Sunday School Lesson – “4 Ways to Use Words Better” James 3:1-12; Isaiah 50:4

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Our words are powerful!  As this lesson shows, they can be used to hurt or to heal; to edify or to tear down.  James wants us to choose life with the words that we speak.

VERSE DISCOVERY: James 3:1-12; Isaiah 50:4 (KJV, Public Domain)

Simon says, “Close your mouth!”  We all know the game.  Whatever Simon tells us to do, we do it lest we fear being counted out.  Oh, if only it were that easy to take command of some of our loose actions in life, such as ones that regard the mouth.  And yet, throughout the Bible, we are commanded to use our speech patterns in healthy and productive ways.  Not to be instruments for destruction and tearing one another down.

There is so much power bound up in the way that we talk.  Proverbs 18:21 tells us, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”  Whatever is produced from our lips generates fruit.  Stuff grows, for the good or the bad, from what we say.

James is admonishing us to be mindful of the words that come out of our mouth for with them we can lift someone’s day, or we can emotionally kill them. 

What we say makes a difference in the lives of others.  Our mouths are vessels of influence. 

James 3 unpacks the truth of the power of the tongue and how people of faith should be cautious in how they unleash it. 

Using Isaiah 50:4 as a companion Scripture with those found in James 3, this lesson will uncover four ways all of us can strive to use our words better.

 1. Realizing the Weight of Your Words

James 3:1 “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.”

At the beginning of this lesson, I believe this is where many of us drop the ball, so to speak, in trying to improve our speech patterns toward others.  Many do not realize the weight of the words they speak and the impact those very words can have on the hearers.  Even if one is not trying to be purposely offensive, they would do well to think before speaking, asking oneself if the words that are about to come out of my mouth, necessary and/or helpful.  This step none can overlook, whether they are leaders or laypeople.  The responsibility of our words is just that, our responsibility.

So, starting with the leaders, James teaches, “Be not many masters.”  When it comes to bearing any title of leadership, often many will focus on prestige and tend to overlook the responsibility that comes with the job.  The Bible warns us, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:48).  There is a higher level of accountability for “masters” or “teachers.”  Those endued with the power to magnify the gospel in such a way must be particularly careful in how they use words.

Words are powerful and need to be measured out carefully.  One of the devices that Jesus’s enemies tried to employ against Him was to catch or trap Him in what He said.  Matthew 22:15 says, “Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.”  One’s words can testify for or against an individual.  “Masters” and those in leadership carry the added weight of accountability for their words for the increased impact they can make.

This office is not to be taken lightly, for James said, “Knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.”  At this level, there is a higher standard of living expected for the one who bears the title, and James included himself in this by saying, “we”.  Proverbs 10:11 says, “The mouth of the righteous man is a well of life.”  Those who belong to God and work at sharing His word must especially be careful that what is coming out of them is speaking “life” to the ears of the hearers (more on this later).

James 3:2 “For in many things we offend all.  If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” 

In your mind, raise your hand if you have ever messed up or “offend” another.  One of the easiest ways to “offend” and harm another is through the mouth.  People often speak rashly in the heat of the moment and without carefully considering the impact their words have on another.  These emotional outbursts cause us to come up with phrases like “My mouth ran away with me” and so forth.  On those occasions, the use of the mouth was not employed as a tool for edifying, rather just the opposite.

But the one that can control his speech is considered “a perfect man.”  Since the tongue is often known as “running away” on its own, the one that exercises great restraint over this defiant member is considered “able also to bridle the whole body.”  It is the taming of what some view as being untamable.   He or she who can moderate or put limits on something so difficult to deal with can often show great restraint in other areas of life.  “He that keepeth his mouth keepeth His life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction,” is what we find in Proverbs 13:3a.  If one can keep their mouth under control, they can often hold tight elsewhere, avoiding destructive patterns that would work to tear them down.

In both verses quoted above, we see the weight of words and their impact is the sole responsibility of the one speaking, regardless of their title or not.  What we say out of our mouths carries so much with it and, it would behoove us to use our words wisely, chew on it a bit before we say it, and think critically, if what we are about to say is needful for that particular moment.

2. Learn to Tame the Tongue

James 3:3-4 “Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths,  that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.  Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.”

James gives us the best possible illustrations on the power of the tongue by referencing it to two things his readers, as well as modern-day readers, can easily understand.  Through these two examples: one of a horse and another of a ship, James shows that man has, down through the years, discovered ways to bring these powerful objects under control.  For the horse, it is using a “bit” in its mouth and, for a ship, “a very small helm.” 

