Sunday School Lesson
Lesson 12 (KJV)
PREACHING TO THE EXILES
DEVOTIONAL READING: Psalm 147
BACKGROUND SCRIPTURE: Ezekiel 18
EZEKIEL 18: 1–9, 30–32
1 The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying,
2 What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?
3 As I live, saith the Lord GOD, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel.
4 Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.
5 But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right,
6 And hath not eaten upon the mountains, neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, neither hath defiled his neighbour’s wife, neither hath come near to a menstruous woman,
7 And hath not oppressed any, but hath restored to the debtor his pledge, hath spoiled none by violence, hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment;
8 He that hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase, that hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, hath executed true judgment between man and man,
9 Hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord GOD.
30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.
31 Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?
32 For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.
All souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.—Ezekiel 18: 4
PROPHETS FAITHFUL TO GOD’S COVENANT
Unit 3: Courageous Prophets of Change
After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:
1. Quote the mistaken proverb the exiles believed.
2. Explain the reasons for the exiles’ misconception regarding how God judges people.
3. Evaluate his or her preparedness to identify, avoid, and correct blame-shifting.
HOW TO SAY IT
Adonai (Hebrew) Ad-owe-nye.
Elohim (Hebrew) El-o-heem.
Yahweh (Hebrew) Yaw-way.
A. Imagined Righteousness
The phrase vicarious nostalgia refers to a feeling of yearning for a past that one never actually lived. This term could describe a person born in the 1980s who loves a 1950s aesthetic and thinks of those years as simpler and better in many ways. It can describe a desire to return to “the good old days” that didn’t actually happen the way one imagines or even remembers.
For years, Garrison Keillor hosted a popular radio show in which he told touching and humorous stories about the citizens of a small fictional town in Minnesota. Each week he closed his program with the familiar sign-off, “Well, that’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” These descriptions are obviously caricatures, meant to capture a feeling of community pride more than an attainable reality. Yet, a place like Lake Wobegon can inspire vicarious nostalgia for all of us who live more complicated lives than the strong women, good-looking men, and brilliant children of that town.
An overstated self-assessment is dangerous enough in nostalgia. However, lacking a correct view of oneself is a devastating flaw. In this week’s lesson, the exiles didn’t understand their own role in the difficult situation the nation was facing. They assigned fault to their parents while claiming their own moral innocence.
B. Lesson Context
Ezekiel, a contemporary of Jeremiah, prophesied during and after the final chaotic years of the kingdom of Judah. He was called by God “in the fifth day of the [fourth] month … which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity” (Ezekiel 1: 1–2). Jehoiachin reigned only three months in 597 BC before the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and took him, along with thousands of the most prominent and skilled people of Judah, to Babylon (2 Kings 24: 14). This detail dates the beginning of Ezekiel’s book in 592 BC.
The group of deportees included the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1: 1–3). The ruin of Jerusalem was devastating for the exiles. Jeremiah’s book of Lamentations captures the anguish that the destruction of the city and loss of human life caused (see lesson 8). Though some were left in Jerusalem and wider Judah, the survivors to whom Ezekiel spoke were those taken away to Babylon (see lesson 8 Lesson Context). They lived together by the river Chebar.
The Babylonian exile created great uncertainty about the people’s relationship with God. Could God, who had allowed His holy city to be ravaged and His people carried into exile, still care for the people? And if He still cared, could He actually take care of them in a foreign nation?
I. A Proverb (EZEKIEL 18: 1–4) A. Repeated by the People (vv. 1–2)
1. The word of the LORD came unto me again, saying.
The word of the Lord is a common phrase used in Ezekiel to emphasize that the Lord spoke to His prophet. This phrase occurs dozens of time in this book—far more often than in any other Bible book. Its frequent use in Ezekiel emphasizes that God communicated with His people even in exile. His continuing to speak to Ezekiel was meant in part to reassure the people that God was still with them in a foreign land.
My son was playing a video game. At the door of his room, I shouted, “Turn that noise down!”
