Saturday, April 24, 2010

Eagle Eye

This week we continue our tour of the apostles with John the Evangelist.  Our faith lives would be so different without his writings.  I love his emphasis on relationship and his simple yet powerful focus on what it means to love Jesus.

First I gathered together some scripture from which to choose.

Mark 1:14-20  After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.  “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”  At once they left their nets and followed him.

When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets.  Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Luke (5:1-11) further describes James and John as Simon’s partners.

Mark 5: 35-43  While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher any more?”  Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James.  When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly.  He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.”  But they laughed at him.
      After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was.  He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” ).  Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished.  He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Mark 10: 35-45  Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”  “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.  They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”  “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”

When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.  Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 14: 32-34 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

Luke 9: 46-56  An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest.  Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him.  Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.”

“Master,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.”  “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.  And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.  When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”  But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village.

When Jesus was on the cross:
John 19:25-27 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

John 21:19-24 Then Jesus said to Peter, “Follow me!”  Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”  Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”  Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”

This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.

James, John’s brother was killed by the sword at King Herod’s request.  (Acts 12)  In Acts 13 it describes him travelling for a while with Paul and Barnabas.  But otherwise there are not many records of his travelling.

John has 3 short letters (two are really short) that revolve around the themes: Jesus is the savior, he loves us, we show our love for him by loving and serving others.  He warns repeatedly against false teachers telling you anything that conflicts with that.  A good example of this:

1 John 5:1-5  Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.  This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.  This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world?  Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

Revelations is the record of John’s vision of the end of the world.  Some people freak out about it, and others dismiss it.  Some talk about it being a coded message to people suffering under the Roman emperor Nero.  A sample from the beginning:

Revelations 1: 9-16  I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.  On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”
I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,”dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.  His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.  His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.  In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

It is from the book of Revelation that we learn the most about Jesus returning, even if it is hard to understand.  Peter and Paul wrote about it, and angels mentioned it at Jesus’ ascension to heaven after his resurrection.

Acts 1: 10-11 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.  “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Revelation 22: 12-17  “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.  … I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”  The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”

Then I went through, narrowed down and added the questions.  Because last week's lesson went a bit longer than the attention span of most of the middle schoolers, I'm trying to be more disciplined this time around.

Eagle Eye

John was the only one of the apostles not to be martyred.  Tradition has it that he was the youngest.  And the only apostle to write a gospel, earning him the name John the Evangelist.  His gospel stands out as the most different of the four gospels.  He is often represented with an eagle (because of a passage in Revelation 4:7).  In addition to the gospel, he wrote three short letters that became epistles, and the mysterious Book of Revelation, which ends the bible.  His older brother James was also an apostle, and together they had the nickname the Sons of Thunder.

John was called at the very beginning of Jesus ministry.  He may have been a disciple of John the Baptist's ministry beforehand.
Mark 1:14-20
1)    Luke (5:1-11) Also describes James and John as Simon’s partners.  What would it take for you to give up your hometown and business to follow a teacher?

Mark 5: 35-43
2)    There are a few occasions when Jesus doesn’t take all of the apostles, but a smaller group that usually includes Peter, James and John.  Why would Jesus not take everyone?  What does it tell you about PJ&J that Jesus chose them?

Not every story about John is a positive one. 
Mark 10: 35-45
3)    What does Jesus mean by “drink the cup I drink”?  What do you think John might have learned from this exchange?

John was the only apostle to follow Jesus all the way to the cross.  While Jesus was on the cross, he asked John for a favor.  In John’s gospel, he refers to himself as the “disciple Jesus loved” rather than by name.
John 19:25-27
4)    What does Jesus think of John?  What would it be like to adopt a friend’s mother?

James, John’s brother was killed by the sword at King Herod’s request.  (Acts 12)  In Acts 13 it describes him traveling for a while with Paul and Barnabas.  But otherwise there are not many records of his traveling.  John has 3 short letters (two are really short) that revolve around the themes: Jesus is the savior, he loves us, we show our love for him by loving and serving others.  He warns repeatedly against false teachers telling you anything that conflicts with that.  A good example of this:
1 John 5:1-5
5)    How would you put this in your own words?

Revelation is the record of John’s vision of the end of the world.  Some people freak out about it, and others dismiss it.  Some talk about it being a coded message to people suffering under the Roman emperor Nero.  It is from the book of Revelation that we learn the most about Jesus returning, even if it is hard to understand. 
Revelation 22: 12-17
6)    What do you think about the idea of Jesus coming back?

Bonus:  the best musical cover of the Book of Revelations has got to be Johnny Cash's "The Man Comes Around."  It sounds like he's seen it. 

The only way I can find to share it is a video.  Caution: it does have photo of Cash flipping the bird.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

I got a rock

Studying Peter this week.  What an embarrasment of riches in terms of scripture to consider.  Unfortunately too much for a 40ish minute study.  And with the youth, it seems unsafe to assume that they are already familiar with the stories, although one of my students knows scripture and verse better than I do.

