BSF Study Questions John Lesson 28, Day 5: John 20:24-31

Summary of passage:  Thomas who was absent the first time Jesus appeared to the disciples refused to believe Jesus had risen unless he sees Jesus.  So Jesus appears a week later in much the same manner when Thomas is present and he believes.  However, Jesus commends those who believe without seeing.

Questions:

12)  Part personal Question.  My answer:  He’s devoted to Jesus and follows him.  His faith is weak though when Jesus is not around.  He’s a skeptic but he questions honestly.  He was authentic:  he never pretended.  If he didn’t understand something, he said so.  If he felt discouraged, he acted like it.  I’m very much like Thomas–open book.  One who questions and doesn’t pretend “I’m good” when strangers ask when I’m not.  Once Thomas sees, his faith is 100%–never to leave again.  All in.  That’s me too.

13)  Jesus appearing before him.  He acknowledged Jesus as his Lord and God–the only disciple to do so.

14)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Truthfully, it hasn’t.

Conclusions:  Another weak lesson despite the fact I like Thomas.  Questioning leading to faith is the lesson here which should have been the focus of the questions instead of personalizing them.

End Notes:  “Thomas” is Aramaic and “Didymus” is Greek for twin, which could have been an epithet.  By not staying together as Jesus had said to do (John 15:17; 17:11), Thomas missed out on the first blessing of Jesus.  Hence, this recorded exchange earned Thomas the nickname “Doubting Thomas”, which is unfair to what he’ll become.  It wasn’t that he doubted; he refused to believe in the disciples’ testimony.  Thomas is slammed for this but he could be in shock still or mourning.  He was still with the disciples however.

Again, Jesus appears in the same way and says the same thing on the same day–a Sunday–evidence of the disciples gathering together on Sundays.  The doors are locked still, indicating the disciples still haven’t quite internalized the resurrection of Jesus yet.

Jesus gave Thomas what he asked for (his physical presence and proof) out of mercy and kindness.  He didn’t have to appear for Thomas’ sake but he did.  For Thomas, the implication of a risen Jesus was too great to take someone else’s word for.  Jesus orders him to stop doubting and have faith.  Despite all the previous faith Thomas had, without faith in the resurrection none of it mattered.  The same is for us.  Doubt is okay to a certain extent.  It moves us towards faith and deepens it.

Thomas quickly believes, calling Jesus Lord and God, titles Jesus does not refuse.  He calls Jesus my Lord and my God–titles of deity.  He also is not half-way in.  He’s all out (100% doubting) or all in (100% belief).  This is the high point of faith.

Fun Fact:  Thomas in fact is the only disciple that is recorded who directly addresses Jesus as God.

Scholars are divided on whether or not Thomas actually touched Jesus’ wounds.  Because Jesus points out only that Thomas has seen him that strengthens his faith, most say Thomas didn’t actually touch Jesus.  However, sight could have been what had convinced Thomas and not the physical touching.

Ironically, Jesus says those who believe without seeing are the blessed ones–that would be us!  Those who are satisfied with God’s gifts and not yearning for more.  This is another beatitude from Jesus to us.  If we demand a voice, a vision, or answers, our faith is diminished.

Some scholars say Thomas’ belief is the climax of the book of John.  Here, Jesus has conquered unbelief–more important than the miracle of sight or sorrow or sin.

Thomas’ questions led to faith because he expressed them sincerely and looked for answers.  We last see Thomas in the Bible in Acts 1:12-14 praying, waiting with the other disciples for the Holy Spirit to come.

Tradition has it Thomas went to Parthia and India to spread the Gospel.  Present-day Christians of St. Thomas of India claim spiritual descent from him and a place near Madras is called St. Thomas’s Mount.

John sums up this chapter with the whole point of the Gospels–the show the truth of Jesus’ Messiahship and to present him as the Son of God so that readers may believe in him– and to bring about faith that leads to life.

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BSF Study Questions John Lesson 24, Day 2: John 18:1-27

Summary of passage:  Jesus and his disciples left the upper room, crossed the Kidron Valley, and stopped in an olive grove.  Judas shows up with officials and soldiers armed with weapons.  They ask for Jesus who declares himself.  Peter drew his sword to defend Jesus and cut off the ear of a servant named Malchus.  Jesus chastises Peter, telling him this is his destiny.

