Apr 23, 2017 – 2nd Easter Sunday – Reunited!
Christ is risen… He’s risen indeed, Alleluia! At last we’ve arrived in the Easter season. During this time, we’ll see and hear about how Christ lived among His friends and followers and gave them hope and assurance through the reality that; Christ is risen! … He’s risen indeed, alleluia!
One of the ways that we see Jesus giving assurance to His friends was simply through being reunited with them. In the gospel lesson today we see Jesus reunited on the night of His resurrection with His friends in the upper room where, just 4 days before He’d shared the last supper with them and then left to be betrayed by one of those friends.
That betrayal sent Jesus to the cross to die. And that death separated Him from them and from the world. Jesus was separated from the living, as He lay dead in the tomb for 3 days; having suffered the punishment of guilt for sin that God’s justice and holiness required.
But now, ‘today’ in the gospel lesson, He’s reunited with His friends having risen victorious over sin, death, and the devil. In this upper room, the disciples express fear, excitement, and joy. Their joy comes from again seeing and being able to touch Jesus, their friend and rabbi.
When I was on vacation a few years back, I got to go in the space shuttle full fuselage trainer at the museum of flight in Seattle. One of the shuttles, Endeavor, did one of the longest-ever missions to the international space station; it was 15 days. The crew performed a record setting 5 space walks during that time. I watched some of the video from that mission. It was fun to watch as the crews opened the hatches when the shuttle had docked. It struck me as I watched it that here these people are floating out in space, 220 miles above the earth, going about 17,000 miles an hour and what do they do when they first see each other? They embrace! They hug. They take each other up in bear hugs and smiles. They are simply happy to be together. Here they are floating weightless in space and all they want to do is make human contact and be reunited with each other. That’s the way God created us. We’re meant to be in relationship with one another; and with God.
God created us for togetherness. When we’re reunited with someone after having been apart from them all we want is to be with them; to embrace them to our hearts and hold them. God created us for relationship. With Ron Selvey’s funeral on Friday, we were reminded that death is still an intruder. We’re not created for death; we’re not created for separation. We’re created for life and relationships.
We were created to be – with, to be – together, to – relate; with God and with others. That’s why God created us, for a relationship with Him. He loves us and that’s why Jesus had to come and die; to restore the separation, the brokenness, and the grief over the loss of relationship that happened when sin entered this world.
Of course, sin, our rebellion against God, broke the relationship we were created for. That was our doing and God did what was necessary to undo our gross and insubordinate acts so that we could be reunited with Him. That’s why Jesus came to earth as a human, to die and rise again.
And so, because Christ died and rose again in the flesh, we get to be reunited with God through the righteousness of Christ alone. Through His blood and sacrifice, we are restored. And our relationship with God is made whole. And after His three days in the tomb, His resurrection was proof of God’s acceptance of His sacrifice. And now on the night when He was raised up, Jesus was reunited with His friends. The joy I witnessed between the shuttle and space station crews reflects the joy that God desires for all of His creation. He desires to be reunited with us.
When Jesus was reunited with His friends though, Thomas was not among them. Today we read Thomas story. We read how Thomas wasn’t there and that he refused to believe the others when they spoke of Jesus being alive again. Though the disciples’ relationship with Jesus had been restored, Thomas’ relationship was still cold and distant… from Thomas’ perspective. That’s because he’d seen the dead Jesus and knew only that. He didn’t yet have that relationship restored in the same way the others had.
And so, he was just as skeptical as we would be. This is Thomas who, when Jesus went to Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead, said let us go to Jerusalem with Him that we may die with Him. Thomas knew Jesus was dead, period! And though he had seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead just weeks before, he would not believe the words of his friends that they had been reunited with Jesus because Jesus too had come out from a grave.
So, Thomas stands in for us. He had not seen what his friends had seen and he would not put his trust in a man he knew to be dead. There could be no reuniting with a dead man. Despite all his friends’ firm testimony, Thomas would not believe. And so, Jesus does what’s needed for Thomas and for you and I. Jesus came and showed Himself alive to him.