Here's the scripture after the first cut:  (from the NIV and the Message - you can probably tell which is which.)  After the scriptures, I'll share which I included - still too many! - and the questions.

Getting called:
Matthew 4:18-20
“Walking along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. Jesus said to them, "Come with me. I'll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I'll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass." They didn't ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.”

John 1: 35-42 
The next day John [the Baptist] was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!"  When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do you want?"  They said, "Teacher, where are you staying?"

"Come," he replied, "and you will see."   So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about mid-afternoon.  Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus.  The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ).  And he brought him to Jesus.  Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Rock).

Matthew 14:22-33 
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.  After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance[a] from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.  During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.  But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."

"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."  "Come," he said.  Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"  Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"  And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.  Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."

Matthew 16: 13-20
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"  They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."  "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"  Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."  Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

Matthew 26: 69-75 [While Jesus is being tried by the chief priests]
All this time, Peter was sitting out in the courtyard. One servant girl came up to him and said, "You were with Jesus the Galilean."  In front of everybody there, he denied it. "I don't know what you're talking about."  As he moved over toward the gate, someone else said to the people there, "This man was with Jesus the Nazarene."  Again he denied it, salting his denial with an oath: "I swear, I never laid eyes on the man."  Shortly after that, some bystanders approached Peter. "You've got to be one of them. Your accent gives you away."  Then he got really nervous and swore. "I don't know the man!"

Just then a rooster crowed. Peter remembered what Jesus had said: "Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times." He went out and cried and cried and cried.

John 21:15-19 (The Message)
After breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?"  "Yes, Master, you know I love you."  Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."  He then asked a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?"  "Yes, Master, you know I love you."   Jesus said, "Shepherd my sheep." Then he said it a third time: "Simon, son of John, do you love me?"   Peter was upset that he asked for the third time, "Do you love me?" so he answered, "Master, you know everything there is to know. You've got to know that I love you."

Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. I'm telling you the very truth now: When you were young you dressed yourself and went wherever you wished, but when you get old you'll have to stretch out your hands while someone else dresses you and takes you where you don't want to go." He said this to hint at the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. And then he commanded, "Follow me."

Acts 4:3-20 
[The Sadducees] seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.

The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest's family. 7They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: "By what power or what name did you do this?"  Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: "Rulers and elders of the people!  If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.  He is 'the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.’ [Psalm 118]  Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.  But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say.  So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together.  "What are we going to do with these men?" they asked. "Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it.  But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name."

Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.  But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."

Acts 15: 5-11
Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses."

The apostles and elders met to consider this question.  After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.  Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?  No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."

1 Peter 3: 8-18
Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—that's your job, to bless. You'll be a blessing and also get a blessing.
Whoever wants to embrace life
and see the day fill up with good,
Here's what you do:
Say nothing evil or hurtful;
Snub evil and cultivate good;
run after peace for all you're worth.
God looks on all this with approval,
listening and responding well to what he's asked;
But he turns his back
on those who do evil things.

If with heart and soul you're doing good, do you think you can be stopped? Even if you suffer for it, you're still better off. Don't give the opposition a second thought. Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you're living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They'll end up realizing that they're the ones who need a bath. It's better to suffer for doing good, if that's what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad. That's what Christ did definitively: suffered because of others' sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. He went through it all—was put to death and then made alive—to bring us to God.

1 Peter 5: 8-11 
Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You're not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It's the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won't last forever. It won't be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.

2 Peter 3: 14-18 
So, my dear friends, since this is what you have to look forward to, do your very best to be found living at your best, in purity and peace. Interpret our Master's patient restraint for what it is: salvation. Our good brother Paul, who was given much wisdom in these matters, refers to this in all his letters, and has written you essentially the same thing. Some things Paul writes are difficult to understand. Irresponsible people who don't know what they are talking about twist them every which way. They do it to the rest of the Scriptures, too, destroying themselves as they do it.

But you, friends, are well-warned. Be on guard lest you lose your footing and get swept off your feet by these lawless and loose-talking teachers. Grow in grace and understanding of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Glory to the Master, now and forever! Yes!

I got a rock.

We’ve read a lot about Peter.  He had an amazing life, from fisherman to leader of the Church.  To really study him would take more than a single day, but let’s get a start.  Nobody tried to make Jesus the center of their life with as much enthusiasm as Peter did.

Getting called:
Matthew 4:18-20

1)    What do you learn about Peter here?  About Jesus? 

Matthew 14:22-33 
2)    There was a book recently with the title “If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat.”  What do we learn about Peter here?

Matthew 16: 13-20
3)    Why give Simon a nickname?  (Cephas is the Greek for rock, while Peter is the Latin.)  What does Jesus mean here about Peter?

