3/4/05 Year A : Easter 2 John 20:19-31
John 20:19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21 Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." 24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." 26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." 28 Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" 29 Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." 30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these 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.
How many keys have you got in your pocket? Probably a door key or two, a car key. Why do we carry them? So we can get into our car, house, garage, church etc.
In today's gospel we have the "key" to John's gospel. It tells us why he wrote his gospel, or edited story of Jesus' life. 31... these 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.
It was the first Easter Sunday. Jesus had already revealed himself to Mary near the tomb ( 20:10ff ), and to Cleopas and Simon on the road to Emmaus ( Luke 25:13ff ).
The disciples were fearful. They were closely associated with a revolutionary who had so upset the authorities that they had crucified him. They were fearful for their own lives. Perhaps they were planning how they might escape from the Jerusalem area without being seen by the temple guards or the Romans.
In this situation:
Jesus brings peace to replace fear,
19 Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side.
Jesus gives peace, he does not merely wish it. "Peace be with you" was a common Jewish greeting but Jesus is actively giving his peace to the disciples. It is a resurrection peace, a life without fear of death, safe in the knowledge that we, like Jesus can pass through physical death into eternal life. It is a peace that has overcome the violence and injustice of the world.
Jesus showed his hands and side showing the continuity of the resurrection and earthly body. Yet he was different. He appeared in a locked room having also passed through grave cloths and the tomb.
Believers will get new resurrection, eternal bodies like Jesus.
Jesus brings joy to replace sadness
Within moments the sadness of the disciples had turned to joy. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. The risen Lord Jesus can bring his followers joy. This is different from happiness or pleasure. It goes much deeper than these emotions.
C.S. Lewis. "Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."
Jesus brings going to replace staying
21 Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."
Just as Jesus had left the glory of heaven to come to earth to reconcile human beings to God, so the disciples had to leave the security, if that is what it was, of their locked room. They forsook the security of their homes, families and careers to live for Jesus and minister in his name.
We are called to leave our 'comfort zones' to minister for Jesus. The church is called the 'body of Christ' with all of us being different, all of us contributing to the well being of the body.
There is one area of the church's ministry where we need more people to be involved. The children's work. There is a lot of excellent work being carried out by hard-working people but more help is needed.
We need some people to help with the 0-3 years. For a number of years this has been staffed by the mothers of the children. But the mothers who are doing this need help. It is difficult to teach a group when your own child is in it. It is difficult to find time to do the preparation work and to attend any training events.
We also need help for the holiday periods. Sue Brown has done this, virtually single handedly, but is unable to continue this from the summer onwards. If necessary we could have a rota of volunteers to cover for holiday periods.
We need to run a so called "Tweenagers" group for 10-13 year olds during our Sunday morning service. We have a course and volunteers to take this for two Sundays a month. but we need volunteers for another one of two Sundays.
In all of the cases we will provide training and resources for any volunteers.
I have heard it said, effectively, "Well they are someone else's children, so their parents should look after them". This ignores the practical difficulties of running a group for your own children and when you have children. It also ignores the New Testament teaching that every believer is gifted to minister in at least one area and that we have a corporate responsibility for the whole church. We are all called to share in and take responsibility for the life of our church.
If we are to fulfil Jesus' calling and reach out in his name. How can we do that if we are saying to parents, "You do it". Especially to parents who do not have the knowledge or skills to teach their children about Jesus. I have heard it said by people who are now grandparents that they had to look after their own children, but just because the church failed them why should we continue in this sin?
Jesus brings the Holy Spirit to replace our own, fallen spirit
22 And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.
There is no immediate evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the disciples. We have to conclude, therefore, that this was an illustration of what would happen at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit would be poured out on the disciples to empower them to proclaim Jesus and minister in his name.
That power is available to us today. Every believer has God the Holy Spirit living within them, Romans 8:9. We need to step out and trust in his power who can do more than we dare ask for or imagine, Ephes. 3:20.
Jesus brings forgiveness to replace alienation
23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."
Forgiveness depends on the response to the message of the gospel not those who bring the message. So the disciples would affirm that someone is forgiven if they have turned to Christ. But they can also warn that people are not forgiven, that is to say still retaining their sins, if they do not repent.
People have a choice. To give their sins over to Jesus and let him take the punishment for them, which is separation from God. Or to bear the consequence of their own sins and be cut off from God in this life and into eternity.
Jesus brings belief to replace doubt
27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."
Thomas was a straight speaking northerner. He told Jesus he didn't understand what he was talking about in John 14:5 "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" He was convinced Jesus was dead and didn't believe the testimony of the other disciples. He was skeptical. He wanted proof for himself.
Jesus appears to the disciples a week later, this Sunday of you like. This time Thomas is there. Perhaps the idea that Jesus might have risen from the dead meant Thomas didn't want to miss anything. We don't know if Thomas ever put his finger in the nail marks! But we do know that the sight of the risen Jesus was enough for Thomas to acknowledge that Jesus was 28b "My Lord and my God!"
Thomas was a Jew. To call anyone God was blasphemy if it were not true. After three years with Jesus and seeing him live, teach, perform miracles, die and reappear with a resurrection body Thomas was convinced. This man was God. His declaration is the climax to John's gospel. It illustrates the belief John wants for his readers. Not an intellectual belief that Jesus was the Son of God, whatever that may mean to someone. Or that Jesus died and rose again.
But that Jesus was God and man, who came to earth to show us how to live and offer himself as a perfect sacrifice for sin on the cross. Those who have trusted in his death will rise with him to new life. A life lived in a right relationship with God. Our lives are to reflect that trust. To put our trust in Jesus before our money, possessions, time, reputation, career, and relationships.
We cannot "see" like Thomas but that does not mean that our faith is false. That we have to leave our brains behind when we come to faith and when we come to church. I think Thomas is another reason to believe that the resurrection is true. You will remember that we looked at the evidence for the resurrection last Sunday ( Matthew 28:1-10 ).
We can be "blessed" if we believe, verse 29. Blessed is not being 'happy' but being accepted by God ( see Matthew 5:3ff )
This is what "life" is really about. Some people confuse life and existence. What is life about? Being in a right relationship with God through trust in Jesus' life, death and resurrection. We were made to live for eternity with God. We have a choice.
Belief or disbelief. Life or death.
Look at the evidence. Look at the alternative.
Choose life. Choose Jesus.