Courage: Jesus returns, Holy Spirit comes, Martyrdom of the Disciples, John survival and exile to Patmos, Revelation
Peter finally understands Jesus’ message, and his faith is rewarded- Jesus returns from death, commissioning the disciples to ‘go and preach to all creation’. Days later, in Jerusalem during Pentecost and with wavering faith, the disciples pray fervently and the Holy Spirit empowers them. Their godly mission begins, but it will entail a constant battle of hatred and violence from non-believers. When new follower Stephen speaks out against Paul of Tarsus he is stoned to death. Paul, whose belief in Jewish law has led him to despise the teachings of Jesus, is enlisted by Caiaphas to remove this new group. He starts beating them into silence. But on a journey to Damascus where he believes they have gone, he is met by a vision: he sees Jesus, and is instantly blinded. In an extraordinary change of faith, Paul is baptized and begins to preach passionately about what he has received - love and forgiveness for all. He meets a young Greek called Luke, and between them they go on to write most of the New Testament. But persecution still persists– disciple James is beheaded in Jerusalem and the disciples have no choice but to scatter. The word spreads with them, far and wide - Peter reaches Rome, Matthew and Thomas further still, but are all killed for their courage. Only their written word survives. But one last miracle remains – disciple John survives death and is instead exiled to solitary confinement on Patmos where he receives a revelation of hope – Jesus is coming back. And all who have the courage to keep the faith will be rewarded.
Peter. © Joe Alblas
Jesus appears to Peter after the Resurrection. © Joe Alblas
Thomas the Apostle. © Joe Alblas
Jesus and Thomas. © Joe Alblas
Jesus tells everyone to spread the word of the gospel and ascended. © Joe Alblas
Lord's prayer concludes, wind picks up, disciples speak in tongues - The Holy Spirit has arrived. © Joe Alblas
Caiaphas and Malchus. © Joe Alblas
At the Caiaphas Palace, Malchus gives the order for John and Peter to be whipped.
John the Apostle. © Joe Alblas
Stephen, shortly before his martyrdom. © Joe Alblas
Paul asks Caiaphas for money, men and letters of introoduction in order to flush out the followers. © Joe Alblas
Paul sees Jesus and is thrown from his horse. © Joe Alblas
Paul sees Jesus and is thrown from his horse. © Joe Alblas
The conversion of Paul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus. © Joe Alblas
Jesus appeals to Ananias. © Joe Alblas
Ananais. © Joe Alblas
Ananais baptizes Paul of Tarsus. © Joe Alblas
Peter baptizes Cornelius the centurion. © Joe Alblas
Luke the Evangelist. © Joe Alblas
An elderly Peter preaches before his arrest in Rome. © Joe Alblas
Peter. © Joe Alblas
Paul. © Joe Alblas
Jesus. © Joe Alblas
They stare in shock and disbelief at the empty tomb. Peering sheepishly inside from a few feet back, they can't see footprints or any other sign that tomb robbers have been here, but they know that's the obvious answer.
"Thieves," says Peter.
"That's right: tomb robbers," adds John.
Peter steps close to the opening. A white circle of light suddenly shines inside. Peter moves toward the light and sees the unmistakable Jesus. "My Lord," he says in a hushed voice. Peter reaches forth to touch Jesus. And then Jesus disappears.
A stunned Peter steps back out of the tomb. Mary sees then look on his face. "now do you believe me?" she asks.
Peter hands John a strip of linen from the tomb. "But he's gone," John says, mystified.
"No, my brother," Peter assures hims, that old confidence suddenly returned. "He is not gone. He's back!" An exuberant Peter takes off and races down the hill. On the way, he purchases a loaf of bread from a vendor.
"What happened?" asks Matthew as the three of them step back inside the hiding place.
"A cup," Peter answers. "I need a cup."
Peter gives a piece of unleavened bread to John, who puts in slowly into his mouth. "His body," Peter reminds him. A cup is found and thrust into John's hand. Peter fills it with wine. "And his blood," Peter says.
Peter, suddenly transformed into the rock of faith Jesus always knew he could be, looks from disciple to disciple. "Believe in him. He's here. In this room. Right now."
John drinks deeply from the cup as Peter continues talking. "Remember what he told us: 'I am the way, the truth-'"
Jesus finished the sentence: "'-and the life;"
Peter spins around. Jesus stands in the doorway. The disciples are awestruck as he walks into the room.
"Peace be with you," Jesus, the risen Messiah, tells them.
"No," says Thomas. "This is not possible. There is no way you are Jesus standing here with us. This is all a fantasy, an apparition brought on by our insane mourning for a man we loved so very much."
Jesus walks toward Thomas and takes his hand. "Thomas," Jesus tells him. "Stop doubting and believe." He places Thomas's fingers into the gaping holes in his hands, and then to the hold in his side. Looking down, Thomas can clearly see the awful marks atop Jesus' feet where the spikes passed through flesh and bone, then into the wood of the cross.
Thomas doesn't know how to respond. He has traveled far and wide with Jesus, and he knows Jesus' voice and appearance as well as he knows his own. But what Jesus is asking of him is impossible. Thomas is a man of facts - a man committed to truth that cannot be disputed by emotion or trickery. He is being asked to believe that he is touching Jesus, as alive as the last time they all broke bread together in the upper room. It seems impossible. But it is real. This is Jesus, not some dream or vision. Thomas touches the wounds and hears his teacher's voice. Overwhelmed, Thomas looks into Jesus' eyes. "My Lord and my God," he stammers, tears filling his eyes. "It is you."
