Friday, April 14, 2017

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday April 16, 2017

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JESUS’ VICTORY OVER DEATH
(JESUS’ victory over death can be ours as well)
(John 20:1-10 and 1 Peter 1:1-9)

   In the Greek, the word New Testament writers use for “resurrection” is “anastasis” (an-as-tas-is), and it is “a moral recovery of spiritual truth”. It also means, in the physical sense, “to stand up again”. In John chapter 20, verses 1-18, Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-19, and Luke 24:1-12, these authors of GOD share their respective Gospel accounts of the Resurrection of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST.
    The Resurrection of CHRIST is the essence of the Christian faith, and the core of all of the Apostles teachings. All accounts tell us that it was early in the morning of the first day of the week, while it was still dark, when JESUS’ body was discovered missing. By combining all four Gospel accounts, we can see that Mary Magdalene, the woman from whom JESUS once removed seven demons (Luke 8:2), Mary, the mother of James and Joseph, Salome, who was Zebedee’s wife and the mother of James and John, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager, all went to the tomb of JESUS to anoint HIS body for burial, with spices.
    Perhaps no one had ever loved JESUS as much as Mary Magdalene did. HE had done something for her that no one else could ever do, and she never forgot it. It was the custom of the Jews to visit the tomb of a loved one for three days after the body had been laid to rest. They believed that, for three days, the spirit of the deceased person would hover around the tomb, and only departed when the decomposing body became unrecognizable.
    The day following JESUS’ Crucifixion was the Sabbath, which is our Saturday, so to visit on that day would violate the Sabbath law. That is why their first visit had to occur on that early Sunday morning. The original Greek writings of the New Testament authors tell us that, it was during “proi” (the fourth night watch) when they visited the tomb. The Jews divided their nights into four watches. The first night watch was from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the second watch was from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m., the third watch was from 12 a.m. to 3 a.m., and the fourth and final watch was from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. It was during this forth watch, called “proi”, that, the women came to the tomb.
    Tombs, in those days, were “cave-like” compartments that had been carved into the side of a hill, or mountain, and then, covered by a circular shaped rock, which rested, in a slanted groove that had been carved out, along the front opening of these compartments. This extremely heavy rock had to be rolled uphill to open, and downhill to close. So we can envision that it was much harder to open than it was to close.
    In addition, Matthew tells us that JESUS’ tomb was also sealed by Roman officials, at the request of the Jewish leaders (Matthew 27:62-66). They also placed guards out in front of the tomb. Matthew also records that there was a great earthquake associated with an angel of the LORD, who came down from Heaven and rolled away the stone from the entrance of the sepulcher, and then, sat on it. This apparently frightened the Roman guards so much, that they actually fainted (Matthew 28:2-4).
    When the women arrived at the tomb, they were shocked and frightened by what they saw. However, the angel was able to allay their fears and invite them to look inside the cave so that they could see that JESUS was no longer there. The angel then urged them to go and tell JESUS’ Disciples the good news, that, JESUS had arisen from the dead, just as HE had said that HE would.
    The women then ran and found Peter and John, who were somewhat puzzled, and were thinking someone had broken into the tomb and removed JESUS’ body (John 20:2). Peter and John ran to the tomb, and with John arriving first, he looks in and sees JESUS’ “body wrappings” (“bussinos” (boos-see-nos) – “linen bandages or torn sheets”) lying there in the tomb, but he sees no body.
    Then Peter arrived and actually went inside the cave, where he too, only sees the cloth that had enwrapped JESUS’ body. When Peter saw this, he remembered and realized what the Scriptures had said, and also, what JESUS had said about rising from the dead after three days, and Peter believed, and they went home.
    The Apostle Peter, perhaps, wrote his inspiring first letter (1 Peter) while residing in Rome, near the end of his life. Its purpose was to lend comfort and encouragement to the Jewish Christian Diaspora, who, were living as foreigners in the various towns of Asia Minor (now northern Turkey). In chapter 1 of that letter Peter focuses on “triumph through suffering for CHRIST”, and how the “Christian Hope” will serve as motivation to make our life here on earth, conform more fully to the word of GOD, as we go along on your “Christian Journey”.
