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Do not doubt, but believe

John 20:19-31

Pastor David Ernst

Second Sunday of Easter
Epiphany Lutheran Mission of La Caramuca  
Barinas, Venezuela

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Sun, Apr 19, 2020 

Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed!

Our text for today is Saint John's account of the first two appearances of Jesus Christ to the apostles after the Resurrection or the first Sunday of Easter.

Early in the morning after the crucifixion, some women visited the tomb in which the body of Jesus was buried and found it empty. The angels told them that Jesus lives and was not in the grave. Then Peter and John came and saw the empty tomb, but they did not see the risen Christ. The first person to see the risen Christ was Mary Magdalene when she remained in the garden of the tomb after the other women left. In the afternoon two followers of Jesus met him on the way to the small town of Emmaus.

"And the same day at nightfall, being the first of the week, when the doors were closed where the disciples were gathered together for fear of the Jews, Jesus came, and standing in the middle, said to them: Peace be with you. And having said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced in seeing the Lord. ”

Ten of the men chosen to be apostles were present, except for the traitor, Judas Iscariot, who committed suicide, and Thomas. They had seen the empty tomb, but not the Christ Himself. They had the knowledge that Jesus was not in the grave, but not yet the faith, the confident trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior. They were gathered through the Jews, perhaps they also feared the wrath of Jesus because they all fled at the hour of the crucifixion, except John. Saint Peter denied Jesus three times in the court of Pontius Pilate.

No matter the closed doors, nor the state of the ten, Jesus appeared among them with the words, "Peace be to you." This peace was the peace between them and God because of the suffering and death of Jesus, which was evident by the crucifixion marks on his hands and his side. Peace inside their hearts because of a good relationship with God.

“But Thomas, one of the twelve, named Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him: We have seen the Lord. And he said to them: If I do not see the nail sign in his hands, and put my finger in the place of the nails, and put my hand in his side, I will not believe. "

It seems that Thomas was not only afraid, he was also disappointed and disillusioned and did not want to meet with Jesus' disciples anymore. But, the others invited him and eight days later, “his disciples were inside again, and with them Thomas. Then Jesus came, when the doors were closed, and standing in the middle, he said: Peace be to you. Then he said to Thomas: Put your finger here, and see my hands; and give your hand here, and put it in my side; and don't be an unbeliever, but a believer. And Thomas answered and said to him: My Lord, and my God! Jesus said to him: Thomas, because you have seen me, you believed; Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe. "

The eleven disciples had knowledge of the resurrection. Many others also heard of the empty tomb, probably saw the empty tomb, but did not believe in Jesus' victory over sin, the devil, and death. Jesus by his suffering and death restored a good relationship between God and men, but faith in his promise of eternal life is the work of the Holy Spirit. “And having said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, Receive the Holy Ghost. To those who remit sins, they are remitted; Those whose sins are retained are retained. "

At that time, Jesus authorized his disciples to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments. Matthew, Mark and Luke say that just before his ascension to the right hand of God the almighty Father, Jesus commanded the apostles to preach the Word and baptize all nations. But, also Saint Luke says that Jesus sent them to Jerusalem to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit before beginning this mission.

How do we understand that? Yes, the Holy Spirit was active when Jesus breathed into them, also on the day of Pentecost. When a person hears the preaching of the Word, the Holy Spirit is also active to touch their hearts and call them to repentance. But, as on the day of Pentecost the Spirit was manifested in a visible and audible way, with the sound of the strong wind and tongues of fire, in each baptism the Spirit is manifested in the water and in the Word addressed to the baptized in particular. The same Spirit and the same Word that created heaven and earth and made the dry bones alive in our Old Testament reading (Ezekiel 37:1-14) are active in preaching and baptism.

And as Jesus showed the apostles the marks of the crucifixion on his hands and his side, he also gives us the evidence of his presence at the sacrament, with his body and blood in, under, and with the bread and wine.

Our epistle (1 John 5: 4-10) says thus: “This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not by water alone, but by water and blood. And the Spirit is the one who bears witness; because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three who bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three who bear witness on earth; the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three are as one. ”

Water and blood flowed from the side of the crucified Christ. The water that bears witness is baptism; the blood that bears witness is the cup of the sacrament. The miracle of the sacraments is the only way to find Jesus Christ in a way that we can see and touch until the second coming of Christ in glory. Because Jesus should go up to the Father for his presence not to be limited to one place or time, but in all times and places we can find Christ in the preaching and the sacraments. Therefore, says Jesus, blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believed.

Therefore, when we have doubts, when we feel disappointed and disillusioned with God, we should not avoid the meetings of the faithful, like Thomas, but we must listen to the Word and receive the sacrament frequently. It was forgiveness for Tomás and forgiveness for us too.

When we walk on this path, Christ is always ready to say "Peace be to you", the peace that passes all understanding. Amen.

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