OUR NEED FOR HOPE


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SESSION 4

OUR NEED FOR HOPE

10 minutes

GUIDE: Direct the group to look at the picture (PSG, p. 46). DISCUSS: Question #1 (PSG, p. 46): What are some things people often

The Point

hope for?

Jesus is the resurrection who gives us life now and forever.

GUIDE: Direct attention to

The Bible Meets Life

The Bible Meets Life (PSG, p. 47). Note the author’s

The moment we are born, our

reference to some things that

physical bodies are on a road that

tempt people to lose hope.

leads to death. We can eat right,

Acknowledge our senior years

exercise, and make healthy choices,

bring illness and death closer.

but our bodies still wear out and

Yet these struggles are only

die. A physical death, though, does not need to mean the end of life. Jesus

temporary.

offers us a life that never ends. Jesus died and rose again, conquering death. He

Introduce The Point (PSG,

is the resurrection and offers us a resurrected life.

p. 47): Jesus is the

The Passage

resurrection who gives us life now and forever. SAY: “The amazing news of Easter is that Jesus lives! And He calls us to participate in His life.” (TIP: Be sensitive to guests who may be attending today as part of their Easter celebration. Note opportunities you may have to

John 11:17-27

The Setting Throughout the progression of the Gospel of John there had been growing opposition to Jesus from the religious establishment. Apart from the overwhelmingly significant teaching that Jesus is the resurrection and the life that comes in John 11, the contextual importance of the chapter comes in the fact that the death of Lazarus, his resuscitation, and the ensuing fallout over the event led the religious authorities to definitively determine Jesus must die (v. 53).

share the gospel.)

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John 11:17-24

STUDY THE BIBLE

17 When Jesus arrived, He found that Lazarus had already

been in the tomb four days.

John 11:17-24 15 minutes

18 Bethany was near Jerusalem (about two miles away). 19 Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to

comfort them about their brother.

GUIDE: Remind the group of what they have studied so far in this unit:

20 As soon as Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went

to meet Him. But Mary remained seated in the house.

>> “Our Need for Contentment” (The

21 Then Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my

Point: Jesus is the bread

brother wouldn’t have died.

of life who gives us true

22 Yet even now I know that whatever You ask from God,

satisfaction.) >> “Our Need for Direction”

God will give You.”

(The Point: Jesus is the light

23 “Your brother will rise again,” Jesus told her.

who reveals the way we

24 Martha said, “I know that he will rise again in the

resurrection at the last day.”

should go.) >> “Our Need for Protection” (The Point: Jesus is the only

There is a sure hope for resurrection and life after death. The account of Lazarus, recorded only in the Gospel of John, was the crucial event precipitating the death of Jesus. The little village of Bethany where the two sisters, Martha and Mary, and their brother, Lazarus, lived lay on the hill to the east across a valley from Jerusalem. This proximity is important to understand how fast the news spread to Jerusalem about the miracle Jesus performed in Bethany. John focused strictly on the death of Lazarus and the theme of resurrection as prelude to the death and resurrection of Jesus. To this end, John wanted to be sure the reader connects Lazarus’s raising to the shocking action of Mary’s anointing Jesus with fragrant oil and wiping His feet with her hair that he would tell in the next chapter (11:2; see 12:3). In that setting, Jesus interpreted for the disciples Mary’s action as preparation for burial (12:7). At the time Mary anointed Jesus she may not yet have fully appreciated the significance of her actions as explained by Jesus. Yet, she clearly believed Jesus was worthy of honoring at great personal sacrifice. Lazarus became gravely ill. His sisters sent word to Jesus (11:1-3). This word may not need to be interpreted as a 1

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one who offers us ultimate protection.) (ENHANCEMENT: Point to these titles on Pack Item 1: “More Than Enough.”)

GUIDE: Before reading the focal passage, set the context by briefly summarizing the information in the introductory paragraphs from the Bible commentary 1 .

READ: Ask a volunteer to read John 11:17-24.

S U G G E S T E D U S E | W E E K O F M A R C H 27

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THE POINT

Jesus is the resurrection who gives us life now and forever.

