EASTER 2 “A Reasonable Request”
April 11, 2021 John 20:25
Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ
On the Sunday after Easter we always hear about the Risen Jesus appearing to His disciples, and to Thomas = ‘doubting Thomas.’ We won’t pick on Thomas, as we ALL have our times of doubt & fear; not always understanding God & His ways. Humanly speaking, the reaction of Thomas is quite understandable; he makes ‘a reasonable request.’ At times,
we’ve had questions about Jesus’ resurrection. Let’s ponder that, but first, what do you think about this story…
More than a hundred years ago, when fur trapping was a way of life in northern Minnesota, Pete & his half-wolf//half-dog ‘Prince’, were constant companions as they walked Pete’s trap lines. In time, Pete found himself a bride, & they were blessed with a child whom they called (not surprisingly) ‘Little Pete.’ Before Little Pete was two, his mother died of an illness. Unable to take Little Pete with him on his rounds, Prince was instructed to stand guard over the little boy as Big Pete raced around to check his traps.
All went well, until Big Pete got caught in a blizzard, a fast-moving Alberta Clipper. Unable to get home, he hunkered down, and spent a restless night in a make-shift shelter.
The next morning, overflowing with worry, Big Pete hurried home. When he was not greeted by his trusty dog, he knew something was wrong.
Big Pete went directly to his baby’s crib, but Little Pete wasn’t there. There was blood on his child’s blanket; more blood on the floor. As Big Pete’s fear grew, Prince crawled out from under the bed, his nose & mouth covered with blood. Big Pete immediately reached a conclusion: his dog had given-in to his inner-wild instinct, & had done the unthinkable. In a blind rage, Big Pete picked up his ax and, in one stroke, was ‘judge, jury, & executioner.’
Prince was dead, & Big Pete sat down & wept, … for a while; until he heard a cry;
the cry of Little Pete came from underneath his bed. The father knelt down, grabbed his son, & checked him for injuries. Yes, there was some blood on his blanket & clothes, but the baby was unharmed. Only then did Big Pete do some more looking around. And in the far dark corner of his cabin he found the dead body of a huge grey wolf. The wolf’s throat was gashed; the grey wolf had some of Prince’s fur in his jaws. Big Pete sat down once again & wept. He had wrongly killed the savior of his son. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
That story is tragic & sad; it may have brought a tear to your eye; because such violence & injustice rings true in our fallen world. We have just come thru our yearly review of the holy season of Lent. Those events with Jesus didn’t take place in MN a century ago, but rather 2,000 years ago in the Roman province of Judea, & on a skull-shaped hill called ‘Golgotha’. Wicked men & our sins nailed the innocent Son of God to a cross; we all caused the death of the one person willing & able to save us from a future worse than death.
In the interest of full-disclosure, that story about Pete, Little Pete & the trusty dog prince is fiction; didn’t happen. What’s interesting is that -in our world- there are people who can feel more emotional & upset by a made-up story about a trapper killing his dog than about the true events of God’s Holy Son; who was hated & mistreated, and then unjustly put to death
in order to satisfy the just penalty of the world’s sin against God.
Now, we’re not going to beat ourselves up about comparing our emotions between Jesus & a dog; because here are TWO REASONS why people might not be outraged by the Gospels’ account of Jesus’ terrible crucifixion. Reason #1 would be for Christians. For us believers, the sorrow & sadness of the Lord’s suffering, sacrifice & death is soothed by knowing that Jesus’ death was not the end of His story. Believers know that on the third day after Christ’s lifeless body was laid into the tomb, the living Lord emerged in Easter victory. He lived the perfect, sinless life; & then took our place under God’s punishment. And now His death & resurrection has defeated all our enemies. As the hymn says, ‘the strife is o’re, the battle done.’
We constantly review and commemorate the awful & awesome truths of our Lord’s suffering & victory; but we don’t always have the emotional ups & downs about our salvation; because there’s something better than that. We have the steady confidence & solid peace of the fulfilled work of our Savior. In humility we DO sorrow over our sins, which sent Jesus to the cross; and in relief & comfort, we rejoice that because of His stripes, we are healed.
