picture Bible commentary


It was still the first day of the week. That evening, while the disciples were behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy. (John 20.19-20 CEB)

filled with joy!


NOTE: He is risen! Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow, Easter Sunday, Apr. 8. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon (Filled With Joy!) that morning. The primary text for this sermon is John 20.19-23. You’ll find these LIFE group discussion guides categorized each week here on my site under the category title “LIFE group guides.”


To drive home the deep meaning of Jesus’ resurrection for us as his disciples.


It was still the first day of the week. That evening, while the disciples were behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you don’t forgive them, they aren’t forgiven.” (John 20.19-23 CEB)


Icebreaker questions are meant to help us all start talking. Choose one of the following to discuss as a group.

1. Tell us about a truly victorious or especially joyful moment in your life, be it big or small.

2. If you were to die, come back from the dead, and speak to your loved ones, what would be the first thing you’d say to them?

3. Tell us what Easter Sunday was like for you when you were a wee one.


These questions are meant to help us grapple with Scripture related to this morning’s sermon. Choose some.

1. According to this passage (John 20.19-23), how much time passed between Jesus’ resurrection and his appearance to his disciples?

2. What did Jesus mean when he said “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you?”

3. How would you say the reception of the Holy Spirit is tied to our grasp of Jesus’ resurrection, our life in light of his resurrection, and the mission he’s given us?

4. How does Jesus’ resurrection affect our understanding of forgiveness (vs. 23)?

5. One-third of this text is what the risen Christ said. Sum up his words in your own words.


These questions facilitate our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us thru his word. Choose some.

1. How has human history been affected by the fact Jesus’ body has never been found?

2. If archaeologists discovered the body of Jesus tomorrow, how would your life change?

3. What has the resurrection of Jesus done for your fears?

4. What sort of peace do you have in your life because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ?

5. What joy do you have in life because of Christ’s resurrection?

6. Given the resurrection of Jesus, what would you say is your mission in life?

7. What can you do to help others to see and hear, as it were, the risen Christ today?

this went thru my mind (a)


Civil War: New Estimate Raises Civil War Death Toll by Guy Gugliotta

“For 110 years, the numbers stood as gospel: 618,222 men died in the Civil War, 360,222 from the North and 258,000 from the South — by far the greatest toll of any war in American history. But new research shows that the numbers were far too low.”

Continuing revelation: “God Told Me” and Other Embarrassing Phrases Christians Use by Brian Jones

“Whenever someone tells you something that begins with the three words ‘God told me’ you should immediately …”

Evangelism: Know Your Neighbors? by Matt Branaugh

“We all need a place to start. … The challenge is realizing where we are starting from.”

Generations: How To Reach a Lost Generation 5: 25 Reasons Young People Are Leaving the Church by Matt Dabbs

“There are many more but this is a start. It is good to be aware of these issues because they point to something deeper that needs to change in our very paradigm of what we view church to be.”

Great commission: The First Great Commission: Mercy, Not Sacrifice by Mark Love

“We all know how the gospel of Matthew ends: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go into all the world, making disciples…” These verses, are less well known. “Woe to you scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites! You cross land and sea to make a single covert and make the new convert twice the child of hell as yourselves” (Mt. 23:15). It would appear that Jesus is after something more than missionary zeal.”

Health: Kitchen Cures Doctors Swear By by Marisa Cohen

“‘True, some home remedies are simply old wives’ tales, but others have stuck around for generations because they actually work,’ says Philip Hagen, M.D., preventive medicine specialist at the Mayo Clinic.”

Jesus wept: Jefferson’s Bible and the Tears of Christ by Makoto Fujimura

“Predictably, ‘Jesus wept’ [John 11.35] did not make into the Jefferson Bible. John 11 was cut out entirely, falling onto the floor of his Monticello home and discarded, along with Martha’s confession. Jefferson’s rationalism allowed only a distant deity that made sense in reference to objective ‘scientific’ calibrations, not ephemeral marks of compassion.”

Preaching: The Awful Task of Preaching by Terry Rush

“Preaching is transitory. I don’t know how it is for others, but for me the burden of speaking to a church about God is increasingly burdening….in a wonderful way. It scares me more week by week.”

