Text: John 20:19-31
Peace in the Midst of Fear and Doubts
Vicar Christopher Stout

Alleluia, Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed, alleluia.  What a wonderful conversation to have between Christians!  What a necessary conversation to have.  What use is to be baptized into the death of a dead man?  What use it to be fed with the body and blood of a Jesus who simply died on the cross?  What can a dead God provide for you in your physical, your spiritual, your emotional needs (and there’s O, so many)?  But Alleluia, Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed, alleluia.   In times of emotional and financial prosperity, the song of praise God, Alleluia, can be so easy to say.  But our text this morning brings with it a different reality that weighed the disciples down; fear and unbelief – panic and doubt.

Fear and unbelief – how related they are.  Fear that God won’t provide is rooted in the unbelief that God will be your God and provide for you.  Fear and unbelief – how related they are.  So related are these within in us, within Thomas, that God speaks one word to you and I today.  Peace be with you.  Do not disbelieve, but believe.

Text: John 20:19-31
Peace in the Midst of Fear and Doubts
Vicar Christopher Stout


Alleluia, Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed, alleluia.  What a wonderful conversation to have between Christians!  What a necessary conversation to have.  What use is to be baptized into the death of a dead man?  What use it to be fed with the body and blood of a Jesus who simply died on the cross?  What can a dead God provide for you in your physical, your spiritual, your emotional needs (and there’s O, so many)?  But Alleluia, Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed, alleluia.   In times of emotional and financial prosperity, the song of praise God, Alleluia, can be so easy to say.  But our text this morning brings with it a different reality that weighed the disciples down; fear and unbelief – panic and doubt.  

“On the evening of that day [Easter Day], the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews”… (John 20:19).  The tense of the verb indicates that this door was shut and locked, is shut and locked, and you can bet that there was no opening it any time soon.  Locked and shut - they don’t want to know what’s going on outside, and they don’t want what happened out there to happen to them in here.  Fear of beating and whipping and mocking and torture.  They had fear because the cry of “crucify, crucify” was still ringing in their ears.  This door was shut and locked because of their fear, their only protection.    

Another cause for fear was the uncertainty they faced.  What was next for this group that had left everything when the voice “Come, follow me” entered their ears?  There had been leaders before who had disciples.  As was pointed out in Acts, however, with their death came the end of their message.   “For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him.  He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing” (Acts 5:36).  The plan was simple, if you kill Jesus, then you kill His authority and message.  It’s the way things work.  Uncertainty at hand and perhaps absolute certainty that they and their Jesus would soon come to nothing, they certainly had fear.    

Fear can be such a crippling emotion.  Imagine the fear of those affected by the disasters of earthquake and tsunami and flood.  Imagine the fear of seeing a tornado coming straight at your community, with your family and all your belongings!  However, fear doesn’t just happen when a disaster is impending.  For so many fear can be an ongoing, lifelong reality.  Dear Christian, what fears weigh you down these days? What realities in this life cause you fear?  Fear can be the result of cancer and illness that affects us or those we love.   Fear can be felt as questions of our future with family and career and house remain unanswered.  Fear and uncertainty; what’s next with my job or my body or my family or schooling?  Panic and doubt; where are you Jesus?

“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, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you” (John 20:19).  That’s what Jesus does for your fear.  He comes to you, He speaks to you.  “Peace be with you.”

Jesus brings a message, and when Jesus brings a message, Jesus brings with it a reality of peace.  “Peace to you,” says Jesus three times from John this morning.  It’s absolving, “I forgive you language.”   “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven” (John 20:23).  Christ’s forgiving and peace giving is as sure as the words that you hear from your pastor this morning, you have His promise.  

Peace to you in your life.  Peace is His, won for you by the very wounds that He showed the disciples that Easter evening.  We don’t have a God who is unable to sympathize with our weakness and our fears.  He wears the proof even now on His hands and on His side.  Jesus comes in our fear and uncertainty, wounds in hand and on side, and delivers this to you: “Peace be with you.  I care so much for you that I suffered for you, how much more I promise to take care of you in your life.”   

Fear and unbelief – panic and doubt is the situation that Jesus brings this peace.  Unbelief is not easily overcome.  Thomas, after hearing the true Word of God proclaimed to Him, “We have seen the Lord” (John 20:24), responds in a way that all, by nature, respond to God’s preaching: “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” (John 20:25)  Never believe?  That’s a bit harsh, isn’t it?

But it comes naturally to Thomas, poor doubting Thomas.  It comes naturally for us, poor doubting, questioning, demanding us.  Thomas demanded a miracle for him to believe and that is no miracle.  The miracle is that God gave Him faith.  The miracle is that God has given you and I faith.  We are by nature sinful and unclean, we are by nature doubters and unbelieving.  

There will always be doubts on our minds. We’re dealing with things unseen, things you can’t measure scientifically. There will always be doubts. Sometimes little nagging ones, sometimes big ones. All the great ones of faith had their doubts. Abraham and Sarah laughed at the promise of God that they would have children in their old age, until God had the last laugh. Zechariah didn’t believe the news from the angel that he and Elizabeth would conceive in their old age and bear a son name John. Mary wondered how it could be that she would conceive and bear a son even as she was a virgin.

Fear and unbelief – how related they are.  Fear that God won’t provide is rooted in the unbelief that God will be your God and provide for you.  Fear and unbelief – how related they are.  So related are these within in us, within Thomas, that God speaks one word to you and I today.  Peace be with you.  Do not disbelieve, but believe.  You do, Thomas does, because Jesus words breath faith.  So in your doubts, in your fears in this life, Jesus comes to you.  We don’t see Him, but we do hear Him and we do take, eat and take, drink.  “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20: 29).    

So, what use is it to be buried into the death of Jesus in baptism?  It’s His death that gives you peace and His resurrection proves it.  Alleluia, Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed, alleluia!  What use is to be fed with the body and blood of a Jesus who died?  It’s by His wounds that we are healed.  This Jesus, the crucified one, gives us the body given and the blood shed for our life, because He has power over life and death.  Alleluia, Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed, Alleluia! We are as much in the presence of the risen Christ as Thomas and the rest.  Even more!

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

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