Easter 2B: 1 John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31
To all the faithful at Bethlehem Lutheran, peace be with you. Amen.
These disciples were among the cowards and those who doubted, it wasn’t just Thomas. Remember on Easter day we heard of the women going to anoint the body expecting Jesus’ body to still be dead. They were hiding in fear of the Jews. These guys had just seen a quick mob mentality kill their teacher just three days previous. After all the horrors and sights they’d seen, would you want to gather again in a public place or would you be hiding behind locked doors?
What we see here in today’s readings is interesting and in that which we see in the disciples. The mob mentality was all in an effort to show that this man Jesus was not who He had said He was, the promised Son of Man, the Messiah, God in the flesh. Throughout the centuries (And more loudly every day) there is an effort to disprove just this – that Jesus is not who He said. There are attempted doubts most obviously from those who do not believe in God in any way. It gets confusing when you see so many different churches from the various Christian denominations to other church bodies who identify with a different God. It gets confusing when you turn on the TV and the History Channel documentaries along with popular books that cast doubts on Jesus’ claim. It’s hard to not lock yourself behind a closet out of fear of being socially crucified and say that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life when the culture’s religious slogan is one of “tolerance” in regards to religious beliefs and that we spiritually coexist. It is difficult to stand up to the acceptance of sin – be it on life issues, sexuality and marriage issues, or issues of greed – and proclaim God’s Word of truth when the pressures are that “we all believe in the same God.”
And yet, these men testify to this – that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who was crucified for you and is risen from the dead to give you life. If John and the disciples were trying to create a new faith, it probably would not help their case to say that the creator and leader was killed and that the followers were hiding in fear. If John was making this up, he would be writing about how they were bold in their witness, how they stood up in opposition to these religious leaders and answered every question about their faith. How they were out and about proclaiming and just waiting for Jesus to show them just how He was going to rise from the dead just as He said.
That would be nice… but nope. They are in hiding for fear of the Jews.
These men hunkered down were not the religious scholars or political leaders of the day. They were the common workers, fishermen, tax collectors, and men of business. We too, like these men, sometimes lock the doors of our lives to Christ. We hide in fear of being asked about our faith and doubt easily slips in. I’ve heard it from many, and I’m sure many more have doubted what is going to happen here in this place after next week? Sadly, some of you may go into hiding, I pray you don’t but you’ll be tempted to.
Yet, what we have is their testimony, their witness. This is what you have always. This man Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who was crucified and is risen from the dead. This is it. This is what everything hinges on. If Christ is not raised, we are still dead in our sins and our faith is futile (1 Cor 15). This is the testimony of these reliable sources that we have in the four Gospels. This is the testimony of the church, this is your gift and confession.
If you ever doubt that these sources of the Gospel are reliable consider this: source documents of Plato and Caesar and Roman history post-date their events by 800 to 1000 years with only a handful of copies, source documents of Homer’s Illiad is considered of utmost reliability post-dates the writing by 450 years and we have 600+ copies, and yet of these four Gospels we have in excess of 15,000 copies a mere 100-200 years later. Historically speaking these Gospels are of the utmost reliability as being written and not being forged documents.
These men were merely writing and proclaiming that which they have seen and heard and that which they have touched – that this man Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who was crucified and is risen from the dead!
He says to the disciples hiding in fear, He says to doubting Thomas, and He says to you who struggle with doubts about your church, which really is a doubt of faith: “peace be with you.” This not just merely a greeting like, “hey, how’s it going, good to see you.” It’s more along the lines of “do not be afraid, fear not, even in the very presence of the Holy God.” Aside from the shock of being in presence of a guy they had just seen dead, they see their leader, their teacher, the Lord standing in their midst as they hide in fear and doubt. Jesus doesn’t chastise them for being weak and having doubts, He does not curse and say they aren’t good enough but He says, “Peace be with you.”
Following this gives them the Holy Spirit and sends these men to forgive sins, He gives them full authority to do that which can only come from God. This is what you receive as you hear the Lord’s Word. Always remember that, the Lord’s Word, “in the stead and by the command of Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This is the dialogue you and I regularly have, “the Lord be with you… and with your Spirit (or and also with you.) We have this dialogue after the Lord’s Words in the Lord’s Supper, “the peace of the Lord be with you always,” and you respond in confidence that this is true, this is yours, Amen.
Jesus comes to these men through the locked doors as they were hiding in fear and shows them His wounds. He comes through your locked doors of fear and doubt and gives you Himself. He has come to you. The risen Christ gives you His death and resurrection in your gift of baptism. He gives to you the fruits of His wounds from the cross at the altar.
You have your wounds, you have your doubts. Again, as we regularly proclaim in the liturgy, “if you say you have no sin you deceive yourself and the truth is not in us.” If we say we have no sin, we make Him a liar… if we have no sin, we have no need for a crucified and risen Savior, we have nothing to be forgiven. Yet we have wounds, we sin, we doubt, we have trials, we suffer heartache and do not perfectly love our neighbor. “But if we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The blood of the Son cleanses you and your sins are forgiven.
The blood of the Son given and shed for you. We celebrate and rejoice in Easter, not because its cute and fun, but because everything that leads up to and is included in Easter is for you. He comes to you and invites you to live in His wounds, live for His body and blood are given and shed for you.
Dear friends in Christ, doubt your doubts not the risen Christ. He has come and makes you at peace with God. Blessed are those who have no seen and yet have believed, blessed are you. Don’t get caught up in your doubts, or in how much you have the power to believe in Jesus, or what will come here, but get caught up in the very object of faith, the crucified and risen Christ! Who is Himself head of the church.
Your faith is not your own, it given and revealed to you from outside of yourself. It is not some mystical feel good story, but the cold-hard facts that this man Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who was crucified and is risen from the dead. Some days you may have doubts and questions, some days you may wonder how strong your faith is, and some days you may seem sure and certain of yourself and think your faith couldn’t be any stronger.
Thanks be to God your salvation is not based on the ebb and flow of your feelings and emotions but the sure and steady faithful of the crucified and risen Christ. Even when you doubt and find it hard to believe or bear witness, the wounds of the crucified and risen Christ forgiven and cover your wounds and weaknesses.
When you doubt and find it hard to believe, when you question His working in you, when you doubt His providing for you in daily life and here in this place, and you hide from Him behind locked doors, He continues to just show and give to you His love through His death and resurrection for you. Continually, He takes our thoughts and our doubts and brings us to our knees and forgives your sins, He brings you to receive the benefits of His wounds in the Supper and brings you to confess, along with not Doubting Thomas, but Saint Thomas, that is one who is declared righteous and holy, just as you are, “My Lord and My God.”
Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia! Peace be with you. Amen