Christ Covenant Church
Jon Marq Toombs
15 January 2017 / Second Sunday After the Epiphany
[Note: These are sketch notes, not a manuscript.]
Our sermon text for today is John 20:19-29. If you are willing and able, please stand for the reading of God’s Holy Word. The word of God reads:
19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” 24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 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.” 26 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.” 27 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.”28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
The word of the Lord. (Thanks be to God!) May God add his blessings to the reading, the hearing, the preaching, and the praying of his word. All the church says, Amen!
Last week we heard the story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It’s so easy to say that and just move on, but stop and think about what that means.
In Johns’ Gospel we have seen Jesus do some amazing things — like turn water to wine, heal a sick boy, feed thousands with a little bread and fish, walk on water, make a lame man walk, open the eyes of a blind man, and raise a friend from the dead — but nothing compares to Jesus laying down his life on a tree and taking it up again at a tomb.
Think about the utter impossibility of the resurrection from the point of view of a purely naturalist – materialist worldview = many, not all, scientists hold to such a worldview.
According to science (biological and physiological) resurrection is impossible. And science is always right and never wrong. Right?
That makes me think: Wouldn’t it be fun to name a kid “Science”? Then you could say, “Science says X about whatever topic…or, According to Science…yadda yadda yadda” and no one would ever contradict you because, you know, “Science…”
According to science, resurrection is impossible = and yet, eyewitness saw Jesus alive and well after the Resurrection
= reconstituion of flesh and blood, wounds healed inside and out, flesh regenerated insided and out. Jesus was born again from above by the Holy Spirit.
19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
This story — like the one we saw last week — is filled with creation echoes and motifs.
morning and evening = a new first day
Lit. first of the sabbaths = first day of the seven days / start of a new creation week
20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.”
This is the second time Jesus echoed the priestly benediction over his disciples.
The first time was in the upper room the night before he was betrayed and crucified. Remember how he gave them his peace and told them ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’
He went away from them through death by crucifixion, and now he has come back to them through by resurrection.
Jesus a little show and tell, and the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
“As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
sent = authorized mission (Heb concept = shalchi – one who is sent)
breathed on them = echoes of God creating man / Adam from dust and breathing into his nostrils the breath of life (Gen 2:7); echoes of the Spirit breathing life into the slain in the valley of dry bones (Ezek. 37:1-10).
Jesus is the Lifegiver = he breathes new life into his followers; he breathes new life into those suffering with DFW / doubt, fear, worry.
ministers of the word = representatives / ambassadors — authority to proclaim forgiveness of sins to everyone who professes faith in Jesus; authority to pronounce judgment on everyone who refuses to repent and believe the gospel.
24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.
Jesus breathed on ten of the eleven remaining disciples = Judas was dead (suicide) and Thomas was MIA.
Thomas the Twin = perhaps because he was a Twin – perhaps because he was double-minded like Harvey Two-Face?
25 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.”
Thomas the Twin = doubter or cynic?
Traditionally, Thomas was called the Doubter, but I think he was more of a Cynic than a doubter.
Speaking of cynic, there is a social media personality called Thomas The Cynic. He describes himself as “A guy who wanted to express his discontent of the world to the world for reasons that he doesn’t know, which he also doesn’t care to think about because that also [stinks / sucks]. Cannot be impressed, cannot be surprised, cannot even acknowledge an accomplishment or statement with sincere positives. The worst part, he doesn’t care that nobody cares, or what others think of him, as he cares little about his cares or his own self-opinion. They’re unimportant.”
It seems that our Saint Thomas fell into something like for a minute.
After a few years of following Jesus through conflict and controversy, surely we can understand why Thomas is feeling a bit cynical.
+ First time we meet Thomas in John’s Gospel (11:11) =
Thomas said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with [Lazarus].”
This is one of the most honest responses recorded in the Scriptures. Seems that most folks think “die with him” refers to dying with Jesus, because everyone knew the Jews were going to catch him and stone him if he got close to Jerusalem.
But I think Thomas was referring to Lazarus who was already dead.
Either way, it shows the raw human response of a cynical disciple (who was a true follower of Jesus) to real life circumstances and conditions that come with following Jesus.
+ Second time we meet Thomas in John’s Gospel (14:5) =
Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
He calls Jesus out for speaking in riddles wrapped in enigma and shrouded in mystery.
Thomas was a realist and (sadly) realists often fade into cynicism – which is a bi-product of doubt. Like some of you, I know this by personal experience.
+ This third time we meet Thomas in John’s Gospel, he throws water on his friends’ fire. Why? He just wanted to see and feel and hear what all the other guys did — and he missed it.
Put yourself in his shoes — imagine how he must have felt about being left out of that visitation and missing a chance to see the Risen Lord!
I don’t think Thomas meant to be a kill joy. I think he was just a little numb on the inside and not able to feel joy (much less share their joy at that moment). It’s hard to leave people out of things, and it’s harder to be the one left out of things.
If you struggle with cynicism, I urge you to read the book = Faith without Illusions by Andrew Byers
26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them.
Eight days later = the first day of the week / in Mexico se dice “En ocho dias…” meaning on this day next week.
Eight is the Jewish number for renewal (after the resurrection, the first day becomes the eighth day)
Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
Jesus entered a locked room = not less real like a dead man’s ghost, but more real like resurrected man’s body.
27 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.”
Jesus did not consider Thomas a mere doubter, but an unbeliever.
μὴ γίνου ἄπιστος ἀλλὰ πιστός = Grk. do not be unbelieving but believing // be characterized as a believer, not an unbeliever.
Faith is a state of being, not just a state of doing.
Os Guinness – “Thomas was rebuked not because he refused to believe without reasons, but because he refused to believe with more than enough reasons. For three years he had been with Jesus and heard his teaching that he was bound to suffer, to die, and to be raised from the dead. So his lack of faith was not a matter of failing to straddle an impossible credibility gap but of balking at a simple step of trust on the evidence of inescapable reasons. For Thomas to demand further evidence at that stage was doubly unnecessary. Not only had he heard the words of Christ, he had listened to the eyewitness accounts of his fellow disciples. Yet he still refused to believed.” (God in the Dark, p 85)
Jesus mentioned finger and hand = indicates to Thomas that he heard what Thomas said about not believing without personal tactile, sensorial experience.
28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
With these words Thomas acknowledges his faults, believes the gospel, and confesses his faith in Jesus.
Jesus treats this declaration as a confession of faith.
29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Thomas was no different that the rest of the apostles, and we are no different than Thomas.
We all struggle with doubts, fears, and worries. We lack faith and imagine that if we could just see Jesus with our eyes, or touch him with our hands, or hear him with our ears, then we would believe him. That personal tactile, sensorial experience would make it all better.
Yet notice what Jesus said: Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
Later on, the apostle Peter will send out a letter to the scattered churches and commend them for doing this very thing:
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9)
So, to everyone suffering in DFW —
who doubts whether God lives and if it matters, or fears that they can never do enough to please him, or worries that something bad is going to happen,
“Peace be with you.”
who doubts that God loves you, or fears the critics, or worries about money, health, and time,
“Peace be with you.”
who doubts God’s promises, or fears they don’t belong, or worries they will never measure up,
“Peace be with you.”
When the disciples were suffering in DFW, Jesus came to them where they were and gave them peace (3x).
And he does the same for you.
No hideout is so secret, no door is so locked, no distance is so great, no place is so far, no heart is so crushed, and no spirit is so low that Jesus cannot find you and speak to you,
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give to you.
Let not your hearts be troubled,
neither let them be afraid.”
(I believe…help my unbelief.)