2nd Sunday in Easter – Sermon 16

13th February 2011 Off By Derek Buckthorpe

Prayer to start

May every thought and word be graciously received for the Glory of our Lord Jesus Christ

Introduction

Do we really believe there is life after death? – or do we think its something someone has invented to help us feel comfortable in our old age?

Do we really believe Jesus rose from the dead ?- or is He still buried somewhere in a 2000 year old tomb –


The disciples were convinced that He is risen and claimed they saw Him and spoke to Him –

Our Gospel reading describes one such meeting in a locked room – this incident doesn’t appear in any of the other Gospels – and was written by John – so that those who read it might believe –

we are going to look at what John says – and see if it helps us – in our understanding and belief

point 1

John describes the disciples as being frightened of the Jews – maybe they thought they would be next to die – its also possible they were confused – Jesus’ body was missing – and some of them had said they had seen Him

"Jesus came and stood among them"

He said – "peace be with you" – the traditional Hebrew greeting – no doubt – Jesus said it to put them at ease – so they would recognise Him – and when they saw it was Jesus – they were overjoyed

Jesus showed them His hands and His side – He deliberately kept the marks of His suffering – so that they would know it was Him – after all hadn’t they imagined the nails being driven in – the spear entering His side – heard His cries of pain as He suffered and died on the cross – it would be something they would never forget

Jesus needed to prove to the disciples that He was alive – they didn’t expect Him to rise from the dead – in fact they expected the exact opposite – when He appeared to some of them – they didn’t recognise Him until He spoke – they didn’t have to convince themselves who it was – it was Jesus who convinced them

Jesus knew it was important for those closest to Him to believe that He had been raised – it was important for their salvation and for those coming after them – God’s church is based on "the corner stone that the builders rejected" – on the death and resurrection of its founder – and the testimony of His disciples is an important building block in the churches foundation

point 2

Then John tells us Jesus said to them again

"peace be with you" – this time to call them to attention – so that they would listen to Him –

"As the Father sent me, so I send you!"

This is what Jesus had prepared the disciples for – why they had been chosen – Jesus must go back to the Father – and His disciples must now carry the Gospel message to others – He commanded them to go out and represent Him in the world – to approach the very people who had just tortured and crucified Him –

– Jesus shows us what the Father is like – and He expects us to show others what the Son is like – Who else knows the Father but the Son – Who else knows the Son but His church – but He wasn’t going to leave them without help – Jesus breathed on them and said –

"Receive the Holy Spirit – If you forgive sins, they are forgiven – if you pronounce them un-forgiven, un-forgiven they remain”

Through the Spirit Jesus gives them – the authority – and power – to tell the world of God’s promise to forgive sins – to tell of God’s love and Grace and His offer of reconciliation – He also gave them the power to warn those who choose not to respond to God’s Grace – that the consequences could be grave

as Paul puts it in 2Cor 2 verse 16 –

"to the latter, the fragrance of God is a deadly fume that kills, but to those who are on the way to salvation, it is a vital fragrance that brings life”

The disciples had seen and heard the risen Christ – they had all experienced His presence – they had felt His breath on them – they believed He was truly alive – and now they were to go out and tell the world – and this they did

Clearly something extra-ordinary happened to them – they changed from being a group in hiding, frightened of the authorities – to one publicly declaring that Jesus was alive – that they had seen Him

In our reading from Acts we are told of the disciples confronting the very people who were responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion – preaching to them of a new way of life – based on the crucified and risen Christ – speaking of repentance and forgiveness of sins – and of the Holy Spirit who is given by God to all those who are obedient to Him

Perhaps the transformation of the disciples is one of the most important pieces of evidence in favour of the resurrection – some of them accepted death rather than deny the presence of the risen Christ

But when the disciples saw and told Thomas of all that they had seen – He didn’t believe them

point 3

"Unless I see the mark of His nails on His hands, unless I put my finger into the place where the nails were, and my hand into His side, I will never believe

Thomas refused to believe unless he himself had seen and touched Jesus – only then would he accept their evidence – he wanted to meet Jesus personally –

Was Thomas’s reaction understandable? – it does seem an incredible story to accept – but before His crucifixion Jesus had spoken to His disciples – many times – about His death – and about being raised from the dead – clearly Thomas had listened to Jesus but had not believed that it would actually happen –

whatever reason Thomas had for not believing – He was prepared to talk about it – to bring it out into the open – to admit that he wasn’t satisfied – he did not want to pretend – this was too important –

So Jesus came to them again – this time when Thomas was present – and He repeated the words that Thomas said a week earlier

"Reach your finger here, look at my hands – Reach your hand here, and put it into my side. Be unbelieving no longer, but believe"

Jesus knew there would be those who would find it hard to believe – even from His closest friends – unless they again experienced His presence

"My Lord my God" said Thomas – the vision of Jesus had become so real to Him – that He glimpsed the true nature of Jesus – He realised that Jesus was none other than God Himself

What was it that changed him – was it the touching – or was it that he finally realised that everything that Jesus had told Him had come true – and that by His resurrection Jesus has shown Himself to be no less than what He claimed – "the Son of God" –

Jesus then drives home the fundamental principle of the Gospel message –

Thomas was slow to believe and had to be drawn to be faith by the experiences of his senses – but in the end it was not the seeing or the touching that made him believe – it was that his true faith had been re-awakened

Faith cannot come from the experiences of the senses – it can only come from the word of God – Thomas’ faith had diminished for a while – and Jesus had rekindled it – it was there within him but hidden –

What will it take to rekindle our faith – do we have to touch the very wounds that Jesus felt before we accept that He suffered and died for us – before we believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that all His promises will be fulfilled –

No one can tell us what to believe – we have to look at the evidence – and decide for ourselves – but like Thomas we must be open and responsive – and willing to listen and learn

We must try to understand God’s word – read our Bibles – test what Jesus tells us in our everyday situations – ask for help – and pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit – so that we may reach a new understanding – a new relationship with the risen Christ ending

Our faith is based both on the evidence of the resurrection and on the fact of it – on the testimony of those present at the time – like Thomas and the other disciples – and on the personal experiences of millions of Christians that came after them – who have met Jesus for themselves

Conclusion

The message of the early church is not only that Jesus Christ is alive, but that we can actually meet Him ourselves – We can experience His presence within us – today – here in Lymm – we can see Him at work in others – transforming them – into a new creation –

Do we believe in the risen Christ?

In a few moments we will be asked to make a declaration of our faith by saying the creed – to reaffirm our belief in the resurrection and that Jesus is the Son of God –


Lets make that declaration honestly – and if we don’t believe – then lets be willing to look at the evidence again – its too important not to – it’s a matter of life and death –

Prayer to finish

In the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit

AMEN