How did the first Christians meet and follow the Risen Lord ?
How do we meet Jesus and follow him today?
Below are the Bible Study outline, discussion questions and video for Thursday, May 28. We encourage everyone to read the passages ahead of time and to join us for the Zoom discussion group at 10:30. To do so, please email Warren Blessing at email@example.com.
If you can’t join us on Zoom, we encourage you to call a friend and start your own Bible study discussion group. Reading and knowing God’s word in the Bible is one of the clearest ways to hear God speaking to us and guiding us in our lives.
Acts 1:6 – 19, Acts 2: 1 – 47, Matthew 25: 31 – 40
Acts 1:6–19 “It is not for you to know the times and seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses (Greek: martures) in Jerusalem and in all Samaria and to the end of the earth.”
Christian faith is a bearing witness faith- a martyr’s faith. Why? “God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” John 3: 16-17
Acts 2: 1 – 47 Pentecost: Holy Spirit comes in power and bearing witness movement begins.
Different ways of bearing witness: All involve verbal “proclamation” and bodily “demonstration”. Word and deed.
1) Proclaiming/preaching/teaching: Peter at Pentecost
2) Sharing food and other material resources in Christian community (Acts 2: 44-45 and Acts 4: 32)
3) Willingly dying as a sign of trust in God (Acts 6: 8 – 7:60 and Revelation 7: 9 – 17)
4) Sharing love of Jesus through preaching/teaching/healing and deliverance (Acts 8: 4-8)
5) Spiritual conversations with those who are spiritually inclined seekers but who do not fully understand what God has done in Christ. (Acts10: 1- 48)
6) Intellectual engagement with those who do not believe. (Acts 17: 16 – 34)
7) Embodying the Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 1 – 12)
8) Acts of mercy and compassion (Matthew 25: 31 – 40)
Witnessing strategy of the Church Missionary Society in Africa the 19th and 20th Century. Church, School and Hospital all located at the same physical space to emphasize the conviction that the followers of Jesus minister to the spiritual, intellectual and physical needs of people. Proclaiming and demonstrating the love of God in Jesus Christ.
1) What are some ways that we can be witnesses of Jesus here and now? Look at the eight categories of Christian witness listed above. How can we, as individuals and as a community of faith, be faithful witnesses of Jesus today?
2) Can every individual or every Christian community do all of these things? Or is it better to focus on a few things?
3) What do you think God is calling our small congregation to do at this time?
4) What do you think God is calling you personally to do at this time?
John 21: 1-19, Romans 12: 1 – 21
John 21: 1-14 “Children, have you no fish?”
The Risen Jesus meets his disciples exactly where he met them in the first place – fishing. He speaks to them in the midst of their struggle to stay alive (fishing was not a hobby for them). Risen Lord meets us in the midst of our everyday lives.
John 21: 15 – 19 “Simon, son of John, do you love me...feed my sheep.”
Peter’s rehabilitation. Three-fold opportunity to affirm his love for Jesus after his three-fold betrayal. Risen Lord meets Peter in the midst of his shame, despair, failure – not to deepen the shame but to redeem the failures. (“Simon, Simon, Satan demanded to have you that he might sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren”. Luke 22: 31- 32)
Romans 12: 1 – 21 “I appeal to you … present your bodies as a living sacrifice.”
Paul is writing to newly minted Jesus followers, who were formerly Jews or pagans, and therefore well acquainted with religious sacrifices of animals for the purpose of appeasing, pleasing or persuading God (or the many pagan “gods”) to act in their favor, forgive sins, protect from hostile forces and so on.
Paul is introducing an entirely new religious idea here. God is not interested in dead animals. God has offered the ultimate sacrifice for our benefit in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In response to the presence of the Risen Lord, God wants our gratitude expressed in “living sacrifice” of our lives for the sake of showing the world the love of God in Christ.
Questions for Discussion and Reflection:
1) The Risen Lord met his disciples while they were fishing – not while they were in the upper room praying. Where are the equivalent meeting places in our lives today? What places, situations, relationships in our lives does Jesus visit? What does he do and say when he visits us there? The disciples didn’t recognize him at first. Why? What changed to help them recognize him? How does this relate to our lives?
2) The Risen Lord met Peter at what must have been the lowest and most shameful point in Peter’s life. How do you react to Jesus’ conversation with Peter? How does this apply to our lives today? How does Jesus use failures, shame and brokenness in our lives to bring good out of bad?
3) Paul appeals to his followers to present themselves as “living sacrifices” to God. What is the equivalent appeal in our own society? In our own lives? What are some of the ways that our society (job, family, cultural expectations) calls us to make sacrifices?
What would need to change in our lives to offer ourselves as a “living sacrifice” to God?
John 10: 11 – 18, John 14: 18- 26, Philippians 2: 1 – 13, Matthew 5: 1 – 12, Luke 10: 29 - 37
John 10: 11 – 18 “ I am the Good Shepard. I know my own and my own know me.”
Shepherds keep their flocks from mingling with the flocks of other shepherds by voice recognition. When Jesus abides in us, and we abide in Him, we learn to hear his voice.
