Twenty-one Quarts and an Alabaster Jar — Signs of Life, Part 2

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The first “Sign of Life” is going out and engaging the world, and inviting people to come and find out about Jesus. For that strategy to work, the church has to welcome strangers. How can the church do that? Two stories from the Scriptures tell us how. Pastor Luke preaches from Luke 7:36–50 in “Twenty-one Quarts and an Alabaster Jar,” part 2 of his 6-part series “Signs of Life.”

Talk It Over

OPEN. 1. Would you rather go to dinner with a few friends or attend a huge banquet (for a wedding reception, say)? –OR– What do you like most and least about going to parties?

OBSERVE. Read Luke 7: 36–50.

2. How is the woman described in this passage? What kind of sins has she committed? How does Jesus describe her sins?

3. According to this passage, what are some ways a host in Jesus’ culture was expected to show hospitality to his guests?

4. If the woman’s many sins are forgiven (v. 47) she is like the person in Jesus’ story who owed 500 denarii. If Simon recognizes that he is the other debtor in the story, what does the 50 denarii mean? What does it tell him about his debt? What does it say about his inhospitality to Jesus?

5. The others at dinner begin to ask themselves (v. 49) who Jesus thinks he is. Based on the story he told, what is the answer? Luke doesn’t tell us what Simon does next. Suppose he defended Jesus. What would that tell us? What would it say if he joined the others? Does he have any obligation as Jesus’ host?

6. Read Genesis 18: 1–8. What are some of the ways that Abraham shows hospitality to his guests?

7. Read Luke 15: 20–24. What are some signs of hospitality in this passage? Who is host of the dinner? Who is the guest? Why would his presence make some feel awkward? What does that say about God? What does it say about people? What kind of people?

APPLY. 8. Which one of the three passages (Luke 7, Genesis 18, and Luke 15) shows the most extravagant hospitality?

9. How much hospitality is too much? What happens if you bend over backwards to welcome your visitors?

10. What the woman’s alabaster jar and Abraham’s hospitality had in common was their extravagance. Think of a church you know. How would you rate its hospitality to visitors?

Food For Thought

Day 2. Matthew 25: 31–46. How does the way people act toward strangers get Jesus’ attention? What does he do about it?

Day 3. Genesis 18: 22–33. How does Abraham’s behavior here compare to how he acts in Genesis 18: 1–9? What is Abraham able to do when God has visited him? Who does he do it for?

Day 4. 1 Corinthians 14: 15–17, 22–24. If the Apostle Paul were examining modern worship services, what features might he say should be limited or eliminated entirely? Why?

Day 5. Romans 12: 13–14. How should Christians behave toward “saints” (other Christians)? —toward non-Christians? Do most non-Christians agree that is how Christians usually act?

Day 6. Mark 6: 33–44. What does Jesus do when people crash his private party? What reason does he give for doing it?

Day 7. Luke 14: 12–24. How much should a church focus on current members, compared with those who aren’t yet members?