Bible Study: 2 Easter (A)

April 27, 2014

Jordan Trumble, Berkeley Divinity School at Yale

“Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’” (John 20:27)

The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings:
Acts 2:14a,22-32; Psalm 16; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31

Acts 2:14a, 22-32

This lesson from Acts is a portion of Peter’s speech to early followers of Jesus and echoes the words of Psalm 16, making use of a prophecy/fulfillment motif. Just as the psalmist David wrote of resurrection, Jesus is an example of that promise being fulfilled. But the words and story of David, used by Peter to preach to the Israelites, also remind us that there is a great cloud of faithful witnesses who have gone before us, embodying faithfulness and speaking to the power of God and God’s plans for us. As we journey along, discerning God’s plan for us and movement in our own lives, we can look not only to God but also to this cloud of witnesses for examples of faithfulness that can help shape our faith lives.

This passage reminds us that God has a plan for each of us, but how do you understand the idea of God having a plan for your life? Is this a passive event that will unfold before you, or does it require action from you? And what can you do in your daily life to actively participate in God’s plan for you?

Psalm 16

In Psalm 16, we hear the hopeful words and praise of the psalmist, “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand I shall not fall” (v. 8), words that are echoed in today’s reading from Acts. And like the reading from 1 Peter that preaches resurrection in spite of trials, we are reminded that God is faithful, accompanying us on our journey, promising life and resurrection with these words: “For you will not abandon me to the grave, nor let your holy one see the Pit” (v. 10). The psalmist embodies a deeply attentive and abiding faith, providing a model for both his original audience and our modern communities.

The psalmist writes, “I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel; my heart teaches me, night after night” (v.7). What does it mean for you to listen to God and listen for God’s counsel? What practices in your life help you hear God’s voice? And if you do not have any of those practices, what ways could you incorporate them into your routine?

1 Peter 1:3-9

Few things in life follow a clear either/or dichotomy, and today’s epistle reminds us of just that. In this opening reading from 1 Peter, we encounter the good news of the risen Christ, but are also made aware that the community receiving this epistle is one that is enduring trials.

As we celebrate Christ’s resurrection today in 2014, we, too, are in the midst of trials or are witnessing trials, whether in our personal lives or in the world outside our doors. Yet despite trials, whether those trials are feuds with family and friends, career woes, natural disasters, or international conflict, we also are living with the resurrected Christ. We are not an either/or people; we are a both/and people. We are living not with either trials or the good news of resurrection, but we are living both with trials and this hope. Easter happened, but only after the pain of Good Friday; the tomb was discovered empty, but only because those mourning Jesus went to visit.

In the midst of trials, how can you be attentive to the resurrection and new life surrounding you?

For the rest of the season of Easter, the time when we celebrate the resurrection of Christ, challenge yourself to take a few moments each day to notice something hopeful, some form of new life or resurrection.

John 20:19-31

Theologian Paul Tillich once wrote that doubt is not the opposite of faith but is, rather, an element of faith. When we read today’s gospel lesson, though, it sounds like Jesus and Paul Tillich might disagree. Today we hear the story of Thomas, often called “Doubting Thomas,” the disciple who, when told of the resurrection of Christ, said he wouldn’t believe until his hands had touched the marks in Jesus’ hands and side, and we hear the admonishment from Jesus that those who believe without seeing will be blessed.

Yet, when we read this story and shake our heads at Doubting Thomas, we are quick to forget that Thomas isn’t the only disciple who needed to see to believe; rather, each of the other disciples had already had the opportunity to see! What is striking about this passage is the unwillingness to believe the witness of the other disciples who had first seen.

This passage reminds us that, although we may not be able to physically see Jesus, we are still able to witness to Christ and that it is this witness that enables us to both see Jesus and to show Jesus to others.

How do you understand the relationship of doubt with your own personal faith? Do you have space for doubt within your life of faith or are the two mutually exclusive?

How can you, in your daily life, show people Jesus?

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