Great Escapes

These lessons are designed help us trust and rely on God as our Savior and rescuer.  
Our goal is to help every student develop a personal faith in the Lord as our Mighty Deliverer

"Our God is the God of salvation;
And to GOD the Lord belong escapes from death."  
-- Psalm 68:20

(Lessons authored by Jeff May & Steve Klein)

 

Lesson 1 -- Noah and His Family Escape A Mighty Flood

(Genesis 6-9)

America will for a long time remember Hurricane Katrina.  Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast and submerged much of the city of New Orleans beneath water.  People were even climbing into the attics of their homes to escape the rising waters.  That hurricane and many other storms are horrible memories for so many.  But they don't even compare with the universal flood that happened in the days of Noah.  There has never been nor will there ever be another flood like it.

When God created the world it was very good (Gen. 1:31), but as more time passed man became very corrupt and sinful.  God uses the most graphic language possible to describe just how bad it was.  "Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5).   God was so grieved by the sinful world that he could not tolerate it any longer.  He was even sorry that he had made man.  A holy God just can't live with sin.  So, God decided that He was going to destroy everything with a world-wide flood (Gen. 6:7).  It is important that we understand that the story of Noah's ark is not about some cute little boat with animals on it.  It's a tragic story where many people lost their lives because they didn't care about God.  It's a story that shows us how God still feels about sin.  God hates sin!

You would think that in such a wicked world that no man could live godly and bring up a godly family.  But there was one man who did.  His name was Noah.  The Bible says that Noah was a righteous and just man, perfect (complete), and a man who walked with God (Gen. 6:9; 7:1).  Noah's wife was committed to God also along with their three sons Shem, Ham and Japheth and their wives.  Imagine that.  In all the world only eight people cared about God and living in a way that would please him.  God surely loved Noah.  Genesis records that "Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord" (Gen. 6:8).  Later in the Bible we find God forever holding Noah in high esteem (Ezek. 14:14,20).  He is listed with the greatest of people in Hebrews (Heb. 11:7).   If Noah could please God in a sinful world, we can too.

God warned Noah about the flood to come.  He wanted Noah and his family to be well prepared when the flood began.  He instructed Noah to build an ark for the saving of his household (Gen. 6:13-14,17-18).  The Hebrew word for ark is "box".  Many believe it was likely in the shape of a very large barge.  Noah was given all the dimensions God desired (Gen. 6:14-16).  In our measurements, the ark was 150 yards long, 25 yards wide and 15 yards high.  Another way of saying it is that it was as tall as a four-story building and a football-field-and-a-half in length.  Imagine this ark taking up all of the playing space and then some in the grandest football facilities in the country.  It was six times longer than it was wide.  Modern ocean-going vessels like aircraft carriers and oil tankers are still built to this same ratio.  It was also divided into three decks.  The total volume would have been 1,518,750 cubic feet.

God instructed Noah to bring animals, birds and creeping things on the ark with him.  He was told to bring seven of every clean animal and two of every unclean animal, a male and his female.  He would also take seven each of the birds of the air, a male and his female.  All of this was so that God could "keep the species alive on the face of the earth" (7:3).  Imagine this grand parade of animals making their way into the ark!  What a sight it must have been!  We need not worry about their being enough room.  It has been pointed out that this ark could hold 522 standard railroad stock cars.  Each one of the railroad cars can hold 240 medium-sized animals.  Only 188 of these railroad cars would be needed to hold 45,000 sheep-sized animals (many more than were needed to represent all kinds of land animals).  That would leave 334 railroad cars for food, water, a huge aviary for birds, plenty of living space for Noah's family and some "range area" for any of the animals to walk around (The True Story of Noah's Ark, Tom Dooley, pg. 70).

Finally, the day came when Noah and his family entered the ark to escape what was about to happen.  No one else joined them even though Noah had been preaching and the ark was being built for everyone to hear about and see.  Peter says that Noah was a "preacher of righteousness" (2 Peter 2:5).  Some believe he may have preached for as much as 120 years, based on Genesis 6:3.  No one believed.  It is not hard to imagine some people looking at Noah with blank stares, others with smirks, and some laughing and mocking him.  People just went right on doing the normal things of life, not ever stopping to think about the warnings and the need to be ready for the total destruction that was coming (Mt. 24:37-39).  Through it all, Noah feared God and faithfully did his work just as God told him (Gen. 7:5). It's almost like we are re-living this story today.  Preachers today are warning about a coming destruction (2 Pet. 3) and the need to come to Jesus for safety but so many are not listening.  Without a doubt, Noah and his family must have been sad to enter the ark by themselves.  When they were safely in the ark, God SHUT THE DOOR!!  There would be no more chances for anyone to enter in.

