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Easter 2B Sermon
John 20: 19-31
April
8, 2018

 

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May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father be with us, in the name of his risen son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; Amen.

John 20:19-31

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. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 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.’
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.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’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.’
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 Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

The painting on the front of your bulletins is, “The Incredulity of Thomas” a well-known piece of art by 17th century painter Caravaggio. At first glance you might think that an over-zealous disciple has stuck his finger too far into the wound and Jesus seems to be gently removing it. But if we read the verse associated with it, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe …” then we can instead see where Jesus is pulling Thomas’ hand and finger toward his wound, guiding it while Thomas’ face reveals the surprise that is within him.

It was important for Thomas to see Jesus. He gets a bad rap as, “doubting Thomas,” but he only wanted what the other disciples were given. Besides, if he was called into any kind of court and asked where Jesus’ body had been taken, he would not have been able to personally testify to seeing him alive. It would have been circumstantial evidence to say, “Well, my friends said that they saw him … but I didn’t see him myself.” Now he can be a personal witness.
It was also important for all of the disciples to see Jesus’ risen body alive again as it was, wounds and all! It is important that, when Jesus appears to the disciples on the evening of his rising, that his wounds are still fresh on his body. These wounds tell what he has been through in his human life. They witness to the suffering which he underwent on behalf of a broken, sinful world. They are reminders to the disciples and to us that though evil can wound us, God will raise and heal us … and it is in the experience of coming through those experiences that we are redeemed as new people.
Toward the end of Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus returns from being away from his home and his wife for some 20 years, covered in filth and pretending to be a beggar. He asks that someone wash his legs and feet as they are covered in layers of dirt. The same old nurse is summoned for the duty that took care of Odysseus as he grew, from the time he was a young child. She brings a basin of water and begins to bathe him. She moves higher up the leg until she notices a scar high upon the stranger’s leg near his thigh. Remembering that, when Odysseus was a young man he had a run-in with a wild boar while on a hunt, who charged him and gored him in the leg with his tusk. She immediately says to Odysseus, “My Lord. You are home at last.”

Now, I don’t have many scars to show on my body – a small one on my stomach reminds me of a time when I was walking on a sidewalk and a boy on a bike hit me head on while riding toward me. Another on my knee reminds me of a hard fall I took onto some gravel while playing neighborhood football with friends. Most of the small ones I had on my hands from handling sheet metal while working for my dad in High school are actually faded away. Maybe you have more scars on your body from surgeries or procedures, accidents or maybe even you have been cut, stabbed or shot at by others seeking to do you harm. That is part of who you are, part of what makes you who you are.

Jesus’ wounds are what makes him who he is – resurrected to eternal life, to be sure; but also human, vulnerable – someone who has had to go endure pain and trials of life in order to be made new. It may sound like a trite saying, but we continue to call ourselves the Body of Christ on the earth today. We, the church, are the risen body of Jesus, and as such we are his presence now and until he returns in his own body. As such, we have wounds as well – scars and marks which bear witness to the many ways that the evil in the world has tried to keep us from living out our calling to be a community of Christ here and now.

Discovering what it means to be a community of the risen Christ is something that has gone on since the days immediately following Jesus’ death. We heard in our first lesson how the very first believers dabbled in communism, holding no personal property, but selling everything and holding all funds in common. This may have worked for them for a while, but as the months rolled on and Jesus did not return as imminently as they thought he would, they certainly began to think about providing for themselves into their futures. Besides, in the following verses we are told that it worked for some – Barnaba sold a field and gladly turned over the proceeds – while it didn’t work for all. Ananaias and Sapphira were a married couple who withheld some of the proceeds of selling their house, and they were struck dead. Even that earliest community was trying to figure out what it meant to be the body of Christ on earth.

We all have wounds; we all prayerfully ask how we are to be faithful disciples individually; I hope you join me in prayerfully considering what it means to be a community of faith with all of the other demands that press in on our time and resources. We do all of this with the promise that Jesus spoke to his disciples when he visited them on the evening after he was raised – that is the promise of peace. We need that peace. We desire that peace because we are wounded, sinful people trying to figure out how to love each other when we don’t always get along. We need that peace because we live among the dangers and threats of a society that is suspicious of us for making up a story of resurrection like the first disciples were accused of. We cannot live without the peace of Christ ruling in our hearts because without it, the wounds that we suffer would drive us away from God and the promise of resurrection and new life. We are all wounded, brothers and sisters. And that is okay – it makes us who we are: followers of a wounded Lord who is also a raised and living Lord among us. As we still try to figure out our calling as a community of Christ, may we share the peace of Christ so that our wounds may not define us – but the belief of Jesus among us may be what defines us for life together and for mission into this community and world. May it be so, in the name of Christ our Lord; Amen!