John 14: 18- 26 “If a person loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
When Jesus makes his home in our hearts, we learn to love what Jesus loves and value what Jesus values. “Keep my word” means more than following rules. It means treasuring Jesus’ word in our hearts and seeing people and the world as Jesus sees the world.
Philippians 2: 1 – 13 “Have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus…”
Character formation: Allowing the self-emptying love of Jesus to transform our natural self-centeredness into living a more Christ-centered and other-centered and common-good-centered way of living.
Matthew 5: 1 – 12 “Blessed are the poor in spirit…those who mourn…the meek…those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…the merciful…the pure in heart…the peacemakers”
Priority formation: Adopting Jesus’ priorities for what makes “ the good life”.
Luke 10: 29 – 37 “Go and do likewise.”
Road map formation: Reading Jesus’ parables as a guide for our own life journey.
Questions for Discussion and Reflection
1) What is your response to the idea that Jesus speaks to our spirit? Have you had any experiences that you would describe that way? If so, how did it change your perspective?
2) How do you feel about “character formation” through the example and life of Jesus? How is it threatening? How is it hopeful? What difference does it make in the way we conduct our lives from day to day?
3) How does Jesus’ view of “the good life” in Matthew 5: 1-12 compare to your own view? Would any of them change how you spend your time, money, energy if you adopted them?
4) Road map formation. Does the parable of the Good Samaritan challenge any of your ways of seeing other ethnic, religious, socioeconomic, political groups?
John 15: 1-11, I Peter 2: 2-10, Ephesians 3:14 – 19 and 4: 11 - 16
John 15: 1-11 “Abide in me and I in you…whoever abides in me will bear much fruit”
The gospel of John uses the metaphor of dwelling to describe the relationship between the Father and Jesus and Jesus’s followers. He begins the Gospel by saying that “ the Word became flesh and dwelt (eskenosen – literally “pitched a tent”) among us”. In the 14 chapter, he uses the noun mone (dwelling place, home) “In my Father’s house are many rooms (mone)” … “If a person loves me, he will keep my word and my Father will love him and we will come and make our home (mone) with him” (John 14: 2 and 23).
The main idea is that Jesus comes to earth to “pitch a tent” (temporary dwelling) and to show people how to get to their abiding place (permanent dwelling ) in “my Fathers house”. In the mean time, the Father and Son and Holy Spirit mene (dwell, live, abide) with those who follow Jesus.
I Peter 2: 2-10 “Come to him, that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious, and be yourselves built into a spiritual house … a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.”
While John’s emphasis is mostly the individual’s relationship with Jesus (for evangelistic purposes), Peter’s emphasis in more on the community of faith gathered together – living stones built into a house, race, priesthood, nation, God’s own people.
Ephesians 3:14 – 19 “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith”
Ephesians 4: 11- 17 “Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God”
Dual emphasis on individual experience of Christ dwelling in us and mutual responsibility to help everyone along in the corporate Body of Christ.
Questions for Discussion:
1) John’s gospel places a lot of emphasis on individual encounters with Jesus, both before and after his resurrection (Chap 1 Peter and Andrew; 3 Nicodemus; 4 Samaritan Woman; 5 Paralytic; 9 Blind Man; 11 Mary, Marth and Lazarus; 18 Pontius Pilate; 20 Mary Magdalen and Thomas; 21 Peter). Why do you think he focuses so much on individual encounters with Jesus ? How do you see your own relationship with Jesus ? Does he seem far away in heaven ? Does he seem near ? Do you think of him differently in different stages of your life ?
2) Peter and Paul place a stronger emphasis on the community of faith and our responsibility to “build up” one another in faith and to see ourselves as part of a “spiritual house, royal priesthood, holy nation, Body of Christ”. Why is this emphasis important ? How has your faith been built up, strengthened, challenged, changed in the community of Jesus followers? How has your faith been diminished in the company of other Jesus followers?
3) Which of these two emphases is most important: Individual relationship with the Risen Lord or engagement with the community of Risen Lord ? Why do you think so ?
4) How do you see your own role in “building up the Body of Christ” ?
Luke 24: 13- 40 - Walk to Emmaus; Acts 2: 41-42 - Disciple Shaping Community
Luke focuses on the gradual awakening of the first disciples to the awareness of the risen Jesus. The book of Acts (also written by Luke) focuses on the growing Christian movement and the making of new disciples who have never met Jesus either before or after his Resurrection.
Luke 24: 13 – 35
1) “ Their eyes were kept from recognizing him”
2) “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself”
3) “Their eyes were opened and they recognized him in the breaking of the bread.”
4) “ Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road and while he opened the scriptures ?”
This Emmaus road encounter involves four dimensions: Conversation with Jesus, Interpretation of the scriptures (during which “ our hearts burned within us”), hospitality to a stranger, “eyes opened” in the “breaking of the bread”.
Luke 24: 36 – 49 Mid-night meal and more teaching from the scriptures: “that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.”
Some examples: Genesis 22 - Isaiah 53 - Psalm 22
Acts 2: 41 – 42 “They dedicated themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers"
First Christian converts learn to become disciples by the same process: explanation of the scriptures (apostles teaching), community of believers encouraging each other (fellowship), the eucharist (breaking of bread) and praying together.
