Sunday, June 1, 2014

Something New in Something Oft Read

Last week I thought I had the perfect solution for what we should study next in Life Group. Our pastor had just finished a sermon series on the resurrection, titled "This Changes Everything." He had us by a book of the same title, and gave us reading assignments to go along with the sermon series. I must confess that I didn't do the assignments. I suggested to the class that we go through this book as a series of Life Group lessons. They agreed it would be a good idea.

Then, sometime this week, I actually read the first five chapters of this 33 chapter book. They are short chapters and it's not a long book. To my horror I found that this isn't a book from which you can easily draw Life Group lessons. What to do? My co-teacher and I are out of ideas as to what to study next.

It was his week to teach, and he pulled together a lesson on Thomas, and how he needed physical proof of a risen Christ to believe in the resurrection. He did a good job. He and I spoke and agreed that we could do five lessons, the next ones to be on Peter, Philip, Stephen, and Paul, and how everything changed for them because of the resurrection.

As we were going through the lesson today, mainly from the gospel of John, chapter 20, something came to notice from this very familiar passage of scripture. On the evening of Resurrection Sunday, the disciples were together "with the doors locked for fear of the Jews." Jesus appeared, convinced them he wasn't a ghost but had a resurrected body (he did this by eating in front of them, as Luke tells us), breathed the Holy Spirit on them, and departed. Thomas was absent for some reason. Then we read that a week later they were together in the same circumstances, except Thomas was with them this time. Jesus once again appeared to them "though the doors were locked...."

Think of that. The whole idea of the book This Changes Everything is an oft repeated maxim that it is only because of the resurrection that we can have Christian boldness and live victorious lives while evangelizing the world. But, where was the boldness of the disciples? They had received the Holy Spirit, yet seven days later they are still behind locked doors, apparently still afraid of the Jews. Where's the boldness?

Now, we know that on the day of Pentecost Peter and the other disciples showed a lot of boldness. And shortly after that Peter and John were bold enough to defy the Sanhedrin and preach according to what they understood as God's calling. But it seems it wasn't a one-step process: Believe in the resurrection and sit back and watch the boldness pull you forward. No. There were several steps involved. Seeing Jesus; testing the physical evidence of His claims; receiving the Holy Spirit; seeing him again, perhaps several times over a forty day period; seeing him ascend to heaven, with the understanding that this is it, He's not coming back; and having the Holy Spirit come as a rushing, mighty wind. Boldness came through several steps, not a one-step process.

I need to ponder this, roll it around for a while, and perhaps pull some notes together, more extensive than just this blog post. I think this will be a fun endeavor.

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