GUIDE: Direct attention to verse 17. Note that Lazarus had been dead four days. Remind the group that Jesus could have arrived earlier and healed Lazarus, which was what Mary and Martha wanted Him to do. To help the group identify with Mary and Martha, ask group members to raise their hands if they have ever experienced God not responding when they wanted Him to. (TIP: Don’t take time to discuss.) Acknowledge the common experience of wanting God to act on our schedules. Emphasize Jesus’ purpose was much greater than healing another sick person. His purpose was to work God’s glory for the sake of the disciples’ faith (11:15).

request for Jesus to come and perform a miracle as much as summoning the family upon the imminent death of a loved one. Jesus acknowledged the sickness was serious enough to threaten death (11:4). Jesus, however, seized the moment to announce that He was ready to manifest His power and God’s glory, probably in a manner His own brothers had wanted of Him when they urged Jesus to go to Jerusalem and do something dramatic to announce Himself publicly at the Feast of Tabernacles (7:3-4). The timing now was right because the announcement would reveal the evil and unbelieving hearts in Jerusalem that would ensure Jesus’ death, not His crowning as king. After receiving the news, Jesus delayed two days before proposing to go to Judea again. Because of the danger awaiting in Jerusalem, His disciples were amazed (11:5-8). Jesus used a light and dark theme in contrasting walking in the day and at night to allude to the proper timing to go to Jerusalem. Anyone in tune with God and His will, Jesus indicated, would recognize Lazarus’s illness as God’s time for the full revelation of His Messiah to Israel. The disciples missed His meaning, since Jesus used sleep with the deeper meaning of Lazarus’s death. They did not know Lazarus had died, though Jesus did (vv. 9-14). We learn that Jesus delayed intentionally so He could work God’s glory for the sake of the disciples’ faith (v. 15). Thomas spoke what likely was on everyone’s mind. Thomas assumed they all would die in Jerusalem, so going there would be to join in the fate of Lazarus (v. 16). Verse 17. As Jesus understood, Lazarus had died. When they arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. More than three days dead may be significant if later Jewish tradition can be traced back into the first century. Rabbis entertained the idea that the spirit of the deceased hovered near the body for three days seeking to return. Four days dead in later rabbinic tradition was really dead, without any chance even for a highly unusual and inexplicable return to life. Burial after death was not delayed, given the climate and lack of embalming practices (note Ananias and Sapphira, Acts 5:6,10). 2

Verses 18-20. John noted Bethany is only about two miles away from Jerusalem, a detail crucial to the story, because numerous Jerusalem friends and relatives easily could come to comfort them about their brother. Also, a Jerusalem 54

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crowd to witness the miracle meant a quick return of this information to Jesus’ opponents in Jerusalem. Since Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him along the way as He arrived. That Mary remained seated in the house is not unusual. Jewish custom was to mourn and to receive mourners in a seated position, so someone had to remain at the house as a matter of social necessity. Verses 21-23. When Martha met Jesus, she noted, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” This remark is an interesting insight into the dynamics of their relationship. Martha appears fully prepared to accept that Jesus could have healed a sick person. That Jesus could do something with a dead person, however, would have stretched any person’s belief beyond its limits. Yet, even at that moment, Martha was ready to believe that whatever Jesus asked God, “God will give You.” There is a double meaning in Jesus’ response to Martha’s sadness: “Your brother will rise again.” Jesus was referring to the miracle He was about to perform. Verse 24. Martha, however, naturally thought Jesus was referring to what had become common belief among many Jews: “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead at the end time had arisen among the Jews after the exile, most especially as taught by Pharisees, but is found in the teaching of Jesus Himself. While intimations of resurrection doctrine are found in Old Testament texts, we have no explicit statements in most of the literature. Further, this scarcity of explicit evidence is confirmed linguistically in that we do not have any Hebrew word for “resurrection.” The understanding of life found in this Jewish material is quite simple—that of physical life easily observable in the act of breathing, and not breathing and returning to dust at death (Gen. 2:7; Ps. 104:29). A concept of life after death, therefore, in ancient Jewish thought was vague at best. If any concept was expressed at all, this often was typified as a place called Sheol, and no one wanted to be there. The place was one of only shadowy existence, dark and gloomy, certainly without any connection to the living, and from which no one returned (Ps. 6:5; Job 7:9-10). In fact, Sheol was a place from which one prayed for deliverance (Ps. 49:15). Only in much later Jewish literature does any concrete concept of life after death begin to emerge at all (Dan. 12:2). Jewish thought about afterlife, however, did change dramatically and quickly in the time period after the exile. Belief in resurrection and strong concepts of afterlife © 2015 LifeWay

GUIDE: To emphasize the importance of the four-day time-frame, direct the group to the numbered paragraphs on PSG page 48: Note that the time frame is significant for at least two reasons. 1. Jewish folklore believed a person’s spirit hovered around the body for three days (until decomposition started) before departing for the afterlife. 2. Because Lazarus was “completely dead”—as the four day waiting period underscored, the assembled mourners would clearly recognize that anything Jesus did after arriving was truly miraculous. (See the Bible commentary 2 on verse 17, p. 54.)

