Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

GD NT Lesson #6: Teaching Ideas

Posted by Robert C. on February 9, 2007

I expect and hope that Jim will post his Lesson 6 study questions soon.  Until then, this post can work as a place to add comments, questions, and suggestions for this lesson.  However, I’d primarily like to address Matt W.’s recent request for ideas on how to teach this lesson to his unruly teenagers.  Here’s my suggestion, which I think would serve as a good follow-up to the “Why are people so retarded” discussion: 

In Luke 4:23, Jesus preempts an objection of the people saying,

“Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal thyself’: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country.”

According to the NET footnotes (see scripture link above), the idea here is that Jesus should “heal himself” (i.e. in their eyes) by showing unto them the signs he did in Carpernaum.  Since I’ve been feverishly studying Alma 32 at the wiki, this sign-seeking bit seems a very fertile verse: Why, as people, are we so retarded, always seeking signs?  If Matt’s students want to get philosophical, surely this is a good opportunity to discuss the essence of faith and why it is that demanding signs(/proof) is so frowned upon while not doubting always seems to be commended in scripture, ideas which seem exactly opposite the modern emphasis on the scientific method.  Why is this?

Jesus continues by quoting another proverb, “No prophet is accepted in his own country” and then recounts how Elijah and Elisha helped non-Israelites.  This, of course, ticked off the locals, and they chased Jesus out of town hoping to throw him off a cliff, but Jesus somehow mysteriously escapes (“But he, passing through the midst of them went his way”), something that seems to me an ironic type of sign in itself.

So why does Jesus show signs to others, but not to those in his hometown of Nazareth?  And why didn’t Elijah and Elisha help Israelites, but only non-Israelites?  What good were these prophets to Israel if the prophets didn’t actually help Israel?  Why does Jesus keep quoting scriptures and proverbs in response (cf. his quoting of Deuteronomy when tempted by Satan)?  Why does his scripture-quoting response infuriate the people (cf. Isa 6:9ff)?  Are there scriptures that infuriate us?  Why? 

What other questions might be good to discuss in a SS lesson, esp. in Matt’s class of teenagers?  What other passages in this lesson do you find interesting and why?

11 Responses to “GD NT Lesson #6: Teaching Ideas”

  1. I like the idea of having a lesson on “Are there scriptures that infuriate us? Why?” It would be fascinating to do this with my priests, that is, read a few of these stories where Jesus gets in trouble by quoting scripture and then ask that question. I’d love to see what the kids would come up with. I might do this next time I have the right circumstance.

  2. nhilton said

    Joe, I guess that if you asked that question to a bunch of teenagers you’d just get a blank stare, pause, and then they’d simply talk amoungst themselves for the rest of class. Unfortuneately few teenagers are well-versed enough in the scriptures to find them on the spot & those that are won’t own up to it in front of their peers. Some teens can’t even READ the scriptures, especially aloud. I’m met with this in every class of teens I’ve taught no matter what socio-economic or ethnic background they come from. But I think you could ask them about stories they’ve heard or read or even try to bring it to a modern moment by asking if anyone can recall a scripture that current public figures/teen idols might find infuriating. I bet the kids could paraphrase some of those scriptures & then you could lead them by the hand in actually turning to them in their scriptures. Maybe list on the board a bunch of vague people, i.e. terrorists, movie makers, fashion designers, bankers, rich, poor, men, women, children, students, parents, etc. and ask the class to find scriptures by looking in the Topical Guide that might infuriate those groups. Ha!

  3. I like the counter-idea, nhilton, but I think I’m still going to try the original one sometime. My experience is that teens are far more involved in the scriptures than we give them credit for. My guess is that the first moment would be a chorus of “the Isaiah chapters,” but that would be enough to generate some real discussion. (Great story: Our stake YM presidency was teaching a lesson to all our young men during ward conference and the president asked the boys, “Why would Mormon have put all these chapters on war at the end of Alma? That doesn’t make any sense, does it?” And my wonderful Derek Wellington raised his hand with a sincere look on his face, and then he answered, “To make up for the Isaiah chapters?”) Besides, if the kids all stared at me blankly, it would open onto a discussion of how uncomfortable we ought to be feeling while we read the scriptures. I think there is some real power behind the idea.

