Sabbath School Lesson for December 9-15, 2023

Overview for Lesson 11, Mission to the Unreached: Part 2

Memory Text: “Then Jesus answered her and said to her, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed from that very hour.” Matthew 15:28 NKJV

What to expect from this week’s lesson:

  • Sunday: Mission to Regions Beyond–Old Testament examples of world mission
  • Monday: Seeking the Multitudes–It starts with having compassion.
  • Tuesday: In Tyre and Sidon–Going on a field trip with Jesus
  • Wednesday: “Send Her Away!”–New Testament examples of world mission
  • Thursday: Faith on Earth–It happens when we have faith.
  • Friday: Our Challenge–how we can join God’s mission

Out of love for His children, God has always been searching for ways we can be saved. Salvation isn’t just for the Jews, as their past actions have often indicated, but for everyone who turns to God.

Adam and Eve heard His call in the Garden of Eden, as He searched for them after they sinned (Genesis 3:9). We haven’t always been receptive to joining His search party, however, but our covenant relationship with God demands we join Him. Jesus, during His public ministry, showed us how to join God’s task force of reaching those who are seemingly unreachable.

Since a growing number of the world’s population now live in highly-populated cities, we must develop mission strategies that reach them, wherever they are found. The current number for city-dwellers is 55 percent worldwide, but is projected to be 68 percent by 2050, if Jesus doesn’t return by then. All people deserve to hear the gospel message to bolster their faith and hope in these trying times.

Sunday: Mission to Regions Beyond

God’s plan for the Israelites, when they first settled in the land He had promised them, included the destruction of some of the pagan tribes, whose cruelty was most harmful for those suffering under their harsh treatment. The consequences of their sins were beyond repair.

We often wonder though why some pagan tribes were left untouched. It was God’s plan that the example of Israel’s government and lifestyle of its citizens, would evangelize those tribes, and the world beyond.

The ancient people groups, who were their neighbors, became a test for Israel’s faith. As it happened, however, these tribes instead became a stumbling block, bringing the Israelites down to their level. Instead of building their faith, their unfortunate decisions tore them away from God.

Jesus had distinct plans to prepare His disciples to turn this situation around. His efforts to bring them to cities, like Tyre and Sidon, would provide experiences that would ultimately change their prejudiced attitudes toward Gentiles.

Bible Verses:

Judges 3:1-6

  • How were God’s people to live with their pagan neighbors, and why did they fail to keep their covenant with God to join His mission of saving the world?

1 Kings 5:1-12

  • How did Solomon do right by his neighbors, and how did God reward him?

1 Kings 11:1-6

  • Why did God forbid their intermarriage with pagan tribes, and how was Solomon affected by his choice to ignore God’s command?

Monday: Seeking the Multitudes

We know there were multitudes who followed Jesus, asking for His help. But Jesus often went searching for the most needy (Matthew 4:23-25). Geographically, His ministry, therefore, included Gentile cities and villages. His tender approach and inclusive willingness to help them must have surprised the disciples (Matthew 9:35-38).

The compassion Jesus expressed by His loving words and actions in large cities was not unnoticed. Jesus told the disciples to pray for more harvesters, because the harvest there was great, and the laborers were few–a metaphor that was clearly understood by their culture, and that of many others since.

The vast city of Jerusalem was, of course, also a focal point for the Lord’s compassion. Looking over the city of God, the Messiah openly and unashamedly wept for those living there (Luke 19:41). His heart ached for anyone who needed the guidance and protection of the Good Shepherd (John 10:11).

Cities in our world today are in need of hearing the gospel of the Good Shepherd. This can only happen if we pray for and go to these cities, under the Holy Spirit’s direction, and show them loving nature of Jesus.

Bible Verses:

Matthew 9:35-38

  • What were the needs of the people Jesus tried to help?
  • What motivated Jesus to help them, and what should motivate us?
  • Who were the harvest laborers that Jesus referred to?

Matthew 4:23-25

  • Why did Jesus’ ministry cover such a wide, diverse area? What must this have taught the disciples who accompanied Him?

Luke 19:41-44

  • What particularly moved Jesus to tears when they approached the city of Jerusalem?
  • Did this mean Jesus valued this city more than others? What makes you think so?

