Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Acts 22 - Paul Speaks to the Crowd

by Katrina

LINK: Acts 22

BACKGROUND
The Roman commander gave Paul permission to speak to the crowd, and he turned to them and spoke in their own dialect. Once they heard him speaking, they quieted and listened to him. Paul explained to them his Jewish background and persecution of believers. Then he recounted for them the events of his conversion and how God had sent him to the Gentiles.

The crowd listened attentively until Paul mentioned that God had sent him to the Gentiles. At that point they resumed the uproar and demanded his death.

The Roman commander decided to question Paul by way of scourging. But Paul asserted his Roman citizenship and stopped the soldiers in their tracks. He was not only a Roman citizen, but a citizen by birth. The commanders actions against Paul were illegal.

The commander was determined to get to the bottom of this uprising, so he ordered the Jewish leaders to assemble, and he brought Paul before them.

To be continued . . .

REFLECTION
I can't help but admire Paul's boldness. He was not afraid to lose his life to the Jews. He knew they would take violent action against him if he went to Jerusalem, but he was determined to leave that in God's hands and go anyway. And then when the crowds were against him, he asked to speak to them. He wanted them to understand who Jesus was. He wanted the chance to explain to them how Jesus had changed his life and that it was God's will to change the lives of the Gentiles as well.

APPLICATION
Oh, that I would be more like Paul in boldness and compassion!

PRAYER
Father, thank you for sending Paul with your good news to the Gentiles. May we be bold in our faith in you and have compassion on those who do not know you. Amen.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Acts 21 - Paul Goes to Jerusalem

by Katrina

LINK: Acts 21

BACKGROUND
Maps by Gordon Smith can be used without further permission. http://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/JBPhillips.htm

This chapter begins with Paul and his companions at point 15 on the above map and headed toward Jerusalem. Although Paul received warnings that he would be persecuted there, he still was compelled to travel to Jerusalem and meet with the believers there.

When Paul arrived at Jerusalem, he was walking into a hornet's nest. The Jews there had heard about Paul teaching in the synagogues and believed he was teaching Jews to turn away from the Law of Moses and the Jewish traditions and teachings. To demonstrate that he was not teaching against the Law, Paul associated himself with some men who were completing a vow and went to the temple with them.

This did not convince the Jews. They accused Paul of preaching against the Jewish people and defiling the temple (which he didn't do). And with these accusations, they began a riot. The Roman soldiers came to stop the uprising and decided to question Paul. The commander ended up rescuing Paul from the crowd and then giving him permission to speak to the crowd.

To be continued . . . .

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Acts 20 - Goodbyes

by Becky

LINK: Acts 20

BACKGROUND

Here's a map so that you can trace Paul's travels in this chapter and the next.

At the beginning of this chapter Paul says goodbye to the believers in Ephesus and heads for Greece, where (according to several study Bibles) he spends three months in Corinth. He probably wrote the book of Romans during this last visit. He had planned to head from Greece directly to Syria, and from there to Jerusalem, but he discovers a plot against his life by some Jews. So he changes his plans and returns by land through Macedonia. He makes several stops, but is intent on returning to Jerusalem.

Paul and his companions visit Troas on the way back where a somewhat humorous incident happens. A young man named Eutychus attended a service in an upstairs room, where the believers gather to observe the Lord's Supper and where Paul preaches. The sermon was apparently lengthy, going on until midnight and the room was warm. Eutychus (whose name means "fortunate" ), sitting in an open third story window, becomes drowsy, falls out and dies. He is well named! He is fortunate, for Paul raises him from the dead, and Eutychus is taken home unhurt. The group of believers returns to their room to eat the Lord's Supper together and Paul continues talking until dawn!

Also note the change in the pronouns in verse 5. We see once again the inclusive "us" and "we" last seen in Chapter 16. Luke, the writer of this book, apparently rejoins Paul before the Troas visit.

