*March 20 - 26
of the Resurrection
|SABBATH AFTERNOON March 20|
Read for This Week's Study:
|"But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (John 20:31, NIV).|
|The resurrection of Jesus provides both the assurance that the claims
of Jesus are true and a living parable of God's mighty power in our lives
But there is also a sense in which it is unfinished. There would be no Christian church if Jesus had remained in the tomb. The resurrection of Jesus turns apparent defeat into victory. The Resurrection is a mighty act of God on the level of the Creation and of the Exodus.
The New Testament records eleven separate post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus, four of which are recorded in chapters 20 and 21 of the Gospel of John, three of them in chapter 20 (John 20:10-18, 19-23, 24-29). And, perhaps, the most important message here is one that's been seen all through the book: A true Christian experience comes not by seeing and touching but by believing in the words of Jesus, whether spoken in the flesh or in the written testimonies of His disciples.
*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, March 27.
At the Tomb (John 20:1-18).
The many witnesses to the Resurrection help assure us the accounts of the Resurrection were not made up by the disciples in order to save face. As long as these witnesses lived, their stories could be compared and checked out (Luke 1:1-4).
For the second generation, however, the greatest evidence of Jesus' resurrection was the empty tomb. The empty tomb is a central feature of this Gospel. Indeed, given the circumstances, the emptiness of the tomb is extremely hard to understand unless Jesus was, in fact, raised from the dead. Did the enemies of Jesus come and remove His body from the tomb? Did the disciples steal His body in order to create the illusion of a resurrection? We will see in tomorrow's study that none of these scenarios makes sense. The best explanation for the empty tomb (unless one is predisposed to deny the possibility of resurrection) is that Jesus was, in fact, raised from the dead.
Read John 20:3-10, the account of the first two disciples at the tomb. Focus specifically on verse 9. How could they not understand that, especially after all that Jesus had told them about His resurrection? See Matt. 12:40, 27:63, Mark 9:30-32, 10:32-34, John 2:19.
How does Mary Magdalene understand the empty tomb at first, and how does she come to realize that Jesus was alive? John 20:10-16.
To the next generation of Christians, the message in the little scene between Jesus and Mary was powerful. Although Mary was in the personal presence of Jesus, her eyes were so blinded by tears that she had no idea with whom she was talking. His physical presence was of no use to her until she gave attention to His word. We, too, have that word, through the Gospel of John.
|Look at the initial reaction of those who found the empty tomb. Despite everything that Jesus had taught them, all thought there was a natural explanation: Someone took away His body. With all the supernatural things they had seen with Jesus, their first reaction was toward doubt and skepticism. What lessons can we learn from this for ourselves?|
In the Upper Room (John 20:19-29).
Why do the rest of the disciples come to know that Jesus was raised from the dead? John 20:19, 20. How does Thomas? John 20:24-29. What do their reactions reveal about their faith? Did they really have "faith" before seeing Him, as we understand faith? How much faith does it take to believe in what you see, hear, tell, and touch?
The first generation of Christians was very slow to believe, despite the evidence of the empty tomb and the witness of Mary. All needed to see Jesus for themselves before they could forsake other explanations for the empty tomb. Only the beloved disciple believed without seeing Jesus first (John 20:8), representing the kind of faith the second generation would have to exercise and Jesus would bless.
Read John 20:29. What is Jesus saying here, and what does that mean to us, today? Is Jesus asking us to have "blind" faith? Explain your answer.
How did the tomb become empty? Certainly the enemies of Jesus had no motive for removing His body from the tomb, and if they had done so, why did they not produce the body to prove He had not risen?
It is equally clear that the disciples had neither the ability nor the intention of stealing Jesus' body. The fact is that the disciples did not believe that Jesus would allow Himself to die, in spite of His repeated assertions of what lay ahead. On top of this, if the disciples had stolen the body of Jesus, their later behavior is totally unexplainable. Who would suffer ridicule, torture, and death over an event that never took place?
Thus, the Lord has given us, besides the clear testimony of the Bible, rational and historical evidence to help us believe in the resurrection of Christ. And if Jesus rose from the dead, no other miracle is impossible. Anything we possibly could ask of Him can be done when it is according to His will. Our own resurrection also is guaranteed by the certainty of His. The same divine power that raised Jesus from the dead can bring life and healing into even the most hopeless human situations.
|Who has not, in his or her walk with the Lord, at some time experienced some struggle with faith? How, by our focusing on the Cross and the Resurrection, can our faith be strengthened?|
The Power of His Resurrection (John 2:22; 7:37-39; 12:16).
