WEEK ONE: BIBLE STUDY OVERVIEW
Insights on Practicing Love: Matthew 22: 34-40 (NIV)
Note to Group Leader and Participants: In this passage, Jesus is asked to declare the greatest commandment. His response seems simple on the surface – love God and love your neighbor as yourself. The challenge is in the details of what this means. Two thousand years later, we human beings are still struggling to build a world where we love God and love our neighbor. Why is it so hard?
Week 1: You will review terms used in the passage, listen to the passage and follow your guide’s suggestions as you view the art associated with it. At the end, you may want to share your thoughts based on the guide’s questions.
Week 2: You will read the passage together and discuss the questions which follow the reading.
Week 3: You will read the closing reflection, listen to the song associated with it and together answer the final discussion question.
WEEK ONE – ART FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
Insights on Practicing Love: Matthew 22: 34-40 (NIV)
NOTE FOR GROUP LEADER: While allowing the group to view the image of the Good Samaritan, the group leader will read or have the audio recording of the passage Matthew 22: 34-40 (NIV). In preparation for this reading, the group will discuss and reflect on the terms and historical information provided under “Terms to Understand and Discuss.” After discussing the terms, the group will silently reflect on the photo and then the passage will be read while they view it. The artwork will either be projected on a screen or printed out for easier viewing. The passage is printed below for further review, if desired. Follow the steps below:
Step One: Terms to Understand and Discuss:
Pharisees: according to dictionary.com, a Pharisee is “a sanctimonious, self-righteous, or hypocritical person.” The Pharisees asserted that God could and should be worshipped even away from the Temple and outside Jerusalem. To the Pharisees, worship consisted not in bloody sacrifices—the practice of the Temple priests—but in prayer and in the study of God’s law. (Britannica.com)
Why did Jesus condemn the Pharisees?
Matthew states that Jesus criticized the pharisees for taking the place of honor at banquets, for wearing ostentatious clothing, for encouraging people to call them rabbi. Their woes were all woes of hypocrisy and illustrate the differences between inner and outer moral states. (Wikipedia.org) They appeared to be loving themselves more than their neighbor.
Saduccees: The Sadducees were the wealthy upper class, who were involved with the priesthood. They completely rejected oral law, and unlike the Pharisees, their lives revolved around the Temple. The Sadducees’ job was to make sacrifices and maintain the Temple’s purity. The Pharisees and Sadducees made up the Sanhedrin, a council of seventy men who made all the decisions for the Jews. (hellerhigh.org)
The greatest commandment: two gospels share the story of the greatest commandment, the gospel of Matthew 22: 34-40 (NIV) and the gospel of Mark 12:28-33. Both gospels are very similar but in the gospel of Mark, the conversation continues with a man who says:
32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
The Law: When “the law” is mentioned in the Bible, it refers to the Old Testament. There are hundreds of commands given to the Israelites, but the phrase “the law” refers specifically to all the decrees found in the first five books of the Bible, known as the Torah. It includes the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic Law. Obedience to this law was the obligation of God’s people.
The specific directive by Jesus to love God and love your neighbors as yourselves reflected the “law” clearly stated in the Old Testament in Leviticus 19:18, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” Deuteronomy 6:5 says: 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
Commandment: a rule given by God (biblical perspective). God gave Moses the ten commandments.
Who is my neighbor? In a literal sense, the person who is living near or next to you. By extension, it means those you work with, those you live with, those in your community. Biblically, it means those that you can impact on your life’s journey and those who can impact you – whether you know them or not.
What is love? Corinthians 1-13 says: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
Should I love myself? Jesus’ message in the passage, Matthew 34-40. He says to love your neighbor as yourself. That means that Corinthians 1-13 (see above) applies to you: be patient with yourself, be kind and honest with yourself. Forgive yourself and always persevere to become better.
The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37 NIV) — The Parable of the Good Samaritan is a good example of an individual loving “his neighbor” as himself. He saw a stranger who had been robbed and stripped of his clothes and, despite the fact that they were historically and culturally opposed, he stopped and assisted the man. Hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans dated back centuries to the days of Jacob when the land was divided into two kingdoms with the north named Israel and the south named Judah. When the north was invaded by the Assyrians, much intermarriage took place, and the faith was watered down. In the meantime, the southern Jews maintained their monotheistic foundation and detested the mixed marriages and new worship of their northern kin. The bitterness continued through the centuries to, at least, the time of Christ.
Step Two: Art for Reflection (Items needed: Artwork)
Group leader begins by saying: “Relax with the art. While listening to the passage below from Matthew 22: 34-40 (NIV), reflect on the image of: “The Good Samaritan” taken from a Victorian book written in 1881. Let yourself be drawn into the artwork and reflect on how you would react under these circumstances. Take a few minutes. Consider where we are, what has happened, why we are there and the impact of that moment. (Group Leader gives the group about three minutes of silence for the group to consider and meditate on the visual impact of the art.) At the end of the silence, go to Step Three.
Step Three: (Items needed: Artwork, Passage from Matthew 22: 34-40 (NIV), printed below and questions for discussion and reflection.)
The group leader reads or plays the passage from Matthew 22: 34-40 (NIV) while the group listens and continues to reflect on the artwork. After the reading, the group can discuss and reflect on any or all of the following questions.
- Who do you think are the people in the artwork? Describe them and their behavior.
- What do you suppose has happened to the man?
- What do you think the passers-by are saying/thinking? Why?
- What are some reasons why some people might not stop. Would you consider any of them legitimate? Explain.
- Why do you suppose one person stopped? What do you think was his motivation for stopping?
- What is the person who stopped trying to do? Why? Do you suppose they knew each other?
- You may recognize this as the biblical story of The Good Samaritan. But, let’s suppose you do not know the story. What are the possibilities of what the man who is helping may do next? Discuss the options and why he might choose one option over another.
- Put yourself in the scene. Do you view yourself as The Good Samaritan who stops to help his neighbor, or do you now or have you ever been the one looking on? What would motivate you to help? What would motivate you to move on?
- What would you say to those who are uninvolved?
- What would you say to the one who is helping?
- How does helping one’s neighbor reflect our love of God?
- At the end of the day, how would you feel if you had helped? How would you feel if you had not helped? Why?
- What other thoughts do you have after having heard the passage and reflected on the artwork?
NOTE TO GROUP LEADER: At the end of the session, you may want to allow the group to have a few moments for open commentary and thoughts about the session and what it may have meant for them.
Matthew 22: 34-40 (NIV)
The Greatest Commandment
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”