For us Christians, we don’t live continually outraged by the terrible events of Jesus’ Passion & crucifixion; we don’t continue to blame the Jews or Romans or soldiers for it.
Because faith tempers our feelings; we are blessed by the promise that it was God’s plan; Christ brought us forgiveness; He is alive & well; and we are saved by His Easter resurrection.
Reason #2, is for non-believers. Unbelievers are not upset by Jesus’ suffering & death because, for them, Jesus’ life, crucifixion & resurrection is nothing more than a legend//myth. They’re willing to believe anything but the truth. They may think that the disciples made things up back then, just to have some fame. We may know people who see Jesus & His story as historical fiction; which is kind-of-related to the doubts that Thomas had = he thought the other disciples were making it up, or had a dream that they saw Jesus alive.
We understand the doubts & skepticism that unbelievers have; because our faith is not perfect. We are stuck to our old nature, & sometimes we doubt God’s things. The elements of this salvation are not all logical. The cynical world loves to challenge just how firmly we trust what Scripture says, since we can’t ‘see’ it or prove it. For example, they’ll say it’s okay to believe in God, but you have to believe more in science. So, call Him ‘The Creator,’ but you’re ignorant if you believe creation took just 6 natural days; they say that has to be a myth because science says it took billions of years.
I wonder if you’ve had recent doubts about whether the Christian Church can hold out against this pressure to stop defining people as either ‘male or female’ like the Scripture does. To have just 2 genders isn’t being ‘woke’. The world seems so convinced of these various ‘transgender’ lies = *does it cause us some doubts? What about when one church fights against another church -calling them unloving- for not accepting homosexuality as a valid lifestyle & marriage arrangement = *do doubts creep in from all that pressure?
This Christian faith is going to be tested by the trend of trying to make ‘skin color’ the most important part of a person’ life. We say that God made all skin-tones equal; but the devil will help people twist Scripture to doubt that. There are now groups that complain that Christianity is a ‘white-man’s religion’, *has it caused you to doubt? You & I will be accused
of being close-minded, old-fashioned, ignorant & unloving if we stand firm with Scripture.
*Can we do it without doubting?
Thomas faced a temptation we all face: will we trust God’s Word? In Mark’s gospel, Jesus very plainly teaches -3 different times- that He was going to suffer in Jerusalem, be put to death, and then rise from the dead on the 3rd day. So, *why weren’t all the disciples waiting outside that tomb on Sunday morning? Thomas wasn’t the only one with doubts.
We understand doubts, because the world pressures our old nature & wears us down.
There’s a constant drone in our ears = the idea that ‘all religions are the same & all lead to the same place’; /that it’s unloving to point out immorality; /that the Bible is no better than another religion’s book = full of man’s ideas & errors; /that there are no absolute truths that apply to everyone; /that the best ‘god’ there is, is the one that let’s you be what you want to be.
We understand doubts. Has there ever been a time when we look at the evil in the world, or the tragedy & sorrow in our lives, and we wonder if God exists or loves us? *Why can’t things make more sense? Poor Thomas had reached his breaking point. People do.
The other 10 disciples understood where Thomas was coming from; and there wasn’t much they could do for him; that must’ve been frustrating. They knew the truth of their Risen Lord; they knew there was good news to believe. But they also knew the only thing they could do was to share what they believed, and then wait for the Lord Himself to meet with Thomas.
The good news for Thomas was that Jesus had a solution for him. He would meet with Thomas to take away his doubts. That’s the same good news you have; He meets you here to take away your doubts! As far as I can tell, our Lord Jesus does not get upset with people who have doubts; BUT He does want to meet with them to change their minds.
That’s why, on that Sunday, when Jesus met the women near His open & empty tomb, He didn’t scold them for not believing what He said would happen on the 3rd day. It was humanly-reasonable that they expected Him to still be dead in the cave. Resurrection from the dead is not just ‘doubtful’, it’s impossible. They needed His help. So, instead of scolding them, He met them and spoke peace to them. And that’s how you have come to believe.
