Sermon , Worship Small, Sunday April 19, 2020
John 20:19-31 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!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them 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.” Now Thomas (also known as Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 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.” 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!” 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.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus performed many other 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 Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
As I ponder this account of that first moment of resurrection for the people involved, I am struck by how our God is a promise keeper.
I am struck with how many times the gospel witnesses explain who Jesus is and why he did what he did as being, “According to the Scriptures”, or “that the Scriptures might be fulfilled”, or ‘he opened their minds to understand Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms”.
It strikes me that Jesus did everything to keep the Scriptures – to keep the Father’s promises already promised to a troubled creation suffering under the incurable virus called death.
Everything Jesus does is to complete these promises of God to reset the world. Like the darkness of this COVID-19 virus is actually helping the air over the Great Wall of China and the sea water in the canals of Venice heal and reset, so this darkness of betrayal, denial, lack of belief and lack of courage; this dying alone with the eyes of his enemies gloating upon him allows the resetting of the word according to God’s promises in Jesus. Our God is a promise Keeper! At huge cost to himself he keeps his promises to you.
Right from his birth to his resurrection, all the promises are kept.
The Saviour would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2, Matthew 2:1)
He would be a descendent and rightful heir to King David’s throne (2 Samuel 7:12-13, Luke 1:32-33).
He would be falsely BETRAYED (Zechariah 11:12-13, Matthew 26:14-16)
He would be silent before his accusers (Isaiah 53:7, Mark 15:4-5)
He would be given wine vinegar to drink (Psalm 69:21, John 19:28-32).
No bone would be broken (Exodus 12:46, John 19:33-36)
He would be mocked and ridiculed (Psalm 22:7-8, Luke 23:34)
He would be forsaken by his Father (Psalm 22:1, Matthew 27:46).
His side would be pierced (Zechariah 12:10, John 20:25-27).
He would rise from the grave (Psalm 16:10, Matthew 28:2-7).
He would claim his rulership and victory over all evil for all people for all time (Psalm 24:7-10, Luke 24:51).
He would be the means by which this dying world would receive new creation life; new air in its lungs (Isaiah 53:5-12, Romans 5:6-8).
This is just a sample of all the promises kept by our Promise Keeper, God.
Those Easter morning witnesses had trouble believing this about God at first. They had trouble trusting that all the promises of God they had grown up with were now delivered in full in this man they loved but saw die.
But you can sense this gradual lifting of the eyes in this first community of Jesus as John tells of this first week of the new Kingdom dawning. Like being on a high hill seeing the sun slowly make its way across the plain to light up where you stand, these everyday people slowly began to understand just how faithful God is and just how completely he had delivered on his promises to reset this old world and reset my wayward heart so completely. They saw him die and now they get to see him live!
And John wants us to be in no doubt that we who have come after him and the others are in no way disadvantaged because we did not see exactly what they saw.
He tells us of Thomas just needing to see to truly believe so that we know we no longer have to see to believe. Thomas and the others did need to see to believe, but even with that their Easter faith was not quite complete.
“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
But how can we believe without seeing?
John tells us:
Jesus performed many other 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 Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
We don’t need to see like Thomas because we can hear like Thomas. Jesus word is enough for all the believing you will ever need. His word tells you again this morning that you don’t need to see to believe but that you now see because you believe.
You don’t believe because you see, you see because you believe!
You have the eyes that only repentance and faith create. Our wonderful medical technology won’t do it. Our economic stimulus package won’t do it. Our reliance on our skills and resources won’t do – they can’t bring the gifts faith brings – gifts of lasting and deep peace and joy and hope no matter what.
Friends, as a church we have temporarily lost our shape, our form, our structure. We feel disconnected and dispersed. We are not sure we will ever make it back to the way it was before. Some might be glad about that! Others may be heart-broken.
But hear John: We don’t need to see what we are used to seeing because we can hear what we have always heard – his words in these gospels; in his holy book of life that gives us all the life we need.
This is the time when the Holy Spirit is drawing you in to being a person who trusts his promises by the ears and into the heart.
Trust the Promise Keeper ow. Hear these gospel witnesses and marvel at how far God has come to get you, how detailed he gets, how extensive his love is that give us all we need to live in this isolating time.
As Peter and John and Mary’s and others found out, faith in God’s gracious acceptance is not founded on things we see or understand or do or don’t do or can make happen.
Our faith and its hope and joy are based on Jesus’ speaking – according to the Scriptures – according the promises of our God.
His hope and joy come via the ears as we turn to him. call on hm. Seek him and listen to him speak in his Word.
You want to be less anxious? You want to know peace? You want to believe that you have a future beyond this? Then repent of all the times you forget or disregard Jesus’ word and turn to him in it again.
He will breathe new life into you as he did at the start. The wounded Saviour breathes! He breathes his real peace in his real word into them in that scared room and turns it to peace and joy. Same for you now.
He breathes his peace into your room there and turns it into peace and joy today.
“Peace be with you”. Says the Promise Keeper.
“In believing you can now see”
So we breathe with Paul; Even in these strange days,
“you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 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, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls”. (1 Peter 1:7-9)