Small Group Leader Study Guide
Date: April 21, 2019
Passion Week 2019
Bible Text: Luke 24:1-12
This Week’s Printables:
- Group Leader Study Guide (pdf)
I love Christmas. In many ways, it is my favorite time of the year. From a gospel perspective, however, Christmas is only the prologue. The main act is the resurrection.
Without question, it is the reality of Jesus’ resurrection that sets Christianity apart from all other world religions.
What is important for us to understand as Christians is the value and significance of this single event in history. Jesus’ resurrection was not some fable or myth that started following His death. Indeed, it is a recorded historical fact. More than 500 people testified of having witnessed the resurrected Messiah in the 40 days following His resurrection and before His ascension.
As we focus on the resurrection this week, let this fact and the evidence which supports it influence your faith and your determination to share the gospel. We serve a risen Savior! This single fact changes everything.
NOTE: We are taking a short break from our study of the Gospel of Mark to celebrate and remember Passion Week. We will resume our study of Mark on April 28. This lesson is shorter than the rest of our lessons. We will not include Section Two in which we have been looking at the 12 disciples through John MacArthur’s biographical sketches in Twelve Ordinary Men.
Here is the summary for the sermon series this week: Take a journey through Passion Week with Pastor Todd and the teaching team at First Family, seeing, not only the evidential clues for the historical reality of Christ’s death, but the mind-blowing implication of it for our lives today.
Memory Verse for This Week
Luke 24:6-7 – “He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”
Core Virtue: Joy
Joy (John 15:11): I have inner contentment and purpose in spite of my circumstances.
Take Home Truth
Because he actually died, you can truly live.
What are some reasons people are skeptical about the truth claims that Christianity makes?
When we meet people who are skeptical or disbelieve all or parts of Christianity, should that give us cause to be timid or fearful? Why or why not?
Looking back at your notes from this week’s sermon, was there anything that particularly caught your attention, challenged or confused you?
Make sure you ask this question this week. It gives people the opportunity to discuss questions or issues that come up beyond the written questions. People’s responses can often lead to one of the questions in the “Digging Deeper” section. Also, some weeks this question will result in a lot of discussion, other weeks, not so much.
Read the Text
Luke 24:1–12 (ESV)
1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.
In this section, feel free to develop your own questions to help guide your group’s discussion. Below are some suggestions. Remember, if you are hearing from everyone in your group, chances are you won’t have time to discuss every question. You may start with one that catches your attention so you don’t run out of time. For example, it’s not odd to start with Question #6, then go to Question #5 and if you have time come back to Question #4.
If challenged by an unbeliever, how would you defend the evidence of the resurrection of Jesus?
The heart of apologetics is the defense of the gospel. The gospel, according to Paul, is “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” ( 1 Cor. 15:3–5). Defending these truths is the central task of apologetics.
Peter did precisely this in his sermon on Pentecost. After removing the stigma attached to the disciples, a stigma which would inevitably have besmirched the name of Jesus Himself, he began immediately to prove the central points of the gospel.
First, he presented reason to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ: “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know” (Acts 2:22). Peter appealed to what they already knew; he found common ground and extrapolated from it.
He then defended the idea that Christ died for our sins: “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (v. 23). While he did not give a full course on the Christian doctrine of the atonement, he made it clear that Jesus’ was no ordinary death; rather, it fulfilled a distinct purpose of God, a purpose that included something important for all of them.
Peter then defended the idea that Christ rose from the dead, and simultaneously affirmed that He had been buried. Note that he did not just say the resurrection happened, he gave evidence for it, challenging his hearers to investigate his claims:
But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. “I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.” Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. (vv. 24–32)
Peter presented two sorts of evidences for the resurrection of Christ. First he appealed to Scripture, another common ground he shared with the crowd. They believed in the authority of Scripture, they believed it was God’s Word. What Peter did was to show that if they believed that, they had to believe something else, too.
Next, he appealed to eyewitness testimony. There were standing before them, he told the crowd, dozens of people who could testify to having seen Jesus Christ alive after He had undoubtedly been dead. That was a powerful testimony to the resurrection!
