Feast upon the Word Blog

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NT Sunday School Lesson 27 (JF): Matthew 28; Luke 24; John 20-21

Posted by Jim F. on July 11, 2011

Matthew 28

Verse 1: Who was the other Mary? (See Matthew 27:57.)

Verse 2: Rather than “And behold,” “Look!” is probably a better translation.

The angel only rolls back the stone when the two Marys come to see the tomb. Does Jesus leave the tomb at that time, or has he already left?

Verses 2-5: Why don’t the women faint when the guards are so frightened that they do?

Verse 5: Why does the angel describe Jesus as “which was crucified” rather than “your Master” or “who wrought the Atonement” or in some other way?

Verse 6: “He is risen” translates a Greek clause that can more accurately be translated “He has been raised.”

Verse 7: In Matthew 26:32, Jesus told the disciples that he would go before them into Galilee. Here the angel tells them he has done so. Why do you think he went to Galilee to reunite with his disciples rather than do it where they were, in Jerusalem?

Verse 8: What does it tell us that the women’s feelings were of fear and joy at the same time?

Verse 9: When Jesus meets the women, he says, literally, “Rejoice,” though the Greek word used was a common greeting, used as we would use “Hello.” However, in this instance, the literal meaning is also appropriate. What do you make of the women’s reaction?

Verses 11-15: What do these verses explain? Why was that important to the early Church? How might it be meaningful to us?

Verses 17-20: Would the last clause of verse 17 be a surprise to a first-time reader? Why does Matthew tell the story that way? Why is it important to him to mention that there were doubters among the disciples? What effect might Jesus’ words have had on the doubters? Why doesn’t he say anything to them about their doubts?

Jesus says that they should go and teach because he has all power. Can you explain that relation between their call to teach and his omnipotence?

What does Jesus mean when he says “I am with you, even unto the end of the world [literally, ‘the end of the age’]”?

Luke 24

Verses 1-11: Why does Luke wait until verse 10 to tell us who came to the tomb? Notice that the language that each evangelist uses to tell the story of the resurrection is simple and straightforward. Why did they choose that kind of language to describe such an important and dramatic event rather than dramatic language? Is there a lesson for us in that when we bear testimony?

What does the word “remember” mean in verses 7-8? Had Jesus’ followers actually forgotten that he told them these things would happen?

Why does news of the resurrection first come to women rather than to the presidency of the church or other priesthood holders? (Compare John 20:11-18.)

Why does the angel’s description of what had to be focus on the resurrection rather than on the experience in the garden of Gesthemane? The phrase “idle tales” is weaker than the Greek which says, literally, “things said in a delirium.” Why don’t the apostles believe the women?

Verse 12: How does Peter respond to the empty tomb? Does he believe the women’s story?

Verses 13-35: Verse 13 says “two of them” were on their way to Emmaus. Two of whom?

Why doesn’t Luke tell us their names or give some other way of identifying them? (We later learn the name of one of them, Cleopas—verse 18.)

In verse 15, the Greek word translated “reasoned” could also be translated “questioned.”

Compare and contrast the experience of these two people with that of the Apostles (Matthew 28:17; Luke 24:36-38, 41; John 20:20, 24-25). How quickly does each recognize the Lord? What is the Lord doing when these two recognize him? How is that significant? Does each group believe as soon as they recognize him?

The tradition says that Cleopas (verse 18) was Jesus’ paternal uncle, the brother of Joseph. Cleopas’s son, Symeon, succeeded James (Jesus’ brother) as bishop of Jerusalem.

What does verse 19 show about these disciples’ understanding of who Jesus was? Compare verse 30 to Luke 9:16 and to Luke 22:19. What is Jesus doing?

Verses 36-49: Notice how the disciples are described: terrified and afraid (verse 37), troubled and doubting (verse 38). Why are the apostles frightened? The two people on the way to Emmaus were not. What is the difference in these two events?

What does Luke mean when he says “they believed not [i.e., disbelieved] for joy” (verse 41)? What does it mean to disbelieve for joy?

In verse 44 to what does “these are the words” refer?

Why does the Lord say to them “while I was yet with you”? In other words, why does he use the past tense? After all, he is with them when he speaks—or is he suggesting that he is no longer with them in the same way?

To both the people on the way to Emmaus and to the Eleven, the risen Lord expounds the scriptures. Why?

To what does “these things” refer in verse 48?

The Greek word from which we get the word “apostle” means “messenger.” What is the message of these witnesses?

John 20

Verses 1-2: Why does Mary say we rather than I?

Verses 3-4: Who is “that other disciple”? Why isn’t he named? Why is it important to the record that the other disciple arrived at the tomb first?

Verses 5-7: Why didn’t the other disciple go into the tomb? Is it important that Peter enter first?

Verses 8-9: What do you make of the fact that the other disciple “saw, and believed” in verse 8, yet in verse 9 “they knew [“understood”] not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead”?

