2nd Sunday of Easter
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
John 20:19-31 Sermon
April 3, 2016
Click here for service internet broadcast/podcast.
Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal & With One Voice):
WOV 674 "Alleluia! Jesus Is Risen!"
TLH 208 "Ye Sons And Daughters Of The King"
TLH 193 "Christ The Lord Is Risen Today"
TLH 188 "Hallelujah! Jesus Lives!"
PEACE BE WITH YOU
TEXT (vs. 21-25) “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.’ Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘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.’”
If I mention the word "politics" to you, I believe that we all would immediately bring to mind the presidential race that is currently happening in our country. Now this is not going to be some sort of politically based sermon, and I certainly would never even hint from the pulpit that I support one candidate over another. That's something that a pastor should never do, and currently churches are under the threat of losing their tax exempt status if they do. And that's fine by me.
That being said however, the absolute circus that we are seeing now is fair game. Have you listened to some of the things the candidates are saying? I think, without exception, that all of the candidates have recently uttered the words, "That's a lie! So-and-so is a liar, and the things that person is saying about me is completely false. Now you don't want a liar as your next president, do you?"
And of course we wouldn't want that. Presidents are supposed to be people of integrity, and we need to believe that what they are telling us is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Back in 1964, and I remember it well, the presidential race was between Democratic candidate Lyndon Baines Johnson and Republican candidate Barry Goldwater, a senator from Arizona. Johnson's campaign slogan was very simple: "LBJ for the USA." But Barry Goldwater's slogan had a deeper meaning to it. His slogan was, "In your heart, you know he's right." In fact, some of his campaign bumper stickers simply had the letters: "I-Y-H-Y-K-H-R," and people knew what it meant. Incidentally, his adversaries had their own version of this slogan, and would say: "In your guts you know he's nuts." But I digress.
The whole idea behind it was that you could ignore any mud slinging and whatever rhetoric that was flying around, because deep down you should know that Barry Goldwater had his head screwed on straight, and he knew what was best for the country. Unfortunately for him anyway, the American public felt differently, because he ultimately lost the election by a landslide.
This morning as we look at our Gospel Lesson for today, what the disciples should have known in their hearts was right had been completely obscured. Jesus was right! He had never misled his disciples or told them something that wasn't true. They should have known that without any question at all. It was a matter of faith in Old Testament prophecy, a matter of trust in God's Word, and ultimately a matter of seeing the Saviour as the fulfillment of all this.
Let's look at what is happening. All of the disciples, notwithstanding Thomas, were gathered together behind locked doors. They had seen what the Jews had done to Jesus, and they feared for their own lives. After what had happened, they weren’t going to take any chances.
Suddenly, Jesus appears with them in a miraculous manner. The door was locked, so basically he materialized in front of them. They weren’t expecting him either. Despite what Jesus had told them previously, and despite all of the prophecy concerning him, they still thought he was dead and in the tomb. Even when the women came and told them what had happened, they thought it was nonsense, even though they should have known deep down that they were hearing the truth. So this was an unexpected event.
Jesus begins with a greeting. He says, “Peace be with you.” Now this isn’t just some old hackneyed phrase spoken as a general greeting. Rather, this had some very deep meaning to it. This greeting carried the full weight of the Gospel with it. It was filled with grace and comfort.
This is a tremendous greeting. The peace Jesus speaks about is nothing less than complete and perfect peace with God. This peace means that our sins are forgiven. This peace means that our relationship with God has been restored and renewed. This peace means that all of our sins that we have ever done have been removed and separated from us, and are forever completely set aside. This is a peace that we ourselves have not earned, nor do we deserve it; rather it is something that God gives through faith in Jesus Christ our Saviour. This peace is a gift of God’s abundant and never ending grace.
If we look at the disciples specifically, we don’t have to look too hard to see what effect sin had in their lives. There was Peter, who denied ever having known Jesus; and when he is told about the resurrection, he regarded it as a foolish rumor, almost like an empty campaign promise from a politician. When the temple guard came to arrest Jesus, all of the disciples fled with an “every man for himself” attitude.
But we can go back even further. It wasn’t long before this time that the disciples were arguing amongst themselves about who was the greatest, almost like a heated political debate. The disciples tried to keep young children from coming to Jesus. The disciples complained when others who were not of their group dared to preach the Gospel. Oh yes, the disciples were certainly sinners, and we can see clear evidence of that.
