Ss lesson081113.commentary


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Jesus is Crucified (Mark and 1 Cor.)

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Ss lesson081113.commentary

  1. 1. 1 | P a g e Commentary Week of August 11, 2013 Jesus Is Crucified and Raised OUTLINE Crucified Savior (Mark 15:33-39) Living Lord (Mark 16:1-7) Resurrection Faith (1 Corinthians 15:17-19) Background Passages: Mark 15:1–16:8; 1 Corinthians 15 Focal Passages: Mark 15:33-39; 16:1-7; 1 Corinthians 15:17-19 What This Lesson Is About: This lesson focuses on the death and resurrection of Jesus and the implication of these events for our lives. How This Lesson Can Impact Your Life: This lesson can help you live each day in light of the realities of Jesus’ death for you and His resurrection from the dead. Overview 15:1-16:8 The King of the Jews Jesus was, doubtless brought before Pilate on charges of being a revolutionary. Jesus’ response to Pilate’s question, ―Are you the King of the Jews?" was guarded, ―So you say‖ (15:2, NRSV). Jesus was a king, but not the kind to which Pilate was accustomed (see 10:42-45). Ironically, Pilate released Barabbas, a real terrorist, and sentenced the innocent Jesus to death (15:6-15). The soldiers mocked Jesus with a purple robe and crown of thorns (15:16-17). The symbols are both awful and beautiful. Jesus embraced His role as suffering, dying Messiah with royal dignity. The inscription above the cross defined the charge: ―THE KING OF THE JEWS‖ (15:26). The cross redefined the meaning of Messiah. Jesus taught His disciples that ―those who want to save their life will lose it‖ (8:35). At the cross, the crowds jeered for Jesus to do just that—save His own life (15:30). However, Jesus believed what He taught His disciples: Those who lose their life for the sake of what God is doing in the world will save it (8:35). Jesus could face the cross because He trusted God with His life. Ironically, the Jewish leaders confessed that Jesus had saved others (15:31). Their insult, ―He can’t save himself,‖ was a great half truth. Jesus could not save Himself and still trust God and submit to the necessity of His death. Jesus’ cry, ―My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (15:34) points to the sense of abandonment Jesus experienced when He bore our sins (15:34). It would be a mistake to think God aloof from the cross event. The tearing of the temple veil ―from top to bottom‖ (15:38) demonstrates that ―God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ‖ (2 Cor 5:19). Strangely, when Jesus felt God was farthest from Him, a centurion saw clearly that Jesus was God’s Son (15:39). God doubtless was pleased with Him (1:11; 9:7). The women who had followed Jesus from Galilee accepted His suffering and death but ―from a distance‖ (15:40). Joseph of Arimathea exhibited boldness when the most a disciple could do was see-to Jesus’ proper burial (15:42-46). Arimathea. The women’s desire to anoint Jesus’ body though appropriate at another time (14:3-9) was not the proper response for Easter morning disciples (16:1-2). The ―young man‖ seated at the empty tomb said it all (16:5-6): ―You’re looking for Jesus in the wrong place; God has raised him from the dead; he’s not here!" God had vindicated Jesus. The message for the disciples (16:7) points to restoration after they had denied and abandoned Jesus.
  2. 2. 2 | P a g e The oldest manuscripts of Mark end at 16:8 with the women silent and fearful. Mark might be termed ―the Gospel of loose ends,‖ for Mark often pointed ahead to promises that are only fulfilled outside his story. That God would raise Jesus from the dead following His suffering and death and that Jesus would then meet His disciples in Galilee are but two such promises. Mark doubtless knew traditions relating the fulfillment of such promises; he would have had no reason to write a Gospel had he doubted these promises. That he left these ―loose ends‖ suggests that for Mark the ―Jesus story‖ is not finished until it is finished in you and me through our bold witness to the resurrection. 1 Cor. 15:1-58 Concerning the Resurrection 15:1-19 The Resurrection Paul knew that at Corinth there were doubts about the resurrection. He affirmed that the resurrection of Jesus is essential for the gospel message (15:1-11). The consistent testimony of the church was that Jesus died for our sins, rose again, and appeared to numerous witnesses. Paul pointed out that if the Corinthians consistently maintained their anti-resurrection argument, Christ could not have been raised. If Christ has not been raised, there is no hope, and all gospel proclamation is in vain. 15:20-34 Resurrection for Believers However, the resurrection of Christ carries with it the promise of resurrection from the dead for all believers. Just as the firstfruits presented to God on the first day of the week following Passover guaranteed the coming harvest (Lev 23:9-11), so Christ’s resurrection guarantees the resurrection of believers (1 Cor 15:20-28). The hope of the resurrection encourages men and women to become Christians. The same hope provided Paul with boldness to proclaim the gospel and endure the suffering that accompanied his calling (15:29-34). 15:35-58 Resurrection Body The resurrection body will be one adapted to its new spiritual environment. The physical body is weak, dishonorable, and perishable. It will be raised in Christ as spiritual, glorious, powerful, and imperishable (15:35-50). The resurrection will take place when the last trumpet sounds. With genuine excitement, the apostle shared his real hope: the transformation of the dead who will be raised. Those alive at Christ’s coming will also be transformed ―in the twinkling of an eye‖ (15:52). Thanks to the victory of Christ, death will be finally abolished. This is great encouragement for all believers to persevere faithfully in the Lord’s service, knowing that ―labor in the Lord is not in vain‖ (1 Cor 15:51-58). Introduction We have heard self-sacrifice stories of a mother dying while protecting her children from a fire or a soldier falling on a grenade to shield his buddies from its blast. We are moved by great acts of heroism and courage because they occur so infrequently and because of the degree of self-denial for the sake of others’ well-being. Jesus’ death is the ultimate example of self-denial for others’ well-being. His cross is at once the most painful and the most triumphant part of God’s Story. He died so we might live; He gave Himself for us. John the Baptist had described Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). In the Revelation, we are told “the Lamb will conquer them because He is Lord of lords and King of kings” (Rev. 17:14). In addition, Paul wrote, “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Rom. 5:8). Crucified Savior (Mark 15:33-39) 33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lemá sabachtháni?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” 35 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “Look, He‟s calling for Elijah!” 36 Someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, fixed it on a reed, offered Him a drink, and said, “Let‟s see if Elijah comes to take Him down!”
