Let us pray: Dear Savior, just as memory fades with time, so, too, does the emotional high that comes with Easter day. Slowly but surely, this past week we’ve been coming down from that pinnacle of life and love. Slowly but surely we’ve let frustration, doubt, and temptations cloud our joy over Your Easter victory. Today we ask that You take us back to Your Messianic mountaintop and flood our dark thoughts with heavenly light! Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO LIVES TO HELP YOU!
TEXT: John 20: 19-31
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
I’ve preached to this lesson of “Doubting Thomas” more times than I can remember. Each year it pops up as the Gospel for the Sunday after Easter. It pops up on this day in series A, B, and C of the InterLutheran Commission on Worship lectionary which we’ve been following. And if you turn your bulletin insert over, you’ll see that it also was chosen by the ancient church in the Historical lessons. The reason it gets such coverage is that it is an “oldie but a goodie!” It has much to offer us by way of Godly comfort and truth.
Each year I look at this lesson with fresh eyes. Each year something new leaps out at me. Because I’ve preached on it so many times, most of those previous sermons run together in my mind. The only one I can definitely remember took place about 8 years ago. In that sermon I created a fictional character, David ben Shlomo, who was a correspondent for the “Jerusalem Gazette.” He gave you his first person account of what he saw from across the street as he monitored the disciples in that Upper Room.
Today, the truth that strikes me about this text is that:
JESUS ANSWERS OUR DOUBTS
It’s Easter evening. Jesus has arisen from the grave. He has appeared to the two Mary’s. Later that afternoon He appeared to Luke and Cleopas, those two followers on that road to Emmaus. He showed Himself to those believers because He wanted to comfort them. He wanted to banish their doubts about His Divinity and His Living Love for them. By the time nightfall came, the 10 apostles-minus Judas who was dead and Thomas who was off mopping-the ten were together in that famous Upper Room with the doors locked. Why did they lock themselves away? “For fear of the Jews” we’re told. They had seen Christ murdered and feared for their own safety. In short, they all doubted the veracity of what the two Mary’s had told them about Jesus’ resurrection and they all doubted God’s power to protect them. They put their trust in human door locks instead of in the Savior. Even though they had seen the miracles and seen the empty tomb they doubted. It all seemed too good to be true.
Well, at this point there’s a pounding on the door. Luke and Cleopas have run the 6 miles back to Jerusalem to tell their fellow disciples: “We have seen the Lord.” At that point, Jesus suddenly appears in their midst and utters those famous words: “Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.”
Up until that moment those intimate friends of Christ doubted their faith. They doubted Jesus’ Godliness. They doubted their salvation. They doubted their future. And then in the blink of an eye Christ answered those doubts and wiped them away! I guess you’d say He knew how to make an entrance!
“Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.'”
First Jesus answered their doubts about His resurrection. Now He answers their doubts as to their future. He gives them as representatives of the Holy Christian Church the power to forgive or retain sins. He gives them the keys to the kingdom of heaven. And He sends them out to change the world one soul at a time by taking away the pain of sin with God’s forgiveness. All of a sudden they have a purpose in life beyond eating, sleeping, and staying alive. Now they can shake the world with Godly power!
Obviously they are excited and overjoyed at this turn of events. So, when they find the absent Thomas, they exclaim: “We have seen the Lord!” Their beloved brother in the faith was to be the first person they uplifted with the message of the resurrection. Thomas, however, was a tough sell. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” Can you imagine the frustration the other 10 must have felt? No matter what they said they couldn’t convince him. It must have been a very long week of head-butting for all involved!
But then, a week later, they’re all in that Upper Room again, Thomas included. Again the doors are locked. Why? Well, doubt is never far from faith, is it? Suddenly, Jesus reappears amid the group! The first thing He says is: “Peace be with you!” And O how they must have needed Godly peace after that tough week together! Then He singles out Thomas and confronts His doubts, too. The result of all this is that famous confession of the doubting one: “My Lord and my God!” “Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Of all the words of the Bible, those are some of the sweetest to my ears. Because when Jesus uttered them He had you and me in mind. He was thinking about each of us. We haven’t seen Christ either, yet we believe. And because of that we’re blest. We’re special to God. And we’re also special to everyone we meet because of it.
No day goes by that I don’t doubt something about God and His goodness. Sometimes the question flits across my mind, “are the liberals are right and it’s all a made up tale?” When I’m sick and feeling lousy I doubt whether God remembers me. When bills loom large I doubt whether I’ll ever retire in relative comfort. I doubt whether heaven is a reality, my reality. I doubt Christ’s power over my sins. I can relate to Thomas. I don’t bear his name for no reason. But just like in Thomas’ case, in the midst of my moments of doubting, Christ comes to answer those doubts! I pray and He responds. I ask and He gives. I seek and He shows me the way. He does all that through His Word of truth, through the Bible. Christ doesn’t physically stand before us this morning, but He does stand before us in His Word. After all, He is the Word made flesh. I find I doubt when I neglect focusing on His Word, and I’m strong and I believe when my attention centers on His holy Word. Yes, I’m blest through His Word as in “blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
Christ is the antidote to all human doubting of the Divine. For in Him we “live and move and have our very being.” Since God’s Word is the focal point of Sunday worship, church is where we can have our doubts removed. This is where He uplifts us. This is where He calms our fears and takes away our inner pain. This is where He implants thoughts of goodness and grace and divine direction within us. So, if you find yourself doubting like Thomas and the other 10, don’t go off and mop. Instead come here and meet Your Lord! For His living presence is a daily reminder that “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength!” Amen