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Easter 2B Sermon
John 10: 19-31

April 11, 2021

Sermon Archives


John 20:19-31

19 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.’ 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’
24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So 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.’
26 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.’ 27Then 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.’ 28Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ 29Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But 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.

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

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. I have always thought that Thomas’ request is pretty graphic. I am not sure I would ask to put my fingers into nail holes to prove that someone is who he says he is! Have you ever wondered why Thomas was so adamant about seeing and touching the wounds of Jesus to believe that he is risen? I mean, he could have mentioned anything about his appearance - his full, bushy black beard or his flowing curly locks; his legs, strong with muscles because of all the walking he did. He could have asked to hear his voice, that is a sure identifier of who someone is! But he said that unless he put his fingers and hands into the wounds inflicted on Jesus as he was dying a cruel death on the cross, he would not believe that it was him. Why?

Let me ask you another question - All that we know is that the disciples who were in the room when Jesus first appeared excitedly told Thomas, “We have seen the Lord!” Do you think they told him anything else about him? About how he suddenly and without warning - almost magically - appeared in the middle of the room even though the doors were locked? Maybe they described him as a glowing figure, like an angel in their midst. Maybe in their excitement to tell of their encounter with Jesus they were so caught up in the glory of his appearance that they characterized him as a being who Thomas did not even recognize. Is it possible that he needed to see that this glorious, risen Jesus was the very same person who experienced the trauma of being nailed to a cross, a spear thrust into his side and died only a week or so earlier?

That is a subtle yet important distinction to make, isn’t it? This is the same person who these men and women followed around because he spoke words with which they could all identify! The same person they witnessed healing the sick, driving out demons and even raising the dead! And also the same person who was beaten nearly to death, had thorns plunged into his scalp, and nails driven through his hands or wrists before being raised up onto a cross to slowly suffocate while a crowd watch the horror.

Thomas was asking to see the crucified Jesus who is also the risen Jesus. These are not two different people, but one in the same. It is important for us to consider the events of the three days that we call, “The Triduum” as one continuing event because it is the same Jesus who endured all of them, crucifixion and resurrection alike! It is important because we all carry within us the reality of death. Medically we are programed to expire at some point in our lives, although for some that expiration period comes later than for others. We carry that reality - we carry the wounds of our impending deaths with us every day, because we know that it could happen to us at any time.

Yesterday I helped to celebrate the lives of two family members, Jack and Phyllis Steinhausser. They were married for fifty seven years when Phyllis, my cousin, died three years ago. She had battled cancer and strokes and her body simply wore out. Jack just died a few months ago. He was 81 years old and while he was not the healthiest of people, his death was by sudden heart attack. These two are pretty typical of the average human being - living about the same, average length of time, one suffering prolonged illness and the other a sudden stopping of the heart. It can happen at any time, and since we know that Jesus has been through this same thing - not only the resurrection and empty tomb, but also the experience of death - we can identify with this one who was simultaneously fully divine and fully human. Thomas knew that all of them would face persecution and death soon, so he wanted to make sure that this same one who faced intense trauma was also the one who was raised to new life. His scars are still there, even though he has been healed. Like all of us who are healed in any way, we still carry the scars of our wounds, whether they are physical, emotional or spiritual.
Andrea and Kevin met in 2006 while they were both teaching High school in Lake Placid, NY. Kevin was in recovery from treatments for Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. Their relationship grew over the next ten years. Then one day Kevin’s cancer returned with a vengeance and they determined that he was not going to recover from this bout with it.

One morning Andrea got his tea and breakfast and said she wanted his opinion on something. The dress that she had on was the one she was intending to wear to his wake, and she wanted to know how he liked it. Kevin immediately began to cry - Andrea quickly said, “I didn’t mean to upset you, I’ll go change it.” Kevin said, “No, don’t. It’s just that you look so beautiful and I’m so glad that I got to see you in that dress.” They both kept crying and holding hands until Kevin said, “I woke up this morning more ready than ever.” Andrea asked what that felt like, and he paused, looked at her and said, “Well, I guess it was the same way you felt when you put on that dress this morning.”
Andrea was a gift to Kevin in his dying days. I don’t know what their faith or spiritual lives were like, but I see them as witnesses to the desire we all have to experience those deep, holy, even painful things like death together with us. Jesus did that, and I truly believe that as Jack and Phyllis experience Jesus, they can see and touch the wounds in his hands and side even today because he is not only the risen Lord, but he is our crucified Lord.

And as we remember those wonderful women who are now with Jesus, we say the same thing. Jesus accompanied each of them in life and in death: Marline as she just got weaker and weaker and closed her eyes one final time; Nancy and Julie as they just could not recover from those final strokes; Eda Jane as her breathing became so labored under various conditions; and Norma, her broken leg compounded by Covid19 which was too much for her 95 year old body to handle. Norma would have been 96 the day before Easter! We cry because we remember their earthly selves, wounds, scars and all. We also rejoice and celebrate because they have been met by the one who not only shares their wounds, but also shares their new life.

Yes, Thomas’ request is a little graphic. But death is graphic. And the promise of the resurrection is graphic. This is the hope to which we all cling as we share Thomas’ desire to see the crucified and risen Lord Jesus in our midst. Amen