1) How do your react to the experience of the two people on the road to Emmaus? Why do you think “their eyes were kept from recognizing him“ ? Have there been times in your life when Jesus was present with you but you didn’t recognize him and later realized he was there with you?
2) When Jesus was explaining the scriptures to them, they said that “our hearts burned within us”, but they still did not recognize him. Why to do you think that was so?
3) When they invited him in for a meal, “their eyes were opened and they recognized him the breaking of the bread”. Why do you think that was so?
4) There does not seem to be one “aha” moment in this passage. Instead, many experiences and insights came together to enable them to see Jesus in their midst.
How does this compare with your own understanding of Jesus and your relationship with him? Was there one “aha” moment? Were there different insights or experiences or questions that came together to help you grow deeper in faith?
5) What elements of Christian worship are most important to you: scripture reading and explanation, fellowship with others, holy communion, prayers? How do these elements work together to strengthen your faith?
Closing prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to hear your voice and see you face more clearly. Help me to walk with you and walk with others who are seeking you along my own personal “road to Emmaus”.
Hearts Burning - Eyes Opened
Different ways of “seeing” the Risen Lord: John 20:19-31, Acts 9:1-19, 1 Corinthians 15:1 –11, I Peter 1:3 –9
The Gospels and other New Testament books speak about the original eye-witnesses of Jesus, and of people who later believed “without having seen Him, you loved Him.” They also speak of different ways of “seeing” and “knowing” the Risen Lord.
John 20: 19 – 31 Doubting Thomas / Believing Thomas. In this passage, Jesus scolds Thomas and commends those “who have not seen and yet believe.”
Acts 9: 1-19 Persecuting Saul / Believing Paul. In Paul’s Damascus Road encounter he “sees” Jesus, but not in the same way that Thomas did. He was not invited to put his fingers in the nail holes in Jesus’ hands. What exactly he “saw” is ambiguous in the account.
1 Corinthians 15: 1 – 11 Many ways of seeing Risen Jesus. Paul summarizes all of the early encounters with the Risen Jesus that were “handed over” to him by other Christians. And he is writing to people who have not had any kind of Resurrection appearance, making the transition from those who have “seen” to those who have not.
I Peter 1: 3-9 “Without having seen him, you love him.” Peter is writing to a later generation of Christians who have little or perhaps no personal connection with the original eye-witnesses.
Questions for Discussion:
1) How do you react to Thomas’s transition from doubt to belief ? Have you had a similar transition in your own life ?
2) How is Paul’s experience of the Risen Lord different from that of Thomas ? Have you had anything like that happen in your own life of faith ? Have you had a time or a period of transformation in which you were able to relate to Jesus differently ?
3) The account of Paul’s transformation is ambiguous. The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly how he “saw” and “heard” Jesus. What are some of the ways that people who have never met the physical Jesus have encountered him spiritually ? Has this every happened to you or someone you know ?
4) Peter speaks of people who have never seen Jesus but love Him. How do you react to this ? Have you ever experienced the reality of love for Jesus ? How does one allow that feeling of love to grow ? How does it diminish ?
Closing prayer: Ask for grace to open your heart to the presence and love of Jesus each day.
Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe
Four Gospels – Four Different Perspectives: Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20
Each of the four Gospel accounts give us a different portrait of Jesus, a unique perspective on his life and mission. Following that trend, the four Gospels each give us a different perspective on the Resurrection and its meaning.
Matthew 28: 1 – 20 “Going before you to Galilee”. Apostles are told that the main resurrection appearances and future instructions will happen in Galilee ( several days journey on foot or donkey) from Jerusalem.
Mark 16: 1 – 20 “They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid…They would not believe it…they did not believe it.” Mark emphasizes the unbelief of everyone except Mary Magdalene. The risen Jesus “upbraded them for their unbelief and hardness of heart”.
Luke 24: 1-12 “It seemed to them an idle tale and they would not believe.” Luke emphasizes the slow and gradual awakening of the apostles to the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. All of the resurrection appearances are in or near Jerusalem – not Galilee as in Matthew.
John 20: 1 – 18 “Why Are You Weeping ?” John emphasizes three individual encounters with the Risen Lord and the transformation that happened in each one of them: Mary Magdalene, Thomas and Peter. The resurrection appearances are in both Jerusalem (as Luke emphasizes) and in Galilee (as Mathew and Mark emphasize).
Questions for Discussion
1) What is your reaction to the different emphases in the different Gospel accounts ? Does this make them less believable or more believable to you ? Why ?
2) What is your reaction to the slowness of the apostles to believe that Jesus was really risen from the dead ? Why do you think they were slow to believe ? Do you find this helpful or unhelpful to your own belief in the Resurrection ? Why ?
3) Why do you think John’s account focuses more on individual encounters with the risen Lord ? What can we learn from these encounters for or own faith ?
Closing prayer: Ask the Risen Jesus to “show” himself in your life. Ask Jesus to help you to see and know Him more clearly and follow him more evidently in your life.