EASTER 2, A – April 23, 2017

SCRIPTURES – Ps. 105; Acts 5:29-42; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31

Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  John 20

 

On Palm Sunday I left after church for Boston, where Pres. Yeadon and I met with a group of Ethiopian Christians. All members of the Orono tribe, they have become familiar with the confession of faith of our Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod and want to join our Synod. So, we met with them from about 3:00–5:30 PM. Well, you know what else was going on that day? The final round of The Masters golf tournament was being played. It so happens that, while driving, I ran across it on radio. I heard a British announcer saying:

Rory McIlroy strides to the fourth tee, resplendent in his white trousers. He’s chosen a four iron for this 230-yard par 3. (swoosh!) Oh, he’s pulled it left (long pause)… and it lands in the back corner of the green. He’ll have a putt of at least 30 strides.

If you think that watching golf is boring… Well, listening to golf on the radio certainly leaves something to be desired!

 “Seeing is believing,” goes the old saying. Perhaps we could add “enjoying” to this. There’s nothing like being there and seeing things for yourself! I suppose this would be especially true when it comes to Jesus’ resurrection. You can understand Thomas’ doubts, especially since death by crucifixion was so brutal and disfiguring. That Jesus was not only alive but was healthy and sound; who could believe it? It took seeing to believe.

 And yet, after He appears to him Jesus says, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” He expects us to believe, even without seeing.

 That was nearly 2,000 years ago. A lot has changed over the years. And yet, a lot has not changed. That we doubt and demand evidence, reason to believe in God before we will do so, has not changed. That we, like Thomas, sin by forgetting and/or denying Christ’s words – He had told them many times that He would be crucified and rise from the dead – has not changed. Being with Jesus, seeing Him and all that He did, did not make His disciples perfect men. They were, and remained, sinners; and so do we. We hear the news and believe the story and celebrate Easter, the joy of Christ’s resurrection… and then life goes on. And we go on denying and sinning.

 But it’s here, in how we deal with sin, that the impact of Christ’s death and resurrection is seen in our lives. He died and rose, not to make us perfect people in this life, people who overcome sin and never give in to it again. Unlike with Jesus, our flesh is, and remains, sinful. Doubting hearts and minds and the desire for proof continually afflict us. Wanting to have our own desires met still motivates us. We are sinners. It is in how we deal with this – especially in how we deal with the sins that are committed against us – that our faith in Christ’s death and resurrection for our forgiveness is seen. And here, as in all things, Jesus is both our Savior and our example.

 How did Jesus deal with Thomas and his sinful refusal to believe that He had risen from the dead? He came to him, showed him His wounds, and invited him to touch them, as he had said he had to do to believe. In essence, Jesus pointed out Thomas’s sin. He didn’t ignore it or deny it or excuse it. But, nor did He belittle Thomas or shame him. He called Thomas to His wounds and the forgiveness they proclaimed. And Thomas, who has ever since been known as doubting Thomas, responded with a great confession of faith: “My Lord and my God!” No one had ever made such a great confession of Jesus. How Christ’s presence and forgiveness changed him!

 It has changed you, also. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed,” says Jesus. This is us! John, who was in that room when Jesus appeared, wrote about this “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Peter, who also was there, says that “though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” How blessed you are by God! His favor rests upon you! Christ’s salvation and eternal life are yours!

 And, in this world of sin and death, they are yours to share. Sin goes on, and mightily so. Doubt and denial remain strong, and even among Christ’s people.

Ø  Thomas did not just sin against Jesus. He sinned against his fellow disciples by refusing to believe them. I’ll bet there was a lot of tension in the room when he was there!

Even so, we sin against one another, and at times there is tension among us and between us. What are we to do?

 We are to do as Jesus did. So many people today respond on social media, with angry posts that don’t seek understanding or forgiveness but assert one’s own righteousness. This is gossiping and tearing others down. Remember: Jesus humbled Himself to take your sins as His own and die on the cross to pay for them. His death is your forgiveness and His resurrection is your new life. “Peace be with you!” These are His words to you, and His words for you to share. Through His Scriptures and by the Ministry of them He breathes His Holy Spirit upon you and within you so that you might breathe that Holy Spirit and the holiness of Christ’s forgiveness upon others. Lead those who sin against you to the wounds of Christ and the forgiveness they have won for us all! This is seeing Jesus. This is experiencing the joy of His resurrection.

 Sure, there’s nothing like being there and seeing for yourself. Maybe one day I’ll see the Masters in person and not just on TV. But, whether I ever do or not, I know this: I, along with all of you who believe in the crucified and risen Jesus, and with those throughout the ages who have believed in Him, will see Him Jesus day. We will join Thomas in crying out, “My Lord and my God!” and falling down before Him in joyous praise and thanksgiving. Come, Lord Jesus, and bring that day! Amen.