Easter Day Bible Study


Easter Day (Primary Service)

Acts 10.34-43                        Psalm 118.14-29                   Colossians 3.1-4                      John 20.1-18

The celebration of the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord (Easter) comprises, actually, four distinct services:

  1. The Great Vigil of Easter is celebrated after sundown on Saturday.  Up to nine lessons are used, together with a psalm or canticle after each lesson.  The lessons summarize the history of salvation as found in the Old Testament, and thus summarize revelation up to the advent of Jesus.
  2. The early service (which may be a “sunrise” service) on Easter Day uses one of the Old Testament lessons from the Vigil, plus Psalm 114, Romans 6.3-11, and Matthew 28.1-10.
  3. The lessons for the primary service are included in this Bible Study summary.
  4. The evening service begins with Acts 5.29a, 30-32 or Daniel 12.1-3, includes Psalm 114, proceeds to 1 Corinthians 5.6b-8 or Acts 5.29a, 30-32, and concludes with Luke 24.13-49.

Acts 10.34-43       

  1. This selection from Acts includes a speech given by Peter at the conversion of St. Cornelius and his household.
  2. Cornelius is a Roman soldier (a centurion) and thus a Gentile.  Ch. 10 of Acts relates how Cornelius (in response to prayer) is instructed to summon Peter.  Peter has a vision that all things are clean to God, i.e., that the “kosher” restrictions of the Law do not obtain for Christians.
    1. Following this vision, Peter is summoned to Cornelius.
    1. While Peter is meeting with Cornelius, Peter gives the speech contained in this lesson.
  3. The Good News is preached to Gentiles.
    1. Following this speech, the Holy Spirit comes upon Cornelius and his household, whereupon Peter baptizes them.
    1. This is the only example in Scripture of the Baptism of the Spirit preceding baptism with water.
  • The whole sequence involving Cornelius and Peter is the very pivot of Luke’s argument in Acts:  that the Gospel is for all people, and that the Gospel must be witnessed to “to the end of the earth” (Acts 1.8).
  1. Peter’s sermon changes the proclamation typical throughout Acts, of a call to repentance, to a proclamation of universal forgiveness of the one appointed judge of the world (Jesus).
    1. Compare Paul’s argument at Acts 17.30-31 and 1 Thess. 1.10.

  2.  This is speculation.  Cornelius, and the centurion who meets Jesus at Capernaum (Mtt. 8.5, whose faith Jesus praises), and the centurion at the head of the execution party (Mk. 15.39, who states that Jesus the “Son of God”) were all senior non-commissioned officers in the same Roman legion.  This was a small group of NCO’s, and they were likely to have known each other.  Did prior conversation prime Cornelius for his vision?

Psalm 118.14-29

  1. An individual song of thanksgiving.
  1. Vv. 15-19 are a “victory shout” and petition to enter the Temple; 20-25 and 26-28 being praise to God offered in the Temple’ with v. 29 being an exhortation to offer praise.
  2. V. 14 is a citation from Exodus 15.2a, from Israel’s classical victory song, with Exodus 15.2b being paraphrased at the end of this praise section (at v. 28).
  • “The same stone which the builders rejected” (v. 22) represents, probably, an ancient proverb.
  1. In the psalm this may refer either to the king’s rise to power (this is a Davidic hymn) or to his recent victory.
  2. This saying appears at Matt. 21.42 and Acts 4.11.  See also 1 Cor. 3.11; Eph. 2.20; 1 Pet. 2.7-8.

  3. The cry “Hosannah” (v. 25) comes from the Hebrew verb hôšî’a-nnā’, which means “save us!”
  4. Crying “hosannah” (as at Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem), is therefore an acclamation which acknowledges lordship and pleads for deliverance.

Colossians 3.1-4

  1. At the beginning of ch. 3, Paul summarizes his teaching of the previous chapters, in order to effect a transition to the detailed ethical teaching which is to follow in the balance of the letter.
  • “[A]t the right hand of God” (v.1):  Paul uses this creedal statement, based on Psalm 110.1, to show that the messianic promises contained throughout Scripture have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
  • Although the resurrection has already taken place, Paul urges the Colossians to understand that all of the conditions of the end time are not yet present.  During the “gap” between the resurrection and the end of time, Christians are to focus on their heavenly calling.

John 20.1-18

  1. All four gospel accounts describe women coming to Jesus’ tomb and finding it empty.  All accounts tell of Peter confirming that the tomb is empty, and also how Jesus appears to various disciples.

  2. John, writing long after the event, incorporates narrative tradition.
    1. Thus, Mary Magdalene is described as coming to the tomb alone, but in v. 2 she tells Peter “… we do not know where they have paid him.”  This corroborates the other accounts which refer to women coming to the tomb.
      1. John’s account is a brief report of Mary’s discovery, followed by a longer account of Peter and the Beloved Disciple at the tomb.
      1. The Beloved Disciple does not enter the tomb.  He relies on the report of Mary.  Then Peter enters, and the Beloved Disciple follows.

  3. In Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic tradition, Mary is referred to as “apostle to the apostles,” since she is the first one to bring the news that Jesus is risen, saying “I have seen the Lord!) (v.18).
    1. So much for the argument that the Church has always accorded a low status to women!
  • Jesus tells Mary to not hold onto Him, for He has not yet gone to the Father.  Mary has first not known where Jesus is, and now she seeks to hold Him, although He has already told the disciples where He will be:
  1. He returns to the Father (13.1-3; 14.12, 28; 17.21-26).
  2. He abides with His disciples (14.3, 18, 20, 23, 28).

  3. John uses four different words for sight/perception.  They are used, in order, to demonstrate the increasing awareness of the reality of resurrection.  This is not at all clear in English, with most translations using versions of the verb “to see” in all four instances.
  4. When Mary Magdalene sees that the stone has been taken away from the tomb (Jn. 20.1) the word used is a form of blepō.  This refers to the physical act/sensation of seeing, as in to “eyeball” something.
    1. This same word is used to describe how the Belovèd Disciple sees that the tomb is empty (Jn. 20.5).
  1. In v. 6, Peter is described as seeing that the tomb is empty.  The word used is a form of theoreō (from which we get the English word “theory”).  This involves thinking about what is perceived.
  2. When the Belovèd Disciple enters the tomb (v. 8) the word used to describe how he sees the absence of Jesus is a form of eideō (from which we get the word “idea”).  This involves perceiving and classifying; trying to make sense out of what is perceived.
  3. When Mary Magdalene see the angels in the tomb (v. 11) she sees them in the sense of theoreō.  This same word is used in v. 14, when she sees the risen Jesus, but thinks that He is the gardener.
  4. Having seen the risen Lord, spoken with Him, and acclaimed, Him, Mary now comes tot he disciples and says “I have seen the Lord” (v. 18) using a form of the word horaō, which describes sight in terms of experience.  Mary has experienced the risen Lord.
  5. Our own faith and experience in Jesus is outlined (in terms of how it grows) in how the disciples see that Jesus has risen.