READING: John 20:19-31
Joh 20:30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.Joh 20:31 But 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.
It’s been a good Easter. I don’t even know what that means – but people say it’s been good. A friend of mine in the US who is a pastor said is was good because they had record attendances. Well Post CovId – posts lockdown – for some just getting together was good.
For pastors and minister types, you know it’s been good when you are pretty worn out for a few weeks afterwards. Maybe that’s why hey call this Sunday low Sunday.
Was it good for those first followers?
Peter – yes, we saw that he got special mention after his failure. Tell the disciples and Peter, says the angel. He appeared to Peter, says Paul. Jesus the forgiver.
For Mary his mother – well we don’t hear from her but we can assume she was less heart broken than before. And even if he wasn’t going to be around for a long time – he’d organized John his friend to look after her in the long term. Jesus the pastoral planner.
For Mary Magdalene, well she thinks he’s the gardener. He calls her by her name – and that makes the connection. She then calls him Raboni – which means teacher. It makes her a real woman disciple in a context where women general were left out. Jesus the kind and compassionate one.
And then there’s Thomas. Poor bloke. All those questions he asked. And just his luck he wasn’t there when Jesus first appeared to them I that locked room. I have no idea where we went. Maybe he was catching up with his twin – if his twin was Lydia or maybe another unknown person. So when he hears their story, you can’t help but sympathise when he is less than convinced.
A week later there’s this lovely detail from Jesus – just as he meets with others where they are, he connects with Thomas. For each demand, one writer puts it, there’s a command from Jesus. The order isn’t perfect, but it’s all there – “precisely and fully” (Hendrikson Baker NT Commentary on John).
The commentary suggests this: “In order to see how precisely and fully the demands of Thomas are met, we must place the words of Thomas and those of Jesus next to each other.”
Have a look:
|The Demands of Thomas||The Commands of Jesus|
|1. Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails,|
2. And put my finger into the place of the nails,
3. And put my hand into his side,
4. I definitely will not believe
|2. See my hands|
1. Bring here your finger.
3. And bring your hand, and put it into my side.
4. And no longer be unbelieving but believing.
Jesus’ response to Thomas brings about a confession of faith that is pretty powerful and complete:
Joh 20:28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
And here John expands Jesus’ reach to us too:
Joh 20:29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
And then he pretty much wraps up his gospel:
Let’s remind ourselves of some of the key passagaes we havea looked at. Look at the references to life and believing.
It starts in John 1:1:
Joh 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Joh 1:4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. Joh 1:12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…
Remember the conversation with Nathanael: Joh 1:48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Joh 1:49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Joh 1:50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” Joh 1:51 He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
And Nicodemus: Joh 3:14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, Joh 3:15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God So Loved the World Joh 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
And the woman at the well: Joh 4:14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Joh 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Joh 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (abundant life). (the good shepherd teaching).
Joh 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; Joh 11:26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this? (To Martha)
Joh 12:32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men/people to myself.” (looking to the cross to find life and healing, like the snake in John 3:14).
Joh 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (In response to Thomas)
Joh 17:3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (in prayer)
In John’s gospel what follows is the Easter story. If you missed it, read chapters 18-19 again.
Here we are in chapter 20. He is life – he is alive again. Speaking to these followers of his.
And to Thomas.
“Stop doubting and believe.”
Why? The whole point of this whole book John) is summed up:
Joh 20:30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. Joh 20:31 But 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.
Jesus – God saves. Believe in his name. He is everything. The I am. Remember Joh 8:58: “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”
Thomas got the message – I am the man.
Just for a bit of fun – although this is serious – here’ a great song about Thomas “ I am the man Thomas”. by Ralph Stanley. Bob Dylan made it famous, singing it nearly 60 times.
It’s a great way to start guitar – only needs two chords. Bluegrass is a great country style. Someone said: , “Bluegrass is to country what heavy metal is to rock and roll.”
Art and music capture various aspects of Thomas’ journey to faith.
