SFC Short Course: What Matters About Jesus
Here's the course! Just watch the video and reflect or discuss the questions. The bolded questions? They're the ones our interviewees answer. How would YOU answer them? The other questions flow out of the answers given.
Working on your own? Try watching a video and then reflect using the questions. You might like to jot down your answers. That can help you to focus your thoughts
Working with a group? You could gather, watch the videos and then discuss using the questions. Or you could watch a video a week and gather just for the discussion, if your time is tighter. It's up to you!
Start below with Episode One or click on the title to head to where you're up to...
Episode 1: Was Jesus real?
1. Who was/is Jesus in a nutshell?
Consider the idea that four portraits would capture a person differently, but feature essentially the same person. How does this influence your understanding of the Gospels’ stories and their writers?
Can you think of other parallels? Other things that are treated in the same way? (Images of famous people, remakes of films, films made from books)
What do you find breath-taking about Jesus?
2. How do we know Jesus existed?
If Jesus were to turn up in your neighbourhood, what would he have to look like/do/say to convince you that he is part of God?
The Jesus story is still being told – where have you heard it recently?
3. How can we trust the Gospels in this regard?
In what ways do you rely on the Gospel accounts of Jesus?
What other evidence do you have for the existence of Jesus? What do you rely on? The Gospels? The writing of Paul? The other letters in the New Testament? Your own experience of Jesus? Your experience of Christian Community?
4. For some, the miracle stories make it hard to believe in Jesus. How can we understand these miracles in the 21st Century?
How important is it for you to understand the miracles of Jesus? In what ways do they inform your faith?
Consider the idea that miracles are “enacted parables”. We are used to asking about the meaning of parables, so let’s have a go with miracles. There are 37 to choose from; read one of the miracle stories. Ask not “How could this happen?” rather, “What does this mean?”
5. Over the years, various holy people have said holy things. Why do Christians believe Jesus is different?
What makes Jesus different from other holy people? Most Christians believe that the resurrection is the resounding point of difference for Jesus. What is your response to this statement? Identify other things about Jesus’ life and ministry that make him a standout for you.
The disciples looked back and said, “This was God”. Describe times in your life when you have stood back and thought that same thing. Perhaps it was about a person’s interaction with you, something that happened, a thing you read. What were the clues that led you to decide that God was at work?
6. Why does this stuff about Jesus matter so much?
· “Why am I here?”
· “What is the purpose of my life? Of life?”
· “Why is there something and not nothing?”
Discuss other questions in this category. Devise your top 10 Big Questions. Play with the idea that faith in Jesus as God makes sense of these questions. Does having a belief in Jesus make these questions easier to live with?
Discuss the idea that we all have faith; even non-belief is still a theological standpoint, and a statement of faith.
7. How did you first encounter the story of Jesus?
8. Why does this stuff about Jesus matter to you personally?
Archbishop Phillip gave this summary of why he chooses Jesus: to live close to God, to give myself to others and to work for the community of love, justice and peace. How would you respond to the question: why does Jesus mean so much to you?
Episode 2: What did Jesus teach, and how?
1. So what did Jesus teach?
If you were going to summarise Jesus’ teaching, what kinds of things would you include?
What is your greatest challenge about loving your neighbour?
2. Jesus talked a great deal about the Kingdom of God. What is that all about?
Jo described the Kingdom of God as something that is partly achievable here and now and partly unreachable, a way of being that turns our earthly power structures on their head. What is your experience and understanding of the Kingdom of God?
3. Jesus modelled the importance of keeping in touch with God. What does that look like?
What works to still your heart, to create space for God’s still, small voice? In what ways has God’s communication surprised you? Tell of a time you felt close to God.
4. Jesus taught people that loving their neighbour was important. Not judging others is a part of that love, right?
What is judging really about?
What does it take for someone to be able to drive away or ignore fear, insecurity and pain and welcome others?
5. You have mentioned 'flourishing' here and there. What might that look like?
John 10:10 says that Jesus came to give us abundant lives. That sounds like flourishing! What is it about Jesus teaching that has encouraged you to flourish? Tell of a time when you welcomed God’s love, creativity or passion into your life. What happened?
6. Jesus teaches how connected we are with each other. Therefore, how we live makes a difference to others. How does that work?
What surprises you most in the summary list of Jesus’ teaching in question 12?
What aspect of Jesus’ teaching matters most to you?
7. What did Jesus teach or model about being counter-cultural when necessary?
In what ways should Christians be counter-cultural?
To what extent do you find it useful to be live/speak out/promote things that are different from the main ideas you find around you?
8. What did Jesus teach about communicating the message of the Kingdom of God to others?
Sharing the good news of Jesus’ life and love can be as simple as sharing time and space together. When have you felt the simplicity of genuine connection with others? Was Jesus or faith mentioned?
9. How did Jesus teach? What techniques did he use?
Jesus used a number of teaching methods. He taught colloquially. He taught with parables. He taught with miracles. He used Q&A. And there are more! Which of these appeal to you and why?
10. Jesus taught in the community and related to individuals. Tell us about that dynamic...
Think of a time that Jesus’ teaching turned something on its head for you, or when a Jesus story spoke particularly to your needs.
