Vicar Hoel Hering – John 20:12-31 – Easter 2
STOP DOUBTING AND BELIEVE
19On 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!” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21Again Jesus said, “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’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” 24Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25So 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.” 26A 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!” 27Then 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.” 28Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31But 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.
You are not going to believe this. The day was July 17, 2015. I remember the day like it was yesterday, because it was my wedding day. In order to calm my nerves and to keep me occupied, my brother and my buddies took me golfing in the morning. We split up into groups of four and enjoyed a nice round of golf. When we were all done, and the groups got back together, one of my friends said he hit a hole in one on a par 4. For those of you who are not familiar with golf, a hole in one is very rare, but a hole in one on a par 4 is impossible. I did not believe him since he was a guy known for exaggerating the truth at times. But the other three guys in the group were witnesses to the miraculous event. Even a grounds keeper who was near them said he saw the ball go in the hole. I believed him after I heard the witnesses.
We like to have proof. In a world full of exaggerations, tall tales, and fake stories, God has given us our human reasoning to check the facts and look for proof when things seem unbelievable. But what are you suppose to do when you can’t use your human reason to find the truth? I am talking about matters of faith. The Bible is full of matters of faith like the Trinity, Creation, Jesus being true God and true man, and of course Jesus’ resurrection. There is no way that our human reason can fully understand these things because they are supernatural. So how can Jesus command us STOP DOUBTING AND BELIEVE such things that go beyond our understanding and there is no way to prove them? It is with these matters of faith we trust in God and believe the unbelievable. This is faith. The world may call you naïve, but we thank God for our faith because it is a miracle graciously given to us through his word and sacraments. Today we are going to hear how Jesus quieted the doubt of the disciples. In the same way he quiets our doubt too and gives us faith. And through faith, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ resurrected, you have true peace and true blessedness.
Hear how Jesus quieted the doubt of the disciples from one of the disciple’s point of view. “I couldn’t believe it. Peter, John, and Mary said that he is alive. I just couldn’t believe it. I saw him taken away by the mob after being betrayed by Judas. They made him stand before Pilate and the crowds demanding that he be crucified. He was whipped, bloody, and beaten as he carried his own cross to Calvary. He was crucified and died. Joseph put him in his own tomb which the Roman soldiers guarded and sealed. How could he be alive?
We were all in the upper room together with the doors locked afraid the same Jewish leaders who had Jesus killed would come after us, too. Could it really be true that he is alive? Then the most incredible thing happened. Jesus suddenly appeared before all of us and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ I was shocked. To be honest I thought he was a ghost but then he showed us his hands and his side, and I believed. Jesus was alive! Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you.’ What a comforting statement to hear from Jesus. I had abandoned him when he needed me the most. To hear, “Peace be with you’ meant that Jesus had forgiven me. Then he told us, ‘As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ Then he breathed on us and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’ My fear and my doubt melted away and words cannot describe how happy I was. I just wanted to jump up and say out loud, ‘Praise God!’”
Those poor disciples. They were afraid because they had doubt. They were not sure if they were next to be taken away to be crucified. They were not sure if Jesus was dead or if he had really risen from the dead. They were afraid because they had deserted their Lord and Master. Jesus took all of that doubt and fear away. He appeared to them and said, “Peace be with you.”
Fear comes from doubt but peace comes from knowing. The disciples knew they did not have to fear the Jews anymore because they could not defeat Jesus. They knew they didn’t have fear that their Master was dead because he was standing right there before them and showed them the marks on his hands and feet. They did not have to be afraid that Jesus would make them pay for their sins because he said to them “Peace be with you.” He had forgiven them. The disciples had peace because they knew Jesus rose from the dead, and they knew what that meant for them.