Much of this chapter records a message given by Paul to the Ephesian elders during a stopover in Miletus, the port city of Ephesus. We see the concern of Paul for this church, as well as their great affection for him.

REFLECTION

This message is so much like the letters of Paul that we will read later. We get a picture of Paul's heart! He has one last chance to talk to those he has lived with and loved. He wants the elders to feed the flock, and warns them that false teachers will come like wolves. They will distort the truth in order to get a following.

He reminds the elders of his own single mindedness. He tells them the truth: that it is necessary to turn from sin and turn to God through faith in the Lord Jesus. God, in His kindness and love, offers grace through His own death and resurrection. That gospel (good news) is what motivates Paul. He had endured and will endure much suffering as a result, but he makes it plain that what matters is to keep on keeping on... to finish the task the Lord had given him. He also worked hard, not coveting fine clothes or money for his labors among them. In fact, he helped others.

He quotes Jesus in this sermon, saying, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." That quotation is not recorded in the gospels. Those who were with Jesus must have told others.

APPLICATION

I hope this passage will make each of us stop to ask several questions:

What motivates me?

Who do I live for?

Do I truly believe that it is more blessed to give than receive? Does my life show that?

PRAYER

Thank you, dear Lord, for the example and messages of Paul. Help us to love you as he did.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Acts 15 - The Great Debate

by Katrina

LINK: Acts 15

BACKGROUND
The essence of the debate discussed in this first Church Council is whether Gentiles have to become Jews in order to truly be Christian. That sounds odd to us today, but in the context of the early Church, it was a more logical question.

Jesus came through Judaism. He was himself a Jew. The apostles were all Jews. Almost all of the earliest believers were Jews. It was through Judaism that they knew about Jesus. So the beliefs of Judaism and Christianity were closely linked together.

But now many Gentiles were believing in Jesus -- Peter told Cornelius, Philip told the Ethiopian Eunuch, Paul told many Gentiles in the places he went on his first missionary journey. And when these Gentiles believed in Jesus, they also received the Holy Spirit. This astonished the Jews. God seemed to be treating the Gentiles as equals with the Jews!

So the question arose, "Do these Gentile believers need to be circumcised and practice the Jewish faith?" The apostles and elders came together in Jerusalem and debated the question. This was a crucial question, and here's a summary of the discussion:

  • God showed no distinction between the Jew and the Gentile at the point of salvation
  • Jews are saved through the grace of Jesus, just as Gentiles are (note that the wording of this argument isn't the other way around)
  • God had said through the prophets that He would call Gentiles by His Name
Therefore, they concluded that the salvation offered to the Gentiles is exactly the same as the salvation offered to the Jews. And since the Gentiles are being saved without the Law, there is no need to impose the Law on them after the fact. The Law was an unnecessary burden to the Gentiles. God wasn't requiring it, so they had no right to require it of anyone.

Once this conclusion was reached, the apostles and elders decided to send a letter to the leaders of the various churches explaining their decision. They did ask the Gentile believers to abstain from things contaminated by idols, from fornication, from eating strangled animals, and from eating blood. These would have been very offensive to the Jewish believers in their midst. These were not requirements for salvation, but would significantly help the unity of the believers in each place where there was a mixture of Jewish and Gentile believers in the church.

This chapter concludes with Paul and Barnabas deciding to return to the cities where they had traveled before and see how the believers were doing there. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark along with them again. You may remember that Becky pointed out John Mark's desertion on the first journey (Acts 13:13), because it was going to come up again later. Well, here it is. Barnabas, the encourager, wants to take John Mark along again. But Paul doesn't want to put time and effort into a "deserter." In Paul's view, John Mark had his chance and blew it. So, Paul and Barnabas decide to part ways and head in different directions. Paul took Silas with him, and we will read about their journey in the next few chapters. We no nothing of Barnabas and Mark's journey except that they headed for Cyprus. And, just so you know, John Mark apparently stuck it out this time and eventually became a very valuable friend and helper to Paul (Colossians 4:10). He is also the same Mark who wrote the Gospel account by that name.

