If you, like Thomas and the others, can find trust that Christ is risen, it will truly change your life and the life of the world you are in.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Second Sunday of Easter, year C
Texts: John 20:19-31; Acts 5:27-32
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Thomas has a lot at stake in seeing Jesus for himself.
Whether Thomas can trust his friends isn’t academic. This isn’t theological doubt that has no impact on how you live your life. If Jesus is alive, everything is changed for Thomas. If he’s dead, nothing that used to matter matters. He’s been living in a fog, like the rest of them, since that terrible Thursday and Friday, but now he’s had to hear the others’ excitement and joy for a week, still in a fog himself. What Thomas asks is simple, and fair. I’d like to see Jesus myself.
A risen Jesus, for all of them, is a reality question, not a theological one. Jesus was their friend, their teacher, they believed he was from God. They saw him dead. For real. And no one rises from the dead, except those Jesus raised. If Jesus is dead, it’s all over.
But if he’s alive, everything he taught is real and true and matters. If he’s alive, their lives change forever. If he’s alive, nothing is the same.
That’s what’s at stake for Thomas.
Do we have anything close to as much at stake in what happened?
To start with, for us Jesus’ resurrection is old news. 2,000 years of people have either believed in a risen Christ or not. I’ve heard “Christ is risen indeed!” every year of my life for nearly 6 decades. How can any change hinge on whether you trust Jesus is truly risen and living in the world if you’ve always known it?
And for hundreds of years the Church based all its evangelism on only part of what Christ’s resurrection means, life after death. That is a joy, a truth, a gift, but it’s not the only gift, joy, or truth. It’s a great promise. But once you trust it, life could go on as usual.
Life as usual was never an option for these disciples. A dead Jesus means lost hope, a sense of abandonment by God, a bleak future. A risen Jesus means life, and hope, and joy. God is with you, life has meaning, God’s love fills you and the world and transforms all things.
Can we perceive the resurrection with as much at stake?
Jesus said we who didn’t see this are blessed when we trust without seeing.
John reminds us of that, and says he wrote this whole Gospel as an eyewitness to you and me, to any who read it, to see for ourselves what these people saw and trusted, hoping in that seeing we’d find the same trust.
John’s promise jolts you and me into understanding the raised stakes. He says if you can trust Jesus is the risen Messiah, the Son of God, you can have life in his name. Abundant life, as Jesus promised and wants for all. Life here. Life with hope and purpose, life filled with the Spirit of God. Life-changing life that changes the world.
That’s what’s at stake. Those two Sundays Christ offered a new life to those women and men. Now he offers the same to you.
First, into the disciples’ fear, unstopped by locked doors, Jesus gives peace.
Luke and John say Jesus’ first words the Sunday night of his resurrection to the whole group of disciples were “Peace be with you.” Then he breathed God’s Spirit into them. The next Sunday, when Thomas was there, Jesus’ first words were “Peace be with you.”
That’s what the risen Christ offers you. Peace. Christ breathes the Holy Spirit into your lungs, into your body, God’s Spirit in your spirit, and says, “Be at peace.” So, we heard today, Peter and the others stand before the same council that condemned Jesus and defy the command to be silent about the resurrection. We’re going to obey God, not you, they say. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they had inner peace even when their lives were threatened, because God’s Spirit was in them. All these believers lived with this peace as they spread the Good News of God’s resurrection life.
Christ is alive. Risen from the dead, he gives to you the peace he promised on the night of his betrayal, breathing the Spirit into you, to give you life as he promised.
That’s why for centuries the Church has included Christ’s giving of peace at every Eucharist. We don’t want to risk forgetting this immense gift that changes our lives, no matter what happens in them – tragedy or joy, mourning or dancing, life or death. We share Christ’s peace with each other and so keep giving the gift.
Second, Jesus gives a life with purpose.
There’s more to this second gift which we’ll hear next week from John 21. But that Easter night, after giving peace and breathing God’s Spirit into them, Jesus sent these women and men out, making them all literally apostles, sent ones. They were sent to forgive the sins of others. To be God’s forgiving love that Jesus showed on the cross.
That’s their purpose now. It’s your purpose, too, your meaning to life. You, as God’s anointed in Baptism, are sent to forgive others for their wrongdoing. Not only those who hurt you. Jesus sends you to offer God’s forgiveness to all, no matter who they’ve wronged. To live a life that proclaims God’s final answer to all sin and brokenness is forgiveness and love.
And if you hold on to, retain, the sins of others, Jesus says, you keep forgiveness from them. Not ultimately – no one has the authority to prevent the Triune God from forgiving anyone. But if you don’t offer God’s forgiveness and love to others, Jesus says they will feel as if they don’t have it at all.
That’s Incarnation. Because humans don’t tend to assume their gods are forgiving, the true God needed to show us in a human, concrete way. The Triune God comes to us with a face – Jesus – to forgive and love us in such a way that we can’t miss it.
And now you and I and all who live in Christ are sent out as God’s forgiving love in the world. So no one doubts God’s grace and love for them. That’s your purpose.
Everything changed with Jesus’ resurrection for these women and men.
They had peace in God’s Spirit within them. They had a purpose, doing Jesus’ job of proclaiming God’s forgiveness. They began to live into Jesus’ promise on the night of his betrayal, that he was the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Now they have a Way to live and walk, because Jesus is risen. The Way of Christly love and grace and forgiveness, living in their Risen Lord who is their Way.
Now they have a Truth that changes everything for them, because Jesus is alive. Not a doctrine of resurrection. A living Truth, God’s love Incarnate, death-breaking, life-giving, peace-pouring Truth to fill them with the Spirit and center their reality in a world of deceit and lies.
And now they have a Life to live, in the Risen Christ who is alive and in the world. A life with meaning and purpose. Abundant life that seeks to bring God’s abundance to all.
That’s what’s at stake, if you can trust that Jesus is God’s risen Christ, God’s Son, the Way, the Truth, and the Life for you and the world. Then you will find everything these disciples found, and more.
And nothing will ever be the same.
In the name of Jesus. Amen