So, Jesus understands our doubts, but He’s not satisfied with them. So, when the 10 disciples doubted the report of the women, Jesus goes to meet them, too. And the first words out of His mouth were not a rebuke for not sitting outside His tomb waiting for Him to rise ==as He had promised. To all His doubting followers He speaks reassurance. Jesus said, “Peace be with you.” He shows them His hands & side, and melts their doubts away.
Jesus showed himself to these men & women; they needed to have that visible, physical proof that death & devil would no longer have the final word in this world = and they would be His witnesses, to bring that doubt-crushing good news to others.
That faith-giving gospel becomes the mission & purpose of the new church. We proclaim the good news that the Crucified One is risen & alive; and in Him we are forgiven before God; we have new life in His name, and we have His perfect teaching of right & wrong.
*Have you met a person like Thomas? Have you been eager about your faith & life in the Living Lord Jesus, but then with logic & rationality, they respond with something like: ‘good for you.’ But unless I see Him, I will never believe.” Like the 10, there’s not much we can do, until the Lord himself changes that person’s heart & mind.
And we know that Jesus is able to do that, just as He did with Thomas. Now, because of Jesus’ ascension, it won’t be physically, but it will be by His own powerful Word & Spirit. Our prayer for all ‘Thomases’ is that Jesus will meet with them, and melt away their doubts. For the original Thomas, the Lord waited a week. And when they were all together again, Jesus came among them with the same comfort: “Peace be with you.”
And with patience, the Risen Lord spoke to the disbeliever and said, “Put your finger here, and see by hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” *Would you have touched those nail marks? We don’t know if Thomas touched those scars as proof; we DO know that the human heart & mind does not need to see or touch in order to believe that Jesus is the Savior of our souls, the forgiver of our sins, and the defeater of death & hell. Your own faith is proof of that! We DO know that with all doubt’s gone, and with new confidence & conviction, Thomas confessed: “My Lord and my God.”
We can see how this event is actually teaching us about the gracious patience & mercy of God at work in Jesus Christ. Jesus understands our times of doubt; He understands the doubters we run into. He understands how our faith can faulter when challenged by the doubting world. During Eastertime each year, we can hear the skeptics try to explain-away the miracle of His resurrection.
The world says: Jesus just went into a coma & recovered in the cool tomb; but how He managed to fool those experienced Roman soldiers, and roll away the sealed-stone from the inside of the tomb = they can’t say. They say: Jesus’ body was moved; but why would the guards or Jewish leaders move it, & give the disciples a reason to claim a resurrection = and why would all those disciples later allow themselves to be persecuted & martyred for a lie?
In our day, we have so-called ‘pastors’ who preach that Jesus never physically rose from the dead; and they say it’s not important, as long as we keep His memory alive in our hearts. *What does that mean? *Is God not strong enough to defeat death? If Jesus is not the God of Life, *how can we trust Him to get us thru death and into eternal life? If He just died but didn’t rise, *what makes Him better than us == why should we obey a dead Lord?
+The truth is, Jesus rose from the dead; just as promised. +The truth is that His resurrection is the seal & guarantee of our sins forgiven on the cross; it is the promise of our own resurrection to eternal life. +The truth is that since nothing could keep Him in the grave, so also no one & nothing can take away the confidence & peace that we have a living Savior.
We have a true, unbeatable, guardian & friend, who cares for us now, and will take us to live with Him in His Father’s Kingdom. The world can -& will always- criticize our Christian faith & hope in Christ, but they can’t take it away from us, and they can’t change The Truth.
Thomas is the world’s most famous ‘doubter’; but he’s not the only one. In human terms, he had a reasonable request: he wanted proof. In order for him to be a witness & apostle, he got the proof as the Lord met with him. But the Lord doesn’t need those physical proofs today to convince our hearts & minds. His Spirit & Word has the power to change minds & strengthen our hearts in Him.
With this event, we can see that Jesus understands our doubts. And thru His Holy Scriptures, He meets with us. There’s the proof. Just as He was patient & teaching His disciples, so He is patient & teaches you & me. He gives us His sturdy peace. That’s how He treated Thomas, so that with Thomas, we will gladly believe and openly confess that Jesus is
“My Lord and my God.”