Both instruments are used for controlling other things.  They both direct the course of which way the operator wants each to go, be it a rider or “the governor.”  Both are great examples of how these large, and strong objects, can be made to comply with the will of the one who is controlling that little, vital piece.  If there are these little things that can move great objects into obeisance at its master’s will, what more of the little tongue?

James 3:5-6 “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.”

Just as those little instruments are applied to the horse and ships, the body has a little thing that tries to control it also: “the tongue.” 

First, it “boasteth great things.”  The tongue edifies itself.  It magnifies the capabilities of its owner whether or not they really can do something.  The tongue is swollen with pride.  Have you ever seen an owner walk a little tiny dog with the biggest yipper on it, tugging and tugging the leash?  Or have you walked past a yard to the tune of relentless barking thanks to a peewee-sized dog?  These little ones are tenacious in letting you know who they are.  These pint-sized sweeties have no problem in letting the world know that they are here, and they mean business.

Our tongues often act in the same way.  It is so small, and it has so much to bark about.  Yet, this barking, used in a nonproductive and selfish way, makes a lot of noise, and can lead to great destruction.

Secondly, James taught, “how great a matter a little fire kindleth!  And the tongue is a fire.”  It only takes a small flame to bring on a raging inferno.  I often watch coverage on the news of fires that burn uncontrollably.  They are huge.  They are massive walls of orange-red destruction, eating and devouring everything in its path.  But they never start out that big.  Their origin is relatively small in comparison to the size they have grown to be.

James said, “And the tongue is a fire.”  The tongue can be the source of destruction that wreaks havoc on the things that get in its way.  It can chop and devour until it has consumed some with sorrow and some with despair when wrongly used.  The tongue can lash out and cause irreparable damage to the ears of its hearer if not used properly.

James described it as “a world of iniquity.”  Proverbs 10:19 says, “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.”  A lot of running off at the mouth gives many opportunities for sin to rear its ugly head.  When the tongue is let loose, it lashes about without regard for hurt, feelings, or the devastation it leaves behind.  Like a whirling tornado, it ravishes, spinning around and around in sinfulness, wiping out all in its path.

Without restraint, all it knows how to do is upheaval.  Without being restrained, the tongue “defileth the whole body.”  Jesus taught, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh,” (Luke 6:45).  With that, we see that whatever comes out of the mouth, gives evidence to what already resides in the heart or the “body.” 

James 3:7-8 “For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:  But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”

Man, through the blessed ingenuity that God has given him, has developed ways to tame just about everything.  Yes, our lesson focuses on the taming of animals and birds, right down to the taming of serpents.  But, when we think about it, man has been able to take control of or tame many more things.  Since the Bible days, man has even found ways to harness energy through many means, including using the sun’s power.  Man has developed many ways to use the power of nature, such as wind and water, to harness their energies to benefit humanity.

Though he has been able to do so many feats (think of all the inventions through the years), the Bible says, “the tongue can no man tame.” It speaks to the “unruly evil” that it truly is.  It testifies to the power that it holds in its little self.  It is liken as being “full of deadly poison.”  Its work can destroy to the point of no return.  No wonder James’s warning is so strong and so severe.  Christians must learn how to put reins on this evil and stop its destructive ways.

Taming the tongue begins with not only monitoring one’s mouth but the things in the heart.  For the mouth cannot speak what the heart is not feeling.  Proverbs commands us, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (4:23).  The word “keep” can be used in the same sense as “guard” or “monitor.”  When the heart is kept and dealt with rightly, so too will the words which flow from it.

One day, each one of us will give an account for everything that proceeds from our mouths (Matthew 12:36-37).  As God’s children, we must not be reckless in the use of our words.  Taming the tongue means working hard to make sure your mouth is as a “well of life” (Proverbs 10:11) and that the words we speak be words of grace and helpful to the hearers thereof (Colossians 4:6; see also Ephesians 4:29).

3. Speak to Give Life

James 3:9-10 “Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing.  My brethren, these things ought not so to be.”

In the beginning, God spoke His most beautiful words of creation: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26).  Verse 27 goes on to say, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”  These words professed the climax of His creation.  These words speak volumes of the love relationship that God wanted to have with man who was made “in his own image,” or as today’s lesson says, “after the similitude of God.” 

“Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing.”  The conundrum of man is that we love the Lord and seek to bless Him, but sometimes our attitude toward His creation, our fellow man, can cause us to have disgruntled feelings that may turn to cursing.  “These things ought not so to be,” James said.  That is not the way we are to behave toward one another.

1 John 4:20 says it like this, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”  Love for God and hate toward man equals “blessing” and “cursing.” Those two cannot, and should not, exist together.  They are incompatible roommates.  They are not a good fit to dwell in the same domain with each other.

James 3:11-12 “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?  Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.”

To further illustrate this puzzling aspect of man to try and bless and curse from the same vessel, James points out things in nature that cannot happen, that are incompatible.  First, he uses “water” to demonstrate.  Can a water fountain bring sweet water and bitter from the same place?  Can a fountain have both salt water and fresh water?  The answer is an obvious no.  The same is true for looking for olives on the fig tree or figs on a vine where grapes would be.  It does not happen.

Nature is not confused about what it is to produce.  A fig tree is designed by God to bear fig fruit.  The same is true for olives and such.  If nature knows what it should produce, so should the Christians to whom James is writing.  They are to not act out of character to the way that God designed them.

In dealing with our speech toward others, we must be mindful of building up rather than tearing down.  Proverbs 15:4 reminds us that, “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life…” Think about that for a minute.  The words that we speak about and to one another can bring healing to a hurting soul.  That is powerful!  Our speech goes beyond just saying words; they exhibit and send forth “life.”

Who are we raising to “life” with a timely and sincere word?  Are people enriched for the good when they sit down to have a chat with us or do they walk away feeling extra heavy and burdened down?  These things make a difference.  Not only do they make a difference to the one whom we are conversing with, but they also speak for us how closely we are walking in tune with our Savior and how He dealt with individuals daily.  On that note, on to our fourth point in this lesson.

4. Mimic the Speech of Jesus

Isaiah 50:4 “The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.”

If one seems to come short of all other attempts to use productive and positive speech patterns, all you have to do is look at Jesus and see what He did and how He communicated to those He came into contact with.

If one is going to learn how to use the tongue healthily, the best example is that of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus had all the right words at the right time.  He knew how to speak compassion when it was needed most.  He knew how to speak conviction in truth without berating another.  And Jesus knew how to speak life.

Jumping out of the New Testament and going back to the old, there we see the prophesied Servant, whom we know to be the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ, and in Isaiah 50:4, He talks about the words He uses and the way He uses them to speak.  There He says, “The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary…” 

It amazes me how many people think they have something to offer and are quick to verbalize those very thoughts and ideas.  Never do we see Jesus in the Bible using words in a frivolous or lackadaisical manner.  We have already expressed the preciousness of words and how they are used, and Jesus, just as His Father, knew the value of words and used them as such.

Jesus’ heart was always, and I do mean always, to do the will of the Father (John 6:38).  In everything, right down to going to the cross, God’s will was His number one priority (Luke 22:42).  With the will of God governing His whole life and ministry, even the words He spoke had to be what “The Lord GOD hath given me.” 

In Isaiah, that which was given is described as “the tongue of the learned”; as one who had been taught by God what to say and how to say it.  You can speak something true, but how the message is delivered can affect how one receives it or not.

In John 12:50, Jesus said, “For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.  And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.”

Jesus never used words in a fly-away fashion.  With everything He spoke, it was either with a purpose, for a purpose, or to fulfill a purpose – or all three in one.

When we think of “with a purpose”, we can think along the lines of healing, miracles, and deliverances.  Jesus, in those instances, spoke with the intent to deliver an individual from some illness, spiritual oppression, or to perform a miracle such as the feeding of the five thousand.

When we think in terms of “for a purpose”, we can think along the lines of the parables He taught.  In those instances, He spoke for His audience to gain a greater understanding of something, particularly Kingdom principles.

And, when we think in terms of Jesus speaking to “fulfill a purpose”, we can easily associate this with prophecies such as the one He spoke from the cross: “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).  Those exact words open the Messianic psalm found in Psalm 22:1.

By the way, the verses quoted above in John 12:49, 50 could also be looked at in a fulfilling fashion because they fulfilled our verse of study in Isaiah 50:4 regarding the use of His speech.

Jesus used His words with exactness and preciseness.  Back in Isaiah, we see His words were carefully chosen “that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary.”  The right words at the right time, especially for the weary worn, are a special kind of sweetness to a soul that dreadfully needs it.  Proverbs 16:24 says, “Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones,” and nobody could do this better than the Lord Jesus Christ.  He said, “…the word that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life,” (John 6:63).

