Topic: Biblical Verse: John 20:19–20:31
The Second Sunday of Easter
April 24, 2022
It’s the Sunday after Easter, and although energy may be low after all the special Holy Week and Easter Sunday worship services, we continue to sing our Alleluias and praise our risen Savior. This day is often called “Low Sunday,” the origins of which goes back centuries. After a packed Sanctuary for Easter Sunday, it’s low attendance today. That, coupled together with the low energy of this day, challenges us to press forward on our Easter journey, even on Low Sunday. And so we do. We had a great celebration last evening to mark Susan Gobien’s retirement as Director of Music after forty years of faithful service. The planning team did an outstanding job of making this a fun and memorable event for Susan, her family, and our entire congregation. God is good! On this Second Sunday of Easter, we focus on the Gospel lesson for today, which is the same every year for this day: Jesus’ resurrection appearance to the disciples and to Thomas. Based on this, the theme for preaching is entitled “Intersection.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
Intersections are part of our daily life whether we are walking, riding a bike, or driving a car. They’re everywhere in our communities: where we live, work, go to school, shop, etc. This means that we have to pay attention to our surroundings for everyone’s safety. When we’re in a hurry, when we’re not paying attention, when we’re distracted, that’s when things can go bad. There’s a different kind of intersection going on in today’s Gospel lesson: the intersection between doubt and faith. Thomas gets a bad rap because he doubted and refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, even when all the other disciples had seen the risen Christ. Thomas famously said: “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). But the reality is that none of the disciples believed that Jesus had risen from the dead. They didn’t believe the report of the women who were the first witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. They didn’t believe what the two disciples said about what happened at Emmaus and how Jesus talked with them and broke bread with them. The truth is that none of them believed Jesus had risen from the dead until they saw it with their own eyes. So with that as background, we are today confronting the intersection between doubt and faith, not just for Thomas and the first disciples, but for us today.
The world we live in values skepticism, distrust and suspicion. To have a questioning and inquiring mind means that you don’t necessarily take things at face value. On one level, this is understandable because things are certainly not always what they seem, whether in person or virtual. There are scams, fakes, swindles, and rip-offs everywhere. There used to be a local TV news segment that explored product claims about things that seemed too good to be true. This was called, “Does It Really Do That?” This may well be where people are coming from regarding Jesus’ resurrection: can a dead man really rise from the dead? That surely sounds too good to be true. Our cynical and hardened human nature tells us that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So which direction will we go in when we find ourselves at the intersection of doubt and faith?
Jesus invited Thomas to come and not just see, but touch and feel: “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe” (John 20:27). We usually think that Thomas took Jesus up on his offer and did just that, but Scripture does not actually say that Thomas did this. What follows is Thomas’ exclamation: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). By the amazing grace of God, Thomas moved from doubt to faith. So, seeing is believing, right? That’s not what Jesus says after Thomas’ confession. What Jesus says is that not seeing is believing: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). Jesus is calling people like you and me “blessed” because we have not seen and yet we do believe. As much as we would love to have that concrete touch and feel, that in-person experience of seeing Jesus face-to-face that Thomas and the first disciples had, we have not had that. That does not mean that our faith is any less real or active than theirs. Despite all the skepticism, suspicion and distrust that others may have about Jesus’ resurrection, we put our hope and trust in this Lord Jesus Christ who died for our sins and was raised for our justification (Romans 4:25). He is risen from the dead, and lives and reigns to all eternity. It is as the Word of God tells us: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). By the amazing grace of God, at the intersection of doubt and faith we have been led by the Spirit of the living Christ to walk in faith. As our closing hymn puts it: “We walk by faith and not by sight/No gracious words we hear/From Him who spoke as none e’er spoke/But we believe Him near” (Lutheran Service Book. St. Louis: Concordia, 2006. Hymn #720, stanza 1). Our risen Savior comes to us this day under gifts of bread and wine here in his holy Supper. As surely as he came to those first disciples following his resurrection, he comes to us today with his gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation, giving us his very Body and Blood in the Sacrament to forgive, renew and strengthen us as his Easter people. The first words which Jesus spoke to his frightened and fearful disciples are the same words which he speaks to us today: “Peace be with you” (John 20:19b, 26).
The goal of Jesus’ life and ministry, his suffering, death and resurrection, his appearing to the disciples after he was raised from the dead – all of this is what John records in those closing verses from today’s Gospel lesson: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these 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” (John 20:30-31). May our risen Savior graciously grant this blessing to us all. Amen.