• Tony Birkhead

The Main Event Week - 4



If He is who He says He is, then everything changes!


INTRODUCTION

Easter ties our faith to something that happened rather than to something we merely believe. The foundation of Christianity is not a belief. Something happened—something that addresses and diminishes our fear of loss. Because of the resurrection, you can pray knowing God hears your prayers. You can live knowing there is life beyond this life. You can sacrifice knowing your faithfulness matters.

KEY SCRIPTURE

John 20:1-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” 3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying. 11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). 17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

John 20:29-31

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Do you have a favorite Easter memory from the past? What made it so special?

What about this Easter? Is this season unique for you in any way? How?

Sometimes in life, it feels like we are sleepwalking. We tend to live on a treadmill thinking that the future will never be any different than the present. So, we just continue to muddle our way through our days. But Easter is a wake up call. When we think about Easter, we remember that Jesus isn’t dead; He is alive today. Because He has power over death, He has the power to make us fully alive in every area of our lives.

JOHN 20:1-10.

What do these verses show us about the relationship Jesus had with His followers?

If you were in this situation, what’s the first thing that would go through your mind? What would you do?

How were Peter and John’s responses once they get to the empty tomb different? What does this show about each disciple’s personality?

The Bible tells us that John went into the tomb and believed (v. 8). For John, it was that simple—a light bulb moment. A switch was flipped. From that point forward, John firmly believed Jesus was the Son of God. But for Mary and Peter, it wasn’t so cut and dry.

Have you had a light bulb moment in your relationship with Jesus? If so, what happened?

In your faith journey, have you been more like John, or Mary and Peter?

JOHN 20:11-18.

Why do you think Mary didn’t recognize Jesus? Have you ever been in a situation where it was difficult for you know that Jesus was with you?

Even though Mary didn’t know Jesus, Jesus still knew Mary. Even when we have trouble recognizing Jesus’ presence in tough times it doesn’t change the fact that He knows us inside and out. As Pete told us, that means right now Jesus knows not only your name, but your strengths, weaknesses, and everything you’ve ever done or will do.

Is the fact that Jesus knows you intimately comfortable or uncomfortable for you? Why?

Because Jesus already knows your past, it means nothing you’ve done is beyond His ability and willingness to forgive. Do you ever have trouble believing that? Why or why not?

Is God’s grace difficult for you to believe in fully? Is there something from your past that is making it hard for you to believe and trust in the grace of God?

The moment you attach strings to grace it ceases to be grace. Even though it’s hard sometimes to fully believe that God loves us as we are, Easter is a chance to remember that Jesus has fully paid the debt we owe because of our sin. Because He is alive, we can also be fully alive.

JOHN 20:19-20.

Why do you think Jesus greeted His followers by saying “Peace be with you”?

Is there any area of life into which you need Jesus to speak peace?

How does Jesus’ resurrection remind us that there is not only forgiveness for our past but also hope for our future?

In the middle of this room filled with fear, doubt, and anxiety, Jesus brought peace. He wants to do the same thing in your life. No matter what walls might be standing in His way right now, because He is alive, Jesus is still bringing peace, and that brings hope for the future.


MOVING FORWARD

  • What situation in your life seems the most hopeless? How do you think Jesus wants to bring hope into that situation?

  • How are you going to remind yourself in the middle of that situation that your hope isn’t built on circumstances but on the living Jesus?

  • Is there anyone in your life right now who needs to hear a word of hope? What is the best way for you to offer that to them this week?


PRAY TOGETHER

Thank God for Jesus. Thank Him that Jesus is the living hope of Easter. Pray that just as He brought life from death in His own body, He would bring life and hope to the specific situations your group mentioned.


COMMENTARY

JOHN 20:1-18

20:1-2. We know from Matthew’s account that Mary Magdalene was not alone on this visit (see Matt. 28:1). If we follow the flow of Matthew’s text from 27:55 through the burial and resurrection, it would appear that “the other Mary” refers to Jesus’ mother who had already taken a secondary place before the resurrection. Startled, Mary ran to the disciples. John mentions Peter by name while implying he was the other recipient of this message. With no thought of a miraculous resurrection, Mary must have entertained all kinds of possibilities, none of which seemed to her a happy outcome.

20:3-5. This passage talks a lot about running. Mary ran back to the disciples. Although John made it sound as though they immediately dashed off to the tomb upon hearing her report, Luke gives a slightly different picture in Luke 24:11-12. All this is quite interesting since in first-century Palestinian culture, grown men did not run. John was certainly younger than Peter, and he may have been faster. He reached the tomb first and looked at the strips of linen. The text uses the same word for saw that appears in verse 1 describing Mary. Like Mary, John did not enter the tomb. We sense a certain hesitation and uncertainty, perhaps even fear.

20:6-7. Whether motivated by shame or just acting according to character, Peter plunged into the darkness. The text says that Peter saw what John had seen and in addition, the burial cloth. But the word changes to one with a slightly different meaning, perhaps best translated as “noticed” rather than “looked at.” Notice that the burial cloth was folded up by itself. This was obviously an intentional act on the part of someone.

