Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter

Text: John 20:27-29
Jesus said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting, and believe!" Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Do you believe because you see me? How happy are those who believe without seeing me!"

Trust in the risen Christ

All of us have scars of one kind or another and I would say that everyone at some time has taken great delight telling others how they got that scar. A scar is a tangible reminder of what happened the day we received that injury, the pain, the blood, the visit to the doctor, and the stitches. A scar is a reminder of an operation, an accident and our foolishness that caused it.

There are not only scars on our skin but also scars on our hearts. These scars have been caused by the wounds that others have inflicted on us and they can be very painful.

A father gave his son a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper or was abusive to others, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.

The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. The number of nails in the fence enabled him to see just how many times he hurt someone else.

Finally the day came when the boy didn't lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and his father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. It took a while but finally the young boy was able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.

The father took his son to the fence. He said, "Youíve done well but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same". He pointed to a nail hole in the fence and continued, "When you say things that hurt others, they leave a scar just like this one. This nail hole will be in this fence as long as this fence is here. In the same way people have scars on their hearts because of what people have done to them. For some the scars will never fade but will be there all of their days on this earth".

Today we have heard how the risen Christ appeared in a locked room and showed himself to his despondent disciples. You might say their hearts had been scarred as they had flashbacks to the previous Friday when their friend and master was nail to a cross until he died. In fact, their hearts were so scarred that they remembered nothing of what he had taught them about his suffering and that 3 days later he would rise from the dead. They were deeply wounded.

Jesus appeared in the room with them. "He showed them his hands and his side (John 20: 20). He showed them his scars and then, only then, they saw, they believed and they rejoiced.

Thomas shows up a bit later. The other disciples tell him, "Hey! Weíve seen the Lord!" I read from the Aussie Bible, "Tom said, ĎPull the other leg! Unless I see the nail wounds in his hands Ė and touch them Ė and the wound in his side too Ė I just wonít believe it!í" (Jn 20:25). Itís easy to be a bit too harsh on Thomas. He is hurting and this story of the resurrection is too much for him to deal with. In effect he is saying, "I have been hurt enough already. I have been deeply scarred. I donít want to be hurt again. I wonít believe that itís Jesus unless I touch the scars in his hands and side."

A week later, the risen Christ again surprises the disciples. Thomas is there this time and Jesus obliges, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put in into my side," says the risen Christ, "Stop doubting, and believe" (John 20:37). What a difference this loving act of Jesus made to Thomas. He did see and he did believe. He fell to his knees and confessed, "My Lord and my God". Jesus responded saying, "Blessed are those who have not seen and still believe".

Do you ever have doubts about God? Is he real? As you listened to the story of Jesusí resurrection is it possible there was a small question in your heart - did it really happen? Is it possible? Is my whole life based on something which may not be true? Could it be that the disciples made it all up?

What about the whole thing about the suffering in our world? If Jesus really is alive and is the Lord of life and death why then is there so much senseless suffering in our world? Why doesnít he do something about the things that really trouble me?

Wouldnít it be great if Jesus stood before us here this morning and we could see the scars in his hands?
Wouldnít it be fantastic to see with our own eyes that Jesus is alive, that he is really here with us in our world and in our lives?
Wouldnít it be wonderful if he explained why things are the way they are in our lives just as he did for the first disciples when they were so confused about the events that had overwhelmed them.

In many ways we are like Thomas? I mean, we believe facts about Jesus, but wouldnít it be so much easier for those facts to influence our lives if we could actually see and touch.
There are times when we feel so low and depressed and alone that we feel like we need a miracle to convince us that God is real.
We try to do something good and it goes all wrong,
we pray and ask for help and guidance and we still end up making bad choices.
Weíre told that God can change lives;
that he can repair broken relationships;
that he can bring together something that is apart;
that he can heal wounds that are deep, and bring peace and forgiveness;
that he help us deal with the deep scars in our hearts.
We ask him, but things stay the same. There is still a lot of pain and hurt, there are still bad feelings and angry looks and hurtful words.
The scars that have been inflicted on my heart wonít let me forgive and get on with life.

If only Jesus would come into that situation right now and say to us as he said to Thomas, "Peace to you!" Ė then, then I would really believe!
Jesus says, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe", but, Lord, I need to see you right now and I need you to show yourself right now.
I need to see your presence in my life so that I can squash that little part in me - that scar - that sometimes takes control to the point where I begin to doubt whether you really do care about me!

In all of this thereís something God trying to tell us about our relationship with him. To know God, to accept Jesus as living Lord, requires more than seeing and touching Jesus. (Remember he has already done this and people didnít believe him). Somehow itís all tied up with what Jesus said about believing even though you havenít seen. It has to do with faith and trust!

For a true, reliable relationship with God we need faith and trust more than we need seeing and touching. Take, for example, a relationship between two people who love each other.
They say and hear the words "I love you!" many times,
they can see the other person all the time,
they can hug and hold the other person,
they can feel the love between them,
but those words, those actions, that feeling isnít enough to convince either one that they are really in love. In order to believe totally and completely in the love they see, hear and feel coming from the other person, they need to trust in that love. Words and seeing and touching can help, but in the end they really have to trust that itís true!

With God itís the same. I can read about his love, I can listen to others telling me he loves, he can even show himself personally to me as he did for Thomas, but in the end I have to trust the love that God has for me.

Healing, miracles, answered prayers, personal experiences donít prove that God is real. They just confirm what I already trust and believe.
I believe that what Iíve heard is true.
I trust that God will help me through every situation.
I have faith in God's love for me and that he will never let me down.

This means that even when I am sad, there is joy;
when I am feeling weak and vulnerable, there is a strength that is not my own strength;
when I am hard on myself for my foolish actions and words, there is love and forgiveness.
It means that wherever I go and whatever I do each day I take this trust with me. Itís the thing that keeps me going even when things couldnít possibly get any worse.
I may suffer backache, headache or heartache,
by all accounts it seems that God is not aware of my situation,
but I trust, and I cling to the promise of God that he is with me always.
When I long to see a way out but canít Ė I still believe he never letís go of me!

Some people might call that stupidity - blind faith. Not true -
itís based on Godís Word,
itís based on the witness of the thousands who have gone before us and experienced the same things we experience today.
Itís based on Godís promise.

Maybe this illustration will helps us. Imagine youíre flying a plane in heavy clouds. The clouds are so thick you canít see where you are going, you might even be flying upside down for all you know, or going down when you think you are going up, you canít see any landmarks that will help you find your way. What do you do? You donít let your fears and anxieties take control Ė they are hindering your focus on getting through this safely. You fly by the instruments Ė you trust that those dials and gauges will get you through safely. Likewise you put your faith in what God has promised and you hang in there and never give up.

As we gaze at the risen Christ and his wounds, we trust that the one who died on the cross knows what it means to suffer. We trust that here is our Saviour who hurts when we are hurting, who agonises with us in our pain, and sympathises with us in our weakness (Hebrews 4:15). As we suffer scars of pain and hurt in our lives, we know we have a Saviour who knows what it is like to bear the scars of suffering. We know we have a Saviour who will do anything because of his love for us.

Itís true we will question and wonder and despair and doubt, but trust in the love that God has for us will carry us through. With faith and trust in the risen Lord thereís no situation that can arise in our lives when we canít say what Thomas said, "My Lord and my God!"

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
23rd April, 2006

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Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the Good News Bible, © American Bible Society, revised Australian edition 1994.
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