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Posts Tagged "John 20:19-31"

Poor Miserable Sinners

April 28, 2019
By Rev. David French

Well this is it, the week we year after year consider poor old Doubting Thomas. Talk about bad timing, Thomas misses church one time and He’s tagged with a nick name that will follow him until the Lord returns. But is it fair?

I mean Thomas wasn’t the only one who doubted, all the disciples doubted. In fact, in Luke’s account of the resurrection where we read about the reaction of the eleven when Jesus stood among we read: While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?

You see, when you consider the details Luke adds, if Thomas is Doubting Thomas, then Peter is Doubting Peter, James is Doubting James, and well you get the idea. The point is, all of Jesus’s disciples doubted, Thomas just happens to be the one who, as we might think of it, missed the meeting, and so was elected by man, not God, to bear the label.

Now I suppose I could make this all about the dangers of missing church, but that's not really fair either. Maybe Thomas or a member of his family was sick. Maybe he got tied up in the chaos with the earthquake just two days before and all. The Bible simply tells us Thomas wasn’t there when Jesus appeared that first night.

In fact, when you look at it closer, we see today’s Gospel reading isn’t so much about Thomas as it is the incredible patience of Jesus. Jesus would have certainly been justified if He had rejected all of His so-called disciples. I mean, Matthew tells us that when Jesus was arrested … all the disciples deserted him and fled. Peter personally denies even knowing Jesus while He was on trial, and only John is found at the foot of the cross.

But Jesus shows patience and compassion with their confusion and weakness, and He shows them His hands and side. He allowed them to poke, prod, and examine His crucifixion wounds. Now, in His glorious state of exaltation, these wounds are the signs of His identity as the Savior of mankind.

I’m sure you remember that Jesus’s last words to us were: It is finished, and now the first words He speaks to us after the resurrection are: Peace be with you. Now, understand that these words are not just a simple greeting. These words come from the mouth of the One who said: Let there be light, and there was light. That’s because God’s Word is what’s known as a creative word; that is, it creates what it speaks. Since Jesus is not just a man, but is also true God, His word also actually creates or accomplishes what He speaks. When Jesus says: Peace be with you, He’s not talking about some undefinable subjective feeling, but an objective condition. Then He showed the wounds that proved sin has been removed and peace between God and man was now restored.

When Jesus said, Peace be with you, a second time, He was offering that peace through forgiveness to those who had deserted Him, and they were to share with others as we see Him say: As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you and ends with If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld. With these words Jesus is teaching them its function of and ordaining these doubting disciples into the office of the holy ministry. That is, He’s sending them out into the world in His place. 

Remember the word apostle literally means one who is sent. So, Jesus tells us that He was sent by or is the apostle from God the Father, and these doubting disciples are now being sent by or are the apostles of God the Son.

Think about it. What does it mean that these men who all doubted, who were all basically cowards, who in their own writings confess that they were weak, dull-witted men are His apostles? What that means is that all their authority, all their standing and reputation rests squarely on Jesus. The power they demonstrated then and the results of the words they wrote to this very day rests entirely on the work and promises of Jesus.

And that is good news for all Christians. Why? It means that the absolution that comes from the mouth of their pastor does not depend in any way on the personality or character of the pastor. The truth is, an honest pastor knows more than most how sinful he is. We know that we’re not worthy to utter those words of forgiveness. And yet, pastors can and do joyfully and confidently speak those words because it’s not we but Jesus who forgives. We understand that we are merely stewards of the gifts God offers to you, His children.

But, what about Thomas? He wasn’t there when all this happened. True, and so Jesus continued to do what Jesus came to do; that is, He shows His love and patience and returns the next week. And again, Jesus 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. We don’t know if Thomas put out his hand or not, the next words of Scripture are Thomas’s confession of Jesus as his Lord and God. What we do know is that with His words of invitation, Jesus gently brought Thomas back into His “Little Flock.”

My friends, there is great comfort offered to us in this lesson as well … because we also deserve God’s condemnation. We all have and daily continue to sin. According to God’s Word, we have all murdered with our hatred. We have all stolen with our desires. None of us love as we are loved. None of us loves God above all things. The truth is, we have no redeeming qualities within ourselves. We really are what we claim to be … poor miserable sinners.

As we are reminded again today, Jesus is mercifully patient with sinners like Thomas, and like you and me. We know that because He who is peace still comes to us just as He came to the disciples then, offering Himself as the fulfillment of the words: Peace be with you.

From that day when Jesus’s church on earth was just a fearful little group of disciples locked away in a room, He who is our peace has continued to come to those who gather in His name. Today our room is bigger, but still we gather to receive the gifts Jesus offers.

