Sermon for the 2nd Sunday of Easter, 27 Apr 2014
Jn 20:19-31   Ez 37:1-14        Jn 5:4-10    
Vicar Paul Rockrohr


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.” 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.”


    Doubting Thomas, his reputation was forever marred by this one incident. We do not call Peter “the denier” even though 3 times with curses he tried to separate himself from Christ. We do not call Paul “the persecutor” even though he it was Christ Himself that asked “why do you persecute me?” Nor can we say that any of the apostles or women believed Christ when He said that He would rise from the dead. Their actions indicate that they all believed that Jesus was dead. Not one of them believed that Christ would rise from the dead until our Lord appeared to them. Yet it is Thomas that is labeled as the doubter.


    This title is not without merit; Thomas has multiple eyewitnesses (at least 10) all recounting to him the joyous news of the risen Savior. He has the empty tomb and the accounts from several people what occurred Easter morning, the angels and the appearance of Christ to Mary, so he is not lacking in evidence of the resurrection. But he refuses to believe, even when his close friends, the other disciples, tell him “we have seen the Lord.” “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.” There can be no doubt that Thomas is caught up in unbelief, he has heard the very words of Jesus concerning all that must happen to the Son of Man, but that on the third day He would be raised. Here are eyewitnesses to that very truth, yet it is easier to call God a liar than believe in the bodily resurrection of the dead.


    It is not right to mock or deride the saints, those called home to our heavenly Father, for sin and struggles in their life. It is wrong to mockingly call Thomas “doubting Thomas,” for he is after all one of the apostles that Christ Himself has chosen. Would we be so bold as to ridicule Jesus for His choice of apostles? In the same fashion we can speak of scorning the pastors that God gives to us. Most importantly, by this we must also recognize that each Christian is our brother or sister that has been chosen, indeed elected by Christ, from eternity. To speak evil against any member of Christ is to speak evil against Christ Himself. But we can still call Thomas “doubting Thomas” without despising him, for the weakness of the saints can be a great comfort to us. In their struggles we see how gently Jesus rebukes and comforts these smoldering wicks, bearing witness to us about how He deals with us in our own struggles with our Old Adam and unbelief.  

 

Sermon for the 2nd Sunday of Easter, 27 Apr 2014
Jn 20:19-31   Ez 37:1-14        Jn 5:4-10    
Vicar Paul Rockrohr


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.” 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.”


    Doubting Thomas, his reputation was forever marred by this one incident. We do not call Peter “the denier” even though 3 times with curses he tried to separate himself from Christ. We do not call Paul “the persecutor” even though he it was Christ Himself that asked “why do you persecute me?” Nor can we say that any of the apostles or women believed Christ when He said that He would rise from the dead. Their actions indicate that they all believed that Jesus was dead. Not one of them believed that Christ would rise from the dead until our Lord appeared to them. Yet it is Thomas that is labeled as the doubter.


    This title is not without merit; Thomas has multiple eyewitnesses (at least 10) all recounting to him the joyous news of the risen Savior. He has the empty tomb and the accounts from several people what occurred Easter morning, the angels and the appearance of Christ to Mary, so he is not lacking in evidence of the resurrection. But he refuses to believe, even when his close friends, the other disciples, tell him “we have seen the Lord.” “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.” There can be no doubt that Thomas is caught up in unbelief, he has heard the very words of Jesus concerning all that must happen to the Son of Man, but that on the third day He would be raised. Here are eyewitnesses to that very truth, yet it is easier to call God a liar than believe in the bodily resurrection of the dead.


    It is not right to mock or deride the saints, those called home to our heavenly Father, for sin and struggles in their life. It is wrong to mockingly call Thomas “doubting Thomas,” for he is after all one of the apostles that Christ Himself has chosen. Would we be so bold as to ridicule Jesus for His choice of apostles? In the same fashion we can speak of scorning the pastors that God gives to us. Most importantly, by this we must also recognize that each Christian is our brother or sister that has been chosen, indeed elected by Christ, from eternity. To speak evil against any member of Christ is to speak evil against Christ Himself. But we can still call Thomas “doubting Thomas” without despising him, for the weakness of the saints can be a great comfort to us. In their struggles we see how gently Jesus rebukes and comforts these smoldering wicks, bearing witness to us about how He deals with us in our own struggles with our Old Adam and unbelief. 


