Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus Appears to You” based on John 20:19-31 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered: Sunday, April 8, 2018
When the prophet Ezekiel pronounced the judgment of sword, famine, and plague on the people of Israel because of their sin, terror struck the Israelites. In fact, their fear was so severe that the bible says, in many English translations, that their knees became weak like water. No, they didn’t become wobbly. They became wet. The Israelites were so frightened that they lost control of their bladders.
Sometimes, it is better to use a euphemism to describe an act that is undesirable to speak about in public. However, like the translators of the most recent New International Version of the bible decided to do for that section of Ezekiel’s prophecy, using clear and unquestionable language can make the point more clear.
There probably isn’t an appropriate euphemism that could convey what Thomas was talking about in the Gospel account from John for today—but, when you think about it, it is something that may not be desirable to speak about in public.
Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.
The Roman soldiers had pounded nails into the hands and feet of Jesus and, in order to confirm his death, shoved a spear into his side, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.
Yes, his hands and feet and side had been washed clean by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, but those marks of his crucifixion and death still remained and it was there that Thomas wanted…or, rather, insisted to put his own hands?
Really, Thomas? No wonder Christians for centuries have nicknamed him Doubting Thomas. The only thing that would convince him was something so unbelievable, itself, that you probably couldn’t imagine anyone saying the same thing today. Even if you wanted to put your own hands inside of Jesus’ sacrificial scars, you wouldn’t say that out loud, would you? Not for fear that people would call you a doubter, though. No, instead, they might call you insane. And, really, you don’t want people thinking that about you, do you?
But, wouldn’t that be easier than what you have as an answer to your doubts? Don’t the confirmations of your faith seem pretty unbelievable to the world around you? Sure, one third of the world may claim to be Christians, but even out of that number, how many would agree that the only way for your faith in God to be strengthened comes through a 2000 year old book—or when words from that book are combined with ordinary water, a little sliver of something that tastes a little like bread, and the smallest cup of wine you’ve ever held in your hands?
The world around you has scientific evidence of how humanity came to be and yet you believe your ancestors were formed from the dust of the earth because a man, admittedly a few thousand years after it happened, wrote it down?
Your relative, who was a pretty good person, suffered through sickness before finally succumbing to the disease and dying, and you believe that they are now in the same paradise that murderers and thieves are able to enjoy because they all had a little bit of water sprinkled on their heads when they were infants?
You actually think there was a talking snake, a boat big enough to house two of every animal, that water came out of a rock and a sea was split in two, a virgin gave birth, and that, later on in this service, you are going to eat and drink the body and blood of your God?
When those topics come up, do you ever find yourself identifying, at least a little, with Thomas? It would be so much simpler if you could, as Thomas did, actually see and speak with your Savior and put your hands where the nails and the spear pierced his flesh. If only he would appear to you like he did for Thomas. Then, surely, you would give the same confirmation and confession of faith that he did.
So why doesn’t he? Friends, instead of giving to you what he gave Thomas, he gives you more.
Thomas said to him, My Lord and My God!
Then Jesus told him, Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
When you have in the past, or continue to today, lock the doors of your heart for fear of what those around you might think—or even what your sinful nature might convince your own mind to believe or not believe—Jesus comes and stands among you.
Nothing you can construct to keep Jesus out is more powerful than he is and the promises that he gives to you. No matter how great your fear or your doubt, he promises that when you are in this place, when two or three of you are gathered together in his name, he will be here, too.
No, you may not see his face or be able to put your fingers where the nails were or put your hand into his side, but, instead, though his Word and Sacraments, he will bolster your faith to believe that when his workers stand in front of you and forgive your sins, they are forgiven. That when they counsel you through your marriage struggles, sit next to your hospital bed to pray with you, plan your spouse’s funeral service with you, or baptize your infant son or daughter, that Jesus himself is sending the Holy Spirit to be received into your heart to trust in him and his love and plans for you all the more.
He doesn’t show you his hands, feet, or side, but rather he explains to you why his hands, feet, and side were pierced. They were pierced for your transgressions, he was crushed for your iniquities. The punishment that brought you peace was upon him and by his wounds you have been healed.
The power isn’t in what you can see. The power comes in what he strengthens you to believe.
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
These words, contained in a book, sent daily through your email, received through text messages, and preached day in and day out in this congregation were written not only to help you overcome any doubts that you might have, but to forgive you for those doubts and give you peace with your God and peace in your heart.
Whenever you feel your knees becoming weak like water, either because of the doubts that come calling or the dangers in this world that surround you, be even bolder than Thomas was with his unbelievable request.
Talk to your invisible best friend in the sky and listen to him as he responds through the words of a 2000 year old book. Remember that a man wearing a long flowy robe once sprinkled a little bit of tap water on your head and pronounced you a child of God. Believe that God overcame that talking snake by means of your God, who was born of a virgin, walked on water, and died the death of a criminal. And, in celebration and remembrance of that victory won for you, come and eat his flesh and drink his blood.
Through his Word and sacraments, Jesus appears to you. Believe it and have life in his name—now and forever. Amen.