REFLECTION
It is extremely important to understand the decision of the Jerusalem Council and to remember it today. Each person is saved by the same grace, no matter what his background is. There are no requirements that believers keep any of the Jewish Law in connection with their salvation. God does not distinguish between believers who are Jewish and believers who are Gentiles. Gentile believers hold the same position in the church as Jewish believers. Most of our American churches don't have Jews in them, but there are still those who try to require believers to keep the Law, or some parts or variations of the Law, in order to be accepted in the church. Beware!

APPLICATION
Think through how you explain the gospel to someone. Make sure you aren't adding requirements that God doesn't require. No one has to "clean up his life" before he can be saved. Rather, when we receive salvation, God cleanses our hearts (Acts 15:9).

PRAYER
Father, if you required that we keep the Law in order to be saved, nobody would ever be saved. No one can perfectly keep your Law! Thank you for offering salvation purely by your grace, through faith. It is something we could never earn on our own, but you give it to us as a gift. Thank you for making your gift of salvation available to the Gentile as well as to the Jew. May we clearly explain your good news to others! In the name of Jesus, amen.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Acts 14 - Missionaries! (part two)

by Katrina

LINK: Acts 14

BACKGROUND
It will help you to understand that there are two cities named Antioch. The Antioch where Paul and Barnabas began their journey was in the region of Syria. The Antioch where Paul preached the sermon recorded in chapter 13 is in the region of Pisidia.

The missionary journey of Paul and companions, which began in chapter 13, continues through chapter 14. They were driven out of town (Pisidian Antioch) at the end of chapter 13, and chapter 14 opens with their escape to Iconium. There they entered the synagogue and began preaching about Jesus. A great multitude of people -- both Jews and Greeks -- believed in Jesus while they were in Iconium. The Jews who didn't believe stirred up trouble, though, for the team of missionaries and tried to stone them. They fled about 20 miles to the cities of Lystra and Derbe (both in the region of Lycaonia) and the surrounding area.

In Lystra, because they healed a lame man, the multitudes thought Paul and Barnabas were the Greek gods Zeus and Hermes and began worshiping them. Zeus was the chief god, and Hermes was the patron god of orators. Paul and Barnabas had great difficulty convincing the people that they were not gods but had healed the lame man through the power of the true God who is the Creator of all.

Paul and Barnabas kept getting run out of town by the Jews. And although many in Iconium believed their message, they were run out of that town as well. The Jews were strongly opposed to their teaching about Jesus, and they were following this group of missionaries. Jews from Pisidian Antioch and Iconium joined together and caught up with Paul and Barnabas in Lycaonia. They stirred up the crowds and stoned Paul. Thinking they had killed him, they dragged his body outside the city. But God miraculously healed him, and he and Barnabas went to Derbe the next day. Many people in Derbe also believed in Jesus.

Then Paul and Barnabas retraced their steps. They went back to Lystra and Iconium and Pisidian Antioch. They encouraged the new believers in each city and appointed elders to lead the believers in each place.

Maps by Gordon Smith can be used without further permission. http://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/JBPhillips.htm

Next they went through Pisidia, to the cities of Perga and Attalia (in Pamphylia), and preached about Jesus wherever they went. Then they sailed back to Syrian Antioch, and gathered together those who had sent them, to report all that God had done on their journey.They were especially impressed at how many Gentiles had believed.

We'll talk more about these believing Gentiles tomorrow.

REFLECTION/APPLICATION
Last night was our church's annual missions banquet. It was so exciting to hear from newly appointed Wycliffe missionaries who will be going to Africa, hopefully by January 2011, to do translation work. There are still thousands of people groups with no scripture in their language. God is zealous to be worshiped by every people group and in every language. Let's be about the work of taking the good news of Jesus all over the world so everyone has the opportunity to become a true worshiper of the one true God.