Here is Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys – live:
And a younger version of the song and a faster tempo: The Petersens: https://youtu.be/XVDs4N5Avdg
THE LYRICS INCLUDE:
Oh, I am the Man, Thomas, I am the Man
Look at these nail scars here in my hands
They pierced me in the side, Thomas, I am the Man
They made me bear the cross, Thomas, I am the Man
They laid me in the tomb, Thomas, I am the Man
In three days I arose, Thomas, I am the Man
They pierced me in the Side, Thomas, I am the Man
They made me bear the cross, Thomas, I am the Man.
Do you believe he is the man? The one? The “I am”.
It’s a great question.
Don’t be unbelieving, says Jesus. Believe.
Readings: Acts 10:34-43; Luke 24:1-12
Key verse: Luk 24:11 “But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” (NIV)
“καὶ ἐφάνησαν ἐνώπιον αὐτῶν ὡσεὶ λῆρος τὰ ῥήματα αὐτῶν, καὶ ἠπίστουν αὐταῖς.” (GNT – TR)
“…but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” (ESV)
I wonder if you’ve ever been “dissed”? It’s an interesting word. It means to be treated with disrespect. I discovered it to be a popular word when working with teenagers. It’s crept into the English language since the 1980s – through hip hop music I am told. Back in the 1920s it meant you were disconnected – like a telephone not working. Something loose in the head. Either way it isn’t a very nice thing – to be disrespected – or dismissed. Or disempowered.
An amazing thing happens in this story of the life of Jesus – through his teachings, death and especially his resurrection. The people who were usually disempowered at the time were taken seriously – lifted above their status in life. Galatians 3:28 sums it up well:
Gal 3:26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, Gal 3:27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal 3:29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
So – there are women in the group from the beginning. They would have been “dissed” by people in those days:
- Disempowered mainly,
- Dismissed if they had an opinion.
- Discarded in divorce if a man got bored with them.
But they are there in Jesus’ team. From early on.
And on Easter Sunday in Luke’s account they are the first witnesses.
The “dissing” continues sadly. Even though there are at least three women named as witnesses.
The translators are kind to us – keeping things polite. In the NIV we read: Luk 24:11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Nonsense.
The word is LEYROS. It’s used once only in the New Testament. Here.
It’s translated as an idle tale, nonsense, foolishness, and a fairy tale. Its deeper meaning is more crass. Vulgar. “What a load of…”
And that’s the response you get today to when you tell people that a dead man got up again.
Telling the Christian story today in this generation will get you “dissed” too.
People will think you’re nuts. Loony. Weird. Strange. Daft.
But that is okay.
- Seeing the impossible.
- Believing the unlikely.
- Having hope for the hopeless.
- Courage in the face of death because you know that it’s not the last word – well let them think you’re mad.
It’s a mad but glad tale – that someone who was dead was raised up
- That he appeared in locked rooms
- That he cooked a barbeque of fish for them on the beach
- That he restored a man who denied him three times and gave him an amazing and exciting job to do
- That he showed up over 40 days to people – up to 500 at one time, meaning they weren’t all hallucinating
- That he sent them with a message of good news to the world
- That he promised never to leave them
- That they were to wait to for the gift of His Spirit – who would empower them to do the work given
Other writers help us to make sense of the story. Luke records the words of Peter in Acts 10:
Act 10:39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, Act 10:40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. Act 10:41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. Act 10:42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. Act 10:43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Those who dismiss this story and your testimony of your love for Christ – this risen saviour – will discover that he is judge and the end of all things.
This resurrection account is central in the story of the New testament and the Christian life through the centuries – we speak to, worship, praise, and hear from this Jesus.
Paul writing to the Corinthians prioritises it like this writing to the Corinthians: 1 Co 15:3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 1Co 15:4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
And later he says:1Co 15:42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 1Co 15:43 it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 1Co 15:44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
What great news is this for us.