Jesus looks at his disciples with compassion. "You believed because you see me. But blessed are those who have not seen me, and yet have believed."
Faith floods Thomas's entire being as he slowly accepts what it means to believe that anything is possible through God. This is the faith in Jesus that will transform lives. Not seeing and yet still believing.
A Story of God and All of us
Stephen - Michael Legge
Ananias - Nick Moss
Paul - Con O’neill
Luke - Ben Aldridge
Resurrection of Jesus (John 20:1-29)
The Empty Tomb
20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
Jesus Appears to His Disciples
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Jesus Appears to Thomas
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
© New International Version (NIV)
The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13)
The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost
2 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
© New International Version (NIV)
The Stoning of Stephen (Acts 6:8-8:1)
8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.
11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”
12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
Stephen’s Speech to the Sanhedrin
7 Then the high priest asked Stephen, “Are these charges true?”
2 To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harran. 3 ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’
4 “So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Harran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living. 5 He gave him no inheritance here, not even enough ground to set his foot on. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child. 6 God spoke to him in this way: ‘For four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated. 7 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,’ God said, ‘and afterward they will come out of that country and worship me in this place.’ 8 Then he gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision. And Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him eight days after his birth. Later Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs.
9 “Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him 10 and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt. So Pharaoh made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace.
11 “Then a famine struck all Egypt and Canaan, bringing great suffering, and our ancestors could not find food. 12 When Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our forefathers on their first visit. 13 On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph’s family. 14 After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy-five in all. 15 Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our ancestors died. 16 Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money.
17 “As the time drew near for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt had greatly increased. 18 Then ‘a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt.’ 19 He dealt treacherously with our people and oppressed our ancestors by forcing them to throw out their newborn babies so that they would die.
20 “At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. For three months he was cared for by his family. 21 When he was placed outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. 22 Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.
23 “When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites. 24 He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. 25 Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. 26 The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?’
27 “But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? 28 Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons.
30 “After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. 31 When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to get a closer look, he heard the Lord say: 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look.
33 “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.’
35 “This is the same Moses they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 He led them out of Egypt and performed wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the wilderness.
37 “This is the Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your own people.’ 38 He was in the assembly in the wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living words to pass on to us.
39 “But our ancestors refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. 40 They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!’ 41 That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and reveled in what their own hands had made. 42 But God turned away from them and gave them over to the worship of the sun, moon and stars. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets:
“‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel? 43 You have taken up the tabernacle of Molek and the star of your god Rephan, the idols you made to worship. Therefore I will send you into exile’ beyond Babylon.
44 “Our ancestors had the tabernacle of the covenant law with them in the wilderness. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. 45 After receiving the tabernacle, our ancestors under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until the time of David, 46 who enjoyed God’s favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him.
48 “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says:
49 “‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? 50 Has not my hand made all these things?’
51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”
The Stoning of Stephen
54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
8 And Saul approved of their killing him.
The Church Persecuted and Scattered
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.
© New International Version (NIV)
Saul's Conversion (Acts 9:1-19)
9 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.
© New International Version (NIV)
Ananias responds to Christ with the statement, “Here I am,” echoing the replies of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, Isaiah and others when God called them.
The healing of Saul’s physical blindness also demonstrates that his spiritual blindness was healed.
Baptism is a public declaration of a private choice. Saul’s decision to be baptized immediately was important because he was publicly declaring his change of heart and life. He had previously declared publicly his hatred for Christians.
God uses us to spread his love. He used Ananias, an individual personally affected by Saul’s campaign against Christians, to demonstrate forgiveness and love to Saul.
Questions to reflect upon
How difficult was it for Ananias to go to Saul, a man known for hunting and killing Christians?
How, prior to his conversion, was Saul spiritually blind?
When were you spiritually blind? What is the difference between now and then?
Why do you think God chose an individual personally hurt by Saul’s prior actions to be the vehicle of forgiveness and love to Saul?
SMALL GROUP GUIDE
Below is sample list of small-group study and discussion questions for small groups that use this guidebook in conjunction with The Bible 30-Day Experience DVD Study.
- Open in prayer.
- Go around the room asking everyone to briefly answer this question: "What is the most amazing thing you've ever experienced or witnessed?"
- Read Acts 2:42-3:10
- Question: "How is the description of the church's life and activity in Acts 2:42-47 different from the description of Jesus' followers in John 20:19? Why?"
- Question: "How is the description of church's life and activity in Acts 2:42-47 similar to your church's life and activity? how is it different?"
- Question: "Notice that Acts 3:2 specifically mentions that the beggar had been crippled from birth. What do you think that detail was included?"
- Question: "Notice what Peter said to the beggar in Acts 3:6. He had never said or done this before. WHat do you think Peter might have been thinking as he said those words?"
- Question: "What do you think the crippled beggar sitting in the shadow of the temple might have been thinking as he heard Peter's words?"
- Question: "Do you think there are ways your church - and you, in particular - should be or can be more like these verses? If not, why not? If so, how?"
- Close in prayer.
The Bible 30-Day Experience Guidebook © 2013 by Outreach, Inc.