Easter 2 – John 20:19-31 – April 2nd and 3rd, 2016
Christ is Risen – He is Risen, Indeed, Alleluia – Amen
Christ is Risen – He is Risen, Indeed, Alleluia – Amen
Peace. This is the Word, the first Word that Christ speaks to the disciples after His resurrection, the Word that is the most important Word in the History of the World. Peace – Shalom – everything is fixed and fine and perfect and it is finished and it's all good again – Peace. In fact, Peace to you. Okay, I suppose we should back up and start at the beginning of the text. “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for the fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you.'” So there they are, Easter evening. Everything that we heard last week had happened already – Mary Magdalene had told them that Jesus had risen. We hear in Matthew's Gospel that the angels told the other gals that the disciples were supposed to head on up in Galilee to meet Jesus, and yet what do we see?
The disciples are hiding in a locked room. Hiding and afraid. Hadn't they heard? Don't they know what is going on? Well... yeah, they had heard. But they also know what else they had heard and seen. They had heard and seen the soldiers bust into the garden of Gethsemane! They had heard and seen the mob shout, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!” John had even stood there and watched Jesus die. And that evening, at that moment, in the minds of the disciples, the reality of the potential dangers of soldiers or an angry mob coming for them seemed to be a bit bigger, a bit of a higher priority than some “vauge rumors” of a resurrection, especially when given by those, those, those women.
Jesus, as always, shows great and utter patience. And He shows up in that room where the disciples are locked in. Locks don't bother Him – He is Christ Jesus, God Himself risen from the dead – He will go where He pleases now, thank you very much, and no door that the disciples or you or I lock is going to stop Him any. And there He stands in front of His disciples, and what do you think He sees? Does He see pathetic, fearful men who don't listen? Does He see doubt and disbelief and anxiety? Does He see disobedient disciples who need to be admonished, yelled at, whipped into shape? In a word, does He see failures? Because that'd be one way to describe, one way to look at the disciples right there. The lousy friends who ran away, who abandoned Him. The feet He had washed Thursday Night had run away pretty quickly. If Jesus had laid into them, ripped them a new one, not a one of them would have been able to defend themselves against His accusations.
But when Jesus looks out across that room and sees the disciples, He doesn't see failures. He doesn't see disobedient or foolish disciples. Of course not – all their failure, all their disobedience, all the folly – Jesus Christ Himself took that up upon His own shoulders on Good Friday and crucified it. And so Jesus sees rightly – He sees simply forgiven and redeemed men, and so Jesus speaks the great truth, a truth greater and more wondrous than their failures. He proclaims His victory. Peace be with you. Peace. Everything is right, everything is good, everything is set up for eternity, and just as I have risen from the dead, you folks will rise and will live forever. You want the proof - “When Jesus had said this, He showed them His hands and His side.” Do you think it's scary out there, disciples? Are you worried about what they might do to you? Well, they might – fellas, they did it to Me. See, check out the nail marks, check out the spear wound – eh? Doesn't stop Me from rising. Pretty cool, eh? It is only when Jesus has shown them that He has indeed come through the worst the world can throw at Him, that the disciples then relax and rejoice and celebrate.
And then Jesus does something wonderful. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you.” Yep, this peace is real. This peace that I am proclaiming is the highest truth in the world. And you know what – just as I was sent to speak it to you, I'm going to send you disciples out, and you're going to proclaim that same peace to the whole world – there will be a big old Christian and Apostolic Church (because the Greek word for “sent” is Apostle), and the whole job of that Church will be to proclaim the peace of Christ Jesus. And 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 withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” In fact, I'm am giving you My Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of life, and you are going to go and proclaim forgiveness to the world!
