(sermon note: 04-24 sermon note
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.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 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.’
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.’ 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.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ 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.’
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 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.
This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about a retired man who purchased a home near a high school. He spent the first few weeks of his retirement in peace, then the new school year began. One afternoon early into the first semester, three loud young boys came down his street, beating merrily on every bin they came across. They then did so the following day and the day after that, until finally the retiree decided it was time to take some action. The next afternoon, he walked out to meet the boys as they banged their way down the street. Stopping them, he said, “You kids are a lot of fun. I used to do the same thing when I was your age. Will you do me a favor? I’ll give you each a dollar if you’ll promise to come around every day and do your thing.” The boys were more than happy and continued to bang the bins every day on their walk home. After a week, the old man walked out and greeted the kids again. However this time, he didn’t have a smile on his face. “This recession’s really putting a big dent in my income,” he told them. “I’m going to have to cut it down to 50¢ a day to keep you kids banging the bins.” The kids were obviously unimpressed but they accepted the reduction in payment and continued their afternoon activities. A few days later, the man approached them again. “Look,” he said, “I haven’t received my retirement checks yet so I’m not going to be able to give you more than 25¢ to bang on the bins. Will that be okay?” “That’s it!?” the ‘drum leader’ exclaimed. “If you think we’re going to waste our time beating these around for 25¢ a day, you’re nuts! No way, mister. We quit!” And the man enjoyed peace and serenity for the rest of his days.
Silly teenage boys…so eager to be disruptive until they get little to nothing out of it! What a selfish existence it is being a teenager! Been there, done that, don’t ever want to relive it. And I imagine I’m not alone in my sentiments. To be so sure of yourself, so entitled…”I’ll beat on these bins whenever I darn well please! Why? Because I can!” Aaah, to be young and carefree, you only have to worry about yourself, what a life, eh? Well, unfortunately it’s also a lonely life. You only worry about yourself and doing whatever you want, whenever you want, and pretty soon no one will want to have anything to do with you. Yeah, it’s important to look out for yourself but it’s far more rewarding to look out for the needs of others. The joy you experience in looking out for the needs of others is richer and longer lasting. If only teenagers understood this…
Of course, life isn’t all that swell in those teenage years between the hormonal imbalance and the unstable relationships, not to mention all those cruddy jobs and equally cruddy vehicles getting us to and from them. There’s a reason why the teenage years are such selfish years. Most of us are simply trying to survive and get through ‘em! There’s not a lot of peace and harmony in those teenage years, either for the teenagers or those who have to interact with them. And for many, that disharmony carries through into their adult lives. The world is full of people of all ages living disharmonious lives. Our world can be a disharmonious world which only heightens the disharmony within each of us. Just look at the chaos caused by a virus unleashed in our world in the last couple years! Very few areas of our lives were untouched by the pandemic and most of our lives were disrupted in one way or another. Peace eluded so many of us for so long despite all the quarantine efforts that should have, in theory, added peace to our lives, which goes to show that no one and nothing can mandate peace and order. Peace must come from within before it can be actualized in the world around us. Peace must come from someone or something beyond this world. Peace must come from God and God alone which gets us to our reading for today.
Naturally, the lives of the disciples were upended by the crucifixion. Their leader and Lord had abruptly and violently left them. They had fled from the crucifixion and hid out in the same upper room of the home they had met with Jesus on the night he was arrested. They were afraid that the Romans and/or Jewish mob were coming for them next. Suddenly the resurrected Jesus stood among them having somehow managed to get through the locked door. And what did Jesus say? “Peace be with you.” Peace…what a novel concept at such a frightening time! Jesus didn’t want to add to the disciples’ terror with his ghostly appearance. No, he wanted to help them reclaim their peace amidst their frightful time. None of them were thinking clearly in their frightened state. Thomas was the only one to have enough clarity to question the validity of Jesus’ presence. We like to attribute his questioning to doubt but I wonder if his questioning reflected a unique clarity and reasoning. The other disciples would have believed anything in their heightened state of fear and confusion! Thomas at least had the wherewithal to apply reason to an unreasonable situation. But regardless, all of the disciples were disrupted by the crucifixion and their peace and harmony had left them. Jesus knew this. He knew that he needed to restore their peace before he could explain his resurrected presence. And his presence was enough to restore their peace, his presence and allowing Thomas to touch his wounds.
Jesus knew his crucifixion and resurrection would disrupt their lives and ours too and Jesus doesn’t want to disrupt the lives of his faithful believers. Jesus only wants us to know his love and his peace. Recall what he said earlier in John, “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (16:33) The world is a pretty unstable, chaotic world, similar to the bodies of teenagers. But we have a balm for such chaos. We have Jesus! Jesus offers a peace, a peace “which surpasses all understanding” (4:7) as Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippians. It’s a peace that none of us can understand. It’s a peace unlike anything this world can provide. More than peaceful music or sounds of nature. More than peaceful pictures or prayerful meditations. More than anything in this world! Remember, peace must come from God and God alone. Why? Because only then is it true and lasting. Paul tells us in his first letter to the Corinthians, “God is a God not of disorder but of peace.” (14:33) God wants us to know his peace and love! That’s why He sent his Son to us in the first place! That is Jesus’ sole purpose of existence, to love us and give us peace!
What a gift to receive from Jesus! His peace! Isn’t that all that any of us really needs, peace?! God’s peace? Paul writes in his letter to the Colossians, “and let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.” (3:15) Friends, that’s all that any of us needs in this world and in this life: peace. Let us receive the peace that comes from believing in Christ and be thankful. Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.