Knysna Methodist Church Lectionary Notes – 17 April
Peter now understood that the Gospel should be shared with the Gentiles – an understanding that went completely against anything he was used to, for the Jews thought that God was there for them alone. Many Jews thought that God hated the Gentiles. Jewish men would often begin their day thanking God they were not slaves, women or Gentiles. The community would hold a funeral for any Jewish man who married a Gentile woman – even to enter the house of a Gentile was considered to make a Jew unclean. They would promise never to help a Gentile under any circumstances. It was a far-reaching promise and demonstrated the antagonism the Jews held against Gentiles. The Gentile opinion of Jews was just as bad.
But Christianity changed this. It was the first religion that took no notice of race, culture or nationality. This segregation was not God’s plan. He loves all people, no matter who they were, for He only sees their hearts.
Peter told his listeners that Jesus is Lord of both Jew and Gentile. Peter’s message to Cornelius and his household was the same as the message he had preached to Jewish congregations. He spoke about Jesus, emphasising His resurrection. Peter’s message was that all people need to be saved through faith in the living Lord, Jesus Christ.
Peter described who Jesus was and what He had done. He spoke of His humanity:
• His baptism
• The fact that He lived with and mixed with people
• His crucifixion and death.
And he spoke of His divinity
• He was anointed with the Holy Spirit
• He healed and delivered people from evil spirits, empowered by God
• He rose from the dead
• Afterwards, He was seen by many people
• He is destined to judge the world
• His life had been foretold centuries before .
Peter took special care to speak about the fact that he and Jesus’ other disciples had eaten and drunk with Jesus after His resurrection – giving proof that the resurrection was a fact. He spoke about judgement, as Jesus had commanded the disciples to do, and he spoke about salvation. Whether a person was a Jew or a Gentile, salvation was the free gift for all who believe.
For a period of one thousand years (the Millennium) Jesus and His people will reign together on the earth as we know it. When this period ends, God will provide a place for His people where there will be no sin – a new heaven and a new earth. Both Peter in his second letter and John in his account of his revelation speak of these eternal places (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-27) Isaiah now switches back to describe life on the existing earth during the Millennium. People will live for a long time (although they will still die) and children will be born and raised. No one will steal or cheat; people will harvest and enjoy the crops they have planted. Even the nature of animals will change and they will live side by side. It will be a time of blessing and justice, not just because Jesus’ presence on the earth will be obvious to everyone, but also because Satan will be bound for the duration of that time (Revelation 20:1-3). This does not mean, however, that everyone will accept Jesus as Lord.
This is one of several psalms that urge people to give thanks to God because of His goodness. Whatever the circumstances may be, it is always good to praise God. He will never change and His loving kindness will continue through eternity. This psalm is the final one of a series known as the Egyptian Hallel Psalms which were sung in Jesus’ day. When Matthew (26:30) and Mark (14:26) Jesus and His disciples sang a hymn, the song would have been one of these psalms. The psalmist extends the invitation to everyone to praise God in this way.
The psalmist is surrounded by enemies but he knows that God Himself is his strength and song and quotes from the song Miriam sang (Exodus 15:2) to affirm his faith. Her song had been sung repeated by the Israelites and now it was sun again. The psalmist knew God would supply all his needs, would never disappoint him, would give him rest and save him. God would fill him with joy. Having been blessed by God it was only right that people sang about the way God had rescued them. This psalm was sung at the Passover Seder (supper) and during the Feast of the Tabernacles. It is interesting to think that Jesus sang the same words ‘I shall not die, but live’ as He celebrated the last supper with His disciples. He knew He could trust God to fulfil His promises. Jesus knew death was not the end for Him. The psalmist knew he too would be saved. The psalmist probably had the gates of Jerusalem in mind and he declares God’s righteousness as he goes through them. Jesus would have sung of the gates of heaven. In both instances the singers would have been accompanied by the righteous people of the earth.
Now the singers are in the city they are free to praise God for all He has done. Whilst we do not know David’s reason for singing about the cornerstone was, we do know that Jesus fulfilled this prophesy, so it may have been a prophetic word David had received from God. The cornerstone or capstone was used to hold two stones in place to strengthen a corner or an archway. It was key to the strength of the building. Jesus, as the cornerstone, holds Jew and Gentile together; man and God together. In spite of being rejected, He was the chief cornerstone. Once again, the people of God rejoice. Only He could do what He has done. The day the Lord has made may apply to any day; but it may also connected by means of prophecy with the day Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey.