Now here's where we need to be careful, my friends – because we can misunderstand that last verse. I like the way the old King James translated it - Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. It's not “if” in the sense as though I as a pastor in the Church get to sit and pause and look you up and down and say, “Well, I think I'll forgive you today... but not you, bwahahahahaha!” It's not a human ego and power trip. Rather Jesus is saying something wonderful; He says (as I translate it) - “Should you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven them; should you bind anyone, they have already bound themselves.” You apostles are going to go speak a word of truth, declare the forgiveness of sins because of My death and resurrection, and people are going to be forgiven. Now, will some shrug it off, deny it? Well, they've already bound themselves, they've decided to hang on to their sins – you'll get to tell them, “hey, you're hanging on to sin here” - but the point, the goal, the great thing is that Jesus has in fact died for the sins of the whole world. The point, apostles, is to forgive sins.
As a test case of this, our text continues. Now, Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, 'We have seen the Lord.” So far, so good, Apostles! Go and tell! Great! But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into His side, I will never believe.” Well... how's that reaction to the first sermon the Apostles preach? And here's the test – here's where the rubber meets the road. What do the rest of the Apostles see when they look at Thomas? You know, the one we like to call “Doubting Thomas”? Do they deride him? Do they cast him out away from themselves – away with you, doubter! We really only need ten apostles anyway – that's a nice round number! Do they view Thomas according to his failings, his doubting, his sin? Eight days later, His disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Nope. No rejection, no casting him out, no getting rid of him. Yeah, yeah, yeah, ya doubt, well, come along Thomas. And so Thomas is with them the following Sunday (because the way the Jewish folks counted time, you included the day you were on). And then we hear this: Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” There they are – all 11 of them together this time, and the doors are again locked. Were they just placating Thomas, locking the doors for his sake, or maybe the week had gotten to the rest of the disciples too, and they were scared. Either way – doesn't matter. Jesus shows up and does His Risen Savior thing – Peace be with you. See, that's the point, still, Peace.
But wait, even peace for Thomas? Even peace for stubborn, defiant, doubting Thomas? Well... yeah. 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.” There's no lecture, no finger wagging. In fact, Thomas is invited to let his finger do a bit of wiggling and wagging. If you want to go poke and prod, feel free. Let's get rid of that no-faith that you've got and give you faith. Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and My God.” Yep. There's faith. Good. That was the point, the goal. And you know what Thomas – you're going to be preaching to people, people who don't get this finger poking chance. Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. Yep – there we here get mentioned in today's text – Jesus isn't going to leave you out. His peace is for you. You are blessed in Him. His Word, His preaching is for you – [T]hese are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name. There's the program. Jesus has died for the sins of the world, and He has risen, and you get told about it so that you get to have life. Instead of clinging to sin and fear, you are given faith to cling to Christ and His Peace. Peace be with you!
My dear friends in Christ – this is the truth, the truth that is proclaimed in this service week in and week out, that we proclaim to each other during the week, the truth we were baptized into, the truth we sink our teeth into and wrap our lips around in the Supper – that Christ Jesus has won forgiveness for our sins and the sins of the whole world. And we are given, as Christ's Church, the duty to sound forth the clarion call of forgiveness to the world. And we do this without judgment, without condemnation – Jesus took that all up. If someone chooses to be stubborn and cling to their sin – alright, suit yourself – but we'll still be here proclaiming forgiveness. Because that's the truth, the reality. Sin is forgiven. Death is undone. And no pouting, no disbelieving spoil sport out there gets to change that truth, that reality. And as for you here – yeah, Satan and Sin and the World are still going to try to terrify you. And sometimes they will, for in this life, you will se e some pain, some fear, some doubt, some sorrow. But you know what – over there in that window, that picture of the Risen Christ, there's Jesus, standing in the posture of blessing – and if you look, you'll see the nail mark in His hand – that hand held up blessing you – nail mark right there. Yeah – pain, fear, doubt, sorrow – He's already seen it all, and it did its worst to Him, and He rose – and He, the Risen Christ, is the one who blesses you, who says peace to you. And that's the reality – and come the Last Day when He comes again, His peace will finally be the only thing you'll see, even unto all eternity. This is most certainly true. And why? Well, you know the answer – Christ is Risen – He is Risen Indeed, alleluia. Amen.