April 8, 2024

April 7, 2024, The Second Sunday of Easter

April 7, 2024, The Second Sunday of Easter

GOSPEL:  John 20:19-31

The story of Easter continues as the risen Jesus appears to his disciples. His words to Thomas offer a blessing to all who entrust themselves in faith to the risen Lord.


19When 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.”

24But 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.”
26A 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.”

30Now 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.


Easter is not over.  We continue to celebrate the resurrection and dive deep into the mystery of his risen presence.  And every year, on this Sunday we get Thomas.  Lets remember who Thomas is – so this short scene is not all we know of him.

Remember When Jesus hears about Lazarus his friend who is dying – he doesnt go right away, but then Lazarus dies, and Jesus decides to make the trip back.  The disciples try to persuade him not to venture near Jerusalem. “Rabbi, the Jews were but now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” (John 11:8).  Thomas knows that for Jesus to return to Jerusalem is to go to his death. Thomas was no fool. He counted the costs before making a decision. Nevertheless, it is he who bravely urges the others to follow Jesus: “Let us also go also, that we may die with him” (11:16).

And in his last talk and prayer with his disciples, it seems like this same Thomas inspires Jesus with his brave questions.   Jesus comforts his disciples with a promise.   “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Fathers house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way where I am going” (John 14:1-4).  Wait a minute, Thomas interrupts. Maybe the other disciples were falling asleep already. “We dont know where you are going. So how can we know the way?”   Thomas is a realist. and Jesus replies frankly. “I am the way, says Jesus (John 14:6). I am the way, the truth, the life.

And we get to this scene here and Simon Peter and the other disciples.  nearly boasts to Thomas –  “We have seen the Lord!”  One author imagines Thomass snarky responses to Simon Peters enthusiasm, “You have seen the Lord, Mr. Simon Lets-build-three-booths Peter?  You have seen the Lord, Mr. Simon God-forbid-Lord-This- shall-never-happen-to-you Peter?   You have seen the Lord, Mr. Simon You-shall-never-wash-my-feet-Peter?   You have seen the Lord, Mr. Simon Ill-never-deny-thee-deny-thee-deny thee Peter?

Would you believe Simon Peter?    Surely Jesus builds his church upon him, and he is an inspiration everywhere to bumbling and stumbling Christians.  But I think were all more likely to believe a Thomas sort.  If Thomas says it, you know it must be true.  Thomas is not the sort to check his brain at the door.  Thomas is a realist.  And so the Key verse here is not about Thomasunbelief – but about Thomasstunning and sudden confession of faith.  Straight from the heart, no fluffy liturgical adjectives, no lengthy prayer – short and sweet My Lord and My God.”  And all of a sudden, with those 5 words, Thomas has a new perspective, a new world view and a new reality – Thomas has been born again.  Belief may not have happened like that for you, it certainly didn’t for me.

But then again, there are days when Thomas’ words are on my lips.  When suddenly whatever was feeling out of whack just clicks – when God seems as real as the person sitting next to me, and the promises feel like they are being fulfilled.  It’s those days we hold onto, especially in the moments when God feels distant and fake, and like someone everyone else has a hold on but you.

I would not consider myself to be born again – there was no ONE ah hah moment in my life where I gave everything over to Jesus and started new.  But it’s been thousands of little moments, meeting Jesus wherever I’ve happened to be.   Thousands of evenings where I just had to stop and give it to Jesus.    For me and for you, because of our baptism, that can happen every day.  Because we sin every day, we die daily to sin and be raised with Christ in newness of life.  Because we are confronted with our own limitations, and only have God to turn to.

The First Epistle of John – our second lesson today – offers to us a theological view of Easter and of the peace and forgiveness that Christ brings with his presence.  The text goes round and round, back and forth from dark to light, from deceiving ourselves to confessing the truth.  From living in sin, to walking in the light, from obeying the commandments to being disobedient.

This is the truth that is proclaimed.  That we should obey his commandments and strive for his perfection – walking in the light.  But the truth is also this.  8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Both statements are true – because the ultimate truth is a person.  The letter goes on to assure us – My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin (wink wink, hint hint, that’s everybody), we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Our faith in Christ is not by sight, though assuredly there are sights we will see in our lifetime that will affirm our faith, and bring us joy, and remind us of the grace and the promise we have been given.  The last verse of our second reading is something worth dwelling upon.  Verse 9 – “for you are receiving the outcome of your faith.” Notice it doesn’t say “you will be receiving the outcome of your faith” It says “you ARE RECEIVING.”  This is something that happens now, today.  Because of our faith, not only do we have hope in the promise to come, our eternal life, raised with Christ – but we also have the presence and peace of Christ with us today.  Today we struggle, today we weep, and today there is doubt – but today there is also Joy, today there is also peace, today there is also the Spirit working though us and among us.  This future hope coupled with what we are receiving today is something Lutherans like to call, “Already, but not yet.”

Already, Christ is risen.  Already death is defeated.  Already we rejoice in the peace of Christ that comes into our darkest hour.  Already, but not yet.  Not yet do we have the whole kingdom of God on earth.  Not yet are all our tears wiped away.  Not yet have we been raised with Christ to live forever with God.  We ARE receiving the outcome of our faith.  Already, but not yet.

Like Thomas, we all have trouble believing.   Even those who know Jesus have days when we cannot see him present in this hurting world.    And Many in our world have come to distrust pretty words from the mouths of Christians whose actions tell a different story.

But our doubts do not prevent Christ from coming into our locked rooms.  The closed and dark places in our life, like the room where the disciples gathered.  The places where we sorrow and worry and cry out, Christ comes into those places and offers us peace and hope.  He comes bearing his own wounds, showing us his true humility and love.  And offers us peace.  Amen.

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