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Bible Study: Easter Day (B) – 2015
April 05, 2015
This passage from Acts is situated at a crucial point in the story of the Acts of the Apostles. The first account of Paul’s conversion comes in Chapter 9, and then Paul’s three missionary journeys are detailed in the chapters after our selection for this week. One might expect that the beginning of the gentile mission would begin with Paul’s leadership, but surprisingly, Peter is the one to preach this sermon and begin the gentile mission here in Chapter 10.
Paul begins his message with a phrase that will appear familiar to those who know the Old Testament: “God shows no partiality.” As “The Harper Collins Study Bible”(HarperCollins, 2006) tells us, that phrase typically referred to God not favoring the rich or the poor. (See Leviticus 19:15 and Deuteronomy 10:17-18, for example.) But here in Acts 10:34, the phrase takes on a radical new meaning. Peter uses it in connection with the gentile mission. There are no social barriers between rich and poor, or gentiles and Jews.
Peter goes on in the sermon to summarize the gospel as he believes it. His interpretive emphasis is on the fact that God has appointed the apostles (and gentiles) to be witnesses to Christ. (See verse 41.)
The last verse of this passage, 10:43, summarizes key Lukan themes (it’s commonly believed that Luke wrote Acts) that “The Harper Collins Study Bible” helps to elaborate. Some of those themes include the witness of the apostles as mentioned above, but also the death and resurrection of Jesus, Jesus’ post resurrection appearances to the apostles, prophetic witness, the Spirit’s presence in Jesus, and the forgiveness of sins.
- Verse 34 includes the phrase “God shows no partiality.” Peter reinterpreted this phrase to apply to the relationship between the Jews and gentiles. Is there a group of people you need to apply this same passage to? Consider praying with this verse, knowing that God truly shows no partiality.
- In verse 39, Paul makes the claim that “we are witnesses to all that he did, both in Judea and in Jerusalem.” How are you a witness to Christ? Do you live your life believing that you are a witness? If not, why not? If so, how?
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
This psalm comes alive when considering its original context as a processional song of victory that begins as an individual praising God and continues with a collective praising of God. This context of victory becomes all the more powerful when considering the victory that Christ has won over death in His resurrection.
The context of a procession is particularly evident in verses 19 and 21. As “The Harper Collins Study Bible” tells us, the previous verses in the psalm can be read as an individual processing to the gates of the temple. In verse 19, the individual asks for entry. In verse 20, we learn the qualification for entry, and finally, in verse 21, we see that the person has been welcomed into the sanctuary.
The last quoted verses of the psalm selected for today reflect the voices of many people in the temple praising God and expressing their victory. Of particular note is verse 22, which is found in all the gospels and in Acts (See Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11.)
- This psalm is a call to praise, both from the vantage point of an individual and a community. Consider taking this invitation and joining with the voices of the generations in a song of praise yourself. For what do you have to give thanks? What has God helped you to win victory over in your life?
- Verses 15 and 16 likely quote an ancient victory song. Read these verses again and imagine what it might feel like to repeat words that people have been saying for centuries to proclaim victory in a battle.
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians is a pastoral letter written by Paul to the people of the cosmopolitan port city of Corinth. This letter includes the oft-quoted “Love is patient, love is kind,” but it also introduces a key metaphor of the church as the Body of Christ. The overall message of the letter is calling for unity and the building up of the church.
Chapter 15 is the second-to-last chapter of this letter, exhorting the Corinthians to unity and order. In this chapter, Paul turns to address his last major topic: resurrection. The very fact that Paul has to include this chapter leads the reader to understand that there was some doubt among the Corinthians about whether the Resurrection was to be believed. This context helps to understand why Paul opens the chapter the ways he does, reminding people of their faith, challenging them by saying, “unless you have come to believe in vain.” From that verse on, he explains how the truth of the resurrection is central to his whole belief structure, and it’s not an invention of his own. (See verse 3.)
In verse 8, Paul turns to address his own apostolic authority, explaining that his authority comes from having seen Christ when he reappeared after his death. In this defense of his authority, he alludes to his former life before his conversion, when he himself persecuted the church (verse 9). Paul ends the passage by saying that it doesn’t matter who the Corinthians hear the truth of the gospel and resurrection from, “Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe” (15:11).
- Turn to verse 10 to read this beautiful statement by Paul: “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace has not been in vain.” Consider saying this verse to yourself, particularly if you feeling like you need to be gentler with yourself. God has made you how you are, and it was not a mistake!
- If you are like me and so many other Christians, you, too, have struggled to understand the truth and gospel of the Resurrection. Perhaps try reading Paul’s passage as if it were addressed to you as a doubter. Does that make you doubt more or less? What was your experience?
All four gospels have an account of the Resurrection (although of varying lengths). John’s account, detailed here, is unique in its emphasis on individual and personal relationship and intimacy with Christ. Another unique aspect is the prominence of Mary Magdalene in this resurrection account. Mary Magdalene is the first to discover the empty tomb (verse 1) and she is the one who stays at the tomb and see Jesus (mistaking him for a gardener). Mary Magdalene was also with Jesus at his crucifixion the chapter prior. Her role is not to be diminished!
But there is also another unique character in John’s account of this story. The “Beloved Disciple,” or “The disciple whom Jesus loved,” plays a crucial role in the first part of this story (verses 2-10). No one knows exactly who the Beloved Disciple was or what his exact relationship to Christ was, although there’s been much written about his identity. (See Raymond Brown’s “Introduction to the New Testament,” Yale University Press, 1997, for a good summary.) In this story, the Beloved Disciple is the first believer in Jesus’ resurrection when he outruns Simon Peter to see the linen shrouds that Jesus had worn (verse 8).
The second part of this passage (verses 11-18) explain Mary’s encounter with Jesus when she stayed weeping at the tomb after the disciples returned home. She saw two angels in the tomb and then saw Jesus himself, although she did not recognize him (verse 15). After Mary thinks Jesus is a gardener, Jesus evokes the good shepherd motif of John 10:3-4, calling her by name. The account ends with Jesus telling Mary to go carry the message to the disciples (verses 17-18).
- What are some of your reactions to the role of the Beloved Disciple? One theory people have is that the Beloved Disciple is there to get the reader to engage more deeply in the text. Can you read yourself into that role? Why or why not?
- Consider the prominent role of Mary Magdalene in this account. Consider her faith and loyalty in staying at the tomb to weep. Do you think you could take on this mourning and faithful role with Christ this Easter season?
- Have you ever felt that Christ has called you by name as he called Mary? What would such recognition feel like? Where in your life and communities are you most thoroughly known?
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