The Rev. Paul J Cain
Second Sunday of Easter, 01 May 2011
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
I’m not going to pick on Thomas today. I will talk about all of the “doubting Thomases” in John 20.
19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews,
Wait a minute! The doors being locked for fear of the Jews? This sounds like a whole lot of doubting going on! Today’s text follows immediately after the Mary Magdalene and Jesus text heard at the Easter Sunrise service, which concluded: 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her John 20:16-18)
Mary doubted that Jesus had risen at first. She came and got Peter and John. They ran to the tomb and believed that it was empty. Now, even after she announces to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” they keep the doors locked. Their lack of faith—their doubt—calls for a creative solution.
Jesus came and stood among them… Locked doors, windows, walls, and electronic security systems mean little to the Creator of the Universe, the Son of God, the newly-Resurrected Christ.
Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
The Twelve need all the peace they can get. Judas had committed suicide. Thomas, as we’ll see later, wasn’t there this particular evening of Easter Day.
20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
This is what it took for Mary Magdalene to believe. We don’t call her “doubting Mary.” We don’t refer to Peter and John as “doubting Peter and John.” They see His hands. They see His side. And then they were glad to see Christ alive again!
21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
When you hear a pastor say, “The Lord be with you,” you respond, “And also with you.” We used to respond, “And with your spirit.” That’s the more literal translation that Christians are going back to. It is far from merely a “Hey, how ya doin?” with the response, “Eh, not too bad. You?” Liturgical language suffered in a transition to modern English. We’re still recovering.
Jesus gives peace when He speaks it. His words create a new reality. “Let there be light!” created light in Genesis 1. And the Spirit of God hovered over the deep. The Spirit is very active in John 20.
[Jesus] (He) breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
You are to ask for forgiveness directly from God, as in the Lord’s Prayer, and we are to ask for forgiveness from those whom we have sinned against and forgive those who sin against us.
The text before us is the seat of the doctrine of absolution by the Office of the Holy Ministry, as you commonly hear: “Upon this your confession, I, by virtue of my office, as a called and ordained servant of the Word, announce the grace of God unto all of you, and in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This wording has been used by Missouri Synod Lutherans since the German days. Variations are found on page 151, 167, 203 and 214. Forgiveness “in the stead and by the command” is taught by Christ in John 20. As Luther teaches, we should “receive absolution, that is forgiveness, from the pastor as from God Himself, not doubting, but firmly believing that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven.”
This also means that forgiveness is withheld from unrepentant sinners as long as they do not repent. Is someone unwilling to stop doing a sin repentant? Can one be repentant while living in sin after being warned? Christ entrusts the office of the keys, the authority to unlock and lock heaven itself, to His Church for the individual good of Christians, even if it means that the law must take its course to bring about repentance, a proclamation of the Gospel and faith.
Regarding the Sacrament of the Altar, Luther teaches, “…that person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words,: ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’ But anyone who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared, for the words, ‘for you’ require all hearts to believe.” Doubt of Christ’s Word is serious. Consider Thomas.
24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
Thomas, a word of advice. Never say never. Please remember that the Ten had the doors locked and were just as much “doubting Thomases” as Thomas himself.
26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although 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, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
We are alive in 2011. We were not around in Jerusalem on either Sunday of this text in A.D. 33. We don’t know how we would have reacted. We have not seen, yet we have believed because of the testimony of those who did see, believed, and proclaimed the Risen Christ.
Three young adults confess faith in Christ this morning. They have been taught, have been examined, and will present themselves at the Lord’s Table for the Sacrament for the first time. Before God and men they confirm with their own heart, mind, and lips the faith they received at Holy Baptism. Family and congregation have helped them get to this day, in accordance with the promises made by baptismal sponsors. They confess with the Lord and the Church that the Scriptures are true, that they will remain faithful, that they will come to Church, and that they will faithfully and regularly receive the Lord’s Supper. They are heirs with us of life in Christ.
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Scripture does not tell us everything about Jesus. Sadly, this has given false teachers (old and new) an opening to attempt to fill in the gaps. Life in this world is messy, but you have been given what you need to remain faithful unto death and receive the crown of life. And this is where your Lord would have you remain. Be glad when they say to you, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Amen.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.