Sabbath School Lesson for November 18-24, 2023

Overview of Lesson 8, Mission to the Needy

Memory Text: “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ ” Matthew 25:40 NKJV

What to expect from this week’s study:

  • Sunday: The Faith of Friends–bringing someone to Jesus through the roof
  • Monday: Christ’s Method Alone–how did Jesus minister to the needy
  • Tuesday: Refugees and Immigrants–even Jesus was a refugee in Egypt
  • Wednesday: To Help the Hurting–there are many ways to hurt
  • Thursday: Greater Love–how do we lay down our lives for others
  • Friday: Our challenge–how we can join God’s mission

We’ve seen how vital God’s mission is and how we can and should make it our own by partnering with Him. The focus now shifts to the recipients of our missionary work. The groups of people we saw Jesus helping the most in His earthly ministry were the multitudes of poor, needy people that flocked the streets and countryside of Judea, in and around Jerusalem.

In reality, there were many kinds of needs that were addressed by the Messiah in the short time He was with us in the flesh. This would include the poor and destitute of this world’s goods, but also those who were afflicted with physical ailments and disabilities. At times, it also included those with social and spiritual needs that were not being met. All these were conditions that marginalized people from society and kept them from feeling God’s love.

Jesus reminded His disciples, and us today, that whenever we help a struggling soul, we are actually helping Jesus Himself (Matthew 25:40). He identifies sympathetically with the needy so much that when we minister to them, it’s the same as loving our Savior, who also suffered much while on earth. Indeed, He was “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). He was needy to the core.

Sunday: The Faith of Friends

The story of the paralytic being lowered from the roof of a house by his friends must have been a popular story for it to be found in three of the four gospels. The news of this phenomenal healing was noted for many reasons. The paralyzed man was in great need and he had caring friends who worked together to come up with an innovative way to get him in front of the Healer. Jesus took note of their great faith (Luke 5:20).

It was surely faith that their friend could be healed by this itinerant preacher that inspired them to come up with such a bold plan. It took extra effort to go to all the trouble of helping their friend, but it ended up being worth all their trouble when Jesus not only healed the man, but forgave his sins, providing an opportunity to reveal the Messiah’s true identity to those who questioned His actions.

When we become friends with people around us, we are likely to discover that they have unmet needs that we can supply. As their trust in us builds, we may also be able to bring them to Jesus, just as the four friends in this delightful story. After all, having Jesus in our heart is the real need of the entire world, the only way to be healed, both in body and soul.

Bible Verses:

Luke 5:17-26

  • What kind of faith did it take for these four friends to carry out their plan?
  • What else did it take for their plan to work?

Monday: Christ’s Method Alone

Two other healings of Jesus bring to light the methods He used to accomplish His mission. In John 5:1-9, we find Jesus at the pool of Bethesda. There were many sick, needy people gathered this particular Sabbath, waiting to be first in the pool when the waters stirred. It was only then that they believed they might be healed.

Jesus’ eyes were able to find perhaps the one who had been waiting the longest to be healed. For 38 years, this man had been sick, to the point that he needed someone else to put him in the pool. He was unable to get there on his own. Sensing his great need and desire to be healed, Jesus had such compassion for the man that He  proceeded to heal Him, once again by just speak the words, “Rise, take up your bed and walk” (John 5:8).

The other healing, also on Sabbath, found in Mark 1:23-28 involved a man with an unclean spirit. The dramatic healing of this man revealed the caring nature of our Lord for a spiritual disorder that was plaguing him. In both these cases, Jesus was found mingling with the people, felt and showed compassion on someone there, won that person’s trust enough to take action to address his specific need, and finally, invited him to follow their Lord.

Bible Verses:

John 5:1-9

  • Why is it important not to lose hope when things are the darkest for us?

Mark 1:23-28

  • What does this kind of mingling accomplish for us and those with whom we gather?
  • What should be the ultimate purpose of our mingling with others in whatever community setting we find ourselves?

