Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Easter 2

There is some of Thomas in all of us

John 20:24-29, 31

April 27, 2014

We should be thanking God for Thomas today. Why? Thomas says what a lot of people think but are afraid to say out loud. "Show me the proof!" Everyone wants proof. Police want proof of a crime before they can arrest the criminal. Juries want proof before they are willing to convict. Daily, there are demands for proof for one thing or another.

Oh, what's a person to believe? We are bombarded with so much information, much of which contradicts itself, we have to wonder what to believe. Can anyone say politics? Too much information can overload the circuits. This was part of Thomas' problem. He heard things that his human experience found unbelievable. Could he believe everything he was hearing about Jesus or not? Could he believe his friends? What and whom could he believe?

Put yourself in Thomas' place. How would you have reacted to the news of the other disciples? Would you have believed them? Think about it. What did Thomas want? He wanted the same experience the others claimed to have seen. He wanted the visible and physical proof.

Read text: John 20:24-29, 31 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." but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

We don't know why Thomas wasn't with the others that first Easter evening. Maybe it has to do with the way people grieve. While some find solace in the company of others, others choose to be alone. Perhaps Thomas was one of those who needed to be alone with his grief before he could face the others.

When Thomas finally rejoined the others, they told him what he'd missed by being away. We have seen the Lord! He is not dead but alive! Thomas' reaction is similar to that of people today: "yeah, right." 

Where's the proof? Like Thomas, we want more than a mere testimony. Is it any wonder that people today can identify with Thomas? Can we believe everything people tell us? We live in a world of rumors, innuendos and half-truths all paraded before us as 100% factual. Can we believe even the things our closest friends tell us? We want concrete proof. Without it, we simply cannot and will not believe. 

When it comes to the resurrection, if we have our doubts, what can we say to others to convince them Jesus rose from the dead and is their living Lord and Savior? Witnessing to unbelief is challenging enough. If we are uncertain about the resurrection how can we tell others with joy and certainty, "I know that my Redeemer lives!"?

Sometimes we give up too easily. Maybe you get discouraged when you talk about your faith in Christ to people who "don't get it." Maybe you've invited someone to church who came but didn't "get anything out of it." Don't be surprised. Don't give up! Why do we think a one or two time exposure to Jesus is going to make Christians out of people? Look what it took to convince the disciples. Look what it took to convince Thomas that Jesus was alive and risen from the dead. Since we don't have the Lord here with us in His glorious resurrected body, we depend on the Holy Spirit to work faith in the hearts of those to whom we witness and invite to worship.

Jesus didn't give up on Thomas. Even though Thomas seemed more entrenched in his unbelief than the other disciples, Jesus didn't give up on him with a "well if that's the way you feel about it" attitude. Jesus kept loving and reaching out to Thomas. It's all he asks of us as well. Keep reaching out and loving your friends and relatives who don't know Jesus as their Savior. Don't give up even if you become discouraged. Yours may be the only Christian witness they have in their lives.

The message of the resurrection is too important to leave question or doubt among those who were closest to Jesus. This is why Thomas was given what we are not: visible and physical proof. Think of it this way. When four out of five dentists recommend a certain brand of toothpaste, we might ask what about the other 20%. If it's so great, why do only 4 out of 5 use it? What about 9 out of 10 who endorse a product? What about the other 10%? The veracity of the resurrection needed to be unanimous. What would be the impact of the resurrection if our claim is 10 of the 11 disciples saw and believed Jesus rose from the dead? The testimony had to be unanimous. Thomas had to come on board and be on the same page as the other 10 disciples.

We need to have a sure and certain testimony of the resurrection because the message of the resurrection competes with other claims on religious truth. Mormons, Muslims and Moonies; Jehovah Witnesses and modern wiccans; gurus and goddess worshipers all claim to have special insight into "truth." Who can be believed? Even Pilate scoffed at Jesus by asking, "what is truth?" People continue to ask that very question: "what is truth?" How do you answer them? Jesus made a very strong, and to some, an obnoxious claim, when He stated, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." As St. Paul says, "we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block and foolishness," to those who cannot or will not believe. 

We believe Jesus rose again. Only Jesus has over 500 eyewitnesses of His resurrection. Only Jesus has fulfilled all of His promises. Only Jesus can change the skepticism and unbelief of our hearts into faith.

He comes to us today as He did to Thomas the other disciples. He comes to us in His Word as He speaks to us. He comes to us in His holy supper as He unites Himself to us to touch us with His love, strengthen our faith in Him as our Savior and help us to live as His faithful disciples.

What's a person to believe? We believe Jesus died on the cross and rose again for us. Only the Holy Spirit can create saving faith in our hearts. We are nurtured on the Word and on the sacraments. Not only does the Holy Spirit sustain our faith, but He enables us to keeping telling others. As Jesus reminds us in today's Gospel, "blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." This is what we believe and confess to the world today. Amen.


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