1 Corinthians 15:19-26
Paul has been speaking about what the situation would be if there was no resurrection. He speaks about all the things that would not be true if it had not happened. For those who believe Jesus was raised for the dead, his words paint a dreadful, hopeless picture of life and the future. Everything believers know about Jesus Christ rests on the truth of the resurrection and if it did not happen then they are to be pitied more than anyone else. For if Jesus did not rise from the dead, neither will those who follow Him.
But, says Paul, Jesus did rise from the dead! The term firstfruits was used at that time, not just for the first produce of the harvest by the Jews, but also by the secular world in the sense of an entrance fee. Jesus’ resurrection represents and anticipates the resurrection of all His followers. His resurrection ensures our own.
The Feast of First fruits is kept on the first Sabbath after the Passover. Jesus rose on that very day. The offerings comprised grain, as no blood was necessary, for the Passover lamb had just been sacrificed a couple of days before. Jesus’ death had ended the need for sacrifice, and so no more blood is shed as He paid the price once and for all.
Death had come into the world through Adam, as the representative of the human race. Life comes into the world through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, for all who follow Him. The Greek word that has been translated as ‘coming’ is parousia which, when used of Jesus, refers to His second coming.
Paul looks forward to the time when all things are settled in Jesus Christ, when He presents everything to God the Father, giving the glory to the Father whose plan would then have been fulfilled. Jesus will take His place as King of kings and Lord of lords. History will be resolved according to God’s will. The resurrection will bring an end to death once and for all. Satan will be overcome and crushed. Death will be the final enemy to be destroyed, but it will eventually be destroyed completely. At this point in time, believers still die because they have to have new, resurrected bodies to live for eternity in heaven. But death is not something to be feared. It is not the end.
The Father/Son relationship of the Godhead is eternal. This does not make Jesus less than the Father, but describes their relationship as Father and Son. The Son desires to glorify the Father throughout eternity and the Father glorifies the Son (John 17:4-5). The Holy Spirit also glorifies the Son (John 16:14). In this way God sets His people the example of glorifying others, rather than themselves.
Acts 10:34-43 as above
In John’s account of the resurrection, Jesus’ tomb was sealed and guarded by Roman soldiers until it was found to be empty by Mary Magdalene on the first day of the week whilst it was still dark. It is possible Nicodemus had not been able to use all the spices he had prepared for Jesus’ body and the women now came to complete the task. Mary was probably accompanied by other women, as indicated by her use of the plural ‘we’ when she told the disciples ‘we do not know’ where He was. John does record that she was the one who ran back to tell the disciples about the empty tomb.
Mary’s first assumption was that Jesus’ body had been stolen. As soon as Peter and John heard her news they ran to the tomb. John only referred to himself as ‘the other disciple’, rather than naming himself, but he did say he arrived there first. Peering into the tomb he could clearly see the cloths that had been used to wrap Jesus’ body. For some reason he did not go into the tomb. Peter, however, true to his character, did not hesitate. He too saw the cloths folded neatly in place. It was the custom to anoint a body and then wrap cloths around it, then add another layer of ointment and more cloths, using several layers. Over time this wrapping hardened into a sort of cocoon. If the wrappings were to be removed they would need to be cut open. Peter could see that the wrappings used for Jesus had not been cut but lay neatly ‘as if the body of Jesus had simply evaporated out of them’. (William Barclay)
John followed Peter into the tomb. The word ‘saw’ means to understand. It was at that moment that John believed, even though he had not yet met the risen Lord. John does not say that Peter also believed.
Whilst they saw evidence of the fact of the resurrection, they needed to understand the meaning and importance of the event. The resurrection confirms several issues people have about Jesus. It means:
• Jesus is the Son of God;
• those who follow Him can be assured of their own resurrection;
• Jesus’ ministry is a continuing one;
• God and Christianity are unique among other religions;
• Jesus died without sin, taking on the sin of human kind and paying the price for that sin once and for all.