Jesus’ resurrection from the dead gives you peace, too. There is nothing worse than knowing you are going to be punished for doing something wrong. I can remember as a kid, getting in trouble with mom. She would send me to my room and tell me to wait there until my father got home. In my mind I would think, “Please mom, don’t tell Dad. Just punish me the worst way you know how, but if you love me, please don’t tell Dad.” And the fear would build up inside of me until I heard the front door open knowing I was going to receive the wrath of my father for my sins. The wrath of our heavenly Father is far worse than the wrath of any earthly Father. The wrath of God for our sins is the punishment of hell. How can anyone have any peace knowing that they will receive eternal punishment for their sins? But listen again to what Jesus told his disciples, “Peace be with you.” If you forgive anyone their sins they are forgiven, if you do not forgive them they are not forgiven.” Jesus gave the authority to forgive sins to us because he has the authority to forgive sins. When Jesus died on the cross, he paid for the sins of the world including yours and mine. So when he says, “When you forgive anyone their sins, they are forgiven” he is saying “It is because I have already forgiven all sins, you now have the authority to forgive sins.” You, like the disciples, now have true peace. I remember when Dad finally walked into the room and saw me crying because I knew the punishment I was going to receive. He smiled at me and said “I have already forgiven you.” That gave me peace.
You have peace through Jesus. Maybe you feel like you don’t have peace because of the guilt you carry with you. If that is you, remember what Jesus said, “Peace be with you.” You never have to doubt if your sins have been forgiven because all of your sins are forgiven, and Jesus’ resurrection is the proof. There is no sin no matter how big it may be that Jesus has not already forgiven. But maybe that is not you. Maybe you don’t feel like you have peace because of the turmoil in your life. If that is you, remember what Jesus said, “Peace be with you.” I know there are people here who have family, job, and health problems. Despite the turmoil all around you, you can still have peace in your heart knowing that heaven is where you are going. No matter what problems I had as a ten year old, it did not matter because I had peace with my father. In like manner, you have peace with your heavenly father through Jesus’ death and resurrection. But that peace only comes through faith knowing that Jesus rose from the dead. Poor Thomas did not have that peace.
Let’s go back to the disciple’s story. “After Jesus appeared to us and gave us such comforting words of peace, he left us. Filled with joy we starting telling people about what we had seen including our fellow disciple Thomas who was not with us that night. When we told him about Jesus, he didn’t believe us. He said, ‘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.’ How could he not believe? We all were there. We all saw Jesus, but he would not be convinced no matter how hard we tried. One week later, we were all together again, including Thomas this time, and once again Jesus appeared to us. Again he said, ‘Peace be with you.’ And this time he went right to Thomas and said, ‘Put your finger here, see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. STOP DOUBTING AND BELIEVE.’ It was amazing how Jesus knew to go right to Thomas and give him exactly what he had asked for even though Jesus had not been with us when Thomas made the request. Thomas responded, ‘My Lord and my God.’ Jesus then said, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”
Thomas fell into the trap that I believe many people fall into, he used his human reason when dealing with a matter of faith. He did not believe that Jesus had resurrected. Maybe he figured the disciples had only thought they had seen Jesus in their state of grief, but unless he saw Jesus with his own eyes and touched him with his own hands, he would not believe. Then Jesus appeared to him and gave him exactly what he wanted. What a gracious God that he would give Thomas what he needed to have faith, and he does the same for you.
If you put your trust in your own reason, then you will not have peace. Your sinful minds and human reason cannot comprehend something like the Resurrection. Instead put your trust in Jesus. Jesus graciously gives us what we need – faith. And he does so through his word and sacraments. In his word, we hear the many witnesses who tell us about his resurrection and many other miracles. There is your proof. The Holy Spirit then works through the Word to create faith in your heart. And he gives us his baptism and the Lord’s Supper which the Holy Spirit also uses to create faith. In these sacraments, you use all of your senses just like Thomas did. You see, smell, taste, touch, and hear in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. When you frequently partake of the Lord’s Supper and remember your baptism, your faith is strengthened. Jesus graciously gives you exactly what you need for faith just like he did for Thomas. What a miracle! Jesus creates faith in your heart which believes the unbelievable.
And because of the faith that is given to you, you are blessed. John ends this section of his gospel by saying, “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.” Faith is what connects you to the forgiveness of sins that Jesus won on the cross. The faith that is given to you, gives you life in his name, gives you heaven. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Blessed, the word that Jesus used on his Sermon on the Mount, is the same word he uses here. You are blessed no matter what may happen to you in this life because you have heaven, the greatest blessing.
How amazing is Jesus’ resurrection but also your faith in his resurrection. Because Jesus rose from the dead we have peace knowing that our sins have been forgiven. But this would all be worthless if Jesus had not given you faith. Because Jesus has given you faith in him and you believe in his resurrection, you are blessed with heaven. Stop doubting and believe. He is risen! He is risen indeed! Amen.