UNLIKELY HEROES: THE RESURRECTION REVEALERS

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

The Christian faith hinges on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without it, our faith is nothing. Do you have the power of the resurrection bolstering all you do for Him? Are you a resurrection revealer?

GROUP QUESTIONS

What was your favorite childhood tradition at Easter?

Read Matthew 28:1-15. Each of the Gospels (Mark 16:1-11, Luke 24:1-111, John 20:1-18) tells the resurrection story, but no two accounts are the same (timing differs, as well as the number of women, number of angels, etc.). Does this affect the validity of the story in your mind? Why or why not?

Why did Mary Magdalene and the other Mary go to “look at the tomb”? What do you think they expected to see?

Why do you think the angels were first to announce Christ’s resurrection, rather than Jesus doing it immediately in person?

David stated on Sunday that resurrection revelation includes worship and witness (the women “clasped His feet and worshiped Him…. and ran to tell His disciples”). Do these actions have a prominent place in your Christian walk?

German Theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg said, “The evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is so strong that nobody would question it except for two things: First, it is a very unusual event. And second, if you believe it happened, you have to change the way you live.” Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?

APPLICATION

If Jesus wasn’t resurrected, our faith is useless (1 Corinthians 15:14). But since Jesus did rise again, He’s worth following. If you haven’t made the decision to follow Him, consider doing so now. If you’ve already made that decision, are you living in the power of the resurrection? List ways you could improve at being a resurrection revealer.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

 Mary Magdalene is mentioned a number of times in the gospels. Look at the following verses and note what you learn about her: Matthew 27:56-61; Matthew 28:1; Mark 15:40-47; Mark 16:1-9; Luke 8:1-3; Luke 24:1-11; John 19:25; John 20:1-18. Many believe she was a prostitute. Do these verses support that claim?

Read the following verses and write how Jesus referred to His death and resurrection.

  • Matthew 12:39-40
  • Matthew 16:21
  • John 2:18-22
  • John 10:17-18

Why do you think those following Jesus did not understand and/or believe that He would die, let alone be resurrected?

Note that the Pharisees DID understand what Jesus was talking about (Matthew 27:62-64). Why do you think that the religious leaders and guards rejected the resurrection and came up with a plan to discredit it (Matthew 28:12-15)? Why do people today reject the resurrection?

What do you believe is the most convincing evidence for Jesus’ resurrection?

SCRIPTURE

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 2There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. 5The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. 7Then go quickly and tell His disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him.’ Now I have told you.” 8So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell His disciples. 9Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” He said. They came to Him, clasped His feet and worshiped Him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see Me.” 11While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.  Matthew 28:1-15

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UNLIKELY HEROES: THE APOSTLE THOMAS

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

Thomas is the disciple with one of the most recognizable nicknames – Doubting Thomas – used even by secular people to indicate someone who doesn’t believe. It’s a nickname that does a great disservice to a man of God who loved Jesus. Tradition tells us that ultimately he died a martyr’s death because of his great faith. Moments can have the power to define you, and one moment in Thomas’ story has defined him to most of Christendom for millennia. Can you choose which moment will define you?

GROUP QUESTIONS

At family or friend get-togethers, what is one story that always comes up that people remember about you?

Read John 20:24-29. How would you describe Thomas based on this passage?

Thomas appears in all the Gospels, but his words are only recorded three times in John. The other two passages are John 11:5-16 and John 14:4-6. According to these verses, what else do you learn about Thomas?

In his sermon, Pastor Joe spoke of the power of defining moments. John 20:25 records such a moment for Thomas. Discuss with your group why you think it is so easy for us to only see Thomas as a doubter, and forget about the commitment he had to Jesus.

Joe’s second point was that you choose how you define yourself. How difficult is it for you to be completely honest with how you define yourself? Why?

APPLICATION

“Faith is allowing one moment (the cross) to define your next moment.” If you feel trapped or defined by something (bad) that you’ve done or that has happened to you, what do you need to do to let it go and move forward with a new definition of who you are based on what Jesus did for you?

FOR FURTHER STUDY

 Do you believe it was a sin for Thomas to have and/or express his doubts? Why or why not?

Is there anything about the Christian faith that you find difficult to believe? How can you overcome these doubts? Is there anything in Jesus’ interaction with Thomas that helps you deal with your own doubts, or helps you to deal with the doubts of others?

Many commentators point to Thomas’ declaration, “My Lord and my God!” as the climax of the Book of John, echoing the beginning of the book: “The Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Jesus noted Thomas’ belief, and added what is sometimes called “The Last Beatitude” – “Blessed are those who have not yet seen and yet have believed.” 1 Peter 1:8-9 states, “You have not seen him, but you love him. You do not see him now but you believe in him, and so you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, because you are attaining the goal of your faith—the salvation of your souls.” Have you made a declaration of faith like Thomas? Are you living out what it means to love Jesus, to believe in Him, and to rejoice in Him?