After presenting these reasons for faith, Peter drew a conclusion from them: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (v. 36).
The response of the crowd was predictable. They had been given good reason to believe that they had taken part in the killing of the Messiah whom God had chosen to put on the throne of David as King of Israel. They saw the sense in believing that His death fulfilled God’s purposes. They also had living witnesses before them ready to give them testimony after testimony corroborating the claim that God had brought Jesus back to life, and that eyewitness testimony was confirmed by Scripture, an authority higher, in the minds of the Jews, than personal experience.
Finally, they had good reason to believe they must make some decision in response to all this. Their very well-being depended on it, for Peter had told them, quoting the words of Psalm 110:1: “The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet” (vv. 34b–35). It was obvious to the crowd that they were among the “enemies” who would be made Christ’s footstool. They were desperate for help! So, “cut to the heart,” they cried, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (v. 37)
Peter’s apologetic had handled two sorts of roadblocks in two different ways. First was the roadblock of a misconception on the part of his hearers; he helped them set that aside. Second was the roadblock of disbelief in cardinal points of the gospel; he showed that believing those points was reasonable.
Notice, too, that Peter’s apologetic was sensitive enough that the Jews were not alienated. They addressed the apostles as brothers. It was clear that rather than condemning them, Peter and the apostles with him reached out to them in love.
Peter’s response to their cry was clear: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven” (v. 38).
We need to follow Peter’s example of apologetic witnessing. We need to start with common ground—some belief that we share with our hearers. We need to reason from that toward the truth of the gospel, and we need to give evidences for the gospel which will help people to see the reasonableness of faith. We need to keep our focus always on Jesus Christ, His death, burial, and resurrection, and on the decision of faith that we wish our hearers to make. And we need to remove whatever roadblocks stand between our hearers and the cross.
When Peter did this, the results were tremendous. We may expect similar results when we follow his example.1
If Jesus could, in His resurrection body, pass through a locked door, why in every Gospel account is the stone rolled away? What does this teach us about Jesus?
Quite simply, the stone was not rolled away to let Jesus out. John 20:19 tells us that Jesus, in His resurrection body, could pass through material barriers. It was rolled away so that others could see in and be persuaded that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.
John 20:19 (ESV) – On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
What makes the message of Christianity categorically different from the founding of any other world religion? Why should that matter to us?
It is safe to say that without Christ there can be no Christianity. Equally true is the statement that without Christ’s death and resurrection there is no Christianity. No other faith puts so much emphasis on the reality of historical events. No other faith is utterly dependent on the reality of a single miracle.
Moreover, Jesus appeared to a group of people. The message of the early Christians was that “Jesus is alive, we all saw Him.” Christianity is based on the experience of a community, not the experience of a single individual. This is radically different than other religions.
Christianity is not simply the efforts of people to try to live like Christ and follow His teachings the best they can. Christianity instead requires people to admit that they cannot live like Christ and that they cannot consistently follow His teachings. Christianity teaches that because of Christ’s death and resurrection, there is forgiveness and hope for those who have sinned and power to live as God intended man to live.
Why is it significant that the resurrection was discovered by women first? How does this detail lend to the veracity of the resurrection?
Another reason the resurrection can’t be simply a cleverly devised myth is because the first witnesses in every Gospel account were women. Women had no standing in first century Greek and Roman cultures—they couldn’t even testify in court. If you were making a myth in the early first century, you would never have included women as your first eye witnesses.
How would you describe the lives of the earliest disciples after the resurrection? How did the resurrection transform their lives?
There are two aspects following the death of Jesus that forever changed the lives of the disciples: the resurrection and Pentecost. It’s difficult to view their ministry apart from these two singularly life-changing events.
The resurrection confirmed once and for all the reality of Jesus’ deity. It is clear in the Bible that prior to the resurrection, even though the followers of Jesus heard Him testify of His death and resurrection, they were not anticipating His resurrection. They were as surprised and shocked as anyone else.
Pentecost, or the outpouring of the Holy Spirit described in Acts 2, empowered the disciples to carry the gospel to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and the outer parts of the world.
There is a clear distinction between the disciples prior to these two events and after these two events. Fortunately for us, we live this side of the resurrection and Pentecost!
