Dive In: Read this passage in a few different translations (e.g. The Message, N. T. Wright’s The New Testament for Everyone, Contemporary English Version, Amplified Bible, The Living Bible).
1. For fun, compare the generations represented within your group. The good, the bad and the ugly. 🙂 (Gen Z, Millennial, Gen X, Boomer, Silent, Greatest Generation — 1901-1924)
2. This is one of those 2 part passages — teaching plus analogy. The first part is ALARMING! Let’s put ourselves in the story:
A. You’re a Jew, part of God’s chosen people. You are expecting a Messiah — someone who will free you from your oppressors and restore David’s monarchy. You are not evil! The Romans are evil. The gentiles are evil. But Jonah was a sign of God’s mercy and care for the evil Ninevites — gentiles, pagans, enemies of Israel. Is this what you want to hear?
B. The Queen of Sheba, another gentile, is praised for coming to see Solomon, the wisest of all Israel’s kings responsible for the greatest expansion in their history. A gentile is praised in contrast to the Jewish crowd who is called “evil” and Jesus is comparing himself to Solomon and Jonah and saying he is greater than both! Can you get a sense of the tension?
3. How would you define “evil?” Have you thought of it as a “darkness of the heart” or something more sinister? What do you think Jesus was trying to do by using such strong language? What is God’s desire for us? (Hint: identity)
4. Daniel said, “Our identity matters. Who we believe we are shapes how we relate to everyone and the world around us.” Discuss this. How does how you see yourself impact how you relate to others? Do you have a personal story of the impact of repentance on your life that you can share with the group?
5. Jesus likens repentance with being able to rightly see (v 34). Discuss this. Why is repentance so critical? How do we stay in a place of repentance?
6. Jesus constantly blurred the lines between the people of God and the “outsiders.” How has the Church’s (general church not Lakeside specifically) posture been towards the world, historically? How do verses 33-36 challenge us in how we see and relate to the world?
Act on it: Spend some time affirming each other in your group — affirming them in what God says about them, what you see in them that is of God.