Verses 10-14: John says nothing about Mary coming back to the tomb, but she must have since now she is there with the disciples.

Were the angels she saw not there when Peter and the other disciple looked in? If not, why does Mary receive this heavenly visitation though they did not?

Why did the angels not tell her of the resurrection?

Why doesn’t Mary recognize Jesus? Is it because of the early morning light, or is this like the failure of the disciples on the road to Emmaus to see him? What does the inability of people to recognize the resurrected Jesus teach us?

Verses 15-17: Jesus repeats the question that the angels asked, “Why are you weeping?” Is that question significant in some way?

What does Mary’s misidentification of Jesus as a gardener tell us about Jesus’ appearance?

Verse 18: Why do you think the account of Mary’s report to the disciples is so brief?

Verse19: Why is it important to John that these events happen on the first day of the week? (He mentions that they do here and in verse 1, at the beginning of each of the stories of this chapter.) What else has happened this evening? (See Luke 24:13-35.) Why those two appearances rather than just one?

Why do you think the Lord makes his entrance as he does, appearing in their midst without opening the doors?

What do you make of Jesus’ greeting to them? Why that greeting rather than some other? Or is it merely because “Peace be unto you”—“Peace to you” in contemporary English—was the standard greeting of the time? Even if his word’s are explained merely as the standard greeting, in what ways did those to whom he appeared need peace? In what ways did he bring it to them?

Verse 20: Why is it important that the Lord show his wounds each time he appears?

Jesus prophesied that the disciples’ grief would be turned to joy (John 16:20). John shows that happening. In what ways does the resurrection turn our grief to joy?

Note that the Hebrew as well as the Greek words for “hand” could include the forearm, so the text is ambiguous as to the placement of the nails. Historically it is doubtful that the nails were placed through Jesus’ hands because the hands could not bear the weight of the body. Instead, they were probably placed through the wrist.

Verse 21: Why does Jesus repeat the greeting “Peace be unto you?”

How do you understand this commission: “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you”? What does that say about the work he is assigning the Eleven? To what is he referring when he says “as my Father hath sent me”?

Verse 22-23: Compare this verse to Genesis 2:7. Do you think that John intended that parallel? If so, what point is he making with it?

If he gave the Eleven the Gift of the Holy Ghost now, what was Pentecost all about (Acts 2:1-4)?

What is the connection between their reception of the Holy Ghost and their ability to forgive sins? (The King James translators have suggested this connection by putting a colon at the end of verse 23 though, of course, we need not agree with the suggestions made by their punctuation.) How will these disciples forgive sin?

This verse and similar verses (Matthew 16:19; 18:19) make it clear that the early Christian Church did not believe that forgiveness of sin was something that was between only God and the sinner. Clearly the Church had a role to play.

Verses 24-29: This story is well-known, but it has often earned Thomas a slightly soiled reputation, as if we would have been any less skeptical than he. It is important to remember that Thomas was later recognized as a stalwart, faithful member. In the Gospel of Thomas he says “My mouth is not capable of saying whom you are like” (saying 13), and the Lord praises Thomas and speaks three unspeakable words to him. So, what is the reason for this story? What is it supposed to teach us?

Verse 29: “After eight days” is more literally “on the eighth day following,” in other words, after a week: on the next Sunday.

Many translators believe that the Greek question translated “Because thou hast seen me, though has believed” is better translated as a question: “Have you believed because you have seen me?”

Verses 30-31: How will these signs (“signs” translates a word that can also be translated “miracles”) help readers believe that Jesus is the Christ? How can the things that John has told us help us see the relation of God to human beings and reveal that Jesus is the Savior?

John 21

Verses 1-3: Have the apostles returned to their old occupations? Or are they continuing those occupations? Why are they in Galilee (see Mark 14:28 and 16:7)?

Verses 4-8: Except in the appearances in the closed room, when Jesus appears to his disciples, they do not recognize him at first. Why not? What does this suggest interpretively?

According to Raymond Brown (The Gospel According to John [XIII-XXI] , page 1072), the most likely explanation of what Peter does is that he tucks the light fisherman’s apron he is wearing into his belt (the belt that holds up his undergarment), so that he can swim into shore. Jews would not have worked totally naked, and the word translated “naked” can also mean “lightly clothed.”

Verses 9-14: Though there is no textual warrant for it, early Christianity often takes this meal to symbolize the sacramental meal, so the Sacrament is often symbolized by loaves and fish.

Why are the disciples reluctant to ask who he is? If they really know who he is, why does the writer focus on their reluctance to ask? Do they think they know but are not sure? Are they being hesitant? What is John portraying them doing in this scene?