What change in perspective should occur when we recognize that, in Christ, this life is not all that we have?
When Jesus rose from the dead, He stood to offer the promise of the resurrection to all who would believe in Him. People who realize that they live more than once are free to give their life on earth away in service to the kingdom. The resurrection has created a society where people care about the needs of others before their own.
Why should the resurrection matter to you? How is the resurrection the ultimate proof that God has the desire and the power to make all things new?
The resurrection is at the heart of the gospel, and we want to be people who feel comfortable and confident sharing the gospel with others.
The entire gospel message encapsulated in Luke 24:7 – “that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”
When we believe the gospel, we submit ourselves to the lordship of Jesus. He is the master and we are His servants. The rest of the New Testament shows that the earliest disciples believed this to be true. The gospel tells us that we are worse than we could have ever thought, but that we are more loved by God than we ever imagined possible. When we see the depth of God’s care for us, we will give our lives away. The early disciples were imprisoned, beaten, slandered, and executed. Disciples all over the world today give themselves away in obedience to the will of God. But in this obedience, we find the unspeakable grace and peace that come from knowing we have been reconciled to God and will be with Him eternally.
Becoming A House of Prayer
“Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices; Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” – Isaiah 56:7.
Prayer is an important part of being in a small group. Group prayer goes better when we follow three simple guidelines.
- WE PRAY FOR ONE TOPIC AT A TIME – Anyone in the group is free to introduce a prayer request either before prayer begins or during the prayer time. Once a topic is introduced, the group focuses on that request alone. Once it’s covered, the group moves on to the next topic.
- PRAY MORE THAN ONCE – Because the group is focusing on one topic at a time, each person is encouraged to pray several times during the prayer time for those topics they feel most led to pray about. No one is required to pray.
- WE KEEP OUR PRAYERS SHORT AND SIMPLE – Group prayer goes better when members keep their prayers short and to the point. When someone prays for a long time, it’s hard for the other members to stay focused and long prayers tend to intimidate those who are just learning to pray out loud in a group. No one is required to pray out loud.
Questions to consider as you continue to reflect on what you learned this week:
- Take Action: Thinking through your own life walking with the Lord, what have been some of the costs of following Him? What have been some of the greatest rewards? Why does your belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ compel you to tell others about what you believe?
- Take Courage: One of the greatest evidences of the resurrection is a life changed by its message. How has the resurrection changed your life?
Work to memorize this week’s memory verse: Luke 24:6-7 – “He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”
This week’s Core Virtue: Joy (John 15:11): I have inner contentment and purpose in spite of my circumstances.
Remember to use the Daily Bible Reading plan as part of your walk with Christ, taking the time to reflect on each passage and what it means for your lives.
24:1. The first day of the week was Sunday. It was so early in the morning that it was still dark (Jn 20:1) when the women arrived at Jesus’ tomb to anoint His body.
24:2. On their way to the tomb, the women pondered the difficultly the sealing stone would present. Who would move it for them (Mk 16:3)? However, when they arrived, they found the stone rolled away from the entrance. The stone had been moved by “a violent earthquake” (Mt 28:2).
24:3-8. Jesus’ body was nowhere to be found, and the women had no answer for why it was missing. The two men who suddenly appeared and terrified them were angels (v. 23; Jn 20:12). Matthew 28:2-3 and Mk 16:5 mention only one angel. The angels announced the resurrection of Jesus to the women and reminded them that He had predicted this would happen. As soon as they were reminded of Jesus’ assertion that He would rise on the third day, they remembered His words. Now they were better prepared to understand and believe the radical things Jesus had said.
24:9-12. In Jesus’ day women were not considered to be credible witnesses. This is why the Eleven (the apostles who remained after Judas’ act of betrayal) did not believe the women’s report about what had happened at Jesus’ tomb, viewing it as nonsense. However, Peter was curious enough to run to the tomb and look for himself. When he saw only the linen cloths in which Jesus had been wrapped (23:53), he was amazed, but still skeptical.
- Discipleship Journal, Issue 20 (March/April 1984) (NavPress, 1984). ↩