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Seeing is Believing? April 27, 2014

Posted by sandhandrews in Uncategorized.
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This is an updated sermon that you can find earlier on this blog.  Some changes were made, but the gist is the same.

 

John 20:19-31

Second Sunday after Easter

April 14-15, 2012

 

First Sunday after Easter

April 27, 2014

 

Focus: God raised His Son from the dead.

Function: That the hearers hope is firmly rooted in the gospel.

Structure: Here is a prevailing view, but here is the claim of the gospel.

 

Seeing is Believing?

 

Christ is risen!  (wait)

Our gospel lesson today has left one of the disciples branded.  Face it, when you think about the disciple Thomas, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?  Doubting.  Doubting Thomas.  It’s just the way it is.  But is it fair?  Should we really pin it all on him?

Often times we think it was just Thomas, but was it really?  On Easter morning, what did the women do?  Did they go to the tomb looking for a resurrected Lord?  Quite the opposite: they went to take care of the body.  And what about the rest of the disciples when the women came and told them?  Did the disciples rejoice?  No!  Peter and John went to try to figure out who had stolen the body as Pastor Fritsch mentioned last week.  And then they locked themselves up in a home and hid from the Jews.

We blame Thomas for doubting because he needed to see it to believe.  But look back at the text.  As the Greek says it, “The disciples were overjoyed having seen the Lord.”  They, like Thomas, needed to see it to believe it.  Until the resurrected Christ showed up in their midst and spoke with them, they doubted.  We’ll just have to face the facts: all of the disciples were doubters.  They all struggled to understand the message even when Jesus was with them.

But, was it really so bad that they wanted proof?  For those of you who don’t know my background, I was born and raised in Missouri, a state whose official nickname is the Show Me State.  There are a couple different origin stories for the nickname, but the most likely deals with Missouri’s first congressman, William Vandiver.  While serving on the House Committee on Naval Affairs, and perhaps fed up with political bickering, Mr. Vandiver questioned the accuracy of an earlier speaker’s comments.  “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me.  I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.”

Missourians aren’t alone in wanting proof of a matter.  We all do it, all the time.  Think of our justice system and how it revolves around the ability to produce evidence and witnesses.  If you go to the store to return an item, you have to provide proof of purchase, a receipt.  And at this point, unless you’re a real pessimist, if someone told you it was going to snow again today, you’d probably have to see it to believe it.

The disciples weren’t really any different.  Even though Jesus had already told them, they still didn’t quite get this concept of rising from the dead.  Seeing Lazarus raised didn’t help much, either.  And telling them that He would rise on the third day didn’t stop the women from going to the tomb that morning.

Let’s not mistake this for disciple-bashing.  It wasn’t some horrendous thing that the disciples needed to see it.  Notice, Christ didn’t scold them or yell at them.  Bear in mind what Christ said, “Peace be with you!”  And then He breathed on them and gave them the Holy Spirit.

Believe it or not, the real purpose of this text isn’t about the disciples, or Thomas, needing to see anything.  Instead it’s in what Christ instructed them to do.  “As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you.”  Get out from behind these locked doors and go share the good news.  Let the world know that I have been raised from the dead.

And then there’s what He said to Thomas: “Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  Christ’s concern in this passage is getting the message of His resurrection to as many people as possible.  His concern is for both Jew and Gentile.  His concern is for both you and me.

The problem in the text is that the disciples were hiding.  Their disbelief in Jesus’ resurrection caused them to fear the Jews and hide.  It prevented them from sharing the message of a Messiah.  And even after appearing to them once, they were still locked inside a week later.

In 1 Timothy, Paul tells us that God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”    That is also the clear mission that Jesus gave them in Matthew 28: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus’ own disciples, the men and women who had lived with Him during His ministry needed proof.  They had to see it to believe it.  But what’s that mean for everyone else?  The disciples would soon find out.  After Jesus left them, they eventually did unlock the doors and start preaching the Word.  They taught that Christ had indeed been raised from the dead.  Paul would tell the Corinthians that if they doubted the resurrection, they could go to any of the five hundred brothers who had seen the resurrected Christ and ask about it.  They baptized, they instructed, they made disciples.

Over the next couple of months we’ll be reading from the book of Acts, which recounts how Christ’s bride the church grew during that early period.  But there’s a lot of history between Acts and our present day, too much for me to handle in a sermon unless y’all like the dark ages.

But think about the world around us today.  We already talked about how people still want proof of things.  And it’s no different when they look at God.  How many Christians do you know that want proof of God?  Maybe you’re one of them right now.  Just a couple of weeks ago, as a congregation, we went and saw a movie together, God’s Not Dead.  It’s easy to see in that movie, and in the world around us, how people are trying to either prove, or disprove, the Bible.  Prove or disprove the existence of God.  Non-Christians want proof, or they say we should give up our faith.  We all want to be shown.  Missouri just admits it.

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  We fit that verse.  And we are indeed blessed.  We are blessed in that God would call us His children.  We are blessed in His love for us and the forgiveness that He has given to us through Christ.  We are blessed by the gift of everlasting life that God grants to His children.

Christ’s admonition to His disciples, to share the gospel with others, is still for us today.  We may not be able to show others a resurrected body of Christ; but, there is much we do have.

It is now precisely as John said, that “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.”  We have the Word of God, the Bible, printed in mass quantities that we can share.  And as the disciples did, we can talk about the message of salvation, forgiveness, and love that God offers.  In baptism, God still pours out His Spirit.  In the Lord’s Supper, the body and blood of Christ still bring forgiveness.  When your Pastor tells you that in the name of Christ, your sins are forgiven, they are forgiven.

The desire for proof plagues all men, those who believe and those who don’t.  But as we learn from one of our brothers, whoever wrote Hebrews, faith isn’t about proof.  “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  Assurance and conviction.  Although we haven’t seen it, we’re sure of it.  Our hope isn’t wishy-washy, our hope is certain.  Our faith is in God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  It’s in the relationship that He established with us as His people and as His children.  It’s in the forgiveness He died to give us.  It’s in the life He promised to us.  Indeed, we can be certain.  Christ is risen! wait

 

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