No response. That’s when it dawned on me: he couldn’t hear. That’s why he doesn’t always do what I ask him! I thought.
I went into the kitchen to look up the number of an audiologist as I popped the tab of a cold soda. I didn’t get the cola to my lips before I heard my son shout, “Would you bring me one too?” He couldn’t hear me ask to turn down the noise, but he heard a soda-can tab from two rooms away! He didn’t have an auditory problem; he had selective hearing.
But don’t we all? We only hear fully what we want to hear. Like teenagers with parents, we can selectively ignore the word of the Lord. Are you really listening to God?—C. T.
2. What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?
As the exiles wallowed in the misery of their situation, now in its sixth or seventh year (Ezekiel 8: 1; 20: 1), they naturally tried to come to grips with the reason for it. In so doing, they landed on a proverb that became popular. A proverb is a short, pithy statement used to express a general truth in a memorable way. The prophet Jeremiah was also confronted with this same proverb in his situation back in Judea (Jeremiah 31: 29–30).
The Targum, a first-century AD Aramaic paraphrase of the Hebrew Bible, gives the meaning of the proverb: “The fathers sin, the children suffer.” Therefore, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge expresses the belief that those in exile (the children) are unjustly bearing the punishment for the sins of earlier generations (the parents). Claiming that their problem is inherited, the exiles deny responsibility or guilt on their part.
What Do You Think?
What old sayings do you need to let go of? Who will hold you accountable for progress?
How does Lamentations 5: 7 (lesson 8); Matthew 5: 27–28; etc., illustrate a need to do so?
The proverb has some truth to it in that the sins of one generation can have lasting effects on the next. We may think of how children suffer today when a breadwinning parent is sent to jail for a crime. Ezekiel himself pointed out that the exile was the result of covenant unfaithfulness by many generations of Israelites (Ezekiel 16). God had revealed himself as the one “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 20: 5). The exiles’ ancestors were indeed guilty (example: 2 Kings 21: 1–16). But this generation had been expelled from the promised land because of their own sin.
B. Refuted by God (vv. 3–4)
3. As I live, saith the Lord GOD, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel.
The fact that the sins of one generation have consequences for another is not the same as saying that God punishes an innocent group for the sins of a guilty group. Although there are times when the all-knowing and sovereign God deems this to be fitting, it is rare and certainly not the norm. The problem in today’s text is that the exiles specifically apply their proverb to disavow any culpability for their situation. In so doing, they can claim that God is unjust in his dealings with them (Ezekiel 18: 25–29; 33: 17–20).
What Do You Think?
In what ways will the truism in Proverbs 26: 9 guide your use and non-use of maxims?
What foundational problem do you see when you compare these two old sayings: “Too many cooks spoil the broth” and “Many hands make light work”?
4. Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.
Everyone belongs to God since He is the sovereign Creator. This included His chosen people as well as their Babylonian oppressors. His justice was not and is not limited by national borders (see Ezekiel 25–32). Therefore He has the right to declare that the soul that sinneth, it shall die. Each person is responsible to God for his or her own sin, and God will deal with each person individually. In giving the Israelites His law, God commanded that “fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin” (Deuteronomy 24: 16).
This principle applied to how God dealt with His exiled people. His judgments are fair and true. It was pointless for the exiles to insist on their innocence (Romans 3: 23). The apostle Paul echoed Ezekiel’s words by stating that “the wages of sin is death” (6: 23).
II. A Case Study
(EZEKIEL 18: 5–9)
A. A Man’s Actions (vv. 5–9a)
5. But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right.
This verse sets up the first of three case studies. The second and third, in Ezekiel 18: 10–17, are not part of today’s lesson text. For the hypothetical man introduced here to be just is another, parallel way of saying that he does that which is lawful and right. It’s interesting to note how rare it is for the Hebrew words translated “just,” “lawful,” and “right” to occur in the same verse; the only other place is Jeremiah 23: 5. Specifics follow.
6a. And hath not eaten upon the mountains, neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel.
