EASTER 2, B – April 8, 2018

SCRIPTURES – Acts 4:32-35; 1 John 1:1 – 2:2; John 20:19-31

      This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:5-9

 

One week ago we celebrated Christ’s glorious resurrection. Imagine what that first week must have been like for the stubborn and unbelieving Thomas, or for the other disciples when they were with him! We all know skeptics and deniers of Christ’s resurrection, and perhaps you even have one in your family. But Thomas was a chosen apostle of Jesus, who had been with Him and the others during His ministry. He had seen the Lord do great miracles, and even raise people from the dead! Why would he not believe? He must have caused great consternation and anger among his brethren.

We live in a Thomas world, a world of skepticism and denial and unbelief. And, even among those who do believe faith is often very weak.

Ø  Do you know the name for this Sunday? It’s commonly referred to in the church, not as the 2nd Sunday of Easter, but as “Low Sunday,” because the attendance in church today is one of the lowest of the year. “What, go again? We went last week!”

 

Well, weak and doubting faith is one of the many things life throws at us that threaten the joy and the confidence we have in our Savior. So: how can you hold onto joy in Christ in this sin-filled world? What’s the way to a firm, unshakeable, confident faith?

Two ways lie before you. Thomas’ way – the way of doubt – is to demand proof, evidence that cannot be doubted. The way of doubt makes demands of God before it will believe. Give evidence that You are alive! Show your power over evil, and over death itself, in my life! But this is not the way of God. The way of God is to believe without seeing. He blesses those who do so.

Oh, sure, Jesus did give in to Thomas’ demand. He did appear to him and invited him to put his fingers and hand into His wounds. But, when Thomas didn’t do so but simply cried out, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus responded, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” He expects to be believed, whether or not you have sufficient evidence or reason to do so. Jesus is our Lord and our God! His wounds and His death are the greatest evidence – all that is needed – of His love for you and for all people. Doubting and denying this – denying Him – are great sins against Him.

The faith that demands proof and rests on evidence, such as the preventing of wounds and sorrows in your life or the assurance of their healing in this life, will weaken and fail. God will not bless such faith with His Holy Spirit and the assurance His Spirit brings, for it is not faith but doubt. It is unbelief. God is to be trusted; no matter what. Jesus’ wounds and His death for us are all the evidence needed to prove Him trustworthy. Jesus Himself directs our attention to them.

Do you want a strong faith, a faith that will not waver or doubt when faced with death, or disease, or sorrow, or any other of the many things our world throws at you to make it seem as if God does not love you and you have no victory in Christ? Follow the way of Christ. His way is the way of confession.

First, confess the reality of Jesus Himself. His life and His works, and especially His resurrection, are doubted and scoffed at by many today, especially by the wise and scholarly. But, there is no reason to doubt Him. We have the words of those who saw Jesus and heard Him and touched Him. He was also mentioned and written about by Roman historians who did not believe in Him. They confirm our faith by telling us that His followers believed He rose from the dead after His crucifixion. Now, if He had not risen, the Jewish leaders could simply have taken people to His tomb and showed them His body. But, they didn’t. Even Jewish writings admit that His tomb was empty. They explain this by accusing the disciples of stealing Jesus’ body. But, if they had, would they then have been willing to die for what they knew to be a lie? Perhaps one or two would, but all of them? There is plenty of historical evidence for Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Don’t believe in Him only because of it; but don’t be afraid to proclaim it. Confess the reality of Jesus, especially to doubting and denying Thomases.

Then, confess the reality of the forgiveness of sins that Jesus died and rose to gain for everyone. Now, you don’t need to confess the reality of sin, of course. We see and hear of sins and crimes every day. We commit them and have them committed against us. Sins are very real; and they are darkness, the opposite of God and His light. They will therefore condemn us. But, the apostle John says, “If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 1) Forgiveness from God is real, as real as the blood Jesus shed on the cross for everyone. That forgiveness is real in your life as you confess your sins and receive their absolution. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9) Familiar words, right? We say them at the beginning of the Divine Service before we confess our sins. You then hear me forgive you. Is my voice enough? It is, if you believe your Lord Jesus. “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven,” He said to His disciples when He appeared to them on Easter. Jesus put His forgiveness into the mouths of His apostles, and of the pastors they raised up after them, that it might be in your ears and your heart. Believe Him and make His forgiveness real in your life by confessing your sins and receiving their forgiveness! This is touching the wounds of Jesus. Your Lord will then give you His Holy Spirit and keep your faith strong.

A real faith, one that brings joy and confidence and changes your life; a real faith in a real Savior, who really was crucified and buried and then who really rose from the dead; this is not easy. But, you are not alone in your struggle for this. Your Lord breathes on you as you hear His words, especially His word of peace after you confess your sins, and He gives you His Holy Spirit! We have fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ! This is as real and true as Jesus is real and true. Blessed are you who confess this faith! “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed,” Jesus declares. He will help you to grow up to salvation, and you will indeed taste and see that the Lord is good!

In the name of Jesus, our crucified and risen Savior. Amen.