19 Apr Believe Without Seeing
Sermon: “Believe Without Seeing”
Scripture: Psalm 16 and John 20: 19-31
April 19, 2020
Jesus, Savior, Resurrected Messiah,
we come before you from different paths: some of us certain
of your joyful presence in our lives, some of us not so certain
of the hope of being touched by your joy.
Yet we are all here, reaching out to you: for understanding,
for hope, for joy and for peace. Amen
Scripture reading today is from Psalm 16 and John 20:24-31
One of my personality flaws is that I can, at times, be eager to accept what someone says. Someone hits a hole in one on the golf course. I’ll believe them. Why would someone lie about that? Occasionally, I’ll ask someone, have you been reading your Bible every day? And they respond, of course I have. I believe them. Or, everyone’s favorite, I caught a fish and it was this big. Of course, there are not lying.
So, what if someone told you that they had just seen Jesus. That Jesus had just appeared in the room and they had a conversation with Him. If it was me, I would probable say something like … you need to take just a little more or a little less of your medication. But this crazy story of Jesus appearing and speaking to the other Apostles is exactly what happened to the Apostle Thomas. Thomas, or doubting Thomas as he is known today, had not been with the other disciples when Jesus first appeared to them after the resurrection. When they told him about seeing Jesus his first reaction was a normal one – he did not believe them.
Thomas had a healthy skepticism, and like most people he would not believe until he first had some proof. And he did not hesitate to tell the others that unless I see the nail marks in his hands”, and put my hand in his side, I will not believe it”.
Like Thomas, we want some evidence before we accept what other people tell us, particularly when they are describing something that seems impossible.
Like many of us, Thomas would not believe until he saw for himself the marks on Jesus’ body. I believe that no one can fault him for that, particularly since he was being confronted with a story that simply defies human comprehension. If you remember, Jesus had said numerous times he was going die and he would rise again, but nobody seemed to understand him or really believe him. I doubt if anybody seriously expected Jesus to come back to life. I mean, healing the sick and feeding large crowds is one thing. But coming back from the dead after having been killed by Roman crucifixion is something entirely different. Despite all the times he had told his friends he would rise again on the third day, Jesus was buried. And I doubt any of them are expecting to see him alive again. But the post resurrection Jesus is different from what Jesus was like before he was crucified. He can now appear and disappear at will. And he suddenly appeared in locked rooms to the astonishment of His disciples and friends.
In our world today, there are many issues that Christians in different churches disagree on, such as theological truth, the inherency of scripture, what books are in the Bible, the nature of the Eucharist, which theories of atonement we accept, and so on.
I believe that the resurrection of Jesus is essential to the Christian faith. People who identify as Christians must believe Jesus is risen from the dead. And I firmly believe that if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, the Church would be little more than a new age self-help club. St Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12-14 “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is worthless, and so is your faith.”
Because of our sinful ways, humankind was estranged from God, but we were given a way to be reconciled. And that way was for God to become fully human in Jesus the Christ. Jesus went to the cross with self-sacrificing love, and he triumphed over death and sin with his resurrection. And because of his sacrifice, we too share in his risen life.
Brothers and Sisters, all of us have scars somewhere on our body, which have accumulated over the years, and more often than not, there is a story connected to these scars. Because these scars are reminders of one experience or the other. Some of these scars serve up pleasant memories, and some scars are a badge of honor. However, other scars serve as painful reminders of bad decisions and willful mistakes on our part. Some scars are mysteriously present, and we are not quite sure as to how they got there in the first place. And although some scars may be small and insignificant, or barely visible. Yet, we still wish that we could trace their origin.
Our lord Jesus Christ’s, most visible scars were proof that he had changed the course of history. It was those scars, left from the nails in his hands and feet and from the spear thrust into his side, that enabled the disciples to identify him as the risen Lord.
Jesus freely showed them his scars so that they would know that he was indeed fully alive. His friends could touch him to prove to themselves that he was no figment of their imagination. Those scars bore a special message too, that pain and suffering are inescapable. Every one of us will have these experiences of pain and suffering, in varying degrees, but we can rise above them and become transformed by the power of the risen Christ.
Perhaps the most difficult scars to deal with are those not visible to the human eye. The most painful are those scars which now mark the surface of our heart. The origin of these scars lie in the stories of things done and left undone. Some of these scars we are responsible for; and some scars other people may be held accountable for. Yet, when we see in our minds the scars on our hearts which we are solely responsible for, we want desperately to remove them right away.
On the other hand, the scars left on our hearts by others, allow us to maintain them as resentments because for us they are reminders of our right to be angry over the mistakes of others. These are the scars which are used by us to distance ourselves from those other people. And, this, in turn, grants us the opportunity not to forgive them. The invisible scars we carry around day after day, year after year are the ones that create all kinds of problems in our minds. And until they are removed, by accepting the risen Christ as our Lord and Savior, God is unable to make his presence strongly felt in our hearts…because we are blocking Him out of our lives.
Just like when have a reaction to our physical scars, our psychological scars, develop fears about loving, trusting, feeling, and forgiving. Just like us, when we are living in fear, the disciples had withdrawn themselves from the public eye and had resigned themselves to a secret room in fear of the Romans. But Jesus’ appearing to them brought a new perspective.
First of all, His very presence suggested hope. And, contrary to their current thinking, all was not lost including their faith. The fact that Jesus willingly showed them his scars was an indication to them that he understood their fear and he held no grudge against any of them. And the way he spoke to them confirmed his never-ending love for them.
As we endure to live and to grow, we will continue to gather scars, both visible and invisible. But with faith in the Easter message we can cast away all doubt of God’s love for us. We don’t need to see the scars in Jesus’ body to believe. God has given us the Bible. So, as we read the scriptures, we know the story is true. We understand that the disciples would not have given their lives for a false story. People don’t spend their lives traveling around the countryside telling the story of a risen Messiah unless it’s true. And when telling the story, they didn’t ask for money, or fame, or recognition. All they wanted was for the people they encountered to believe in Jesus and be baptized. In other words, how can we know that the resurrection story of Jesus is true? To put it simply…people don’t die for a lie.
So, what about you? Will you believe without seeing? Will you trust in the story of the resurrection?
Do you believe without seeing that Jesus is alive and sits at the right hand of God? Or, do you need more proof than a story that has remained unchanged for 2,000 years. And by the way this story also comes with a book, called the Bible. And this book corroborates the story of Jesus.
Friends, the choice is yours. Will you continue to live in doubt? Or, will you make a decision today to believe in the risen Christ without seeing him standing in your home? Amen
Let us Pray
Gracious God, as the disciples were locked in a room of fear, bring Jesus to us as we live in quarantine. If we act like Thomas, full of doubt, we pray that Jesus turns to us and gives us comfort.
God, we continue to pray for all those affected by the corona virus. Please give then the strength they need to endure and to triumph over this disease. We pray for health and happiness of all those in our church family. Give us all peace and comfort during this time of separation.
God, in Your great mercy, I pray today that you grant us a new birth into a living hope, for it is the risen Christ who stands in our midst and says, “Peace be with you!”
Help us to cast away the scars of our heart so that we can truly be the hands and feet of Christ during these difficult times. Amen