PRAYER
Father, thank you for sending your good news to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews! May your word continue to spread to every people group in the world. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Acts 13 - Missionaries!

by Becky

LINK: Acts 13

BACKGROUND

The Holy Spirit indicated to the church in Antioch that Saul and Barnabas were to be chosen for a special work. In Chapter 13 we see them leave on their first missionary journey. A young man named John Mark accompanied them. This is the John Mark who penned the book of Mark.

Here is a map so that you can visualize the route they traveled:

Maps by Gordon Smith can be used without further permission. http://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/JBPhillips.htm

John Mark went with them to Cyprus, Barnabas' home (4:36), but left them and returned to Jerusalem when Paul and Barnabas left Cyprus for Pamphylia. I mention this only because it will be significant later.

This chapter highlights what happened to Paul and Barnabas on Cyprus and in Antioch of Pisidia, in what today is the country of Turkey.

This chapter also notes the change of Saul's name to Paul. From now on he is called Paul.

REFLECTION

In both Cyprus and Antioch of Pisidia, the two missionaries encountered opposition, but the opposition was not able defeat the work of the Holy Spirit.

On the island of Cyprus Paul and Barnabas, accompanied by John Mark, journey from synagogue to synagogue, telling the good news of Jesus. The Roman proconsul there, Sergius Paulus, became a believer, despite the interference of a magiscan called Elymas. The Lord , through Paul, struck Elymas temporarily blind ( a fitting consequence), so that the consul could hear the message of salvation. He believed it.

In Antioch of Pisidia the two men went to the synagogue for services. After readings from the books Moses and the prophets, the two men were invited by the leaders there to give a "word of encouragement."

Paul stood up and delivered a sermon, a concise message of the gospel, tailor made for the Jewish audience! His point is that the promised Messiah has come. He uses passages from Psalms and Isaiah to support his words.

And truly, this was a word of encouragement, because the main message was this (my paraphrase): "Listen to this, forgiveness is available! If you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, sacrificed and raised from the dead for you, you are freed from guilt and made right with God - something the Jewish law could never do!"

This truly was, and is, Good News! We can never be made right with God through our own efforts (trying to be good and do what is right). It is only through God's grace that we are set free from guilt and sin and then are able to remain faithful (v 43). Many in Antioch believed.

Word spread through the city of Paul's message and "the whole city" came the following week to hear Paul's "sermon." This aroused the jealousy of the Jewish leaders, who then told lies about Paul and argued against what he said. This didn't stop Paul and Barnabas, who then turned to the Gentiles with the good news of Jesus. Many of them heard the message and were glad and believed. The Lord's message spread throughout the region.

The Jewish leaders stirred up other city leaders who incited a mob against Paul and Barnabas and chased them out of the city. The two men went on to Iconium.

APPLICATION

Just think how earth shaking the message of Jesus is! It's all about grace. This is unique in world religions. Not only do we believe by grace, but we live by grace. It is God's work, not ours.

PRAYER

Thanks, dear Lord, for the example of Paul and Barnabas, who didn't let opposition to your message discourage them and stop them. We thank you that your word goes forth today, too, in spite of opposition. We see how you even used opposition to spread the good news of Jesus to new places. Thank you that you have done the work for us. You came in the flesh and died and rose again so that we can be forgiven and made right with you. Help us to live by faith in that grace you offer and not slip back into the mentality that our salvation depends on us.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Acts 8 - Spreading the Gospel

by Katrina

LINK: Acts 8

BACKGROUND
Stephen's death fueled the fire for persecution against believers. And Saul (later to be known as Paul), one of the Pharisees, was a leader in this effort to wipe out those who believed in Jesus. He was ruthless and was soon known and feared by believers everywhere.

This persecution was the catalyst that moved the gospel out of Jerusalem and Judea into Samaria. Jesus said his witness would spread, and this is the beginning of that movement.

