Bible Study: 2 Easter (C)

April 7, 2013

Alan Cowart, Virginia Theological Seminary

“Jesus said to Thomas, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’” (John 20:29)

The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
Acts 5:27-32; Psalm 118:14-29 or Psalm 150; Revelation 1:4-8; John 20:19-31

Acts 5:27-32

The chief priests are trying to silence the apostles’ preaching and the growing movement of Christ’s followers. The apostles have suddenly and miraculously been liberated from prison by an angel of God (Acts 5:17-26). Now they stand once again before the priests, who don’t get it. “We gave you strict orders … yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching,” the high priest says (5:28).

The teaching of God is not a stoppable thing. It does not listen to human voices. It moves out in spite of any attempts to stop it. The apostles can’t avoid speaking about it.

The difference between the apostles of Acts and the disciples of the gospels is a different kind of encounter with Christ. Resurrection has to change you. It is not static. In each experience of the resurrected, risen Christ, there is a change. There is a movement outward. We move from death into life; from life into victory; from hope into certainty.

From what have you been freed?

What have you been freed to do?

Psalm 118:14-29

Reading this psalm, we recall the words we recite every Sunday and also what Jesus heard upon entering Jerusalem: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (118: 25-26). Jesus came to his ultimate victory through the avenue of death, yet entered Jerusalem through the prayers and songs of the people.

It is right, in this time of resurrection, to remember that what has been done is not just a moment of history.

This is the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes.
On this day the Lord has acted;
we will rejoice and be glad in it (118:23, 24)

Today is the day of our victory. Today, God reigns and we can put down our arms and our struggles. We can give thanks to God not only because of the victory, but because of God’s goodness, and because “his mercy endures for ever” (118:29). We can celebrate because God has not only seen us through, but has carried us. Again and again we are rescued.

And again, there is movement. We move from resting “in the tents of the righteous” (118:15) to a festal procession for the glory of God. We shout, “Hosanna!” because of God’s righteousness, because of God’s victory. And because of that victory – through that victory – we “shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord” (118:17). Hallelujah!

Where can you rest today in something God has already done?

Where in your life can you look for a victory from God?

How will you celebrate?

Revelation 1:4-8

Even though there are authorship questions concerning the Revelation to John, we can’t help but think about the opening lines of the similarly named gospel, which talks about Jesus’ existence before creation. Jesus was both before and after the world, and was both before and after the Incarnation of God-in-Christ. Jesus, having been raised from the dead, is both before and after our own lifetimes – the Alpha and Omega.

We remember, with John, the faithful witness who is and was and is to come. There is an ultimate vision of Jesus yet to be revealed. Like the “this day” in today’s psalm (118:24), Jesus of the Revelation is of all time. The victory Christ brings over life and death in his resurrection is just a taste of the ultimate-ness of this person we claim to follow, of this God who sent his Son. And yet the person of Christ is the same, the one who is and the one who was and the one who is to come. That is the meaning of “almighty.”

How might we act differently because God has freed us?

What difference does it make that Jesus is “coming with the clouds” (1:7)?

John 20:19-31

There is a transformation in those who encounter Jesus. In this case the disciples (originally from the Greek for “pupil”) are transformed into apostles, not only having seen the risen Christ, but also “sent out” (from which we get “apostle”). Belief is different from fear.

The disciples have just buried Jesus a few days earlier, or rather, they likely hid as others buried Jesus. Hours earlier, they heard from Mary Magdelene that Jesus was gone, risen. There was confusion, fear and probably not a little unbelief and doubt.

And then, there he is. This is a different version of resurrection. Jesus is there. No one mistakes him for the gardener (John 20:15). He is with the same followers who ran away earlier. Jesus comes to them. Jesus wants to restore the relationship.

This is an amazing thing. And then it happens again! This time, Thomas is with the others. We put a lot of our own doubt onto Thomas. But it is important to remember that he does not doubt here. He questions someone else’s claim, but in his encounter with Jesus, he believes. Thomas moves toward belief and proclaims the truth about Christ. This is what an encounter with the risen Christ does: It takes us from doubt to belief to proclamation.

How does your faith proceed out of you?

Where is God relentlessly showing up in your life?

What doors do you lock to keep God out?

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