1.In what ways has your healthy fear of God helped you to grow in Christ?
It is very appropriate to fear God because of who He is: all-knowing, all-powerful, the only judge, etc. Yet a healthy, reverential fear is not the same as a morbid, paralyzing fear. Ask the class to give examples of these two kinds of fear. One possibility is our reaction to the electricity in our houses. We have a healthy appreciation both for electricity’s ability to harm and to power our appliances.
2.What are some typical reactions to death or the topic of death? In what ways does knowing of the resurrection of Jesus make facing death easier for you?
Reactions can be wide-ranging: resignation, shock, grief, avoidance, nervous humor, etc. Read 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 and ask students if they have ever experienced the same struggles the apostle Paul describes. Ask under what circumstances students would rather stay on earth and under what circumstances would they rather go to be with Jesus. Be prepared for a time of in-tense, emotional sharing.
3.Many believers who live in dire circum-stances long to be with the Lord, while those who are well off sometimes put a lot of time and money into living on earth as long as possible. How can the church help both types stay focused on hope in Christ through His resurrection while remaining grounded in the present?
The mistake of both groups is to focus too much on the here and now. Those in dire circumstances dwell on what they lack; those who are well off may hold tightly to possessions and relationships as if they owned them.
Jesus prayed for His followers to be able to live in the world without becoming attached to the world (John 17:14-18). The church is to teach that believers have their citizenship in Heaven (Ephesians 2:19; Philippians 3:20) but are privileged to be witnesses for Jesus while living here.
4.How have the reactions of Mary and John in today’s text been a help to you as you review your faith walk?
The feelings of Mary and John at different times included despair, fear, relief, and celebration. Even with John’s years of personal experience with Jesus and years of walking by faith, John reacted with great fear when he saw Jesus in the vision. Help the class recognize that it is normal to have a variety of emotional reactions over time. Our strength returns when we re-focus on the certainty of Christ’s resurrection and all the power and assurance available to us(see Romans 6:5; Philippians 3:10, 11). Our confidence is in Him and not in our own strength.(Psalm 73 is a story of a similar struggle.)
5. Some say that Jesus did not come back to life. How can the church equip the average Christian to respond?
Some believe that quoting Scripture that asserts the resurrection of Christ will convince all skeptics. Still others can respond only by citing their personal experiences as proof that Jesus is alive. The church can teach specific techniques to raise the probability that a skeptic will consider what the Christian has to say. These techniques include showing patience and good listening skills to learn the skeptic’s real issue (see Jesus’ patience with both Mary and John in today’s text). Being kind is vital. Introducing the skeptics to in-depth resources written by former skeptics can help doubters turn a corner (example: The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel).
6.The meaning of Easter should not be any less important to the Christian than the meaning of Christmas. However, Christmas seems to have taken on more significance in many ways. How can the church help correct this imbalance?
If Jesus had merely visited earth and had not died taking our place to pay the penalty for sin. we would still be lost in that sin. If Jesus had not been resurrected, we would have no hope for our own resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 15). One way to help correct the imbalance is to bring the Easter themes into our Christmas celebrations. Stressing that Jesus was born into the world in order to die for its sins. Ask the class to suggest other ways your congregation can have a positive impact in this area.