GUIDE: Draw attention to verse 20. Note the common experience of mourning for a deceased loved one. Also note the differences in how Martha and Mary acted when they heard Jesus was coming.

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THE POINT

Jesus is the resurrection who gives us life now and forever.

DISCUSS: Question #2 (PSG, p. 49): What do our responses to tragedy reveal about our expectations of God?

GUIDE: Reference Martha’s expression of faith in verse 22 as an expectation that Jesus would comfort her grieving family—not bring Lazarus back to life.

DISCUSS: Question #3 (PSG, p. 50): What emotions do you experience when you’re hoping for something good to happen? (Alternate: What do verses 21-22 reveal about Martha’s beliefs concerning Jesus?)

TRANSITION: Explain that Martha believed that her

become common in Jewish literature of this time period, and the group most dominantly associated with resurrection doctrine in this time period was the Pharisees. Resurrection doctrine, while strongly supported by the Pharisees, was opposed vehemently by the Sadducees, as witnessed in the Sanhedrin itself (Acts 23:8), so this teaching was not without controversy in first-century Judaism. The point hardly needs making that this doctrine is central in the teaching of the New Testament. The reason for this is clear: resurrection was central to the teaching of Jesus. The teaching is evident in every Gospel, most famously in the direct confrontation between Jesus and the Sadducees, who tried to discredit Jesus on the very basis of their denial of this doctrine (Matt. 22:23,28-31; 27:53; Mark 12:18,23-27; Luke 14:14; 20:27-38; John 5:29; 11:24-25). The proclamation of the early church was filled with this doctrine. The teaching not only is evident in Paul, but dominant in ways central to his theology. The teaching is evident in the general epistles. Finally, the last book of the Bible closes with this doctrine (Rev. 20:5-6). Because the doctrine is so clear in the New Testament, we may have a difficult time understanding Martha’s confusion over what Jesus meant. While clear to us, we need to be reminded that we are looking at the question from the perspective of Easter already having happened. We have a huge advantage that Martha did not. The truly vague Old Testament background on life after death, as well as the controversy surrounding the subject in the time of Jesus among first-century Jews, should help us understand why Martha struggled to perceive what Jesus really meant. Not only was He promoting a doctrine not universally believed among Jews at the time, the situation was even more difficult for Martha to understand because Jesus presented the truth that He Himself is the sure hope for this resurrection and for life after death.

brother would rise at some point in the future when God would reveal His power over death. We can share in this hope for the future, but we can also experience the reality of a new life right now.

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John 11:25-26a

STUDY THE BIBLE

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The

one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live.

John 11:25-26a 5 minutes

26a Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never

READ: Invite a volunteer to

die—ever.

read verses 25-26a.

Jesus offers us the hope of a new life now. Verse 25. To clarify His statement to Martha that her brother would rise again, Jesus made a stunning declaration in response to Martha’s acknowledgment of the general belief in the resurrection of the dead: “I am the resurrection and the life.” We have to allow for how shocking this statement had to have been to Martha. No one ever had spoken of resurrection in this manner. No one ever had said resurrection was a person. Resurrection traditionally was just an event to happen out in the future that God would accomplish. Resurrection tied to a person was a radical and revolutionary thought. 3 Notice three things about Jesus’ statement. First, Jesus spoke in the present tense. He did not say “I will be the resurrection and the life” but “I am the resurrection and the life.” The end time event Martha anticipated would indeed be a future occurrence. But with Jesus, there was already a present reality to the resurrection and the life. Believers do not have to wait until the end time to experience the eternal life implied by “resurrection and life.” Second, Jesus is the “resurrection.” This conveys to us the truth that Jesus, even prior to His own death and resurrection, had the power over death necessary to negate death. Lazarus was dead. He had been dead for four days. Death had worked its dreaded mastery over him just as it had countless times before him. But for all its skill and competency at its craft, death was no match for Jesus, the resurrection. Third, Jesus is the “life.” Though closely associated with resurrection, “life” is yet distinct from it. Resurrection reflects power over death, but “life” reflects the quality of that existence. In the upper room just a few chapters later, Jesus would again emphasize to the disciples that “I am … the life” (John 14:6). He had already told His followers that He had come to give life and to give it with great abundance (10:10). Those who follow Him have that resurrection and life from the moment they trust Him for salvation. © 2015 LifeWay

SUMMARIZE: Using the Bible commentary 3 , briefly summarize three things about Jesus statement.

SAY: “Jesus said the means to access both resurrection and life is to believe in Him.”

