Talking Bout Malta
Here are some sermon discussion questions for the sermon this week on Acts 28:1–10.
In this week’s sermon, we talked about the reality of awkward situations, especially when you are intentional about making Jesus known. It just comes with the territory, and we were reminded that the more we make Jesus known, the more we learn to get over ourselves, and expect a little awkwardness every now and then. Awkwardness never hurt anybody. It’s going to be okay.
Have you ever been in an awkward situation when you tried to talk to others about Jesus? What was that like? Why do you think we are so afraid of awkwardness?
The shipwreck brought Paul and his companions to an unforeseen island. The inhabitants of Malta were considered barbarians because they had not been civilized by Greek culture. We talked about one of the reasons that Luke includes this story is to challenge the first-century stereotypes of those who lived outside the civilized the world. Since the gospel was sure to advance to these parts of the world, Luke was preparing Christians for encounters such as Paul’s on Malta. He shows us how incredibly kind these barbarians were to Paul. See, it’s not what you think!
What about our modern-day stereotypes? What prejudices do you harbor in your heart toward types of people that you don’t really know? Does this inhibit your desire and action to move toward these people in love? Might God be calling you to repent of long-standing, unchallenged stereotypes that have inhibited you from loving neighbors?
One straightforward observation from Paul’s time in Malta is the exchange of kindness between him and the islanders. They were hospitable to him, and he was kind to them, even healing the chief’s father and several other inhabitants. Luke even emphasizes this point by focusing only on this part of the story (he doesn’t mention Paul preaching the gospel or people being converted). Paul was simply good to the people of Malta — so good that they knew he was there, and they made a big deal about him leaving.
The application for us today is solid, old-fashioned neighboring. No doubt, we should engage neighbors and non-Christians friends with the good news of Jesus. That is the a non-negotiable if we are to truly love them. And at the same, in standard, simple, obvious ways, we are also called to do good to them — plain, take-the-trash-out, mow-your-grass, don’t-play-your-music-too-loud good. These are often tangible ways that our neighbors feel blessed. We meet physical needs and effect changes in observable ways. That is part of the package when it comes to seeking the good of the Cities.
What are some ways that you can bring this kind of good to your neighborhoods or work environments? What kind of resolve might you make in the places where you live and work that blesses the people around you?
Eugene Peterson paraphrases John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.” Remember that when Jesus came to earth, he came to an earth like the one in which we live. He came down here, in neighborhoods like ours. He walked in our shoes, and lived around people like we live around people. He healed people and helped people and loved those who the rest of society considered the unlovable.
We can seek the good of our neighborhoods because Jesus has gone before us and shown us how — that even at great cost to himself, even when he was ridiculously misunderstood, he still lived (and died) for the good of others. How does this reality impact our calling to love others? What does it mean that the same Spirit who empowered Jesus now empowers us?