What are some other things that happened to the disciples as a result of the resurrection of Jesus? John 2:22, 7:37-39, 12:16.
"I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection," Paul writes to the Philippians (Phil. 3:10, NIV). The resurrection of Jesus was the most awesome event of all time. With all our science and technology we still have no clue how to bring life back from the dead. Anyone who has the power to raise the dead would (one would think) have the power to accomplish anything else the human race might need.
At the heart of Christian faith is the testimony of the New Testament that Jesus rose from the dead. The power of Jesus' resurrection became the basis for the mighty acts of God in the lives of Christians ever since (2 Cor 5:14-17). The power of the Resurrection is the basis for limitless power in the lives of Christians today. Why, then, are these "limitless powers" so invisible in many churches today?
One of the major themes of the Old Testament has to do with remembering and forgetting. Whenever the Israelites forgot the mighty things God had done for them, they lost the sense of His power and presence. When they remembered what He had done for them in the past, the power of the original action was reactivated in their lives. In fact, the very essence of Old Testament spiritual life was recounting the mighty acts of God in their past history.
26:1-12. How do these verses reveal the importance of remembering how
God has acted in the past? See also
Indeed, when the Israelites told of the mighty acts of God in their past history, the power of the original act was unleashed again in their experience (2 Chron. 20:1-30).
What was true in Old Testament times is also true of the New Testament. The greatest mighty act of God is the action He did at the Cross and the resurrection of Jesus. There is power in the constant retelling of the Christ event. That is why sharing our faith is such an essential part of the Christian experience. Where there is no retelling of the mighty acts of God, there is no power. But telling what God has done brings revival and reformation. The power of the Resurrection turns a formal religion into a living and powerful one!
Gone Fishing (John 21:1-14).
Read John 21:1-11. What makes this event so appropriate, so symbolic, of what Jesus would have them do after He's gone (see particularly vs. 11)? Compare this account to Luke 5:1-10, particularly verse 10.
John 21 is often described as the epilogue to the Fourth Gospel, because it comes after a passage that reads like the concluding words of the Gospel (John 20:30, 31). John 21 tells the story of how the disciples encountered Jesus in Galilee after His resurrection. Jesus provides a huge catch of fish (vss. 1-6), fixes breakfast (vss. 7-14), and then holds a serious conversation on the beach with Peter (vss. 15-23).
The impression one gets, particularly in the Gospel of John, is that Jesus' postresurrection appearances were occasional and rather unexpected. Mary, the ten, Thomas, and now seven disciples are all startled at the suddenness of Jesus' appearances. In a real sense, the ministry of Jesus to His disciples was completed in the upper room (John 13-17). He says very little to them after the Resurrection, at least, that is recorded. The purpose of His appearances, perhaps, is not so much to teach as to validate the reality of His resurrection.
What has Jesus been doing on the shore? John 21:9-13. What spiritual meaning can you find in Jesus inviting them to dine with Him?
It appears that breakfast that morning was pretty silent (see also Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 810). The disciples didn't seem to know what to make of Jesus' behavior since they had been with Him in the upper room. On that day they experienced the same uncertainties the second generation Christians would experience over the death of the beloved disciple. The disciples were in the presence of Jesus in the flesh, yet His physical presence seems to have offered no advantage to them. Only the coming of the Spirit would provide solid assurance, and the coming of the Spirit proved to be equally effective for both the first and the second generation.
Imagine being in the presence of Jesus and it giving you no advantage! That could happen if someone were to allow formal religion alonecreeds, rules, doctrineswithout a living experience with the Lord, to dominate his or her religious life. What lesson is here for us?
Getting Peter Back on Track (John 21:15-23).
Read the exchange between Jesus and Peter in John 21:15-17. Compare it with what happened in Luke 22:55-62. What was Jesus doing here with Peter?
Verses 15-17 describe a threefold repetition of question, reply, and response. This approach could seem rude on the part of Jesus. Its effect is to probe Peter to the depths of his being, at the cost of considerable pain. Peter's self-confidence is gradually chipped away, until he is left with nothing but the certainty that Jesus knows his heart and will be fair in His judgments.
There is something about pain, loss, poverty, and emotional anguish that brings people to the place where major gains in spiritual development are possible. And sometimes, as in the case of Peter, the author of that pain is Jesus who, like a loving surgeon, wounds so that He might heal. Jesus does not settle for quick, superficial answers. He insists on getting down to the true feelings and motives of those He loves.
