Belief- Sermon 29

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


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

point 1

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

"Jesus came and stood in their midst"

He said – "peace be unto you" – the traditional Hebrew greeting – no doubt He said – it to put them at ease – so they would recognise Him –

Jesus showed them His hands and His side – He deliberately kept the marks of His suffering – so they would know it was Him –

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 are an important building block in the churches foundation


point 2

Then John tells us Jesus said to them again

"peace be unto you" – this time to call them to attention – so that they would listen to Him –
"As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you!"

This is what the disciples had been prepared for – 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 breathed on them –

"Receive ye the Holy Ghost – Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose so-ever sins ye retain, they are retained.”

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 – to all who believe in Him –

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 –

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

In our reading from Acts we see Peter preaching with confidence to Jews and Proselytes – the very people who crucified Jesus – that Jesus is the promised Messiah – that it was God’s plan and purpose to reverse the hatred and sin of man that Killed His Son – by raising Him from the dead – and all this had been foreseen and written by David – and to climax the proof of Jesus as the Messiah – God has given the Holy Ghost –

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

In verse 25 –

“Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe”

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

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 hither thy finger, and behold my hands – and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side – and be not faithless, but believing”

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 and my God" said Thomas – the vision of Jesus had become so real to Him – that 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 –

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

“because thou hast seen me thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed”

Thomas was slow to believe and had been drawn to 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 Jesus’ wounds 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 –

For many the heart of the Easter faith is not the emphasis on the resurrection appearances – nor the faith of the first believers – but the hope and assurance of a personal life beyond death – that we are not bounded by the grave – and there is more to it than what we experience here and now –

there is no doubt about the strength of such a belief in history – the Ancient Egyptians built huge pyramids to transport their rulers and their families and bodyguards to the next world – the terracotta army found in China – was supposed to protect the Chinese Emperor from the dangers of the next world –

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 – 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 – and a new relationship with the risen Christ


Our faith is based on the evidence of the resurrection and 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

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 – we can see Him at work in others – giving them a new start – transforming them into a new creation –

Much of the Easter message rightly emphasises that eternal life begins here and now – that we do not have to wait for heaven –

that if we believe in the risen Christ – we can enjoy a foretaste in this life of what awaits us eternally – Jesus calls us to live life to the full – and make Him part of everything we do –

Do we believe in the risen Christ? – that Jesus is the Son of God ? –
If we do believe – then Jesus promises us life through His name –

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