We wonder what it must have been like for the next seven days as the family waited for "things not yet seen" (Heb. 11:7).  What was going through their minds?  Everything they knew was about to be gone.  Their whole world would soon be buried beneath them.  And then&ldots;it happened.  The ground erupted as the fountains of the great deep were broken up.  Tremendous volumes of water from beneath burst upward followed by God opening the windows of heaven.  Water was coming from below and from above and a deluge fills the earth (Gen. 7:11).  What did those outside the ark do?  Imagine the terror, the screams, the looks on their faces.  They probably ran toward the ark only to find the door shut.  They may have run for the highest peak they could find.  But there was no escape.  The water soon came above their nostrils and everything that had the breath of life died.  It just kept raining for 40 days and 40 nights.  How terrible!!

We must stop here and praise God for what he did for Noah and his family.  God gave them a GREAT ESCAPE!!  God gave them an open door and they walked through it.  They believed God, listened to God and obeyed God.  It is easy to think of them praising God that they were safe and all was well in the ark.

The waters just kept rising until even the highest mountains were covered.  The waters were 15 cubits above the highest mountain (Gen. 7:19-20).  Since the ark was 30 cubits high, this gave the ark just enough room to float over the highest peak.  God surely knew what He was doing.  What must it have been like to look out from the ark and in every direction you look, there is water?  What must it have been like to look and realize that the old world was completely gone?  They may have thought, "This is a new world above the water and we are the only people alive."  Amazing.

It surely took a lot of patience to live in the ark so long while they waited for all of this to be over.  The waters prevailed on the earth for 150 days.  Finally God stopped the water from beneath and stopped the rain.  It must have been so quiet when it finally stopped.  God caused a wind to blow gently across the waters.  The water began to slowly go down until (bump), the ark came to rest.  It had landed on Mt. Ararat.  All was still for the first time.  In time, Noah could see the tops of other mountains but still he waited.  After 40 more days, Noah opened the window and sent out a raven.  It kept going and never returned.  Noah then sent out a dove but it couldn't find any place to rest its feet, so it returned.  Seven days later, Noah tried again.  This time when the dove returned, Noah saw something exciting.  The dove had returned with an olive leaf.  Noah knew the waters were getting very close to being low enough to leave the ark.  They must have been so ready to put their feet on dry ground again.  They had been in the ark for over a year (compare Gen. 7:11 with Gen. 8:13-14).  After seven more days, Noah sent out the dove again and it did not return to the ark.  The earth was dry.  God told Noah and his family to go out of the ark.  All the animals paraded out as well.  What a moment!

Just as we would expect from a man who loves and worships God, the first thing Noah did was build an altar and offered burnt offerings to God.  This was one of the reasons Noah took so many clean animals and birds on the ark.  It was a brand new world.  All was pure once again just as God wanted it.  God told Noah and his family to go and fill the earth as more and more children would be born in the family (Gen. 9:1). 

God did one more amazing thing.  God put a rainbow in the sky.  He told Noah that when they saw the rainbow it would remind them of His promise to never again destroy the whole world with water (Genesis 9:8-17).  Even today when we see a beautiful rainbow with all its magnificent colors we can remember God's promise and the GREAT ESCAPE he gave Noah and his family.

 

VALUABLE LESSONS FOR TODAY:

1. This story is being repeated again today.  God says the world is going to be destroyed once again.  It will not be with water for He promised not to do that.  He says it will be destroyed with fire (2 Pet. 3).  Christians are trying to warn people but many are not listening.  God sent Jesus to be our GREAT ESCAPE from eternal destruction.  Just like the ark had a door, Jesus is the door today (Jn. 10:9).  Will you walk through the door?  Don't wait until the door is shut.

2. This "great escape" is very much like how we are saved today.  God compared the flood to our salvation in 1st Peter 3:20-21.  There God says that "eight souls were saved by water" and then compares that to the reality that "baptism doth also now save us".  Jesus provides baptism as a "great escape" for us from our sins.  Jesus said before He ascended to heaven, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mk. 16:15-16).  When a person believes in Jesus and is baptized, God puts him into Christ (Gal. 3:26-27).  Jesus is our ark of safety today.  He is our way of escape!!

3. We can rear godly families in a wicked world.  We can never say, "It is just too hard to live right these days."  Noah did.  If we will trust God and obey Him, we can have godly families too.

4. We must patiently wait for our new world.  Noah and his family had to stay in the ark for over a year.  How ready they must have been to come out into a new world.  We also will have to be patient as we go through hard times in life (Heb. 6:12).  Heaven, our new world, is waiting for us.  Wait patiently for it.

5. Praise God for our "great escape".  The first thing Noah did after coming out of the ark was to build an altar to God.  This was his way of praising God for his salvation.  Our trust for our salvation is God.  We must praise Him (1st Peter 2:9)!!

 

Lesson 2: The Israelites Escape From Terrible Slavery In Egypt

(Exodus 3 - 15)

In the Old Testament, God had a very special nation that belonged to Him.  That nation was called Israel.  We often call them the Israelites.  The Israelites were a small group of people living in Egypt but God blessed them.  The Bible says they "increased abundantly, multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them" (Exodus 1:7).  The king of Egypt, called Pharaoh, was very upset because there were so many Israelites.  He was afraid that if an enemy ever came to fight against Egypt, the Israelites might join the enemy in the fight.  So, he made the Israelites become his slaves, worked them very hard and was cruel to them.  The Israelites had to make bricks for Egypt's building projects.  Many of them also were made to work in the fields.

