Bible Study 6-5-11

Light on the Lessons

Acts 1:6-14; 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11; John 17:1-11

Seventh Sunday of Easter; Cycle A; June 5, 2011

Participant Guide

I Getting Started

1. Some 2,000 years after Jesus’ Ascension, the Christian faith is in trouble in Europe, perhaps a trifle less so in the United States, but blossoming in Africa and Latin America. In the Northern Hemisphere, churches struggle to fill half their pews. In the Southern Hemisphere, churches overflow. How do you account for this?

2. What does “spiritual discipline” mean to you?

3. How does the realization that Jesus is praying for you make you feel?

II Check the Texts

1. Acts 1:6-14

Acts is volume 2 of a work by Luke, the Gospel being Volume 1. Acts continues the story of the Gospel through the church. In the church period, the Holy Spirit replaces Jesus as the agency of God’s presence.

A. Do you understand the ascension as Jesus’ departure from the world or a shift in how he is present? What will give the continuity of Jesus’ presence? If “apostle” means one who is an eyewitness, what does the Ascension signify?

B. What sort of kingdom do you think the disciples had in mind when they asked the question in verse 6? What does Jesus answer in verse 7-8 suggest? (Clue: Luke wrote sometime around 85 AD; the early Christians expected Jesus’ immanent return.) What is the “kingdom of the present”? What is the missionary program? How does this program suggest what Acts later reveals, that the Gospel will embrace gentiles?

C. Read Luke 24:1-7 in connection with Acts 1:10-11. What do you think was Luke’s purpose in having these two figures at each crucial event?

D. Read Luke 24:50-53 in light of this passage from Acts. What do you think was Luke’s purpose in repeating this narrative?

E. How does Ephesians 4:7-13 illuminate the meaning of verses 7-8?

2. 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11

A. 1 Peter passages in earlier weeks have held up the virtue of suffering when one is not at fault. In this passage, how would you identify that suffering? What suggests that this kind of suffering is to be expected? Why can it be a source of joy?

B. How would you describe what you read in 5:6-9? For what does this program prepare one? How effective do you think it would be? What in this advice strikes you as worth applying today?

C. Check these citations: James 4:7b, Luke 9:24, Matthew 6:25-34. Match them to corresponding verses in 5:6-9.

D. Study the four verbs in verse 10 that describe what God will do for you (restore, support, etc.). How do you see God effecting each of these actions in your life?

E. How do you understand the closing benediction (verses 10-11)? Select and defend one of these options: (1.) After you suffer for a while, you die and go to heaven and are blessed; (2) Suffering won’t last forever and will strengthens your spiritual character in this world; or (3) your own choice.

3. John 17:1-11

This last chapter (17) of Jesus’ Farewell Discourse is called the High Priestly Prayer. In this prayer Jesus prays for his immediate disciples and for us, his church (see Hebrews 7:25).

A. This reading presents part of the High Priestly Prayer and can be divided into three sections: 1-5, 6-10, and 11. Give each section a title.

B. Scholars generally agree that Jesus’ words in John’s Gospel reflect more of John’s literary style than Jesus’ own pattern of speech. Study this passage carefully. What verse seems out of place if the words given here were actually spoken by Jesus?

C. Describe what you think is the meaning of the glorification of which Jesus speaks in verses 1-5.

D. Summarize what Jesus is saying here about you, as part of the church.

E. What is Jesus’ hope for his disciples (the church) in verse 11b? What do you think this means?

What Does It All Mean?

1. How have you experienced God’s activity in your life this week?

2. From your own knowledge, tell of times when persecution has led to great growth in the Church.

3. In the New Testament, women play a prominent role both in Jesus’ ministry and the life of the early Church, not to mention the contemporary Church. Yet “official” apostles and leaders are male. How do you explain this?

4. How do you think about the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life? What do you look to the Holy Spirit to do in your life? “The Holy Spirit makes real the things of God.” What do you think of that statement?

5. Imagine that you are giving advice to new Christians, after the pattern of 1 Peter 5:6-9. What four or five items of advice would you consider most important to share?

6. “We think we have it easy as Christians in this country because we aren’t persecuted. But that’s an illusion born of our sloppy faith. If we really took discipleship seriously and began to speak and live Christ’s word with boldness, we would soon enough have the powers-that-be on our backs.” What do you think about that statement?

7. A great deal of effort has gone into the ecumenical movement, to bring the fractured Church together as Jesus prayed in John 17:11. In what ways do you cooperate with other local congregations, especially those of different traditions? How could shared ministry and mutual respect be enhanced?

IV Into the Week

1. You go home and someone asks, “What did you learn today?” What do you reply?

2. Take Peter’s advice seriously (verse 5:6). Choose a discipline (reading a Psalm each day, reading a Gospel chapter, praying for five minutes, meditating on Jesus’ prayer for you, praying the Creed upon rising and the Lord’s Prayer upon retiring, or whatever seems good to you). Practice that discipline daily this week. (You may find it such a blessing that you continue it into the future!)

 

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