OUR NEED FOR HOPE


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SESSION 4

OUR NEED FOR HOPE

The Point Jesus is the Resurrection who gives us life now and forever.

The Passage John 11:17-27

The Bible Meets Life It happens every April. Thousands of baseball fans tell themselves, “This is the year my team wins the pennant!” Within a matter of months, however, the number of fans who hang on to that optimism will be slashed. But they’ll all be back again next year! To borrow from Alexander Pope, “Hope springs eternal.” Faltering hope is far more serious in other areas of life. For example, when someone dies whom we deeply love or on whom we’ve depended, we may feel we’ve lost all hope. Or, when cancer comes to our own door, we can become paralyzed with hopelessness. These situations may seem hopeless, but Jesus’ resurrection provides hope for ultimate victory— victory over death. While death is inevitable, it doesn’t have to be our final reality. We can live again; we can experience an abundant life forever. Jesus shows us how.

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 (see v. 53).

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What does the Bible say?

John 11:17-27 Believe (v. 26)—This term means to entrust oneself to something, not just to assent to a mental proposition. Such belief is a process that assumes action will result and all of life will be affected. The Messiah (v. 27)—The Anointed One God promised in the Old Testament who would come in the future and be instrumental in inaugurating the kingdom of God.

17 When Jesus arrived, He found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 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. 20 As soon as Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him. But

Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Then Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother wouldn’t

have died. 22 Yet even now I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You.” 23 “Your brother will rise again,” Jesus told her. 24 Martha said, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me,

even if he dies, will live. 26 Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die—ever. 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.”

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THE POINT

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

GET INTO THE STUDY

10 minutes

DISCUSS: Question #1 on page 37

Notes

of the PSG: “What helps you feel hopeful about the future?” ACTIVITY (OPTIONAL): Direct group members to gather into smaller clusters of 2-4 people. As they talk in these clusters, encourage group members to fill in the blank on the following statement with the first thing that comes to mind: “I hope ____________.” After a couple minutes, direct everyone to re-form into new clusters and repeat the experience. Note: The goal of this exercise is to give people a chance to stand up, move around, share with one another, and introduce the topic of hope. GUIDE: Call attention to “The Point” at the top of page 38 of the PSG: “Jesus is the Resurrection who gives us life now and forever.” GUIDE: Direct group members to “The Bible Meets Life” on page 38 of the PSG. Introduce the themes of hope and hopelessness by reading or summarizing the text— or by encouraging group members to read on their own. PRAY: Transition into the discussion by proclaiming your faith and belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Ask the Holy Spirit to grant each of you understanding as your group engages the story of Lazarus and Martha.

TIP: Additional ideas for your group are available at biblestudiesforlife. com.

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10 minutes

STUDY THE BIBLE John 11:17-24

Notes 17

When Jesus arrived, He found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb

four days. 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. 20

As soon as Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him.

But Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Then Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. 22 Yet even now I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You.” 23 “Your brother will rise again,” Jesus told her. 24 Martha said, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” READ: John 11:17-24 on page 39 of the PSG. Read the text out loud or ask a volunteer to do so.

ALTERNATE QUESTION: What emotions do you experience when you’re hoping for something good to happen?

DISCUSS: Question #2 on page 40 of the PSG: “What do our responses to tragedy reveal about our expectations of God?” GUIDE: Encourage group members to read the final two paragraphs on page 40 of the PSG in order to understand how Martha’s view of eternity was similar to the views of many people today. DO: Direct group members to complete the activity “The Hope of Heaven” on page 41 of the PSG. If time permits, encourage volunteers to share their responses. Which of the following images best represents what you hope to experience in heaven?

In what ways have you already experienced the blessings of eternal life in Christ?

TRANSITION: We’ll find Jesus’ next “I am” statement as we move to verses 25-26a.

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THE POINT

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

John 11:17-24 The account of Lazarus, recorded only by John, was the crucial event preceding the death of Jesus. After receiving news of Lazarus’s illness, Jesus delayed two days before proposing to go to Judea. Because of the danger awaiting in Jerusalem, His disciples were amazed He would go near there (see 11:5-8). We learn Jesus delayed so He could work God’s glory for the sake of the disciples’ faith (see 11:15). [Verse 17] As Jesus understood, Lazarus was already dead. When they arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Four days 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. [Verses 18-20] Bethany is only about two miles away from Jerusalem, a crucial detail, because numerous Jerusalem friends and relatives easily could come to comfort them about their brother. Also, a Jerusalem 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. 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.” 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 anyone’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 point hardly needs making that this doctrine of the resurrection is central in the teaching of the New Testament. The reason for this is clear: resurrection was central to the teaching of Jesus. 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. BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE

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15 minutes

STUDY THE BIBLE John 11:25-26a

Notes 25

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes

in Me, even if he dies, will live. 26a Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die—ever.” READ: John 11:25-26a on page 39 of the PSG. DISCUSS: Question #3 on page 42 of the PSG: “What does this ‘I am’  statement teach us about Jesus’ nature and character?” RECAP: Highlight the author’s unpacking of Jesus’ “I am” statement through the numbered list on page 42 of the PSG: 1. “I am the resurrection.” Jesus did not say, “I can resurrect someone.” He said, “I am the resurrection.” He overcame death by going through it Himself and coming out alive on the other side. 2. “I am … the life.” Jesus established His power to give life—not just quantity of life (forever), but quality of life (full and meaningful life now and forever).