Eating upon the mountains refers to participation in idolatrous cult practices that were common in the mountain regions (compare 2 Kings 23: 1–8; contrast 21: 1–3). These high places featured altars, often dedicated to the worship of Canaanite deities such as Baal. To look to the idols of Israel was to worship and seek help from false gods or to make an image of the true God for worship.
Proper love for God begins with worshipping no other gods (compare Exodus 20: 3–6). The righteous person didn’t turn to false gods for assistance. He or she remained dependent on God alone for health and protection.
The exiles were hundreds of miles away from the high places of their fathers’ idols. But the exiles were surrounded by the countless deities of the Babylonians. The temptation of straying to other gods remained real, especially when the exiles considered their uncertainty regarding God’s continuing care.
6b. Neither hath defiled his neighbour’s wife, neither hath come near to a menstruous woman.
The just man also was careful to stay morally pure. The Law of Moses prohibited not only adultery (Exodus 20: 14) but also intercourse during a woman’s menstrual period (Leviticus 15: 19–33; 18: 19). The penalty for violation of the latter was that “both of them shall be cut off from among their people” (20: 18). Some suggest that the reason for this restriction was because of the special role of blood in atoning for sins, respecting certain rights of women, or to maintain ceremonial purity. Whatever the reason, the righteous man observed this statute as well.
7. And hath not oppressed any, but hath restored to the debtor his pledge, hath spoiled none by violence, hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment.
The righteous man also exhibits godly love toward others. Righteousness consists of more than merely doing no harm. A just person uses his or her resources to provide for the material needs of others (James 2: 15–16). These examples are all forms of economic righteousness shown to the debtor and the hungry and the naked. These are representative of other needy neighbors as well.
We note that all the positive and negative actions addressed here are covered in the Law of Moses (see Exodus 20: 15; 21: 2; 22: 21, 26–27; Deuteronomy 15: 7–11; 23: 19–20). The righteous man never lies about or wrongs a neighbor for any reason, in careful obedience to Deuteronomy 5: 20–21. Rather, he keeps his distance from evil and all forms of judicial corruption (16: 19). In short, such a man puts God’s law above any opportunity to gain at the expense of another.
8. He that hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase, that hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, hath executed true judgment between man and man.
The economically vulnerable often found themselves (and still do today) in positions where they had no choice but to accept the terms of predatory lenders. God viewed the practice as evidence that His people had forgotten Him (Ezekiel 22: 12). He is the protector of the downtrodden, and He expected His people to be the same (Psalm 82: 3; Proverbs 14: 31).
While the wicked people took advantage of the poor in various ways, the righteous person in Israel did not charge interest on loans (usury) to fellow Israelites. And while interest could be charged to a foreigner, it still had to be restrained (Deuteronomy 23: 19–20).
What Do You Think?
If your locality had a ballot initiative to limit interest rates charged on so-called payday loans, should this text be used to influence how Christians vote on it? Why, or why not?
How do Matthew 25: 27 and Luke 19: 23 influence your response, if at all? Why?
9a. Hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly.
Here we have a sparkling example of the parallelism that is a hallmark of Hebrew poetry: hath walked is another way of saying hath kept. Likewise, God’s statutes are the same as His judgments. These same two sets of parallels of the underlying Hebrew terms are also found in Ezekiel 11: 20; 18: 9; 20: 19, 21; 37: 24. Comprehensively, the righteous person does not follow the selfish, sinful ways of others in any respect.
B. God’s Verdict (v. 9b)
9b. He is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord GOD.
God will not judge or punish the just person for the sins of others—period. We may note in passing that the capitalization of the phrase the Lord GOD indicates different Hebrew words than does the capitalization of the phrase “the LORD … God” as the latter occurs in, for example, Ezekiel 20: 5b. There are three single-word Hebrew names for God in the Old Testament: Yahweh, Adonai, and Elohim. The phrases “the Lord GOD” and “the LORD … God” indicate different combinations of these names.