God's people began to cry out to God.  They were hurting very bad from all the work.  This saddened God and He was determined to help His people.  God went to a man called Moses and told him to go to Pharaoh and tell him to "let My people go" (Ex. 3:1-10; 5:1).  Pharaoh was a very stubborn king and very arrogant.  He told Moses "Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go?  I do not know the Lord, nor will I let Israel go" (Exodus 5:2).

Pharaoh soon found out who God was.  God sent some mighty plagues upon Egypt and Pharaoh.  This showed Pharaoh just how strong God was and it made things very hard for Pharaoh.  As we look at each one, you can see how powerful God is.  God (1) turned all the water in the land to blood, (2) filled the land with frogs, (3) turned the dust of the land into lice, (4) made swarms of flies, (5) made the livestock turn sick and die, (6) caused sores (boils) to break out on people and animals, (7) brought fire and hail, (8) covered the land with locusts, (9) and sent a thick darkness for three days.  Pharaoh was surely learning about God's power.  At times, Pharaoh would grow weak and say that God's people could leave.  But then, after the plague was removed, he would refuse to let them go. 

This was only a small demonstration of what God could do.  This was almost like a cat playing with a mouse.  Or maybe it was like a boxer, who keeps delivering little punches while saving the "knockout punch".  God told Pharaoh that at any time, if He had wanted to, He could have destroyed Pharaoh and removed him from the earth.  God was just using Pharaoh to show all the world how powerful He is.  God told Pharaoh, "For this purpose, I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be exalted in all the earth" (Exodus 9:16).  God was soon to deliver the "knockout punch" and give His people a GREAT ESCAPE from their terrible bondage and slavery.

God was preparing to bring one more plague upon Egypt.  It would be so bad that God said, "Afterward, he will let you go from here."  Moses told Pharaoh about the final plague.  He told him that God said He was going go through all the land of Egypt and all the firstborn children in every house would die.  Even Pharaoh would lose his firstborn.  God knew how stubborn Pharaoh would be.  God said that everyone would be crying throughout the land of Egypt more than they had ever cried before (Exodus 11:4-6).  But even this last warning didn't move Pharaoh. 

What would the Israelites do during this last plague?  God had a plan to help His people escape from this last plague and not lose a single life.  Moses told each family to take a male lamb that had no blemishes and keep it until the 14th day.  God said to kill the lamb at twilight on the 14th day.  Next, they were to take the blood of the lamb and put it on the doorposts and on the lintel (the beam above the door).  God promised that when He later passed through at midnight, wherever He saw the blood, He would pass over that house.  No one would die in that home.  All of these things were called the "Lord's Passover" because he was "passing over" houses where the lamb's blood was seen (Exodus 12:1-11).

Then the night came when God would pass through the land.  Imagine the thoughts going through some people's minds at midnight.  Then it happened.  At midnight, crying soon began to be heard throughout all the land of Egypt.  In every home, there was someone dead, even in Pharaoh's home.  Only God's people, the Israelites, were saved from death because they trusted God and obeyed God by putting the blood on their doorposts and lintels (Exodus 12:28-30).  Surely, Pharaoh could see who God's people were!!

Pharaoh had enough.  He called for Moses and Aaron in the middle of the night and said, "Go.  Go serve the Lord.  Be gone."  Even the people of Egypt were trying to hurry the Israelites out of the land and even gave them silver, gold and clothing.  Israel was given so very much.  It was like a war had taken place and this was the spoil for the victorious army (Exodus 12:31-36).  God had given Israel a GREAT ESCAPE!!  God led them out of Egypt with a pillar of cloud  during the day and a pillar of fire leading them at night.  But the escape wouldn't last for long.

As Israel was leaving Egypt, they stopped at the Red Sea.  Pharaoh thought they were hemmed in, so he changed his mind again.  He quickly got his chariot and his army ready and he went after them.  When Israel saw Pharaoh's army coming, they were very afraid.  They said to Moses, "Were there not  enough graves in Egypt, so that you have brought us out here to die?"  They said it would have been better to serve the Egyptians than to die out in the wilderness.  Moses was not afraid.  He knew that he served a God that could give GREAT ESCAPES.  Moses said, "Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today.  For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more.  The Lord will fight for you; and you shall hold your peace" (Exodus 14:13-14).

Then something amazing happened.  The cloud that had been leading Israel moved around behind them.  It was something like a wall between them and the Egyptians.  It was dark on the one side but light on the other during the night.  The Egyptians didn't come near them that night.  Then, the most incredible thing happened!!  Moses lifted his rod over the sea and a strong east wind began to blow.  It divided the water right in front of them.  Can you imagine a dry path across the sea with huge walls of water on each side?  That's what happened.  The Bible says, "So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left" (Ex. 14:21-22).