Jesus was arrested and taken to Annas, Caiaphas’ father-in-law.  Peter and John followed Jesus.  John went with Jesus while Peter waited outside.  When asked by a little girl if he was one of the disciples, Peter denies Jesus for the first time.

Annas questions Jesus who is struck by a soldier.  He’s shipped off to Caiaphas.  Meanwhile, Peter denies Jesus a second and third time.  A rooster crows.

Questions:

3)  Part personal Question.  My answer:  Jesus does not hide.  He admits who he is.  He answers truthfully questions put to him.  He does not lie to save his skin.  He goes to the garden knowing he will be arrested when he could have ran and hid.  It’s inspiring to do the work God has for me like Jesus did God’s work for him.

4)  He knew he would be arrested that night and he still went anyways.  He admits who he is.  He dies so not one of us will be lost.  He tells Peter not to fight for him.  He denies nothing to Annas about who he is or what he said.  He willingly takes the hits and the punches and eventually his death for us.

5)  Part personal Question.  My answer:  He never shrinks from any of this.  He accepts his fate and goes out with dignity and self-respect.  He never denies who he is.  He willingly takes all of our sin on him and suffers.  My sufferings pale in comparison.  I remember what Jesus did for me and live for him every day.

Conclusions:  Major focus today on Jesus’ demeanor during his arrest and how that strengthens us.  We are spending all week on this passage so we’ll probably break it down further.  No fear in the face of God’s plan.  Perfect!

End Notes:  The Kidron was a small stream that was the drainage from the temple, and would be reddish from the blood of thousands of Passover lambs.  This would have been a vivid reminder to Jesus of His soon sacrifice.  Info on Valley HERE  Cool Maps of Jesus’ last 24 hours and his movements HERE and HERE

John did not name this as the Garden of Gethsemane, but the other Gospel writers did (Matthew 26:36 and Mark 14:32). Jesus often met there with His disciples, perhaps to sleep for the night under the shelter of the olive trees or in a nearby cave.  Hence, why Judas knew Jesus would be there that night and why Jesus went–so Judas could easily find him knowing he was searching for him.

John does not go into detail in the Garden, leaving that to the other apostles to do so.

Judas came with many soldiers, expecting a struggle.  How he didn’t know our Lord!  Jesus could have wiped them out with a word.  This harkens to the Garden of Eden.  Man lost that round.  He would win this round!

Jesus speaks first for 2 reasons:  1)  He wanted any potential violence to be directed to Him and not to His disciples.   2)  Jesus wanted Judas and the detachment of troops to announce their evil intention.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  I am: Jesus answered them with two words in both English and in the Greek (ego eimi). He did not say, “I am he”–that was added by translators and not in the original text.  Jesus was consciously proclaiming himself God, just like he did throughout his testimony on earth (John 8:58; 6:48, 8:12, 9:5, 10:9, 10:11-14, 10:36, 11:25, 14:6).

This explains why all fell back.  When Jesus proclaims himself “I am” the power and presence of God overwhelms the soldiers and they are afraid.  We’re talking probably upwards of 500 soldiers sent to arrest Jesus and all were petrified.  Jesus could have escaped then, but he didn’t.  For our sakes.

Jesus asks them again who he is in order to shock them back to reality.  He repeats I am but with less force.  He willingly gives himself up and asks for his disciples to go free.  Sacrificial love.  The show of power was to protect them as well.  This was a command to let them go.  He promised the Father he would protect them (John 17:12).  There would be no harm to his disciples as long as Jesus was there!  This was also the signal for the disciples to slip away, which they did all except Peter and John.

John is the only writer to identify Peter as the one with the sword.  Peter was fulfilling his promise to protect Jesus (Matthew 26:35).