Then, in Isaiah, He goes on to explain, “he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.”  It was a daily thing for Jesus to have His ear tuned into the Father’s mouth, to hear what He has to say and express the very words He “learned.” 

In concluding this lesson, this last section may seem overwhelming in learning to speak like Jesus in this manner.  But, if we take everything into consideration and then look at what James taught earlier in his book: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:” (James 1:19), following this, may help us to learn to have an ear as the Servant (Jesus), and be able to speak with words of grace (Ephesians 4:29).

Our words are powerful!  As this lesson shows, they can be used to hurt or to heal; to edify or to tear down.  James wants us to choose life with the words that we speak.  He wants us to take the high road and control of what is coming out of our mouths.  If we need help, we can pray the prayer of the psalmist and say, “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips” (Ps. 141:3).

What we say and how we talk to one another really does matter.  It is all about how we use our words and to learn daily to use them better.

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Sunday School Lesson – “Hosanna to the King!” Mark 11:1-11

VERSE DISCOVERY: Mark 11:1-11 (KJV, Public Domain)

At one point, before his death, John the Baptist sent men to Jesus and asked, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3).  This questioning was spawned because of the mighty “works of Christ” (Matthew 11:2) that were performed and proclaimed throughout the region.

Not only did the works He performed bear witness of who He was (John 10:25), Jesus often identified Himself with the Deity of heaven; as being one with the Father Himself (see John 10:30; John 1:1; John 14:9).

The hope of the people has been in a state of expectation since the days of old.  They have heard of the prophecies, such as the one Zechariah proclaimed, saying, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass,” (Zechariah 9:9).

They were waiting for this time of celebration that was prophesied hundreds of years before the actual event took place. A time when God’s people would ring out their worship of their one true King. At His coming joy will go before Him for His proposed reign. People will raise their voices with heartfelt praise and adoration of Him who has come to save them.

Unfortunately, when He came, most were not looking for a Savior from sin, rather one who would free them of the national tyranny of their oppressors. The people at that time were more focused on their present circumstances over their eternal destinies.  This will rob you of seeing Jesus for who He really is every single time.

It was prophesied that this King would be “just.” His rule would be governed by truth. It’s how He lived and how He died; according to God’s truth. He declared in Matthew 5:18 “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” He pressed on to fulfill truth so that His reign would be marked and identified as being “just.” He would do all that is right according to God’s holy Word.

This King would also be known as “having salvation.” He would bear within Himself the means to save mankind from the ravages of sin and disparity brought on by their fleshly stance in this world. The Bible declares, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23). Therefore, all of mankind needed and still needs a Savior; one who can bring them out of the depths of his/her evil state. Acts 4:12 lets us know, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” This King comes with our “salvation.”

At His entrance, He comes in a state opposite of most royalty and the elite of society. This King is prophesied to come “lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” A humble creature of burden becomes transportation of Him who would bear all of humanities burdens and sins.

I think it important to reiterate here that our King was “lowly.” We sing songs praising that wonderful characteristic of His, but do we really understand how much He humbled Himself to come and do what He did for us? Do we understand that He could have arrived with all the pomp and circumstance of heaven, but He arrived in an animal’s dwelling, with no proper place to lay His head? Do we understand how many times He could have shut the mouth of those who rose against Him and accused Him, but He took it all on Himself as part of His mission; His ministry to save mankind? Do we really understand how much He took off to put on the dregs of humanity? Do we understand? He was “lowly.”

By entering the town on that day in that way, Jesus was letting all the world know that He was that prophesied King.  That yes, if anybody wants to know, He is the One whom they have been looking for.

This is where we find ourselves studying today: Jesus’ triumphal entry. 

 Lesson Summary

Mark 11:1-3 “And when they came night to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples, And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him. And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither.”

Before we arrive at today’s lesson, Matthew 20 tells us that Jesus once again tried to prepare His disciples for the reality of what was soon to take place:

“Now Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples aside on the road and said to them,

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death,

And deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again,” (Matthew 20:17-19; see also Mark 10:32:34).

Here, in the above verses, with what I believe was still clueless disciples, Jesus is drawing “nigh to Jerusalem.” The King is about to make His entrance but before doing so He gives His disciples very explicit details to follow to make sure when He comes in there is no mistake to the reign He claims.