  3. 3. 3 | P a g e 37 But Jesus let out a loud cry and breathed His last. 38 Then the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom. 39 When the centurion, who was standing opposite Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, “This man really was God‟s Son!” According to early tradition, John Mark was with Peter in Rome when the great apostle was about to face his own crucifixion. In those final days, Peter shared his memoirs of Jesus with his younger apprentice. The result was the Gospel of Mark, perhaps the earliest of the four accounts of Jesus’ ministry on earth. A prominent theme in the Gospel is persecution. Just as Jesus was persecuted, He predicted persecution for those who dared to follow Him (Mark 13:9-13). As Peter spoke, Mark wrote. Jesus was nailed to the cross at nine in the morning (15:25). For three hours, He writhed in agony as on-lookers yelled insults at Him and the religious leaders mocked Him. He endured the pain and insults for us. When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. Almost as if nature joined in the bleakness of those gruesome hours, darkness enveloped the whole land. Darkness often symbolized evil. Had evil triumphed? To those present, the darkness would have been foreboding and ominous. In earlier parts of God’s Story, darkness portended divine judgment as the three days of darkness preceding the death of the Egyptians’ firstborn (Ex. 10:21-23) or Amos’s description of the Day of the Lord as a day of darkness and not light (Amos 5:18-20). Over the whole land referred to a considerably large area, most likely the region of Judea. The darkness lasted until three in the afternoon, the time of Jesus’ death. At three, Jesus quoted Scripture! To be sure, He was heard, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, a phrase used of Stephen at his death as well (Acts 7:60). The passage Jesus quoted comes from Psalm 22:1. Mark translated the Aramaic “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” for his Gentile readers, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” The crucial interpretive issue is why Jesus quoted this passage at this time. At face value, we might argue in His humanity, Jesus felt forsaken or abandoned by God. After all, He had never sinned, yet He died as a criminal between two criminals (Mark 15:27). Some have cited that God’s “eyes are too pure to look on evil” (Hab. 1:13) to contend God had forsaken Jesus because He had the world’s sins upon Him on the cross. Mark previously had highlighted the loneliness Jesus felt as He progressed toward the cross. In Gethsemane, His closest disciples slept while Jesus agonized over His coming crucifixion (Mark 14:32-42). Another view focuses on Psalm 22 in its entirety. The psalm begins with the words Jesus quoted on the cross. The psalm recounts the torments of an unnamed individual. In the midst of the ghastly details, the individual maintains faith in the Lord. At one point in the midst of agony, the psalmist declared, “He did not hide His face from him but listened when he cried to Him for help” (Ps. 22:24b). Every Christian should read this psalm in its entirety. Believers will be astonished at how many parallels exist between Psalm 22 and Jesus’ death. The crowd, primarily Jewish, at His cross would have known well both the agony and the promise of Psalm 22. We know Jesus’ death did not surprise Him as He had predicted His death earlier (Mark 8:31). In the final analysis, we might combine these views to understand Jesus’ words as an honest expression of His humanity, feeling abandoned on the cross, and as an appeal to Scripture, knowing in the end, God, not evil, would triumph. It has been argued that Jesus’ quoting of Ps. 22 was His statement that He was this person – thus, the Messiah. Some of the people thought Jesus was calling Elijah (15:35). Elijah had not died, but was taken into heaven in a chariot of fire and a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11). The Jews anticipated Elijah’s return as a herald of the messianic age, the Day of the Lord (Mal. 4:5-6; Mark 9:11-13). For Jesus, Elijah had come in a figurative sense in the life and ministry of John the Baptist (Matt. 11:11-14; 17:12-13; Mark 9:13). The crowd said, “Let‟s see if Elijah comes to take Him down!” Their scorn was based on a false understanding of Jesus’ words and readily poured out on the One giving His life for them. Yet, Jesus had not called on Elijah; He had quoted Scripture. To take Him down meant “to rescue Him.” The Jewish people thought of Elijah’s return in part as one of helping those in need. As they mockingly waited to see if Elijah would come to take Him down, an unnamed individual filled a sponge with sour wine, fixed it on a reed, and offered Him a drink. The idea of lifting a wine soaked sponge on a reed suggests Jesus’ was elevated out of reach above the crowd’s heads. Romans used their crosses as billboards: cross us and we will cross you! At three in the afternoon, even as the sour wine was offered to Jesus, He let out a loud cry and breathed His last. Jesus was dead. Three in the afternoon was an important time for Jews. In the temple, the evening sacrifices were being made as people came to pray.