This Simon who supposedly believed was really only interested in what he thought was magic powers of the apostles. But God did not give him the Holy Spirit. He is reserved for true believers only.

You'll notice a variety of "ways" the Holy Spirit was received through the next several chapters of Acts. God didn't always do things exactly the same way every time there were new believers. This is because there were different circumstances in different places. Overall, though, God made it clear that all believers would receive the Holy Spirit. And Paul will explain this more clearly in his epistles that we'll be reading soon.

God led Philip to share the gospel with an Ethiopian eunuch while he was reading about the Messiah in Isaiah 53. Philip used Scripture to explain Jesus to him, and he believed. I love this story of God's orchestration of events and Philip "picking ripe fruit" through God's leading.

REFLECTION/APPLICATION
I was talking with a group of believers last week about sharing the gospel with those around us. And one of the things we discussed was that sometimes we put a lot of effort into talking to people who aren't "ripe" for the gospel. And at the same time, we may be neglecting those who are "ripe" and ready for Jesus. We need to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and remember that some fruit takes a lot of time to ripen and will need many different people to plant, water, and tend them over a long period of time before they'll be ready. While others may have already gone through that process and are ready for harvest.

PRAYER
Father, make us sensitive to your leading and give us the boldness to share Jesus with others. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Acts 7 - Stephen

by Katrina

LINK: Acts 7

BACKGROUND
Acts 7 is a long chapter, so I'll keep my comments brief . . .

As Becky mentioned yesterday, Stephen became the target of the Jews. He was brought before the Jewish Council and falsely accused of blasphemy. Most of chapter seven is Stephen's defense which was more like a sermon than anything else. He recited the highlights of the history of Israel beginning with Abraham. He brought out many of the blessings God poured out on the nation, as well as God's involvement in the events that occurred through the ages. Stephen also pointed out Israel's habit of rejecting God's commands and killing his messengers. He clearly blamed these Jewish leaders for murdering the Messiah. They were so angered by this indictment that they stoned Stephen to death, making him the first Christian martyr.

READ ON!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Acts 6 - Growing Pains

by Becky

LINK: Acts 6

BACKGROUND AND REFLECTION

The number of Jesus' followers was growing! This was wonderful, but with the growth came new problems.

Hellenistic Jews responded to the gospel and joined the congregation in Jerusalem; they spoke Greek rather than the Aramaic of the Jews from Palestine, and this language barrier contributed to difficulties. The Hellenistic widows had been unintentionally overlooked by the Hebrew leaders in distributing food, and the Hellenistic Jews complained. So the twelve apostles realized that something needed to change.

They had been called by Jesus to preach the gospel and they realized that as the number of believers grew, so would the amount of time needed to care for them. So they made a common sense decision. They chose seven godly men to serve the congregation, in order that the twelve could devote themselves to the ministry of the Word and prayer.

One of those men was Stephen, a man "full of faith and the Holy Spirit" who was "doing signs and wonders among the people." He became a target of some Jews, who stirred up public opinion against him, so that he was brought before the council where false witnesses gave testimony against him. We will learn more about Stephen in the next chapter.

We see Jesus' words being fulfilled - His followers were being treated in the same way that He was.

APPLICATION

Sometimes it is clear what Jesus has called us to do, but we find ourselves distracted by other good things. Life changes: activities grow, we become busier and busier, yet find we have less and less time to spend on what God has gifted us to do. Sometimes we just drift along with it, wondering why life has to be so complicated. It doesn't! Sometimes we just need to look at what's going on and find a common sense solution, just as the twelve apostles did in this account.

Is there something you're doing, maybe a good thing, that is distracting you from you primary calling from the Lord? Take some time to think through your day and how you spend your time, which is after all not yours but God's gift to you. It's okay to say no to some good activities. Focus on what God has given you to do.

