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Related Bible reading(s): Daniel 7.9-10,13-14; Psalm 93; Revelation 1.4b-8; John 18.33-37

Bible study

A selection from this week's resources to help you plan and run a Bible study.

Daniel 7.9-10,13-14, Psalm 93, Revelation 1.4b-8, John 18.33-37

Welcome and opening prayer (5 mins)

A prayer of approach

Lord of heaven, Lord of earth,
kings brought gifts to you at your birth.
They understood you were the one –
the life, the truth, God’s only Son.
We come now and call you king,
and bring our lives and everything –
for you are truth and love and grace.
When we see you, we see God’s face.
Amen.

 

Read the text (10 mins)

Consider different ways to read the text. For example, sharing parts between several readers, or hearing it more than once using different versions, or using/adapting this suggestion.

Present the Gospel

Introduce the reading by showing the classic Two Ronnies ‘Mastermind’ sketch, in which the chosen subject is answering the question before last.

This sketch offers a humorous insight into the confusion possible when two people are speaking the same words, the same language, but the meaning behind, the intent, is different.

Alternatively, you could give some examples of how British English differs from American English which, when coupled with different customs and expectations, has the potential to confuse (examples on the  ). British cricketing metaphors and those from American football might be a good place to begin!

Jesus is a king the like of which the world has never seen before. Pilate could not understand the model of kingship that Jesus was talking about. The two men used the same words, but it was as if they were speaking different languages.

Now read the Gospel passage.

 

Explore and respond to the text (30 mins)

Use the Bible notes as a way into Bible study. For example, you could read a section, then allow time for people to discuss issue raised and respond.

Bible notes AAA version

Old Testament: Daniel 7.9-10,13-14

In his foundational vision, Daniel ‘sees’ the heavenly throne room, the invisible centre of divine rule over the cosmos. Heaven and earth are not two realms separated by death, but two sides of a single reality.

In Daniel’s vision, the heavenly court is in session, judging oppressive earthly rulers. A human figure is carried into God’s presence on the clouds, and given God’s authority over all earthly powers. Who is he? Later (7.25-27), we see that he represents ‘the holy ones of the Most High’, those who are faithful to God in the face of oppression. His presence in heaven guarantees their vindication. Despite their weakness before earthly powers, their loyalty will bring God’s reward.

Daniel’s vision is designed to console and encourage his audience. But its meaning is not exhausted by its original message. Jesus used this vision of the human figure in heaven to express his own faith that this ‘Son of Man’ (i.e. Jesus himself) will be vindicated for his faithfulness, and so liberate those who stay loyal to him (Mark 10.42-45). This is a kingship that human rulers may at best aspire to, but cannot achieve.

 

New Testament: Revelation 1.4b-8

‘John’ is a church leader in Asia Minor in the last quarter of the first century. His letters to the seven churches (Revelation 2.1–3.22) suggest that their loyalty to Jesus is buckling under the combined weight of imperial rule and a culture of intimidation, assimilation and compromise that makes for easier governance. Like Daniel, John is a visionary. His account of his vision of the risen Christ in 1.13-15 draws on Daniel 7, to repeat the point that despite appearances to the contrary, Israel’s God, and not an ephemeral imperial ruler, is truly Lord.                 

‘Grace’ and ‘peace’ are familiar Christian greetings in the New Testament epistles. But here they carry political weight. The emperor believed that the imperial peace was his gift, the fruit of military supremacy. According to John, the most trustworthy expression of peace on earth flows from its most unlikely source. Jesus Christ, crucified on the authority of Caesar’s representative, is God’s faithful witness. As the firstborn of the dead, his victory reaches into the realm that no earthly ruler can ever enter. However dispirited they may feel, however weak in the world’s eyes, they inherit Israel’s ancient role as a priestly community of God’s new order of holiness, and a kingdom through whom the reign of the crucified and coming one is extended.

 

Gospel: John 18.33-37

On the verge of execution, Jesus appears before the representative of the imperial power colonising the ancestral lands of his people.

Jesus’ conversation with Pilate raises the question of the ultimate source of authority. Does it lie on earth – Rome or Jerusalem – or in heaven? They may use the same words, but their meanings are worlds apart. Jesus is presented to Pilate as ‘the king of the Jews’, pretender to David’s throne. But he presents himself as one who exercises a radically different rule, because his authority is rooted elsewhere – in the heavenly realm of truth. Jerusalem rules by expediency. Its priests must find some way to have Jesus executed to save their own interests (John 11.45-53). But Rome’s representative is only interested in reminding Jerusalem where real power lies in their holy city. He uses Jesus as a pawn to draw out their shameful admission that ‘we have no king but Caesar’ (John 19.15), before agreeing to his crucifixion.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus keeps his distance from earthly notions of power (John 6.15). His talk of himself as the ‘good shepherd’ resonates with the prophets’ longing for a new shepherd ruler to liberate God’s people (see Ezekiel 34). But Jesus’ ‘good shepherd’ is no warrior king. He lays down his own life for his sheep (10.15). His ‘good shepherd’ leadership models the other-centred divine love that sacrifices itself even as it liberates others (13.1-20; 15.12-17). This is true kingship, and Pilate is not the only one who fails to get it.

 

The links between the lectionary readings

All three readings move between heaven and earth. Daniel’s heavenly vision inspires confidence for victims of earthly injustice. John’s heavenly vision is good news for churches under pressure from earthly rulers. Jesus, before Pilate, seems to be the victim of unjust earthly rule, but his heavenly authority will triumph.

For more discussion ideas, and practical and active ways to explore and respond to the readings, choose from: Sermon ideasActive worshipPicture pointers; or PostScript

 

Pray together (10 mins)

Prayers of intercession

Loving God,
we pray for those in authority, that they may not manipulate truth to retain power.
May the kingship of Christ guide them.
We pray for those exploited or abused by those in positions of power.
May the kingship of Christ guide them.
We pray for those robbed of their freedom for challenging injustice.
May the kingship of Christ guide them.
We pray for our church, that in confidence we would share your truths that we know, and in humility seek out the truths we have yet to learn.
May the kingship of Christ guide us.
We pray for one another and ourselves, that we would be open to truth and eager for wisdom.
May the kingship of Christ guide us.
Amen.

 

End the session (5 mins)

A sending out prayer

Look for truth in all places.
Seek out the wise.
Use your power to serve.
And bring heaven to earth through your life, your words and your prayers.
In Jesus’ name.
Amen.

 

Live your faith

Make an effort to pay attention to how power is used and abused, in every aspect of the world around you. Pray for those who exercise power.  

The ROOTS resources include a range of materials that can be put together to plan and run a Bible study, either leading up to a service based on the reading or in the following week.

The Bible study above is a selection of this week's resources and the timings are based on a Bible study session lasting one hour. This can be printed off and used as it is, or modified to suit your situation.

If you prefer to make your own selection from the weekly materials, please see our guidance on preparing a Bible study. You will also need to include a copyright acknowledgement as follows:
© ROOTS for Churches Ltd. Reproduced with permission. www.rootsontheweb.com

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