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Wrong Emphasis

April 08, 2018
By Pastor Peter Heckert

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Wrong Emphasis
John 20:19-31

+ 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.