But when Jesus came into that room, his greeting of “Peace be with you” came with the message of forgiveness for them, as well as the whole world. All of these sins are forgotten and gone when Jesus entered that room with his greeting.
Jesus then showed them his wounds and scars. He bore the nail prints in his hands and feet. He showed them the hole left by the spear in his side. And it's here where things get a bit graphic.
Here is where the King James translation of the Bible is a lot more descriptive. In verse 25 Thomas says, "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe."
Thomas didn't just want to look at the nail prints and the wound in Jesus' side, he actually wanted to insert his finger and hand into those wounds. Even though he had no reason not to trust his companions, he demanded proof that would be indisputable.
And Jesus accommodates him. In verse 27 Jesus says to Thomas, "Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing." This is what it took for Thomas to know in his heart what was right, that Jesus had in fact bodily resurrected from the dead.
And Jesus says, “Peace be with you.” These were the outward signs of what he had done in order for that peace to happen. Here, written on his body, was the story of the suffering and death which earned salvation, both for the disciples and for us as well.
This was the message that would be the heart and core of the Christian Church. The message of peace is the message of the Gospel, and that is what the disciples were to proclaim to the world.
Not only were the disciples forgiven sinners, but they also were empowered by the Holy Spirit to forgive the sins of others. What this amounts to, is stating what the Bible states. In the Communion liturgy when I say that “I announce the grace of God to all of you,” and “In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins,” I am declaring to you what God has already declared. Your sins are forgiven, and you can believe it just as surely as if you heard it from Jesus himself.
This isn’t just some “pie-in-the-sky” wish, or an attempt to dream the impossible dream, or some sort of empty campaign promise. This is a reality for you and for me. The forgiveness that comes through the Gospel is there for us to claim. It is ours through nothing more than faith alone. And because it is ours, we can never allow Satan to rob us of it, or talk us out of it. Regardless of our sins, the peace that Jesus gives is ours through faith in him.
This describes the mind of God. He is loving and forgiving, and he does everything according to his grace. That’s the only hope we have.
However, we also have a great example of the mind of man. This is what we see with Thomas. Now Thomas was really no better than his peers. The disciples had all doubted Jesus’ resurrection. But Thomas is more vocal and demanding than the others. Unless he could actually put his fingers in the nail prints and put his hand into Jesus’ side, he refused to believe. History would forever give him the moniker of “doubting Thomas” because of this.
Going back to my opening illustration again where I mentioned our current political climate, I remember one instance early on that I think is rather appropriate here. For years, people have asserted that Donald Trump is wearing a very bad hairpiece. And so he invited a woman to come up to the lectern and stand on the podium with him. He then invited her to closely examine his hair. He bent down, and the woman took her hand and felt it for herself, even giving it a tug or two. She then had to admit that his hair was indeed the real deal. There could be no doubt.
The people of today harbor doubts about Jesus and his authenticity. They doubt the reality of his resurrection. When people think according to the mind of sinful humanity, then they miss out on something beautiful. They miss out on the peace that Christ came to bring. When a heart harbors all sorts of doubts and negative feelings, the peace of Christ has no room.
Jesus makes it a point to appear to the disciples a second time, this time with Thomas in attendance. He doesn’t scold Thomas for having doubts, rather he simply removes them. He gives Thomas the proof he wants, so he would believe and be an effective minister of the Gospel.
So what would have happened if Jesus hadn’t come that second time and appeared to Thomas? Chances are, he wouldn’t have believed, and he would have been forever lost in perdition. But Jesus didn’t want that. He needed Thomas. And so he gives him the proof he needs.
Jesus speaks to us today just as he did to those disciples in that room so long ago. “Peace be with you,” he says. And then he shows the marks on his body that paint the picture of what he had to do to get us that peace.
At the conclusion of our text for today, verses 30 and 31 tell us: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
Jesus wanted to make sure there was no room at all for doubt when it came to who he truly was. Every miraculous thing he did continued to cement this faith firmly in the hearts of his disciples.
The peace we have through the Gospel is the peace we put into practice with each other. When we consider the battle scars Jesus showed to his disciples, we can only be reminded of Isaiah’s prophecy in chapter 53 verse 5: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
As recipients of the peace that comes through faith in Jesus our Saviour, may we always be ambassadors and messengers of that peace wherever we go and with whomever we have contact. That’s the mind of God working in and through us, and there’s never any room for doubt. Whatever strife or trouble may come our way, through God’s grace and our Saviour’s blood, there will always be a peaceful conclusion.