20:8-9. Three of Jesus’ followers saw the empty tomb, but John was not finished with his report. He wanted his readers to know that after Peter entered the tomb, John himself finally found enough courage to follow him. Now we have yet another use of the English verb saw and yet a third Greek word appearing in the original text. This time John uses a word that means “to perceive with understanding.” That is why our text reads that John saw and believed. But lest readers of this Gospel get the wrong idea about the quality of the disciples’ faith at this point, John appended a parenthesis telling us that neither he nor the rest of the disciples yet understood the connection between scriptural prophecy and the resurrection. That would await Jesus’ post-resurrection teaching followed by the infilling with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

20:10-12. Here the primary witness was not Peter but Mary. Peter and John had left, but Mary stayed at the tomb and John offered this loving and passionate account of the first post-resurrection appearance of our Lord. Mary wept as we would over the loss of a dear friend. Then suddenly two angels appeared, and a fascinating conversation took place. We know from Luke’s record that Mary had been cured of demon possession (see Luke 8:2) and also had helped support the Lord financially. We must not confuse her with the prostitute of Luke 7 or with Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Empty tomb or not, her grief was unbearable—so deep that she could not take her eyes off the grave to perceive the living Lord.

No Bible reader is surprised to find angels at the empty tomb. From the birth of Jesus (see Luke 1:11,26) to the announcement of the Holy City (see Rev. 22:8-9) we find angels announcing God’s plan. They not only heralded the resurrection and showed up at the ascension; they even prophesied the second coming (see Acts 1:11).

20:13-14. John records that Mary saw Jesus. She noticed a person standing there, but she had no idea who it was. Many interpreters have wondered about this passage. How could she not recognize Jesus? She had experienced deep trauma; her eyes had filled with tears; it was still dark; she was very confused. But perhaps most important, she had not considered the resurrection a possibility. So the idea that she might be talking to a living Christ never occurred to her. She was looking for a body; she did not expect a resurrection.

20:15-16. Mary finally asked the person she thought to be the gardener where the body might be so she could retrieve it. Then Jesus spoke her name and tragedy turned to triumph. The early words of verse 16 remind us of John 10:4 where Jesus said that “his sheep know his voice.” This first appearance to a woman shows us the grace and openness of the gospel.

20:17-18. Many ideas have been put forth to explain the words, do not hold on to me. But such conjecture is unnecessary, since Jesus told us this statement was connected with His ascension. The people who love Jesus on earth—beginning with Mary—must learn to live without the physical support of His presence. Mary thus witnessed the resurrection, and her first act upon leaving Jesus was a report to the disciples. It is difficult to know from John’s account whether this report or the one in verse 2 was rejected by the disciples. But for whatever reason, the women who believed the reality of the empty tomb could not convince the other disciples what had happened.



DAILY QUIET TIME GUIDE


HOW TO HAVE A DAILY QUIET TIME

The QT Guide is designed to help you MOVE with God through Bible Reading, reflection and prayer. It can be completed in about 9 minutes.

UPWARD: 1⁄2 Minute Preparing Your Heart:Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. You might pray, “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Surround me with Your presence during this time.

FORWARD: 4 Minutes Listening To God:Take the next four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear a word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author!

INWARD: 2 1/2 Minutes Talking To God (Prayer):After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him in prayer.

OUTWARD: 2 Minutes Preparing your Action:Ask yourself this question: How can I take today’s Quiet Time and put it into action throughout my day?


DAY 1

Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

John 20:8-9

It has been said that Christians of today ready the Bible backwards. We expect the Resurrection, we ‘foresee’ it coming in the Bible; but those who attended the first Easter didn’t. John Chapter 20 provides a picture of the first Easter; a dark morning of tears, confusion and a little race between John and Peter. Mary Magdalene came first and saw the empty tomb. She thought the body of Jesus had been stolen. Peter actually goes into the tomb and sees the grave clothes nicely folded. However, Peter didn’t understand it was because the grave clothes – and the grave itself – were no longer needed. They only knew it meant Jesus’ body wasn’t there.

That Jesus would be alive again after death seemed so impossible it didn’t even cross their minds. Peter and John went away confused and distressed. Mary was so upset she remained at the grave, mourning not just Jesus’ death, but the absence of his corpse. Here is when everything changes; Mary looks into the tomb and sees two angels. They ask her the reason for her tears: “’They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she has said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there…then Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord!’” (John 20: 14, 18).

Mary didn’t rejoice at the empty tomb; it was in seeing Jesus that she celebrated. Jesus’s death is a sacrifice for us, the empty tomb proof of his divinity. Easter culminates in us having a personal experience with Jesus; that is why Mary ran off proclaiming with joy to share the news with others.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 2

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26

When God saves us, he exchanges a “heart of flesh” in for our “heart of stone.” Instead of dying, we live. When you think about it, it’s a lot like an organ transplant. This happens when a sick person with a non-functioning organ gets a new one to replace it. Everything from hearts to kidneys to corneas get transplanted. It’s a medical miracle that saves thousands each year. But, it’s not without its risks. A big complication is called transplant rejection. This happens when the recipient’s body sees the new organ as a foreign invader. Ironically, the old tissue attacks the very thing meant to bring it life.