    In truth Thomas has it exactly right. Not in that he is caught in unbelief in such a cloud of witnesses, but that he will not believe without the bodily resurrection. He is right not to believe if Jesus has not been raised in His flesh! What does Paul say? “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain...If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Cor 15: 14, 17-19)


The weakness of Thomas and his willingness to state it give reason for us to be grateful. He speaks out in the open what we may wonder secretly in our hearts. Was Jesus truly raised in His body? We want to see Jesus ourselves to be certain, for in our weakness we are unwilling to let the witnesses of God, the Spirit and the water and the blood, be firm testimonies for us. We want to see for ourselves to be certain. The desire to see an angel, miracle, or God Himself are not uncommon at all because these desires as a root unbelief. Such desires do not see the means of grace God has ordained as being enough to be confident, they do not take the Word of Christ to be certain unless it is personally confirmed by some other means. This weakness of our flesh clings to us, unbelief dogs us.


Thomas in his weakness needs to be so certain of this that he declares, “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.” He must see and feel the flesh and bone, lest it be a lying spirit. So that there can be no deception, the marks of Christ’s passion must also be there, the marks of the nails and pierced side, and they must stand up to inspection. That is to say, that if this Lamb that was undoubtedly slain is truly standing on the eternal throne then the marks of his death for the people must be there. The marks are the witness of the atonement, the Amen to “it is finished.”


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.” 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.” It is as if Christ said to him, Look Thomas, see and feel. There is no falsehood here; I am truly risen from the grave. No spirit or figure in light has flesh like mine that carry these marks. This is my glorified body, I bear them for all time so that you can be certain that I have accomplished your salvation, I and not another. “Peace be with you.” That is to say, I do not come in anger but in peace so that I may give you peace. I have forgiven your unbelief in weakness and cover it over.

 

Dear Christians, Thomas answers “my Lord and my God” for a reason. Jesus Christ is the first-born from the dead. Others were raised from the dead before Christ, but they died again. Christ died and yet lives. He should not live according to reason, for the marks on His body demand death. Yet this Man proves His victory over the grave by the very marks of death inflicted upon Him. Who has the power to raise the dead except God? Furthermore, who can forgive sin except God, since forgiveness brings peace with Him? So this Man stands before Thomas and offers a witness of His divinity. There is no longer any question for Thomas, he believes because of the mercy of Christ who preaches to him the gospel. These things 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.


We have not seen and yet we believe because of the testimony of witnesses that God gives to us. We are called blessed by our elder brother, Christ, for hearing and believing these witnesses. What are they? “There are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.” The water and blood that flowed from the side of Christ are also His testament to you in blood which you drink and in water that washes you to new birth. The Holy Spirit is present for you in these, strengthening your faith despite weakness and unbelief, reassuring you of the efficacy of Christ’s Word and promise. By the proclamation of the Word through Ezekiel dry bones were brought together and covered with flesh, by the proclamation of that same Word the Holy Spirit gave life. This is the same Spirit that is active in your ears, calling you in water, word, and blood, giving life where there where dry bones. By His indwelling you hear “Peace be with you” from your Lord and your God.


This is not peace comes about when evil has passed, when enemies no longer threaten us. This peace from your Lord comes in the midst turmoil and dread and still thrives. It was for fear of the Jews that the disciples barred themselves in room. They were comforted by the peace of Christ, but the danger was not taken away. It is true that peace is in one sense the absence of strife; so also note what kind of peace this is that Christ gives. It is the peace that comes from victory over the grave, that even though we may suffer and even die, we shall live in our own bodies. While peace and happiness in this life are good gifts, if in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. No, peace for us is the comfort of the resurrection of all flesh, and life eternal in Christ for all those that He has called blessed.


“Peace be with you.” Amen.

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