Easter 2 – “Doubting Belief” (John 20:19-31)

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

The Early Church down through the ages has appointed the account of “Doubting” Thomas as the Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Easter. Indeed, it is a very fitting text because the account of Thomas after the resurrection is very much the way that we find ourselves with regards to the resurrection.

There is a good chance that there are many that are still riding that Easter high: the lilies, the music, hearing the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Hard to believe, it’s only been a week and that emotion is still running high. On the other hand, the emotion could be totally different. That Easter high ended as soon as you walked out of the church doors and now everything has returned to the way that it was. One hopes that your emotions are more of the former than of the latter.

As we look at the disciples, their feelings and emotions are the complete opposite of what you and I would expect. Instead of screaming from the rooftops that Jesus is risen from the dead, we don’t find the disciples on the rooftops. Maybe the disciples are busy running door to door to proclaim the resurrection message. We don’t find any disciples going door to door. Surely the disciples are doing something important, something highly related to the resurrection which for them, was earlier that day. John’s Gospel does tell us that the disciples were doing something important, something highly related to the resurrection of Jesus: “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews….” The disciples aren’t out being disciples, they’re literally cowering in the corner for fear of their own lives.

You would think they would be out proclaiming the resurrection, but that doesn’t fall in line with Scripture, it doesn’t fall in line with the events from the last several days. We’re expecting something mighty from Jesus’ disciples, His inner circle. But the last we see of them prior to the evening’s events, they’re not doing anything mighty. As Jesus and the disciples are gathered in the Garden of Gethsemane, once Judas betrays and hands Jesus over to the soldiers, Matthew records some disheartening words for us: “Then all the disciples left him and fled.”

Surely the Gospel writers must have made a mistake. Surely the disciples would not have left Jesus in His soon-to-be darkest hours. But this echoes Jesus’ Words earlier that evening: “You will all fall away because of me this night.” Peter and the disciples, one by one, declare their loyalty to Jesus and say they will not fall away. But a short time later, we find their words to be empty and hollow.

All of that leads to where we find the disciples on the evening of our Lord’s resurrection. They’re not joyous, they are not elated to the days’ events. No, they are fearful of their lives, because if they did this to Jesus, they would surely do it to the disciples as well.

We find ourselves much the same way that we find the disciples. The hubbub and to do of Easter is over. We revert to the way things were before Easter. We go back to our lives as if nothing happened. We go back to a world of doubting whether or not Scripture is true or not, if Jesus really died and rose again or not. That’s why Jesus’ words to the disciples are just as import to us: “Peace be with you.” This peace is not worldly peace. It’s not peace that you can manufacture. It’s not peace that you can buy. This is true peace that only Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, can give. This is the peace that the disciples need after such a hellish few days as they see Lord and Master carried off in the late hours of the evening, crucified upon a cross, and placed into a tomb.

Just as the disciples needed to hear those words 2000 years ago, so do you, need to hear those words now: “Peace be with you.” What does this peace stem from? It stems from Jesus’ final word on the cross: tetélstai – “It is finished.” His work for salvation was now complete. The restoration of man as God’s beloved was now complete. The forgiveness of all of your sins was now complete. Everything is now complete, made complete by Jesus.

For the ten who were present that Easter evening when Jesus appeared, that’s what they needed to hear. For the inner circle, for those who left everything behind to follow Jesus, only to desert Him in His hour of need, Jesus proclaims peace to them. This truly was the peace that passes all understanding, and they were grateful for hearing it, all that is except for Thomas. Thomas, for whatever reason, was not gathered that evening with the ten. And when told of Jesus’ appearance to them and the words He spoke, Thomas responds with words that are not unfamiliar to us: “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.”

We all say, “Poor Thomas, why don’t you get it?” I have something different to say. I say, “Poor Christian, why don’t you get it?” You see, we are all a little Thomas. We find a hundred different reasons as to why the resurrection cannot be true, and yet it is, even if we doubt it or don’t understand it, or don’t believe it because we don’t see it. But there is a great truth that Jesus said. It all goes back to Jesus’ final word – tetélstai. When He said, “It is finished.” on Good Friday, everything was done for you. On the day of His resurrection 2000 years ago, everything was still done for you. When He appeared to the 10 and then to Thomas, everything was still done. Today, 2000 years later as we hear that account of Thomas, Jesus’ work is still finished and salvation is still sure and certain for you because Christ died and Christ is risen.

To ease the fears of Thomas, Jesus tells him the same thing that He told all the other disciples: “Peace be with you.” Jesus doesn’t stop there. He tells Thomas, “Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Immediately, after Thomas put his hands in the wounds of Jesus, Thomas believes.

Jesus tells you the same thing today: “Do not disbelieve, but believe.” We understand Thomas, don’t we? We believe Jesus died and rose and even that He’s given us eternal life in heaven. But do we really, always, believe that because my Redeemer lives, we will live also or do our doubts leave us with no peace?

Jesus forgave Thomas’ unbelief. He returned to make Thomas whole, to give him the contentment of faith that is found only in Him. He comes today to us, to forgive us of our unbelief. We doubt. We question. We waver. But Jesus, through what He did for us on the cross, forgives us of our doubt, our questioning and our wavering. Through His gift of His body and blood, He continues to strengthen and keep you in the one true faith until life everlasting.  That one true faith is found in Him.

True peace, as the Bible describes it, is always a product of the restored relationship between God and man, and that is only a result of the forgiveness that Christ earned for us on the cross. The Lord brings His peace to you. He has paid the price for your sin and disobedience.  Peace with God has come at a cost, but Christ has borne that cost for you. And now, He brings that peace to you.

Therefore, do not be troubled. As the risen Lord visited His disciples, so He visits you. As He spoke peace and forgiveness to them, so He speaks it to you. As He came to them with His risen body and blood, so He comes and gives you His body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins. No matter what your sinful nature or circumstance might argue, you can be certain by God’s grace that you are at peace with God, because you are forgiven for all of your sins. In Jesus name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.