GUIDE: Use this time to present the gospel. Emphasize that Jesus challenged us to believe in Him personally as the means to eternal life—now and forever. He did not ask us to believe about Him, to believe in the concept of a future resurrection, or to believe Jesus is a good example to follow. Jesus called us to believe in Him personally.

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THE POINT

Jesus is the resurrection who gives us life now and forever.

Stress that we must place our faith in Jesus to find meaningful life now and forever. There is no substitute for personal faith. Remind the group of the article on PSG page 2 that gives guidance in how to place one’s faith in Christ. State that you will be available after the session to speak privately with anyone who would like to know more about becoming a follower of Jesus.

DISCUSS: Question #4 (PSG, p. 52): What does this “I am” statement teach us about Jesus’ nature and character? (Alternate: How would you

Jesus then put this radical truth on a radical basis: “The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live.” Resurrection to eternal life does not just happen. Such resurrection is founded on believing faith. But with that faith, even death does not end life. Verse 26a. Jesus reemphasized His teaching, but then added a strong affirmation. He claimed all who believe in Him “will never die—ever.” Jesus has said this before (John 8:51). This affirmation is expressed strongly in the original Greek. The “ever” strategically placed at the end of the statement accurately reflects the original language, which is the emphatic double negative in Greek. In teaching this verse we should be sure to emphasize this wording of strong emphasis. The stunning reality is that if resurrection faith is more about a person than a point in time, this truth can be appropriated now. Jesus actually offers us the hope of a new life now.

John 11:26b-27 26b Do you believe this?” 27 “Yes, Lord,” she told Him, “I believe You are the Messiah,

the Son of God, who comes into the world.”

describe the hope of eternal life

KEY WORDS: Believe (v. 26)—To entrust oneself to something, not just to

to someone who’s never heard

assent to a mental proposition, in a process that assumes action will result and

about it?)

all of life is affected. The Messiah (v. 27)—Anointed one God promised in the Old Testament who

TRANSITION: Emphasize that we experience eternal life only by God’s grace through faith in Jesus and only in Jesus.

would come in the future and who would be instrumental in inaugurating the kingdom of God.

We receive the hope of a new life when we believe and trust in Jesus. Verse 26b. Martha was learning that resurrection as a doctrine is one matter, while resurrection as a faith commitment is entirely another. So, Jesus challenged Martha to make a decision. The crux of this conversation was the demand for decision by Jesus to Martha: “Do you believe

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this?” (11:26b). “This” is not a reference to the doctrine of resurrection. Martha already had said she believed what many Jews of her day believed, that a resurrection would occur at the end of time. The “this” in Jesus’ question is a direct reference to the truly radical claim that He is the resurrection and that this truth can be appropriated now. Verse 27. Martha’s response shows she was having difficulty absorbing what she had just heard. No wonder. Jesus just rocked her world. Martha defaulted to what she knew was a rock solid confession that should be pertinent, and hoped this confession moved her along in the right direction of the new teaching of Jesus. She knew Jesus had made resurrection personal; that is, He had made resurrection doctrine about Himself. Thus, the most pertinent element was what she already knew in her heart and personally was ready to confess about Jesus. First, she confessed, “I believe You are the Messiah” (11:27). This confession was a good start. Messiah or Christ was the expected anointed agent of the coming kingdom of God. Resurrection, as she saw it, was about the future kingdom of God, so Martha brought her belief in Jesus as Messiah into the answer (see 1:41). Good move. Martha then confessed that Jesus is “the Son of God, who comes into the world.” This confession parallels that of John the Baptist (1:34), which indicates that Martha joined in with John’s testimony that everything about Jesus is prophetic fulfillment. Whatever Jesus teaches has to be the truth of the kingdom of God, which now has to include what He has said about resurrection. Such a faith also is in line with Jesus’ own statement to Pilate: “I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice” (18:37). Martha had learned the beautiful truth that we receive the hope of a new life when we believe and trust Jesus. Was Jesus right? Is He the resurrection? Absolutely. One would do well to finish the exciting story in this chapter. The climax was Jesus’ call to the truly dead man to come out of the grave, and he did (11:43-44). Lazarus came out of the tomb. Of course, this miracle was a resuscitation, not resurrection. Lazarus lived to die again. Yet, the miracle is so stunning and unbelievable that the event serves as another of John’s “signs” to the truth of who Jesus is. If Jesus can bring a dead man out of the grave, He is the resurrection and the life, just as He said. We can trust Him for future eternal life. Faith in Jesus is the key to that future.

STUDY THE BIBLE John 11:26b-27 10 minutes READ: Invite a volunteer to read verses 26b-27.