Tuesday: Refugees and Immigrants

So much has been happening in our world today that we find many countries flooded with massive numbers of immigrants and refugees, fleeing tragic crises in their homelands. We sometimes wonder whether we should allow them to cross our borders, let alone how we should treat those who do make it here and are trying to rebuild their lives.

Perhaps it would be well to remember that Jesus was once a refugee. His parents were compelled to travel to Egypt to escape the genocide of baby boys in Bethlehem that Herod demanded. Jesus and His parents knew firsthand the challenges of being so far away from their home and family back in Judea.

Not knowing how long their stay would be or where they would stay once they got there, it must have been difficult to make such a plunge of faith. How important it would have been for them to find welcoming Egyptians who would aid them in their difficult circumstances.

Many references as to how we should treat foreigners are found in the Scriptures. We’ve been told to be hospitable, to feed them, watch over them, and to love them. As an adult, Jesus was a great model of the kind of loving behavior it takes to do these things. He warmly welcomed everyone, including foreigners, with open arms.

Bible Verses:

Matthew 2:13, 14

  • What might have been the challenges for Jesus’ parents as they obeyed the angel and fled to Egypt?

Deuteronomy 10:19, Psalm 146:9, Romans 12:13, Leviticus 23:22

  • How are we told to treat foreigners in our land?
  • What can we do for people who immigrate to our home country?
  • What steps are you taking, both individually and as a church, to follow these instructions from God?

Wednesday: To Help the Hurting

Needy people aren’t necessarily destitute of material goods. Even the rich are burdened with emotional needs and require our sympathetic attention and support. We must never assume people are happy and have peace and contentment in their hearts, just because they have wealth.

Anyone with any kind of need deserves our love and respect, and most of all, actions that express the kind of affection God has for them. It should not be done, however, with the expectation that they will come to believe and accept the Lord. That’s entirely up to the Holy Spirit and the person being helped.

Our loving service to someone, even if it doesn’t win the heart of the recipient, may renew the faith of someone else who sees our kind behavior. And it certainly transforms and blesses us with even more compassionate natures. Nothing is wasted when we work for the Savior.

Bible Verses:

Luke 4:18

  • Who did Jesus help, besides the poor?
  • What kind of activities can we do to match what Jesus did in His earthly ministry, even without the miracles He was able to perform?

Matthew 25:34-40

  • Why is it important to remember who we really serve?

Thursday: Greater Love

When we read in John 15:13 about the great love that it takes when we lay down our life for our friends, it’s talking mostly about the ultimate sacrifice of love when Jesus died for us at Calvary, or perhaps even when any martyr dies for his or her faith. In the verses before and after, however, Jesus reinforces the commandment for us to love one another as He did throughout His ministry, indicating that our life, well-lived, may also be a sacrifice.

This requirement of love and sacrifice is commanded for all who are friends of Jesus. Like Him, we must be willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to love others, just as Jesus did during His lifetime.

“When we ask Him for our daily bread, He looks into our hearts to see if we will share the same with those more needy than ourselves.” ~Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 283. This means that the small things count, as well as the greater displays of love that may be required. God is surely mindful of all the sacrifices we make for others.

Bible Verses:

John 15:11-14

  • Besides telling us about the great love it takes to lay down our lives for our friends, what other principles does Jesus teach us in this passage?

Friday: Our Weekly Mission Challenge

Learn about foreigners or non-Christians who live in your country.

Identify someone within your sphere of influence. Begin regularly praying for the person after answering the following questions:

  • Is this person my friend–according to Jesus’ model of friendship?
  • Do I know the needs of his or her life?
  • How can I lead him or her to Jesus for healing?

For discussion: How might the personal needs of someone differ from the general needs of their ethnic or religious group? What are some of the ways we can befriend them enough to know their needs? Why is prayer always recommended when we pursue the friendships required to touch someone’s life with the hope and peace found in Jesus?

Next Week: Mission to the Powerful

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