinless. His ministry is announced by John the Baptist, who proclaims that He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. John thus makes the connection that the Passover lamb who saved the firstborn sons of Israel from the angel of death was really a symbol foreshadowing the coming of Jesus.

Group Discussion

Take a few minutes with your group members to discuss what you just watched and explore these concepts in Scripture.

1. What part of this week’s teaching encouraged or challenged you the most? Why?

2. How was Jesus’ life filled with scandal in the lower story?

3. What do you believe is the significance of Jesus being born of the Holy Spirit?

4. What do you learn about Joseph through his encounter with the angel?

5. Why did God, in the upper story, want Jesus to be born in a stable in Bethlehem?

6. What is your biggest takeaway as you reflect on what you learned this week?

Closing Prayer

One of the most important things we can do together in community is to pray for each other. This is not simply a closing prayer to end your group time but a portion of time to share prayer requests and life, to review how God has answered past prayers, and to actually pray for one another. Record prayer requests and praises. Also, make sure to pray by name for people God might add to your group — especially your neighbors.

For Next Week

Next week, we will look at the story of the beginning of Jesus’ surprisingly quiet entry into the public part of his earthly ministry. Before your next group meeting, be sure to read through the following personal study, complete the exercises, and memorize the key verse for the session.

Video Notes Answer Key

scandal, disciples / conceived, sin nature / “God with us,”
lower story / stable, God / prophecy / result, solution

Personal Study

Every session in this guide contains a personal study to help you make meaningful connections between your life and what you are learning each week. Take some time after your group meeting each week to read through this section and complete the personal study. In total, it should take about one hour to complete. Some people like to spread it out, devoting about ten to fifteen minutes a day. Others choose one larger block of time during the week to work through it in one sitting. There is no right or wrong way to do this! Just choose a plan that best fits your needs and schedule and then allow the Scripture to take root in your heart.

Know the Story

He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden. He spoke to Moses in the fire of a burning bush. He guided Israel in a cloud by day and fire by night. He sat enthroned over the ark of the covenant in the tabernacle and temple. But all of these were just the warm-up for the main act. Now, to fulfill the upper-story plan of providing a solution to humankind’s sin, God would intervene directly into the lower story by becoming a human. Fully God… and yet fully man.

Read:
John 1:1-14
Matthew 1:18-25
Luke 2:1-15
Mark 1:1-11
Luke 4:1-12

1. How does John, in his Gospel, describe the coming of Jesus into the world?

2. What was Joseph’s initial plan when he learned of Mary’s pregnancy?

3. What events led to Jesus being born in Bethlehem in fulfillment of prophecy?

4. What did John the Baptist proclaim about the coming Messiah?

5. What strategies did Satan employ to tempt Jesus in the wilderness?

Understand the Story

The doctrine of the incarnation, the eternal God entering the limitations of time and space and being born as a human being, lies at the heart of the Christian faith. In what can only be described as a mind-bending mystery, the child born in a manger and known to us as Jesus Christ is one person with two natures: fully human but also fully divine. While the many things that Jesus said revealed God in a way that no other words could, it was the Word himself who was the fullest revelation. As Paul wrote,

The Son is the image of the invisible God… He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. — Colossians 1:15, Colossians 1:17

Each of the four Gospels present a distinct understanding of Jesus. Matthew presents Jesus as a king, which underscores the fulfillment of God’s promise to David to establish His descendant on an eternal throne. Mark presents Jesus as a servant, which emphasizes His humility as He goes about the business of His heavenly Father. Luke presents Jesus as a man, which highlights the Savior’s common bond to all people. As Paul would later write,

He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself. — Philippians 2:7-8

John presents Jesus as a member of the Trinity — preexistent in eternity with all the power and authority of the Godhead. He takes great care to explain exactly who Jesus is: “the Word was God” (John 1:1). Our words come from us and express our identity. Identifying Jesus as “the Word” of God, who was God and was eternally with God, is equivalent to calling Jesus “God.” God himself entered the story as a human being — and something new has happened, something we haven’t seen since the beginning of time!

1. What do the stories you have read this week reveal about Jesus’ identity?

2. How will these stories help you to better understand Jesus’ nature?

Live the Story

Early in Jesus’ ministry, while He was in Jerusalem, He received an unexpected visit from a Pharisee named Nicodemus. During their conversation, Jesus revealed God’s plan for restoring us into a relationship with him. He told Nicodemus that in order to be a part of the divine community, He had to be “born again.” Jesus then offered Nicodemus one of the clearest declarations of who He was and why He came down to this earth:

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. — John 3:16

We live “down here,” in all the ordinary messiness of life, including what appears to be the final stop — death. But Jesus, who was “up there,” came down to defeat death for us so that we can live eternally with him. All we have to do is believe.

1. How have you responded to Jesus’ instruction to repent and be born again?

2. What is one action you will take this week to put what you’ve learned into practice?

Tell the Story

The goal of this study is not only for you to understand the story of the Bible but also for you to share it with others. So, one day this week around a meal or your dinner table, have an intentional conversation about the topic of this session with family or friends. During your time together, read Matthew 3:13-17, and then use the following question for discussion:

Why do you think it would be important for Jesus to hear His Father’s blessing?

Ask God this week to help you fully embrace the story of Jesus’ birth and early ministry. Also, spend a few minutes each day committing the key verse to memory:

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. — John 1:14

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