7. “This same Jesus will come back”

A Bible study by Paula Yingst

One thing we can say for sure about Jesus, in addition to the fact that he is the Son of God: He was full of surprises. I can only imagine what it would have been like for those closest to him to awake every morning and wonder, How will the Teacher surprise me today?

Of course that applied to Jesus’ resurrection and everything that startled so many individuals witnessed between that event and his totally unexpected “final act” — rising into the clouds before his disciples’ eyes! Talk about jaw dropping …

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.  “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:6-11)

That wasn’t the first time they had heard about THE SON OF MAN / SON OF GOD and clouds. Here’s what Matthew documented in chapter 24 …

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

Jesus answered: Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.  You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of birth pains.

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.   And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel  [Daniel 9:27;11:31; 12:11] … then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again….  See, I have told you ahead of time.

“Immediately after the distress of those days

“‘the sun will be darkened,
    and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
    and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ [Isaiah 13:10; 34:4, Joel 2:28-31]

Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth  will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.  And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” (Matthew 24:3-31)

That will indeed be “jaw dropping” for those who survive “the great distress” and see the fulfillment of what the “two men dressed in white” prophesied: “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

See, we have been told ahead of time!

6. Jesus didn’t LOOK like Jesus!

A Bible Study by Paula Yingst

Jesus surprised his disciples by appearing and standing among them  a second time with a special message for Thomas …

“Peace be with you!” 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.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:26-29)

As Christians, we should long to experience RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR SAVIOR. But a majority of believers have DIFFICULTY RECOGNIZING JESUS. Each of the gospel writers eluded to the fact that even the people closest to him did not know who he was.

MATTHEW: “When the centurion and THOSE WHO WERE GUARDING JESUS saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified and exclaimed, ‘SURELY HE WAS THE SON OF GOD!’ (Mt. 27:54)

MARK: ” When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it. Afterward JESUS APPEARED IN A DIFFERENT FORM to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.” (Mark 16:9-13)

LUKE: Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus … They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. … Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but THEY WERE KEPT FROM RECOGNIZING HIM.

He asked them, ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’…

‘About Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. …’

He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself….

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. THEN THEIR EYES WERE OPENED AND THEY RECOGNIZED HIM, and he disappeared, and he disappeared from their sight.”(Luke 24:13-31)

JOHN: I’m going out to fish,’ Simon Peter told them, and they said, ‘We’ll go with you.’ So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, BUT THE DISCIPLES DID NOT REALIZE THAT IT WAS JESUS.

He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ … He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved [John] said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”  (John 21:3-7)

THINK ABOUT IT:  The centurion needed proof of Jesus’ true identity, and God caused  a violent earthquake to rattle his emotions. Mary Magdalene thought Jesus was the gardener (John 20:11-16); she heard him say her name and believed. The Son of God — the Lord’s avatar — appeared to two of the disciples “in a different form.” He had to “open their eyes” before they recognized who he was. And as Jesus stood on the shore of the sea, he called out to the disciples who were fishing. But it was only after their miraculous catch of fish that John was able to conceive, “It is the Lord!”

If Jesus appeared to you at a time of confusion in the world about what had happened … what was happening … and what would happen in the future, what would it take for you to recognize him?

PY

 

2. Many witnesses!

A Bible Study by Paula Yingst

The “first day of the week” was a very busy one. According to Jewish custom, that would have been the day following the Sabbath, which was from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. …

Early on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene, John (‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’), and Simon Peter were the first to look into the tomb and verify that Jesus’ body was not there. (John 20:1-9)  

John wrote: “He [Peter] saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first,also went inside. He saw and believed.” (John 20:6-8, NIV)

John and Peter went back to their homes, but Mary Magdalene stayed behind, crying. She looked into the tomb and saw two angels “seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.” Then she turned and saw Jesus standing there. But she did not recognize Him …

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.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means ‘Teacher’).

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.’” (John 20:15-16)

Mary did as she had been commanded. She went to the disciples and shared her good news: “I have seen the Lord!”

That evening, the disciples gathered. They locked the door behind them because they feared for their lives. Suddenly, Jesus stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19-20) Then he showed them the piercings that were still visible in his hands and feet.  He showed them his side, where he had been pierced with the centurion’s sword. And they were overjoyed!

