Apr 3, 2016 – Trust In…
Today’s gospel reading is unique in the cycle of Bible readings that we go through every three years. This gospel lesson is unique because it’s one of the very few that do not change from year to year. Every year the gospel reading for today, the 2nd Sunday of the Easter season, is this one. I don’t know the official reason for this since the lectionary, the list of readings, has been established for years and years and it’s not exclusive to the Lutheran church. But I suspect that some good Lutheran had a hand in this because Thomas makes such a good Lutheran that we need to read about him every year.
Thomas makes such a good Lutheran, you see, because He was given the truth, but thought it was just too good to believe and so he didn’t want to say anything to anyone until it was proven to him to be true. He wanted proof that – Christ is risen… He is risen indeed, alleluia!
So we Lutherans really like to hear about Thomas. Of course I like to hear about him since he’s my namesake and because he’s done for us all what we could not do for ourselves; he got to have the proof of Jesus physical resurrection given to him by Jesus Himself. You know having proof of what you’ve been told gives you such great relief. It gives you a certainty that you can bet your life on it. It’s like this one young girl I read about.
She was part of a group of girls, on a picnic in Washington State’s Cascade mountain range. The girls, after the picnic, had taken off walking but they went down a wrong trail. Now, after spending a terrifying night in the high country, they were wandering around hopelessly lost and they were cold, wet and hungry. “They’ll never find us,” one of the girls said between sobs. “We’re all going to die.” Then 11-year-old, Evanell Towne, stepped forward. “I’m not going to die,” she said firmly. “I’ve been told that if you follow a little stream, it empties into a bigger stream and finally you come to a town. I’m going to follow that little stream we saw. The rest of you can come if you want.” Evanell plunged straightaway into the woods toward a tiny brook that they’d seen and the others followed. For more than five hours they thrashed through the brush along stream beds that kept getting larger and larger, just like she’d been told. Finally, they heard voices, and their shouts brought a rescue party. The trusting young girl had led the group to safety because she was convinced that she had been taught the truth and she acted on that truth.
Evanell could give lessons to Thomas, and us, on trusting what you’ve been told by people you trust. Acting on that trust is what she did, and in doing that demonstrated her trust in those who’d told her what was true. For her, trust in what she’d been told wasn’t just an academic thing; it wasn’t just something to know. For her, and those who followed her, acting on trust saved their lives.
Now don’t hear me wrong, I’m not saying we are saved by our action. But rather that the truth that Christ is risen… He is risen indeed, alleluia(!) is what grants us the faith to trust and then; and then to act! I’m saying that our actions reflect that we trust in that truth. After all, we’ve been given the eyewitness of a good Lutheran to the resurrection of Christ. What more do we need?
Doubt, by the way, as Thomas expressed it, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But perhaps in Thomas’ case he should reconsider what he doubts and what he trusts. He should perhaps, doubt the power of the Roman Empire. Or he, perhaps, should doubt his own certainty. That’s because God’s word trumps doubt. He, like the other disciples, had been told by Jesus many times before, that the Christ would die and then rise again. Thomas was there when Jesus brought Lazarus back to life after hearing Jesus say to his sister, I Am the resurrection and the life.
Thomas has a certainty about Jesus’ death; that is, he has no doubt Jesus is dead. What the disciples and the women have been telling him for the last week makes no sense. And so he is possessed of a certainty to not believe. By the way, what they’re telling him they themselves are still struggling with. Why else are they behind locked doors? Thomas’ doubt only adds fuel to their own struggle with what they believe.
That should ring bells for us. How many times have we refused to believe something that someone tells us that sounds outlandish or far-fetched? Especially something that later turned out to be true? Thomas had heard Jesus’ claim to be One with God and that claim, to being the great I Am, helped to put Jesus on the cross.
And now trusted friends are telling Thomas that this same Jesus, who claimed to be the Son of the living God of heaven, has returned to life. What was Thomas going to trust, his own senses that told him Jesus was dead, or what his friends, hiding with him behind locked doors were saying? How could he not doubt. And yet everything Jesus ever said had come to pass, including Judas’s betrayal and Peter’s denial. Yet even with all of that, Thomas is certain that Jesus is dead and for Thomas, that was that.
So what is he to do when Jesus comes and stands before him in the gospel lesson today and says: “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” ?
Thomas has to change what he doubts and what he trusts. And in doing that Thomas becomes our teacher. Thomas becomes the one whose words recorded for us here, that we now trust. Like Evanell was told what would save her life if she was lost in the woods, so we’ve been told by Thomas’ words, that Jesus, now alive, is Lord and God and He is the savior of our lives. We, like Thomas, would benefit from learning to doubt death, not life!! (X2)
Jesus comes into the midst of the locked doors in our life. Jesus comes through our fears and sins, our worries and doubts and He speaks His words of forgiveness to us through verses 21-24
21″Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” Jesus’ words deliver to the disciples, and to us, through the Holy Spirit, the forgiveness of sins and the power of eternal life that He has won over sin, death and the devil. Jesus’ words save our lives and delivers faith in us. Trust in what Jesus has done gives us the power to witness to that trust to others.
As we said before, we’ve been given the eyewitness testimony of a ‘good Lutheran’ to the resurrection of Christ. What more do we need in order to tell others of what Christ has done? Perhaps in our speaking boldly, as Evanell led her friends boldly, others may hear our words behind their locked doors of doubt and sin and so learn to trust in what Jesus has taught. May the Holy Spirit, which Jesus has sent to us, work in us and through us to tell others that – Christ has risen… He has risen indeed. Alleluia! In Jesus name, amen.
Sermon #821 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
First Reading Acts 5:12-20
12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed. 17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”
Second Reading Revelation 1:4-18
4 John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia:
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
7 “Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen.
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
9 I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”
12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
Holy Gospel John 20:19-31
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, 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’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
24 Now Thomas (also known as 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.”
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 performed many other 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 Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.