As a matter of fact, fulfilling every prophecy that was spoken of Him was so imperative that later He wouldn’t die until He could finally say, “It is finished,” (John 19:30).

God’s prophets such as Zechariah were His spokesmen. They have been used down through Israel’s history to pass onto the people the word of God. To warn, exhort and exalt them to draw closer to Him through their prophecies. When God used a prophet as His mouthpiece, the words that come from them are as valid as if they heard it from His own being, thundering upon the mountains. Since what they spoke was on His behalf, He had to make sure everything: past, present, and future would be fulfilled as it was told to the people down through the years.

They were told exactly how their King would arrive and Jesus was careful to make sure there would be no mistaking who He claimed to be when He arrived in Jerusalem in such a fashion. His arrival mounted on that beast would offer them visual evidence. Any Jew would have known that when they see Him on a “colt the foal of an ass,” as Zechariah stated; or just using the word “colt” as this lesson states, He was claiming His Kingship; He was claiming His Lordship; He was claiming His Messiahship.

With that, the instructions He gives is for them to, “Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him.” It is supposed by many Bible students that Jesus had a prearranged agreement with the owners of the animals that He sent them for. With that supposition, He knew (which He could have known because of His Sovereignty if He wanted to) exactly where to send them and how to instruct them on searching out what He already planned. When they arrived and found the ones He said, His command was “loose him, and bring him.” The reason is stated for us, and for the owner’s is in the next verse.

If anyone dared to question what the disciples were doing and what was their intent and purposes of loosing the animal, Jesus gave them a simple reply to relay: “The Lord hath need of him.” He was set aside for the Master’s use. He was needed by Jesus. How privileged was this little guy that would carry the “Lord;” the Savior of the world, on his back. Awesome!

Never had anyone rode him before this day.  Jesus’ specific instructions included that he be one that “never a man sat.”  It amazes me what our Christ can do with the unused; what He can do with the unskilled and rough around the edges. This donkey is not known by name to us, but we know him as part of the Messiah’s royal parade forever in history.  Even more awesome!

Mark 11:4-6 “And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him.  And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt?  And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go.”

“And they went their way, and found the colt… and they loose him.”  They may have not understood everything right away, nor did they fully grasp that Jesus was fully preparing Himself to die that He might reign (though He often tried to get that point across to them), but they didn’t question Him. They didn’t try to dissuade Him from His task; rather they obeyed.

Their obedience is a key component. Let’s put this in full perspective.  They knew the authorities of the day were plotting against Him to seek to take His life. The Triumphal Entry of Jesus is also found in the Book of John chapter 12. In chapter 11 of that same book, before this moment in time, when Jesus was determined to go to Bethany (about 1½ miles outside of Jerusalem) to raise Lazarus from the dead, seeing that He couldn’t be dissuaded, Thomas, one of the disciples, said, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” So, when He instructed them in the matter of the “colt” they are noted as doing what Jesus told them to do despite any fears on misgivings they may have felt at that moment.

Following His orders did indeed get them questioned by others, but they once again followed the path of obedience and “they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded.” 

Mark 11:7 “And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him.”

I don’t know about you, but I have ridden a horse bareback before. The experience was not pleasant, to say the least. Here, the disciples provide comfort for the Lord as He mounts the beast set aside for His use. In lieu of a saddle, they pad the back of the beast with “their garments.”

We often hear people use expressions of love and service to another by saying things like, “I will give them the clothes off my back.” Jesus’ disciples didn’t talk about it, they did it. They literally gave Him the “clothes” off their backs to comfort the ride of the King. Oh, how much this must have meant to the Lord who would soon come before angry faces and hearts filled with hatred.  But, at this moment, He gets to feel and experience support from those closest to Him.

Mark 11:8-10 “And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way.  And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.  Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.”

Can we picture this scene really quick? As Jesus was entering in Jerusalem on that colt, word had to have rapidly spread for not just the disciples were celebrating the King, “many” and “others” joined in. Matthew 21:8 referred to them as “multitudes.”

Did they recognize the symbolism? Did they associate His entrance as the long-awaited promised One; of He that was prophesied of? We are working under the assumption that those questions can be answered with a very real, “Yes!”

Again, His reign to free men from sin instead of tyranny may not be what they had imagined at the time, but they understood who He claimed to be by how He rode into Jerusalem, fulfilling prophecy. Therefore, they willingly and with great rejoicing (as was also prophesied) wanted to be a part of the celebration. The King was coming and they “spread their garments in the way” and “cut down branches off the trees” to cover the path He would travel. What a small service for such a great King!