Death is not particularly attractive. We grow cold and begin to decompose quite quickly. Like Lazarus who had been dead four days, well quoting the King James Bible, – in John 11:39, one of those words only used once – the phrase is “he stinketh”
Being raised imperishable, in glory, in power as a spiritual body sounds wonderful.
Going back to Luke 24 – where the women are dismissed, Peter seems to have some redeeming factors. Luk 24:12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
He went to look – and gave it some thought. The penny drops eventually. And Jesus appears to him with three questions about his love – as he restores his failed life – because he had dissed Jesus three times – disowned him. He does it over breakfast – that restorative chat.
Hopefully people today will investigate this amazing story as well. If you haven’t figured it out yet – I encourage you to have a closer look. You should while you can – it’s to late when you die and people will say of you if you hang around too long – “he stinketh’.
Today is a good day to investigate this empty tomb, and to put your faith in Christ the risen Lord. Because the witness of those women was not an idle tale, but a brand new truth to change the world. Death was defeated!
Scripture often says this: now is the hour of salvation. Put your trust in him today. It won’t only guarantee a new resurrection body in the future. It will mean a real relationship with the risen Jesus today. A friend and Saviour, a guide and provider for you to depend on.
Reading: John 20:19-31
I was talking to someone about how short this week was.
It seemed shorter for me. Tuesday was a write-off. I did mindless things like fixing stuff.
I didn’t even have the energy to tidy my desk though. That seemed too much.
I’ve often wondered why they call this Sunday “low Sunday” – this and the one after Christmas I think. Maybe the preachers are just flat from being flat out.
So we had this conversation – what if you just put a video on and watched in instead of a sermon?
Or if the preacher got up and said – “nothing to say today”.
Which reminded me of this story.
In a small Catholic seminary, the dean asked a first year student to preach one day in chapel. This novice worked all night on a sermon, but still came up empty. At the appropriate time, he stood in the pulpit, looked out over his brothers and said “Do you know what I’m going to say?” They all shook their heads “no” and he said “neither do I, the service has ended, go in peace.”
Well, the dean was angry, and told the student, “You will preach again tomorrow, and you had better have a sermon.” Again, the novitiate stayed up all night, but still no sermon. When he stood in the pulpit, he asked “Do you know what I am going to say?” All the students nodded “yes” so the preacher said “Then there is no need for me to tell you. The service has ended, to in peace.”
Now, the dean was livid. “Son, you have one more chance. Preach the gospel tomorrow or you will be expelled from the seminary.” Again he worked all night, and the next morning stood before his classmates and asked “Do you know what I am going to say?” Half of them nodded “yes” while the other half shook their heads “no.” The novitiate said “Those who know, tell those who don’t know. The service has ended, go in peace.”
This time, the dean just smiled. He walked up to the novice preacher, put his arm around his shoulders and said “Hmmm…those who know, tell those who don’t know? Today, the gospel has been proclaimed. The service has ended, go in peace.”
So, another friend and I looked at this passage for today.
There are so many choices. Things we could look at.
- Like why the door was still locked a week later. When most of them had seen Jesus the first week. And why does one translation say the door was locked the first week and shut the second? (NRSV). Is the same word. Do translators have too much power?
- What was Jesus doing when he breathed on them? Was this John’s description of Pentecost? (Genesis 2:7)
- Do we really have the power to forgive peoples’ sins or not to forgive them? Is this where the Catholic idea of absolution comes from?
- Is this the actual birth of the church?
- Was Thomas really a doubter? Or was he just someone with Sherlock Holmes kind of talents.
- Did he have a twin? Was his twin like Thomas? Did he believe or doubt? Or she? Could his twin have been Lydia of Philippi who traded in purple cloth? (Acts 16:19)
- Why did Jesus keep saying “Peace be with you”?
- What about verse 30? What were those other signs that are not recorded?
- Do we have life in his name? Is this the abundant life he spoke about before in John 10:10? Is it abundant – “life to the full?” Or are we actually riding on empty?