Well, Pharaoh and his army just had to pursue.  So, they went into the sea after God's people.  But God slowed the Egyptians down by taking off their chariot wheels so that they drove with difficulty.  The Egyptians said, "Let us flee.  The Lord is fighting for them against us".  When Israel got to the other side, Moses lifted his rod over the sea and the waters collapsed on the Egyptians.  Even Pharaoh died in the midst of the sea (Psa. 136:15).  Everyone sank to the bottom like a stone (Exodus 15:5).  Not even one remained (Ex. 14:28).  What a GREAT ESCAPE!!  The Lord saved Israel from their terrible slavery in Egypt.  Israel looked across the seashore and "saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore" (Ex. 14:30).  It caused everyone to fear the Lord and believe in Him (Exodus 14:31).

What would you have done after being so scared but then being given a great escape?  Moses and the children of Israel celebrated their escape by singing a song.  Look at the some of the words of that great song (Exodus 15:1-5,11).  Israel's bondage was over.  They could now go on to enjoy the promised land.

God never wanted this great story to be forgotten (Dt. 6:20-23).  Many years later, even God's enemies were still telling the story and trembling (Joshua 2:10-11).  We must never forget that God is so powerful.  He is always able to come through and give his people GREAT ESCAPES.  He can do the same for you.  We should all want to serve such a wonderful God.

 

APPLICATIONS FOR TODAY:

1. Living in sin is like living in slavery (Jn. 8:34; Rom. 6:16-18).  It makes life so hard for us (Prov. 13:15).  The prodigal son learned how hard it was living in sin (Lk. 15:13-19).  Jesus wants to set us free from the bondage of sin (Mt. 11:28-30; Jn. 8:32).

2. The crossing of the Red Sea is similar to our salvation today.  When a person obeys the gospel, he has decided to leave a life of sin and bondage.  He is baptized for the remission of his sins.  Jesus takes his bondage away.  So, just like Israel crossed water in breaking free from bondage, we do the same when we believe in Christ and are baptized.  The Bible even calls their crossing the Red Sea, a baptism (1 Cor. 10:1-2).  Bondage - water - freedom. 

3. Jesus is our "Passover" today (1 Cor. 5:7).  Remember the last plague we studied today?  All those who believed God and applied the blood of the lamb to their homes were saved from death.  Jesus is God's Lamb today (Jn. 1:29).  When we obey the gospel by believing and being baptized, God says He sees it as us being washed in the blood of His Lamb, Jesus (Rev. 1:5; Acts 22:16).  When God sees the blood of Jesus applied to us, He "passes over" and saves us.  This is our GREAT ESCAPE.

4. God must be praised for giving us a GREAT ESCAPE.  The first thing Moses and Israel did after escaping from Egypt was to praise God (Exodus 15).  Surely, we should do the same (1st Peter 2:9).

5. With God nothing is impossible.  God shows us His great power in Egypt through all of the plagues and finally crossing the Red Sea.  God can deliver us from so many of our troubling situations (2 Tim. 4:18).

6. Let us make sure that we tell these stories, especially to our children.  It builds faith in them (Deut. 6:20-23).  Look at what happened when Israel either failed to tell their children these stories or told them with little excitement (Judges 2:7,10).

Lesson 3: Daniel Escapes from a Den of Lions

(Daniel 1:1-21; 6:1-28)

We wish we could say that God's people were always faithful and obeyed Him after they went into the Promised Land.  But they were not loyal to Him.  God warned that if they turned their backs on Him, He would drive them out of the land and send them into captivity (Dt. 28:36-37).  God tried everything He could to influence them to obey Him but nothing worked (2 Chr. 36:16).  So, God allowed the Chaldeans (Babylonians) to come in and capture them and take them away to Babylon.  The very first captives were taken to Babylon in 605 B.C.

In the first group of captives, were some men who cared about God and were devoted to Him.  We most often refer to them as Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego.  Only Daniel's name was his real name.  The Babylonians changed their names in an effort to re-program them and make them adapt to the ways of the Babylonians (Daniel 1:1-7).  They called Daniel, Belteshazzar.  Shadrach's real name was Hananiah.  Meshach's name was really Mishael.  Abed-Nego's real name was Azariah.  But even changing their names and training them in Babylonian ways couldn't change these men.  They knew who they were.  They were God's people and they were determined to serve God faithfully, no matter what happened to them.  They made up their minds to stay true to God before they ever arrived in Babylon (Daniel 1:8).

The first test they faced is when King Nebuchanezzar set food before them. He had foods they were not allowed by God to eat.  Daniel requested that they be allowed to eat vegetables and drink water for ten days and then be examined to see how they looked.  God blessed them and after ten days they looked better than all the other servants in training (Daniel 1:15).  Therefore, they did not make them eat the king's food.  Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego had stood firm in their beliefs.  God blessed them by making them better than all the other men in training.  King Nebuchadnezzar loved what he saw in them and made them his servants.

