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Put God to the test

John 20:19-31

Pastor David Ernst

First Sunday after Easter
Epiphany Lutheran Mission of La Caramuca  
Barinas, Venezuela

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Sun, Apr 23, 2017 

Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I will speak again of the evidence for the faith. Last Sunday, Easter Sunday, our text (Mark 16: 1-8) dealt with the story of the empty tomb. Three women went to the tomb where the body of Jesus had been interred to anoint it with aromatic spices. The authorities had allowed the disciples to entomb the body before the Sabbath. However, they were concerned about the possibility of tomb robbery by Christ's followers to say Christ had been resurrected. So they sealed the tomb with a large rock and set a guard in front of the tomb. But when the women arrived, the rock was removed and the guard had fled. The tomb was empty and an angel told them that Christ was alive. The empty tomb was and today is evidence of the resurrection that the unconverted world cannot deny.

However, that's not all the evidence. Jesus appeared many times to His disciples in the 40 days between Easter Sunday and His Ascension. In the verses preceding our text for today, John notes that Mary Magdalene, one of the three women, was the first person to see the risen Christ. But, in our text for today, Jesus appeared the first time to the apostles, except Judas Iscariot and Thomas.

"When the night of the same day came, the first day of the week, when the doors were closed in the place where the disciples were gathered together for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst of them, and said, Peace be unto you. And when he had told them this, he showed them his hands and his side. And the disciples rejoiced to see the Lord ... But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. "

Why was not Thomas present? We cannot imagine the disappointment when everyone saw the death of Jesus on the cross. Because of this, perhaps he did not want to meet anymore with others who believed in Jesus as the Messiah. So, "the other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. And he said unto them, Unless I see the nail in his hands, put my finger in the place of the nails, and put my hand in his side, I will not believe.

Thomas demanded more evidence and the Lord provided it. "Eight days later, his disciples were again inside, and with them Thomas. And Jesus came, and the doors were shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and look at my hands, and bring your hand close to me and put it in my side. Do not be an unbeliever, but a believer." Then Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!"

There is a parallel between our text and the Old Testament reading (Genesis 32: 22-30). In the context of the story, Jacob was on the point of meeting his brother, Esau, after many years. Jacob deceived him of his inheritance and the blessing of his father, Isaac, and fled to a very far place. At that moment he had returned to his father's land and wanted to be reconciled with his brother, because that was what was right. When a person has truly repented, he wants to do what is right. However, Esau had sworn to kill Jacob, so Jacob was worried about the consequences of doing what was right.

According to the text, then, Jacob fought with a man all night. This passage is very difficult to interpret and understand. It was not just a physical fight, but this is not a symbolic story either. After the experience, "Jacob called the name of that place Peniel: for I saw God face to face, and my soul was delivered." Jacob fought against God, because he was frightened by the consequences of doing the will of God. At the same time, he wanted the guidance and presence of God in his life. And Jacob did not yield until receiving the blessing of God. But, as a mark of his experience, God touched Jacob's thigh and left him in pain.

The common point of these texts is that we can put God to the test. We can express our doubts, our fears, our anguish. Many times it seems that God is absent or does not listen to our prayers. But we must not give up. If we persevere in our prayers and our faith, God will give us the evidence of His presence and guidance in our lives.

Jesus gave testimony to Thomas with His body. We confess the creed that we believe in the resurrection of the flesh. Jesus was first to be resurrected in body and soul, as we will in the final day. God bore witness to Jacob's presence because of the pain in his thigh. Today we have the evidence of God's presence not through pain, but for the joy of receiving the Word of God and His body and blood in the sacraments.

St. John says in our epistle (1 John 5: 4-12): "And there are three witnesses in the earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree as one. " He's talking about the sacraments. Water with the Spirit is baptism. Let us remember the date of our baptism. It is something God has done for us. He has touched us and called each of us by name.

The blood is the sacrament in which the blood and the body of Christ are present by the power of the Holy Spirit. After the Ascension, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the whole church. But in our text for today, the Lord first gave the apostles the authority to proclaim His Word and administer the sacraments. "And when he had said this, he breathed, and said unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: to them that ye shall forgive, they are remitted unto them: whosoever shall hold them, they shall be retained." It is not sin to have doubts and question where is God and what is His will. But in order to find the evidence, we must join with other believers, as Thomas did. Because the church is charged with the means of grace. Because of this gift, we have peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.

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