III. A Call
(EZEKIEL 18: 30–32)
A. To Repent (vv. 30–31)
30–31a. Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed.
What follows recalls Solomon’s prayer that God would forgive the people of their sins and heal their land when they repented (2 Chronicles 6: 36–39). Israel’s sense of national connectedness had diminished following the division into two kingdoms after Solomon’s death in 930 BC. A sense of moral responsibility for the sins of the community followed. However, the Scriptures insist that both guilt and salvation have a corporate aspect (example: 1 Corinthians 5: 6–11). Sinful characteristics are transmitted from generation to generation. But God affirmed that He would also judge each person individually, according to his or her walk before God.
This is important enough to restate in a slightly different way. God said that He would judge the house of Israel [collective singular, corporate aspect], every one of you according to his ways [personal singular]. Although each person was responsible for his or her own guilt before the Lord, individual decisions affected the community as a whole. The collective singular house of shows that the covenant God had with Israel was corporate; it included the whole of Israel. The singular every one of you shows that the overall moral tone of the community was formed on the collective choices of individuals. The Israelites were to look not at the conduct of their ancestors but to their own. The people were to rid themselves of any and all personal sin. To repent is to avoid the judgment of death that sin brings. God would be gracious and forgive all who turned to Him in repentance.
What Do You Think?
What are some practical ways for Christians to be accountable to one another in keeping sin in the rearview mirror?
Which kinds of biblical texts most help you in letting go of sin: texts that stress the positive results of doing so, or texts that stress the negative result for not doing so?
31b. And make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?
Those in the generation experiencing exile were worthy of the judgment that also could have fallen on the prior generation. However, God was equally clear that condemnation wasn’t inevitable. He defined repentance as the rejection of one’s past sinful ways, and He appealed to the house of Israel to accept a new heart and a new spirit. God had already promised to do this (Ezekiel 11: 19).
God’s rhetorical question Why will ye die? meant that the sentence of death was not inevitable since God extended an offer of forgiveness through repentance. Each individual had the freedom to choose life or death. If the people did not have free will, then they would not have been responsible. People are capable of knowing right from wrong, and God deals with us on that basis. The blame for one’s sin and judgment cannot be shifted to God, Satan, nature, nurture, parents, or circumstances.
B. To Live (v. 32)
32. For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.
God takes no pleasure in the destruction of His creation (Ezekiel 33: 11). He wants to deliver people from their unfaithfulness and the death that it brings. He judges, but He also provides all people with the means of salvation, so they can avoid that judgment. God issues an invitation to repent and live, as He has done so many times before. He demonstrates love by his willingness to set people free from their sinful past and the punishment they deserve (John 3: 16; 2 Peter 3: 9). Yet He demonstrates His holiness by not allowing sin to continue indefinitely.
I find the reality of autonomous vehicles terrifying. Thinking about it causes me to remember a joke from the days when aviation was young.
A passenger airplane had reached its cruising altitude. A recorded message came over the speakers, reminding the passengers to keep their seat belts on. That was followed by an announcement: “The captain will soon come back to greet you. Don’t worry, the plane is on automatic pilot, and nothing can go wrong, nothing can go wrong, nothing can go wrong …”
Autonomous cars. Autonomous planes. Autonomous people. We are constantly in the presence of men and women who have wrested their lives from God and are moving forward on autopilot. How often are we numbered among them as we fight for control that is rightly only God’s? Only by repenting and turning back to God with our whole lives can we expect to be forgiven our sins and live fully.—C. T.
A. Actual Righteousness
The exiles imagined themselves to be the victims of a cosmic injustice. They viewed themselves as serving a sentence intended for the prior generation. The history of God’s people reveals that they had always been incapable of keeping the covenant. Before Moses brought the Ten Commandments down from Mount Sinai, Aaron had already constructed the gold calf and led the people into idolatry. The book of Judges outlines the nation’s checkered history of obeying God.
