Let us pray: Dear Savior: thank You for the comforting truth of Your resurrection! Thank You for rising to life, thereby giving us the benefits of Your new life by faith! Thank You for going directly to the disciples and assuring them that You live again and through faith both they and all of us will live, too! May we never turn away from Your gracious presence and outstretched hands. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR LIVING LORD!
TEXT: John 20: 19-31
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Does God Almighty really care about you? Does God Almighty really seek you out and try to comfort you when your conscience is troubled and agitated? Dr. Luther struggled with this issue numerous times. He once wrote about a corpus Christi procession where Dr. Staupitz, his confessor, carried the sacrament through the church. He says: “I went along, dressed in my priestly robes, but I was terrified.” Terrified at having Christ physically “there” in the church! Luther just didn’t feel worthy. Later, he talked to Dr. Staupitz about it. The wise man said: “Your thoughts are not of Christ.” And Luther was comforted. For Christ offers Himself to us together with the forgiveness of sins, yet we often flee from Him.
Luther then went on to tell another story of when he was a boy. The schoolboys literally sang for their food, as the boarding school they attended had meager fare. A townsmen jokingly cried out: “What are you boys up to? May this or that evil overtake you!” At the same time, the tradesman ran toward them with a handful of sausages offering them as a gift—while the boys took to their heels in fear. This is precisely what God does to each of us. He gives us Christ with all His gifts, and yet we flee from Him and regard Him as our judge.
These two little stories illustrate the truth behind today’s lesson, the doubting Thomas text. And so, as we ponder this lesson, don’t ever forget that:
OUR GRACIOUS GOD COMES TO OFFER US COMFORT
Fearful, downcast, and plagued with guilt many of the disciples gathered together in the now famous upper room on Easter evening. The doubts and second-guessing that plagued their consciences is clear from the fact that “the doors were locked for fear of the Jews.” We can only imagine the scene and the whispered conversations that went on. But, it must have been a very sad picture.
Suddenly, “Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” Just think, in an instant their thoughts went from: “God must consider me a worthless worm whom He hates, to: “Wow! God still loves and cares about me!” Why the sudden change of heart? Because our gracious God comes to offer them comfort and peace in the person of Jesus Christ! You see, God doesn’t operate like we do. He never repays evil with evil, or betrayal with betrayal. He repays evil with good! Why? Because He loves sinners just like us.
Then, because they needed some direction, something to do that they could sink their teeth into, our loving Lord gives them new marching orders. He breathes on them the power of the Holy Spirit and commands them to act as His ambassadors around the world by forgiving the sins of the sorrowful and withholding forgiveness from those who didn’t care about repentance and faith. Suddenly these men went from aimless lives of despair to purpose-driven lives of holy joy. Suddenly they had a reason to live.
Thomas, the doubter, wasn’t with them that night. Apparently he was off sulking and feeling sorry for himself. Do you do that when you’re upset? Do you withdraw into a cocoon to lick your wounds? Well, many do. In any case, these purpose-driven disciples immediately started to carry out Christ’s command to them. They found Thomas and got him to come back to their midst. They told him: “We have seen the Lord!” But, Thomas was a tough nut to crack—just like most of us. So, he announced conditions for acceptance of them and their message of resurrection. “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!” Again, one can only wonder what the other disciples thought of this prideful posturing?
But, they stuck with Thomas and he with them. Love goes a long way in re-cementing human bonds. And a week later all of them, including Thomas, were in the upper room once more. It is interesting to note that John records how the doors were again locked.—Obviously doubts still assailed the whole group as to God’s gracious goodness. And once again, Jesus suddenly appears in their midst and announces: “Peace be with you!” Christ especially singles out Thomas this time and tells him to touch His nail marks and to put his hand into His side. Then He says to him: “Stop doubting and believe!” And Thomas responds: “My Lord and my God!”
Our gracious God comes to offer them comfort. He does so corporately to the whole group and individually to Thomas. What seems too good to be true was and is true! The Lord is risen! He has come back from death to apply the comfort of His victory to them and now to us! We know that to be true in our case because Jesus adds these words: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Christ’s care and compassion for hurting sinners doesn’t end there either. No, “Jesus did many other miraculous sings 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.”
My friends, our God is just like that compassionate tradesman who ran after hungry boys holding out free food to them. And we’re those fearful boys who run away from Him. We run away because of guilt-ridden consciences. We run away because we fear showing our weakness—we call such weakness repentance in the church. We run away because we can’t imagine Him not having an angle, not wanting something from us which will cost us more in the end than it’s worth. But still He runs. He runs because our freedom cost Him death on a cross. He runs because He loves us. He runs because He wants to give us food which lasts eternally. He runs because He wants us to understand that He’s not angry with us anymore since Christ took away His anger over our unbelief and paid for it with His death.
Today holy communion is celebrated in our midst. Today Christ again comes running toward us with soul food. As you run away from Him, look over your shoulder and see His loving face. Hear Him say: “Peace be with you!” And then stop! Stop running by fixing your gaze on Christ alone! Doubts, fears, and worry will then cease. Yes, by fixing your gaze on Christ you’ll walk over the troubled waters of life. All this is so because in Christ, Our Gracious God Comes to Offer Us Comfort! Alleluia! Amen