GUIDE: Lead the group to review the KEY WORDS on PSG page 52. Emphasize that “this” in Jesus’ question in verse 26b is not a reference to the doctrine of resurrection. It is a direct reference to the truly radical claim that Jesus is the resurrection and that this truth can be appropriated now. Stress that Jesus is our only hope for eternal life both now and forever.

DISCUSS: Question #5 (PSG, p. 54): How does the hope of eternal life influence your daily decisions? (Alternate: What obstacles prevent us from sharing the hope of eternal and abundant life?)

DO: Invite volunteers to share their responses to “Jesus, My Hope” (PSG, p. 54).

© 2015 LifeWay

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THE POINT

Jesus is the resurrection who gives us life now and forever.

LIVE IT OUT 5 minutes

GUIDE: Emphasize The Point: Jesus is the resurrection who gives us life now and forever. Review Live It Out (PSG, p. 55; see text to the right). Invite group members to think about which application speaks most to their needs.

Wrap It Up GUIDE: Remark that Easter is a season of great joy for Christians. Encourage group members to walk through the coming week with an attitude of joy and gratitude because

LIVE IT OUT As you celebrate the resurrection of Christ, remember that because He lives, never to die again, you have His life in you now and forever. How has God spoken to you in this session? Consider which of the applications below He is leading you to adopt this week.

>> Receive His gift of life. If you have never turned to

Jesus in faith, accepting His free gift of eternal life, it’s not too late. Jesus is ready to welcome you with open arms. Turn from your sin to the One who loves you, and begin to enjoy the abundant, eternal life God desires for you. Read “Spring Fever” on page 2 [PSG] for guidance. >> Thank Jesus for your hope. Read through the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection and His appearances to the disciples. Note especially how His followers experienced hope in realizing that He had indeed risen from the dead. Thank the Lord each morning that your eternal life rests in His life. >> Minister the hope of Christ. Mary and Martha were in grief over the death of their brother. Think of someone you know who has lost a loved one recently. Invite the person to coffee or lunch on a regular basis. Your presence could be just what this person needs to help him or her adjust to the loss and to remember that Jesus cares.

Jesus lives to give eternal life to all who come to Him in faith. PRAY: “Father, thank you for the life we can experience through faith in our living Lord Jesus Christ. Strengthen us day by day to walk in the joy of that reality. Amen.”

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narratives depicts an intimate

SHARING THE GOOD NEWS

bond of friendship that developed

Jesus offers us life—eternal

over the years between Jesus and

life—because He is life.

this household. Because of these

When you turn from your

friends’ home, along with Simon

old life and trust in Him, He

the leper, and Luke’s account

gives you a new life.

ILLUSTRATOR PHOTO/BOB SCHATZ

of the ascension, Bethany has a noteworthy place in the New Testament. It was a quiet village strategically located less than two miles east of Jerusalem on the Leaving Jerusalem, path to Bethany. A fig tree is to the right of the path.

southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives on the main road leading to Jericho and the Dead Sea.”

The following excerpt is from the article “Bethany in the First Century” (Spr. 2011), which relates to this session and can be purchased at www.lifeway.com/ biblicalillustrator.

with anyone in your group who wants to know more about becoming a Christian. See the article, “Leading Someone to the Greatest

Lazarus” in the Spring 2016 issue.

guidance in leading a person

Previous articles “Lazarus Has

to Christ.

Died” (Fall 2013), “Grief Practices in New Testament Times” (Sum. 1993), and “Martha: All We Know”

home where you are welcomed,

and can be purchased at www.

accepted, encouraged, and loved!

lifeway.com/biblicalillustrator. Look

In Bethany, Jesus found such a

for Biblical Illustrator for Bible

place. Three special friends who

Studies for Life.

impression of the Bethany

the session to speak privately

Decision of All,“ on page 2 for

(Win. 1991) relate to this session

Mary, and Lazarus. The composite

available either before or after

Read the article “The Tomb of

“How wonderful to have a

loved Him lived there—Martha,

Each week, make yourself

Remind group members that page 2 in the PSG offers guidance in how to become a Christian. Encourage believers to consider using this article as they have opportunities to lead others to Christ.

Subscribe to Biblical Illustrator at www.lifeway.com/biblicalillustrator, or call 1-800-458-2772.

>> Get expert insights on weekly studies through the Ministry Grid (MinistryGrid.com/web/BibleStudiesFor Life). >> Grow with other group leaders at the Groups Ministry blog (lifeway.com/groupministry). >> Additional ideas for your group are available at BibleStudiesFor Life.com/blog. © 2015 LifeWay

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