  4. 4. 4 | P a g e That particular Friday, something else happened: the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom. Remember the curtain, also called the veil, from our lesson on the tabernacle (Ex. 26:31-33; June 30)? The curtain separated the holy place where priests could go from the most holy place where only the high priest could go once a year on the Day of Atonement. Jesus’ death on the cross coincided with the splitting of the curtain, symbolizing three things. Note that the curtain was split from top to bottom, not bottom to top; this indicates that it was not a natural force that split it. First, the way of access to God had been opened by Jesus’ death. From this point forward Jesus, not the temple priesthood, would be one’s access to God’s throne (Heb. 4:14-16). Second, the temple-based sacrificial system was invalidated (9:8-15). Third, the ruined curtain foreshadowed the destruction of the whole temple some 40 years later at the hands of the Romans. Meanwhile, the centurion, … standing opposite of Jesus’ cross, proclaimed, “This man really was God‟s Son.” The centurion led 100 soldiers. His job that Friday was to oversee the successful crucifixion of three prisoners. He was a Gentile. His confession was deliberate and marks the second climatic statement of Mark’s Christology, the first being the inadvertent allusion to Jesus being “the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One,” by the high priest (Mark 14:61). The centurion’s confession foreshadowed the day many other Gentiles would make the same discovery.1 What about us? Do we fully understand the meaning of the split veil or the centurion’s confession? Because of His death on the cross, Jesus gave us unhindered access to God. God‟s Son is our Savior, our Lord, our life. Living Lord (Mark 16:1-7) 1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so they could go and anoint Him. 2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they went to the tomb at sunrise. 3 They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance to the tomb for us?” 4 Looking up, they observed that the stone —which was very large —had been rolled away. 5 When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; they were amazed and alarmed. 6 “Don‟t be alarmed,” he told them. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has been resurrected! He is not here! See the place where they put Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples and Peter, „He is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see Him there just as He told you.‟” Jesus died, but His death was not the end of God’s Story. Mark related what happened that weekend. When the Sabbath was over, sundown on Saturday, three of Jesus’ followers, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome [suh LOH mih] bought spices, so they could … anoint Him. The aromatic spices were used to offset the stench of decaying bodies. To anoint the corpse with spices was an act of devotion. The purchase of spices indicates the women did not anticipate Jesus’ resurrection. The first day of the week refers to Sunday. Having purchased spices the evening prior, the women went to the tomb. Very early in the morning usually indicates the last night watch, 3:00-6:00 a.m.; the women went toward the end of the watch, at sunrise. On their way, the women engaged in an understandable conversation. They had seen Jesus placed in the tomb and the massive stone rolled in place to seal the tomb (15:46-47). To protect the corpse from tomb raiders, the tomb was sealed with a round stone rolled in a trench to block the entrance to the tomb. Many examples of such tombs exist in Israel today. Thus the women questioned one another, “Who will roll away the stone?” They could not anoint Jesus’ body without access to the tomb. Thus, the stone was a major barrier to their intended expression of respect for Jesus. For us indicates the women did not feel capable of moving the stone themselves. When they arrived at the tomb, they discovered the stone had been rolled away. They worried about a problem God already solved! Their worry was based on what they knew. The stone blocking access to the tomb was very large. Thus, Mark 16:3-4 reveals a real human tendency to worry about problems that do not exist. Looking up, the women observed that the stone had been rolled away. May we too look up and observe the marvelous work of God on our behalf.
  5. 5. 5 | P a g e They were in for another surprise. Just as there was no stone blocking access to the tomb, there was no body to anoint with spices. Instead, they saw a young man dressed in a long white robe. Mark intended to convey the idea of an angelic messenger, present to convey divine truth. Matthew clearly reflected this (Matt. 28:5). The significance of sitting on the right side is not fully known. Minimally, it adds historical detail, emphasizing the authenticity of the eyewitnesses’ account. However, if one accepts the assumption as do some that the so-called “Garden Tomb” is the actual burial tomb of Jesus, you will notice that the burial chamber has a place for 2 corpses but the place on the right is not yet finished, indicating that the tomb was used before it was fully ready for Joseph of Arimathea to use When the women entered the tomb, they were amazed and alarmed. The phrase amazed and alarmed renders a single Greek word unique to Mark’s Gospel and used for both the crowd’s amazement of Jesus (Mark 9:15) and for Jesus’ distress in Gethsemane (14:33). The Holman Christian Standard Bible’s use of amazed and alarmed indicates both the women’s unexpected encounter with the angelic young man and his proclamation of Jesus’ resurrection. The young man dispatched his message, first having told them, “Don‟t be alarmed” (same Greek word as in 16:5). The divine message consisted of four parts. First, the young man acknowledged the women’s mission; “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene.” He was an informed messenger of God sent specifically to instruct these women on this occasion. Second, he identified Jesus as the One “who was crucified.” This notice was a deliberate reminder Jesus really had died. To appreciate Jesus’ resurrection, we must be reminded of His death. Third, he announced, “He has been resurrected! He is not here!” The word resurrected renders the Greek verb meaning “to raise up.” The statement “He is not here!” referred specifically to the tomb; living people have no use of tombs. The young man then invited the women to “see the place where they put Him.” Never in history has an empty place conveyed a greater reality than the empty tomb proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The final part of the young man’s message to the women was a directive. They were to go and tell His disciples Jesus was going ahead of them to Galilee. In Mark’s Gospel, Galilee was the place of Jesus’ most successful ministry and the place where Jesus called most of His disciples; to go there to commission them for their ministries was appropriate. The young man specifically singled out Peter, who had both emerged as the lead disciple in various episodes throughout Mark’s Gospel and so forcefully denied knowing Jesus. Understandably, Jesus would want Peter to come for reconciliation and to lead in the mission to the world. Also, the directive for the disciples to meet Him in Galilee would have given credibility to the women’s confession since Jesus had previously told His disciples that was what He would do (14:28). How does Jesus’ resurrection apply to us? First, we can acknowledge the resurrection as evidence Jesus is God’s Son, not merely a man. Second, we can rejoice because Jesus is our living Lord, allowing us to have a personal relationship with Him. Third, we can recognize Jesus’ victory over sin and death. Finally, we are privileged with the responsibility of telling others the good news; the Leader of the free world is alive! Resurrection Faith (1 Cor. 15:17-19) 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Therefore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. 19 If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians between A.D. 54-56 from Ephesus during his third missionary journey. He sought to address a variety of problems and issues Corinthian believers were facing. In chapter 15, Paul wanted “to clarify” for them the gospel (15:1): a. “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (v. 3), b. “He was buried” (v. 4a), and c. “He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (v. 4b). In spite of his earlier teaching, some Corinthians were saying, “There is no resurrection of the dead” (v. 12), a denial of a general resurrection. But Paul proclaimed Jesus was “the firstborn from the dead” (Col. 1:18). If resurrection were not a reality, then neither could Jesus have been raised from the dead.