The experience of Peter shows that any relationship with Jesus will tend to have its ups and downs. What would Jesus have us do when we fall? How can we know we are accepted in spite of what we have said, thought, or done?
1. Know what kind of God you are dealing with. God loves sinners! This is not to say that sin does not matter but that no matter what we have done in the past, we can start over today. It is at those very times when you feel the worst that you have the greatest claim on His mercy!
2. Tell the truth about yourself. The Bible calls this confession. Confession simply is facing reality and being honest with God about it. Confession can be difficult, because our natures will rebel against it, but if we are grounded in the value that we have at the Cross, it will be less painful than the consequences of not confessing!
3. Ask for forgiveness. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9, NIV). God does not require a whole list of conditions before He becomes willing to forgive. The conditions were already met in Jesus Christ.
4. Plan to forsake sin forever. How can you do this when many sins seem attractive? Total up in advance some of the consequences of continuing in sin. Read the list to yourself every time you are tempted.
|"Jesus had several times attempted to open the future to His disciples, but they had not cared to think about what He said. Because of this His death had come to them as a surprise; and afterward, as they reviewed the past and saw the result of their unbelief, they were filled with sorrow. When Christ was crucified, they did not believe that He would rise. He had stated plainly that He was to rise on the third day, but they were perplexed to know what He meant. This lack of comprehension left them at the time of His death in utter hopelessness. They were bitterly disappointed. Their faith did not penetrate beyond the shadow that Satan had cast athwart their horizon. All seemed vague and mysterious to them. If they had believed the Saviour's words, how much sorrow they might have been spared!"Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 25, 26.|
| Are there times when it is good to be as skeptical as
Thomas was? How do we know when it is appropriate to doubt
How do we know whether the pain in our lives is something God is allowing to happen in order to teach us something? Or do we need to know? Is it not enough simply to ask the Lord, If the pain, whatever its source, does not go, could You at least allow me to learn from it?
|The power of the Resurrection not only convinces us that the story of Jesus is true; it convicts us of sin and provides the basis for a living and vibrant relationship with Jesus. There is nothing like the peace that comes from being totally committed to His will. There is nothing like the joy that comes when your conscience is clean. Christianity has lasted about two thousand years, because nothing can compare with the kind of life that comes when you have a living relationship with Jesus Christ. It is possible to go through the motions and call it Christianity. But the real thing is the greatest. Why settle for less?|
|I N S I D E Story|
by J. H. ZACHARY
Dorina Mardare of Romania had decided when she was 14 that she would become a leader in her town one day. Through hard work she eventually became mayor.
When two of her sisters became Seventh-day Adventists, Dorina opposed them and accused them of joining a cult. Then Donna became ill with chest pains. She grew weaker, and her family feared she would die. Anna, one of her Adventist sisters, urged her to give her life to God before it was too late. Anna said, "If you do not place your life in the hands of Jesus, you are lost."
Donna was impressed by her sister's concern. "What do I have to do to place myself in the hands of the Savior?" she asked.
Anna shared the steps with her sister, and Dorina promised she would pray-alone. But it took several days before Donna could open her heart to God. As she prayed she felt the presence of God with her. Joy filled her heart, but she regretted the years she had spent away from God.
Dorina returned home to care for her husband and daughter, both of whom were not well.
The next day two young people came to her home and invited her to attend evangelistic meetings at Anna's church. Donna decided to attend the meetings and was impressed with the sound biblical positions to support the speaker's statements. She continued attending the meetings and accepted the speaker's invitation to get to know Jesus better. She began attending the Adventist church and joined a Bible class, but she was afraid to tell her husband of her decision to become an Adventist.
When Donna decided to surrender completely to Christ, the chest pains that had plagued her for years disappeared. This miracle impressed her husband, who encouraged her to follow her convictions.
Dorina and her parents were baptized together. But when her younger sister was diagnosed with cancer, friends blamed the illness on the family's decision to become Adventists. Donna and her family prayed for her sister, who gave her heart to Christ and was baptized shortly before her death.
Dorina testifies that God has helped her through many difficulties and has answered her prayers and stood beside her when troubles threatened to overwhelm the family. She prays that soon God will bring her husband to the Lord.
J. H. ZACHARY is coordinator of international evangelism for The Quiet Hour.
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