T 2nd Sunday of Easter – May 1st, 2011 T
Guest preaching - Trinity, Covina
Text: Job 19:25-27; 1 John 5:4-10; John 20:19-31
In the Name of Jesus + Amen.
Jesus breathes on His disciples. How’s that for a welcome?! There you are locked in a self-made prison, scared out of your wits, you’ve just been through one helluva Friday afternoon, some of the women have reported that Jesus is risen and then, all of a sudden, Jesus appears. Out of nowhere. Well, not out of nowhere. Out of the grave. He is no ghost. No figment of their collective imaginations. Look at my hands; my side. He is real. He is alive. He is risen! And risen Jesus can do whatever He wants to, locked doors and lowly bread and wine are no problem for His crucified and risen body.
Jesus has a habit of barging in rather unexpectedly. No, “hi how are ya? What’ve you guys been up to?” No, he does better than chit-chat. He brings Crucified and Risen peace.
Peace be with you. The Hebrew word is “shalom,” and it’s a bigger word than our word “peace.” It’s a blessing and a greeting all at once. A double greeting, - hello and goodbye. Shalom is harmony, wholeness, everything in its place. All is well. “Peace (Shalom) I leave with you, my peace (my Shalom) I give to you. Not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
This is exactly why Jesus is “apostl-ed” – sent – by the Father. The angels sang at His birth: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased.” Apparently, Jesus is very well pleased with His disciples because He speaks peace to them 3x. Twice here and once a week later for absent Thomas.
That’s what Jesus’ death and resurrection mean: peace –for His disciples – and for you. For the Father is well pleased by His obedient, Crucified and Risen Son. His sacrifice has restored life, to His disciples, to you, to me. Sin, death and the devil are defeated. You are redeemed. You are loved. You are at peace with God and God is at peace with you in those precious wounds of Jesus.
Peace at Jesus’ birth. Peace as Jesus goes to the temple to be about His Father’s business – the business of peace. Peace as He is baptized into our death by John the Baptizer. Peace as He conquers temptation, sin and the devil – in the wilderness, and on the cross - forever. Compassionate, healing Peace. Jesus is sent from the ark of the heavens, a flesh and bone dove, to bring peace through His flesh and blood on the cross.
“As the Father has sent me to Shalom the world to Himself, even so I am sending you.” And when Jesus said this he breathed on the disciples – a little Pentecost, the big one is coming in 50 days. As God once breathed life into Adam’s dusty lungs, as He breathed upon the waters of creation and the waters of the Red Sea, as He caused dry bones to rattle and rise from the dry valley of death so now He breathes on His disciples.
“Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
Have you noticed that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are always together? Jesus and the Spirit at His Baptism. Jesus and His Spirit on Good Friday. Jesus and His Spirit on Easter. That’s just the way the Holy Spirit likes it – spotlights fixed on Jesus. He proceedeth from the Father and the Son, to the apostles, to His church.
Jesus, born to breath our toxic, sin poisoned air, to suffer, die and give up His breath on Good Friday, to breathe new life into our lifeless graves by rising from His own. From Genesis to Revelation, from the disciple’s panic room to His people huddled in His Church, wherever they are gathered, whatever fear, doubt, confusion or sin you are struggling with - Jesus is sent with Triune blessing.
Jesus has what you might call, holy-tosis; His breath doesn’t just give Life; it is Life. Jesus is life and His Word is Life. Jesus doesn’t leave His church short of breath. If the church is going to preach and proclaim, she’s going to need breath. His breath. His life. Jesus ordains His apostles by this breath.
Jesus gives them authority to do what God alone can do - forgive sin. He gives an Office. A Spirit-breathing, Jesus’ life-giving office. A preaching and hearing office. Given to forgive and retain sins. That’s what your pastor is called and sent to do. That’s what the church is for: a wind tunnel of forgiveness, from Jesus to His apostles to you.
Hearing is believing. That’s what Mary got right that Easter dawn. She saw Jesus with her ears. But we’re more like the disciples. We tend to hide behind our locked doors. We’re fearful, uncertain, often unbelieving, confused, worried, anxiety ridden. Perhaps for many of us, like Thomas, seeing is believing. Peace on earth? A caring family? Healthy loved ones? Recovering economy? Yea, I’ll believe it when I see it.
There’s just one problem. Believing is not seeing. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is believing the exact opposite of what you see, faith is trusting in the hidden ways of God, for that is how he works. God masks Himself. Jesus looks, lives and dies like a man – yet faith says, “Jesus is Lord.”
You go about your daily work, sweat, labor, toil – no whistling while you’re in the daily grind – yet faith says, “This labor is holy, divine work, for I am God’s instrument for the good of others.”
We get sick, lose jobs, loved ones die, we hurt, cry, suffer – yet faith says, “I am a child of God, Baptized and loved by Him.”
Believing is not seeing. To believe is to confess that God is where God seems not to be, to confess that God is good when God seems to be bad, to confess that what is really real is not what you see, but what you hear. That is faith.
Just like Thomas, we want something real. We need that peace that Jesus gives. No wonder Thomas issues Jesus a throw down. The ultimate reality show: “So you think you a dead man can rise from the grave? No apprentices, cooks or fancy restaurants; no record deals, no song and dance. Just let me see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side or else I will not believe.”
“My Lord and my God.” That’s the kind of confession that only comes from the breath of the Lord. Maybe Thomas touched Jesus like that Caravaggio painting. Maybe he didn’t. I’d like to think it’s the moment Jesus breathes His, “peace” on Thomas, he believed. Hearing – not seeing - is believing.
This is the way our Lord works; He does not abandon Thomas in unbelief. He does not hand us over to our sin. He takes your fears, your doubt, your sin and death and He makes it His own. He gives you the kind of peace that knows that no matter how great your sin, Christ’s love – His peace – is greater. Jesus’ very Word creates believing. It’s the same for you as it was for Thomas.
What Jesus did for Thomas and the disciples after the resurrection, He does for your every Sunday until He returns. Jesus speaks peace. This Crucified and risen Jesus still blusters His holy breath upon His church. He calls and sends pastors to announce His holy absolution into your ears. He pours out his body and blood from those holy scars to fill the chalice. This is He who comes by water and blood and the Spirit. For the life of His children, God never gives anything less than Himself. In the kingdom of God, the gifts are Christ.
That’s the whole point of John’s Gospel –these things are written that you may believe and believing have Life in His Name. And Blessed are you who have not seen and yet believe. Jesus Peace is with you. All is well.
In the Name of Jesus T Amen.