Leading up to Easter we’ve been holding special worship services. These services have focused on all that Jesus suffered so that sinners like you and me might be made acceptable in God’s sight.
Today we celebrate what God did so that we’d know without a doubt that Jesus’ sacrifice in our place was accepted. Today we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from death to life.
He is risen!
To help us imagine the events of Jesus’ suffering and death, our Wednesday night sermon meditations were written from the perspective of the people who were there.
Assisted by the facts recorded for us in the Bible, we’ve heard from Judas the betrayer, Caiaphas the High Priest, Simon Peter, Pontius Pilate, Simon of Cyrene and the Thief on the Cross. These men could actually say, “I was there.”
Today, on the birthday of the New Testament Church, we imagine what the first Easter was like through the eyes of a man who WASN’T there. Today we meditate on the resurrection of God’s Son, through the eyes the apostle named Thomas.
The part of God’s message that we meditate on today comes from…
John 20:26-31 (NIV)
26A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
30Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31But 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.
Dear fellow sinners made saints, through faith in Jesus Christ: grace, peace and Easter joy be to you.
Let’s pretend. Let’s imagine that the apostle Thomas was actually here today as our guest speaker. May the Holy Spirit fill our hearts with thoughtful contemplation, and joy over Christ Jesus our living Savior.
Hello. My name is Thomas. And I have to tell you right away, that I wasn’t there.
I wasn’t there with the women who went out to the tomb early on Easter morning.
I wasn’t there when Peter and John ran to verify that Jesus’ body really was gone.
I wasn’t there when Jesus quietly joined the two disciples travelling on the road to Emmaus.
I wasn’t even there when He appeared to the rest of the apostles gathered in that upstairs room on the first Easter evening.
I’m sorry, but I can’t really give you a first hand account of those events, because I just wasn’t there.
We had all parted ways in the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was arrested. We had abandoned Him in his darkest hour. When I learned that He had been crucified, I just didn’t see the wisdom of us all gathering together again. I mean, really, the Jews who had orchestrated the Master’s death might now be out for our blood. Was it such a great idea for everyone to gather in one place?
Besides, Jesus was the pin that held us together. With Him dead and in the grave, I just didn’t see the point.
Throughout my life people considered me a pessimist, but I preferred to think of myself as a realist. We can all have our hopes and dreams, but we all have to function in reality don’t we? Yes we do. And reality doesn’t always match up with our dreamy expectations.
We apostles thought that Jesus was sent from God to restore the nation of Israel. To get us out from under the thumb of Rome and back to ruling our own glorious country. But on that Thursday night when Jesus was arrested, and on that Friday when He was killed, that dream came crashing down. And we all had to deal with the reality, that Jesus wasn’t the going to shake Rome out of our land. Not now, not ever.
You might wonder why Jesus selected a man like me to be one of His inner circle. Maybe I once thought Jesus chose me because of my special talents and abilities. Now I know that it was purely out of His gracious love that He chose me.
We apostles certainly weren’t chosen because of our humility, I can tell you that. We frequently argued about who was the greatest among us.
We weren’t chosen because of our talent for grasping spiritual truths either. Jesus repeatedly had to explain His teachings to us after the crowds had gone home.
Regardless of what we might have thought back then, Jesus chose us to be His apostles because we were sinners, just like everyone else. Sinners He had come to redeem from sin and hell. Sinners who could talk with other sinners on common ground.
That would be our job eventually. The risen Jesus would send us out to let people know that He had suffered and died for their sins too. We would announce to the world that because He suffered, their sins were forgiven in the eyes of the eternal God.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
As I said, I wasn’t there on the first Easter Sunday. I wasn’t there when the rest of the disciples met together and shared another meal in the upstairs room.
And so, when they came to me, and told me that Jesus was alive, and had materialized before their very eyes in that locked upper room, I did not believe it.
You know me as “doubting Thomas”, but really, I was unbelieving Thomas. I didn’t believe that He was alive. I refused to trust the testimony of the men and women that I had spent most of my time with for the last three years.
I harshly told them,
“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it” (John 20:25b NIV).
But as persistent as my unbelief was, Jesus was more persistent. As strong as my pessimism was, Jesus’ love was stronger.
The Scribes and Pharisees once demanded that Jesus do a miracle in front of them to prove that He was the Christ. He responded by saying:
“A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:39b-40 NIV).
I was asking for a sign too. What a faithless thing to do. But, as wicked as I was, Jesus was more gracious. I got my sign.
It happened like this.
A week after the first Easter Sunday, the disciples gathered in the upper room again. But this time, I was there.
And before long, so was Jesus. When the doors were locked, He hadn’t been there. But all the sudden, He was. Beyond a doubt, it was Him. Jesus, in the flesh.
To all of us He said,
“Peace be with you!”
Then to me He said,
“Put your finger here”
And He held out His hands to me. They were beyond beautiful, somehow even the holes in them were beautiful. And He said,
“see my hands.”
Pulling back the side of His garment, He showed me the wound that I knew would be there. The deep, straight place where a spear had been driven into His already dead body. Proof to those dreadfully thorough Roman soldiers that this one was dead.
When I met His gaze, He said,
“Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
And I did. I didn’t doubt anymore. I believed.
You know, you and I have some things in common. I wasn’t there on the first Easter Sunday, and neither were you.
I’m a sinner, and so are you.
Maybe we have some other things in common too.
Maybe you also have doubts sometimes.
Maybe you consider yourself a realist, or even a pessimist.
Maybe you have trouble grasping spiritual truths, just like me.
But you know what else we have in common?
Jesus. He suffered for my sins, and for yours too.
He’s opened the gates of heaven to me, and to you also.
His persistent love for both of us brought Him all the way to the cross. To hell and back again. And now He has appeared to both of us.
Oh, I know what you’re thinking, “That was a long time ago. I certainly wasn’t there. I wasn’t there to see Jesus in the flesh.” And I know that you weren’t physically there. But through the Bible you’ve seen everything that I saw.
You’ve seen His hands.
You’ve seen His side.
You’ve seen that He lives.
And just like me, the Holy Spirit has convinced you that He is your Lord, and your God.
That’s what I told Jesus that Sunday night. When I saw that it was really Him, I exclaimed, “My Lord and My God!”
And you know what He said to me? He said,
“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29 NIV).
He was talking about you.
And you ARE blessed BY GOD. For He has brought you, a sinner, to trust in His Son. God has given you the gift of faith in Jesus. By that faith, complete forgiveness and the hope of eternal life has become your possession.
I wasn’t there, to see the Tomb on Easter morning. And you weren’t there either. And neither was Jesus, not when they came looking for Him anyway, for He has risen. And because He has, so will you. Though you will die, all who die in Christ will rise again to join all the saints in heaven.
And no doubt, dear Christians, I’ll see you then.
Have a very happy Easter, in Christ.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.