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT: Before His death on the cross, Jesus said this: “I am going away and I am coming back to you…. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.” (John 14:28-29)

Do you believe it?

1. Conspiracy to misinform

A Bible Study by Paula Yingst

According to Matthew’s testimony, after Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb, the chief priests and Pharisees began to get nervous. They went to Pilate — the governor who had washed his hands in front of the angry crowd who cried out for Jesus’ death and said, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.” (Matthew 27:24) … 

 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’  So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”

“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard. (Matthew 27:63-66, NIV)

On the third day, while the guards were watching over the sealed tomb …

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.” (Matthew 28:2-4)

When the guards emerged from their stupor and realized that Jesus body was missing from the sealed tomb, some of them went into Jerusalem and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened to them….

When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed.” (Matthew 28:12-14)

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT: Matthew went on the say:  “And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.” (Matthew 28:15)

  Do you believe it?

4. They thought they saw a ghost!

A Bible Study by Paula Yingst

“Given the large portion of the New Testament written by him , it’s extremely significant that Luke has been established to be a scrupulously accurate historian, even in the smallest details. One prominent archaeologist carefully examined Luke’s references to thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities, and nine islands, finding not a single mistake.” — John McRay (The Evidence Bible, page1425)

I have always believed that John’s testimony was the “go to gospel” for details regarding Jesus’ life and ministry. But the quote by John McRay, author of New Testament Archaeology (2008), speaks volumes about Luke’s opening statement of his gospel …

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us,  just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.  With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”  (Luke 1:1-4, New International Version)

Luke adds details that Matthew, Mark, and John did not write about to each of their specific audiences.

I especially love John’s last chapter, where he recounts having breakfast with Jesus by the sea …

Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. (John 21:12-14, NIV)

Apparently the Teacher did not look the same as the disciples remembered from their three years of ministry with him. The same fact is alluded to in Luke 21 …

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.

He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

“What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him;  but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.  They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”  (Luke 24:13-32)

Then Luke tells about the next encounter of the disciples with Jesus …

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”  Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.

 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?”  They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”  (Luke 24:33-49)

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT:  I find it interesting that (1) Jesus’ risen body was not like the one that had been crucified, and (2) He was able to eat! In the final book of the Bible, we hear from an angel who announces:  “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” (Revelation 19:9)

Those who are invited to attend the supper will have bodies similar — or maybe exactly like — the risen Jesus. They will not be ghosts! They will be honored guests eating real food with Jesus, their Creator.

5. Thomas needed evidence!

A Bible Study by Paula Yingst

Matthew, Mark and Luke each mentioned Thomas as one of Jesus’ inner circle of twelve disciples. But in his writing, John went deeper, giving insight into the mindset of the man who was also known as Didymus.

According to David Reagan, writing for Learn the Bible (http://www.learnthebible.org), Didymus is Greek for “the twin.” The more commonly used name, Thomas, is Hebrew or Aramaic and carries the same meaning. So it’s believed that this apostle was actually born in tandem with a brother or sister.

In John’s gospel there are many hints about the character and personality of “The Twin.” He is first mentioned in John 11:16. Here’s that passage from  in The New International Version (NIV) of the Bible …

11 [Jesus] went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” …

16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

It seems to me that Thomas’ comment was somewhat disconnected from the conversation at that moment. We’re left to wonder what the heck Thomas was talking about. Maybe that’s WHY John included that statement — as a clue to his readers about Thomas’ personality (without saying exactly what he was thinking)!

In Chapter 14, John includes another interjection by his fellow Jesus follower …

[Jesus said] “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

I’m thinking that Thomas seemed rather skeptical and needed some reassurance. Maybe he was fishing for more details, rather than the cryptic talk he was used to hearing from his mentor and Teacher.

So now we come to John’s third mention of Thomas speaking. In Chapter 20, we read the following …

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!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

However, Thomas was not with them during this event (we aren’t told why). This is what happened when Thomas heard that the others had seen Jesus:

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 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.”