The exiles were not unique in their ability to view themselves as morally superior to the prior generation. Jesus called out similar duplicity in the Pharisees, who insisted that if they had been alive at the time of the prophets, they would not have murdered them (Matthew 23: 30). Indeed, they had already plotted to kill Jesus (12: 14). The apostle Paul’s words “Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3: 4) fit well in Ezekiel’s defense of God’s justice.
The hearts of the people were always incapable of obeying God fully. So God promised a new creative act: He would give the people new hearts, ones capable of being sensitive and obedient to God’s Word.
This truth was intended to prevent Ezekiel’s audience from slipping into the despair or apathy that came with believing they were the victims of their parents’ decisions. Each person was charged with the responsibility of turning from his or her sinful ways and returning to God, in order that they would avoid being destroyed by the consequences of their own sins. This is ultimately fulfilled through following Jesus in the plan of salvation. Those who do so receive the Holy Spirit, who daily recreates our hearts and minds to be like Christ.
What Do You Think?
Which thought in today’s text do you have the hardest time coming to grips with? Why?
What extra effort will you expend to resolve this uncertainty?
God, we see moral goodness in ourselves, but You see Your image marred with sin. We confess that Your assessment of our situation is correct. We thank You for providing mercy and renewal. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
C. Thought to Remember
If we cannot acknowledge God’s judgment, we will see no need to receive His forgiveness.
His Family Know His Voice
Sunday May 23, 2021
(John 20:11) But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb;
Early in the morning, Mary had gone with some other women to the tomb, where they found the stone door had been rolled away. Then, Mary went to Peter and John and told them her conclusion: Jesus’ body had been removed from the tomb. Mary must have gone back with Peter and John to the tomb. Finding the tomb empty as Mary had told them, Peter and John returned to their homes believing what Mary had said. They had seen the empty tomb with their own eyes. Perhaps they took the burial wrappings with them as evidence that they had found the wrappings, but Jesus’ body was definitely gone. Probably, the disciples and the early church cherished and carefully kept the shroud that had covered Jesus’ body. Mary stayed behind in the garden outside the tomb and continued to weep. Whereas Peter and John had entered the tomb, Mary had not. In deep grief, probably to verify for herself that Jesus’ body really was gone from the tomb and hoping it was still there, Mary finally looked into the tomb. But Jesus’ body was not there.
(John 20:12) and she *saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying.
As the sky brightened and the early morning gradually turned into day, Mary looked once again into the tomb, probably because of her anxiety and desire to verify once again that it was empty. Moreover, she could hardly believe (and perhaps did not really want to believe) that the precious body of the Lord she loved was gone. When she looked inside, she saw two angels sitting in the tomb. These angels had entered the tomb without needing to pass through the door or perhaps they had been their earlier and had chosen not to reveal themselves to Peter and John. They were divine messengers. They were seated on either side where Jesus’ body had lain, but not directly on the place where Jesus’ body had lain.
(John 20:13) And they *said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She *said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”
The two angels asked Mary a question that implied that if she had believed in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead; then, there was no need for her to be weeping. If she had understood, believed, and remembered what Jesus had taught from the scriptures about His resurrection; then, she should have been rejoicing to find the tomb empty. Of course, she would probably have still felt deep personal loss because of His absence. Instead, she told the angels what she had told Peter and John. She still thought Jesus’ dead body had been taken away by others. Mary could not conceive of Jesus walking out of the tomb as Lazarus had done. Since His body was gone, the only reasonable conclusion had to be that someone had removed His body. Since she had seen Jesus die and had helped bury Him, she knew that Jesus could not have been healed. He could not have rolled the stone away from the door. His body had to be lying someplace and she wanted to find His body and bury Him once again with a respectful burial. Mary had no expectation of seeing Jesus alive again. She only wanted to find His body.
(John 20:14) When she had said this, she turned around and *saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.