Cutting off the right ear is significant.  Scholars say this meant Peter, holding the sword in his right hand, must have attacked the high priest’s servant from behind, because it would be near impossible to cut off his right ear if he was facing the servant Malchus. It is entirely possible that Peter deliberately chose a non-solider, and attacked him from behind. This was not a shining display of courage.  And given the fact we know Peter is about to deny Jesus 3 times, this was probably an impulsive display that was safe for him.

Why is the servant mentioned by name here?  Scholars speculate that Malchus may have eventually become a Christian and would have been known to the early Christian community at the time of this writing.  This is a pattern we see throughout the rest of the Gospels and Acts.

Peter’s thoughtless action may have erupted into violence and the disciples getting hurt.  Jesus stops Peter for his own good and for the disciples.  And so he could die on the cross.  John leaves out how Jesus healed the man’s ear (Luke 22:51).

The cup signifies suffering and the wrath of God.  It came from the Father.  God is in control.

The captain was a Roman and the others were Jews.  Both were complicit in Jesus’ death.  Jesus consented to be bound.  He could break those easily.

Annas was the power behind the throne in Jerusalem. He himself had been High Priest from AD 6 to 15. Four of his sons had also held the high priesthood and Caiaphas was his son-in-law.  His name meant “Yahweh is gracious”.  He is still called the high priest in Acts 4:6 when Peter and John are arrested.

One reason John reminds us of what Caiaphas said in John 11:49-52 is to show that the judgment against Jesus was already decided. It would not be a fair trial.  He would die for the people.

John who had the connections is the reason they had access to the high priest’s house and the reason we know what went on there.

A mere girl scares Peter enough to deny Christ and then he tries to blend into the crowd and shrink himself by standing around a fire with others.  How tragic!

Jesus was not going to throw his disciples under the bus.  He never mentions them.  He asks for evidence in asking for others to testify to his words.  This should have been the first step Annas should have taken for one accused of crimes.  But there would be no fairness here for Jesus.  He was a threat that had to be annihilated.

The first blow is laid upon Jesus be an unnamed official.  Jesus calls the man out and having no answer, Annas sends Jesus on, still bound.

Luke 22:61 indicates that Peter could see Jesus and see him being slapped.  No doubt his fear increased and he lied twice more.  John is also present and Peter lied in front of John. The same question is asked in the same way, using the negative.  The questioners expected the answer “No”, not expecting a follower of Jesus amongst them.  The questioner is identified differently in all  Gospels (Matthew 26:71; Mark 14:69; Luke 22:58).

John would know Malchus’ relative and a relative would be eager to know if this was the man who cut off his relative’s ear.  Matthew 26:74 tells us Peter cursed this denial.  He was adamant and he was a coward.

The rooster crowing fulfilled what Jesus said in John 13:38, and would have immediately reminded Peter of the prediction Jesus made in the upper room.  And I would imagine shame would have flooded Peter.

BSF Study Questions Revelation Lesson 8, Day 3: Daniel 2

Summary of passage:  King Nebuchadnezzar was troubled by dreams.  He asked his sorcerers, magicians, enchanters, and astrologers to interpret his dreams for him but if they were wrong, he’d kill them and destroy their houses.  If they were right, he’d reward them.  Not trusting his advisors, the King asked them to tell him the dream first, then the interpretation so he’d know they weren’t lying to him.

The advisors told him what he was asking was impossible.  The King, angry, ordered all the wise men killed.  Daniel, wisely, asked for time.  He, Hannah, Mishael, and Azariah asked God for help.  God answered.  Daniel praised.

Daniel told the King his dream:  Nebuchadnezzar dreamed of a statue made of various metals.  A rock struck the statue and turned it into chaff, becoming a huge mountain and filling the earth.  Daniel’s interpretation:  the metals represented different kingdoms with the golden top being Babylon that will conquer one another.  God will set up His kingdom which will conquer all and endure forever–that was the rock cut out of the mountain.

King Nebuchadnezzar praised God and rewarded Daniel with ruler over the entire province of Babylon.  Daniel had Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego appointed administrators as well.

Questions:

6a)  Part personal Question.  My answer:  He praised His name, wisdom, and power.  God changes times and seasons, He sets up kings and deposes them, He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning, He reveals deep and hidden things, He knows what lies in darkness and what light dwells within.