Tuesday: In Tyre and Sidon

The story is told in Matthew 15:22-28 of a Canaanite woman for whom Jesus performed the only miracle we know of on this particular missionary journey that brought them to Tyre and Sidon, far from Jerusalem. Jesus had just endured several sharp encounters with the scribes and Pharisees, and was seeking someplace where He could find rest from their constant efforts to convict Him of some crime.

The way the Savior first treated and addressed the Gentile woman, who was loudly pleading for Jesus to heal her severely demon-possessed daughter, was something that even some of the disciples recognized as uncharacteristic of their Master. He chose this unusual exchange of words, however, to point out the unfeeling, prejudiced attitudes of Jews toward all foreigners.

Jesus, obviously, knew that the woman’s faith in Him was strong enough to bear His curt remark that reminded her that she was nothing but a dog in the eyes of most Jews. She replied that even dogs get the crumbs from their master’s table. With this expression of persevering faith and love, Jesus tenderly informed her that her daughter would be healed at once. See Mark also 7:24-30.

Bible Verses:

Matthew 15:22-28

  • In what ways did this Canaanite woman show her faith in Jesus?

Mark 7:24-30

  • What did the disciples learn from Jesus’ unusual treatment of the Gentile woman who sought His help?

Wednesday: “Send Her Away!”

The disciples’ initial reaction to the Canaanite woman, who cried out to the Lord, was to urge Jesus to send her away (Matthew 15:23). This request revealed the national pride and prejudice that had become ingrained in the minds of all Jews.

Peter, even after the resurrection of Jesus, harbored religious bigotry that made it difficult to preach to foreigners, as Paul was already doing. But God hadn’t given up on him. Peter was given a dream about a sheet of unclean animals coming down from heaven, with a voice that told him to eat them (Acts 10:9-13).

Peter’s learning was expanded further after God sent him to the house of the centurion Cornelius. After the conversions there, Peter indicated the meaning of God’s vision of the animals correctly when he proclaimed that God shows no partiality in His dealings with us (Acts 10:34, 35). So, neither should we.

Bible Verses:

Acts 10:9-16, 10:34, 35, and Genesis 7:2, 4:4

  • Why do you think Peter’s understanding of the vision about God’s impartiality is the correct one?
  • How do we know that the designation of clean and unclean animals did not start and end with Moses? When must it have started, and why?

Thursday: Faith on Earth

Jesus pointed out the faith of many of those He healed. Several stories in the Gospels reveal faith as something the Master particularly noticed and  appreciated. Faith was found in unexpected places though: in the lives of foreigners, pagans, and those who had sinned. On the other hand, Jesus sadly noted the lack of faith of many of those in Israel, including those in Nazareth, His hometown.

Our Lord predicted that in the last days, we would see “men’s hearts failing them for fear…” (Luke 21:26). Fear that can and should be replaced by faith–if we put our trust and hope in the soon return of the Messiah. Just as many of those who were sick put their faith in Someone who could heal them.

Like Jesus, we must go where people are found, including urban populations where people are anxiously clinging and searching for some kind of faith in God. They deserve to know the full story of redemption that would help grow their faith.

Bible Verses:

Matthew 8:10, 13, 9:2, Mark 2:5, 10:46-52, and Luke 18:35-43

  • How do we understand what Jesus said when He told those He had healed that their faith had healed them? What does that mean, and in what way does faith play a part, if any, on one’s healing?

Matthew 6:30, 8:26, 14:31, 16:8, and 17:17

  • Why did Jesus so often point out that some people didn’t have faith–which turned out to be mostly those in Israel?
  • Why was, and is, faith so important to God’s mission?
  • What causes us to lose faith? And, how do we get it?

Friday: Our Weekly Mission Challenge

“Open your heart in prayer for a greater portion of faith with which to share your love for those near and far.

How did you come to know Jesus and the precious three angels’ messages? List three spiritual blessings that you have experienced from Jesus in your personal life. Prepare to share these concepts with your Sabbath School class.”

For discussion: Why is it important to pray for our own faith and love before we share God’s mission? How might that prayer change the outcome of our witnessing? How did you come to know Jesus and what spiritual blessings have you enjoyed in your walk with Him?

Bonus article to read that might help you deal with unreached people in our society today: Be Ready!

Next Week: Esther and Mordecai

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