Mary had been weeping bitterly over her loss and having turned from staring into the tomb she now faced the rising sun. When she saw Jesus, she was unable to recognize Him. She did not expect to see Jesus alive, and she could barely see through the tears glistening in her eyes in the early morning sunlight. Her first thought was probably wondering if the person she saw had anything to do with the disappearance of Jesus’ body. There might have been some fear or anxiety that the person she saw was an enemy of Jesus and His disciples.
(John 20:15) Jesus *said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she *said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”
Something in His tone of voice reassured Mary as He asked her the exact same question that the angels had asked her. Because of her preconception that Jesus was dead and her belief that His body could only have been removed from the tomb by others, she supposed the one who tended the garden spoke to her to comfort her and perhaps give her information about the empty tomb she stood beside. Jewish tradition and natural human feelings would be reasons enough for her to be weeping beside the tomb, just as Jesus and the others had wept at Lazarus’ grave before Jesus called Lazarus out of his tomb. Mary insisted that she wanted to properly care for the body of the Lord she loved. The angels and Jesus asked her a question that implied she had no real reason to be weeping, for Jesus had risen from the dead as He had foretold her and all His disciples. But Mary thought they really did not know why she was weeping, and without thinking of how she would do it, she offered to take Jesus’ body from where it was laid.
The sinful fall of Adam and Eve had been in a garden and John made clear that the salvation of believers in Jesus took place in a garden where Jesus died and rose again. In the first garden, Satan had tempted Eve not to believe what God had said, so she disobeyed God. Then, Eve tempted Adam to sin as she did and eat the forbidden fruit, and he did. In this garden, Mary would believe in Jesus and do what He told her. Mary would obey Jesus and go to Jesus’ disciples and tell them to believe the good news that Jesus was alive, and that Jesus had called them “His brothers” (which would have encouraged those who had fled in fear from the garden when Jesus was arrested). Only God could have planned for Jesus to die and rise again in a garden to save us from our sins. The Bible speaks of what Adam did to the human race when he sinned in a garden and what Jesus did for the human race when He died and rose again in a garden. Because of Jesus sacrificial death and resurrection, “if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Speaking of the resurrection to eternal life for all believers in Jesus, made possible by Jesus’ death and resurrection, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:45-49, “Thus it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.”
(John 20:16) Jesus *said to her, “Mary!” She turned and *said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher).
Mary did not recognize Jesus until He called her by name. Jesus had said that His sheep knew His voice and they would recognize His voice and follow (obey) Him (see John 10:27). There must have always been a special bond of tenderness between Jesus and all His followers, especially when He called them by name. Jesus came from heaven to earth as the Good Shepherd who knew all His sheep by name, and Mary was one of His sheep. Grieving and weeping, Mary did not recognize His voice in His questions until He called her by name. Imagine how special to hear Jesus call you by name! In absolute amazement, Mary used a divine title of respect for her beloved Teacher when she discovered that Jesus was the Person who spoke to her. Moreover, from Jewish literature outside the Bible, we know that the title “Rabbouni” for a teacher was a divine title reserved only for God as the Divine Teacher. The Jews called their human teachers “Rabbi.” The divine title “Rabbouni” is used only here in the Bible, and the title was used by a person who saw Jesus alive after He had been dead and buried. (See especially the accompanying International Bible Lesson, His Family Know His Voice based on John 20:11-18).
