Easter 2 2012

Sermon Date: 
15 Apr 2012
Bible Base: 
John 20:19-end

David Jeans

Wouldn’t it be great if everything happened instantly! You want something and it instantly appears. You pray for something and it happens straight away. You ask God to remove some sin from your life and it’s gone. You ask God to make you a better person and there’s instant improvement.
Sometimes those things happen instantly – but lots of times they don’t. Why not?
It doesn’t seem to have happened all at once the disciples. Our Gospel reading begins at the first Easter Sunday evening. They are together – maybe at the scene of the Last Supper. The doors are locked – because they are afraid that those who killed Jesus might come after them. They have heard stories that some have met the risen Jesus – but most of them haven’t.
The risen Jesus comes and stands among them. He says ‘Peace be with you’. Peace is a big word in Hebrew or Aramaic. It is the word ‘shalom’ which implies wholeness, everything put right. While he says ‘peace be with you’ he shows them his wounded hands and his wounded side – the wounds through which we are healed.
[The disciples would have made the connection with Is 53, which Jesus would have often talked about. ‘He was pierced for our transgressions; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him; by his wounds we are healed’. For them healing would include forgiveness]
After granting them peace Jesus sends them out to proclaim forgiveness to others, and breathes the Spirit into them to empower them for this mission. They have met with the risen Jesus and received his forgiveness. They have been sent out on mission filled with the Holy Spirit.
Now if you were making this up to impress people what would happen next? Off they would go to all parts leading thousands and thousands to follow Jesus.
But what actually happens? The next Sunday comes and where are they? Not out on mission. Not just in the same city, but still in the same room. And the doors are STILL locked!
They are not so different from us. It doesn’t all happen instantly for them all the time! So what does Jesus do? Well, what he doesn’t do is give up on them and find some more responsive and faith-filled disciples!
No – he meets up with them again – and again says ‘Peace be with you’. Like us they need to hear it again and again! [And of course they need to receive the Holy Spirit again and again – on the day of Pentecost a few weeks later, and again in Acts 4:31 a few weeks after that]. For the disciples it didn’t happen all at once.
And then there’s Thomas – my favourite disciple. I don’t like ‘Doubting Thomas’ – for me he’s ‘Questioning Thomas’ or even better ‘Reality Check Thomas’. Thomas was always one of the bravest of the disciples. When Jesus decides to go to Jerusalem Thomas says ‘let’s go with him that we may die with him.’ Thomas was a realist. I don’t think he was surprised by the cross. He could see it coming. He was not naive about the realities of power in Jerusalem.
Thomas wasn’t with them the previous Sunday. Perhaps because he wasn’t as afraid as them??? But he was full of questions. He wouldn’t accept their word for it. He would only believe if he met the risen Jesus for himself. But when he did meet the risen Jesus – he went for it! ‘My Lord and my God’ he cries – the climax of John’s Gospel. He knew the implications of the risen Jesus standing there. So he didn’t mess about! ‘My Lord and my God’! [Now notice that Jesus accepted this which is hugely significant. As merely a good Jew Jesus should not accept this. Good Jews believed that the Lord our God is one Lord. Jesus accepting ‘my Lord and my God’ is an astonishing claim on Jesus’ behalf!]
So were all Thomas’ questions instantly answered at this point. I very much doubt it! He probably found himself with many new questions. It is very possible to have faith in Jesus and still to have questions. [Actually it’s healthy to still have questions. We watched a documentary about Mitt Romney being a Mormon. The journalist asked some young Mormon missionaries if they had any criticisms of the Mormon church. They said they had none. That worries me. Having questions is healthy!]
The disciples’ fear and reluctance to go on mission was not dealt with instantly by God. Nor were all Thomas’ questions instantly answered by God. We are not sorted out by God in an instant!
The same things that were said to the disciples in the Upper Room are said by Jesus to us.
He brings us peace and wholeness.
He sends us to proclaim his forgiveness to others.
He fills us with his Spirit to give us the strength to do that.
But it doesn’t all happen at once. We have some of it NOW and some of it is NOT YET.
My daughter’s church has been using a Scripture Union Holiday Club based on the Olympics. {We’ll be using some it later in the summer} I has an equation FAITH = BELIEF + TRUST
I like that –faith is about things that we believe [eg that Jesus is Lord and God] – but it is also about trusting Jesus.
And perhaps that is why it usually takes time. Because trust is part of a relationship. We need to learn to trust someone else. We need to learn to trust God. And we need to learn to depend upon God. If everything happened instantly we would not learn trust and dependence – and then our relationship with God would not grow. And the relationship we have with God is the thing that has most eternal significance.
One morning during Holy Week we had Psalm 27 at Morning Prayer. The Psalm begins ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom then shall I fear?’ This Psalm reminds us that the answer to fear is trust and that trust comes through our relationship with God. I do not fear because I trust the Lord who is my light and my salvation.
The Psalmist goes on to say that the one thing he desires is to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord – and it leads to a resolve to ‘seek God’s face’.
Seeking God’s face takes time if it is going to be real and sustained. Instant answers won’t lead us to seek God’s face. But seeking God’s face will lead us to trust him and to grow in relationship with him. Then we will hear him say to us each day ‘Peace be with you’.
We seek his face by reading his Word daily – start with the Gospels if you have not done this before. Ask him to show his face to you as you read and he will! And spend time in prayer each day talking to God and sharing your life with Him.
Some verses from Psalm 27 to finish:-
Hear my voice when I call, O Lord: be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you ‘Seek his face!’. Your face, O Lord, I will seek.