(I love the Bishops Bible that preceded the KJV – “I am come, that they myght haue lyfe, and that they myght haue it more aboundauntly.” (1576)
SOME THOUGHTS THEN
Last week we saw how Jesus called Mary by name – and how that opened her eyes to see he wasn’t the gardener.
This passage records these two visits by Jesus in a locked room a week apart.
In the first visit he breathes on them symbolically. The word for WIND and SPIRIT are the same here.
This is worth looking at a bit more carefully.
It follows their commissioning – As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.
Before his ascension and before the day of Pentecost – without a fuss – he turns the disciples into apostles – sent ones.
And empowers them.
If you are a reader of the whole of John’s gospel, you would join the dots.
From chapter 14:
Joh 14:15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. Joh 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— Joh 14:17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. Joh 14:18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
Joh 14:26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Joh 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
In chapter 15:
Joh 15:26 “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.
And chapter 16:
Joh 16:13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.
All of these verses sound a bit more dramatic than just having Jesus breathe on you.
You can understand why some people think this is a first instalment of some sort. Because Pentecost is far more dramatic isn’t it. And life changing.
I mean if you carry on from our Messy Church talk on Friday about Peter – you would have to add that Peter preached that ONE big sermon in Acts 2 that was the launch of a new bold person in every possible way.
TWO OTHER THINGS TO FOCUS ON TODAY:
- “Doubting” Thomas.
Was he really a doubter?
Think about John 11. This is the first time Thomas is mentioned and we get some real insight into the kind of person he was.
This is the story of the raising of Lazarus. Mary and Martha had sent Jesus word that their brother Lazarus was close to death. They lived in the small village of Bethany very close to Jerusalem. Look at verse 7. Jesus tells his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
Look at what the disciples think of this idea in verse 8. “Teacher,” the disciples answered, “just a short time ago the people there wanted to stone you and are you planning to go back?” (We can read about these stoning attempts in chapter 8 and 10 of John).
They thought he was crazy to even consider going back there. Perhaps they were on the verge of deserting Jesus. But then Thomas speaks out in verse 16:
Thomas (called the Twin) said to his fellow disciples, “Let us go along with the Teacher, so that we may die with him!”
Thomas rallied the wavering disciples here, convincing them to go with Jesus to Jerusalem.
Whatever else we may say about Thomas, he was not a coward. He was willing to go with Jesus to Jerusalem knowing full well that it just might cost him his own life
Apart from his track record of courage, one thing gets my attention today:
It’s this – that Jesus was deeply and personally interested in him so much that in the second appearance he speaks to him directly. He recognises Thomas’ need.
And I think translations which say “stop doubting and believe” get it wrong.
It literally means – “do not disbelieve but believe”. Don’t be an unbeliever. That makes him no different from the rest. The rest of the disciples. And us. We all have these journeys as we come to faith.
2. Peace be with you.
Do you need His peace?
We’ve talked before about the power of grief.
Jesus repeats this peace greeting because they would have been slow to recover from this terrible and unjust Good Friday death.
Watch the passion of the Christ again – the movie.
You don’t walk away from that kind of event feeling peaceful.
They needed some assurance. And so do we.
He still speaks to us – don’t live in unbelief. Trust me.
Here – let my peace uphold you.
And we too are sent – commissioned – to go in His name and share his peace.
And at the heart of our mission IS forgiveness.
W receive it. We celebrate it. We model it. We extend it to others through grace.
And we don’t always dish it out too quickly because we have to remind each other that our sins as human beings are actually serious. Deadly serious. Serious enough for Jesus to die for them.
It’s no surprise that ‘repent’ was part of John’s preaching (the baptiser), Jesus’ message, and Peter’s and the other apostles.
We have to turn away from our old ways and turn back to God again and again.
He says to you too today:
Don’t stay in unbelief. Trust in me (Jesus).
Peace be with you.