Catch up on how things have been since the last time your Impact Group met. Allow anyone new to introduce themselves. Then ask group members:
Ask for a volunteer to read Luke 18:9-14 to the group, praying a short prayer that – however much they’ve come to know Jesus, they’d get to know him better as a result of your time together.
Note to leaders: don’t feel you need to spend ages on the first few questions. They’re just making sure everyone in the group understands the main point of the parable.
Given the Pharisee and the tax collector are in the temple at the same time, they were probably there for public worship. Twice a day, a lamb was offered in the temple to atone for the sins of Israel (see Numbers 28:3-4).
The tax collector cries out that God would ‘have mercy’ on him – literally that God would ‘make atonement’ for him. He is probably at that very moment watching the atonement sacrifice of the lamb, asking that the sacrifice might be applied to him so that he would be shown mercy. The parable’s conclusion confirms that he is indeed made righteous through casting himself upon God’s provision.
The Bible makes it clear that the animal sacrifices ultimately pointed to the greatest sacrifice of all: the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross (see Romans 3:21-26). Animal sacrifices could not ultimately deal with human sin (Hebrews 10:4) but picture the death Jesus would die in our place.
As a like-for-like substitute, Jesus’ death on the cross is credited to all who look to him for mercy. Regardless of our moral performance, we too can be justified – legally declared innocent – on this basis.
We don’t pray like the Pharisee in public, but his prayer reveals what happens in our own hearts. We might think:
Give the group time to consider where their own hearts have a similar tone to that of the Pharisee.
Read Psalm 51 together. Encourage your group to use this Psalm as a springboard for a time of prayer asking the Lord to have mercy on you.
We often think along similar lines to the Pharisee when it comes to sharing our faith. We want to present ourselves as sorted and “put together”. Yet in the tax collector we see the gospel at work in weakness and failure.
Spend some time in prayer asking that in the week ahead God might help you share God in the midst of your imperfection.
Thank You – Thank everyone for coming, and ask someone to thank God for your time together in prayer.
Ask – Ask those who are new to reading the Bible if they’d like to explore Uncover, a set of sessions in Mark’s Gospel, allowing them to investigate one of the earliest accounts of Jesus’ life alongside one of you.
Church and CU – What does the CU have planned ahead? And what help would group members value in finding a local church?
Others – Who else could you invite to join your CU Impact Group next week? These friends don’t need to be followers of Jesus and may really appreciate being invited.
See You Soon – Tell the group where and when you’ll meet next week, and arrange who will bring snacks. (You might like to alternate healthy and less healthy weeks!). See if anyone would be up for sharing a meal or just hanging out in the meantime!
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