Posted on Sun, Apr 15, 2012
[b]April 15, 2012[/b]
[b]Second Sunday in Easter[/b]
[b]Gospel Text: John 20:19-31[/b]
[b]Jesus Appears to the Disciples[/b]
19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’
[b]Jesus and Thomas[/b]
24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’ 26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 27 Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ 28 Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ 29 Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’
[b]The Purpose of This Book[/b]
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
So, with the ever-increasing cost of gasoline, I hear you are looking for a new car… I got something for you… it gets between 600 to 1000 miles per gallon and it runs on gasoline, or salt water… which ever is cheapest. It’s beautiful, powerful, and is a dream to drive! Oh, and the price? Only $49.99! Yes, you heard me right, only $49.99! The only problem is that I don’t have it here, and I don’t have any pictures. You will just have to pay me the money and go pick it up at this secret place. How about it? Good price, great car, you just can’t see it or kick the tires before you give me your money… Do we have a deal?
After reading this text, I feel sorry for every person named “Tom” or “Thomas” and the unnecessary moniker, “Doubting Thomas.”
Thomas was not being a ‘doubter,’ he just needed to kick the tires on this car/story that seemed to him to be too good to be true.
Can you really blame him? Just a few days earlier, he saw Jesus dead on a cross and his body being put into a tomb and sealed with a stone… I know there is no reason for the women and the disciples to lie, but really! Rising from the dead? Even though that is the greatest hope any one of them could have, that is just too much to even, ‘believe!’
The Evangelist John, wasn’t interested in telling us about a “Doubting Thomas,” but he was trying to tell us the Good News that through the Cross of Christ the disciples witnessed a fully resurrected flesh and blood, air breathing Christ and therefore what Jesus taught and proclaimed were true, therefore they were now [b][u]standing in the total presence of the Peace of God.[/u][/b]
Look at the setting. You can feel the tension, the doors are locked, and nobody would be able to come in our go out. They are afraid because the image in their minds is of themselves all nailed to the cross just like Jesus was… In their minds they picture the Romans, the crowds, and the religious leaders coming after them in order to make a statement to all those who were followers of this renegade rabbi from Nazareth, that his little movement was over. “If you want to follow this Jesus, who is now in his tomb, you will be treated like Jesus, and nailed to the cross.” The disciples are terribly afraid, because logic and reason tells them that most likely they will soon share their masters’ fate. [b][i][u]Faith and hope won’t become real, until Jesus comes back to lift them out of their abyss of fear![/u][/i][/b]
But a locked door was not enough to stop Jesus from entering into their presence. A locked door could never keep Jesus from the ones he loves. And because he knows the fear in their hearts, he greets them with a wonderful salutation, ‘Peace be with you.’ For all the grammar-Nazis out there, does this really make sense?
The Greek is clear, he is not saying, “May the peace of God be upon you.” He is making a statement, “Because I am standing before you, fully alive and fully present, YOU TRUE SOURCE OF ALL PEACE is with you… RIGHT NOW!”
Because Jesus was obedient to the promise of salvation and gave his life on that cross and then rose again in order to fulfill the promise of eternal life and God’s real presence, that fact that Jesus is standing before them, Jesus IS their PEACE, Jesus IS their HOPE, Jesus IS their JOY, and Jesus is standing right before their eyes.
Jesus loves his beloved disciples and he understands their fear, and he has come to them to comfort them, to reassure them, to hold them, to allow them to be the human beings they were meant to be and to touch him.
I picture the moment is a little like when your child, or some child has fallen and scraped their knee, or if they are afraid because a loud sound and you wrap your arms around them and by holding them and reassure them with kind words like, “Everything is okay, I (your provider and protector) is here. I have you now, everything is going to be okay.”
The text is not about doubt, but about peace; the peace which surpasses all understanding, that we receive through the obedience of Christ, when we know, feel and believe that our Risen Lord, is closer than the air we breathe, and when we go through life’s struggles, valleys and tragedies, it is especially at those times Jesus comes to us, holds us and says, “I am your peace, and I am here with you, and I will never let you go because you are my child.”
John the Evangelist wanted us to know that the resurrected Jesus was not some kind of ethereal, ghostly apparition. [b][u]The promise is, ‘resurrection’ in all senses of the word.[/u][/b] Just like it is very important for us to see the body of our loved ones at a wake, it was essential for Thomas to feel and touch a very alive, warm and even slightly sweaty Jesus.
Yesterday, a group of 22 youth and some adults went to the Dalai Lama at the Stan Sheriff center. It was a wonderful event with music, dance and teachings from a wise Buddhist Monk who has won the Nobel Peace Prize, was run out of his own country yet now hear in Hawaii along with a wonderful organization called, Pillars for Peace, proclaimed a message of Compassion, Harmony, Interdependence and Aloha to the students of our islands.
I was very moved at how many people gathered together and hung on every word he spoke. As a Tibetan Monk he spoke a great deal about happiness and how to be, or become happy. Some people are very open to his words as they are taught with great sincerity, and according the Buddhist teaching help the followers to ‘find’ happiness on their own. There is no god, as such, in Buddhism, but it is a beautiful ‘system’ that a person ‘lives’ or bases his or her lives around.
It is a fine teaching, but the teaching teaches us how ‘we can, on our own,’ [i]find[/i] happiness. It is always better to have a community, but your happiness is ultimately up to you. This is fine, and many self-help books follow these principles, but in today’s Bible text, we hear something different.
I really appreciated his explanation of two levels of compassion. The first level is “biological.” This is when we feel bad for something or someone and it is visceral. We ‘feel bad’ but we don’t make any effort to acknowledge any relationship with the victim. This really isn’t compassion at all.
The second level is when we are moved put ourselves into the person suffering. We feel their pain, and we are moved even to action. Relieving the pain, caring for the person, becoming active in rectifying the situation, and work without any expectation of being paid back in any way. This is real compassion.
According to the Christian texts, there is a powerful and unbreakable relationship between our Creator God and us. There is no ‘saving of ourselves.’ There comes a time when we are the disciples in this text cowering in the corner wondering when are they coming after me? Even if I open the door and run, I am trapped in the midst of my enemies and there is no way out. No Chuck Norris self-help book is going to save you!
Here we see God, in Jesus Christ, initiating compassion and taking action first. Even if we have doubt, the doubt is not going to slow down Jesus from coming to our aid and salvation. Jesus hears our cries and knows our needs; therefore Jesus comes to stand in the middle of his frightened disciples and says, “Peace is with you because I am with you.” The difference between the Christian and Buddhist expression, is that we talk about God in Christ making the first moves to ‘save’ us, to come to our rescue.
For Christians, it is not a system to be worked, but a faith that is to be believed. I need to hear someone hear my cries, hold me and tell me, “Don’t worry, I am here, I have you.”
When we are afraid, Jesus is our Peace. When we are anxious, Jesus is our Joy. When we feel empty or hollow, Jesus is our Hope. When we know that are one with God and God is one with us, Jesus is our Love. Amen.
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