In Matthew 26: 69-75 is the story of how Peter denied Jesus three times while he was being tried by the Temple officials.  At the Last Supper Peter told Jesus he would die for him.  Hours later he’s denying he even knows him. 
4)    Have you ever felt rejected by a friend or family member?  Have you ever rejected a friend and then regretted it?

The turning point:  After the resurrection, and the appearances to the apostles in the upper room (the story with Thomas), Jesus appeared to the disciples again at the Sea of Galilee.  The apostles went fishing (Peter’s idea), didn’t catch anything, and didn’t recognize Jesus when he showed up at the shore.  Jesus told them to put the net on the other side, and they caught a boat full of fish.  John realized who he was, and Peter dived in and swam to him.  Jesus had made them breakfast.  And then…

John 21:15-19

5)    Why does Jesus repeat the question?  What does he mean by “feed my sheep”? 

6)    What was Peter feeling during this conversation?

Acts 4:3-20 
7)    How has Peter changed?  How would you describe him now?

Acts 15: 5-11
8)    All through history, and maybe all through your life, people have tried or may try to put extra requirements on being a Christian.  People will say “if you believe that then…” and have ideas of their own.  What would Peter say makes you a Jesus follower?

1 Peter 3: 8-18 
9)    What connections do you see between what Peter writes in this letter and the rest of his story?

10)    What’s one thing you can take away from this study?

Friday, April 9, 2010


Your best friend dies.  The man you gave up everything to follow.  He was put to death by a tag team of the Empire, your government and your religion in the most awful way possible.  Now someone tells you that he is risen.  Seen first by a woman (!) and then your other friends find an empty tomb.  All that means is someone took the body.  And Mary was literally crazy with grief… it’s not hard to imagine her imagining Jesus.  Then they claim he came to them, but here they are still cowering. 
No.  It is inconceivable.  Wishful thinking.  It is unbelievable.  It is incredible.

Today we study Thomas, nicknamed for a famous moment of disbelief.  Thomas as a name comes from the Aramaic name Tau'ma close to the Aramaic word for twin: T'oma (תאומא).  So John calling call him Didymus (twin in Greek) Thomas in his Gospel (3 times) could be interpreted as omitting the actual name.  Quite ancient stories describe Thomas going to India and being martyred there by being pierced with a spear.  He is also reported to be the only apostle present (spiritually transported to and fro) for the assumption of Mary’s body directly to heaven.  (A non-scriptural story, obviously, but also quite ancient.)

At right is a picture of a St. Thomas cross.  The design is attributed to Thomas, and dates bate to at least 6th century Persia, where he was known to preach.  The design shows the Trinity.  It's not generally thought that 1st century Christians used the cross as a symbol.

Matthew 10:1-4  (Quite similar in Mark 3:18 & Luke 6:15)
He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.  These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

1)    Why 12 apostles?  Why separate out individuals from all the people following him?  Why call Judas Iscariot?  Why do we hear the calling of some apostles but not others?

John 11:7-16
Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”  “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?”
Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world's light.  It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.” 

After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”  His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.  So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

2)    Most people consider that Thomas was referring to how the Jews will kill Jesus.  What does this help you learn about Thomas?  What do you make of Thomas being called Twin?

John 14:1-7
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” 

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

3)    What does this help you learn about Thomas?

John 20:19-31  (the Message)
Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side.  The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.”  Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive someone's sins, they're gone for good. If you don't forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”

But Thomas, sometimes called the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We saw the Master.”  But he said, “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won't believe it.”

Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.”  Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don't be unbelieving. Believe.”  Thomas said, “My Lord and my God!”*

Jesus said, “So, you believe because you've seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.”  Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.

*the words this is translated from means “the God” and is previously only used by
John (the evangelist) to refer to Yahweh, the Father.  This is the first occurrence
in scripture of someone identifying Jesus with the Father.

4)    I notice that Thomas was at least brave enough to be out of the room on the first visit.  And that 8 days after seeing Jesus, the other apostles don’t seem to have moved.  What do you make of that?

5)    What else do you notice?  What does it mean?

6)    How has Jesus given you what you need?

1 Peter 1: 3-9
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be*, you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

* "If need be" is omitted from NIV for some reason.

7)    What connections do you notice between what Peter writes and the story of Thomas?

8)    If your life of faith was to be boiled down to three mentions, what would they be?

Bonus: 10 reasons to believe
  1. A Public Execution Assured His Death
  2. A High Official Secured The Gravesite
  3. In Spite Of Guards, The Grave Was Found Empty
  4. Many People Claimed To Have Seen Him Alive (1 Corinthians 15:5-8).
  5. His Apostles Were Dramatically Changed
  6. Witnesses Were Willing To Die For Their Claims
  7. Jewish Believers Changed Their Day Of Worship
  8. Although It Was Unexpected, It Was Clearly Predicted
  9. It Was A Fitting Climax To A Miraculous Life
  10. It Fits The Experience Of Those Who Trust Him