The Second Sunday of Easter; Year C (4/7/2013)

Lessons:Acts 5:27-32 Psalm 118:14-29 (28) or Psalm 150 (6) Revelation 1:4-8 St. John 20:19-31

Prayer of the Day: O God of life, you reach out to us amid our fears with the wounded hands of your risen Son.  By your Spirit’s breath revive our faith in your mercy, and strengthen us to be the body of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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.”

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.”

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.

St. John 20:19-31 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

The Show-Me State of Mind

It was the mid-1890s in Leadville, Colorado. A miner's strike had been in progress for some time, and a number of miners from the lead districts of southwest Missouri had been imported to take the places of the strikers. The Joplin miners were unfamiliar with Colorado mining methods and required frequent instructions. Pit bosses became frustrated with them, and started saying, "That man is from Missouri. You'll have to show him." Ever since then, Missouri has been recognized as the “Show Me State.”

Colorado pit boss slurs aside, I wonder if the people of Missouri identify with Thomas the Twin, the disciple of Jesus. Or the other ten disciples, for that matter.

Among the church’s first attempts at offering an evangelical witness to the world, there are not many resounding successes. On Easter Sunday morning Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women return from the empty tomb, and an encounter with two angels. They speak about all of this to the Apostles, but the Apostles are not impressed. They consider it to be nothing more than an idle tale. (Although the story makes Peter curious enough to run to the tomb and have a look for himself.) They might just as well have said, “Show me.”

Again, on Easter Sunday evening, Jesus himself appears to the disciples, speaks words of peace to them, breathes the Holy Spirit on them, and entrusts them with the ministry of forgiveness. The disciples tell all of this to Thomas, but he is not impressed. He isn’t ready to believe anything that someone can’t prove to him. He too might just as well have said, “Show me.”

That’s a familiar sounding response, isn’t it? We often exist in a show-me state of mind. We are reluctant to believe anything that can’t be proven. Show me that your vacuum cleaner will out perform mine. Show me that investors in your company have made money in the past (and are likely to in the future). Show me that your vehicles have a better safety record than your competitor’s. Show me that this medicine has been proven to be safe and effective.

Yet the resurrection of Jesus is not something that can be shown; not something that can be proven. Even the oldest accounts admit that nobody is there to see it. The only followers of Jesus who end up at the empty tomb on Easter Sunday morning arrive long after the action. Their report is not based on proof of what happened, but on what they themselves experience. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women report to the disciples what they were told by two angels. The ten disciples report to Thomas about their experience with the Risen Christ. Thomas himself will eventually report about what it was like to met Jesus a week or so later. St. John (and St. Luke, too) write down what they have seen, and what they have been told, about Jesus.

Such is our task. Not to prove the resurrection. Not to prove our faith. Not to prove this theological proposition or that. But simply to report what we have heard; to report what we have experienced; to report what we have come to know, and how it has touched our lives. And we do this so others may believe that Jesus is Messiah; so others may have life in his name.

Amen. Come Lord Jesus.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What did the followers of Jesus experience in the days after his resurrection?
  2. How did they report this to others?
  3. In the Bible, who came to believe through the reports of others?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How have I experienced the Risen Christ in my own life?
  2. What difference has that made for me?
  3. How might I share a report of my experience with others?