They honored Him with their “Hosanna” shout. They rallied and proclaimed the praises of Him who would save them, for that’s the meaning behind the word “Hosanna;” to “save now.”

“Hosanna” was the shout of triumph. In Him, they saw a victorious King. In Him, they had an expectancy of deliverance. In Him they rejoiced, proclaiming that He is the one who would fulfill the promise of “the kingdom of our father David,” (see 2 Samuel 7:12-14).

So, they rejoiced and shouted that He was, “Blessed.”  His “kingdom” is “blessed.” He is the one that “cometh in the name of the Lord!” They were getting their praise on as we say it today! The King has arrived! The King has come! “Blessed is he!”

In Matthew 21:10 it says of that day that “all the city was moved.”  Often when Jesus performed miracles crowds would gather around Him to witness the power of God at work through Him. Here, there is no miracle performed; rather prophecy, long-awaited prophecy being fulfilled. Emotions were running high and people gathered and were excited to see it coming to pass right before their eyes; right in their time of living. When was the last time you were so stirred up about Jesus?  They had a reason to be shaken with excitement saying, “Hosanna in the highest!”

Mark 11:11 “And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve.”

An anti-climactic end to such a triumphal entry?  Oh, no!  After identifying Himself as King by riding in the way that He did, Jesus “entered… into the temple,” and soon some things were going to change!  It was about to get real up in that place, as some would say.

If you would read further past our lesson, Mark 11:15-17 shows us the second cleansing of the temple Jesus performed (this is also support by Matthew 21:12-13).  There He turned over tables and proclaimed, “Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves,” (Mark 11:17).

This King wasn’t playing with His ministry!  He was triumphant at the beginning, middle and end of His parade, and He still commands the victory as He is cleaning out His Father’s house.  Only the true King, with true authority, can command and operate the way He does.

Conclusion

Jesus is He that was to come; the King to reign for all eternity.  Let us shout his praises: “Hosanna in the highest!”  There’s no need to look for another.  He’s the One!

Lesson PDF: Sunday School Lesson – Hosanna to the King

Suggested Activities:

Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Hosanna to the King

Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Hosanna to the King

Draw the Scene: Hosanna to the King Draw the Scene

(Use the PDF link above for accurate printing) Want to jazz up this memory verse?  Try printing on cardstock and using glue with glitter to fill in the words, colored chalk, paints and more.  You’re only limited by your imagination.  Enjoy!

HOSANNA PALM LEAF CRAFT: Hosanna Palm Leaf for Palm Sunday (Use this PDF link for accurate printing)  Have students decorate and color their free palm leaf (printing on cardstock is best) and tape or glue to a craft stick (makes a great church fan 🙂 ) or dowel rod or twigs from outside for a natural element so they too can wave them before the Lord with rejoicing.  I wanted mine to be colorful, not just all green.  Jazz it up! After all, it is a celebration.  Enjoy!

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Hosanna Palm Leaf for Palm Sunday-001

 

Leaf Lace Up Craft:   Use PDF: Mark 11 9 Leaf Lace Up Craft to put together this simple, yet fun activity.  Print out on cardstock and use a hole punch to put holes around the free leaf template.  Use any materials you have laying around for lacing: yarn, string, pipe cleaners, etc.  I used crumbled up party streamers.  Go figure!  Enjoy! (Similar project shown below)

My Project 320-001

Mark 11 9 Leaf Lace Up Craft-001

How Many Words: Hosanna to the King How Many Words

Word Search: Hosanna to the King Word Search Answers: Hosanna to the King Word Search Answers

Crossword: Hosanna to the King Crossword Answers: Hosanna to the King Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Hosanna to the King Word Scramble Answers: Hosanna to the King Word Scramble Answers

 

 

 

 

Sunday School Lesson – “Love Your Enemies” Matthew 5:38-48

Photo: Pixabay

VERSE DISCOVERY: Matthew 5:38-48 (KJV, Public Domain)

What does true Christianity look like?  How do people know that we are a child of God?  What marks us as being different from anyone else?  When we decided to do the things that God does and love the way He loves, then people can readily tell whom we belong; who is our Father.

In life, there are going to be times of being wronged, hurt, and/or misunderstood.  What do we do in these instances?  Do we vehemently seek revenge or try to get even? 

No.  Part of being a Christian or living life as God’s people is to extend God’s love to those who refuse to show us kindness in return.  It’s going against our human nature to when offenses happen by extending the heart of God to those who oppose or war against us; to those whom one would consider being an enemy.

