Belief In The Risen Lord
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, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And 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 withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, 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 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.” Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although 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, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, 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 believed.” (John 20:19-21 ESV).
Picture yourself sitting in the waiting room outside of the intensive care unit of the hospital. You have been there for hours and have lost track of time. All of the outdated back issues of the magazines have been read, but you really don’t remember what any of them said. Many attempts have been made to help you take your mind off the crisis of the moment, but none of them really have. You are only aware that someone you love very much is separated from you by only a few feet, though it may as well be miles. The doctor has spoken to you, and you’re trying to grasp the full implications of his words, “…the situation is critical, these next few hours will be crucial, and they may go either way.”
So much hangs in the balance in such a time. You think of all the love you will lose or things that will never come to be if your loved one dies. You make new resolutions concerning what is going to be important to you if that loved one lives. The entire experience brings a new reevaluation of life. You try to brace yourself for the words, “I am so sorry. We did everything we could.” You hope and pray to hear the words, “The crisis is passed. They are better. You can go in now.”
All of us if we live long enough, in one form or another will confront such a time in our lives. Perhaps you have already had such a time in your life. These are the hinge moments of life, the moments on which the rest of our lives will swing. The disciples of Jesus were obviously in such a crisis situation following the His death. In the seemingly endless hours before the resurrection became a reality to them, they found the meaning of their total lives to be unclear. Huddled together for mutual support in the face of a hostile world, they did not seem to be able to find any basis for confident and affirmative action. Would the crisis pass or would they have to accept the end of all their hopes and dreams for the future?
The entire chapter of our Scripture text today contains several incidents of the day of resurrection. The significant experiences of Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John are related (cf. vv. 1-18). The appearances of Jesus to the disciples and others are contained in the latter part of the chapter (cf. vv. 19-29). The chronology of the appearances of Jesus are very difficult to determine with absolute confidence. In fact, most interpreters do not attempt to do so, and neither should we. The emphasis should be given to the event of resurrection itself.
It is interesting to note that the experiences of Mary Magdalene are given prominent position in the narrative. She was the most unlikely witness to such a crucial event in the development of the early church. In a court of law or in the court of public opinion, her witness would have been suspect. Her past defects of character and her emotional instability would have made her amazing story much more difficult to believe. In addition to these facts, her gender made her a very unlikely witness for her day. This must have added to the crisis situation of the disciples.
None of the disciples found it easy to believe in the resurrection in the first place. Their spirits were devastated, and in their hurt it was difficult for them to believe Mary. They were very reluctant to risk having their hopes destroyed again. Even Mary’s first reaction bears out the fact that no one really expected Jesus’ prophecy of resurrection to actually become reality. Her first reaction to the empty tomb was that someone had stolen his body away. Even when she saw Jesus, she mistakenly thought him to be the caretaker of the cemetery. She had not expected the resurrection, and certainly wouldn’t have expected to be the first witness to it!
Yet, when she recognized Jesus, she ran to tell the others. Then Peter and John ran to the tomb to validate her claims. They entered the tomb and found it to be empty of the body of Jesus. All they found in that grave were the clothes used to initially wrap his body. The very fact that these clothes were present argues against the theory of grave robbers. They certainly would not have spent the time unwrapping the body before stealing it away. Further, they recognized the significance of the arrangement of the clothes in the grave. They had lain in the same manner as they had been when they contained the body of Jesus. No doubt this led John to believe that Jesus had indeed been resurrected and he was alive!
Can you imagine how they must have felt in that moment? Mary having seen and spoken to Jesus, Peter and John having had confirmed the emptiness of the tomb must have given them a marvelous surge of hope and excitement. Whenever we are in the presence of the resurrected Christ, hinge moments swing out lives into a time of positive good. This was true for those first disciples and it is true for us today. There are three specific benefits experienced by the disciples. They can be experienced b¥ us today.
First, belief in the resurrected Christ turns fear into joy (vv. 19-20).
The disciples had gathered together on that night. No doubt the rumors had spread quickly throughout the city that something had happened to the body of Jesus. Some no doubt believed that His body had been stolen, others that He had been resurrected. Everyone must have been talking about it. The religious leaders who had masterminded the death of Jesus no doubt began to plot the death of His disciples. It is not at all surprising they were gathered together and the doors were shut!
Jesus came and stood among them (v. 19). In this appearance Jesus began to fulfill His promises to the disciples given in His farewell discourse (cf. chs. 13-17). Peace, joy, comfort, all of these gifts of grace were extended to them in that appearance. Jesus said to them “Peace be unto you.” Though it was a common greeting for that day, it had come in a most uncommon manner from a very uncommon Greeter! These words called them to remember His previous promises. His voice and His confident benediction would bring them to recognize Him.
They would remember that He had promised them peace in the midst of difficulty (cf. John 14:27). They would remember that He had promised them peace in the midst of conflict because He would overcome the hostility of the world (cf. John 16:33). When He showed them His hands and side, they certainly must have realized how true these promises were. He did have the power to perform all of that which He had promised. Their fear was transformed into joy!
THIS IS CERTAINLY A TIME WHEN THEY REALIZED HIS AMAZING GRACE…
Second, believing in the resurrected Christ gives purpose and power (vv. 21-25).
Jesus’ purpose in appearing to the disciples was to remind them of their mission and to give them power to accomplish it. The security He came to bring them would not be theirs behind locked doors, but as they went about their work in the world. Their ability to function in a hostile world would not be a result of their strength, but would come through the presence of His Spirit within them.
Jesus said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (v. 21). It is a key verse in understanding the full Significance of the resurrection. If these words had been heard before by the disciples, they certainly didn’t have the same impact as they did now before the risen Christ. His death had clearly shown what commitment to His mission could involve. He was asking them to walk the same way He had walked. He would no longer be physically present in the world, but many would continue His work of redemption. His disciples would be His ministers of the grace of God to the world. So we are His ministers today. That’s our mission today.
The experience of Thomas is very interesting. While there is no explanation given for his absence, it was not due to some permanent alienation from the rest of the disciples He was just not there when Jesus came the first time. Doesn’t that strike you as very contemporary? So many of us today miss seeing and experiencing the fullness of Jesus just because we are absent!
Third, believing in the resurrected Christ will turn doubt to certainty (vv. 26-29).
The setting was the same as it had been for the first appearance to the disciples; the only difference was in the presence of Thomas. This fact reveals much about both Thomas and the disciples. Their relationship had not been broken by Thomas’ doubts. And Thomas had evidently felt a genuineness and sincerity about their claims to have seen Jesus. Although he could not as yet claim to believe, he found strength in their faith and hope. Their new spiritual experience had made an impression on him that was undeniable. He could not withdraw from them. It was as if he were magnetically drawn to them.
Jesus came and offered to meet all of Thomas’ needs (v. 27). Thomas then made his famous confession of faith. Nearly twenty centuries have passed since then. People are still living on the wrong side of Easter. Even people who claim to be Christians often fail to experience the vital power of the resurrected Christ.
The world has no answer to the empty tomb! The world cannot give us joy. The world cannot give us purpose or power. The world cannot give us certainty. Only the resurrection can do that! CHRIST IS RISEN… CHRIST IS RISEN INDEED!
This message by Rev Don Emmitte, is brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Webb and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas. For prayer or more information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected]. A Pass it On Project You can read more at Sermon Central: Belief in the Risen Lord