These gifts are offered through the water and word of our baptism, in with and under the bread and wine of His Supper, continually worked and re-worked in us by the Holy Spirit as God’s Word, both law and gospel, are read and proclaimed in all their fullness so that you who bear His name today might always know and by grace believe that in Christ Jesus you need not fear the accusations of sin, for it is by grace through faith in Christ that you, a poor miserable sinner, are forgiven.

In His Name, Amen.

Wrong Emphasis

April 08, 2018
By Rev. Peter Heckert

 

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation is from our Gospel lesson, specifically where John writes, Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written 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. Here ends our text; dear Christian friends…

It’s tempting, as many have done before, to use this day and this text to harangue and scoff at the disbelief and lack of faith exhibited by Thomas. It’s tempting to use this time to emphasize how we are no better, but that at one point, we were no better – being spiritually blind, dead, and enemies of God before He called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. But that’s not what we’re going to do today. Though those things may be correct, I think we should focus on a different emphasis in this text, and I think Jesus, Thomas, and certainly John would agree.

After the entire episode, starting with that first Easter evening when the disciples barricaded themselves in, to the eighth day afterward when Jesus appears to Thomas and tells him to stop disbelieving, but be believing, Thomas makes his great confession, My Lord and my God! I think it’s safe to say that Jesus is speaking to all His disciples, who exhibited no more faith than Thomas prior to Jesus’s miraculous appearance among them, when He responds to this profession of faith and adoration by saying, Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.

This is a beautiful promise from the resurrected Christ that, although He would not be with His Bride on earth for much longer, the gifts and merits of His salvific work would likewise flow to all the spiritual progeny of the apostles. John records these words, and then in a 4th-wall break that would get even Ferris Bueler’s attention, he writes how Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written 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. THAT is the purpose of John’s Gospel – indeed, that is the purpose of all of Scripture: to point you, the reader, to JESUS.

The focus here is not Thomas, though we can certainly learn from his example. The focus is Thomas’s focus. The focus is his great profession when he says, My Lord and my God! The disciples had seen some pretty incredible things as they followed Jesus around for three years. However, nothing compared to this: a Man, Who had undoubtedly died, Who still bore the wounds of His execution in a way that should have kept Him dead, had risen from the dead. Not that this resurrection from the dead was so extraordinary that no one had seen it before – not long prior to this, the disciples had seen Jesus raise their friend Lazarus from the dead – but the fact that He had told them beforehand that it would happen, and now, here He stood, in the flesh (pun definitely intended). This does not just happen! This requires the work of God, to taste the bitterness of death and to spit it back out in defiance!

And John writes all this, as do the other Gospel writers, the writers of the Epistles, the prophets, scribes, and other writers of the ancient Tanakh, in order that you, the reader, the hearer, may come to believe in Jesus who is called the Christ, and all the promises given by Him and through Him!

Ours is not a blind faith – we don’t believe just because someone said something long ago, and no one ever questioned it. No, John speaks in our epistle lesson as well, 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. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, those who saw Jesus Himself, and who would not deny His death, His resurrection, or that these things demonstrated His divinity, and whose joy and privilege it is to proclaim this good news to others, even as they were being killed for it! Ours is a world in which seeing is believing – in that way, things haven’t changed much over the last two millennia. However, these words have endured over that time, and the veracity of those words have overcome barriers of language and culture, even down to this day! It endures because it is the truth – yes, contrary to the skepticism and nihilism of our culture, the objective truth … the eternal truth … does exist!

The truth is this: in first-century Judea, Jesus of Nazareth died upon a cross to take the punishment for sin that humanity collectively deserves. Because of His actions, we are no longer bound to the sins in which we once walked, nor will we suffer the punishment thereof! What’s more, to demonstrate His divinity and, consequently, that His sacrifice was sufficient, He rose from the dead three days later! Crazy as it sounds to those out there, to us who believe, it is the power of God! Jesus’s resurrection turned His disciples from sniveling cowards afraid of death … into loud and proud proclaimers of His resurrection, regardless of the punishment that would come from such preaching!

We have read these words in John’s Gospel, and thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit, we DO believe them! We see the miracles Jesus performs today when He yanks a child of darkness and washes him in the cleansing deluge of Holy Baptism! With Thomas, we are able to touch the very Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus in the Supper! We hear His Word proclaimed, and His absolution announced, declaring to weak sinners like us – those who believe yet long for help with our unbelief – that we ARE forgiven! These things keep, seal, and strengthen us in the faith and belief which the Holy Spirit first gave us, in spite of the deplorable state of our culture!

We do declare with Thomas and John, with Peter and Andrew, with all of the apostles and those who saw the resurrected Lord, with angels, and archangels, and all the company of heaven, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God! We know that God’s Word does not return to Him in vain – even in the craziness of our modern world, it still accomplishes the purposes for which it is sent, even if we don’t see it! Thus, with Thomas, we say, My Lord and my God! And we know that to be true!

+ In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

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