When we choose to say no to what our flesh wants to do and yes to what is right in God’s sight, then we are on the right pathway of living lives that are pleasing to Him.  We are purposefully living like Jesus did – choosing to love, even the worst, like God does.   

Going Against Human Nature

Matthew 5:38-42 “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.  And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.  Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.”

It is during His teaching on the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus lays out the disciplines necessary for a life lived for the Kingdom of God, where this lesson text is found.  In that teaching, He clarifies a few points He wants His followers to adhere to.  Jesus wanted to set aright some misunderstandings concerning the Law and offers a more Kingdom-approached mindset.

Part of laying out the law in Exodus was to ensure that when people committed a wrong against another or injured another, proper retribution was made.  This portion of the law, and similar portions like it, were put in place to keep everything fair and balanced, not only for the offended but for the offender.  Both parties would be protected to ensure neither party involved would go overboard in exacting from the other what they believed was due them or deserved.  Those who were to receive something in return for an offense would get what’s coming to them – nothing more, nothing less.  And, those who caused the offense or injury, those on the punishment end of the spectrum would get or give what is their due – nothing more, nothing less.

Basically, laws like this not only promoted fairness, but it limited extreme actions from being taken by another for the least little bit of infractions.  The punishment had to fit the crime and not be exaggerated, out of the proportion, or go too far for what was called for.

That’s the meaning behind the phrase/verse, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, (compare Exodus 21:24).  It was not a license for retaliation and revenge.  It was a law commanded to keep everything fair and balanced.

Supporting the true nature of the law, Jesus taught, rather than seek revenge, go above and beyond what normal human nature would demand of in times of offense.  Do something radically different: Resist not evil.  Proverbs 20:22 explains it like this: “Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the LORD, and he will save thee,” (compare 1 Peter 3:9).  The focus of a Kingdom-minded individual is not seeking to render evil for evil.  The focus of a true child of God is to live life like Jesus did, with love and compassion toward one’s fellow man.  Even their enemies.

And, if it’s the Law the people want to quote to justify themselves in rendering to another their “just desserts,” then they also must remember that it is also the Law that states, “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt  love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD,” (Leviticus 19:18).

People can be very self-seeking in matters of avenging and holding grudges.  These two things will tear relationships and people down rather than heal and restore.  And, that defeats the purpose of the original intent of the Law.

Therefore Jesus, to further drive His point home, continues: But whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.  During the Roman occupation, people in Jesus’ day would suffer many assaults from these soldiers and governing authorities.  And, surely too, there would be times when one’s own countrymen would strike out in unjust ways.  But, the response of the Christian is not to behave in the same manner as they.  They were to respond opposite of what society or their normal human character would dictate.

Other scenarios Jesus gave, such as, if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also, and, whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain, demonstrate the previous point He made about not getting caught up in revenge, retaliation, and the seeking of one’s rights.  Here, He is instructing them to once again, go above and beyond that, to the point of doing more than what was insistent upon.  The Christian is not called to live and act like everyone else, getting caught up in matters that surround the here and now or being entangled with the cares of this life, 2 Timothy 2:4.  He/she is called to live and love people as God Himself does, and that often goes against the grain of human nature.  And, sometimes it will require one to do extra or more than necessary in order to show the love of God.

When someone has been hurt and broken the last thing on their mind is the benefit of the one who has inflicted the harm.  Jesus, knowing what He was going to accomplish on the cross, was teaching His disciples to operate in this world as He would.

All these things that He speaks of in the above verses, all the scenarios of wrongs committed, were to be situations that Jesus Himself would live through, love through, and forgive the offense of others through.  They would be things that He would actually demonstrate through His own life: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth,” (Isaiah 53:7).

Jesus was teaching His disciples that to live as Kingdom-minded people, you will not only have to go against the status quo and cliques of society, but you will also have to fight against your own natural inclinations that don’t want to seek the good of those who cause harm.

In addition to that, be giving.  Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.  God gave us the greatest gift one could ever hope to receive, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:16), who would freely and willingly suffer so much wrong to lay His life down for us.  Is it too much for us to give as He gave to those in need?  Jesus didn’t turn others way or turn a blind eye to genuine needs.  Do we?