PRAYER

Guide us, Father, we ask. Give us discernment to know what you have gifted us to do, what we should focus on. Keep us from neglecting our main task for other good things. Help us to remember to evaluate our activities from time to time and not drift along getting busier and busier. We are here to serve you. Please show each of us the best way to do that.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Acts 1 - Ascension & Waiting

by Katrina

LINK: Acts 1

BACKGROUND
The book of Acts was written by Luke as a continuation of his gospel story. Both are written to a man named Theophilus with the purpose of explaining Jesus to him. Acts was probably written about AD61 during Paul's imprisonment in Rome and covers that approximate thirty year time span from the resurrection of Jesus to the end of Paul's travels.

This thirty year period of time was an important transition of the early church. Luke records the coming of the Holy Spirit about whose arrival Jesus had frequently told his disciples. He records the spread of Christianity and the shift from a primarily Jewish group of believers to a worldwide, largely Gentile Church, distinct from Judaism.

Luke mentions the practice of various doctrines (teachings) of the Church which will be fleshed out in the writings of the epistles. There are also many principles to learn from this book about missionary work and church life.

Chapter 1
Jesus gathered the apostles together and promised that the Holy Spirit would come soon, and they would become his witnesses all over the world. They saw Jesus ascend into heaven, and two angels told them that one day Jesus will return from heaven. So, they went to Jerusalem and waited. In the meantime, they appointed Matthias to take the place of Judas. Peter began his role as shepherd of this group of sheep. About 120 believers were gathered together in an upper room, waiting.

REFLECTION/APPLICATION
What did this group of believers do while they waited for the promised Holy Spirit and the return of Jesus? Verse 14 tells us that they were all of one mind and were continually devoting themselves to prayer. The Holy Spirit soon came (tomorrow's chapter), but almost 2000 years later we are still waiting for Jesus to return. What are we doing while we're waiting? Peter says that while we wait for the final days, we should "be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless." Peter also tells us to be on guard, alert, lest we get confused by erroneous teaching and become unstable in our faith. Rather, we are to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (2 Peter 3:14,17-18). Let's be diligent while we wait, devoting ourselves to prayer, being obedient to the Lord, and growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

PRAYER
Lord, we look forward to Jesus' return. Teach us to pray and grow in Him while we wait. Amen.

Monday, April 5, 2010

John 21 - Follow Me!

by Katrina

LINK: John 21

BACKGROUND
This chapter provides a great transition from the gospels to the book of Acts. Here Peter and six other disciples were fishing when Jesus appeared. Jesus had risen but did not have a day-to-day relationship with the disciples. He appeared to them about once a week, and this is the third appearance.

Peter and the others were fishing. They knew how to fish and could do that while waiting for whatever they were waiting for. I think they didn't know what to expect next. Early in the morning,
Jesus appeared on the shore and provided a great catch of fish for them, even though they had fished all night without catching anything. Jesus provided breakfast for the men, and they all recognized him. The rest fade into the background while Jesus focuses in on Peter.

The conversation Jesus had with Peter is pivotal in Peter's life. Peter probably thought everything was over now. He had blown it when he denied Jesus three times during the trial. But Jesus was not finished with Peter. Three times he had denied his Lord, and three times Jesus asked him if he love him. Peter had three opportunities to confess his love for Jesus in contrast to his three denials. Also, three times, he told Peter that he had a specific job for him. Jesus wanted Peter to take care of his sheep. Then one last time, Jesus repeated to Peter that original call from about three years previous, "Follow me." When Peter tried to turn the focus from himself to John with "What about him?" Jesus told Peter that it didn't matter what God chose to do with John, all Peter needed to do was to follow Jesus.

REFLECTION/APPLICATION
And the same is true for us today. What is most important is that we follow Jesus.

