April 21, 2019 – EASTER – John 20

Lesson Date: April 21, 2019 – Easter Sunday – One Day Can Change Everything!

Focal Scripture Passage: John 20:1-31

AIM: To lead students to discover and describe the significance of where Mary and Thomas encountered Jesus, and to (a) examine themselves to see if they need renewal and (b) commit to take the steps necessary to encounter Jesus Christ once again.


Before class: Greet members and guests warmly. Give a Sunday School Member Quarterly to each of your guests and show them where today’s lesson may be found. Ask guests to complete guest cards. Invite them to enroll in your Sunday School class. Arrange for some of your members to escort the guests to worship and sit with them there.


INTRODUCTION (Create Learning Readiness): Tell the students that almost everyone goes to Wal-Mart. In fact, Wal-Mart is a good place to run into people you know. If you go to Wal-Mart after church on Wednesday or Sunday night, you will probably see several people from church, “just picking up a few things” on their way home.

Tell the class you are going to take a quick poll. You will name several persons and they are to raise their hands if they have ever encountered such a person at their local Wal-Mart. Ask someone to make a note of how many positive responses there are to each person. Name the following:

Someone from church

A work associate

A teacher or classmate

The Governor of Georgia

The President of the United States

The Queen of England

Tell the students your informal poll shows that we are much more likely to run into a friend from church, work, or school, than we are the Governor, the President, or the Queen. Ask: “Why is that?” The governor, president, and queen don’t live here – if we expect to encounter them, we must go where they are.



  1. Introduce Today’s Lesson.
    • Tell the class that we are interrupting our study of the Old Testament book of Nehemiah for today’s Easter lesson.
    • Tell them today’s lesson is about one day that changed everything.
    • Ask everyone to turn to John 20. Offer a Bible to any guests who do not have one.
    • Explain the following:
      • Near the end of His earthly ministry Jesus was arrested, crucified, and died.
      • Because Jesus was crucified on the day before the Passover, there wasn’t time to finish anointing His body with spices for His final burial
      • Because of this, Jesus’ body was quickly placed in a borrowed tomb.
      • On the morning after the Sabbath ended, some of the women who were followers of Jesus went back to the tomb to complete the customary burial anointing.
  2. Mary Discovered the Empty Tomb.
    • Read John 20:1.
    • Ask: “What did Mary Magdalene find?” (the huge stone that sealed the tomb’s entrance had been rolled away).
    • Ask a volunteer to read John 20:2-10.
    • Ask: “What did Mary do?” (she ran and told Peter and another disciple, who ran to the tomb to see for themselves).
    • Ask: “What did they find in the tomb?” (Jesus’ burial cloths, but no body).
    • Ask: “At this point did the disciples understand that Jesus was going to rise from the dead?” (no – see verse 9).
    • Ask: Where did Peter and John go after making this startling discovery? (home).
    • Summarize: Mary Magdalene discovered that Jesus’ tomb was open and His body was missing. She immediately told some of His disciples, who went and saw the empty tomb for themselves.
  3. Mary Encountered Jesus.
    • Read John 20:11-18.
    • Tell the class that Mary stayed and wept outside the tomb after the disciples left.
    • Ask: “What did she see when she looked inside the tomb?” (two angels).
    • Ask: “What did the angels ask her?” (“Why are you weeping?”).
    • Tell the students Mary was crying because Jesus’ body was gone. She assumed someone had stolen it and taken it away. Mary then turned around and saw Jesus.
    • Ask: “Who did she think He was?” (the gardener).
    • Ask: “What did she ask?” (where she could find Jesus’ body).
    • Ask: “When did Mary realize that it was Jesus she was speaking to?” (when He called her by name).
    • Tell the students Jesus told Mary to go tell the disciples that He was alive and would ascend to His Father in heaven. Mary did as He said.
    • Summarize: Mary encountered the risen Christ at the empty tomb. That was truly a day that changed everything for Mary.
  4. Jesus Appeared to His Disciples.
    • Ask a volunteer to read John 20:18-25.
    • Ask: “Where were the disciples?” (assembled together, hiding from the Jews).
    • Ask: “What happened?” (Jesus appeared, and showed them His wounds).
    • Ask: “Where was Thomas when this happened?” (he was not with the gathering of believers – perhaps he laid out of church for personal reasons or went out of town to attend a ball game).
    • Ask: “What did Thomas say when the other disciples told him that Jesus was alive?” (he refused to believe unless he could see and touch the wounds in Jesus’ hands and side).
    • Thomas could not believe what the other disciples experienced at church because he wasn’t there.
    • Summarize: Within hours of arising from the dead Jesus appeared to His disciples, proving that He was actually alive. That was a day that changed everything for the disciples, but Thomas doubted because he wasn’t there to see it.
  5. Thomas Encountered Jesus.
    • Ask a volunteer to read John 20:26-31.
    • Ask: “What happened the next week, when Thomas was present in the gathering of believers?” (Jesus appeared again, making a point to show His wounds to Thomas).
    • Ask: “What was Thomas’ reaction?” (he believed and expressed his personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ).
    • Tell the class verse 29 is a blessing upon us, who have never seen Jesus with our eyes, but believe in Him by faith.
    • Summarize: Thomas’ life changed forever when he encountered the risen Christ. The same is true for anyone who encounters the Lord.


PERSONAL APPLICATION: Ask: “Where did Mary encounter Jesus?” (at the tomb). Ask: “What do you think is significant about Mary encountering Jesus at the tomb?” (the tomb is the last place she saw Him – it is where she left Him). Mary encountered Jesus when she went back to the place where she left Him. The same is true for us – if you have walked away from God – become unfaithful, uncommitted, or disobedient – you won’t encounter Jesus until you go back where you left Him. Return to your former faithfulness, commitment, and obedience.

Ask: “Where did Thomas encounter Jesus?” (at the gathering of believers – the earliest example of the church). Ask: “What do you think is significant about Thomas encountering Jesus when he attended the gathering of believers?” (Jesus met with the “church,” but Thomas missed Him because he wasn’t there; when Thomas returned to the gathering of believers he had a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ). Thomas didn’t encounter Jesus until he went back to church. The same is true for us: if you’re not attending church regularly, you are missing special encounters with the Lord. You cannot be right with God and simply choose to miss church. Explain that some people have health restrictions that prevent them from coming, and others have jobs that require them to miss some church services. Apart from those exceptions, however, Christians must attend church regularly to be right with God. Get back in church, and encounter Jesus.

Stress to the class that Jesus is God and therefore omnipresent. He can encounter us anywhere He chooses, but He often chooses to meet us when we return to where we left Him or when we faithfully attend church.

Ask: “Do you need to return to Jesus?” Say: “You’ll find Jesus where you left Him (wherever you departed from Him), and you’ll find Him at church.”

Encourage everyone to make a commitment to God to take whatever steps are necessary to get back right with Him. Remind them of the introductory activity about running into people at Wal-Mart. Tell the students if they want to encounter Jesus, they must go where He is. Lead a closing prayer of commitment.


CONCLUSION: Tell the students for the early disciples one day – Jesus’ resurrection day – changed everything. We are praying that today – Easter Sunday – will be a day that changes everything for many of our guests and members.

Encourage everyone to come tonight for “King of Kings,” presented by our Music Ministry. Tell them next Sunday we resume our study of Nehemiah.

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