Pointing to Jesus: The Witness of the Virgin Mary (Luke 1)

In the Christian Church, there are varying views of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Some church traditions elevate Mary to the point of idolatry, while others ignore her role in the life of Christ and would rather focus on who Mary was not. In this Christmas message, Pastor Rich focuses on who Mary was. Mary was a model disciple and “the ultimate sign-post or witness to Christ.”

Mary was Holy Spirit empowered to give birth to Jesus. And her life pointed to Christ who was the “supreme example of the Spirit-empowered person.” Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit, completed His ministry by the Holy Spirit, and was raised from the dead by the Holy Spirit.

Mary pointed to Christ in that she also modeled submission. Mary’s, “may it be to me according to your will” points to Christ’s submission to God’s will in the Garden of Gethsemane. And lastly, Mary points to Jesus in her suffering; having lived with the scandal of her pregnancy and the loss of her son to a violent death. Christ suffered and died for our sins because there was no other way to save humanity.

These questions can be used as ice-breakers in the beginning OR interwoven between the questions below to draw the group into the discussion.

1. Share an experience which displayed to you the power of the Holy Spirit? What effect did that have on your life or your perspective of God?
2. Have you ever had God “promise” something, yet you experienced a delay in its fulfillment? How did you respond in the interim? What lessons did you learn while waiting?
3. What’s the worst movie sequel ever? What’s your favorite movie sequel? Explain.

1. Briefly give a synopsis of this week’s sermon. What insight, principle, or observation from this weekend’s message did you find to be most helpful, eye-opening, or troubling? Explain.

2. Read Acts 1:1-11

1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

• (vs 1-2) It’s clear that Acts is “part 2” of Luke’s writing – What contrast exists between the two books? Why a “Sequel”? Who are the main characters? For those familiar with the book of Acts, comment on some Theologians’ suggestions that the name of the book should really be “The Acts of the Holy Spirit”? Do you have a different title suggestion?
• Notice that Luke said “all that Jesus began to do and to teach” – why is it important not to separate what Jesus did with what he taught? What are the main themes of Jesus’ ministry (Luke 4)? What implication does that have on the nature of our discipleship?
• (vs 3-5) What is the pivotal point in this story? Please describe the impact on human history of the Jesus’ resurrection? What was the “state” of Jesus’ body? What’s significant about that and why would Jesus care if that bit of information was understood clearly?
• What did Jesus teach on? How long was the “conference”? (vs 6 & 11) Did the disciples get it? Consider the roller-coaster they’d been on that last couple weeks? How has a “rollercoaster” experience affected your faith or understanding of God? In what ways do we continue to miss the point of the Kingdom of God? How do we gain the right perspective?
• How many times is the Holy Spirit mentioned (vs 2, 5, 8)? (vs 5) What’s the difference between John’s baptism and Jesus’? What’s the purpose of each? How is the Holy Spirit connected to the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20)?
• What does it mean to be a “witness” (vs 8)? Are you empowered in your “witness”? How important is the Holy Spirit to Jesus (vs 4)? So even after all that teaching (40-day conference), the disciples still lacked something…Consider Jesus’ ministry and comment on Jesus’ empowerment? What does that say about Jesus’ commission for the disciples and consequently for us today? How has being “empowered” affected your witness? Please explain.

3. In this week’s message, Pastor Rich pointed out that when we stop insisting on our own way and choose to do God’s will in a situation, we can feel freer and have more peace inside.

• Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any situation in your life where you need to submit to God’s will, rather than insisting on your way.
• If you need the power of the Holy Spirit to be a witness in any area of your life – ask another person to pray that you’d receive it now.

Attention small group leaders; a new website, RichNathan.org, is being launched! On this site, you will find a collection of thoughtful and relevant resources that will encourage and enrich you spiritually. We are happy to announce that RichNathan.org will officially go live just in time for Christmas. Please feel free to explore this exciting new website.

Additionally, please be aware that there will not be a discussion guide provided the weeks of January 2nd and January 9th due to the Holidays.