When we gather as a group, these are some ways we ensure the best group discussion:
We make the circle safe by staying honest and transparent - leave the masks at the door.
We keep it inside the circle. Each person’s story is theirs alone to share.
We look to the Bible for wisdom and truth, and work together to let it shape how we see the world.
We don’t try to fix each other in front of each other or give unsolicited advice. We lovingly save hard conversations for private moments.
We respect each others’ time by starting and ending when we say we will.
We believe that in Jesus Christ, there is hope for everyone.
Easter is all about the foundation of our faith - that Jesus predicted his own death and resurrection, pulled it off, and then invited us to share in that new life. He didn’t come to make bad people good - he came to make dead people alive.
And for the full effect of an Easter celebration, here are “The Greetings” that Mike ended the message with!
Here is what we acknowledge:
There was a man named Jesus.
He taught like nobody ever taught.
He lived like nobody ever lived.
He loved like no one has ever loved.
He especially had a heart for people who were on the margins (for the sick, for the sinners, for the forgotten poor, for the despised rich, for the disliked soldiers, for the excluded).
On Friday, His great courage got Him arrested.
His great love led Him to the cross.
His great heart stopped beating.
On Friday, that which looked like a horribly tragic ending to such a wonderful life turned out to be the greatest sacrifice of love in the history of our world.
On Sunday, a stone got rolled away.
On Sunday, death lost its sting. Grave lost its victory.
On Sunday, hell was defeated. Death was dethroned. Darkness was derailed. The devil was de-motivated.
On Sunday, the tomb was emptied and hope got fulfilled.
On Sunday, faith was vindicated. The prophets were validated. The soldiers were aggravated. The disciples were animated.
On Sunday, sin lost. Shame died. Hope soared. Love won.
On Sunday, you got something beyond yourself to live for, something beyond your life to die for, something beyond your death to hope in after you die.
This is, therefore, the central proclamation of the greatest victory, over the darkest enemy, by the noblest hero, for the loftiest cause in all of human history.
If anything in this sorry, dark world is worthy of celebration, it is that HE IS RISEN!
EVERYONE: He is risen indeed!
Remember, the questions are not a checklist to be completed, or in the perfect order! They’re simply guardrails to help you have a natural discussion about what we learned on Sunday.
Connect with each other
Growing up, what kind of holiday was Easter for your family? Was it more bunny or more Jesus?
If it was “more bunny” than Jesus growing up, how has Easter changed for you as you’ve started following Jesus or attending church?
Connect with the Message
NOT the time for convincing
The big goal of a great discussion is to connect with each other deeply and encourage each other’s growth.
If that’s true, that means the big goal is NOT right theology.
Jesus’ resurrection is the most important event in history, and the most important thing a person could ever believe. It’s the hinge and foundation of our entire faith.
And that is EXACTLY why you shouldn’t try to convince anyone of its truthfulness if they share that they struggle to believe it.
Keep the space open for sharing - openness is more important than accuracy. Just take it in stride, and reach out later. Set up a lunch or coffee to talk more, hear more, and ask more. Pray for them.
Faith in Jesus’ resurrection is not something that shows up out of the blue or changes because of one unsolicited, convincing apologetic. But it can come through the patient, compassionate, and intentional love of a good friend.
Nobody expected NO BODY
If you are or ever have been skeptical of Jesus’ coming back from the dead, you’re in good company! Not a single one of Jesus’ followers and closest friends expected that He was coming back - they thought the story was over.
Even when Jesus walked in the door where his disciples were hiding after his death, they thought he was a ghost - they still needed convincing! What’s your journey been like with Jesus coming back from the dead?
When you have doubts about God, how do you go about investigating them?
Jesus waited (Read John 11:1-6, 17 for context)
One of Jesus’ closest friends was on his deathbed, and Jesus decided to wait instead of going to him right away. No one knew why, everyone was confused, and Lazarus ended up dead.
When in your life have you felt like God was waiting when you needed him?