11. Why was what Jesus taught and how he taught such a big deal to people?
When and where have you experienced people who thought Jesus was a big deal.
How do you react to the statement that “what you’ve done wrong is not as important as God’s grace and love”?
12. Why was what Jesus taught surprising to people?
See if you can think of anything missing from this list. Identify the ideas that you have found most profound in your life.
The Major Teachings of Jesus include:
a) God loves you. Love God! Make God #1. God has a plan so don’t stress.
b) Look forward to the Kingdom of God and live as if it’s already here, by...
a. Keeping in touch with God
b. Loving your neighbour by -
1. Serving others.
2. Not judging others.
3. Forgiving others.
c. Living with the understanding that our life influences others: that we can live a positive impactful life. If you mess up, ask for forgiveness from God.
d. Being countercultural – Living God's way even if it is unpopular or against the rules.
e. Telling others about the Kingdom
13. Why does Jesus matter to you personally?
Discuss the teachings of Jesus that influenced you at particular times of your life.
Episode 3: who were jesus' friends?
1. What was the community that Jesus formed like?
Imagine you were part of this first century community. What would draw you to Jesus?
What is it about you that would catch Jesus’ eye? What strengths do you have that could be useful to Jesus as he builds his community?
Imagine that Jesus was someone you met at work. What would Jesus have to say to you to convince you to leave your current job and follow him as he preached and taught around the area?
Then there is Zacchaeus (Luke 19: 1-10) who was a collaborator with the Romans, a Jew who worked collecting taxes from his own people, to pass on to the occupying force. He kept a cut for himself. Why would Zacchaeus respond to Jesus?
What was it about Jesus that appealed to those who already were well off and comfortable?
2. Tell us more about the role of women in this community.
We can accept that women in that time and place were not in the position to write their impressions of Jesus in ways that were valued or preserved. We can guess that they talked about Jesus! What might the women have said about Jesus? His teaching? His lifestyle?
Mary Magdalene was the first witness of the resurrection and the first who spoke of it to others. In what ways is this significant?
Who are the people in our own society whose voices are not heard, whose stories we do not record?
Read one of the stories of Jesus’ interaction with women. (See some examples below) Remember that he often crossed boundaries – social, religious, and ethnic –to talk with people. Imagine yourself in conversation with Jesus where he is:
· moved by your pain (John 11:33-37).
· taken off guard by your words (Matthew 15: 21-28)
· overwhelmed with affection for you
· impressed by your faith (Matthew 9:22)
· grateful for your attention (Matthew 26: 6-12)
3. What do we know about those people who followed Jesus?
Crowds often followed Jesus around as he ministered. They drew close to Jesus because he met their basic needs of food, family, and advocacy. Reflect on the needs that you have, that make Jesus irresistible.
4. Jesus did not choose people based on ideas about purity and righteousness. Why was that important in those days?
Identify some of the social divisions that our society, or social group, or family maintain today. What fears do these arise from?
Identify those social barriers that a) you are most aware of b)come up against most frequently c)frustrate you the most.
5. So why was it a big deal that Jesus didn't fuss about purity linked to righteousness?
Tell of a time when you ignored social barriers. What motivated you? The results?
What advice would you give to a young Christian who wants to be like Jesus to people?
6. Jesus was accused of hanging out with disreputable types... was this true?
Jesus did not turn away from, or turn people away. This inclusion was essential to Jesus.
· What is it to be hospitable?
· Who do we entertain?
· Who entertains us?
· Who do we exclude from our table?
· Describe a time when someone was radically hospitable to you.
· Describe a situation in modern life where there’s power to be had in deciding who is in and who is out.
· Where in your life can you welcome an outsider?
7. Why did Jesus hang out with those of lower status?
Penny talks enthusiastically about Jesus as someone who just assumed others would engage, one who sees every person as a fellow human. What would it take for you to be a bit more like that? Is it too much to ask?
What is your greatest challenge when it comes to accepting others like Jesus did.
8. The broader culture seems obsessed with sin, but this didn't bar Jesus from associating with people. In what ways did this approach threaten authority?
In what circumstances do you find yourself judging others?
What is your response to the idea that Jesus did not judge others? Can you do the same?
9. What appeals to you about the way Jesus approached people?
Jesus didn’t bother about status, only about how we are with God. In what ways does this allow you to be yourself?
episode 4: Why did jesus die?
1. Why was Jesus sentenced to die?
Many sources of evidence support the claim that Jesus died. Try to think about Jesus’ death without thinking of the resurrection.
In what ways is the death of Jesus significant to you, and your community?
Jesus suffered a humiliating and painful, yet “ordinary” death for the crimes of blasphemy and sedition. What is the equivalent in our society today? Imagine God suffering a contemporary “ordinary” criminal death and place God there. How does that illuminate our mission?
2. In particular, why does blasphemy matter?
The religious and political authorities accused Jesus of blasphemy, of declaring “holy” things that his religion and society declared “unholy”.
Identify the ways Jesus would work in your community today – forgiving the unforgivable and touching the unclean.
