If you search the internet for "Bible study tips," you will find a plethora of good advice as to how to study the Bible. And yet, one of the most helpful elements of Bible study is also one of the most overlooked.
A careful study of Luke chapter 24 reveals a method so powerful that it set people's hearts on fire and changed their lives, as illustrated in two separate accounts. In this writing, we will look at the first of these accounts and see the most significant instruction on how to study the Bible - the very method that Jesus, Himself taught - which will help us receive the most help for today's Christian.
"On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright, the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'" Then they remembered his words." Luke 24:1-8 (NIV)
In the first eight verses of Luke 24, we see women headed to the tomb with spices to anoint the dead body of Jesus, which was a common practice of that day to minimize the stench of the dead body.
But as these women got to the tomb of Jesus, three surprising things happened. 1) They saw that the stone was rolled away from the entrance to the tomb, 2) the body of Jesus was missing, and 3) two men (angels) suddenly appeared to the women.
When we are looking for Jesus, we should expect there to be surprises and occurrences we can't explain. Jesus frequently meets with His people in unexpected ways.
So, these two angel-messengers of God ask the women an important question, and then state an essential truth: "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!"
Pause and ponder the question that the angels asked the women: "Why do you look for the living among the dead?" Now ask yourself: what does this question have to do with freedom from unwanted habits or sin struggles in life, and what tips for studying the Bible does this give us? Keep reading to find the answer.
The angel-messengers gave us a clue as to why these women were looking for the living among the dead when they said, "Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 'The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'" 8 Then they remembered his words."
These women went to the tomb with spices to anoint a dead body because they had forgotten Jesus' words to them. They had forgotten the message He told them, and so they came looking for the living among the dead. And what was the message that Jesus told them earlier?
It was the message of the entire Bible, the focal point of every Scripture: "The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again." These women had forgotten the gospel! They had forgotten that Jesus said He would die for their sin and rise again for their salvation. They had forgotten Jesus' words that He would give them life through His death, provide freedom through the cross and that He would rise from the dead in power.
Look for this gospel message, the death of Jesus for our sins, and His resurrection from the dead, whenever you read the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-6).
Later, Paul would tell his friend, Timothy, "Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel…" (2 Timothy 2:8).
Because these women lost their focus and forgot this message, they were looking for the living among the dead.
Friend, consider this: when we get distracted, upset, anxious, bored, etc. and turn to food, alcohol, pornography, sex, drugs, or anything else, we are trying to find more life! We want to be comforted, to be filled up, to experience a thrill, to get a rush - to find life! And yet, in doing so, we are looking for life among dead things. "Why do you look for the living among the dead?"
And why do we look for the living among the dead? We, like the women in this story, may have forgotten the message of the cross and resurrection of Jesus! "But whoever does not have them (the qualities of Christ) is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins" (2 Peter 1:9).
Oh, friend, when we forget the cleansing power of the cross, we stop growing in Christlike qualities. None of us want this to happen.
And so, what is the antidote? What will keep us from looking for life among the dead? It is the same for us as it was for the women at the tomb; we must remember the gospel! "Then they remembered his words" (Luke 24:8).
Yes, friend, remember this good news today and focus on it! Remember that Jesus climbed the hill of Calvary with your sin on His back, that He was then pierced for your transgressions and crushed for your iniquities (Isaiah 53:5), as He took your place and your punishment. "...the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6).
Look at the cross and see Jesus enduring separation from His Father (Matthew 27:46), being cursed by God (Galatians 3:13), being baptized in God's wrath (Luke 12:50), so that you would be accepted by God, united to God, and blessed by God!
As you look there, once again, let it break your heart and cause you to mourn (see Amos 8:10). "Grieve, mourn, and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up" (James 4:9-10).
Let the message of this One who gave up His last drop of blood and His last breath of air for you, pierce and wound you, hurt and humble you, even as it did Peter when he remembered the words Jesus spoke to Him: "Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: "Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times." 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly" (Luke 22:62).
But don't stop there! Keep looking at the cross! Look long enough that your broken heart begins to mend! Look until your hurting heart becomes healed (Isaiah 61:1)! Let the dawning realization that Jesus' death in your place was because of His overwhelming love for you! Let the knowledge that He loved you unto death and back raise you, encourage you, mend you, bless you, and satisfy you. Let the knowledge that Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day raise you as well. Let it lift you to heaven, where your new heart and new life will soar with Jesus! "Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:1-3).
Keep looking, keep remembering! Look until you begin to rejoice that you are pardoned. "Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon" (Isaiah 55:7). Look at the cross and remember that Jesus' death set you free: "You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness" (Romans 6:18). Look at the cross, and remember the message until you sing, worship, dance, shout, praise, and laugh. For you are accepted in Jesus (Ephesians 1:6), you are holy and righteous and pure and spotless because Jesus removed your sin, your guilt, and your shame (Hebrews 10:10-14).
Let this powerful message sink deeply into your heart, so that you see yourself now as right with God, clothed in the righteousness of Jesus, spotless as the Lamb of God Himself with no blemish and free from all accusation (Colossians 1:22-23). Find your identity in Jesus, not in your past sin. "For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3).
Friend, if you look at the cross and resurrection of Jesus often enough, if you remember the words of Jesus, the message of forgiveness and pardon and rescue and redemption, it will keep you from looking for the living among the dead.
And now, we have also seen a marvelous tip, or rather, the method for Bible study: see the message of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus in it - all the way through the Bible from Genesis to the final Revelation. It will change your heart and transform your life powerfully.
Anna, who has taken our A United Front study for spouses, is learning this method:
Anna writes, "When I first found this study, I was busy with a betrayal trauma support group, so I decided I didn't need this material. Fast forward a couple of years, and in pain and anger, I said to my husband, "There is no way out of this for me. I will be trapped in this pain forever. You should have thought this through and thought about me before deciding to go down this path. There is no healing from this. I just have to learn to survive it and live the rest of my life in pain." That is where I was when I started A United Front. I was angry, bitter, and filled with hate. I was lost in my pain and was losing hope of it ever getting better.
I learned through this course that I was focusing on the wrong thing - my pain. My focus needed to be where true hope and healing are found - Jesus Christ. I started this course with a huge weight. Little by little, the beauty of Christ and His work on the cross were revealed to me. I was learning how I betrayed Christ, and how He loved me so much He rescued me. I was learning lessons on forgiveness, humility, patience, and taking my thoughts captive. There were so many practical and powerful lessons.
At each stop on the way, I was able to drop a little bit of the pain I was feeling. Each day the weight was getting lighter and lighter as I was learning the truth of Jesus Christ and who I was in Him. I was able to see myself and my husband accurately. I was no longer the "good one," and he the "bad one." We were both sinners in a battle fighting together for our marriage. And I can clearly see my husband is not my enemy.
Thirty days ago, I started this course a bitter, angry woman being crushed under the weight of pain, but I'm leaving this course a kinder, more compassionate woman filled with the love and hope of Christ. My husband said it best the other day when he said, "it's so nice to see you smile and laugh again."
If you are considering this course, please know that hope is not lost. This course will help. I had tried trauma groups, counseling, and was no better off, but the gospel is powerful and life-changing. Who better to go to for help and healing than the One who created you."
We hope that you will take this most important tip for Bible study to heart and that now when you read your Bible, you will see the good news of Christ’s atoning death for you and His powerful resurrection that brings new life to you!