Teaching Series
Easter—This Changes Everything

Series: Easter: This Changes Everything
Message: Believe?
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Sam Millen
Live Wonder: Bec Reid
Live Adventure: Jess Lee
Live Beyond: Art Preuss
Live Purpose: Don Pate
Editor: Becky De Oliveira

Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.

Read: John 20:19-29 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.

Reflect: We have been focusing on the resurrection all week long, but today is Good Friday—a day even many Christians tend to ignore. I realize most Adventists don’t follow the liturgical calendar, but we cannot help knowing when it’s Easter because, like Christmas, it has become another commercialized holiday. There are baskets, chocolate eggs and rabbits, and everyone is in a rush with plans for a busy weekend.  But before I wish you all a “Happy Good Friday,” let’s just pause for a moment to consider what happened that Friday before Easter long ago, and before anyone called it “good.” It’s hard for us to comprehend the disillusionment felt by the disciples because we now know how the story ends. But from their perspective that Friday, all of their hopes and dreams had been overtaken violently by death and darkness. Their world had completely fallen apart. For us, life doesn’t always seem like Easter Sunday. Sometimes we can relate to how those first disciples felt on Friday. Yet, without Good Friday, when evil seemed to triumph, and the Son felt forsaken by the Father, we wouldn’t have Easter Sunday.

Here is an excerpt from a recent Church Times article.

Kate Bowler, a professor at Duke Divinity School, in Dur­ham, North Carolina, found herself in Houston, Texas, a few Good Fridays ago. Most churches, she discovered, were not holding services (at one, a woman manning the phone did not know what Good Friday was). An exception was Lake­wood, the megachurch run by Joel and Victoria Osteen.

“Happy Good Friday!” the park­ing attendant yelled.

Ms. Osteen said: “Isn’t it great we serve a risen Lord!” — and then showed on screen an advertisement for her book Love Your Life: Living Happy, Healthy, and Whole.

It is an encounter that Bowler recalls in her own book, Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved, which she wrote after being diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer at the age of 35, in 2015. “Everyone is trying to Easter the crap out of my Lent [40 days before Easter— starting on Ash Wednesday],” she says.

“I think churches in general are horrible at being sad,” she tells me (on Skype). “That’s partly why I’m so excited the book is coming out right before Lent, where the whole world is supposed to practise being someone like me: someone who stands on my side, and for 40 days faces down the darkness and the terrible.”

Recalibrate: Kate Bowler, a Duke Divinity School professor diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer at the age of 35 says, “Churches in general are horrible at being sad.” Have you noticed our tendency to jump to Easter Sunday? Is there any merit in reliving Good Friday?

Respond: Pray for those facing death and darkness. Pray for those in the midst of pain and suffering who cannot see any light at the end of the tunnel.

Research: If you are interested in Kate Bowler’s story, this PBS interview is worth watching (the second segment is also interesting, but totally unrelated).

Remember: “Then Jesus told him, ‘You believe because you see me. Those who believe without seeing me will be truly happy’” (John 20:29, ICB).

Sam Millen is the pastor at Anacortes Adventist Fellowship in Washington State. He his wife Angie is a schoolteacher on Orcas Island and their three children are really awesome!

Time to talk to your little one about how God is so good to us. Remember the old song “God is so good. God is so good. Good is so good, He’s so good to me?” It is time to sing it with your little one. If you have never sung it before with them, teach them the first verse and sing through the other verses as well. “He took my sins,”“Now I am free,” “God is so good to me.” Give them some examples of God’s goodness and tell them some personal stories about how God is good and how He has been good to your family through the generations.

Why an Easter egg? Have you ever wondered why we have chocolate eggs at Easter? What does a chocolate egg, or a chicken egg have to do with Jesus? After a mother hen has sat on her eggs for a few weeks, her eggs hatch and out come the chicks. The Easter egg represents a new life. On Easter Sunday, Jesus came out of the tomb, He was alive. The Easter egg reminds us that because He rose and has new life, we too will have a new life in the Kingdom of Heaven.

I love this next part: The disciples are in the room again, gathered together to mourn and comfort each other, when all of a sudden Jesus appears in the room. To walk on water is one thing (impressive nonetheless) but to just randomly appear—mind blown! The disciples are in shock, they are dumbfounded. Jesus says, “Peace to you.” That’s like saying, “Guys, relax, don’t be nervous! It’s me!” At this time, Thomas was not in the room, so about a week goes by and Jesus appears out of nowhere, again, but this time tells His disciples to touch him. It is here that Thomas proclaims, “My Lord, and my God”

Let’s get real: If Jesus were to appear right now in front of you, what would be your reaction? What would you do? What would you say?

Jesus talked about you, twice. Really. In John 17 He prayed for you (John 17:20). You believe in Jesus because Andrew and John and Matthew told stories to others and they passed it on down to you!  The second time Jesus mentioned you was in John 20 (Verse 29). In that moment, He said that you have a blessing that Peter and John and Thomas will never get—the joy of believing because you choose to and not because the proof was right in your face. “Blessed are they who have not seen but choose to believe anyway.” I think I can safely wager that you’ve never seen Jesus face to face, but if you choose to believe in Him and believe Him, you get a special affirmation from Jesus that Thomas and Andrew and Matthew will never get. Does it ever cross your mind that the disciples, when it’s all said and done, may be a little jealous of you? You were selected to live through the end times and you have chosen to believe when you see very little evidence. God likes that! Jesus honors that. Live this privilege well!

Bec Reid is a real estate agent within her family business. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and is a part of the Wahroonga Adventist Church community.
Jess Lee is an education consultant for the New South Wales Adventist education system. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and attends Kellyville Church.
Art Preuss pastors in Massachusetts at the Springfield, Florence, and Warren Adventist churches and serves in the U. S. Air Force Reserve as a chaplain.
Don Pate is “retired” in Tennessee after decades of teaching and pastoring but is still active in speaking and creating for the Kingdom.

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