The First Reading from I John1:1-2:5
We declare to you what was from the :beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— 3we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. 5This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; 7but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. 4Whoever says, “I have come to know him,” but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; 5but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him:
The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John 20:19-31
19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” 26A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
It’s not too Late! – John 20—A homily by Mother Beth
Some people believe everything they hear or everything they read.
When you stop for groceries and you’re waiting for the cashier, it’s sometimes interesting to read the tabloid headlines. Some of the claims are so outrageous and it often causes me to chuckle about how ridiculous that form of media is. The other day though I saw a headline that made me wonder. It could have been true – maybe it is true and so that sent me in a search for some information to verify the story. I asked a few friends if they had heard anything and then I went on a little investigation around the internet. As yet, no other source has verified the story.
In the gospel reading today we hear the story of the disciples’ encounter with the risen Christ. First of all we should notice that the disciples are locked up in a room because of fear. Despite the fact that Mary Magdalene (as we heard last week in the gospel lesson) has seen Jesus and has reported that back to the disciples – they are not convinced – they are afraid. I point this out because we have often singled out Thomas as the only follower who doubted the resurrection but here we see the group of disciples locked in a room.
Jesus appears extends Peace to them and shows them his hands and feet.
When the disciples relay this information to Thomas – he is leery and declares that he will only believe if he sees for himself the hands and feet of Christ. But is this really all that surprising?
Mary did not recognize Jesus in the garden – probably because she did not expect to see him there. The other disciples did not declare the resurrection until they had had a personal encounter – then they said “We have seen the Lord”. Many people still question the finality of someone’s life until the can see the body and know that they are gone. Thomas wants to be sure. He will not put his faith in someone else’s say-so – he needs to know for himself.
It sounds like a tabloid headline – it could be true but, it’s also pretty sensational. They watched Jesus die a bloody and horrific death on the cross. Thomas knows that was no slight of hand, it was a brutal and torturous way to die and everyone was there watching.
But Thomas’ need for further proof is good news for us for a couple of reasons.
The good news on this second Sunday of Easter is that God wants to be in relationship with you – He wants to reveal himself to you – it is not too late – the journey is still ahead – you have not missed the boat.
The significance of Jesus showing them the wounds in his hands and side – is that he is assuring them that he is in fact the bodily resurrected Christ – he is not an apparition or a figment of their imagination. Once they realize that he is the Christ – they rejoice. But the journey does not end with the resurrection – John goes on to tell us that Jesus says to them “Peace be with you as the Father has sent me so send I you” – Just as Jesus was sent to them so they are now sent to others. They are commissioned by Jesus to go and to tell others about the forgiveness of sins.
You see they have been locked up in this room wondering what to do – afraid and probably more than a little disappointed — everything that they had hoped for and planned had ended and even once they realized that Christ had been raised, they were still left alone – Christ was gone but what did that mean for them?
But now Jesus appears before them and gives them new instructions. It is not over – they have work to do and they are motivated by seeing Christ – resurrected – in the flesh – but also his words of commissioning – sending them off to keep up the work of the ministry – to continue preaching the kingdom of God.
And then we catch up with Thomas. Somehow Thomas has missed the meeting with Jesus and he is not content to just take the others word for it. HE now insists that he too must not only see with his own eyes to believe – he insists that he must put his hand in Jesus side before he will believe.
The church has traditionally given Thomas a hard time for not believing the word of the other disciples; calling him “Doubting Thomas”. I, however, am encouraged by his determination to see for himself.
So if you are disappointed today – if things have not turned out the way you had hoped or planned, be encouraged. Thomas could have thought he had missed it – there was one opportunity and he was off doing something else. But instead of giving up and assuming that he doesn’t need to know, Thomas insists that he see for himself.
Don’t settle for less than a real encounter with the living Christ – Thomas doesn’t – he is bold enough to admit that he is not interested in just taking the word of the other disciples – he wants the full experience himself – and why shouldn’t he get it – the others did?
How badly do you want to know the truth? Are you interested in a real experience or content to just take someone else’s word for it. In the last year we have heard a lot about “Fake News” and we have been inundated with poorly researched information through social media and the internet. Don’t settle for someone else’s opinion. Don’t just believe everything you see or hear. Don’t just pass along or forward those cute little sayings. Many times we are just too lazy or too tired to do the work of researching to find the truth. Often it is the same with church, we want someone to tell us the answer but, the truth is to be sought after. It is good to listen to others but we should not check our brains at the door – we need to seek and find.
Thomas insists on a personal experience – and a week later, Jesus shows up and shows Thomas his hands and his side; allowing Thomas to touch and be sure that He is in fact, present in bodily form. It’s not too late. Thomas did not miss the opportunity. Jesus takes the time to alleviate whatever doubts there are. Thomas is not content with the reports of the other disciples nor is he content with seeing Jesus. Thomas wants real connection – he wants to touch the very scars of the Lord, himself. There is something really interesting about this level of intimacy – touch is an important connection. Thomas is determined to really prove that this is the same Jesus – the–bodily resurrected Jesus – not some memory or vision but the real thing.
And the good news for us is that the encounter does not end there. Jesus goes on to affirm those who will believe without seeing. This is a word of encouragement for those who would read John’s gospel from that time to the present time and beyond. It’s not too late!
Jesus is speaking to us – encouraging and blessing us – for believing without seeing him in the flesh – for persevering in faith even if we have questions or so called “doubts”.
Thomas was brave to voice his demands – to insist that he get his own opportunity to see and feel Christ.
Are you brave enough to ask God for the assurance that you need?
Do you have doubts that need to be laid to rest? It is not too late to have an encounter with the risen Lord. It is not too late to believe.
God wants to hear your concerns and questions – HE can handle them.
And once you’ve had an encounter – the good news is – it’s not over – there is still more for you. Christ comes speaking peace and breathing the Holy Spirit into and over you so that you might go out and tell others about the forgiveness that you have found in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Easter Sunday may be over – the excitement and anticipation set aside but we are not finished – we have not missed the opportunity – there are still many opportunities to be taken and experienced.
This is just the beginning of our ministry – Christ calls us to take up his charge and to go and tell. The words he uses here are powerful.
23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
God gives us the responsibility to help others come to an understanding of forgiveness.
One commentator put it this way, “Jesus is not giving his disciples some special power to decide whose sins will be forgiven and whose will not. Rather, he is further specifying what it means to be sent, to make known the love of God that Jesus himself has made known. As people come to know and abide in Jesus, they will be “released” (aphiemi) from their sins. If, however, those sent by Jesus fail to bear witness, people will remain stuck in their unbelief; their sins will be “retained” or “held onto” (kratéo). The stakes of this mission are very high indeed.”
The good news is – it’s not too late for us – for God to reveal himself to us – for God to use us. But it is also good news for those around us – in our homes – in our community – it is not too late for them – God wants us to go out and reveal his love to them – to show them the good news of God’s forgiveness. To make space for them to have a real encounter and connection with the living Christ.
Easter Sunday may be over – but it’s not too late.