Did he show up eventually in the way you expected, or some other way? Or are you still waiting?
Do you believe this? (Read John 11:17-27 for context)
When Jesus does finally show up, and Lazarus has been dead for four days, Martha is clearly not happy with him. She believes that Jesus could’ve healed him, if only he had been there - now she only has a faint future hope that she’ll be reunited with him someday. But Jesus responds and we don’t just have a future hope - we have a present hope. A hope that redeems today, not just one that saves us when we die.
Jesus’ question of “Do you believe this?” to Martha still applies to us today. What’s the difference between Martha’s future hope and Jesus’ response about present hope?
Mike described hope as the confident expectation that God is willing and able to do what He’s promised to do. What does that kind of present hope look like in our everyday lives?
What did God actually promise?
Keep an eye out in this discussion for what kind of promise people are hoping in.
Resurrection starts with death. That’s the bad news that begins the best story ever in history.
It’s easy to have hope that God will change my circumstances. It’s actually pretty common.
When we hope for new circumstances, our faith and trust in God becomes dependent on the circumstances. “Once the situation changes, I’ll know God cares. I’ll know He’s real. I’ll know He loves me.”
But Lazarus and Jesus’ stories tell us something different. Because death comes first in Jesus’ story - and that’s how we know that God doesn’t promise changed circumstances. He promises changed people. Resurrection is a way of life. A promise that we can be made new no matter what the circumstances.
It’s not something to police - but if you’re looking to care for people well and know where to ask great questions, listen well for this kind of hope.
Mary ran TO him (Read John 11:32-37 for context)
Lazarus’ sister Mary runs to Jesus and falls at his feet, convinced that He could’ve saved Lazarus if only he had come sooner. And if we’re honest, we’ve all experienced the death of something in similar ways.
Mary is disappointment and angry at Jesus, but she runs TO Him instead of from him. When you experienced sickness, death, or disappointment, what makes it hard to run TO him instead of from him?
The first thing Jesus did for Mary was weep with her. Why is this such an important detail of the story? What does it tell us about Jesus?
Death to life
Jesus didn’t just come back from the dead - he invited us to do the same. God has made a way for what is dead in us to become alive, no matter how bad “you stinketh”. Jesus is a way better savior than you are a sinner.
We get that mixed up often - down deep, we start thinking we can out-sin Jesus’ forgiveness. What are the practical signs that someone has started thinking this way?
Where do you need his power to show up in your weakness? What’s a place of death in your heart or life that you need resurrection power?
READ. PRAY. DO.
Start with the video below! It overviews half the book of Luke, including the crucifixion and resurrection story.
Then read the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. But as best you can, put yourself in the shoes of his disciples. Experience the story through their eyes and imagine the implications that faced them when Jesus walked in the door three days later.
Pray this prayer on your own, or use it to kickstart your own personal prayer time.
(Adapted from Isaiah 53, Philippians 2, and Colossians 1)
Jesus, you are an infinitely better savior than I am a sinner. You were despised and rejected by the ones you came to save. You took up our pain, you bore our suffering, were pierced for our sins, and crushed for our rebellion. Your punishment brought us peace, your wounds brought us healing. We’ve all gone astray like lost sheep, gone our own way and refused to follow you.
But after you suffered, after you carried the weight of our shame on your able shoulders, after you traveled to the darkest place of death that haunts us all: the light of life returned to you. You were exalted to the highest place, seated next to the Father, and given the name above every other name.
But you didn’t stop there. You invited us, your alienated creation, your enemies, to be reconciled. Holy. Blameless. Free.
Father, let our old selves die with our savior. Let the old fall in the farthest depths of the ocean. Make us new. Give us life. Teach us how to live like resurrected people.
Investigate a doubt
Everyone has doubts - they’re not wrong to have! Faith is fueled by doubts, because they push us toward the source of the answers. Own up to a doubt you have about God, and make a plan to start investigating it! Do some research. Ask a trusted friend to investigate with you. Pray through it. Move toward it and see how God responds!