(John 20:17) Jesus *said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’“
Jesus’ words partially explain the reason He saw Mary in the morning and His disciples in the evening. Before seeing His disciples, the Son of God had to fulfill a responsibility to His Father, to God the Father. To Jesus and all who follow Him, our duty to God comes first. What Jesus did for His disciples would make an eternal difference to them and us. In John 20:11-18, John reported that Jesus met Mary in the morning in the garden. Then, in John 20:19-23, John reported that Jesus met His disciples in the evening. With His appearance to His disciples in the evening, Jesus affirmed Mary’s account of His resurrection. His delay in appearing to them would give His followers time to think, talk, and pray together about Jesus’ death, what it meant, and what they had learned from Mary. They had learned from Mary that Jesus’ Father and God was also the Father and God of Mary and all His disciples and followers, which made His disciples “His brothers” and Mary “His sister.” This is the first time that Jesus called His disciples “His brothers;” something He could not do until He died for their sins and rose again. True believers in Jesus have the same Father and God. All disciples of Jesus are His brothers and sisters by adoption. In Romans 8:15, Paul wrote, “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” In Ephesians 1:5-7, Paul explained of the Father and the Son, “He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”
Though the Bible does not tell us, we can surmise that Jesus wanted to see His Father in heaven to formally and officially report that He had faithfully finished His work of redemption. In the Kingdom of God, with all the heavenly powers and principalities in attendance, Jesus, the Son of God, reported to God the Father, the Lord of hosts, the King of glory, that by His death and resurrection He had completed His redeeming work. He had defeated Satan and had saved from sin, from fear of death, and from the power of Satan all who would believe in Him. We can think of the heavenly court as described in the Book of Job, where Satan and the heavenly beings appeared before God (see Job 1:6). Having completely defeated Satan, Jesus could appear before God and the angels and report that He had said and done exactly what God intended. Furthermore, remember the words of Job, who foretold His future resurrection from the dead. Jesus made Job’s resurrection possible by His death and resurrection from the dead. In Job 19:25-26, Job said, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God.” Jesus is Job’s Redeemer and the Redeemer of all who entrust their lives to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
(John 20:18) Mary Magdalene *came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.
Mary was the first person to share the Good News (the Gospel) with others when she went and spoke to Jesus’ disciples, who after His death and resurrection were now “His brothers and sisters.” She shared the Good News that Jesus had risen from the dead and she had seen Him. She told them the Good News that Jesus was still the Lord—the living Lord—and He had good reasons for not seeing them yet, for He was ascending to His Father and their Father, to His God and their God. Now, they were all one Family: “brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.” In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, the Apostle Paul summarized the Good News: “Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.” Paul and John give good reasons to believe the Bible is true—the first step in saving faith.
Sunday May 23, 2021
Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master (John 20:16—KJV).
Jesus *said to her, “Mary!” She turned and *said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher) (John 20:16—NASB).
Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher) (John 20:16—NRSV).
Prior to Jesus’ resurrection, His followers called Jesus, “Rabbi,” a title for human teachers. In some Jewish writings, the Jews addressed God as “Rabbouni,” the Teacher title reserved for God alone. Mary called Jesus “Rabbouni,” a title used only once in the Bible. When Mary heard Jesus’ voice and saw Him looking at her by the tomb, she addressed Him as “Rabbouni,” as God, as her Divine Teacher.
The Psalmists applied the title “Shepherd” to God. In Psalm 23:1, David prayed, “The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” In Psalm 80:1, Asaph prayed, “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.” In John 10:11 and John 10:14, Jesus again applied the divine name for God, “I AM,” to himself when He declared, “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” and “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.” In John 10:27, Jesus explained, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow (obey) me.”
Jesus knew Mary and she knew Jesus by His voice. When Mary heard Jesus, her Shepherd, call her “Mary,” she knew that Jesus, her “Rabbouni,” her Teacher, had spoken. When Jesus talked with Mary, for the first time He called His disciples “His brothers;” then, Jesus told Mary to tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Mary obeyed Jesus and told them, “I have seen the Lord” (John 20:17,18). Jesus’ brothers and sisters still know His voice.
His Family Know His Voice
Sunday May 23, 2021
1. After Peter and John returned home, why do you think Mary Magdalene remained weeping at Jesus’ tomb?
2. Why do you think Mary was unafraid when she saw the two angels dressed in white inside Jesus’ tomb?
3. Why do you think Mary did not recognize Jesus but thought he was the gardener? When did she recognize Him?
4. How did Mary address Jesus? Why do you think the title she used was important to her, and is important to all believers in Jesus?
