Sunday school lesson for the week of April 20, 2014
By Dr. Hal Brady
Lesson Scripture: Hosea 6:1-3; Luke 24:1-12
On this glorious Easter Sunday, we will investigate how “The Third Day,” which is based on Luke 24:1-12, fulfills a prophecy of Hosea (6:1-3). The eighth century prophet, Hosea, along with Amos, preached in the Northern kingdom of Israel. It was the era of the powerful and ruthless Assyrian Empire, which eventually conquered the north.
Because the Israelites had abandoned their covenantal agreement with God and had lived for themselves and their idols, consequently, the Lord chastened them. But God’s chastening, though painful, was not meant to be final. The call was for the people to “return to the Lord” (genuinely repent of their sins) in order to benefit from the assurances of the second-half of verse one – “the healing and binding us up.”
Now, the central issue of the first two verses of Hosea is the promise of restoration from God. That theme is introduced and re-introduced in these verses. In Hebrew, parallelism is a poetic literary device aimed at the repetition and contrasting of images. For example, “It is he [the Lord] who has torn” and is paralled by the statement that “he has struck down.” There, we see that “God will revive us” and “he will raise us up.” Scholars suggest that evidently that perfect restoration will occur “on the third day.”
Verse three of our Hosea text even holds a stronger urging to return to the Lord, “Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord…” For his coming is as certain as the sunrise and his blessings are as sure as the seasonal rains.
Note that Hosea specified “two and three days.” Question! Did Hosea know what he was talking about more than 700 years before the death and resurrection of Jesus? Scholars answer, “Probably not. But the Lord who spoke through him knew what he was talking about.”
From our traditional understanding of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem we are informed that Jesus was arrested on Thursday evening, crucified Friday afternoon and rose from the dead early on Sunday morning. The time between his death and resurrection simply doesn’t match the 72-hour total that we would declare as three days. However, as scholars informs us, the Jewish reckoning of a new day starts at sundown and even a part of a day counts as a day, therefore, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday would together be considered three days.
On Easter morning, the angels said to the women at the tomb, “Remember, how he told you that while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again” (Luke 24:7). In notable balance, Jesus had previously told his disciples three times what would happen to him in Jerusalem (Matthew 16;21-23; 17:22-23; 20:17-19), and each time he said he would rise “on the third day.”
Jesus also referred to the significance of “the third day” on other occasions. When he sent messengers to Herod, the message was that he would finish his work “on the third day” (Luke 13:32). And Jesus’ followers on the Emmaus Road mentioned to him, “It is now the third day since these things took place” (Luke 24:21).
The point is we take the words of Hosea and superimpose them onto the Gospel story. Jesus was betrayed on Thursday night, crucified Friday afternoon (the first day), buried Saturday (the second day) and He rose again “On the third day.”
Hosea’s Timeless Gospel
The people of Hosea’s day had drifted away from God. In so doing, they are representative of all humanity. Paul said, “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). So, undoubtedly, these people had felt some of the consequences of their life away from God (even as we do). But God’s word to them was not a word of condemnation. God didn’t want to destroy or abandon them. What God wanted to do was redeem them.
Thus, Hosea’s message of redemption was twofold. First, God invited the people to return to him. Second, God would graciously revive and restore those who returned. Hear me now! It is the timing of Hosea that is the key here. Hosea declared, “After two day he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him” (Hosea 6:2). The timing given in Hosea is the specific that rewards God’s ultimate plan, not only for his audience, but for all of us as well. As the scholars state, it is what Jesus did after two days and on the third day that truly revives and restores. Our hope always is in our returning to the Lord.
“Third Day” Resurrection Power
At the tomb, according to Luke, the angels said to the women, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He’s not here, but has risen” (Luke 24:5). What incredible news! He has risen!!!!
I simply cannot imagine these women’s initial reaction. At any rate, they were off to tell the eleven. But when these women arrived and shared their good new, there were not believed. We are told that the apostles, those who had spent three intimate years with Jesus, disbelieved the women. Their words seemed to them…take your pick…”as in idle take,” “empty talk,” “utter nonsense.”
Now, honestly, do we not feel a measure of comfort with these apostles? Sure we do! No one needs to remind us that ours is not one of the great ages of faith. The energetic beliefs and mighty affirmations of yesterday simply do not come easily for contemporary Christians.
But for those of us who are in the struggle, mixtures of faith and doubt, I offer these suggestions and conclude:
On a Sunday morning in a certain city church, the Gospel lesson had been read and the minister was about to begin the sermon. Suddenly, a stranger seated in the balcony stood up and interrupted the service. “I have a word from the Lord!” he shouted. Heads whipped around and ushers raced up to the balcony like roadrunners to escort the man into the street before he could comment on just what “word” he had been given.
So week after week we preachers and teachers stand in or around an array of pulpits and say, in effect, the same thing as that man in the balcony: “I have a word from the Lord!” But for the most part, no alarm sounds and no one is astounded. No one muscles us out into the street.
“He’s not here! He has Risen!”
I wish I could have written this lesson from the balcony.