Thursday, February 21, 2008

This week's Sabbath School lesson: the waiting disciple

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. . . . So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. . . . Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour" (Matthew 24: 42 & 44, 25:13, NIV).
Once again, the Quarterly gives us a grab-bag of incidents from the life of Christ, held together by only the vaguest of themes.
  • Jesus is the Bread of Life (John 6:43-58).
  • Jesus blesses little children (Matthew 18:-14).
  • The Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13).
  • The Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24 & 25).
  • Jesus tells his followers to bear their cross with him (Mark 8:27-30).
And once again, you'll probably want focus on one of these stories, rather than try to cover all five.

Now if you don't have a lot of time to prepare a Sabbath School lesson (and yes, Karl, I'm talking to you), I'd suggest you go with the Olivet Discourse, i.e. the sermon in which Christ tells his disciples how to prepare for the Judgment. That's because these chapters are both familiar and mysterious:
  • They are familiar enough that almost every member of your class will feel they have something to contribute to the discussion.
  • But they are mysterious enough that almost every member of your class will feel they need to learn more.
Then too, these chapters involve prophecy -- and that's always fun!

Now in chapter 24, Jesus discusses two events: the Fall of Jerusalem (i.e. "these things"), and the Judgment (i.e. "that day").
  • The first took place in AD 70, the second will take place at a time known only to God.
  • The first can be predicted by carefully watching "the signs"; the second cannot -- it will be completely unexpected.
  • The first can be survived only through immediate flight; the second requires us to always be ready, watchful, and prepared.
Having said we need to be ready, Jesus tells us how to do this in chapter 25.
  • In the Parable of the Talents, he tells us to use the gifts God gave us.
  • And in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, he tells us to use these gifts for the good of others.
In short, the Olivet Discourse provides a kind of User's Guide to the Apocalypse. It tells us how to make it through tough times in the future -- and it does so by reminding us to help others through their tough times today. As Ellen White said in The Ministry of Healing: "The faithful discharge of today's duties is the best preparation for tomorrow's trials."

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