    Peter apparently wrote this epistle around the time of “the great persecution of the Christian Church” by the Roman emperor, Nero. Nero, who was an outstanding practitioner of the form of witchcraft called “Miming”, often used his miming talents to make light of his terrible persecutions on the Church by mocking the Christian’s sufferings, while performing in the theaters in and around Rome.
    Peter and the other early church leaders banned miming in the Christian Church for obvious reasons (witchcraft is “anti-CHRIST”). Nowadays, however, because of our ever-growing desire to be entertained in worship services, many so-called Christian Churches have both “wittingly and unwittingly” re-introduced this demonic form of entertainment back into church worship services, and other church functions, simply because we fail to properly research hardly anything anymore, before we begin to incorporate it into our programs. However, we’ll let that (miming) be another Sunday school lesson. For now, let us focus on the Hope of Eternal Life that is offered through Salvation, through JESUS CHRIST.
    Peter’s first letter is rich in references to and from the Old Testament. Any Jewish Christian would find special significance in the term “Diaspora” that is translated “scattered” in the opening lines of this letter, and any Gentile reader wouldn’t help but notice Peter’s call for living a holy lifestyle, despite their background, or total ignorance to the Word of GOD.
    Those Gentile converts would have also been greatly encouraged by the fact that, even though they weren’t yet versed in the Word of GOD, they were immediately accepted as “GOD’s people” by the Christian Community. In 1 Peter 1, verses 1-2, Peter lays out the theological foundation of “encouragement” to his fellow Christians who were scattered abroad.
    In the biblical Greek, the word used for “encourage” is “parakaleo” (par-ak-al-eh-o), and it means “to call near, and to invoke by imploring and consoling”. It also means “to be of some good to, by comforting through prayer and exhortation”.  Here Peter reminds the Jewish diaspara that GOD had long ago chosen them, and, that they had also been sanctified by the HOLY SPIRIT through the atoning blood of CHRIST JESUS. They had been touched by the “GOD-head”, the “Whole of GOD”, and set aside to do “greater things” with their lives. Here Peter shares his personal desire (v. 2c) that they be showered with an abundance of GOD’s grace and peace upon their lives.
    In verses 3-5 Peter speaks of the “living hope”, or “wonderful expectation” that comes through the resurrection of CHRIST JESUS, which promises us a divine inheritance in Heaven. GOD has preserved a priceless inheritance for HIS people, which is kept “pure” and “undefiled”, and, kept out of the reach of “change” and “decay”. We are also protected by GOD’s power, here on earth, until we can receive those Heavenly benefits of this “wonderful salvation” for trusting in HIM only.
    We can come to rest in the thought that this life on earth is not the final act of “the human drama”.  And even though, by choosing the Christian Walk, we are no longer permanent residents of this earth, but rather, become citizens of Heaven, it is still necessary, for now, to endure those tests and trials that are set before us.
    These tests and trials are not meant to make us fail, but rather, are given to us to grow our faith and make us strong and pure, to better serve GOD’s purpose for us, in this life. To persevere through those trials and tribulations will bring much praise and glory and honor on the day when JESUS returns, and is revealed to the whole world (Vs. 6-7).
    Faith, Hope, and Love are the three great enduring things, and of the three, love is the greatest (1 Corinthians 13:13). Our living “hope” is spun by the promise of GOD. We “love” HIM, even though we have never seen HIM. And though we do not see HIM, by “faith”, we trust in HIS Word. And even now, we can rejoice with an inexpressible joy, because our reward for trusting in HIM will result in the salvation of our souls (Vs. 8-9).
    Salvation is something that every prophet since the beginning of the age wanted to know more about. They prophesied of this great salvation, through GOD’s SON, that had been prepared for mankind, even though they themselves, probably, had many questions as to what it all meant. They often wondered just what the SPIRIT of GOD in them was talking about, when HE informed them in advance, about CHRIST’s suffering here on earth, and HIS great glory, afterwards.
    These great men of GOD were told all these things would not happen in their lifetimes. However, today, this Good News is being preached throughout the world by those who actually embody the power of the HOLY SPIRIT on a continuous basis. And it is something so wonderful, that, even the angels are eagerly watching the events unfold in the lives of those who experience the Christian Hope, by way of a transformation of the heart, through the power only found in GOD’s Word, which is JESUS CHRIST (Vs. 10-12).

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
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