  6. 6. 6 | P a g e To counter this false doctrine, Paul enumerated seven negative consequences if Christ has not been raised (1 Cor. 15:13-19): 1. Christian “proclamation is without foundation” (v. 14a). 2. The Corinthians’ faith is without foundation (v. 14b). 3. The apostles would be “false witnesses about God” since they testified God had raised up Jesus (v. 15). 4. Believers’ faith would be “worthless” (v. 17a). 5. Believers’ would still be in their sins (v. 17b). 6. The dead in Christ “perished” permanently (v. 18). 7. Christians would be the most pitiable people on earth if their hope is limited to this life alone (v. 19). The Corinthian believers had a lot at stake in believing the doctrine of Christ’s resurrection. Richard Pratt views the first three consequences as describing the foolishness of being a Christian if Christ was still dead. He then indicates the last four consequences pointed to “the pain and loss that Christians would suffer,” with 15:16 serving as an emphatic pause to divide the two lists.2 We now turn our attention to the second list. Though Paul himself wholeheartedly embraced the resurrection of Christ, he argued from the perspective of those who doubted it. There was no if in Paul’s mind regarding the resurrection. However, since some said there is no resurrection, Paul said their faith is worthless. The term faith referred to all they believed regarding Jesus. Why say you believe in Jesus and then deny His resurrection? Such faith is worthless, meaning “vain” or “useless.” Paul also reminded them without an effectual faith, they remained still in their sins—the very sins the Lamb of God had come to take away (John 1:29). Thus, without the resurrection, Jesus’ ministry was meaningless. Another painful realization had to be considered as well. If there is no resurrection then those who have fallen asleep, or died, in Christ have also perished. The verb perished renders the Greek meaning “to destroy” or “to ruin.” In Christ’s resurrection, every believer has an eternal hope of their own resurrection, even if they die before Jesus returns (1 Thess. 4:13- 18). Without the resurrection, there is no hope. One last painful realization Paul called to their attention was the Christian life without a belief in the resurrection. Paul argued if we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, limiting the benefits of being a Christian to the time we spend on earth, then we should be pitied more than anyone. The word pitied is an adjective meaning “miserable.” If Christ’s story ended at the grave, then our story will end there also. Thus, the Christian life has nothing to offer above any other religious tradition. For that reason, Paul called the Corinthians to embrace the truth, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead” (15:20a). What about us? Do we understand the validity of the Christian faith stands or falls with the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection? As believers, let us recognize the bodily resurrection of Jesus is essential to our salvation. We can rejoice that our sins are forgiven. Then, we can serve God and witness confidently because we know Jesus is alive. Biblical Truths of This Lesson in Focus • Jesus died on the cross for our sins. • God raised Jesus from the dead, demonstrating Jesus had accomplished our redemption and proving He can raise us to new life also. • We are challenged to live each day so as to affirm the reality of Christ’s resurrection. Sidebar: How These Events Fit into God’s Grand Story Jesus’ death and resurrection are the centerpiece of God’s Story. Jesus’ cross is at the heart of the Story. Earlier episodes in God’s Story have pointed towards the sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection of Jesus. Every episode that follows this climactic event points back to it. Embracing the One crucified and raised is at the core of what it means to be saved. As believers, we live resurrection lives daily. 1. James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23 in The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1991), 263. 2. Richard L. Pratt, Jr., 1 & 2 Corinthians, vol. 7 in Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville: Holman Reference, 2000), 262.
  7. 7. 7 | P a g e DIGGING DEEPER: How These Events Fit into God’s Grand Story: Jesus’ death and resurrection are the centerpiece of God’s Story. Jesus’ cross is at the heart of the Story. Earlier episodes in God’s Story have pointed towards the sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection of Jesus. Every episode that follows this climactic event points back to it. Embracing the One crucified and raised is at the core of what it means to be saved. As believers, we live resurrection lives daily. How do these events fit into God’s grand story?: The victorious death and triumphant resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s eternal Son and the only Savior, are the focus of God’s grand plan of redemption. Genesis 3 records the rebellion of Adam and Eve against God’s command in the garden of Eden that brought sin and death on all their posterity. From that point onward, God worked in human history and especially among His covenant people in preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ into the world to provide salvation for those who would believe in Him. Thus, the testimony of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation is (1) that human sinfulness is so great that people can do nothing to save themselves from their sins and the eternal punishment it deserves; (2) that God sent Jesus to die on a cross as the payment for our sins that God’s righteousness demanded; (3) that Jesus physically arose from the dead in triumph over sin and death; and that (4) a sinner is saved by faith alone in Jesus alone. Background Context: After the Jewish leaders condemned Jesus to die on the charge of blasphemy, they turned Him over to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate to have Jesus executed since the Sanhedrin did not have the power to put someone to death. The charge was changed to insurrection, a crime the Romans took very seriously, since Pilate couldn’t care less about the religious charge of blasphemy in Jewish law. Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom of God were twisted to make Jesus appear to be a threat to Caesar, and thus the placard above Jesus’ head read ―THE KING OF THE JEWS‖ (Mark 15:26). The Roman’s primary means of execution for a non-Roman in a capital crime was crucifixion, and they would make a placard with an inscription (Latin, titulus) stating the crime for which the person was being executed. It would either be hung around the neck of the victim or nailed over his head on the top part of the vertical beam. Matthew 27:37 indicates that the latter was the case for Jesus. Ironically, the placard proclaimed the truth about who Jesus was and is. Although the Jewish leaders wanted the wording changed because it offended them. Pilate refused and the truth remained on the placard (John 19:21-22). ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND READING: Pilate’s Role in Jesus’ Death By Thomas H. Goodman, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church, Austin, Texas. WHEN THE JEWISH LEADERSHIP demanded that Pontius Pilate execute Jesus, it was not the Roman governor’s first experience navigating the complexities of Judean politics. Extrabiblical references to Pilate reveal a leader who became vulnerable to the emperor’s criticism as he (Pilate) proved himself increasingly incapable of providing regional stability. This vulnerability was a factor in how he handled Jesus’ trial. Pilate should have upheld Roman justice and released Jesus. In the end, however, Pilate did what was best for Pilate. This is not the only view of Pilate through the years. On the one hand, a popular view among liberal biblical scholars following World War II was that Pilate was a brutal agent of an anti-Semitic conspiracy at the highest levels of the Roman Empire. At the other extreme, some are convinced the biblical writers celebrated his conversion to Christianity.1 The real Pilate is more likely found between these extremes. In Jesus’ day, Judea was under the governance of Roman procurators, a role Pilate served from AD 26-36. A procurator was a governor the emperor appointed directly; he was to manage the military, financial, and judicial operations of strategically sensitive regions of the Roman Empire.2 The Roman government established a procurator’s residence at the harbor city of Caesarea Maritima, which was located on the Mediterranean coast (also not to be confused with Caesarea Philippi, which is about 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee.
