Study #3 – The Cross through the lens of Judgement and Grace

Study #3 – The Cross through the lens of Judgement and Grace

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Warm up Questions

  1. If a meeting begins at 7:30pm, do you get there at 7:15pm?  7:35pm?  Does it stress you if you are going to be late or do you just hope that other people won’t mind or will be late too?
  2. When you were in high school – who was the most talented person or the person who people thought would succeed the most in life?  Do you know if they did succeed?  What where you were known for being good at in high school?  Is it still something that you are good at?

1. Video – Understanding the Day of the Lord

Watch Bible Project – The Day of the Lord  (5 mins)

What jumps out to you in this video? What do you think about the ideas that it raised such as:

  • “The Day” initially was remembering how God saved the people of Israel (Passover)
  • They hoped that God would bring another “Day” where their enemies would be judged
  • God did bring a “day” but it was the people of Israel who were judged and sent to exile
  • Jesus came to address the problem of evil and let evil exhaust its power on hum using its only real weapon, death. Jesus knew he could overcome evil but being the ultimate Passover lamb
  • There is still one more “day” coming when Jesus will defeat evil once and for all.

2. Studying the Text – The Parable of the Bridesmaids

Read Matthew 25:1-13 – The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids

Reflection Questions:

  1. Who do you think the bridesmaids represent? Who do you think the bridegroom represents?
  2. The text makes no mention of the bride! Who do you think the bride represents, and why is she absent from this parable?
  3. What can you take from these verses?  How does it speak to you about judgement?  How does it speak of readiness?
  4. Phil in his sermon quoted Nadia Bolz-Weber as she wondered why the “foolish” bridesmaids didn’t go to the bridegroom in their need … and how they might be seen as foolish for instead trying to solve the problem themselves and end up missing the party.   Do you think this is a reasonable interpretation of the parable?  Why do you think it is sometimes hard for people to trust Jesus with their problems?

3. Theological Theories – the Two Judgements


First Judgement is the judgement of salvation – are we right with God?  We are judged on our faith in Jesus Christ as saviour, Lord and friend.  (Romans 10:9)  Those who pass judgement will receive life (both now and eternally)

Second Judgement comes after the judgement of salvation and is for those who have been found righteous.  We are judged on our actions or what we have done in response to God’s gift of salvation to us.  (Eg Matt 25:31-40).  Those who pass judgement will be acknowledged and rewarded.

Read 1 Corinthians 3:10-15

Reflection Questions:

  1. How do you feel about the Two judgement theory.  What helpful aspects does it brings?  Does it have any problems or raise other issues?
  2. In the Corinthians reading, if Jesus is the foundation that we build our house on, what could the building materials (gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw) represent?
  3. Is the imagery of being “revealed with fire” helpful?  Compare with Malachi 3:2-3

4. Studying the Text – The Parable of the Talents

Read Matthew 25:14-23 – Entrusting Talents

Reflection Questions:

  1. The slaves are entrusted with one or more talents. At this time, a talent was an extremely large unit of currency. One talent was roughly the equivalent of 6,000 days’ wages (about 16 years).  If you were given more money than you knew what to do with, what would you do with it?
  2. Why do you think the master is entrusting the workers with his wealth? What do you think the master is hoping they will do with the talents?
  3. What do you think it means that the first two workers are so successful? What do you think the master would have done if their gamble ended up losing money instead of gaining it?
  4. What do you think the talents represent? (Note: our modern meaning for the word “talent” comes from this parable!)

Read Matthew 25:24-30 – A Harsh Return

Reflection Questions:

  1. Why do you think the master is upset with the third servant? Would it not have been better to play it safe, especially if the other’s gamble ended up netting negative returns?
  2. Do you feel that the master’s punishment is appropriate? Why or why not?
  3. Putting this in the perspective of Jesus’ ministry and knowing that this is his last set of teachings to his disciples before the crucifixion – does this context add addition meaning to this parable?

5. The Relationship between Judgement and Grace


  • God does not judge to be mean. God does not judge to destroy. God judges and chastises to reveal his holiness, our sinfulness, and drive us to repentance.   … While God allowed Israel (and us) to sin and face judgment; God also responds graciously when they/we cry out for help.  In Jesus, God has provided us with a saviour to deliver us from judgement.   Pastor Chris Chefner
  • In the story of Noah (Genesis 6:1-8), God decides to destroy the world because the world was self-destructing.   But amazingly, God decided to both judge the world and save the world at the same time.  God decided to destroy the world and deliver the world.   Judgement is Coming, But Grace Got Here First

Read 2 Samuel 12:1-14  (and if you need to skim over 2 Samuel 11)

Reflection Questions:

  1. Why do you think that Nathan speaks to David in a parable?
  2. Why does the absence of justice and mercy in Nathan’s account so enrage David?  (v5-6)
  3. How do you hold together the fierce judgement of verses 11-12 with the grace shown in verse 13.  What does this teach us about the character of God?
  4. How does your understanding of the Good News of Easter reflect this relationship between judgement and grace?

6. Videos

Watch Bible Project – Resurrection of Jesus. (5 mins)

A simple summary of the Easter Gospel message and how the resurrection of Jesus is important.


Watch Bible Project – Apocalyptic Literature. (5 mins)

A video exploring the purpose of apocalyptic literature (and how it relates to the end times and judgement) and why it is important in helping us gain a heavenly perspective on our earthly circumstances.

6. Prayer

Sometimes when we pray, we fall into the trap that we are passing the responsibility of addressing the issue over to God, and after the prayer, we don’t need to worry about it anymore.  Matt Anslow from Common Grace wrote:

Prayer becomes a practice worthy of critique when it is used in such a way as to shield the Church from the necessity of being an alternative, witnessing, radical Christ-centred community in the world. If our prayers are the end of our concern, they are also the end of our discipleship. Indeed, our prayers may testify against us, and we should be willing to accept their judgement.
However, what if our prayers were not empty platitudes, but deep communion with God that led to faithful, Christ-like action? What if, instead of leaning back in our pews, we leant forward in our prayers, fully anticipating that this would propel us into participating in God’s justice?
We should refuse to pray half-hearted prayers that absolve us of a compulsion to act. For we know that prayer transforms us; it is a practice that, by the Spirit, animates Christian discipleship, including our participation in justice and reconciliation.  The one who prays faithfully to the God of love and justice can never be passive in the face of evil. The question for us is this: Are we prepared to pray, knowing that it might turn the world upside down?

Choose one of the following ideas to end this time in prayer:

A. Reflective Prayer

Have someone in your group read the following prayer slowly, allowing the group to ponder and personally pray each line in their own minds and hearts.

God of Grace,
As we prepare to journey through Holy Week
Grant us the grace and wisdom to watch,
to listen,
to follow,
to learn,
and, in the end,
to gain a glimpse of your love, mercy and grace

B) A Blessing

May God,
open the eyes of our heart,
so that we might see
the hope to which God is calling us to,
the richness of the inheritance God has prepared for us,
and the power that is at work among us.
Let us go in the grace of God!

© 2023 Rev Phil Swain.  Turramurra Uniting Church.

Portions of this study are from Spirit and Truth Narrative Lectionary Small Group Guide #1-25 © 2014-2022 Spirit & Truth Publishing.