EASTER 2: Act 4: 32-35; Psalm 133; 1 John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31. Pr. L. Harold - @ Resurrection – 04-27-2014
Grace and peace to you from our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! Amen.
Sometimes we are all stressed, worried or anxious.
Perhaps some of you are stressed, worried or anxious right now!
If so, then you are in a good shape to understand this reading from John’s gospel.
John says that the disciples are so worried and anxious that they have shut themselves into a room and locked the door.
Although John does not say this, we can suppose that Jesus’ death, crucifixion and burial have been extremely stressful for all of them; so stressful that they are still processing it.
I believe that that they are anxious because they feel responsible for damaging their relationship with Jesus – possibly beyond repair.
For all of them had deserted Jesus on Good Friday.
Furthermore, Peter - who bragged he would never deny Jesus - had denied him three times before deserting him!
It seems to me that they are afraid that Jesus will treat them exactly as they believe Jesus ought to treat them!
Indeed, behind that locked door the stress, worry, and anxiety over their own behavior is laying heavy on their consciences.
Would Jesus be able to forgive them!
Then, Jesus appears and with his first words, “Peace be with you,” their stress, worry and anxiety melt away.
Next, Jesus throws his arms wide with his palms facing them, and opening his robe shows them his wounds.
Now, they are convinced that Jesus IS the crucified and risen Jesus – not an imposter; not a ghost.
Again, Jesus says, “Peace be with you,” and breathing upon them, Jesus’ commissions them to be the church: sent to forgive sins of any; not just of many – but of ANY.
And, because they are part of that any – they feel fully forgiven – and at peace.
Admittedly, this reading about assurance is a bit of a head-scratcher.
However, we can more easily understand it by knowing that John is writing his gospel to believers who live between 80 and 90 A.D. - most of whom were not even born when Jesus walked the earth.
Therefore, John’s audience are more like you and me than they are like the disciples.
That is one reason this reading resonates so clearly with most of us.
However, we are also similar to the disciples in that most of us have doubts – we seek answers in our life of faith and we need Jesus’ assurance that we are okay just as Thomas and the others did.
Indeed, John would understand what theologian, Frederick Bueckner means when he writes that our doubts are:
“the ants in the pants of faith; they keep it awake and moving.”
In addition, John also gives us an example of how we also should welcome people with doubts - with questions – the seekers here at worship.
For, we can imitate how the disciples continued to welcome and encourage Thomas before Jesus’ second appearance in the reading.
However, this reading also assures us who sometimes find ourselves stressed, worried, or anxious how seriously Jesus wants us to be feel at peace in him and to share that peace with others.
That is why we offer each other our handshake with the words “the peace of Christ be with you” during worship.
In sharing the peace we are extending
Christ’s love and healing forgiveness to each other.
While there are hundreds of ways to show God’s love and healing forgiveness to others none is more dramatic than simply touching the hand of another and telling them, “the peace of Christ be with you!”
One special way that the ELCA is extending Christ’s peace and bringing physical healing today is in Africa - especially in Namibia – where many are being “hurt to death” by the disease of malaria.
I pray our donations today will purchase enough nets to eradicate this terrible disease.
Think about this: Jesus wounds were obvious because he had a human body –and Jesus’ continued to carry the scars from his wounds.
Likewise, our hurting places – like wounds - continue to be part of us as long as we live.
Alternatively, our stresses, worries, and anxieties may leave psychological scars in spite of our greatest efforts to rid ourselves of them.
Sometimes our scars are the result of our sin, or the sin of others against us.
Indeed, we are all hurting people.
Sometimes we pretend, especially with our families and friends, that nothing is wrong with us.
However, how fortunate we are that on the first Easter evening, Jesus did not pretend.
He had suffered in his body – he been wounded – died and then been buried for three days.
I believe that we hear this story every year on the first Sunday after Easter with good reason: because we need assurance.
We need assurance that Jesus is alive.
We need assurance that Jesus is with us in ALL the places where we hurt.
We need assurance that Jesus loves, forgives and heals our hurting places.
Most of all, we need to hear that because Jesus is alive; we have new life.
We need to hear over and over that we have new life today to love and serve others.
AND, we have new life eternally – because Jesus is alive.
That is why we can joyfully say:
Christ is risen! Alleluiah!
(He is risen indeed, Alleluiah! Alleluiah!)