  8. 8. 8 | P a g e Five Stories Five incidents in biblical and extrabiblical sources set the context for the stories of Pilate’s involvement with the crucifixion.3 The first incident took place immediately after his being appointed governor. The Jewish historian, Josephus, reported that Pilate’s soldiers posted standards bearing the emperor’s image within sight of the temple in Jerusalem. (A standard was a plaque or flag that someone raised on a pole—typically with a military insignia of political image on it—meant to rally or inspire people.) Regarding the act as idolatrous, the Jews demanded the standards be removed. When Pilate threatened them with execution, the protestors bared their necks in defiant willingness to die rather than back down. Pilate was the one to back down. He removed the standards to Caesarea Maritima. In the second incident, Pilate killed some Galileans who were offering sacrifices (Luke 13:1). History offers no explanation about what provoked the killing, but the incident illustrates the occasionally tumultuous relationship between Pilate and his subjects. Third, Pilate used money from the temple treasury to construct an aqueduct. The Jews objected to what they regarded as sacrilege of the temple offerings, and Pilate had the protestors beaten into subjection. Fourth, according to the Jewish statesman Philo, Pilate had golden shields hung in Herod’s Jerusalem palace. Some believe the shields bore the name of the emperor as a deity. Regardless, the Jews found the shields to be offensive. They thus appealed directly to Tiberius Caesar when Pilate refused to respond to their objections. Tiberius ordered that Pilate remove the shields to Caesarea Maritima and (according to Philo) reprimanded his procurator for the unnecessary controversy. Fifth, Josephus reported that Pilate ordered the execution of a number of Samaritan villagers who had followed a rebellious leader to Mount Gerizim. Hearing of this, Tiberius recalled Pilate to Rome in AD 36 and replaced him with Marcellus. These five incidents provide a helpful context for understanding Pilate’s role in Jesus’ death. Three leadership traits that Pilate displayed in these historical records also show up in the records of Jesus’ trial. Three Leadership Traits First, he was out of his depth in trying to introduce Roman rule into the politically volatile province of Judea. Brian McGing (professor of Roman and Greek history; Trinity College; Dublin, Ireland) considered Pilate ―neither a monster nor a saint, merely, one suspects, a typical Roman officer of the type‖ who ―displayed a general lack of sensitivity, tact, and knowledge‖ with the strange subjects he ruled.4 In her book on Pilate, New Testament scholar Helen Bond surveyed the extrabiblical sources and drew a similar conclusion: [W]hat led to trouble with his Jewish subjects was . . . Pilate’s character and conception of the role of a provincial prefect. He expected to be master in his own province, attempting to honour the Emperor by bringing Judaea in line with other provinces and ignoring the sensitivities of the people in the process.5 In Jesus’ trial, Pilate clearly sought to maintain standards of Roman jurisprudence; yet he could not understand why his efforts to release the innocent man ended up raising the threat of revolt in Jerusalem. After his attempt to shift the decision to Herod (Luke 23:5-15), to satisfy the bloodlust by a flogging (v. 16), and then to offer the crowd Jesus for Barabbas (Matt. 27:15-21), he still faced an unruly mob. Unable to uphold Roman judicial standards and maintain order at the same time, he yielded to the easiest course to stability and gave Jesus up. This leads to a second of Pilate’s leadership traits: vacillation. Pilate posted the military standards and later the votive shields in an apparent declaration of his intent to exert Roman rule, only to waver quickly when things got complicated.
  9. 9. 9 | P a g e This, too, is a trait that showed up in Jesus’ trial. Seven times in John 18:28—19:16, Pilate alternately ―went out‖ to speak with Jesus. That physical crossing back and forth parallels what must have been his mental crossing back and forth. On the one hand, after investigating Jesus he knew that to kill Him would be an abdication of the justice he was responsible to uphold. On the other hand, he knew that to release Jesus would so upset the turbulent crowd that the region could erupt in revolt. Third, the extrabiblical and biblical sources display a procurator who was vulnerable to the waning favor of the emperor. In the incident with the votive shields, Philo reported that when the Jews complained to Tiberius, the emperor wrote Pilate, Immediately, without putting any thing off till the next day . . . reproaching and reviling him in the most bitter manner for his act of unprecedented audacity and wickedness, and commanding him immediately to take down the shields.6 In the trial of Jesus, the Jewish leadership played on this vulnerability. ―Jesus claims to be a king, a rival to Caesar,‖ they said, ―If you let him go, Caesar will hear about it—we’ll see to that. Give us what we want, Pilate—kill Him for us. It’s either His life or your career. Make your choice‖ (John 19:12, writer’s paraphrase). With that, Pilate called for a bowl of water, washed his hands while saying, ―I am innocent of this man’s blood‖ (Matt. 27:24, HCSB), and ordered Jesus’ execution. After having received previous imperial reprimands, Pilate had no motivation for defending Jesus if doing so meant losing the peace—and his job. Mark 15:15 describes the actual motivation behind Pilate’s decision: he wanted ―to gratify the crowd‖ (HCSB). Some liberal scholars believe the Christian sources shifted blame for Jesus’ death to the Jews and exonerated Pilate as they (the Christians) sought wider support for their message in the Roman Empire.7 Yet, everyone involved in the unfair trial is unflattering according to the biblical stories. Simon Peter said it was ―both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel‖ who ―assembled together‖ against Jesus to do what God ―had predestined to take place‖ (Acts 4:27-28), HCSB). As for Pilate’s role, the extrabiblical resources show that he was not a leader deserving of exoneration. His general incompetence, vacillation, and vulnerability to imperial criticism were well-established. Yet by God’s plan, such a man ―handed [Jesus] over to be crucified‖ (Mark 15:15b). 1. Warren Carter outlined five verdicts that history has delivered on Pilate, from anti-Semitic villain to sainted Christian, in Pontius Pilate: Portraits of a Roman Governor (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2003), 2-11. 2. David S. Dockery, gen. ed., Holman Bible Handbook (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 1992), 628. 3. Josephus and Philo are the sources for the extrabiblical stories about Pilate. The first is in Josephus’s The Antiquities of the Jews 18.3.1, and in his The Wars of the Jews 2.9.2-4. The third is in Josephus’s Antiquities 18.3.2. The fourth is in Philo’s On the Embassy to Gaius, Book XXXVIII (299-305). The fifth is in Josephus’s Antiquities 18.4.1-2. 4. Brian C. McGing, ―Pontius Pilate and the Sources,‖ Catholic Biblical Quarterly 53, no 3 (July 1991): 438. 5. Helen K. Bond, Pontius Pilate in History and Interpretation (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998), xv. 6. Philo, On the Embassy to Gaius, in The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged, trans. C.D. Yonge (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993), Book XXXVIII (305), p. 784. 7. Darrell L. Bock, Luke 9:51—24:53, vol. 3b in Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996), 1807, n. 1. Ernst Bammel, ‖The Trial Before Pilate‖ in Jesus and the Politics of His Day, ed. Ernst Bammel and C.F.D. Moule (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1984), 447. SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 39, No. 4; Summer 2013.