The skeptic finally decided to put his foot down! He refused to believe his closest friends when they claimed they had seen Jesus. Thomas  had abandoned his Teacher at the moment of His arrest, but The Twin was aware of Jesus crucifixion, and even though he had witnessed Lazarus rising from the dead, he would not believe! He still didn’t get it.

 A week later the disciples were back in their usual gathering house, and this time Thomas was with them …

[John 20] 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.”

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.”

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT: Maybe you or someone you know is a lot like Thomas — a skeptic who wants more evidence before committing to belief.If that is the case, you might want to memorize and take into your heart Jesus’ promise: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.”

 

 

3. Peter’s good intentions

A Bible Study by Paula Yingst

Peter was one of Jesus’ “favored” followers. He was chosen to be one of the inner Twelve apostles who stayed with their Teacher continually during His three-year ministry. He is known affectionately as “foot-in-the-mouth” Peter, because of the many times the gospel writers testified about how he often (and sometimes foolishly) inserted his good intentions — and characteristic  behaviors — into various situations throughout his journey with Jesus. 

But Peter was bold in other ways as well. For example, he was the only one of the Twelve who had enough courage to step out of the boat onto the turbulent lake and attempt to meet Jesus as He walked on the water toward them …

When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,”Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.”‘You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:26-34, NIV)

Peter was also reprimanded by his Teacher numerous times. For example …

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!”he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Jesus turned and said to Peter, Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.”  (Matthew 16:21-27, NIV)

But even though Jesus seemed incredibly harsh toward Peter, it was for good reason. He knew that His dear friend was destined to go through some terrible bouts of emotional and physical suffering later in his life, and there was only a short span of time to impress on him the importance of thinking like God rather than like a human!

For the sake of brevity, I’m going to paraphrase what happened with Peter after he was rebuked by Jesus …

  • During their time together in the upper room where Jesus and His Twelve commemorated the Passover seder together, the Savior foretold that all of His “flock” would soon scatter and leave Him. Peter boldly vowed that he would never “fall away” from dedication to His Teacher. But Jesus predicted that Peter would deny Him THREE TIMES. (Matthew 26:31-35)
  • When Jesus was arrested, Peter drew his sword and cut of the ear of the high priest’s servant! Jesus rebuked him again and miraculously healed the man’s severed ear.  (Luke 22:47-53; John 18:1-11)
  •  At that point, Peter ran away with all the other disciples. But he and John followed at a distance to see what would happen to Jesus. John (a.k.a. “another disciple”) was allowed into the inner courtyard because he was known to the high priest. But Peter remained outside at the door. While he waited, he was asked TREE times if he was a follower of Jesus — and he denied it! (John 18:1-27)

The gospel writers didn’t record where Peter went from there. He is not specifically mentioned as one of the individuals who stood at the foot of the cross throughout Jesus’ crucifixion.

But John did write about what happened AFTER the Son of God was raised from the dead. That’s because he wanted us to know that, despite Peter’s blunders, Jesus still loved him and was willing to forgive his lack of courage during the most challenging  part of their journey together

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT: Read John’s description of the scene between Jesus and Peter by the Sea of Tiberias after His resurrection (John 21), and connect the dots between Peter’s THREE denials and Jesus’ THREE declarations of forgiveness and commission of service.

A FOOTNOTE: I wrote this Bible study several years ago, before anything was in the news about Donald Trump in connection with the U.S. presidency.  Now as I read through it and compare these examples with the division that has developed between many who claim to be followers of Jesus, I think that individuals who can’t look past DJT’s human nature — BEFORE he received Jesus as Savior and was “born again” AFTER becoming President — are thinking as Peter did when he BELIEVED he was doing a good thing by rebuking the Son of God.

A FEW QUESTIONS …

How do your ingrained beliefs affect the way you feel about the man who many say is “God’s anointed”? Are you flexible enough and interested in TRUTH enough to ask Jesus for a sense of His Presence and divine wisdom.

Are you humble enough and courageous enough to accept HIS TRUTH? Not what you think you know about Him or what you’ve been taught during your lifetime. Can you step out of the boat, leave the other “followers” behind, and say to Jesus, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”

NHIM,  Paula