  4. Geoff J said

    Hmmm… That’s an awful lot of questions you’ve asked in this post Robert. Do you have any opinions on any of those questions in the last two paragraphs?

  5. Matt W. said

    Thanks for this Robert C. I will think about how to incorporate this. One thing I am thinking about talking about is the difference between the people in Nazereth (rejecting) and Peter (Accepting). I think that could lead into a positive discourse on Trust and Faith, which was the focus of our lesson two weeks ago. Then I would like to use the Story of Levi (I am assuming all of Luke 5 is part of this Lesson) to spring board into the Difference in Jesus and the Pharisees. I can then use this to talk about Arbinger’s self-deception concept and have a committment to walk in the others shoes.

    My wife is coming with notes for me from the Leadership meeting though, so all this may change after that.

    THat said, I have no idea how to answer this question “What good were these prophets to Israel if the prophets didn’t actually help Israel?”

  6. brianj said

    “And why didn’t Elijah and Elisha help Israelites, but only non-Israelites? What good were these prophets to Israel if the prophets didn’t actually help Israel?”

    I don’t think this is the right way to look at this verse. Elisha performed many miracles, and some of them benefitted Israelites directly (e.g. feeding the starving sons of the prophets). So this can’t be Jesus’ point.

  7. Robert C. said

    Of course I don’t have good answers to these questions, that’s why I’m asking! But here are a few not-so-good thoughts regarding the quotation of Elijah and Elisha’s helping non-Israelites. I think BrianJ might be right that there’s a way to read these passages without emphasizing the Israelite vs. non-Israelite parts of these passages, but rather that there are many in Israel who suffer and the prophets only help a few (better: those few) who exercise faith.

    But I still favor the Israelite/non-Israelite view. I think that Luke in particular has a bit of an agenda in showing how the Jews rejected Christ and so (or: then) the gospel was taken to the Gentiles. There’s a pretty good post by LXXLuthor at the FPR blog on the Jews’ rejection of Christ as discussed in Romans 9 which I think is related. As I understand it, Paul makes a pretty big deal about it being prophecied that the Jews would reject the Messiah (this is where many faiths get the idea of predestination from). Here, Jesus is invoking a similar idea (Paul probably built on this idea that he could detect in Jesus’ teachings) about it being the fate of prophets to be rejected b/c the people do not exercise faith. So I think Luke is establishing already a reason that the gospel needed to be taken to the Gentiles: the Jews want signs before they will believe and exercise faith, therefore the miracles will (generally) be performed among the non-Jews. In Jesus’ pre-earth life as Jehovah, he was with the Jews first, and they were the first to reject Him (and His prophets); during Jesus’ mortal life, he was in Nazareth first, and they are first to reject him….

    You’ll notice in my comments to LXXLuthor’s post–be forewarned the post is quite long–that I mention how I think Isa 6:9ff applies, where Isaiah is told to harden the people’s heart, shut their eyes, and close their ears. Characteristic of Isaiah, I think there are many things going on in this passage, but on one level, it does seem to be prophetic of how Isaiah and the other prophets will be received. So I think Jesus’ response is tying in to a much larger theme of the Abrahamic covenant and Israel’s chosen status in tension with Israel’s prophecied(/inevitable?) rejection of the prophets more generally–rejection that culminates in Christ and is evidence of a lack of faith which warrants judgment (like the drought with Elijah and Elisha and lack of miracles being performed by these prophets among the Israelites). I think this is a theme that is also intertwined in fascinating ways with the BOM, like Zenos’ allegory of the olive tree in Jacob 5 and the prevalent remnant theme(s?) and the interplay between Israel and the Gentiles in so many of the prophecies, and the destruction of the Nephites with a remnant of the Lamanites surviving etc.

