Sermon 11 April 2021


John 20:19 – end. second Sunday in Easter Sermon Revd Tudor Vaughan Roberts

Most of us will be here today or listening and watching on You-Tube, because in some sense we do believe in Jesus or are on a journey towards believing.

1 John 6:40 has Jesus say, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day”.

Our Gospel reading today, John 20:19- 31 is about many things, but central is belief. Within today’s story we get the greatest Christological confession in the post resurrection accounts when Thomas says to Jesus “My Lord and God”.

Let us recap the 4 episodes in Chapter 20 of John which record 4 slightly different examples of faith.

The beloved disciple comes to faith after having seen the burial wrappings, but without having seen Jesus himself. Mary Magdalene sees Jesus but does not recognise him until he calls her by name. The disciples see him and believe. Thomas also sees him and believes but only after having been overwhelmed at the marvellous aspect of the appearance of the resurrected Jesus.

So, we turn to John 20 in detail. In this passage of scripture there are some key words to look out for.

On the positive side:

Peace

Joy

Holy Spirit

Forgiveness

Belief.

On the warning side

Fear

Unforgiveness

Unbelief

And (Rebuke).

So, in John 20:19

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 stood amonst them and said, “Peace be with you”.

So, the fear the 10 felt was palpable and real and totally understandable. And into their fear and indeed into our fear Christ comes and says, “Peace be with you” There is zero rebuke Zero or you must do this or that.

Peace, Shalom be with you says Jesus. In our world with vicious riots in Northern Ireland, with ongoing anxiety about Covid, Jesus comes with his peace, then and now.

Years later the Apostle St John would write in his epistle in 1 John 4:18

1 John 4:18-20

New International Version

18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.

Then Jesus showed him his hands and side; This was no re-incarnation phantom, the Crucified Jesus was here with the marks of the Cross’s wounds there to see, Response? The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord, Joy replaced grief and sadness and despair, Jesus really had been saved from death. As Jeremiah at a really hard time wrote.

Lamentations 3:22-26

New International Version

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
    to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.

Jesus with his disciples goes straight to work, he commissions his disciples to go out into the world with what he has taught them and given the awesome news that death has itself been defeated .

Peace be with you says Jesus 3 times in this section of John, the message is the same Peace be with you – Peace, the antidote to an anxious and troubled world.

“Peace be with you as The Father has sent me, I am sending you” .All 4 gospels have Jesus commissioning the disciples: Jesus comforts them and  he gives them courage, then he commissions them and sends them out.

The resurrected Jesus is a missionary Jesus – the disciples realize that its not about them, Jesus has a plan for the whole world, but he will involve them in kickstarting this global mission, just as Jesus will involve us if we trust, love, and obey him. As the Father sent me says Jesus so I am sending you. Christianity is inherently missional because God is reminding them of their real home. Lesslie Newbiggin said: “In making the gospel known to any race of men anywhere we bring them nothing strange, we bring them the secret of their own being , the revelation of the true source of their own life- we bring them the light that enables every man, Christ Jesus”.

The first thing we do when we are born is breathe. The last thing we do when we die is that the breath goes out of us. That is why Covid 19  is such a foul and cruel disease,  it attacks our very lungs. Jesus breathed upon his disciples and said, “receive the Holy Spirit” This was a rebirth for all ten of them ,it was the coming of the Holy Spirit upon their lives with the very breath of Christ. He is the same Jesus who on the cross died a horrible death from bleeding, but  it’s not just the torture and the nails that kill a man on the Cross, it is the fact that the rib cage collapses as the body sinks and so suffocation is added to the causes of death .And yet here, Jesus resurrected and with new breath breathes upon his astounded disciples and says.

“If you forgive anyone they are forgiven if you do not forgive, they are not forgiven”.

As archbishop William Temple says, “The body of disciples being the body of Christ and being filled with that Holy Spirit which Christ has breathed upon them carries forward his work of pronouncing God’s forgiveness of sins, To the Church as the fellowship of the Spirit is given the authority of Christ himself as pardoner and judge”.

Wow!  what responsibility Christ gives out, we are not playing games, Christ,  the resurrected Christ confers upon his disciples the very gift that caused him trouble; the authority to forgive sins ( see Mark 2:7)

Now, the Ten disciples (the eleven minus Thomas) had seen Jesus and been commissioned by him, but one lost sheep was not there; Thomas,  They tell him that they have seen the Lord , but he says:

(John 20:25

New International Version

25 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.”

Thomas’s doubt proceeded not from ill will, but genuine faith.

John 11:16 Let us also go that we may die with him.

John 14:5 We know not whither thou goest, how know ye the way?

Yet Thomas’s negative question was strongly worded: UNLESS I see in his hands the marks of the nails I will NOT believe.

Jesus is patient with Thomas. He waits until the first day of the week, resurrection day , Again the disciples are behind locked doors (for fear of the Jews), again the Lord appears amongst them and says: Peace be with you.

Like a good teacher He has now said these words three times Peace be with you.

Then just as he will speak personally to Peter  (later on in John) and restore him threefold for his threefold denial of Himself, Jesus deals personally with Thomas yet in the presence of the other ten disciples. He turns to Thomas and says.

“Put your fingers here. See my Hands. Reach out you hand and put it into my side”.

Caravaggio recalls Thomas doing just that in his wonderful painting “The incredulity of Thomas”.

See related image detail

Stop doubting says Jesus and Believe! This rebuke elicits from Thomas the highest Christological confession in the Gospels: My Lord and God.

In fact, John never says Thomas did what Jesus said (physically). But certainly, Thomas did believe from that moment on.

Because you have seen me you have believed (this Jesus acknowledges Thomas conversion) but blessed are all those who have not seen yet believed  ( a Jesus thumbs up to the 2.8 billion who have done just that).

So go out today with

Peace

Forgiveness

The Holy Spirit.

And life

And believe that these are the first gifts of the first Easter and of every day to those who dare to believe in Jesus of Nazareth, the Lord the Messiah. Amen.

Risen Christ,

for whom no door is locked, no entrance barred:

open the doors of our hearts,

that we may seek the good of others

and walk the joyful road of sacrifice and peace,

to the praise of God the Father.

 


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