Gather ideas for ways to “welcome the unwelcome” into our household of faith.
3. What were the details of Jesus' death?
Jesus is a “poor, peasant criminal” and his death as “ordinary”. In what ways does that description challenge or stretch your ideas of Jesus?
4. Why do some people try to prove that Jesus did not die?
Peter suggests that God entered into a violent world that we created, became subject to it and then emerged to say “peace be with you!” Describe how this view informs your understanding of what it means to be a Christian.
5. Why does it matter so much to Christians that Jesus died on the cross?
Peter mentioned some of the different ways that Christians have thought about Jesus’ death over the years, including Christus Victor and penal substitution. Are these new ideas for you?
How have you made sense of the death part of the Jesus story?
In what ways is the death of Jesus important to your understanding of the drama of Easter and our Christian lives?
6. Why does this matter to you personally?
episode 5: Did Jesus really rise from the dead?
1. When Jesus was in the tomb, what was the state of the disciples?
Imagine yourself in the company of the disciples on the original Easter Saturday. Like the disciples, we wait. Unlike the disciples, we in the modern church know what we wait for. Read an account of the resurrection and imagine being part of the original group waiting. What elements of the stories stand out for you?
As you place yourself at the centre of that unfolding drama, what concerns you? What motivates you? What do you want to say?
2. The Apostles Creed mentions Jesus "descended to the dead". What is that about?
3. What do the Gospels say about Jesus rising from the dead?
Mary encountered Jesus in the garden but did not recognise him. Then her eyes opened. The disciples walked with Jesus on the road and even invited him to dinner before their eyes opened and they recognised their Lord. In what circumstances have your eyes “opened” after a time of misunderstanding?
Jesus’ friends looked at him and then had to look again. Consider our busy lives. What can we do to make time enough to enable a “second look”?
4. Why is the resurrection such a big deal to Christians?
“I love you so much that this extraordinary life is yours: greater than life and greater than death! There is no need to be afraid of life or death, as Jesus is beyond life and beyond death.” Explore what this means to you in your current situation, your hopes and plans, your ideas about your purpose.
What do you need in order to trust this claim?
5. Is the resurrection easy to dismiss?
Nothing was successfully brought forward to discredit the resurrection story, despite the fact that Roman and Jewish communities had a vested interest in doing so.
If the resurrection had not happened, what evidence would the Roman and Jewish authorities be looking for?
What evidence would you require to be convinced that Jesus lived again?
⎕ see Jesus
⎕ talk with Jesus
⎕ touch Jesus
⎕ see the grave empty
⎕ DNA evidence that this was the same person
⎕ Anything else?
According to the Gospel accounts, what evidence did the disciples have that proved Jesus was alive beyond doubt?
⎕ see Jesus
⎕ talk with Jesus
⎕ touch Jesus
⎕ see the grave empty
⎕ DNA evidence that this was the same person
6. Why is the resurrection a big deal to you, personally?
What impact would a community of radically transformed, loving, welcoming, courageous people have on your suburb?
· Who would benefit?
· Who would be offended?
· What challenges would they face?
· Where would they meet?
· What would they do?
episode 6: Was Jesus who he said he was/is?
1. What questions did people have about Jesus during his ministry?
“Who do you say I am?” This question arises during Jesus’ life and ministry. He asks the disciples, people ask it of him. One interpretation of Jesus’ story is that he grew into his own understanding of the role and his identity. Read the interaction between Jesus and the Canaanite woman. (Matthew 15:21-28) What a bold (or desperate!) woman!
What would it take for you to answer Jesus back demanding you have the right to petition him?
What do you think about the fact that people interpret the Gospel texts in a variety of ways? Does that sit well with you?
Identify the titles and descriptions you have heard or read about Jesus.
Explore the term “Son of Man” that appears to be Jesus’ choice descriptor. Look up some of the times Jesus referred to himself as “Son of Man”
· Matthew 24:34-44
· Mark 10:40-50
2. People wondered if Jesus was the Messiah. Can you explain what that idea was all about?
Read Matthew 16: 13-28 and imagine you were among the disciples when Jesus asked “who do you say I am?” What is your response?
3 Who did Jesus believe he was?
Why is it important to Christians that Jesus was fully human?
Bishop Jonathan tells this story in a way that makes the people come alive. What do you think Jesus felt at the time of John the Baptist’s death?
4. Who did people come to believe Jesus was?
Thomas is sometimes called “doubting”. Bishop Jonathan’s interpretation of Thomas’s reaction to the risen Jesus seems very possible: that of a person so filled with anticipation and longing that they just cannot bear to be disappointed.
It is fortunate for us that Thomas required such proof, so we have Gospel accounts of one person touching Jesus before they believed. Jesus was real enough after his resurrection that Thomas believed. “My Lord and my God”. What proof is enough for you?
5. What struggles did the early Church have in trying to work out who Jesus was?
Over the years, Christology has struggled to define Jesus, and there have been some different interpretations of his God-ness along the way.
Take a moment to play with a description of Jesus that you might be happy to give a friend who asks “Who is Jesus?”
6. Why does this matter to Christians?
7. Why does Jesus being the Son of God matter to you?