Introduction: Solomon said that there is nothing new under the sun.
( Ecclesiastes 1:9) Racial problems are an old story. They existed in
Jesus’ time and they exist now – although in America they are at an
all time low. When I first moved to this area I was a member of a
church with serious racial issues. The one race predicted that the
other race would take over the church. After I left that church, I
came back to visit and preach. One time I recall walking in and they
had two racially segregated classes studying in the sanctuary. I sat
in the “wrong” class for my race. I recall preaching a racial
reconciliation sermon in that church. Afterwards, members from each
of the races came up to me and said, “I hope THEY were listening.”
It was quite distressing. Today, as predicted, the church is no
longer bi-racial. That is one answer to the problem, but it does not
seem to be the Bible’s answer to the problem. Let’s dive into our
study and see what the Bible says about race and discipleship!
- Read Luke 17:11-14. This is a “long distance” miracle. Do
you get the feeling that Jesus is traveling, has a
destination in mind, and these guys will slow Him down?
(Yes. It seems that Jesus calls out as He is moving along
towards His destination.)
- Does it matter that Jesus does not stop and take a
little time with them? Are they short-changed on
their miracle? (No. As they leave to follow Jesus’
instructions, they are healed.)
- Is there a lesson in this for us? (We have a
great God who can do anything for us. He does
not need to study the matter.)
- Why does Jesus tell them to show themselves to the
priests? (You had to go to a priest to be certified
that you no longer had an infectious skin disease.
- Read Luke 17:15-16. Why point out this fellow’s race?
- Does this prove that Luke is a racist?
- How does it add to the story? (Luke is certainly
“race conscious” here. I think this story is told
because of the race factor. God is pointing out that
the “disfavored” race is showing better discipleship
traits than the favored race.)
- Read Luke 17:17-19. How would you characterize Jesus’
approach to racial issues? (He doesn’t sound too
politically correct to me. He calls him a “foreigner.”
This time Jesus makes the point about the foreigner doing
what is right.)
- Look again at Luke 17:19. What do you think this
- Would leprosy return to the rest?
- Are some people healed without faith?
- Is this Samaritan’s healing superior to the
rest? (I don’t think Jesus means the others are
not healed, or will be diseased again. Instead,
I think Jesus means this fellow has healing for
both his mind and his body. His faith has been
- Nelson’s Bible Dictionary, under the topic
“Samaritans,” says “Samaritans were a ‘mixed race’
contaminated by foreign blood and false worship.” If
they had “false worship,” how can Jesus say this
fellow has “faith?”
- What does this teach us about members of other
churches? (This fellow obviously had faith in
Jesus. The idea that members of a specific
denomination, created by humans, are
automatically superior to other Christians is an
idea contrary to Scripture. Faith is an
- Read Mark 7:24. Why do you think Jesus wanted to keep
secret that He was in Tyre? (Read Matthew 15:24. This is
Matthew’s account of this same story. Jesus had not come
to minister to the people of Tyre. He was just looking for
- Read Mark 7:25-26. Was this woman a believer? (Read
Matthew 15:22. The fact that she calls Jesus “Lord, Son of
David,” shows that she believes Him to be the Messiah.)
- Read Mark 7:27. Why is Jesus talking about eating?
- How do you understand His message to this woman?
- Is He calling her a “dog” because she was a
Greek and not Jewish? (Yes! Worse, He seems to
be calling her daughter a dog.)
- Read Mark 7:28-30. Do you think Jesus was testing her
faith or do you think He was serious? (Both. I think He
was serious for two reasons. He entered the town secretly
so He would not have to be bothered by these people. He
specifically said His mission was not to these people.)
- Recall the church I mentioned in the introduction? To
my knowledge, they never called the other race “dogs”
or said they would not help them. What is the lesson
that we learn here? People of disfavored races can
come to Jesus if they show great faith and shrug off
insult? (I think this story is much better than it
appears on the surface. First, it is right to have a
focused mission. Jesus had about three years of
mission here and His mission focus for that time was
the Jews. That is an argument for efficiency, not
racism. Second, Jesus (then and now) tests our faith.
Jesus tested the faith of this woman by telling her
things she already knew – that Jews looked down on
non-Jews. Her faith would not be deterred by that.
Jesus, having tested her faith and found it strong,
healed her daughter.)
- Read Acts 10:1-2. What do we learn about Cornelius? (He
was commander of a Roman division. He appears to have been
an Italian. (The text refers to the “Italian Regiment” and
he has a Latin name.) He believed in the true God and
was devote. However, he could not have been a “full”
Jewish convert because he is later referred to as an
“uncircumcised” man. See Acts 11:1-17.)
- Read Acts 10:3-5. What does this tell us about the ability
of non-Jews to be disciples? (God has a special message to
someone who is not Jewish! God has some sort of plan for
- What problems do you see with this message? (Read
Acts 10:27-28. God directs Cornelius to bring a
Jewish man to his home. The problem, as Peter later
explains, is that observant Jews would not want to
visit the home of a Gentile.)
- Read Acts 10:9-17. The text says that Peter was
“wondering about the vision.” What is there to wonder
about? Isn’t the message pretty clear – all meat is now
clean meat? (That is precisely what the vision means at
first glance. However, Peter could not believe that was
what the vision really meant.)
- Read Acts 10:17-19. Has this story changed to another
topic? Why does the text tell us that Peter is still
contemplating the vision while these three guys are at the
house? (This tells us that the mission of the men from
Cornelius and Peter’s vision are linked.)
- Read Acts 10:23-29. Is the vision about unclean meat? (No.
Whatever your view about the Levitical prohibition on
eating unclean meat (see Leviticus 11), this story is
clearly not about what you can eat. It is about who can
be God’s disciples.)
- Read Acts 10:30-33. On a scale of 1-10, how certain are
you that God was behind this meeting of Jewish Peter and
Italian Cornelius? (Both were directed by God to have this
- Read Acts 10:34-38 and Acts 10:44-47. What does this teach
us about racism in the church?
- What lesson do we learn about whether God makes any
ethnic distinctions when it comes to discipleship?
- On what basis does God discriminate? ( Acts 10:34-35.
God’s basis for “discrimination” is those who fear
Him and do what is right.)
- Friend, if God does not discriminate on the basis of race,
what right do you or I have to discriminate on that basis?
If you think you are a victim of racism, remember that the
Bible commends those who shrug off racial slurs in their
pursuit of God.
- Next week: Preparation for Discipleship.