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Psalm 118:1-2 1
1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. 2 Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.”

Background 2

The Jews have a legend about building the temple in Jerusalem.  They cut big stones to build the temple. One stone was the wrong shape and size. They threw it away. Then they needed one that shape and size. They needed it to fix two walls together. So, they found the stone that they threw away. They put it in an important place at the top of the two walls. It fixed the two walls together. As Psalm 118:23 says, “The builders (men who were building) threw away a stone. It is now in an important place at the corner”.

The legend makes us think this: the psalmist wrote Psalm 118 after the Jews had built something. Perhaps they had just built the temple, or the walls of Jerusalem. Now Solomon built the temple in 950 B.C.  Soldiers from Babylon destroyed it in 586 B.C. The Jews built it again in 516 B.C. They built the walls around Jerusalem again in 444 B.C. The date of Psalm 118 is 444 B.C. probably because the Jews had a special feast (big party) in 444 B.C. They called it “the feast of tree houses”. This was because they made little houses with branches from trees. They lived in them for a few days in October. This feast happened every year. But in 444 B.C., it was very important, because they had just built the walls of Jerusalem. The story is in Nehemiah 8:14-18. But why do we think this? Because of a strange verse in the psalm, (verse 27). One way to translate the middle of the verse is, “with branches in your hands, go with the people at the feast”.

Bible Truths and Theology

The first two verses tell everybody to thank the LORD, because he is good.

Items for Discussion

  • Why do we thank people?
    • Note: In English, “thank you” derives from “think,” it originally meant, “I will remember what you did for me” In other languages (the Portuguese obrigado is a good example) the standard term follows the form of the English “much obliged” — it actually does means “I am in your debt.” The French merci is even more graphic: it derives from “mercy,” as in begging for mercy; by saying  you are symbolically placing yourself in your benefactor”s power — since a debtor is, after all, a criminal.
  • Why is it important to understand that God’s love endures beyond our own temporal time on earth?
  • Why should people thank God?
  • When we thank God for things, what does it say about us and our relationship with God?
  • How is the stone, thrown away and then used, like Christ?

 

John 20:1-18
1 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.

Background 3

John’s father was called Zebedee. And John had a brother called James, who became also one of Jesus’ disciples (Matthew 4:21; Mark 1:19-20; Luke 5:10). The family fished on Lake Galilee. Zebedee owned a boat. He employed men to help with his business. Jesus called John and James: the ‘sons of thunder’. Perhaps he gave them this name because they became angry quickly. For example, they wanted God to destroy a village in Samaria. This was because the people there had not wanted Jesus to enter the village (Luke 9:52-56). Simon Peter, who was their partner in the business, became also a disciple of Jesus (Luke 5:1-11). Simon Peter, James and John were Jesus’ close friends. They were the only disciples with Jesus when he raised Jairus’ daughter from death (Mark 5:37). On another occasion, Jesus took Simon Peter, James and John up a mountain. There, they saw him as he talked with Moses and Elijah. They heard God’s voice. God said that Jesus was his Son. And they must listen to Jesus (Mark 9:2-12). And on the night before Jesus died, John and Simon Peter made the arrangements for the Passover meal (Luke 22:8). So John knew Jesus very well.

John did not refer to himself by his name in his Gospel. However, there are many references to ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’.  Many people think that this disciple was John. Most agree that John wrote this Gospel about AD 85-90 but not later than AD 100. John was a very old man then. It is possible that he dictated his Gospel to another person. This was usual in the first century AD. Paul dictated some of his letters to his churches. Someone else wrote the words for him. What we do know is that the 4th Gospel contains John’s memories and ideas about Jesus.

Bible Truths and Theology

In verse one is the second reference to Mary from Magdala in John’s Gospel. The other Gospels tell more about her. Jesus made 7 evil spirits leave her. She became his loyal follower. She was probably the leader of the group of women who travelled with Jesus and his disciples. These women paid for the things that they all needed. They looked after Jesus and his disciples in a practical way. Mary from Magdala was present when Jesus died on the cross. The other Gospels tell us that some other women went with Mary to Jesus’ grave.

In verses 2-10, we find the following:  Mary was not expecting Jesus to become alive again. When she saw the open entrance, it upset her. She thought that somebody had moved the stone in order to remove Jesus’ body. So she ran to Peter and the other disciple to tell them. They ran to the grave themselves to see what had happened. The other disciple, ‘whom Jesus loved’, is probably John himself. See John 13:23. When he arrived, the other disciple did not rush inside. He just looked in. He saw the position of the cloths. It seemed as if Jesus’ body had just passed through them. If somebody had stolen the body, they would not have left the cloths like this. But Peter rushed inside first. And he did not seem to realize the importance of these details.

When the other disciple saw the position of the cloths, he ‘believed’ (verse 8). He did not believe that Jesus’ spirit had gone to heaven. This disciple believed that Jesus’ body had actually become alive again. But it was a new kind of life, because his body was able to pass through material. It was not the same as when Lazarus became alive again. Lazarus’s body was the same as before. And his body would become old and he would die in the end. But Jesus’ body was not the same as it was before. He would never die again.

Both Jesus and the scriptures said that after his death, Jesus would become alive again. But the disciples had not realized what this meant before. They had not expected the grave to be empty. But the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection was in the scriptures and in the empty grave. The other disciple examined the evidence and he believed!

Jesus’ resurrection proved that he was really God’s Son. He had defeated even death. For Christians, death is not the end, but the beginning of a new life with God.

In verses 11-16,  Mary was crying. And she could not stop. Even when she saw the angels, she did not stop. She did not understand what had happened. She had expected to see Jesus’ body in the grave. But it had gone. She certainly did not expect to see Jesus alive. Perhaps her tears made it difficult to see. Perhaps it was still dark. Whatever the reason, she did not recognize Jesus until he said her name. Then she recognized him. He used the Aramaic form of her name. And she answered him in Aramaic. It was the familiar language that Jesus and his disciples spoke. The author John wrote his Gospel in Greek. But he recorded the actual Aramaic words that Jesus and Mary used. This emphasised how personal this meeting was. John was very careful to include these details. He was repeating the report of somebody who was actually present there.

Verses 17-18 document that Jesus had not become alive again so that he could remain on the earth. He had not returned to life so that he could stay with his disciples. He knew that, soon, he had to return to heaven. Then the Holy Spirit could come, as Jesus had promised (John 14:15-31). So he could not stay with Mary in the garden. Mary had to leave too. She had an important message to give to the disciples. Jesus was alive!

Jesus had called his disciples ‘friends’ rather than ‘servants’ (John 15:14-15). But in verse 17, he called them ‘brothers’. Because of his death and resurrection, they had become God’s children. God was their Father, too. But he was their Father in a different way from the way that he was Jesus’ Father. This is because Jesus, the Son, has always existed with his Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is also God. But everybody who believes in him receives the right to be called God’s child. God adopts such people into his family.

Items for Discussion

  • What are the facts in John’s Gospel that cause you to believe in Christ’s resurrection?
  • Why do you think God chose women first to witness the resurrection?
  • We are told that Mary came to the tomb in the dark, filled with sorrow, believing that all was over. Discuss how these three things changed by the end of the story?
  • What would you conclude about life after death from reading these verses?
  • Why are we to be servants on earth but brothers of Jesus in Heaven?
  • What of all you have heard and know about Jesus, his death and resurrection makes you believe life after death is true?

Discussion Challenge

  • How do we bring people to church after Easter that generally only come on the special holiday?
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