Easter 2 (Quasimodo Geniti) April 28, 2019
Text: John 20:19-31 ILCW Series C 19:2127
Theme: If Unbelief Should Ever Overwhelm You…
There have been many celebrations in heaven. When God created the world, the angel choirs shouted for joy (Job38:7). The night Jesus was born, songs of praise filled the skies (Lk.2). When a sinner repents, all heaven rejoices (Lk.15:10). But the gladdest and most exuberant celebration took place on the first Easter.
They were all there – the people who trusted in God for salvation. There was Adam, the first human being, Noah who spent so many months in the ark, Abraham who left family and home because he trusted God’s promise, David, Elijah, Daniel, and many, many others, more than you can count. And the reason for all the rejoicing? Jesus was there, sitting on the great white throne by the side of His Father. Jesus was in His beautiful new and glorious body, which had no flaws or weakness but only marvelous perfection. Such a body you and I are going to have some day too, if we hold to our faith in Him.
As they walked the city streets of the New Jerusalem above, the saints of God rejoiced to one another in awe and delight: “It is finished!” Others answered, “Just look at what God has done!” And the great angel choir numbering thousands upon thousands and ten thousands upon ten thousands, encircling the throne, sang in loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive praise and honor and glory and power for ever and ever…because You were slain and with Your blood You purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rv.5:9-11).
Yes, that was a wonderful celebration, a day of great delight and joy. For that was the first Easter day that continues forever!
But back on earth, among some of the very people whom Jesus purchased with His blood and raised to life with Him by His resurrection, among them it was not a day of celebration. Instead, there was weeping and sorrow, ridicule and unbelief. True, the women who reported the news of the angel at the empty tomb, and others, even Peter, who proclaimed that he had seen the risen Lord, dared to be filled with hope. Still, the rest of the disciples sat in their upstairs room behind locked doors and answered, “Nonsense! You are out of your heads!” Yet, for all their grief and unbelief, they remembered to lock the doors.
The truth is they were bewildered and afraid, afraid that they might be the next ones to hear the soldiers’ boots on the city streets and the pounding of fists on the door, enemies coming to get them. They were all there: Andrew and Peter, James and John, Philip and Nathaniel, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas the son of James, the women, and others. Of course Judas Iscariot, the traitor, was not there, he had already hanged himself. And, for some reason unknown to us, Thomas was not there either. He had gone off to grieve by himself.
One moment they sat there, staring at the floor, each thinking his own dark thoughts, and the next moment everything was changed. Suddenly all heads lifted as if Someone had whispered to each heart: “Look! He is here!” And there, standing in the middle of the circle was Jesus Himself. The disciples were terrified. Their eyes grew wide and staring. They shrank back, thinking they saw a ghost. “Peace be with you,” Jesus spoke quietly. “Why are you so troubled and why do doubts arise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I, myself” (Lk.24:37). Finally, a wild, new joy spread over their faces and captured their hearts. It was their Lord and Master, truly their Savior, who had come back from the dead!
“My Father sent me,” Jesus said, “And now I am sending you to carry the good news of forgiveness, life, and salvation through Me to the ends of the earth.” Then He breathed on them a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit for they (no less than we) needed God’s help to take this message of forgiveness of sins to a doubting world.
“Those who sins you forgive, have already been forgiven,” Jesus said. Of course sin has been taken away, that’s what happened on the cross where the blood of Jesus flowed to cleanse us all from sin. Christians only declare that which has already happened. But if people refuse to receive it through faith, how can they receive its blessings? If you refuse to open a gift that has been designated for you, how can you enjoy it? You can’t because you don’t have it. And in a similar way, although all sins have been paid for by Jesus’ death, the gift does people no good if they refuse to believe it or rely on themselves instead of Jesus. Sad! Sad! It is so sad! Yet real.
But going back to the disciples in that room – at that moment, life changed for the friends of Jesus who believed in Him. Nothing was ever the same again. Their Savior had come back to them. Wonder upon wonders, He had even conquered death so that all might live!
These were golden days following Easter. Beautiful days, wonderful days, days full of great joy for those who had seen the risen Savior. But Thomas was not there. Why? We do not know. But see this. This is what you miss if you fail to take time to be with the Lord and His people when they are gathered in His name. Thomas missed a marvelous time of growth with his Lord and his God. Even when the others told him about it, he responded bitterly: “I will certainly not believe it unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my own fingers into the nail marks and feel with my own hand the wound in his side.”
Make no mistake about it. This was not simple doubt about a lack of information given him. This was unbelief in the words and promises of God that Jesus had already spoken to them on numerous occasions. Never mind the physical evidence that the others saw. This was unbelief in that which God had already spoken. And whoever does not believe shall be condemned (Mk.16:16). Doubt and refusal to believe what God has clearly spoken is no small thing. Pray that God graciously intervene to overcome all such within us!
The next Sunday night they were all together again. This time, Thomas was there, too. Again, Jesus appeared in their midst for no locked doors can hold Him back. “Peace be with you,” He said. Then He turned especially to Thomas: “Reach out your finger; put it in the nail holes in my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Stop being without faith. Believe.”
Thomas was overcome. He didn’t need to feel Jesus like he had the week before demanded. He knew! “My Lord and my God!” he cried.
See what Thomas confessed. Jesus is not merely a man; Jesus is also true God with whom nothing, forgiveness and life from death, is not impossible. “Because you have seen me, you believe,” Jesus told said. “Blessed and happy are the ones who have never seen me with their eyes, but still have believed.”
Do you know who those happy ones, those blessed one are? They are you and me and all who come believing that Jesus is their risen Lord, their God, their only Savior. If you look for yourselves anywhere in the Scriptures, dear friends, this is where you find yourself. Here Jesus is not addressing the Eleven, He is not talking to the women on Easter morning, He is not assuring Peter who denied Him once; He is talking to you. “Blessed are those who have not seen me and yet have believed.”
Ironically, we can thank Thomas for this assurance. And our hearts are warmed to hear these words from Jesus’ own lips. We have never seen that blessed body that was sacrificed for our sakes. We are among the vast company of people who have not seen with our eyes, and yet, by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, have believed in what God has done through Christ. What a joy it is for us to hear in our own days when fear and unbelief threaten to overwhelm us, to hear the unwavering assurance of our Savior: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” And someday, someday when God draws our time here to an end and brings us to His heavenly throne, we will see Him along with Adam, and Noah, Abraham, David, Elijah, Daniel, the Eleven, and untold millions of others who walked by faith and not by sight while here.
So continue, dear friends, in that Easter faith. And if unbelief should ever seem to overwhelm you, listen to what God promised and completed and look upon the certainty of what He has done through His Son, Jesus. He is risen! He is risen indeed. God grant us such unwavering faith for His name’s sake. Amen.