Jesus acted on what Thomas needed so that Thomas could be reunited with Jesus. And more than that, Jesus did on the cross what Thomas needed, to be reunited with the Father in heaven. Jesus took Thomas’ sin and guilt, He took Thomas’ fear and doubt He took all that and nailed it to the cross in His own body. Then Jesus came and showed Himself to Thomas. And, more than that even He had Thomas touch Him. He gave Himself to Thomas for inspection, required it even. Thomas, standing in for us, has seen and touched the risen Savior, Jesus.
Thomas asks our questions. Thomas expressed our doubt about a dead man coming to life again. And we have heard how Jesus restored the relationship with Thomas after restoring His relationship with His other friends. Do we believe that or not? That’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it? Do we believe these words written for us? Listen again to what John says today after telling Thomas’ story.
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Those words of John are also rightly applied to all of scripture. That’s the purpose and goal of scripture, of God’s written word to us. To draw us back, through Jesus Christ, into a right and correct living relationship with Him who created us. God choose to use the written word to allow us to hear the words of those who’ve witnessed the events God brought about so we would know and understand His passionate love for us.
As John said these words are written so that we may have life, have a living relationship, based on the person, the name of Jesus Christ alone. Our life is tied to that name. The name of the One the angel last week identified as the Crucified One. The One who bodily died on the cross. And the One who bodily rose again from the dead. Remember that the tomb was opened so we could see in and know the joy of Jesus resurrection. And know that His resurrection is our resurrection.
That’s what the words of scripture are here for. For us to know that life is ours in Jesus name. Do we believe that? Do we trust that? And if we do, then what are we to do with that? How do we live with that? When we hear, and know Thomas’s relationship has been restored, that means our relationship too has been restored with God the Father through Jesus Christ. And Thomas’ story now becomes our story.
We’re called to share that story with each other and with those who, like Thomas, need to know that the Lord has done all that’s necessary for them to live in the joy of His presence right now. That’s what we, the church do!
Because we are the body of Christ here on earth. We’re about telling the words of what Jesus has done. We do this to strengthen and uplift each other. We’re to carry out our relationships with each other as a reflection of Christ’s relationship with us.
Being in the church changes us because the words we preach teach us that we’re not alone, like Thomas first felt in the gospel today. We understand Thomas’ feelings. And the words John recorded for us give us a way to identify with him. And then we also, as he did, through the words and actions of Jesus understand that Jesus is our Lord and God.
Kenneth Carder, retired bishop of the United Methodist church, told of friends losing their son in an automobile accident. This terrible tragedy stretched their faith to its limits. They desperately needed the support of their church family. The grieving mother said: “I was too hurt to sing the hymns, and I couldn’t say the creed with confidence. But when I couldn’t sing or affirm my faith, the church did it for me. When it seemed that life had fallen apart, the church reminded me that the foundation stands firm.”
Being in a restored relationship with God is for real life here and now, and we, the church are the ones who make that real. That grieving mother realized that the firm foundations of her faith rested on the word of God alone. And that word was spoken for her by the church. We recognize that’s true for us also, as we need it in our lives. And you’ve been called and chosen to take God’s words and tell of His deeds of restoration and joy to others who need them. We do that by our words and our deeds. The Word of Christ lives in us and that is what shows through us.
We say we at Zion are about sharing the gospel. Are those just nice words or do we mean it? Jesus did what Thomas needed for him to do, to understand the truth of restoration through the resurrection. That’s what we, as Christ’s body here on earth get to do. We get to embrace others joyfully with those same words of truth. The words that tell us that through the resurrection from the dead by Jesus Christ we have been given the gift of being reunited in the living relationship we were created for, with our Creator who so passionately loves us. In Jesus name we go to serve, amen.
Sermon #888 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
First Reading Acts 5:29-42
29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.
Second Reading 1 Peter 1:3-9 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
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.