Verses 15-17: How is what the Lord does here a response to Peter’s denial? Though Jesus uses different Greek words in this story each time he says what is translated as “feed” and different Greek words for lambs and sheep, there appears to be no particular interpretive significance to those differences. The differences appear to be a matter of aesthetics rather than meaning.

Peter has denied the Savior three times, but the Lord does not extract a three-fold confession or apology from him. Instead, he gives him the same command three times. What might that suggest about the nature of repentance?

How important to the scene is Peter’s confession, “Lord, thou knowest all things”? How does that confession connect this event with his betrayal?

Verses 18-19: A more modern translation of what Jesus says in verse 18 is probably helpful:

when you were a young man

you used to fasten your own belt

and set off for wherever you wished.

But when you grow old,

you will stretch out your hands,

and another will fasten a belt around you

and take you where you do not wish to go.  (R. Brown, page 1101)

Verse 19 tells us that this is a prophecy of how Peter will die. How so?

What layers of meaning are there in “Follow me,” placed as it is immediately after the prophecy of Peter’s death?

Verses 20-25: Peter has been admonished to follow, but John has not. Yet John is following. How does that raise Peter’s question (verse 21)?

How do you understand Jesus answer to Peter in verse 22? What is going on in this scene?

What do you make of the denial in verse 23 “Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die”?

Why does the Gospel of John give us the testimony that we find in verses 24-25? Is there anything comparable in the other Gospels? If not, why did the writer feel it necessary to include this testimony? Who is writing this testimony? Who is the “we” in “we know that his testimony is true”?

More Questions

Matthew tells us of an earthquake that no one else mentions. John tells us that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and then told the disciples, among whom Peter and John returned to see the empty tomb. Mark tells us that Mary and other women saw an angel outside the tomb and a second inside, but Luke and John tell us that they see two angels inside. John and Mark tell us that Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene outside the tomb, though Matthew tells us that he appeared to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary as they were leaving the tomb.

What do you make of these differences? Is there one story of which each of these is a part? Are we reading different remembered accounts with the differences that memory often creates? Or are we seeing other things at work in these differences? And what difference do the differences make? How would you answer someone who used these differences to argue that the New Testament is inconsistent and, therefore, not to be relied on?

4 Responses to “NT Sunday School Lesson 27 (JF): Matthew 28; Luke 24; John 20-21”

  1. [...] comment on this post, please go to Feast upon the Word. 0 people like this [...]

  2. Kent Miles said

    Due to stake and ward conference schedules we just had lesson 27 today. Thanks for your thoughtful development of questions as study aids.

    These are some thoughts that grew out of preparing and teaching the lesson to my class, and which prompted some thoughtful discussion:

    We have, by this time in our lives, heard the Resurrection narrative so often that we don’t really hear it anymore in the way it might have been heard by those first encountering the testimony of the Gospel writers about Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah of the Jews, and as the Son of God. Is it possible to back-off a bit to imagine how these accounts – these testimonies – would have been heard by people upon encountering the story for the first time?

    What is the impact of having a testimony of Christ’s resurrection upon how we live our own lives? What is the greater, deeper significance of the Resurrection? How does it change our behavior? The scriptures testify to the role of the Savior as Deliverer, which for me is one of the most profound messages of the Resurrection. Christ came to deliver us from the ultimate—to mortal mind—bondage of death and hell. The resurrection narrative testifies that He has the power to do this. The gospel accounts of His life bear witness to his expressed desire to deliver us from all forms of bondage. Is it possible to imagine anything more difficult to achieve than vanquishing physical death? This is the great and final bondage for mortals. Death will come to all of us. If we can believe in the Resurrection, then we must acknowledge that all lesser forms of bondage can be overcome (and all other forms of bondage are lesser) through the power of Jesus as our Deliverer.

    Do we come away from encountering Christ’s life with a sense that he was all about Justice—think Inspector Javert in Victor Hugo’s “Les Misérables”—? Do we not rather see in Christ’s life a character like that of M. Myriel (the bishop of Digne in Hugo’s book) upon whom Jean Valjean modeled his transformed life?

    Latter-day Saints are fond of underscoring the distinction that “Mercy cannot rob Justice,” but do we really think of Christ as one who came to point out our weaknesses and failings in order to condemn us for the same? Rather, do we not hope for mercy, compassion and forgiveness from Him? The Resurrection, applying as it does to all mankind, points our minds towards the possibility that we may receive mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and deliverance from bondage. And that can change how I live my life, even as it changed the life of Jean Valjean. (No less true for being fiction.)

    • Jim F. said

      Excellent questions and notes, Kent Miles. Thanks very much for contributing to this. The more of us who share our insights, the more we will grow in understanding. We don’t have an appointed teacher here, only self-appointed ones. So this site is like a class without someone called to teach it. In that case, D&C 88:122 directs us each to speak “that all may be edified of all, and that every man may have an equal privilege.” Blogs give us a great way to practice that. I hope more people will follow your example.

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