April 24, 2022: 1st Sunday after Easter

Let us pray: Dear Lord Jesus, we have been washed clean of sin and shame by Your precious blood.  We have been given the gift of a heavenly home through faith in Your Easter victory.  We have reaped countless spiritual, physical, and emotional blessings as a result of Your loving triumph over the cross on our behalf.  And yet, because we are still confined to frail flesh and blood, at times we doubt.  At times we are plagued by worry and uncertainty as to whether all of this true and as to whether it is really for us.  At times, we even worry that perhaps you have forgotten about us.  Today dispel those fears and doubts as You once did with the disciples in that locked room.  And as in their case, replace such worry with fearless, unending joy!  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM GOD OUR FATHER AND THE LORD OF THE GRAVE, JESUS CHRIST!

TEXT:  John 20: 19-31

Fellow Redeemed In the Easter King!

          Everywhere you turn, you run into straw men.  That is, you run into people who caricature the Christian faith and then take great delight in crumpling up that caricature and tossing it away into the waste basket of stupidity and unbelief.  One of the favorite straw man arguments used to attack Christianity is called: blind faith.  How often have you read or been told that your faith really is blind?  Some will tell you: “How do you know Christ arose?  Did you see Him?  You weren’t there!”  Others will say: “Why do you think you’re always right?  Has God appeared to you and told you something special?Still others will say: “If God’s really in your corner, than ask Him to do something extraordinary and then perhaps I’ll accept it.”  Try as you might to answer such unbelief, in the end such people will laugh with derision: “Yours is just a blind faith.  You are no different from any other religions of this world.  Marx was right, ‘religion is the opiate for the unthinking masses.’  You’re a weak-willed person who needs an emotional crutch, but I’m better than that!”

          Is our faith really so blind?  Is it really so unproveable and undefendable?  Does our faith have nothing to do with reality, with rationality?  Is our faith based on human subjective whims and emotions?  Is it so totally divorced from reason and the brain?  Is that what Christ had in mind when He said: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed?”  Of course not!  For does not the Bible say: “Test the spirits to see whether they are of God?”  Have not all things in the Bible been written for our learning and knowledge?  Have not the Scriptures been written so that our faith can rest on more than sin-tainted human emotions and whims?  Did not God act in time and space, in human history, via the cross and the empty tomb to give us a reason for believing?  Indeed He did!  And therefore when unbelief rears its arrogant head with one of those straw man arguments against Christianity, our response can and should be:

BLIND FAITH IS NO FAITH!

I

          Christ lived and died here on terra firma, planet earth.  That’s a fact.  Granted, maybe we weren’t there to witness it, but countless others were.  And they have given us their eyewitness accounts in Holy Writ.  Isn’t the eyewitness testimony of 2 or 3 or 4 enough for the courts of our land to discern the truth?  Isn’t such eyewitness testimony enough to go forward and operate on?  You certainly do exactly that when 3 different accountants confirm that you owe X amount of taxes.  You do exactly that when 3 different mechanics all diagnose the same problem with your car.  You do exactly that when 3 eyewitnesses confirm to you, the jury, that the defendant really did steal that Lexus they were driving.  We humans weigh evidence and then either accept it or reject it.  So, let’s now weigh our text.

          “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, 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.” 

          Here we have a room full of witnesses.  Obviously they were not filled with a great deal of faith in Christ’s resurrection at this point.  They were skeptical.  They were hard to convince.  Even though they had seen His miracles and, heard the reports from the women and Peter that Christ was alive again; even though  the two disciples from Emmaus had just arrived to tell them of their encounter with the resurrected Christ, and even though they surely wanted to believe—they weren’t ready just yet to put their faith in Jesus’ resurrection.  Why?  Because they feared the Jews who had killed Christ.  They feared that a similar fate awaited them.  Self preservation is the greatest of all instincts.  We see here that self-preservation was their chief motivator—not belief in the resurrection.  Otherwise they wouldn’t have been hiding in that locked room.