  10. 10. 10 | P a g e LIFE After DEATH in Greco-Roman Religion By Sharon Gritz, freelance writer living in Fort Worth, Texas. WHEN PAUL PREACHED IN ATHENS, Greece, the people listened to him attentively until he came to the doctrine of the resurrection. Then they laughed at him with contempt (Acts 17: 18). The apostle has preached that Christ had risen from the dead and that all the dead would ultimately participate in the resurrection. The idea of the resurrection of the body struck these Greeks as ridiculous or unbelievable. The notion would have especially offended the well-educated, those exposed even in a small way to the arguments of philosophy. Evidently some of the believers in Corinth had denied that the dead would rise (1 Cor. 15:12). Paul tried to show that such a denial could not be tolerated, for the resurrection of the believer formed a basic part of the faith. It was not an optional belief. Why did the Athenians and Corinthians have such difficulty with this doctrine? Whatever an individual of the first-century Greco-Roman culture believed about life after death, it usually did not include the promise of a resurrected body. Only the uneducated (the vast majority of people in the Roman Empire) might have accepted such a belief.1 So the Athenians made fun of Paul’s doctrine, and the Corinthians questioned it. No single Greco-Roman belief about life after death existed. Instead, people held many views on this subject. The most common beliefs ranged from relatively uninterested agnosticism (the theory that denies the possibility of knowing God), to traditional views about the dead dwelling in Hades or under the earth, to the immortality of the soul.2 ―Immortality‖ means endless life or the condition of not being subject to death. Let’s survey these various views. The two most typical opinions of the philosophers (or thinkers) of the time were: (1) either the body and soul were destroyed at death, or (2) the soul separated from the body. Many educated persons, such as the Epicureans, held to the first view. They, as well as other various authors of that era, explicitly denied any afterlife.3 Tombstone epigraphs often repeated or abbreviated a joke about death, ―I was; I am not; I care not.‖4 This reflected a general lack of interest in the afterlife and a rejection of the influence of the divine in human affairs. Other tomb inscriptions carefully recorded the exact age of the dead person. This preoccupation with exact age indicated the importance of life on earth as the only life a person would have. This suggested an absence of any hope in an afterlife. Thus, many people in Greco-Roman society believed that death meant the end of human existence. They had no firm belief in any afterlife experience of personal consciousness, nor did they seem to believe that they could expect such form their gods. These men and women in the ancient world lived without any future hope.5 Those who denied any afterlife might have sought their immortality in fame. For instance, emperors and other conquerors wanted to leave some visible mark of their memory, such as special buildings. Writers wanted to leave their works signed. Also to many people their children represented their memorial, the opportunity to extend their own lives beyond death.6 The second most common philosophical view among Hellenistic-Roman religions defined death as the separation of body and soul. Even some of the most ordinary folk believed in this body/soul dualism. Many grave inscriptions expressed belief in some kind of afterlife for the soul. The Romans acquired the idea of the immortality of the soul from Plato and other Greek thinkers who had previously developed the concept.7 A number of views existed concerning what happened to the soul when separated from the physical body. Some people believed in an afterlife within the tomb. The tomb represented the house of the dead. Tombs and the interiors of sarcophagi (stone coffins) were constructed to resemble a home. The phrase ―eternal home‖ often appeared on tombstones of that day, reinforcing that idea. People buried the dearest possessions of the dead with them, such as the craftsman’s tools and the child’s toys. Family and friends also placed offerings of food and drink in the tombs of their loved ones. They thought the dead needed these items to maintain life in the grave.8
  11. 11. 11 | P a g e Another widespread belief among Mediterranean peoples was that the dead gathered in a great cavity under the earth. Popular texts spoke of an underground region in which the dead lived a shadowy existence. The Hebrew Sheol, the Greek Hades, and the Latin Inferi basically expressed this idea. Writers of the time described the dead in Hades variously as shadows, shades (ghosts), decomposing bodies, or skeletons.9 This view represented a wretched and poor sort of survival. Death ended any worthwhile existence. Complete destruction would almost be better. In earliest times, no differentiation was made among the dead. They existed in a shadowy continuation of human life in the same situations they had had in human society. Greek teaching eventually introduced distinct departments in the underworld. This view passed to the Romans who further developed it to include the idea of punishment and a separation of the righteous from the wicked. The celestial world (the regions of either the sun, moon, or stars) became the home of the virtuous. Their spirits would rise through the planetary spheres to dwell in bright joy. The underworld became the dwelling place of the wicked, which were cast down to the darkness under the earth in order to suffer eternal punishment. An intermediate purgatory provided an after-death purification for those stained with pardonable sins. This threefold division of the universe and of souls passed to the Christians of the Middle Ages and provided the framework for Dante’s Divine Comedy.10 Other people, both philosophers and the less educated, believed that at death human beings, or perhaps only their souls, became stars or some similar heavenly bodies. They held to the idea that whatever substance made up the stars also made up the soul. The human soul returned to the state after death.11 Although the first-century Greeks held to the immortality of the soul, they rejected the resurrection of the body. For most people in Corinth, the doctrine of a bodily resurrection went against their hopes about the afterlife. Those who supported most strongly the idea of an afterlife thought in terms of