Many years later, the Babylonians were overthrown by the Medes and Persians. The new king named Darius appointed Daniel as one of three governors over the whole kingdom.  Daniel distinguished himself in this position because he had an excellent spirit.  As a result, the king was considering appointing Daniel over the entire kingdom. 

The other governors and rulers did not like this idea.  So, they tried to find some fault or error in Daniel or his work, but they could find nothing.  They decided to set a trap for him by using his obedience to God's law.  Here's what they did: They went to King Darius and suggested that he make a law "that whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions" (6:7).  The king agreed and signed the written decree.

When Daniel knew that the law was signed, "He went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days."  Notice that Daniel had made a practice of praying regularly everyday, and he was not going to stop even if it meant being thrown into the lion's den.

When the other governors and rulers found Daniel praying, they brought it to the attention of the king.  They said that by praying three times a day to God Daniel was not showing respect to the king.  However, the king apparently still liked Daniel.  The king was displeased with himself for signing the law; he tried all day long to figure out a way to keep Daniel from being put in the lion's den, but he could not.  At last he gave the command to cast Daniel into the den of lions.  But the king told Daniel, "Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you."

Daniel was put into the lion's den.  A stone was rolled against the opening of the den and it was officially sealed by King Darius.  The king went home and spent a sleepless night fasting.  Early in the morning he hurried to the den of lions to check on Daniel. He called out, "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?"  Amazingly, Daniel responded, "O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also, O king, I have done no wrong before you."  The king was very happy.  He commanded that Daniel be let up out of the den.  He was kept safe and unharmed "because he believed in his God."

King Darius then ordered that Daniel's accusers and their families be thrown to the lions.  The lions immediately attacked and overpowered them.

In the end, the king made a decree everyone was to respect the God of Daniel because He "He delivers and rescues, And He works signs and wonders In heaven and on earth, Who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions" (6:27).

What a mighty God we serve!!  He still gives great escapes today.  Don't you want to serve Him each day of your life?

 

APPLICATIONS FOR TODAY:

1. We must always take a stand for what we believe.  Daniel teaches us what we should do when men try to force us to disobey God, or pressure us to compromise our beliefs.  We must always obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).  We must "be steadfast and immovable" (1 Cor. 15:58; Acts 20:22-24). 

2. God's people are quality people.  Daniel had an excellent spirit and no fault could be found in him or his work.  What a wonderful example for us!  We as Christians are also to be "blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation" (Philippians 2:15)

3. If we fear God, there is nothing else to fear.  If we don't fear God, we have everything to fear.  Fearing God will keep us from fearing anything else (Isa. 8:12-13).  Men can destroy our bodies but after that they can do no more (Lk. 12:4-5).  The Bible says, "When I am afraid, I will trust in You.  In God (I will praise His word),  In God I have put my trust; I will not fear.  What can flesh do to me" (Psalm 56:3)?

4. Never stop praying.  Daniel was in the habit of praying three times every day.  He loved to talk to His God.  We are to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  Unfortunately, there are those who do not pray because they cannot seem to find a convenient time.  Daniel made time to pray, and he refused to stop even when it meant that he would be greatly inconvenienced.

5. God is all powerful. Daniel never forgot how powerful God was.  Some people "err not knowing the power of God" (Mt. 22:29).  In the Old Testament, Sarah was asked, "Is anything too hard for the Lord" (Gen. 18:14).  Jesus says, "With God all things are possible" (Mt. 19:26).  Aren't we learning this in our VBS?  God can do anything!!

6. Sometimes we have to wait to see God's plan.  God didn't deliver Daniel immediately.  He was accused by his enemies, tried and put into the den of lions.  But at last, God delivered.  We must never doubt God's love for us.  Sometimes it may seem like God is not going to deliver us, yet God will always deliver His people.  It may be at the very last.  It may even be after our death.  In the end, we will suffer no lasting harm.  Trust in Him.  Wait on the Lord (Isa. 40:31).  Think of Jesus.  They were allowed to hurt Him, kill Him and even bury Him.  But God delivered Him from the dead and He is alive forevermore!!

7. Sometimes God doesn't save us from trouble, but through trouble.  God says trials are good for us.  They test us and make us stronger.  Our faith goes through a fire but it is a purer and stronger faith afterward (1 Pet. 1:6-9).

Lesson 4: Jesus Escapes From His Grave

(Matthew 27:57 - 28:20; Mark 15:42-47 - 16:1-20;

Luke 23:50 - 24:53; John 19:38 - 21:25)

We now come to the greatest escape in the history of mankind.  No escape has ever meant more to men than the day Jesus escaped from His grave.  We call this "resurrection".

When Jesus lived on earth, He said some pretty amazing things about Himself.  He said that God was His Father and that He was God's son.  Was it true?  Yes, it was true.  Jesus proved it in many ways.  His incredible teaching, knowledge of people's heart and His miracles all proved who He was (Jn. 20:30-31).  But the resurrection of Jesus was God's final stamp on proving that Jesus was God's Son (Romans 1:4).