          Next, the unexpected happens.  Christ appears!  He miraculously is just there in their midst!  He doesn’t have to walk through the door.  After all, it’s locked.  And yet, He appears because He’s God.  And not some ghostly form of God, but a physical reality that they can touch and feel.  Note how He shows them His hands and feet.  Luke’s account says that Jesus told them to touch Him, too.  But here we hear that the first words from His mouth were: “Peace be with you!”  Christ came to give inner peace instead of turmoil and emotional chaos.  Indeed, the Christian faith is all about peace.  Peace of conscience and peace of soul.  It worked, here, too.  For we’re told: “They were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.”  Christ’s resurrection banishes fear and the uncertainty that it  breeds.

          Next, He empower them, and through them all Christians, to do the very same thing—to banish fear.  He empowers them to give the blessings of Easter peace and forgiveness of sins to sinners who acknowledge their need of it.  “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.  And with that He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’”

          Christ’s physical resurrection proved that He is God.  It proves that His victory over sin and death is a definite reality.  It proves that He has the power to forgive sins—for only God can do that.  Thus, any and every time that we forgive sins, the power of His cross and His empty tomb is transferred through us to that sorrowful sinner who longs for it.  And even though Christ may not be physically present here this morning, His Word and the peace it conveys is!  Peace Be With You!

II

          So far we’ve seen that Jesus’ resurrection created confidence among those fearful followers.  But if their testimony isn’t enough for it to create confidence in you, then listen up!  “Now Thomas was not with the disciples when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘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.”

          Obviously Thomas was not easily convinced.  He was a thoroughly modern man.  He wanted to scientifically test their claims with his eyes, his hands, and his senses.  He wanted to put the Lord God to the test.  That Thomas is exactly like every other Thomas out there—including you.  We want to believe.  We want to trust.  We want to be strong in the faith.  But often we are o so weak.  Often we worry that God doesn’t really love us, or that He’s forgotten about us, or that He can’t help us with a certain problem.  God’s Word may tell us one thing, and our heart goes and tells us something else.—But God is greater than our hearts and right here He proves it!

          “A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them.  Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’  Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands.  Reach out your hand and put it into my side.  Stop doubting and believe.’”

          When Thomas is off alone, worried, doubting, on edge—Christ still remembers him.  Christ cares for the individual.  And Christ will always seek us out and find us when we least expect it.  And although Christ may be physically absent from this earth today, His Word of comfort still comes!  He still bids you not to worry or fear.  He still gives you peace.—In the Word of absolution, in the waters of Baptism, and in His Holy Supper.  What’s your response to all this?

          Thomas’ response was: “My Lord and my God!”   That is to be the echo of every believer, too.  It is our confession.  It is our faith.  But it isn’t blind.  It was and still is based on reality.  The reality that Christ lived and died for us.  The reality that Christ still lives in heavenly glory—ready to come again to judge the living and the dead.  The reality that heaven really is our home.

          My friends, blind faith is a belief that has no basis in history.  Blind faith is based merely on an individual’s whims or personal prejudices.  Blind faith says: Me, me, me.  Blind faith is not the Christian faith!  For our faith is based on historical reality.  It is based on what God says instead of what I may think.  It comes from Him as a gift.  It focuses on Him.  It bows to Him, alone.  It doesn’t say: “My Lord and My God.”  Instead, it says: “My Lord and my God!

          Often we Christians are discontented because we cannot yet physically see Christ.  Somehow we think that if we were present, like Thomas, in that upper room that night we would possess an extra-special faith.  That we would then be blest in a extra-special way.  But instead of feeling sorry for yourself and thinking less of your faith, you need to heed the closing words of Christ to Thomas.  “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed!”  Amen

THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH SURPASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING KEEP AND GUARD YOUR HEARTS AND MINDS IN CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD. AMEN 

Pastor Thomas H. Fox