John 20:19-31 (NRSV)
Beholding the wounds of the risen Christ
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, 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 the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, 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. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
I was visiting one of the members of our church in the hospital and I got to speaking with the family about the many tornadoes that have devastated the United States this week. Someone said, “Hundreds of tornadoes, Hundreds of lives lost, it’s like it’s the end of the world!”
He shook his head in dismay and I sympathized with him…How could someone fail to worry about such a thing if you’re watching the same news reports that I am—and that you are?
There’s extreme weather around the world. There’s war and uprising throughout the Middle East. There’s rising oil prices that impact everyone’s bottom line. There’s a budget deficit that is threatening to burst through the ceiling and now we’re hearing that the almighty dollar is under the influence of inflation!
Goodness, gracious…I can’t tell you how much I thank God for William and Kate this week. Were it not for the good news of their nuptials, many of us may have been lost in a tsunami of despair so great that it might have swept us off of our feet.
I suspect that the first disciples knew a little about despair, worry, fear, and anxiety too! They had just lost their Teacher and Lord. They had witnessed him being tortured and then murdered in the most heinous kind of way. They were now so fearful for their own lives that they had locked themselves in an upper room probably trying to strategize how to stay alive…
It was a super bad news time for those disciples and so you can imagine their ridiculous joy when Jesus appeared in the room declaring, “Peace be with you.”
I am so glad for the peace of God. The Bible teaches us that sometimes God calls us into peace when it makes no kind of sense. God gives us this preposterous peace even in the midst of the most terrible circumstances…
See, the folks outside of that locked room still wanted to kill the disciples. The folks outside of that room still wanted to kill the movement. The folks outside of that room still hated all things branded “Jesus.”
Nothing, absolutely nothing, about their circumstances had changed! YET, when the disciples encountered the Risen Lord, their perspective about all of those things changed. When they saw Jesus resurrected, they realized that the problems that they had feared were insurmountable, were not so problematic in the light of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. They must have rationalized that if Jesus was able to defeat sin, death, and the grave, rising on the third day just like he promised, then he was also well able to care for and protect them even in a tumultuous and sometimes terrifying world!
As a result, their FEAR AND ANXIETY gave way to JOY AND PEACE.
Isn’t this a precious gift from God? And then, as if joy and peace weren’t gift enough, scripture teaches us that Jesus later declared, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you…Receive the Holy Spirit.”
What an amazing day it must have been for those disciples! They began the day weighed down with anxiety, fear, and a powerful despair and they ended the day sent out full of joy, peace, and the boldness of the Holy Spirit!
See, when we encounter the Risen Lord, a paradigm shift occurs and we change our perspective through the Power of the Holy Spirit.
As Jesus “breathes on us,” we are filled with joy, peace, and, Holy Spirit Power which enables us to boldly declare good news in a bad news kind of world!
Now, as the disciples went out sharing the joy, peace, and the power of the Holy Spirit, they were boldly declaring, “We have seen the Lord!”
Now some may have believed them, but others didn’t. Thomas, who was their friend, definitely did not believe them until he had an encounter with the Risen Lord for himself…
In response to doubting Thomas Jesus said, “"Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe….Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."
This side of the cross, all of us must be pretty blessed because none of us have had the opportunity to stick our fingers in Jesus’ hand or side, YET here we are gathered together declaring, “My Lord and My God!,” because we do believe!
At some point in our lives all of us were blessed to come across a disciple of Jesus, full of joy and peace, sent out by the Holy Spirit, who declared to us with boldness, “I have seen the Risen Lord!”
Maybe this person was our mother or father. Maybe it was our pastor or youth leader. Maybe it was a friend or family member…Maybe it was a preacher on the television or a stranger in the street.
I suspect that there are almost as many evangelists, or people who shared the good news, as there are individuals in this room!
And I want to believe that just as someone boldly shared their faith with us, we will boldly share our faith with others!
This is how the early church grew to the 2 billion (plus) Christians that are on the earth today! This is how every single local church grows in membership and friendship around the world.
Christians, folks just like you and me, are charged with sharing the Gospel acclamation, “Alleluia! He is Risen! (He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!”)
We are charged with carrying this good news message, even to the “Doubting Thomases” in our lives!
We are sent out as evangelists to bear this good news message in a bad news world.
Jesus is waiting! Jesus is waiting! Jesus is waiting! Have you seen him?
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.
If you have questions about how to become a friend and follower of Jesus, please see the devotion entitled, “Come to Jesus” @ http://bit.ly/JVhaLta