Jesus talked about His death and resurrection long before it ever happened.  In John 2, He boldly told his enemies that if they destroyed His tent (body), He would raise it up in three days (John 2:18-22).  In Matthew 12:40 He compares His resurrection to Jonah being in the fish.  He says, "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."   And He was very plain with His disciples about the things that were to happen to Him.  Mark 8:31 says, "And He began to teach that the Son of Man must suffer many things ,and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again."   His death was surely no accident.  He was not hemmed into something He could not escape.  He purposely and freely gave Himself to die for us (Jn. 10:17-18; 15:13).  His death was in God's plan from before the foundation of the world (1 Pet. 1:18-20; Acts 2:23).

Jesus' final moments on the cross are recorded in the Gospels.  Let's take the time to read Luke 24:44-49 and let His final moments be impressed upon our minds.  Imagine the crowd watching the things that were done to Him and then beating their chests and walking away.  Some of His acquaintances stood afar watching.  Jesus' death left His disciples in total despair.  Most of them had fled in fear.  They didn't understand it.  They were so sad.  It seemed like all of their hopes had vanished away (Lk. 24:21).  Their master was dead.  But somehow, they all found themselves assembled together again.  Only Judas was not with them.  Tragically, he had hanged himself after he saw that Jesus was condemned.

After Jesus died, Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.  He and Nicodemus took the body and wrapped it in strips of linen, mixing in about one hundred pounds of spices as they went.  They took His body and placed it in a new tomb, where no one had yet been laid (Jn. 19:38-41).  This appeared to all men to be the end of Jesus of Nazareth.

But after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, behold there was a great earthquake!!  And angel came down from heaven and rolled back the stone from the door of Jesus' grave and sat on it.  His face was like lightning, and his clothing was white as snow!  The guards of the grave shook with fear and became like dead men (Mt. 28:1-4).  The GREATEST ESCAPE of all time had happened!!  Jesus had risen from the dead.  His grave was empty.  Soon, Mary Magdalene and another Mary arrived at the tomb and found the stone taken away from the tomb (John 20:1).  Mary Magdalene ran and told Peter and John.  She was so disturbed because she thought someone had taken Jesus' body.  When Peter arrived, he went into the tomb.  He saw the linen cloths lying there and the handkerchief that once covered the face of Jesus.  It had been neatly folded and set aside.  They didn't know what to make of it all.  They just went back to their homes.

Mary Magdalene stayed at the tomb longer.  She was so overcome with grief.  She couldn't stand the thought that someone had taken Jesus' body away.  She didn't know what had really happened.  Look at what the Bible says happened next (Jn. 20:11-18).  Mary saw Jesus!!  Imagine the exhilaration of that moment.  She went from total despair to intense joy.  She ran and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord.  They were gathered somewhere behind closed doors.  They were very afraid of the Jews who had Jesus put to death (Jn. 20:19).

That evening, while they remained hidden, Jesus suddenly appeared right in the middle of them.  What a shock this must have been to them.  There He was!  Jesus said, "Peace be with you."  Mark records that Jesus even rebuked them because they didn't believe at the first that He had risen from the dead (Mk. 16:14).  He showed them His pierced hands and side.  This was surely Him.  The disciples were glad when they saw the Lord (Jn. 20:20).

Only Thomas was not there when Jesus appeared to them.  The other apostles told Thomas they had seen the Lord but he didn't believe.  He said, "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails and put my hand into His side, I will not believe" (Jn. 20:25).  Eight days later when they were again assembled behind closed doors, Jesus appeared again in their midst.  This time Thomas was present.  Jesus asked Thomas to put his finger into his hands and side.  He said to Thomas, "Do not be unbelieving, but believing" (Jn. 20:26-27).  Thomas was overwhelmed with the evidence.

This was Jesus.  He exclaimed to Jesus, "My Lord and my God!"  Jesus said, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed.  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29).  Jesus was talking about us.  He praises those of us who were not there to see it all happen, but we believe!

What would Jesus' enemies do?  The thing they feared the most had happened.  The one they killed was alive and had risen from the dead.  What would they do?  They had to think quickly of some way to try to cover the truth.  When the guards came and told what happened, the Jewish leaders gave them a large sum of money and told them to say, "His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept" (Mt. 28:11-15).  Of course, this was a lie.  But men who would kill an innocent man like Jesus, surely would not care if they lied.  They had spent money to have him killed.  Now they spend money to keep him dead in the minds of many people.  Still, there remains one big problem.  Where's the body?  You and I know the truth.  He's alive.  His is risen.