Daniel thanked and praised God for having given him wisdom and power, made known to him what he asked, and made known the dream.

I learned nothing I didn’t know before:  God is ruler of all earthly kingdoms and people.  He stands above and they exist only because He allows them to exist.  His kingdom is the only eternal kingdom.

Summation:  Praise for power, might, and communication to man.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Given us a house, given me hope my novel may be published by having agents interested in it, kept my husband’s job safe, healed some physical pain I’ve had this year, made my kids happy with all their activities, blessed us financially, and all the little daily things such as food, clothing, shelter, pets, etc.

7a)  Kingdoms exist only because God allows them to exist.  Kingdoms come and go upon God’s will.  Only God’s kingdom is forever and eternal.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  My faith and my life lies with Him.  Period.

Conclusions:  Similar questions we’ve had before for 7b–hope the Second Coming gives us.  This passage relates to Revelation–the fact God’s kingdom is eternal and He will set up one that will never be destroyed (Second Coming).  Great reminder that kingdoms (governments for us) are transitory by God’s design.  Why worry over something God has?  Good lesson despite the preponderance of personal questions.

End Notes:  Debate continues over whether or not Nebuchadnezzar remembered the dream or not.  It’s hard to say from this passage.  What Nebuchadnezzar was asking from his advisors was not a stretch–their job was to be in contact with gods–the ones who sent Nebuchadnezzar the dream in the first place–so why shouldn’t they be able to tell it to him?

The Babylonians believed dreams were how the gods communicated to people.  If you try to remember this,  you can see how important this dream was to the King of Babylon and how important its interpretation would be.

Fun Fact:  Daniel 2:4-7:28 is written in Aramaic.  This is the only section of the Bible written in Aramaic.  Only the book of Ezra is similarly split.

Why?  Aramaic was the most common language of the people at this time (Alexander the Great is still 300 years away from conquering these peoples and spreading Greek culture and language throughout Asia).  Scholars say the people would have been interested in these sections of the Bible so Aramaic made it accessible to more people.  Furthermore, the astrologers spoke in Aramaic.

The astrologers knew only a god could interpret the dream.  Obviously, no god they knew could.

Why kill all your intelligent men?  Nebuchadnezzar was a new king at this time.  Perhaps he was seeking a reason to rid himself of the old king’s advisors and start anew.  He was probably also testing their loyalty to him and not to the old king (his father).

What do you do in a crisis?  What Daniel did.  Stay calm, ask God, listen and wait on God.  Awesome!

The power of prayer with friends! Awesome!

God reveals Himself to us.  It’s our job to understand His revelations–not to understand God’s ways.

Praising God indicates our faith.

Daniel gave God all the credit and diminished himself.  Do we?

Note the order of the metals–from most precious to least:  gold, silver, bronze, iron, clay–all destroyed by a mere rock–Jesus is the Rock.

The other three kingdoms:  Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.  Babylon was at the top because it was an absolute monarchy.  The others were in a sense but by the time we get to Rome, power by the people had taken root.  God is our absolute monarch and is the ideal kingdom.

Babylon lasted 66 years.  Medo-Persia 208.  Greece 185.  Rome over 500.

This prophecy is still in the future.  We will get to the number 10 (Daniel 7:24; Revelation 17:12).  Rome was the last great empire and not one single event (the shattering of the statue) has eliminated governments today.

Interesting how man begins with gold and ends up as dust.  Amazing God’s power and our insignificance.

Friends were promoted as well–they helped when they prayed together.  Powerful!

BSF Study Questions Revelation Lesson 5, Day 4: Revelation 2:18-29

Summary of passage: Jesus says the church in Thyatira is improving but they are tolerating Jezebel and her teachings, which lead to sexual immorality and idol worship. Jesus intends to make those who commit adultery with her suffer and will kill her children. Those who haven’t followed her Jesus encourages to hold fast to him. If they do, he will give them authority over nations and the morning star.

Questions:

9)  Part personal question.  My answer:  Jesus says he will give authority over the nations and he will be the one to dash them to pieces (judge them).  He will also give believers the morning star (himself).  Imbed the truth in my heart and do my best to not be influenced by outsiders and let him be in control.

