Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Easter 2

"Show me . . . the scars!"

John 20:19-31

April 12, 2015

Today's the day we get to pick on Thomas.Whatever good, wonderful or positive things Thomas did before or after this incident have been forgotten. He is forever stuck with the label "Doubting Thomas." When you think about it, Thomas simply wanted what Jesus offered the other disciples the week prior. "Show me the scars."

What Thomas wants was nothing different than the other disciples. All of them needed living, physical proof that Jesus was alive. On the night of the resurrection, they couldn't believe their eyes when Jesus stood right in front of them. The first thing Jesus did was offer them proof that He was NOT a ghost or figment of their collective imaginations. He showed them His scars. Yet, when Thomas shares that same unbelief, demanding the same evidence, we jump all over him.

Put yourself among the disciples. Faced with all that unbelievable good news, what's a person to believe? How much different is our situation. We are bombarded with so much information, much of which contradicts itself, we have to wonder what to believe. 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?

Read text: John 20:19-31 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.

Thomas knew better than to believe everything he heard. You share that same skepticism. Do you believe everything you read in the tabloid headlines when you're checking out at the store? Do you believe everything you hear over morning coffee? Often around this time of year, we hear stories that claim to discredit the Gospel. When you hear these claims that the resurrection really didn't happen, were you ready to reject the resurrection for that piece of pious fiction? The answer is "No!"

Considering your own willingness to wait and see. Is it any wonder that people today can identify with Thomas? We don't believe everything we hear the first time around. We don't always believe the things our closest friends tell us. We ask, "Where's the proof?" Without concrete proof, we simply cannot and will not believe. Like Thomas, we want more than a mere testimony. "Show me the scars!"

The writer to the Hebrews reminds us, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1) Faith isn't always easy for us. That's why we can identify with Thomas today. He was faced with news that was simply incredible. He was being told something that was just too good to be true. He was being asked to believe something that which flew in the face of life experience.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for. Yes, Thomas certainly hoped that the resurrection was sure thing. He had seen Jesus resurrect the dead. He was assured that the resurrection of the dead was a promise of God. What Thomas seemed to lack that was the conviction of things not seen. He wondered if Jesus had the power to resurrect Himself.

We wonder why he was so reluctant to believe the testimony of the other ten. Perhaps if only one or two had come to him with this fantastic story, we might understand his skepticism. It wasn't just one or two but the whole group gave a unanimous affirmation of the resurrection. Thomas' problem was that he had been absent from the group that night. Since he hadn't been with the others that Easter evening, he didn't share their experience. He wanted the same encounter that others had with the Risen Lord. "Unless I see and feel, I will not believe."

When it comes to things of faith, many, many people will identify with the doubts of Thomas. Like Thomas, they want to experience, feel, and see the scars of the risen Lord for themselves. It's not enough to receive the eyewitness testimony of those who were there. They want a religious experience on the same order. When they don't get what they want and/or demand, they give up too easily. They want a "faith" that's easy, has convenient answers and doesn't demand much of them.

Maybe you get discouraged when you talk about your faith in Jesus Christ and people "don't get it." Maybe you've invited someone to church who said afterwards that they 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 competes with other claims of religious truth. Mormons, Muslims and Moonies, Jehovah Witnesses and modern wiccans, gurus and goddess worshipers all claim to have insight and truth. Who can be believed? Jesus. Only 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.

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." Amen.


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