    Also, I can’t help thinking about the community-vs.-individual issues in play here. The community is depicted as a sign-seeking community, and so the community will not witness miracles (I think miracles can be fruitfully thought of in terms of the fruit in Alma 32…). This is way over-simplifying and highly speculative to boot, but I tend to think of worldly communities rejecting God in contrast to Zion which is established via individuals who in some sense are born again into a true community of faith in Christ (Jim F. has a great article discussing circumcision as a symbol of community–email the blog account if you’re interested in the article; the blog email can be found by clicking the “About the Feast Blog” tab at the top of this page…). So although Israel as a whole is called by God, only a remnant–a select, or elect, group of individuals–actually end up responding. “Narrow is the way that leads to eternal life.”

    Finally, I think a typological reading is worth considering here also. All of us are like Nazareth: we are born innocent with a healthy dose of Christ’s spirit in us. But we, who were (while young and in the pre-mortal life) acquainted with Christ, have rejected Him in our lives (to a greater or lesser degree, and depending on the day…). And so, as the story of the prodigal son makes particularly clear, some sort of fall-judgment-atonement pattern seems to be at play here: we, as an original member of Christ’s community, have rejected Christ and find ourselves numbered symbolically among the non-Isrealites. But, as typified by God’s grace to the Gentiles as a result of the Jews’ lack of faith (i.e. the Fall), we have a new opportunity, as non-Israelites (perhaps by being born again, or perhaps simply as fallen Israelites, typologically), to exercise faith and witness God’s miracles.

    I don’t expect anyone really followed much of these muddled thoughts, but at least Geoff can’t accuse me of not at least trying to answer some of these questions….

  8. Karl D. said

    “And why didn’t Elijah and Elisha help Israelites, but only non-Israelites? What good were these prophets to Israel if the prophets didn’t actually help Israel?”

    Rob, below are the notes I joted down about this question while I was preparing my lesson. I wrote down two possiblities: the first was pretty similiar to yours and the second is explores a more positive possibility in the spirt of BrianJ’s comment.

    It is almost a comforting message to the Jews. Jesus, will work with the gentiles, and the Jews will reject him (to me the language almost seems like it is inevitable that they will
    reject Him). But this does not indicate that He has forgotten them or ultimately rejected them. The Lord is still committed to Israel just like He was when His prophets (Elijah and Elisha) worked outside of Israel (with gentiles) in times past. In short: He will not forget Israel anymore than Elijah and Elisha did. Ultimately, I view this proclamation in a rather positive light; to me it expresses some of the same grace, favor, and hope we see in the Isaiah 61:1-2.
    quotation (I think the imagery is even more fitting given the post-exilic backdrop expressed in verse 4).

    “I think that Luke in particular has a bit of an agenda in showing how the Jews rejected Christ and so (or: then) the gospel was taken to the Gentiles.”,

    Rob, you may be right about this, but it strikes me that the infancy narratives are very favorable to the Jewish people in Luke.

  9. Robert C. said

    Karl, I like how you relate this back to Isaiah 61:1-2, a message of hope and grace to the meek and marginalized of society. This, I think, highlights the complex and perhaps ambivalent relationship between Christ and the prophets with Israel, something you are right to point out that I oversimplified. Looking again, I think Luke 2:32-35 is a very interesting early passage to consider in this light b/c it includes Israel and the Gentiles as beneficiaries to the blessings Christ will occassion, and yet it also foreshadows the problems and strife that Christ will face. I think this will be an interesting theme to follow when we study subsequent chapters of Luke and in Acts esp.

  10. I have finished transferring information from this thread to the wiki. Thanks all.

  11. nutrition children

    I do think you are right on the spot with this post, I could use a lot of stuff for my new study, thank you very much.

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