The men left, but Mary stood outside the tomb and cried. She did not yet understand that Jesus was alive. She wanted to see what the men had seen and she stooped down to look through the entrance. But things had changed and now there were two angels, dressed in white sitting inside. So Mary did not see the grave clothes. She did not seem to realise they were angels for she asked them where they had put Jesus’ body so she could go and fetch Him.
She turned away from the tomb in distress and saw a man standing close to her. For some reason she did not recognise that this was Jesus, even when He asked her why she was crying and who she was looking for. Mary also asked him where he had put the body of Jesus repeating that she would fetch Him. She never stopped to think how she was going to physically manage to do this. Jesus said one word to her. ‘Mary’. He called her name and she instantly knew who He was. She heard what she had not been able to see.
When Jesus told Mary not to hold onto Him, the original Greek sense of His words implies that He wanted her to stop doing something rather than not to do something. He may have been telling her not to hang on to Him and so stop Him from doing what He had to do. It is evident though, that He had a real body, even if it was different from His body in His earthly life.
Jesus commissioned Mary to go and tell the disciples what had happened. He speaks of them as His brothers. He spoke about how His relationship with the Father was different from their relationship with the Father. He also mentioned His ascension, indicating He would never die again.
Early in the morning, after the Sabbath had ended, the women made their way back to the tomb. They had made their preparations and they were going to finish anointing Jesus’ body with the traditional spices and sweet-smelling ointments which were used for that purpose.
The tomb had been sealed by a heavy, circular stone which was rolled across the entrance on a carved channel. Only several strong men could move it. This particular tomb had also been guarded until that morning when the women arrived. The tomb was carved out of solid rock and would have had a small entrance and, possibly, several compartments where the bodies were laid.
Luke names some of the women who were present – Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joanna as well as some others (Luke 24:10). The fact that the women were the first on the scene contradicts the claims of the priests that the disciples stole Jesus’ body. They found, to their amazement, the stone had been rolled aside and so they could see that the tomb was empty. The women were stunned. It was the last thing they had expected to see.
Now they became aware of two angels in shining garments standing there. They were frightened and fell to the ground. But the angels asked them a simple question. Why were they looking for someone who was alive in a tomb where there were only dead people? Jesus was not there. He had risen, just as He said He would. The angels reminded them what Jesus had said (Luke 18:31-33) – and they did remember, and the first flicker of hope flared into life.
In their excitement they ran to tell the disciples, but were given a doubtful reception. The testimony of a woman in the first century was not given much weight, so the fact that Luke included this account in his Gospel shows how he held women in higher esteem than was usual.
Peter wanted to check the story out, so he ran to the tomb and had a look. He realised something amazing had happened when he saw the grave clothes left behind, and he was amazed.
Points to Ponder
• The Church is divided into different denominations. How does the denomination you attend differ from other
churches? What do you like about your own denomination in favour of others? What are you not so sure about?
How do you think these differences make God feel? What can you do to bridge the gap between your
denomination and another – even if just in a small way?
• What do you think you will most enjoy during the Millennium period? The presence of Jesus? The abundance of
provision? A longer life? Honesty and justice? The harmony between animals? Or some other aspect of life
that will change? How do you feel about living through this time? Why do you feel that way?
• What is your favourite praise song? Why do you enjoy it so much? What does it say about your relationship
• How does Paul’s picture of what the world would be like if Jesus had not risen from the dead make you feel?
How does the truth of the resurrection change your feelings? What questions do you have about Jesus’
resurrection? Who can you ask to help you understand what it means? How would you explain the difference to
someone who does not know Jesus as their Saviour?
The Acts passage as above
• What an encounter! What is the most special time you have ever spent with Jesus? How did it come about?
What happened? How did it change you? Spend some time, this Easter week, watching for the risen Lord to
come to you in a new way. Be open and alert to His presence. Be kind to yourself. How does the thought of
doing this make you feel? Why do you feel this way?
• As a group, or individually, tell the story of that morning to one another. Was it cold? It was still dark.
How did you see where you were going? What did you talk about on the way there? What spices do you think
you may have been carrying?
Go through the story one point at a time and enlarge on it. How has your understanding of that moment in time changed as you did this exercise? Where has Jesus been? What do you want to say to Him now?
Acts 10; Isaiah 65; Psalm 118; 1 Corinthians 15;or Acts 10; John 20; Luke 24