the immortality of the soul. They thought of their bodies as a hindrance from whose weaknesses their souls must escape. To them the material or physical was evil. Only the spiritual, the soul, was good. To cast off the limitations of the body represented the height of blessedness for the spirit. The doctrine of the immortality of the soul depended on making this sharp distinction between mind and matter, soul and body. This view saw persons essentially as souls attached to and even imprisoned in bodies. The soul corresponded to God. It had divine, eternal qualities. When set free from its bodily prison-house with all its defiled associations, it could achieve its natural divinity or immortality. Immortality in this sense sharply differed from the mere continuing, in some unseen region, of a life resembling that on earth. To define hope in terms of a return to bodily existence was not what the educated pagan would have wanted.12 The upper classes framed their speculation about an afterlife in very refined terms. Such life belonged wholly to the realm of the divine. It lay beyond deformity, pain, or any other burden of mortal existence. Resurrection in the flesh appeared a startling, distasteful idea, at odds with everything that passed for wisdom among the educated. It made them happy to think that when their souls went to heaven, they finally would be free of their physical bodies. That on some future day they would have to take their bodies back again was not good news to them. In light of this, the Corinthians tried to modify Paul’s teaching.13 Most scholars have accepted that with the exception of some Jews and the Christians, the only people of the ancient world to believe in a resurrection of the flesh were the Zoroastrians of Persia.14 In recent years, however, some have come to believe that many have oversimplified the Greek view by focusing on the immortality of the soul. Although this view certainly dominated among the philosophical sources, the less visible popular sources did portray some kind of embodied state. For instance, Greek myth and folklore contained many stories of people returning from the dead. The Greek god of healing, Asclepius, was rumored to have restored many persons to life. Also the magical papyri contained much evidence that owners of secret, mysterious knowledge were expected to be able to raise the dead – not to eternal life, perhaps, but to life of some sort. Thus, the notion of bodies being raised again to life was not completely unbelievable to everyone in the culture.15
  12. 12. 12 | P a g e While the Bible recognizes a duality of body and soul, God deals with people in their created integrity or wholeness. Immortality conceived of merely as personal, continued beyond the grave does not measure up to the richness of blessing understood by the term in the New Testament. Christian teachings stress the unity of an individual. The Bible cannot accept the Greek doctrine of immortality of the soul because, even though the kind of life offered would be a life worth living, it would not be the whole person that would live.16 For the apostle Paul afterlife was a wonderful existence that needed a suitable body in which this spiritual life was to be lived, for without a body of some kind there seemed no way of allowing for individuality and self-expression. Believers would possess a spiritual body, a contradiction in terms to those who lived in Corinth.17 No pagan cult held out the promise of afterlife for worshipers, as they knew and felt themselves to be. Even those who believed in the immortality of the soul did not have the hope of which Paul spoke, the hope that expressed the belief of a divine miracle of new creation designed to eventually embrace everything, every part of the world created by God. Resurrection in the flesh was thus a truth proclaimed to the decisive advantage of the church.18 Today people continue to show interest in life after death even in our scientifically oriented culture. The reasoning of science and philosophy cannot account for all the rich experiences of life. We still want to know what lies beyond the end of physical existence. Many New Age, cultic, and occult groups appeal to persons because they give detailed teaching about the nature of death and the life beyond. Christians must speak clearly the biblical teachings about these things. We must refute ideas of the afterlife that teach an eventual absorption into impersonal consciousness, reincarnation, becoming a god, or that all existence ends with death. Believers can offer others a dynamic and superior alternative to these beliefs. Through Jesus Christ, we have hope now and hereafter. We have both the privilege and responsibility to appropriate and share this hope. 1 Dale B. Martin, The Corinthian Body (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 114. 2 Martin, 109; John Ferguson, The Religions of the Roman Empire (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1970), 132. 3 Ramsay MacMullen, Christianizing the Roman Empire (A.D. 100-400) (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984), 11; The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Supplementary Volume (Nashville: Abingdon, 1976), see ―Immortality.‖ 4 Wayne A. Meeks, The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983), 181. 5 Ferguson, 136; Martin, 107, 109; C. K. Barrett, ―Immortality and Resurrection (1964)‖ in Resurrection and Immortality, Charles S. Duthie, ed. (London: Samuel Bagster & Sons, Ltd., 1979), 75. 6 Ferguson, 132-33. 7 Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Williams B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1993), 233; Martin 109, 115; IDB, see ―Immortality.‖ 8 Everett Ferguson, 233; John Ferguson, 136. 9 Everett Ferguson, 233; Martin, 110. 10 Everett Ferguson, 233-34. 11 Martin, 117, 120. 12 Everett Ferguson, 572; T. W. Manson, ―The Bible and Personal Immortality (1953)‖ in Resurrection and Immortality, 38. 13 MacMullen, 12; C. Peter Wagner, Our Corinthian Contemporaries (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), 107. 14 Everett Ferguson, 234. 15 Martin, 110-12. 16 See ―Immortality‖ in Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975), 3:264. 17 Leon Morris, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1958), 223. 18 Oscar Cullmann, ―Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead (1955)‖ in Immortality and Resurrection, 46; MacMullen, Paganism in the Roman Empire(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981), 136.
