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Easter 2C Sermon
John 20: 19 - 31
April
28, 2019

 

Sermon Archives
 

 

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.

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father, in the name of our risen Lord, Jesus Christ; Amen.

He came back! No, I am not talking about Jesus, although his return is the foundation for our Christian faith; I am talking about Thomas. The disciple known as, “The Twin” comes back every year the Sunday after Easter to make an appearance in our churches. Thomas, who (for some reason or another) was not cowering behind locked doors on the evening that the disciples heard the news of the empty tomb. At this point none of them had seen him or touched him. In Luke’s Gospel account that we heard last Sunday, they thought it was an idle tale, that Mary Magdalene and the rest of the women were delirious in what they were sharing. Certainly, they would never believe unless they themselves were able to see him, to put their fingers in the marks of the nails and their hands in his side. John goes into some more detail in his account – earlier in the 20th chapter he reports Peter out-running the other disciple to the tomb to discover it empty, and Mary Magdalene herself encountering Jesus in the garden.

So when Jesus gives Peter and the rest of the disciples the opportunity to have their curiosity satisfied, Thomas is not there. Have you ever wondered where Thomas is? I mean, even if you have not been at worship EVERY year on the SECOND Sunday of Easter (it is a low Sunday after all), you are the ones who generally come back because it is part of your faith habits. Where was he? Did he draw the short straw and go out looking for bread for the crew? Did he decide to run away and hide out on his own, so that one disciple would still be left if the authorities found the rest? When everyone scattered at the cross, had he not rejoined his friends? Maybe he was just taking a walk to try to wrap his mind around things that had happened. We don’t know why he wasn’t there on that Easter evening … but we do know that he came back – he joined them the next week when they were in the same house, and there he got to experience the same proof of Jesus’ resurrection that the others had seven days earlier.

Why did Thomas come back? Was he curious to check out the other disciples’ story? Did he figure that if the ship was going down, he had better join them and go down with it? We can conjecture all we want, but I think that the reason Thomas came back boils down to one word: Hope. In the midst of his unbelief and his looking for a sign, Thomas never lost hope that the words of his friends were indeed true, and that Christ was risen indeed!

The resurrection of his Lord was not the end of the story for Thomas, or for any of the disciples. As a matter of fact, it is just the beginning. The good news of Jesus’ and Thomas’ return – and the return of Peter and James and John and all of the disciples – is that they were not only blessed by the Holy Spirit, breathed on them by Jesus, but that they were sent out from that house – sent out from the fear and doubt, unbelief and uncertainty – into a world that is still filled with sin and evil and death, and witness to love of the risen Christ among us. The house may have been their starting point, but the world was where their witness grew. Legend has it that the disciples eventually divided up the known world and each took an area in which to witness. Thomas was assigned Indian and there are still Christian churches in India who trace their roots back to Thomas’ preaching. Thomas’ end was that he was run through with five spears by five soldiers. Other disciples met other gruesome fates – some were killed by the sword or axe, many by crucifixion in various ways – by a traditional cross, upside down or on an “X” shaped cross. They were among the first of the Christian martyrs, a word that comes from the Greek word, “marturia” which means, “witness.” They were so passionate and bold as to stand up and proclaim something in the face of stern opposition is indeed a strong witness. And this strong witness is enough for us to understand why Thomas and all of the disciples wanted to see for themselves that Jesus was still alive.

The resurrection of our Lord is just the starting point in the story of our discipleship, just as it was just the beginning of the stories of the discipleship for Thomas and the rest. It may have started with disbelief, but implanted with a seed of hope, met by the one who overcame hatred and death with love and life, they all grew into the mission to which God had called them. What is your starting point? What are the circumstances of your life today? Whatever they are, that is the starting point of your story of resurrection! If you are deep in loneliness, worried about how life is changing because of health issues, or even because of upcoming graduations; if you are struggling with depression, addiction or relationship worries, that is the room into which Christ enters. If you are locked in a house of fear, confusion or darkness, that’s your starting point and the place in which Jesus stands. If illness, aging, disability or uncertainty are the facts of your life, that is the place where Jesus shows up. If you feel lost, betrayed, disappointed, overwhelmed, that is the house Jesus enters. If joy, gratitude and celebration are the facts of your life today, that’s the starting point for your story of resurrection!

All those things and so many more are the ways that the doors of the houses of our lives get locked. But whatever it might be for you, it is just the starting point … because resurrection is a process and the risen Jesus accompanies us in that process. When you left Easter worship last Sunday, did everything change in the world and in your life? I would venture to say that even though you might have experienced joy, you still had the reality of sin and evil around us. But with the promise and hope of the resurrection, you came back here today … as did Jesus, to assure you in your unbelief and to breathe the Holy Spirit and the Peace of God into our lives. Rather than being stuck in the same place of fear or uncertainty because of our starting places, we recognize the presence of Christ in our midst, breathing peace and hope into us; breathing peace and courage into us; breathing peace and strength into us. Today – those of us who have come back to this house can take a deep breath – take it all in, let it fill and enliven you. Let it give you hope, courage and strength to go forth out of this house and into a world that needs the witness of the love of the risen Jesus to be their starting place. May it be so, in the name of Christ our Lord; Amen.