SCRIPTURE

24Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” 26A week later His disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28Thomas said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:24-29

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UNLIKELY HEROES: THE INVALID AT THE POOL

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

In John 5, we read the story of the invalid at the pool of Bethesda, a man who believed his hope for healing was out of reach to him. Steven Furtick, Lead Pastor of Elevation Church, stated, “We always think God’s presence is provided to fix our problems, but what if God’s presence is more about fixing your perspective.…?” From the invalid man’s perspective, his hope for healing was focused on a pool of water. When Jesus approached him, He challenged his perspective with a simple question, “Do you want to get well?”

GROUP QUESTIONS

How do you behave when you are not feeling well? How do you treat those around you?

Read John 5:1-9. Picture the scene in this story, and discuss as a group what the sights, sounds, and smells might be like surrounding the pool. Though Bethesda was considered a pool of healing, I imagine the environment filled with misery and longing from people desperate for healing. Have you ever prayed for something that went unfulfilled for years? Did this affect your view of God?

Jesus walks into the middle of this scene, and focuses on a man who “had been an invalid for thirty-eight years”. Jesus asks him, “Do you want to get well?” What reasons could the man have for NOT wanting to be completely healed? Why do some people choose to continue to live in brokenness even when they have the opportunity for healing?

Jesus tells the man, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” He did not have to get to the pool, he just had to obey Christ’s command, and was instantly healed. Jesus commanded the man to do three things he could not do on his own – get up, pick up his mat, and walk. The power was not in the pool, nor in the man, but in Jesus. Is there something that God is calling you to do, but you feel you are not capable of doing it? If so, does this story encourage you to move forward in faith?

The man didn’t do anything to deserve to be healed. He didn’t even know who Jesus was and didn’t even ask to be healed. Why do you think Jesus chose to heal the invalid at the pool?

APPLICATION

Have you been carrying around a deep hurt, emotional or physical, or sickness for a long time? Do you want to get well? Is there something you have felt God calling you to do, but are too afraid to do it because you’re focused on doing it in your own strength? Jesus is able to heal! Ask Him to meet you where you are, to give you healing and/or strength. If you feel comfortable, share your story with your group, and ask them to walk alongside you as you get up, pick up your mat, and walk.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

 There were many other people beside the pool who were in search of healing. Why do you think Jesus did not heal any (or all) of them?

Read John 5:10-18. Instead of praising God that a man was healed, the Jewish leaders were angry that Jesus encouraged him to break Sabbath rules by doing “work” (see also Matthew 12:1-14). Considering that the invalid at the pool would likely have lived another day, why do you think that Jesus healed him specifically on that day?

SCRIPTURE

1Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. 2Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. [4*] 5One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” 7“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” 8Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath.  John 5:1-9

*In many Bible versions, verse 4 is omitted, because it is not in early Greek manuscripts of John. The verse reflects a traditional explanation of the cause of the stirring of the waters. Many commentators believe it was added by a scribe, not written by John.

10and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” 11But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk’.” 12So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” 13The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. 14Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. John 5:10-18

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UNLIKELY HEROES: THE THIEF ON THE CROSS

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

A person’s last words on earth are often significant. In Jesus’ case, he made seven last statements recorded in the Bible: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34), “Woman, here is your son…Here is your mother.” (John 19:26-27), “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me” (Matthew 27:46), “I am thirsty” (John 19:28), “It is finished” (John 19:30), “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit” (Luke 23:46). On Sunday, Joe highlighted the unlikely hero of the thief on the cross, to whom Christ directed one of His seven statements, “Today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). The story of the thief is unique in that it encapsulates the redemption story in just a few moments. Where do you stand in this story – are you the first thief, who rejected Christ, or the second thief, who by faith confessed his sin and surrendered to Christ?

GROUP QUESTIONS

What is your favorite story about an unlikely hero (fiction or real-life)?

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UNLIKELY HEROES WHO BELIEVE FOR BREAKTHROUGH

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

INTRODUCTION

In the Gospel of John, Jesus performs seven significant miracles that John refers to as “signs.” The last of these “signs” was raising Lazarus from the dead. John states that “many” of those who saw this resurrection believed in Him. It seems amazing to me that you could witness this type of miracle and not believe. Even the example of the Israelites in Exodus shows us that unbelief seems to be our default thought process. Will you be like the Israelites, who saw God’s miraculous hand rescue them time and time again, yet with each new obstacle they doubted, grumbled, and complained, or will you believe for a breakthrough?

Has a friend ever let you down? How did it make you feel?

In John 11:1-16, Martha and Mary sent a messenger to let Jesus know that their brother, Lazarus, was ill. Instead of coming right away, Jesus waited two days before going. Why do you think Jesus delayed instead of rushing to help? (See John 11:14.)

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