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Easter 2 – John 20:19-31

by pastorjuhl ~ April 16th, 2009

Revised from 2004.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

It’s hard to believe the disciples are so skeptical about Jesus’ resurrection. When Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women told them they had seen the Lord, their words seemed to them like idle tales. Only when Jesus enters a locked room saying peace be with you do the disciples understand that Jesus is alive.

One disciple was not there that first Easter evening. Thomas refused to believe that Jesus rose from the dead unless he touched Christ’s nail prints and put his hand into the Lord’s side. One week later Jesus appeared and allowed Thomas to touch Him, proclaiming do not be unbelieving, but believing.

It took one appearance by Jesus to turn the disciples’ unbelief into belief. It takes much more for us. Jesus is not visibly present among us. We cannot see His wounds. We cannot touch His hands and side. We need more than evidence in a book or from a pastor’s mouth to believe Jesus is alive.

Thomas used the word “unless”. We often use the word “if”. If Jesus is alive, then He had better show His face somehow so I can believe He really exists. If Jesus really loves me, He will answer all my prayers just the way I want them. If there is a God of the Bible, He will give me a sign to prove He is God. The faith that uses “if” is a faith that is not centered in God’s grace and mercy but a faith centered in doubt or stubborn pride.

Today’s Introit from Psalm 81 says I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. In distress you called, and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. Did God’s people hear Him? My people would not heed My voice, and Israel would have none of Me. So I gave them over to their stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels. The psalm sounds like you and me sometimes. Trouble comes quickly. We fall flat on our face when we think we can fix trouble without the Lord’s help. When we realize we are helpless without our heavenly Father, yet we don’t really believe in Him, where will we turn? We will turn to the God of love and mercy Who rescues us only to see us return to our foolish and thankless ways.

Though we love to sing, “To the old rugged cross I will always be true”, we won’t always remain loyal to the One Who hung on the old rugged cross. Though the resurrection account brings us great joy every year, we forget about the resurrection and move on with our lives. If seeing is believing, we will never know what it means to believe in the God Who saves us from sin and death.

Jesus tells Thomas because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. Jesus is talking about you and me here. We weren’t in the room behind locked doors when Jesus walked in either that first night or one week later when Thomas was present. We didn’t walk the road to Emmaus and see Jesus hide His identity until He broke the bread. Yet we still believe in spite of our absence. We believe because [God’s Word] was written that [we] may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing [we] may have life in His name.

It doesn’t seem right that faith in words on a page about God becoming man to save man from sin and death brings life. Gut feelings and reason cannot believe Jesus died and rose again. Faith clings to Jesus Christ and receives the benefits of His death and resurrection. How can this be? The Holy Spirit taught us by showing us the water and blood of Jesus pouring from His side. How can this be? The Spirit draws us into the Word of God where Saint John writes there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one just as there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.

The Spirit puts the Father’s Word with water in Holy Baptism. This living water calls us out of darkness into the marvelous light of Christ. The Spirit puts the Father’s Word with bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper. The True Body and Blood of Christ forgives our sins and unites those who have gone before us in the faith with those who kneel next to us at this rail. The Spirit puts the Father’s Word with men sent to proclaim forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. These men shepherd the flock of God into green pastures ripe with forgiveness and life. They speak the Word of Christ in and out of season, letting the Spirit work when and where He wills to grow the Church in the grace and peace of Jesus.

The sinful doubt of the disciples finally left them when they saw Jesus alive. Thomas once did not believe, just as the other ten disciples once did not believe. When Jesus shows Himself, these eleven men once again believed in the Son of God. Jesus will appear once again. This final appearance will confirm persistent unbelievers in their hopeless condition. This final appearance will also confirm faithful Christians who believe without seeing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. They will come forth from the grace just as Jesus came forth from the grave. All things will be new. There will be no more doubt. There will be only joy in the Resurrection. Make no doubt about it!

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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