ALTERNATE QUESTION: How would you describe the hope of heaven to someone who’s never heard about it?

DISCUSS: Question #4 on page 42 of the PSG: “How does Jesus’ statement in these verses produce hope?” Note: Remind group members that this question can be answered from several different perspectives. How does Jesus’ statement in these verses produce hope for us as individuals? How does it produce hope for the church? How does it produce hope for the world at large? GUIDE: Use the final paragraph on page 53 of this Leader Guide to explain the important affirmation Jesus added to the end of His teaching. TRANSITION: As we conclude with verses 26b-27, we’ll see Jesus ask a question that is both poignant and practical—a question that we all must answer.

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THE POINT

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

John 11:25-26a [Verse 25] 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 would 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. 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 was indeed 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, but 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 (see 10:10). Those who follow Him have that resurrection and life from the moment they trust Him for salvation. 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 added a strong affirmation to His teaching. He claimed all who believe in Him “will never die—ever.” Jesus has said this before (see 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. 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 offers us the hope of a new life now. BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE

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5 minutes

STUDY THE BIBLE John 11:26b-27

Notes 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.” READ: John 11:26b-27 on page 39 of the PSG. GUIDE: Use the first two paragraphs on page 55 of this Leader Guide to make sure group members understand what Jesus referenced by “this” at the end of verse 26. SUMMARIZE: Highlight the main points on page 43 of the PSG: 1. “Jesus asked Martha a direct question: ‘Do you believe this?’ (v. 26). He wanted a straight answer to an honest question based on what He had just revealed. He wants the same from us, as well.” 2. “In the next scene of this story, Jesus—along with Mary and Martha and many of the other mourners—arrived at Lazarus’s grave. Jesus was about to provide the ultimate object lesson to support His statement about being the resurrection and the life.” 3. “Jesus brought Lazarus out of the grave with the power of His voice. He has the power to give life and to sustain it—even through death. Jesus is your Source of life, both now and forever.” DISCUSS: Question #5 on page 43 of the PSG: “How does the hope of ALTERNATE QUESTION: What obstacles prevent us from sharing the hope of eternal and abundant life?

eternal life influence your daily decisions?” Note: This question offers group members another chance to engage the reality that “eternal life” isn’t just something we will experience in the distant future; it’s a gift we have already received. Therefore, how does this gift influence our daily decisions? GUIDE: Refer back to “The Point” of this session: “Jesus is the Resurrection who gives us life now and forever.” If time allows, encourage volunteers to share any final thoughts and questions.

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THE POINT

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

John 11:26b-27 [Verse 26b] Throughout this encounter, Martha was learning that resurrection as a doctrine is one matter, while resurrection as a faith commitment is entirely another. Jesus challenged Martha to make a decision: “Do you believe this?” The term “this” is not a reference to the doctrine of resurrection. Martha had already 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 had 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.” This 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). Martha then confessed that Jesus is “the Son of God, who comes into the world.” 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 (see 11:4344). Lazarus came out of the tomb. Of course, 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.

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5 minutes

LIVE IT OUT GUIDE: Direct group members to page 44 of the PSG. Encourage them to consider the following

Notes

options for responding to the truth that Jesus is the resurrection and the life:

>> Answer the question. Take some time to reflect on Jesus’ question to Martha

regarding His claim to be the resurrection and the life: “Do you believe this?” Answer that question for your own life.

>> Pray. Make a list of people within your spheres of influence who have not expressed faith in Jesus. Pray daily for each of those individuals by name.

>> Initiate a conversation. In addition to praying for those who need to experience Jesus as the resurrection and the life, take the next step of

initiating a spiritual conversation with someone on that list. Express what you’ve experienced in your time as a follower of Christ, and express your desire to see that person know Christ, as well.

Wrap It Up TRANSITION: Read or restate the Conclusion from page 44 of the PSG: This may not be the year your favorite team wins a championship. But it can be the year you experience Jesus’ resurrection power in a deeper and more meaningful way. Take the steps necessary to know where you stand with Christ—and to help others encounter the One who offers life both now and forever. PRAY: Conclude by proclaiming your answer to Jesus’ question: “Do you believe this?” Confess your trust in Christ as the only source for resurrection and abundant life both now and forever.

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