Let us pray: Dear Savior, in our moments of weakness and doubt come to us with Your gracious presence! Teach us not to trust in our own reason, strength, or understanding but to trust in Your many promises of love, forgiveness and compassion—all directed at us. Yes, today teach us the true meaning of the phrase: “Your strength is made perfect in our weakness.” Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO NEVER GIVES UP ON US!
TEXT: John 20: 19-31
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
She grew up with church as a part of her life. She went to Sunday School, later to confirmation class, and was somewhat active in the youth group. During her teen years she began to listen to the psychological self-help gurus that are so prevalent today. She began to look inward for answers to her life and its meaning. She pondered questions like: “Why am I here? Why was I born? What really is true?” She wanted to feel happy. She wanted to feel fulfilled. Her allegiance to church began to falter. Her mother came home on Sunday and mocked the sermon because sometimes it didn’t stroke her ego or seem to fit into the modern feminist view of life.—The silly view that the church is a male-dominated club which seeks to place women into a subservient role. Her father mocked the whole notion of sin and of God’s intervention into human history, because he embraced the evolutionary view that life came about by pure chance, that’s it’s nothing more than a crap-shoot. So, this young woman was robbed, robbed of any source of comfort and strength outside herself. Her life became totally “me” centered. O, she put herself out to help teach young children. But she did it—not because of sacrificial motives, but because it helped fill the spiritual emptiness she felt. At least she could point to her work and say: “See, I’m making a difference!” But then, when some of those kids disappointed and messed up, she grew morose and forlorn.—And she began to think: “What’s the point? Is this all there is to life?” And then, one day she realized that she was just going through the motions of living. She had no joy beyond the momentary shopping high from a mall trip, or a vacation, or a night out with her friends. The rest of the time, she was floundering.
All of us know people like this. Perhaps this description fits us, at times. Yes, if we carefully examine our own lives we will see a lot of similarities with doubting Thomas in our lesson. And we will also see:
THE FOLLY OF GIVING UP ON GOD
You know the story before us quite well. It’s Easter evening and the disciples are together in the upper room with the door locked because they feared for their own safety. Their hopes and dreams have been crucified. They were killed, murdered, with Christ on Good Friday. They have heard stories from the women about Christ’s resurrection, but their senses told them to disbelieve it all. That it was all a fairy tale. That it was too good to be true. Then Luke and Christ’s uncle, Clopas, arrive all out of breath. They have run back from Bethany, 6 miles away. And they announce: “We have seen the Lord!” Right about that same time, the resurrected Savior appeared in their midst. His body went right through the walls.—He can do that because He’s the Son of God. And what were the first words out of His mouth? “Peace be with you!” He said that because He had won peace between God and humans on the cross. He had laid to rest His Father’s anger over the reality of our sinfulness. He had paid the penalty we earned for such sin—death. And now He comes to announce Godly peace to them all. In that instant the disciples went from anger and fear to joy and gladness. Their equilibrium returned. He showed them His hands and side. “The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” Who wouldn’t be?! For it meant that God’s Son really did love each of them.
Of course, Thomas wasn’t there. He had given up on God because he thought God had given up on him. He’s off sulking, alone, forlorn, hopeless. He was looking inside for meaning to his life, for some sort of purpose, but not finding it.
When the disciples finally track him down later that week and tell him their wondrous news, how does Thomas respond? “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!” What a prideful answer! You can almost hear the sarcasm dripping from his voice. Thomas now felt, as many Americans feel, and as the young woman I mentioned earlier feel; he felt that he was right. That he knew more than they did. They he had the answers. He had rejected that truth from the Old Testament prophet Solomon: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” But, I ask you: Does Thomas sound happy and joyful here? That’s the ultimate fruit of the folly of giving up on God—no joy, no inner peace.
But through coaxing and encouragement, the disciples didn’t give up on Thomas. And neither did Christ! For a week later we find him with them, again in that upper room. Once again Christ miraculously appears and says: “Peace be with you.” Yes, the Prince of peace gives us peace by His very presence in our lives. And today He’s present through His Word and through His sacraments. Then He turns to Thomas and confronts him with his previous words. He bids Thomas to: “Stop doubting and believe!” And of course, then comes the happy ending where Thomas says: “My Lord and my God!”
There’s an old adage that says: “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” How true! Likewise, Christians still have to battle their sin-tainted emotions and suffer highs and lows as a result. That being said, I’ve never known a Christian who didn’t have an aura of assuredness and confidence around them. When the chips are down, Christians come through in spades! For Christians have joy. We know that God has created us to honor Him. We know that our lives have eternal significance. We know that the worst thing that can happen to us is: we die and go to heaven. We know that God’s love for us knows no bounds—not even the boundary of death. We don’t have to fear the future because He’s in charge of our lives and He Lives!
It is pure folly to give up on God. We’ve seen that during our lifetime with communism. It tried to relegate God to the dust-bin of human consciousness. But without standards for living bigger than mere humans, without any hope of comfort for life after death, people just give up and the old Soviet Union imploded. Well, when I look around I see a lot of lives imploding for the same reasons. We humans need something, Someone bigger, stronger, and wiser than we are to show us how to live and how to die a blessed death. That Someone is Jesus Christ, Who never gives up on us. I’m praying that that young woman may eventually discover that blessed truth—just like Thomas did. For in her case, as in Thomas’—there but by the grace of God go I. Amen