10)  Part personal question.  My answer:  Jesus’ will for us is to follow him, obeying all of his commands, and to go and make disciples of others for his kingdom.  He rewards us with eternal life with the Father.  It means everything to me.

Conclusions:  Extension of yesterday with emphasis that Jesus is our one, true reward–what we live for, strive for, and serve for.  He is our everything.

End Notes:  See yesterday’s analysis HERE

BSF Study Questions Revelation Lesson 4, Day 2: Revelation 2:1-7

Summary of passage:  John addressed the church in Ephesus and its angel (or messenger or priest or church).  Jesus says he knows of the church’s hard work and how they have tested false prophets and endured hardships.  Yet, they have abandoned him and need to repent or face the consequences.  To those who hear him and overcome, they will receive the tree of life or the paradise of God.

Questions:

3a)  The seven stars are the leaders of the seven churches John wrote to which are represented by the seven lamp stands.

b)  Jesus holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks amongst the seven lamp stands.  (Jesus is with us and holds us always).  He knows everything about us–deeds, perseverance, and hard work.

4)  Part Personal Question.  My answer:  Jesus knew their deeds, hard work, perseverance, testing of false prophets, and hardships.  And he knew they had turned from him, not heard the Spirit, and not repented of their sins.  I work hard and persevere.  My deeds for Jesus could be more.

5)  Acts tells us to examine what the false prophet is saying with the Word to see if it aligns with God’s teachings.  Romans tells us to allow God to transform our mind and not the world and then we will be able to know God’s will.  1 Corinthians says if a person curses Jesus, that is not from God.  Galatians says don’t compare yourself to others.  2 Timothy says all Scripture is true.  Hebrews says constant use of God’s word and ways will train you to distinguish good from evil i.e. know the word; know the truth.

6)  Just that:  persevere and endure hardship for Jesus.  Don’t bend.  Don’t waver.  Stand strong.  Know him.  Trust him.  Believe him.

Conclusions:  Good review of false prophets (we studied this last year in the Life of Moses).  3a was redundant.  Question 6 was self-explanatory.

My take-away:  Jesus/God knows everything:  our struggles, triumphs, dreams, and hearts. Good reminder as I pray and pray for my novel to be a success.

End Notes:  This is commentary on verses 1-3 as these questions focus on these verses.  Commentary on verses 4-7 will follow tomorrow’s lesson.

For analysis of 7 stars and 7 churches, see last week’s post HERE.

The letters are published here to each church in Revelation 2 & 3.  The structure of each letter is the same:

An address to a particular congregation
An introduction of Jesus (“These are the words of…”)
A statement regarding the condition of the church
A verdict from Jesus regarding the condition of the church
A command from Jesus to the church
A general exhortation to all Christians
A promise of reward

As previously discussed, the angel is probably the pastor of the church but the letter is to every member.

Ephesus was well known in the ancient world much like New York City today.  It held the famous temple of Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt, (Reconstruction picture HERE) and was a haven for immoral behavior namely sex with temple attendants.  The temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  It was so important it was completely rebuilt 3 times, finally being destroyed in 268 AD by the Goths and dismantled entirely in 401 AD by St. John Chrysostom.  Paul, Aquilla, Priscilla, Timothy, and John all ministered here.  MAP of Ephesus

Today the site is covered in swampland due to flooding and hence the remains of Ephesus are obscured.

Jesus is introduced just like in John’s vision–with power and authority over the church.  The Greek word for holds shows Jesus is in charge.

Jesus knew the church’s condition.  Patience here in Greek means “steadfast endurance.”  These were people with God’s heart.

Paul warned the Ephesians in Acts 20:29-31 about false prophets and evidently they took it seriously. So must we all be ever wary of falsehoods.

The church has patience and perseverance–great example for us today.

IMPORTANT:  Jesus ALWAYS in these letters and admonishes addresses the positive first, then he rebukes.  Good example for us today.  Acknowledge how good someone is doing, then tell them how to improve.

Commentary on verses 4-7 will follow on Day 3 as those questions focus on those verses.