This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Amen.
He is risen! Were you there? Were you there when Jesus rose from the grave, or when he appeared to his two disciples on the way to Emmaus? Were you there when he first showed up to the gathering of his disciples? No. You weren’t. But wouldn't it be awesome to have been there from some of those events? And not just for the resurrection, but for all of his ministry! Just imagine you were there when Jesus fed the thousands of hungry listeners after a long day of preaching. To see him turn a little bit of bread and fish into a feast for all of those people! Okay. I admit that I like photoshop.
Or how about when Jesus was walking on the water? His disciples fighting the storm and terrified to see someone walking across the lake to them. How about being there to see Jesus heal the all of those people who were terribly sick? The miracles would have been great, but to just sit and listen to Jesus as he preached to the huge crowd of people during his famous “Sermon on the Mount.” To hear the words of God as he speaks directly at you. That would be awesome. Or how about being at Jerusalem for Palm Sunday? Just seeing all of the people shouting praises to Jesus and honoring him as he came into the Holy City. Or how about being there when Jesus prayed in the quiet of the Garden while all of his disciples slept. That would be amazing. Especially knowing what he was facing. How about being there at his crucifixion? Terrible to see, but just to witness the love of our Lord who willingly faced our punishment and death. How about being there when the took his lifeless body from the cross and prepared him for burial? Sad. Hard to watch. But then being there for Easter morning when he wasn't in the tomb? I bet you wish you could have seen all of that.
Despite nearly indisputable photographic evidence, I wasn't there either. For any of those events. I also wasn't there when the angel spoke to Mary. I wasn't there at the Stable to bow down with the shepherds. I wasn't there when Jesus spoke with the teachers in the temple as a child. I wasn't at the wedding in Cana. I wasn't there for any of Jesus’ earthly ministry. I wasn’t there at his arrest. I wasn't there as his death. And no, I didn't see his resurrection. And when Jesus showed up to his disciples on that first Easter Sunday? I wasn't there either. But I know it happened. I know he was born. You know that he is the son of God. We know that he lived a perfect life and that he died on a cross to pay for all of our sins. And we know that he rose again on that first Easter Sunday. Despite it happening thousands of years ago. We know. Because "These (words) are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:31)
Whenever we look at Thomas, it’s hard not to think of him as a fool. How could he not believe? Jesus had promised his disciples that he would rise from the dead. And even if they didn’t understand, the women on that first Easter morning had come running back with strange news of an empty grave and a message that Jesus would appear to them later. But even he ignored what they said, all of his friends said the same thing: We have seen Jesus! He appeared right in front of us! But Thomas didn’t understand. Maybe it was because he was overcome with grief. And can we blame him? His Lord, his friend had died. Thomas saw the result. The burial of the promised Messiah. The end of all of Thomas’ hopes and dreams. There is no way that some imaginary visions from his friends was going to tell him differently. Thomas was like us. He wanted facts. He wanted to see for himself. He needed proof.
Do you consider yourself a doubting Thomas? I don’t want to think of myself one, but honestly: I am. We doubt so often. Not Jesus. We still have faith in our Savior. We know what he has done. But we doubt.
We know that God tells us that he will use all things for our good. But so often it just becomes something we say. Do we really believe it? Looking at the sharp edge of job loss, or relationship difficulty, or a medical diagnosis that we didn’t want to hear, are we so willing to just agree with Paul “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.” (2 Corinthians 12:10a)? Hold on now Paul. Let’s not get hasty! Don’t get me wrong: it’s not wrong to struggle with hardships. It's perfectly understandable for us to feel sad. To wonder what good will come from the problems facing us. But there is a difference between not knowing how God will work good and doubting that he can or will. How often have we been in the storms of life and cried out to God “Do something! Don’t you care about me God? Can’t you tell that I’m sinking over here?” It's okay to cry. It's okay to wonder. It's okay to call out for God and ask for his help, his strength, and for patience. But when we start wondering if God hears us or if he's asleep and not paying attention then we need to remember how Jesus responded to his disciples, including Thomas. Do you remember when the disciples were in a real boat in the middle of a storm and Jesus was taking a nap? They thought that Jesus wouldn’t help them in the storm: "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" (Matthew 8:26)
But it’s not always just during the storms of life that we doubt. How about when sin has us crushed? When Satan whispers those lies in our ears: “You have sinned too much, too terribly for God to forgive you. You keep saying you’re sorry but then end up in the same sin again. Do you really think God will forgive this? Look at all of those you have hurt.
Is there really forgiveness for this?” It’s easy to believe those lies: “Surely God forgives sins...but he can't forgive me.” And so we find ourselves standing next to Thomas. We need proof. Not of Jesus resurrection, but proof that will put aside our fears and wipe away our anxiety. That he really does forgive our sins. He is risen! He is risen indeed! And by his resurrection we know that we are forgiven. "All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." (Acts 10:43) Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have all the proof we need. It's in the life of our Savior who lived every day for us. It's in the suffering we saw him go through: the beatings, the whippings, the blood that flowed from the cuts on his back and the droplets that ran down his face from where the crown of thorns pierced him. We see it in how he carried that cross to the point of
exhaustion. We hear it with every ringing of the hammer hitting the nails. We see it in how he carried our sins on the cross as more blood ran from his wrists and feet and he struggled with breath. We see it as he cried his victory: "It is finished." We see his love as the son of man, the son of God died in our place. But the greatest proof was the empty tomb on Easter morning. Later that first day he stood among his disciples who were hiding and afraid of the Jews.
And he said to them: "Εἰρήνη ὑμῖν" Peace be to you. And they knew peace. God had kept his promises. Jesus had paid for all the sins of his people, all people. Peace knowing that they were forgiven. Peace in knowing that God's promise of eternal life was theirs! Peace because they knew God hadn’t abandoned them. But there was one missing. Thomas
wasn't there for that announcement. And Thomas refused to believe. It would take a miracle to move Thomas to believe. The words of his friends weren't enough. It would take a face to face experience, a hands on kind of thing. So Jesus came back a week later. Kind of like today. "Peace be to you! Do you see me Thomas? See my hands? Touch them.
See my side? Touch it." And Thomas believed. Unlike Thomas we have never seen Jesus face to face. We haven't touched his hands or touched the wound in his side. But we don't have to. We have something just as good and as powerful: the very Word of God. Through his Word in the Bible God works faith in us so that we know and believe. Through faith we have that same peace that Jesus brought that first Easter Sunday. "Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls." (1 Peter 1:8-9)
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we weren't there for his miracles. We never sat and listened to him preach to the crowds. We didn't see Jerusalem shout for joy when Jesus arrived riding on a donkey. We weren't there less than a week later when Jerusalem screamed for his blood. We didn't see his suffering or death. We weren't at his empty tomb or see Jesus
appear to his disciples when he brought peace to the worried and sad. But we know who he is. We know those things all happened, and that they happened for us. We know that Jesus did all of those things to live, suffer, die, and rise again to give us eternal life. But how could we? We didn't see them happen! We haven’t touched God. But God moves us. He has told us all about these things so that we can have peace. Peace when the world seems to be falling apart. Peace when we don’t know where else to turn because we know that God is working for us. Peace when guilt and shame over our sins threatens to overwhelm us because we know that Jesus has conquered all of our sins. We have peace because God
shows us exactly who he is in his Word. And "these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." Amen.
The peace of God , which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.