The resurrection of Jesus: ‘People have very odd ideas about Jesus’ (Sam Hailes interview of N.T. Wright)

“Anyone who is in any sense a Christian cannot with any consistency believe that Jesus stayed dead. … if you say Jesus died and nothing happened but the disciples had some interesting ideas, then you have cut off the branch on which all classic Christianity is sitting. This generation needs to wake up, smell the coffee and realize serious Christianity begins when Jesus comes out of the tomb on Easter morning. This is not a nice optional extra for those who like believing in funny things.”

sermon follow-up: remember

Much of the world is remembering 9/11. Unquestionably that event, and particularly what we have chosen to remember about it, colors our thinking and perception of things. No doubt we’ve all learned some things from that day ten years ago and all of the days that have followed it. Those lessons may or may not be the right lessons to have learned, but we all surely claim to have learned something from 9/11 and that learning has affected our living ever since.

I want to hold up before you a memory, a living memory. I want to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned, and am still learning, as the events of 9/11 have interfaced with him whom I follow, our Lord Jesus Christ. For by far the dominant memory that is to shape our thinking as Christ-followers is not the destruction of two towers, but the raising up of the Christ on a cross. Not the rejuvenation of a site of destruction, but the resurrection of the Son of God from the grave. If we are remember anything or anyone at all as Christians, we’re to remember Jesus Christ.

Think about what I’m saying; the Lord will give you understanding about everything. Remember Jesus Christ, who was raised from the dead and descended from David. This is my good news. (2 Timothy 2:7-8 CEB)

As I remember Jesus Christ – the Christ of Scripture, not of emotion or tradition – these are some of the things that come to mind as I simultaneously my Lord and 9/11.

I remember Jesus Christ saw his Father as his source of strength. He said, “I honor my Father.” (John 8:49). This is what his life was all about: honoring the one from whom his strength flowed. The Father was his sustenance and the source of all nourishment to be shared, and is still shared, with us. “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.” (John 6:32). Now not everyone sees life, or their life in particular, this way. Most appear to see God and his strength as one among many sources of strength available to them. Some leave God out of the equation altogether. But as worshipers of the true and living God, we’re called to see things differently than the masses. “Some people trust in chariots, others in horses; but we praise the LORD’s name.” (Psalm 20:7)

I remember Jesus Christ lived his life completely free of resentment, slander, and violence. It might be impossible for us to do so completely, but it is our supreme task in life to imitate Jesus Christ as closely as possible. When we’re tempted to lean toward resentment, slander, or violence as ways to handle, or even as solutions to, life’s complexities, we as Christians see those things for what they are – temptations from hell – and so we take our stand against those temptations. This is what our Savior did and he is our Lord. I remember he said, “Don’t you think I’m able to ask my Father for more than twelve legions of angels right now?” (Matthew 26:53). And he could have … but he didn’t. When the suggestion of taking up arms was proposed to him, I remember how he looked the person making the suggestion – ironically, a very close disciple of his – right in the eye and flatly said, “Enough of that!” (Luke 22:38) Yes, when I remember 9/11 and view it through the lens of Jesus Christ, I can come to no other conclusion than this one: resentment, slander, and violence have no place in the lives of disciples of Christ.

I remember Jesus Christ wept with those who wept. I remember “Jesus wept” with, and for, those who grieved the death of a loved one, one also loved deeply by Jesus himself (John 11:35). I remember how on one occasion, as if with exasperation and a groan in spirit, he looked “into heaven and sighed deeply.” (Mark 7:34). We know that sort of sigh. We’ve sighed it ourselves when we’ve looked toward heaven and thought, “It’s just shouldn’t be this way. How long, O Lord, how long?” We weep with those who weep. Not merely for “the Americans” who lost their lives one day in the Twin Towers, but quite deliberately for the hundreds from fifty-five other nations who lost their lives as well that same day in the same place. We weep not only for the thousands of American troops who have lost their lives in the wars spawned from the events surrounding 9/11, and the tens of thousands more who have been maimed for life or their lives ruptured and their families fractured forever, but weep also for the hundreds of thousands more who, civilians and enemies alike, have been suffered the same, or worse, and are remembered by many as only so much “collateral damage” or a “victory.” No, when true Christians weep, they weep not for our nation alone, but for the world, and with our Lord who weeps no other way.

I remember Jesus Christ praised good in whoever he saw it. It mattered not their ethnic. It mattered not their language. It mattered not their nationality. It mattered not their religion, past or present. I remember how he looked at one, not of Israel, and declared for all to hear, “I haven’t found faith like this in Israel!” (Luke 7:9) If we praise only those who are like us, how are we better than the pagans? We must mimic our Master and do likewise. We must not dole out our praise of good to only those who are most like us. We must swim against the strong, continual current of partiality and hate that envelopes the lives of so many and, instead, live lives of impartiality and love.