When God saves us, the “old man” — as Paul so often calls it — rebels against this life-saving transplant, too.

Where has the “old man” been getting the upper hand? In Colossians 3:5, Paul calls this what is “earthly” in us, saying:

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” Submit these areas to God right now by first confessing them. As David said in Psalm 51:4, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight…” This year, what sin do you need to confess and kill? As John Owen famously said, “Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.”

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 3

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Romans 3:21-26

Knowing what we believe is key to a life-sustaining faith. Yesterday we saw two of the blessings that are ours through the blood of the Savior. Today we will look at two more.

By trusting in Christ as Savior, we are ...

Justified. Justification is the process by which God sees us as not guilty— just as if we had not committed any wrong. Romans 3:23 condemns all mankind as sinners who are under a sentence of death and facing a dreadful eternity apart from God and His blessings. But everything changes for the person who accepts Christ’s shed blood as payment for his or her sins—through Jesus, that sinner is declared “not guilty” and is provided with Christ’s righteousness. And the new believer is adopted into God’s own family (Gal. 3:26). Jesus’ sacrifice has satisfied our sin debt, and His death is counted by God as our own (Rom. 5:9).

Reconciled. Before salvation, we were separated from the Lord and spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1). We had no way to span the gap between Him and us. Christ sent His Holy Spirit to convict us of our guilt (John 16:8), make us aware that we need a Savior, and bring us to saving faith. Jesus, the Lamb of God, removed the barrier of sin that separated us from God. Christ died to reconcile us to God, “having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:20).

As believers, we should understand what occurred when we received Jesus as Savior. Through His sacrifice, we are redeemed, forgiven, justified, and reconciled to God. That is, Christ’s blood has brought us from death to life—and has let us enter into an eternal relationship with the Father.

Adapted From: http:// intouch.org

DAY 4

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Acts 2:42-47

Show me a church that doesn’t have a constant flow of new believers coming in, and I will show you a church that is stagnating. The church needs new believers to remind us of what it is all about. And new believers need the church to stabilize them.

When mature believers are around young believers and they see them discover for the first time what it means to know Jesus, it can revive them. It’s like the difference between going to Disneyland with adults and going with children. We see things differently as adults. But when we go to Disneyland with children, everything changes because we see it all through their eyes.

The Bible tells us “the generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself” (Proverbs 11:25). New believers will replenish us. The first-century church had new believers continually coming in. As we read in Acts 2:47, “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”

What an attractive church this was to a lost and watching world as these believers learned, loved, cared, worshiped, and prayed. They looked out for each other. As a result, the world watched and paid attention—and people came to faith.

Witnessing is not just something we do; it’s something we are. Jesus said, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

There was regular, even daily, growth in the first-century church. Evangelism wasn’t a periodic event here and there. They were engaging in it continually. And every church ought to be. Every week we should be giving people an opportunity to come to Christ.

Adapted From: http://harvest.org

DAY 5

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:1

The Bible tells the story of a man who had everything this world says one should have to feel happy and fulfilled: power, wealth, influence, and fame. But along with that came an emptiness that sent him on a search for God. As secretary of the treasury for a powerful nation, he was second only to the queen. But there was a hole in his heart, so it led him on a search to the spiritual capital of the world, Jerusalem. He did not find what he was looking for, but as he was returning home, he unexpectedly found the answer to his questions. He had an appointment with God that resulted in his conversion and complete transformation.

His story shows what happens when a person becomes a Christian. When someone truly believes in Jesus Christ, his or her life changes dramatically. This man went from emptiness and misery to overflowing joy. His story ends with the statement, “He went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:39). It is no exaggeration when the Bible says that we pass from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to the power of God, when we believe in Jesus Christ. It is describing what takes place in our lives.

But we also need to recognize that not every case is identical. There are different types of people who come to faith in different ways. Some have a tremendous emotional response, while others have no emotional experience at all.

An emotional experience has little to do with the reality of a person’s conversion. When I prayed and asked Christ to come into my life, I felt nothing. And because of this, I falsely concluded that God had rejected me. Thankfully, I discovered later that Christianity is a walk of faith and not of feeling.

Adapted From: http://harvest.org


MOVING FORWARD

One of the best ways to fight temptation and grow in your daily walk with Jesus is to memorize His Word. Begin to commit His words to your memory this week.

Memorizing may be as simple as repeating the passage aloud 10 times each day or writing it 5 times each day. It may be that you place a 3x5 card on your mirror to remind you each day. Whatever it takes you won’t be let down with His Word in your mind and heart. Consider this…

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

John 20:18

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