Shining a light on the weekly Bible Lessons published in the Christian Science Quarterly®

Probation After Death

from the Responsive Reading

Acts 10:34

. . . God doesn’t show partiality to one group of people over another.

—Common English Bible

partiality: favoring one thing over another

Acts 10:39–41

We are witnesses of everything he did, both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him up on the third day and allowed him to be seen, not by everyone but by us. We are witnesses whom God chose beforehand, who ate and drank with him after God raised him from the dead.

—Common English Bible

After his resurrection, Jesus was seen multiple times over a forty-day period (see 1:3, Golden Text), leaving no doubt that he had risen. Perhaps most undeniable was the witness of those who “ate and drank with him” (see Luke 24:30, 41–43, citation 7; John 21:13). These believers knew him well, as revealed in the Master’s words about them: “I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (John 15:16).

The book of Acts refers twice to Jesus being hanged on a tree (see also 5:30). The author is not suggesting that Jesus was hanged on a live tree. Tree is translated from the Greek noun xylon, which not only means tree but also describes items made from wood, such as staves, cudgels, and—in this case—the cross. (The same word is used in Acts 16:24, where it is rendered stocks.)

Considered the most humiliating punishment for someone condemned to death, crucifixion was reserved for enemies of the state and those lowest in the social order. The Hebrew Bible identifies a person killed this way as “accursed of God” (Deuteronomy 21:23). Paul later states, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Galatians 3:13).

from Section 1

2 | I Corinthians 15:20

Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

Firstfruits denotes the first ripe sheaf of a crop, offered to God as a guarantee of the fullness and quality of the entire harvest (see Leviticus 23:10, 11). Similarly, Jesus’ resurrection represents the assurance of resurrection for the righteous who have “slept” (see another depiction of death as sleep in Psalms 13:3). Christ’s followers were in turn known as firstfruits—proof of eternal life for all humanity. James 1:18 says of God, “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” 

3 | John 20:1, 15–17

The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. . . . Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father.

At first addressing Mary as “Woman,” Jesus gently leads her to look beyond a buried Messiah to the risen Savior. Initially assuming him to be a gardener, Mary recognizes him when he speaks her name. Her heartfelt response is in one word—Rabboni, seen by some as a term of endearment or reverence (in place of the more formal Rabbi).

Commentators understand Jesus’ warning “Touch me not” as a demand not to cling to a physical sense of him, and to surrender any expectation that he would begin a permanent human presence among the faithful.

sepulchre (sepulcher): tomb or cave used for burial of a body
ascended: risen

from Section 2

5 | John 20:18

Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

Magdalene is a surname stemming from Mary’s hometown of Magdala, thought to have been a prosperous rural center on the western shore of the Galilean Sea. Largely Gentile, the town nevertheless had a small synagogue.

Mary Magdalene was a respected woman out of whom Jesus had cast seven demons (likely meaning she had been healed of a serious mental or physical illness). Her mention by name over a dozen times in the New Testament—and her repeated listing as first among female adherents—attests to her leadership among the women who supported Jesus’ ministry. Her position as first witness to the resurrection, as well as her role in announcing it to the disciples, has led to a title of “apostle to the apostles.” 

from Section 3

6 | Proverbs 4:18

The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.

Translation

The way of the righteous is like morning light 
      that gets brighter and brighter till it is full day.

—Common English Bible

Shining “more and more” alludes to the increasing brightness of the sun from dawn to noon. “Perfect day” symbolizes the point at which the sun is at its height, shining in full strength.

Various Bible verses highlight the association between justice or righteousness and light. Psalms 97:11 proclaims, “Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.” And II Samuel 23:3, 4 declares: “He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.”

7 | Luke 24:13–16, 27, 30, 31

Two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. . . . And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. . . . And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.

In appearing to the two travelers to Emmaus, sharing Bible passages, and joining them at a meal, Jesus confirms both his identity and his resurrection. And his characteristic compassion is evident as he patiently clarifies his place in biblical prophecy. A scholar suggests that this account “tells us of the ability of Jesus to make sense of things. The whole situation seemed to these two men to have no explanation. Their hopes and dreams were shattered. . . . Then Jesus came and talked with them, and the meaning of life became clear and the darkness became light.”

threescore: sixty
furlong: 660 feet (about 200 meters)
threescore furlongs: 7.5 miles (about 12 km)
communed: talked
holden: kept or held back
expounded: explained

from Section 4

9 | Mark 16:20 

They went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.

confirming: establishing or proving to be true
signs following: acts of spiritual power that proved what was said

10 | Ephesians 4:7, 13

Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. . . . Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.

Translation

God’s favor has been given to each of us. It was measured out to us by Christ who gave it. . . . This is to continue until all of us are united in our faith and in our knowledge about God’s Son, until we become mature, until we measure up to Christ, who is the standard.

—GOD’S WORD Translation

Spiritual maturity is the focus of this counsel. Stature (Greek, hēlikia) and fullness (plērōma) each describe a state of completeness—and both unity among believers and knowledge of Christ are essential to attaining this “stature of the fullness of Christ.”

11 | Isaiah 52:10 

All the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

Translation

. . . all the ends of the earth have seen our God’s victory.

—Common English Bible

ends: farthest parts

12 | Isaiah 33:10

Now will I rise, saith the Lord; now will I be exalted; now will I lift up myself.

Translation

. . . the LORD says: “Now I will stand up. 
      Now I will show my power and might.”

—New Living Translation

Here God asserts His sovereign power in answer to Isaiah’s entreaty and lament (see vv. 2, 8, 9). A scriptural authority writes, “This is the turning point when God summons His power to rout the Assyrian forces.”

from Section 5

14 | John 17:3

This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

Translation

. . . this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.

—New Living Translation

Jesus’ prayer in verses 1–26, offered at the end of his earthly ministry, is his longest. It includes many pleas of intercession for his disciples—the 11 present with him as well as “them also which shall believe on [him] through their word” (v. 20).

Life eternal (Greek, aiōnios zōē) refers to the nature of life in God. One commentary remarks that the present tense of the verb know “marks a continuance, a progressive perception of God in Christ.”


Read a related editorial, “ ‘The spiritual resurrection’ " by John J. Selover.

The Bible Lessons serve as weekly study guides as well as the sermon in every Christian Science Sunday church service. Learn more at BibleLesson.com

Resources quoted in this issue

RR: Common English Bible, copyright © 2011 by the Common English Bible. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Cit. 7: Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible Series, Revised Edition: The Gospel of Luke. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press,1975.

Cit. 12: Alter, Robert. The Hebrew Bible, Vol. 2, Prophets: A Translation with Commentary. New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2019.

Cit. 14: Vincent, Marvin R. Word Studies in the New Testament. 4 vols. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1946. Also available at biblehub.com/commentaries.

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