5. What reason did Jesus give her for not allowing her to hold on to Him?
Discussion and Thinking Further
1. After Peter and John returned home, why do you think Mary Magdalene remained weeping at Jesus’ tomb? I think she wanted to be alone to weep and try to make some sense out of the past probably about three years as a follower of Jesus. She had been with some other women when she went to the tomb, and she had been with John and Peter at the tomb, so she probably needed some time alone to try to think of a way to locate Jesus’ body. She did not expect Jesus to be alive.
2. Why do you think Mary was unafraid when she saw the two angels dressed in white inside Jesus’ tomb? John does not tell us whether Mary was afraid or not, because he was not there and he had to rely on what she told the disciples about her experience, and then he tried to write what was important as the Holy Spirit directed Him. So, John does not tell us what he does not know with certainty or what he thinks unimportant. Also, John saw no need to repeat what he knew the other gospels relayed about Jesus. Through her tears, Mary probably did not see them in their angelic glory but as two men dressed in white and sitting in the tomb for some reason.
3. Why do you think Mary did not recognize Jesus but thought he was the gardener? When did she recognize Him? She did not expect to ever see Jesus alive again, so she naturally assumed the person speaking to her was the gardener. She was crying. Jesus many have initially hidden His true appearance from her as He did when He talked to the two on the road to Emmaus. She recognized Jesus by the sound of His voice. In John 10, Jesus had said that He sheep would recognize His voice and she did as Jesus foretold.
4. How did Mary address Jesus? Why do you think the title she used was important to her, and is important to all believers in Jesus? “Rabbouni” meant to the Jews “Divine Teacher” (from their writings outside the Bible). They exclusively only addressed God as “Rabbouni.” They addressed human teachers as “Rabbi.” Jesus taught the truth about God and heavenly realities. Just as Mary called Jesus her Lord, so she saw Jesus as her Rabbouni, the Divine Teacher, the Son of God. Jesus is our Divine Teacher and Absolute Authority about the Truth, the Truth of God and reality as recorded in the Bible and as displayed by God’s creation. We hear and obey Jesus’ voice as we read the Bible and follow Him.
5. What reason did Jesus give her for not allowing her to hold on to Him? Jesus told her that He had not yet ascended to His Father and her Father, to His God and her God. She would no longer be able to have Him present with her physically when she wanted Him with her, for Jesus now had a resurrected, glorified human body that was different from what she had known. When He gave His Spirit to indwell His disciples and followers, He would be closer to them (and Mary) than He was before. So, ultimately, she would not miss Jesus after the Day of Pentecost for He would be with her.
His Family Know His Voice
Sunday May 23, 2021
S J L B W R A N G E L S A L N
G E M U M U S R E H T O R B G
N G N I T T I S X V D Z Y K C
I F P D S R Z K N M O R D J Y
D W O G U V A S C A W C O N O
N G V Z A T D B H S M R G L E
E M W H D R E V B E G O S T F
C F X C J F D A I O R V W E H
S Z O K A E W E C M U P Z G V
A J Q T I E S M N H A N Q N Y
R P H V E L Q U Q E E R I E G
T E C P K P C X S V R R Y K H
R N I U Z H J E L U W G N A O
V N E A M V I T X Z Q C V T W
G F Q B P Y B W P M X B F I X
True and False Test
His Family Know His Voice
Sunday May 23, 2021
Circle the True or False answers. Correct the False statements by restating them.
1. Mary wept outside the tomb, then she looked inside the tomb.
True or False
2. Mary saw two angels dressed in white sitting by the body of Jesus, one at His head and the other at His feet. True or False
3. The angels asked Mary why she was weeping. True or False
4. Mary said that she was weeping because Jesus was dead. True or False
5. Jesus asked Mary, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you
looking for?” True or False
6. Mary thought Jesus was the gardener. True or False
7. When Jesus spoke Mary’s name, she recognized Jesus. True or False
8. Mary was the first person to see Jesus and speak to Him after He rose from the dead. True or False
9. After His resurrection, Jesus called His disciples “my brothers.”
True or False
10. Mary was so excited that she forgot what Jesus wanted her to tell His disciples. True or False
True and False Test Answers