Jesus stayed here on earth for forty days after His resurrection.  During this time He met often with His disciples and spoke about His kingdom that would soon be established (Acts 1:3).  Then came His last meeting with them.  Jesus told them to go tell the world the good news.  He said "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mk. 16:15-16).  Before their eyes, one final thing caught their attention.  When he finished speaking with them, His feet began to lift off the ground.  Jesus was rising off the ground and into the air!!  "While they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.  And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven?  This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:9-11).  Can you imagine them looking at this sight?  For three years, they had watched their Master live like no other man ever lived and do things that amazed them.  He had been their life and now He was gone.  But they could be with Him again.  He promised them He would come back one day (Jn. 14:1-3).  Until then, they had work to do.  They must go and tell others about Jesus so they too could be ready to meet Him when He comes again.  The apostles did their job well.  They told others.  Will we?

Never will there be a greater escape than this one!  Everything we believe as Christians hinges on the resurrection of Jesus.  Because Jesus rose from the dead, we will too.  Will we be ready to meet Him when He comes again?

 

APPLICATIONS FOR TODAY:    

1. Consider how much is resting on the resurrection of Jesus.    Because He rose from the dead&ldots; 1) He is the son of God (Rom. 1:4), 2) Baptism has power (1 Pet. 3:21), 3) We live in hope (1 Pet. 1:3-4), 4) He is going to judge the world (Acts 17:31), 5) There will be a resurrection of all the dead (1 Cor. 15:20-22), Christianity has validity.

In contrast, if Jesus was not raised from the dead, 1) He is not the Son of God, 2) Baptism has no power, 3) We have no hope 4) He is not going to judge the world, 5) There will not be a resurrection from the dead, 6) Christianity has no validity.

The apostle Paul shows how we are totally hopeless if Jesus did not rise from the dead (1 Cor. 15:12-20).  But thanks be to God, He did rise (1 Cor. 15:20).

2. Since He rose from the dead, I will too.  The Bible has much to say about this.  Jesus' resurrection is first, ours is next (Mt. 27:51-53; 1 Cor. 15:20; Heb. 6:19-20).  If we are Christians, we don't have to fear death.  Jesus has given us victory over death (1 Cor. 15:54-57). 

3. His death and resurrection has the power to change people's lives today.  Isn't that what changed Saul of Tarsus immediately?  He was on his way to Damascus to kill Christians.  And then a few days later, he became a Christian.  Why?  He saw Jesus.  He knew Jesus had risen from the dead (Acts 9:1-22).  People who truly know that Jesus died for them, rose for them, ascended to heaven and is coming again should desire to be ready to meet Him.  Are you ready to meet Him?

Lesson 5: Paul & Silas Escape From Prison

(Acts 16:6-40)

In our last lesson, we saw a GREAT ESCAPE when Jesus rose from the dead and came out of His grave (tomb).  It was great news.  Before Jesus left the earth and ascended into the clouds, He told His apostles to go tell the good news.  He said, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mk. 16:15-16).

Sometime later, Jesus saw another man He wanted as one of His apostles.  His name was Saul.  But he became the apostle Paul.  For a long time, Paul didn't believe Jesus had risen from the dead.  He believed Christians were wrong and he hated them for teaching that Jesus was the Lord.  He arrested Christians and even had many of them put to death.  One day, he was on his way to Damascus to find Christians and arrest them and bring them to Jerusalem.  On the road to Damascus, something marvelous happened!!  All of a sudden, a bright light shone around Saul from heaven.  He fell to the ground and was blinded.  A voice spoke to him from heaven.  It was Jesus.  He said, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" (Acts 9:1-4).  Saul asked, "Who are you, Lord?"  Imagine how shocked Saul was when the voice said, "I am Jesus."  Saul immediately knew how wrong he had been.  He wanted to know what to do.  Jesus told him to go into the city and he would be told what to do.  About three days later, Saul was baptized and became a Christian and one of the Lord's apostles.  Everyone was so amazed because Paul was now trying to help people become Christians rather than destroying them.

Paul began to take preaching trips to try to get others to obey Jesus.  We sometimes call these "Missionary Journeys".  Today, we learn about a GREAT ESCAPE that happened on Paul's 2nd Journey.  On this journey, he had a man called Silas with him.  They came to the city of Philippi.  Things began in a great way there.  Paul taught some women by a riverside and a woman named Lydia and her household became Christians.  She was so thankful for Paul and Silas.  She invited them to come and stay at her house.  What a great time this was for Paul.  But soon, things would turn very bad.  Paul's life was like that.  He had a lot of "ups and downs" as a Christian.

Paul continued his preaching about Jesus in Philippi.  As he made his way through the city, he was met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination within her.  She was a fortune-teller and her masters made so much money from those who came to her wanting their fortunes told.  But she was very annoying to Paul.  She would follow him and Silas around saying, "These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation."  Imagine how aggravating it was to have to listen to her saying that over and over.  She did it for many days.  Finally, Paul was so annoyed that he turned to the girl and spoke to the spirit within her saying, "I command you in the name of Jesus to come out of her" (Acts 16:18).  The spirit came out that very hour!!