Love Like God Loves

Matthew 5:43-48 “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?  And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?  Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

Love your enemies.  Loving neighbors is one thing, but the words love and enemies don’t exactly coincide with one another according to human standards; rather, they usually collide with one another head-on.  But Jesus is calling us to use God’s Spirit within us to operate on a supernatural level that surpasses our view which is usually obstructed by this natural world.

When one is an enemy that means they are against us.  Yet, Jesus’ command is to love them anyhow.  Show them the same compassion as He did when He allowed them to drive the nails through His hands and feet.  He told His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane at the time of His arrest, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53).  He could’ve taken care of His enemies with one swoop of prayer, yet love compelled Him to offer Himself for their release from sin.  He had a heavenly view for loving His enemies.  In that, He laid it all down for them and us and showed just one of the ways one can do good to them that hate you.

Pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.  No one said these sayings were easy, because they’re not.  If they were, everybody would be doing them.  But they are doable because everything that Jesus is telling His followers to do, He did, or would go on to do.

They cursed Him, yet He prayed for them: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” (Luke 23:34).  They struck Jesus on the cheek (John 18:22; compare with Matthew 5:39 from above), and they divided His clothes (Luke 23:34).  He went through it all and never sought His own revenge but continued forth in love.

Following His teachings, even when it’s hard, and mimicking the things He did, helps to identify the Christians as true children of your Father which is in heaven.  In normal, familial relationships there will be some sort of resemblance between parents and children.  Certain traits, characteristics, features will be prominent, assuring the fact that this child belongs to me.  And, the same is true for those who claim to be spiritual children of God.  As His children, some of Him should be seen in us.  As we were originally created to be in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), so too should we represent His image as we have been recreated with a new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17).

God is a good God (Psalm 100:5) and “He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God,” (3 John 1:11).  In His goodness, He does not withhold the natural graces of nature even from those who are considered evil and unjust.  He allows the sun and rain to benefit them all.  How much more in kindness should we operate if we are mimicking our Father?

It is easy for anyone to love or salute those who love and salute them back.  Jesus, to make sure they understood this concept, used as an illustration one of the most despised people of their day: the publicans.  The publicans were the local tax collectors on behalf of the Roman government.  They placed exorbitant charges on their fellow countrymen and gave to the Romans what belonged to them while pocketing the overages for themselves.  Because of this, they were greatly despised among their own people and seen as traitors.

With that being said, Jesus is making His point, that it is no great thing to treat ones with love and compassion who show the same toward you.  Even the most despised of people usually do the same.

It is when one goes above and beyond – that’s what sets them apart as true children of God.  When one can step away from their natural tendencies of wanting to retaliate and get even and decide to walk the path that leads us to perfect living; one that mimics our Father which is in heaven is perfect, can they truly say they are loving as God loves.  They are seeing people the way the Father sees them.  That even enemies, and those that war against us, would be viewed in our sight the same way the Father views them and treats them.

After all, we were once enemies as well.  “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13).  But, in His love, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).  He didn’t wait until we were doing right and walking perfect and checking off all the right boxes and treating everyone fairly before He died for us.  He did it while we were in our mess.  He did it while we were sinners.  He did it while we were enemies.  Now, it’s our turn to show others, even those who may hurt us and be called our enemies, the love of God in us.

PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – Love Your Enemies

Suggested Activities:

Adult Journal Page – Love Your Enemies

Kid’s Journal Page – Going the Second Mile

Memory Verse: Love Your Enemies Memory Verse

Draw the Scene: Love Your Enemies Draw the Scene

Word Search: Love Your Enemies Word Search  Answers: Love Your Enemies Word Search Answers

Crossword: Love Your Enemies Crossword  Answers: Love Your Enemies Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Love Your Enemies Word Scramble  Answers: Love Your Enemies Word Scramble Answers

“Love Your Enemies Activities” (Tom and Jerry anyone?  Yes, what a great example about getting along with someone you are always fighting with.  Enjoy!)

“Love Your Enemy Children’s Lesson”

“Love Your Enemies Group Activities” (Several great ways to bring this lesson out.  Enjoy!)

“Love Your Enemies Activity Sheets”

“What Would Jesus Do Printable Craft”

“What Would Jesus Do Activities” (I really like the section on Visual Activities.  I think using this technique is a great way to open up and introduce the students to this week’s lesson.  Enjoy!)

“What Would Jesus Do, Mirror”

“Jesus Knocking Craft” (Though this does not go with today’s verse, I think this easy printable can be nicely applied to today’s lesson.  Use it to make a Jesus door hanger that will help remind students to ask WWJD?  Enjoy!)