  13. 13. 13 | P a g e Jesus’ Post-Resurrection Appearances By Tony Tench, an International Mission Board teacher in the Baptist Mission in Malawi. WITH THE FOLLOWING WORD LUKE succinctly described Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances: ―He showed himself to these men and gave man convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them for over a period of 40 days and spoke about the kingdom of God.‖1 A sequencing of these appearances can be outlined beginning with Easter morning when a group of women went to visit Jesus’ tomb. On the way to tell others about the empty tomb, they encountered the resurrected Lord. After these women reported their encounter, Peter and the others ran with excitement to the tomb. After the disciples had returned to their homes, Mary Magdalene remained near the tomb where she saw Jesus. That same day two disciples who had heard the women’s report, were walking toward Emmaus disappointed by the events of the weekend. On the road, they met Jesus. These two disciples returned that evening to Jerusalem to hear that Jesus had also appeared to Peter. That same evening Jesus appeared to the disciples while Thomas was not present. One week later while they were still in Jerusalem, He appeared again to the disciples, but this time Thomas was with them. As Jesus had instructed them through the women’s testimony, the disciples went to Galilee. There, while waiting to meet with Jesus; some of the disciples went out on the lake to fish. Jesus appeared to them on the lakeshore. Later, still in Galilee, the disciples gathered on the mountain where Jesus shared with them His plans for their ministry. Paul recorded that Jesus appeared to 500 at one time. This appearance may have been the mountainside event that Matthew recorded.2 If not, this appearance occurred prior to the disciples’ return to Jerusalem. Before the end of the 40 days of instruction, the disciples returned to Jerusalem from Galilee. At some point, in Jerusalem, Jesus also appeared to His brother James. Forty days after His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples at Bethany where they watched as Jesus ascended into heaven. Following the ascension, the disciples returned to Jerusalem to await the Holy Spirit’s coming. Luke also recorded Jesus’ appearance to Saul on the Damascus road about AD 34-35. Some time prior to Saul’s conversion, Jesus appeared from heaven to Stephen as he was being stoned to death. Years later, about AD 90, John wrote that Jesus appeared to him on the island of Patmos. The significance of the appearances is found in the following answers to the question, Why did Jesus reveal Himself first to those faithful women? They were with Him when He died. These women, whose ―testimony carried little if any official or legal value in the first century,‖3 represented the poor in spirit receiving the kingdom and the meek inheriting the earth. Jesus sent these humble, yet faithful ones with the message of new life. THE GRIEVING COMFORTED (John 20:10-18) Jesus next appeared to Mary Magdalene. Her tears of grief were turned into joy at the sight of Jesus. Her testimony to the disciples was an excited, ―I have seen the Lord.‖ Thus is the testimony of one who has known the comfort of the risen Lord. SCRIPTURE FULFILLED (Luke 24:13-35) Jesus found the two on their way to Emmaus disappointed because they had hoped that Jesus was the One to redeem Israel (v. 21). Jesus helped renew their hope by showing them from Scripture that He was the One; in Him, all Scripture had been fulfilled. THE FALLEN RESTORED (Luke 24: 34; 1 Cor. 15:5) Peter had denied Jesus at His trial. He had failed miserably to keep his promise to stand with Jesus no matter what. Through this appearance, Jesus forgave and restored His fallen disciple to the place of leadership the Lord had planned for him to accomplish.
  14. 14. 14 | P a g e PEACE, PURPOSE, AND POWER (Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-23; Acts 1:4) The accounts of Jesus’ appearance to the disciples on Easter evening have three commonalties. Jesus came into the midst of their fears with the promise of peace. He described for them from Scripture the purpose for which He had called them, in other words, to be sent as witnesses of His gospel. In addition, He promised them the power of the Holy Spirit who would soon some to dwell within them. DOUBTS REMOVED (John 20:24-29) By the next week Thomas had already carefully explained his doubts. Thomas wanted to place his finger in Jesus’ hand and to place his hand on Jesus’ side. Jesus appeared to Thomas to remove his doubts. When Jesus came, He offered to let Thomas do what he needed to do. He met Thomas at the place of his doubts and dispelled them. ―FOLLOWSHIP‖ RESTATED (John 21:1-23) As Jesus walked with Peter by the sea, He allowed Peter to renew his commitment to care for the flock of disciples whom the Lord had already called. Peter had regained hope from Jesus’ first appearance, but there by the lake Jesus challenged him to stand anew as the ―rock‖ in which Jesus had placed confidence. SERVICE COMMISSIONED (Matt. 28:16-20) Still in Galilee, the disciples arrived at the place where Jesus had instructed them to gather. There Jesus gave them the ―mission statement‖ for the rest of their lives. Based on His authority, they were to go, disciple, baptize, and teach, knowing all the while that their Lord would be with them. TESTIMONY CORROBORATED (1 Cor. 15:6) The significance of Jesus’ appearance to a group of 500 was to document that many people had seen the resurrected Lord. A group so large was sufficient testimony to the event. The story was not fabricated! TRANSFORMATION REALIZED (1 Cor. 15:7) Jesus’ appearance to His brother James showed the change that came from an encounter with the resurrected Lord. James and his family were not simply doubtful of Jesus’ ministry; they were opposed to it (Mark 3:21). Therefore, this appearance transformed James’s skepticism into real faith as he became the leader of the church in Jerusalem. VISION FOCUSED (Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:6-11) On the day of His ascension, Jesus helped focus His disciples vision for their future. He blessed them, bringing closure to their time together. They responded with joy, praising God for new life in Christ. Then Jesus promised them power, sending them to the rest of the world as His witnesses. ASSURANCE REVEALED (Acts 7:55-56) Having proclaimed the gospel before a hostile crowd, Stephen was stoned. He saw Jesus standing at God’s right hand in heaven. This appearance gave Stephen assurance that his death was not in vain. Because he had been faithful to proclaim the gospel without regard for his personal well-being, he would be received by the Lord! APOSTLE CHOSEN (Acts 9:3-6,17; 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:8) God had chosen Paul as His messenger to ―. . . Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel‖ (Acts 9:15, NASB). Paul would bridge the gospel was one sent with a message. Saul had been an apostle of the high priest, but this appearance transformed his message from persecution to proclamation of eternal life in Jesus! HOPE VICTORIOUS (Rev. 1:10-18) As the first century came to a close in the midst of great persecution, Jesus revealed Himself to John. Imprisoned on Patmos, John received the ―revelation‖ as a message of hope for all believers in every age who lay down their lives for their Lord. Victory over physical and spiritual tribulation was promised for all who were faithful to the Lord, ―the Living One‖ (v. 18, NIV).