I remember Jesus Christ loved all, including his enemies. I shudder to say this. I’m fearful to say it, but say it I feel I must. Some of my most horrific memories surrounding 9/11 and since don’t involve people leaping from a hundred stories up lest they burn to death. They aren’t about workers sifting through and breathing the ashes of those incinerated in the flames to try and find one yet alive. They don’t revolve around encounters with those who are still struggling daily with nightmares in their sleep from terrors they experienced on the battlefield years ago. Rather, they center on hate-filled words and vengeful anger from the lips of my brothers and sisters in Christ – yes, even from some of you – about “those people.” They turn on e-mail forwards which spouted horrendous declarations not at all like the Spirit of Christ, but all in the name of the red, white, and blue. Lord Jesus, forgive us! Would that I could banish these memories from my mind forever! Perhaps someday I’ll be able to do so, but may I sooner die than forget how my Lord’s own battered, bruised, and bleeding lips spoke from the stake, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” (Luke 23:34) Lord, make me and mine like you.

I remember Jesus Christ laid down his life for everyone. I remember how he didn’t just talk about love, but that he walked all his days exemplifying God’s love. His life was pure witness to his true words and his death undeniably sealed the testimony. I remember how he said, “No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) And he did. And his “friends” were all … including his betrayer, Judas. And so I recall how that if anyone will hear God’s call through my life, it will surely only be when my life matches my Lord’s words and ways. It will only be when I lay down my own life as he did with his. I ask you as I ask myself: how else will the Prince of Peace who spoke and lived the gospel of peace, work peace through you and me unless we too are deliberate, diligent peacemakers, laying down our lives daily for all to the end that his peace would come? This I remember.

But most of all I remember Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, that he rules from heaven now, and that he will return. I remember the greatest of the good news of Jesus Christ. “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36) And indelibly stamped on my memory are his words, “I will return.” (John 14:3) Yes, this I remember; him, I remember.

My brothers and sisters. Friends and family. Neighbors and guests. Strangers and aliens. Citizens and foreigners. Church. Remember. Remember vividly. Remember demonstrably. “Remember Jesus Christ …

imminent domain (5)

Our faith is in part based on and grounded in God’s track record, what God has already accomplished in space and time. It is not simply faith in faith, or wishful thinking about the future. We believe that as God has already once raised Jesus from the dead, he can perform such a miracle again for those who love him. Christ’s history, his own real-life story, is the basis for our hope that God’s Dominion will one day come fully on the earth. Ours is not a religion based on a philosophy of life. It is based on certain irreducible facts of history, in particular the death and resurrection of Christ. If Christ was not raised, there is no point in talking about the future of God’s Dominion on the earth. If there has been and will be no resurrection, then there will be no “Kingdom come” here below in any full sense. If this is true, then Christianity indeed can at best only resign itself to an other-worldly hope for the future, for we cannot expect God to be sovereign here below over the forces of darkness, disease, decay, and death.

Ben Witherington in Imminent Domain: The Story of the Kingdom of God and Its Celebration (p.54)

sermon follow-up: pride

Why on earth would a preacher preach about such on Easter Sunday morning? Because it’s Christ’s death and resurrection that puts the lie to, and calls for the death of, all forms of human pride.

Pride is a problem for everyone, perhaps especially, Christians. If you think otherwise, ask a few folks who are yet to believe or who once believed, but quit. Pride is all around us. It’s one of the three things that make up the world’s way of thinking (1 John 2:16).

Human pride says: “I don’t need a Savior.”

To which God asks: “Do you not see my Son on the cross for you?”

Human pride says: “This life is all there is.”

God replies: “See my Son’s empty tomb.”

Human pride says: “I’m only worth as much as what others think I’m worth.”

And God responds: “I alone can determine the worth of life and I have considered you worth my Son’s death on the cross and the sharing of his resurrection life with you.”

Many, rather than understanding and taking in what God has to say to them about their worth, continue to try to live with the world’s definition of their value still in their head. But to do so is to risk driving off the road of humility into one of the two ditches of pride on either side.

The ditch of pride on the right comes from thinking, “I know better than God for I know my real worth: nothing.” However, if we see that ditch for what it is, we must be careful not to yank the wheel and over-correct our steering and so, wind up in the ditch on the other side, the ditch that comes from thinking, “Look what all I do for God.

To hold onto the world’s story as to our value (or lack thereof) and simultaneously try to be a Christian is to ultimately either have just enough religion to be miserable or to turn faith into something focused on us. In either case, pride will have its destructive way with you.

So hear the good news of the resurrection of Christ. He is risen! And that means its all about him, not you or me.

Praise God!