This made her masters very angry because now they couldn't make money from her fortune-telling any longer.  They were so angry, they took hold of Paul and Silas and dragged them off to the authorities and said, "These men are troubling our city, teaching things we cannot follow".  Now, a great multitude had gathered and rose up against Paul.  Can you picture the anger on their faces?  The authorities commanded that Paul and Silas be beaten with rods.  This would be so painful.  It would bruise their backs as blood rose to the surface.  The Bible says they laid many stripes on them.  Can you see them in your mind hitting Paul and Silas over and over?  Then they threw them into prison and commanded the jailer to hold them there and not let them get away.  They put them in the deepest part of the prison and fastened their feet in the stocks (Acts 16:19-24).

How would you be feeling at this moment if you were Paul and Silas?  Can you imagine how they felt?  Their backs are bloody and bruised and still aching over the beating they took.  They can't get very comfortable.  They want to move their legs but they can't.  It is dark.  It is very late.  It is midnight.  How tired they must have been.  It would be easy for them to complain and be upset at God and even want to say bad things to those who held them.  Instead, do you know what Paul and Silas did?

Paul and Silas began to sing and to pray.  Can you hear that?  Songs of praise were coming from the inner prison.  The prisoners were listening to them.  What kind of impression did this make on the other prisoners?  Imagine how God felt when He heard the songs and the prayers.  Paul and Silas were not bitter toward God.  They knew that Jesus had suffered so much for them.  They counted it a great honor to suffer pain for Jesus.  They were so glad to be Christians.

And then . . . as they were singing and praying . . . suddenly there was a great earthquake!!  The ground trembled and the very foundations of the prison were shaken.  All the doors came open and everyone's chain was loosed.  Paul and Silas were free.  God had given them a GREAT ESCAPE!!  But they didn't leave.  None of the prisoners left.  The jailer woke up from his sleep, was afraid they had escaped and was about to kill himself.  Normally, jailers were put to death if their prisoners escaped.  Rather than dying at the hands of others, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself!!

At that moment, Paul shouted out with a loud voice and said, "Do yourself no harm, for we are all here."  The jailer called for someone to bring him a light.  He ran into the prison and fell down before Paul and Silas.  His body was shaking all over.  He was so afraid.  He asked Paul and Silas, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"  He knew these men were from God.  They were different from other prisoners.  The earthquake had proven that their God was the living God.  He knew they had the truth and they could tell him what to do to be saved.

Paul and Silas knew that he needed to know about Jesus.  They told him, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household" (Acts 16:31).  After pointing him to Jesus, they then spoke the word of the Lord to him.  They told him and all his family Jesus' plan for saving them.  He took them and washed their stripes.  This showed his repentance.  He was trying to undo the wrong things he had done to them.  And immediately, he and all his family were baptized.  The jailer was saved!!  He brought Paul and Silas to his house and there was great rejoicing!!

The next day, the authorities said that Paul and Silas could leave.  But Paul insisted that the leaders come themselves and let him go.  He wanted them to show everyone how wrong they had been to treat them so badly.  After Paul and Silas were set free, they went back to Lydia's house and spent time with the brethren.  It was so encouraging to see other Christians and Lydia doing so well.  This filled Paul and Silas with joy as they got ready to go and preach Jesus to other people.

God is a God of GREAT ESCAPES.  Not only did he help Paul and Silas escape from prison, but God helped the jailer escape from an even greater problem, his sins.  God can do the same for us!!

 

APPLICATIONS FOR TODAY:

1. God does not always save us from harm but saves us through harm.  The Bible teaches that we will not always be spared from harm but God will save us from the greatest harm of all, the loss of our souls (Lk. 12:4-5).  God often uses difficult times to test our faith and make us stronger than we were before (1st Peter 1:6-9).  Hardships are not designed to make us bitter but to make us better.  Paul and Silas suffered some harm when they were beaten but they both knew that even if they were killed, God would save their souls.  That's the GREATEST ESCAPE of all.

2. The Christian life will have ups and downs but God will always be with us. Acts chapter 16 shows us that.  Paul had some very "up" moments when all was well and there were "down" moments.  But in all of the moments he knew God had never left him.  God always knew where Paul was and was always there to help (Hebrews 13:5-6). 

3. We should rejoice when suffer for Christ (1 Pet. 4:12-16).  Paul and Silas were surely hurting, but they rejoiced.  They knew that Jesus had suffered so much for them.  They were glad to be able to suffer for Him.  It was one of the ways they showed their love and appreciation to Jesus (cf. Acts 5:41). 

4. Paul and Silas stayed in custody but they set the jailer free.  It must have been so shocking to the jailer that Paul and Silas and all the prisoners stayed.  Paul and Silas had a greater purpose than being free.  They wanted the jailer to be free from his sins.  They taught him the truth, and he was set free (Jn. 8:32-36).  After repenting and being baptized, he rejoiced!!

5. We must seek opportunities to teach no matter what our circumstances might be.  Even when Paul was in prison, he was always seeking to teach others about Jesus (cf. Phil. 1:12-14).  Rather than complaining and murmuring about our circumstances, we need to be using the moment for good.  When we are mistreated and we take it with patience, it has a powerful impact on others (1 Pet. 2:19-24).

 

  

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