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Easter 2 Sermon — John 20:19-31 (LSB Easter 2B)

April 19, 2009

April 19, 2009 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA



“These things are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in His name.”

Thomas wasn’t there. That’s what the apostle John said: “But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.” He misses out on the experience. The other Ten saw Jesus with their own eyes. They heard Him speak to them. And it was the same Jesus who had been crucified, dead, and buried.

The significance of that event should not be overlooked. Jesus appears in their midst, alive and well, powerful and glorious. Listen again to what the Gospel-writer said: “When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After He said this, He showed them His hands and His side.” Peter, James, John, Andrew, and the rest are witness to the resurrection; they behold the Crucified and Risen Christ.

To demonstrate His identity, Jesus shows His pierced hands and side. The Ten see the marks that the nails and javelin had made. The evidence of Christ’s crucifixion remains permanently in Him, the scars that show the path of suffering that He walked. It could have been a shameful thing for the Ten, seeing those marks of crucifixion. Jesus endured the nail-piercing; He bore the effects of the Roman spear. But the Ten had all run away in Gethsemane’s Garden. While Jesus underwent the beating, taunting, persecuting, and crucifying, His disciples had abandoned Him in fright.

Note how John describes the disciples on that resurrection evening: “When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews. . .” The fear still lingered with the Ten. But into this environment of fright, unbelief, and despair, Jesus steps: “Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After He said this, He showed them His hands and His side.” Now the fright goes away. Peter is brave again; John has his faith restored; Andrew sees “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” alive and well again. Jesus appears and shows His glory and power: no locked doors will keep Him out. Christ appears and shows His love and mercy: the disciples’ abandonment will not be counted against them. “Peace be with you” are the words from the Lord’s lips.

But Thomas wasn’t there that night. He doesn’t see the Living Christ. He doesn’t hear the words of forgiveness and reconciliation. Thomas is no witness of Jesus’ power and glory, the shock and awe of having a Man appear in the middle of a locked room. His eyes don’t see the marks of Roman nails and spear. And that presents a problem for him. But should it?

We heard how Thomas reacted: “So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in His side, I will not believe.’” It seems reasonable, doesn’t it? You claim to have seen a dead Man appearing alive again. And not only is He living, He is able to appear in the middle of a locked room. And not only is the Man powerful like that, He bears no grudge, but speaks forgiveness. It is unbelievable, unless I have the same experience.

The reaction of Thomas is reasonable, not any different than how we feel. How many times have we said the same? How many times have our lips spoken the chorus: “Sure, you saw that,” or “Well, that might be true for you” or “If it happens again, I’ll believe.” We want the experience. We demand the right to be eyewitnesses. Seeing is believing: that’s the paradigm we have in our lives.

But Thomas does get to have the same experience as the Ten: “A week later His disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, 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. Reach out your hand and put it in My side. Do not doubt but believe.” And the experience continues to be the same; Thomas makes the same confession of faith as the Ten: “Thomas answered Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’”

But then, there is the added statement from Jesus, a statement that we must take to heart: “Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’” Jesus says it wasn’t necessary for Thomas to have the same experience as the Ten. Belief in His death and resurrection is not dependent upon seeing Christ appearing in our midst and showing off His scars. In fact, it isn’t going to happen for us. And yet, the Lord says that people who have not seen will believe. He talks about us.

That’s what we learn from this episode that took place both the night of Christ’s resurrection and the week after. We don’t see Jesus as the Eleven did, but we believe. Why is this so? Because we have the witness of the Holy Spirit, testimony from the apostles handed down to us. Remember how John concluded this episode: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in His name.” Though we do not behold the Risen Christ with our own eyes, we believe that He has conquered sin, death, and Satan for our salvation. We do so, as we trust the witness and promise that the Holy Spirit makes through the apostles’ words.

This is the way that the Lord God has chosen to work. He desires that all would believe in Him as the Savior of sinners. The Risen Christ wants all to believe in His actions, to rely on what He has done as the basis for redemption. But He doesn’t live here and walk the earth and perform all sorts of signs and miracles in our midst. Rather, Jesus leaves the testimony of the apostles, the ones He sends out to speak about Him. And He promises, as we will hear in a few weeks, that the Holy Spirit will be present in the world to work faith in those who listen to the testimony and believe. Christ’s words are not false, but accurately describe us: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

As we heard in the Epistle Reading for today, we aren’t the only ones that have been brought to faith in this way; others have received the same blessing. Hear again what the apostle John wrote to a group of believers like you: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

There is the promise of blessing for all who believe, though they have not seen. Like the people who heard the witness of John and believed, so you also have been led to faith and receive the outcome of it—communion with Christ and with all of His disciples, sharing the life which was made manifest by Him. There is joy and hope in this Easter Season, though none of us have seen the Risen Christ with our own eyes. Our fingers haven’t touched His hands or side. Never has Jesus appeared in our homes by walking through locked doors. And yet, we gather in celebration of His resurrection, the event that none of us have seen.

But such is the way of faith: “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” There is conviction in our lives, a trust in the certainty of Christ’s words and works. But it is not our own doing; it is the work of the Holy Spirit in us. It is exactly as the First Reading described the first generation of believers in Jerusalem: “And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.”

Importantly, the grace of God comes to those who hear and believe what the Eleven in that Upper Room had witnessed. The other disciples saw Jesus with their own eyes. They heard Him speak to them, the same Jesus who had been crucified, dead, and buried. We weren’t there to see, but we don’t miss out on the results of His crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. Rather, we are blessed by them, we are saved by them. For though we have not seen, we still believe.

The peace of Christ and the grace of God are given to us through the testimony of the witnesses. Through that testimony, the Holy Spirit has given us everlasting life, just as John wrote: “These things are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in His name.” So we hear, and so we believe the words of eternal life; for that is how the Lord God desires it for those who receive salvation in His name.



T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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