PRAYER
Thank you, Lord, for the privilege of following Jesus and for giving second chances when we mess up. Help us to keep our focus on you alone and follow you wherever you lead. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

John 20 - Jesus is Risen!

by Becky

LINK: John 20

"These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:31)

That is the reason John wrote this book. The statement concludes the account of Jesus' actions, death, and resurrection. The life that is promised only comes as a result of believing that what this book has stated is true.

BACKGROUND

Jesus had told his followers that He would die and rise again, but they hadn't understood. That is clear from the events in this chapter.

Mary Magdalene, along with other women who aren't mentioned in this account (other than the "we" of verse 2) , are the first to visit Jesus' tomb. They go early in the morning of the first day of the week (Sunday!), so early that it's still dark. When they find the stone moved away from the door and the tomb empty, Mary runs to tell the disciples. She thinks that someone has taken Jesus' body.

Peter and "the other disciple," probably John himself, on hearing the women's news, run to see what's happened. The account is quite specific about what they find. "The other disciple" runs more quickly than Peter and gets to the tomb first. He has to stoop down to look in and he sees the linen cloths, the cloths that the body was wrapped in, lying there. Then Peter goes into the tomb and sees the cloths and the face cloth, too, folded up away from the other cloths. They noted the details, but didn't understand yet that Jesus must rise from the dead. They didn't make up a story to fit their ideas of what was predicted. The details are important though. If someone had taken the body away, then why would they have left the cloths?

The action again focuses on Mary, who returns to the tomb and meets her risen Lord. Then the scene shifts to a room later that same evening, when the disciples are gathered in a locked room and Jesus appears to them. Thomas is missing and so questions their accounts to him. Jesus, eight days later, visits His disciples again, and this time Thomas is present and is able to verify the truth of their account for himself.

In this chapter the risen Jesus appears several times to those closest to Him, not because they're expecting it, but because they are having trouble understanding that He is truly alive.

Read this chapter again and put yourself in the place of one of those followers. Imagine the joy they felt when they realized that Jesus really was alive!

REFLECTION

Jesus' death and resurrection, an event in time and space, is the foundation of our faith. Jesus' resurrection changed everything for us (for people) and indeed for the whole the created world.

Here's what C.S. Lewis has to say in about the Resurrection in his essay "What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ":

"Something perfectly new in the history of the universe had happened. Christ had defeated death. The door which had always been locked had for the very first time been forced open. ...

'What are we to make of Christ?' There is no question of what we can make of Him, it is entirely a question of what He intends to make of us. You must accept or reject the story.

The things He says are very different from what any other teacher has said. Others say, 'This is the truth about the universe. This is the way you ought to go,' but He says, 'I am the Truth, and the Way, and the Life.' He says, 'No man can reach absolute reality, except through Me. Try to retain your own life and you will be inevitably ruined. Give yourself away and you will be saved.' He says, ' If you are ashamed of Me, if, when you hear this call, you turn the other way, I also will look the other way when I come again as God without disguise. If anything whatever is keeping you from God and from Me, whatever it is, throw it away. If it is your eye, pull it out. If it is your hand, cut it off. If you put yourself first you will be last. Come to me everyone who is carrying a heavy load, I will set that right. Your sins, all of them, are wiped out. I can do that. I am Rebirth. I am Life. Eat Me, drink Me, I am your Food. And finally, do not be afraid, I have overcome the whole universe.' That is the issue."

To sum it up in another way, "He died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised. 2 Corinthians 5:15

Jesus' resurrection demands a response. We either accept that He is Life or we reject Him.

APPLICATION

Jesus told Thomas, "Do not disbelieve, but believe." (27) Thomas' response? "My Lord and my God." Believing in Jesus' resurrection produces that response.

Jesus went on to say," Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." That's me! If you believe by faith you are blessed, too. Praise Him!

He is Risen!

PRAYER

You forever changed this world when you stepped into it, became one of us, died and then defeated death forever by rising from the dead. You brought us hope, and rest, and LIFE and so much more! Our thanks aren't big enough. Help me to live, not for myself, but for you, who came for my sake.