My Lord, My God!(04/07/2013 Sermon)

19When 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.”20After he said this, he
showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw
the Lord.21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”22When he had said this,
he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you
retain the sins of any, they are retained.”24But Thomas (who was
called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.

25So 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.”

26A 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.”27Then 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.”

28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”29Jesus said to him,

“Have you believed because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples,
which are not written in this book.31But 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.

 

I will start this sermon with a funny story.

An atheist was taking a walk through the forest.
‘What majestic trees! What powerful rivers! What beautiful animals!’, he said
to himself. As he continued walking alongside the river he heard a rustling in
the bushes. Turning to look, he saw a 7 foot grizzly bear charging towards him.

He ran as fast as he could up the path. Looking over
his shoulder he saw that the bear was closing in on him. His heart was pumping
frantically and he tried to run even faster. He tripped and fell on the ground.
He rolled over to pick himself up but saw the bear raising his paw to take a
swipe at him. At that instant the atheist cried out: ‘Oh my God!…’

All of a sudden, time stopped. The bear froze. The forest was silent.

It was then that a bright light shone upon the man
and a voice came out of the sky saying: ‘You deny my existence for all of these
years, teach others I don’t exist and even credit creation to a cosmic
accident.  Do you expect me to help you
out of this predicament? Am I to count you as a believer?’

The atheist looked directly into the light and said,
‘It would be hypocritical of me to suddenly ask you to treat me as a Christian
now, but perhaps, could you make the BEAR a Christian?’

Very well, ‘said the voice. The light went out, and
the sounds of the forest resumed. And then the bear lowered his paw, bowed his
head and spoke: ‘Lord, bless this food which I am about to receive and for
which I am truly thankful, Amen.’

 

Last Sunday, we witnessed that Jesus conquered our
greatest enemies, sin and death. For the last week, have you lived with the
resurrection faith in Christ? I hope so.

As our Easter celebrations continue, we hear of
further encounters with the risen Christ. Let us see the text. We find Jesus’
disciples in the dark. They are the people who heard the news from Peter that
the tomb was empty. They are the friends and followers of Jesus to whom Mary
brought the message that she had met the risen Christ. But what are they doing
this night?

Obviously, they do not seem to be celebrating. They
have locked the door for fear that the same thing that happened to Jesus will
happen to them. I can imagine them sweating profusely and can even see some
occasionally checking the doorknob to make sure that it was locked. Other
disciples might have been looking out of a peephole or a window. The disciples
fear the Roman and religious authorities that murdered Jesus would possibly
murder them for being associated with this radical, itinerant preacher from
Galilee. There messianic hopes have dissolved into mere survival, coupled by
utter confusion and calamity. They had a lot to be afraid of. They could be
accused of stealing Jesus’ body. They could be punished for guilt by
association with his movement. It is dark out there. They locked themselves in.

All of a sudden, into that locked room Jesus appears.
John seems to tell us that everything has changed. Into that moment of fear and
surprise, Jesus comes with a message of comfort, “Peace be with you.” He offers
that message to them twice. First, when they see this figure suddenly appear
before them. Then, he repeats this message once again after they realize that
they have finally met the risen Christ. But it is important for us to notice
that they neither recognize him nor rejoice until Jesus shows them his hands
and his side. We should not chastise Thomas for later asking for the same
manifestation.

In fact, Jesus had assured them earlier that he
would bring them comfort and joy (John 17:12-13). He would give them an
advocate, “the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father (John 15:26).” However,
they didn’t feel comfort and joy until they met Jesus. Now, when they met Jesus
in person, they are all touched with the Holy Spirit. The disciples were filled
with the Holy Spirit so that they would become messengers of the good news of
what God had done in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Strengthened
by the Holy Spirit they were to open the locked doors of fear.

They told Thomas what they have seen. However, he
demanded what they had experienced. He wanted to see the wounded hands and the
pierced side of Jesus.

A week later the disciples, once again, had gathered
together. Thomas is now with them.  Although the doors were shut, Jesus
came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then, Jesus offers his
hands and side to Thomas and he asks Thomas not to be unbelieving. It is then
that Thomas declares “My Lord and my God.” And Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you
believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet
have come to believe.”

This is the story I wanted to share with you today.
Based on this story, I brought some questions to take into consideration. What
does it mean to live with the resurrection faith? Does it mean that we should
live without doubts? Traditionally, Thomas has been recognized as “Doubting Thomas.”
When I was a kid, I wondered why Jesus chose Thomas as his disciple. I thought
that he was not faithful. What do you think? In fact, in this story, the
spotlight is on Thomas but we should not miss that he is not alone in his doubt
in this story. Even thought Jesus had assured them that he will be resurrected
in three days, no one said to Jesus when he came into the house, “Welcome back”
or “We knew it.” “What took you so long? ”No one anticipates Jesus will return.
Even when he shows up, everyone doubts. Everyone.  This story tells us a key understanding about
our spiritual journey. I don’t think that Jesus is rebuking Thomas when he
says, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Jesus definitely knew that
Thomas and the other disciples will have doubts. Likewise, we are people who
have knowledge and reason and who doubt. However, we should not think that
doubt is exactly not the opposite of faith but actually is part of it. I believe
that in this story, Jesus is blessing all those who have managed to believe
without the benefit of direct experience and all those who have managed to come
to faith by living with doubts and yet still trying to find a way to believe.

We don’t need to figure everything out. If we have
to figure it all out ahead of time, then we will never get started. Even though
we are Christians with a resurrection faith, we realize that belief and doubts
go hand in hand. In this fragile way, we act, we reach out, we feed, we care,
we tend, we struggle, we work, we love, all without any guarantees. We struggle
to find a way to believe in the promise from the Lord who continues to bless
those who believe amid their doubts and keep faith amid their uncertainties.

I believe that this is exactly what the spiritual
journey is. After Jesus’ resurrection, we start our spiritual journey with the
resurrection faith in Christ. This journey is not straight. It is sometimes
curved and we become very often distracted. Therefore, in order for us to get
through the spiritual journey, Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit whom we can ask
wisdom and courage, so that we can manage to come to faith amid our doubts and
uncertainties.

Let me wrap up this sermon. We celebrate Jesus’
resurrection for seven weeks and today is second Sunday. During these weeks,
let us together struggle to find a way to believe and to deal with our doubts
and uncertainties. No one can solve our doubts and uncertainties but the Holy
Spirit can help us manage them. Then, finally, we will be able to declare, like
Thomas, “My Lord and my God.”

 

Let us pray,

Dear God, we give thanks to you for this graceful
time. Help us to experience the works of the Holy Spirit amid our lives. Bless
us to keep your wisdom and courage and faith amid our uncertainties. And bless
us to stand before you as real Christians. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.
Amen.

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