Skip to comments."What You Don’t See Is What You Get" (Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter, on John 20:19-31)
Posted on 04/18/2020 11:33:09 PM PDT by Charles Henrickson
What You Dont See Is What You Get (John 20:19-31)
The doors were locked. They were in lockdown mode. They had quarantined themselves. They were self-isolating. Why? Because they were afraid.
Who is it that Im talking about? Americans in 2020? No, Im talking about Jesus disciples, around the year 30. Those disciples had locked themselves in. They were in self-quarantine. They were isolating and keeping their social distance. And the reason was, they were afraid. They were afraid of the Jewish authorities, who had just had their master killed a couple of days earlier. Now, since they were known to be Jesus disciples, if it became known where they were, the authorities might come after them, too. So the disciples were afraid. They self-isolated, and they were keeping their distance, behind closed doors.
But if a sealed tomb couldnt keep Jesus in, a locked door couldnt keep Jesus out. He passes right through and stands in their midst. Shalom aleichem, he says, Peace be with you, a standard Hebraic greeting. But when Jesus says it, its a little more than standard! Jesus really does convey peace when he speaks it! This is a blood-bought peace, peace purchased by the blood that Gods Son shed on the cross. Peace between heaven and earth. Peace between a righteous God and sinful man. Jesus made that peace for us on the cross, where he died for the sins of the world. Jesus packs real peace into his words, when he greets us with Peace be with you.
The disciples are mind-boggled! Whoa! We thought you were dead, Master! They nailed you to that cross! You died! The soldier speared you in the side! They took you down and put you in a tomb! And sealed it! With guards around! How can that be you? Wait a minute, boys. Maybe were imagining things. This must be some sort of hallucination. You know, weve been pretty stressed out lately. Or is it--can it be--his ghost? No, no, this is no ghost. It really is Jesus! Alive! In flesh and bone! God must have raised him from the dead! Look! Hes showing us the marks in his hands, where they drove in the nails. Hes showing us his side, where the soldier pierced him with the spear! Yeah, it really is him! Risen, alive! Wow!
Well, how about those disciples, huh? Lucky them! They got to see Jesus, risen from the dead, saw him with their own eyes. Too bad were not that lucky. Yeah, just look at the advantage they had! Easter day, that evening, Jesus comes to them, shows them his hands and his side. No wonder they believed! Well, most of them, at least. Thomas wasnt there that night. Maybe he was out bowling or something. The other guys tell him, We have seen the Lord. Oh, yeah, right. What you guys been drinkin? He was crucified, remember? Just a few days ago. Hes dead, Jim--and John, and Peter, and all the rest of you. Our master is dead. Roman soldiers dont mess up on things like that. No, theres no way I can believe what you guys are telling me. Its just crazy wishful thinking, thats what youre doing. Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.
Well, on the next Sunday, Thomas was in the house that night, there with the rest of them. And guess who shows up? Jesus. Again, through the locked door. Again, with the hands and the side. This time Jesus does it for the benefit of Thomas. Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.
See? Seeing is believing. Thomas gets to see. The rest of them got to see. And they believed. Oh, those lucky, fortunate disciples! If only we could have been in their position! Then we would be strong Christians, and we wouldnt falter in our faith. Right?
Wrong. Thats not how Jesus sees it. Or says it. He says to Thomas, Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. Jesus kind of rebukes Thomas there. He says that seeing is not an advantage. That seeing is not the same as believing. In fact, Jesus turns it around. He says, basically, Believing is better than seeing.
Whats going on here? What does Jesus mean by Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed? And what does this have to do with us? Well, that is us! We are the ones Jesus is talking about when he says, Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. So Jesus thinks we are pretty blessed. We are the fortunate ones! Believing is better than seeing.
Were like the people John is writing his gospel for, people living long after the events he reports. John writes for folks who had never seen Jesus up close and personal like he had. There were only a small number of persons in the world at that time who had gotten to see Jesus during his ministry, and even fewer who saw him after he had risen from the dead.
Although, there were enough eyewitnesses who attested to the physical, bodily resurrection of Christ for all time to come. Jesus did want a core of witnesses who could verify the factuality and the physicality of his resurrection. As Peter would testify to the Jewish council, We are witnesses of these things. And Paul would later write: For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
So there were enough eyewitnesses to establish the facts at the time of the founding of the church. But it wasnt the seeing alone, it wasnt the seeing per se, that produced faith. Seeing, by itself, is not the same as believing. No, there were lots of people who saw Jesus in the flesh who did not believe in him. His opponents, for example; they saw him, but they rejected him.
Friends, you and I are like the millions of Christians around the world, going back all the way to the first century. We never have seen Jesus and yet we believe in him. So Jesus calls us blessed. We still receive the blessings that come to us by faith in him. What you dont see is what you get. You dont see the peace that Jesus gives or the forgiveness of sins or the sure hope of everlasting life. You dont see the Fathers love, the presence of Christ, or the gift of the Holy Spirit. You dont see these things. But God gives them to you, nonetheless. What you dont see you still get.
The blessedness of believing rather than seeing is a consistent teaching in the New Testament. You heard it in the Epistle today. Peter writes long after Christ had ascended into heaven, and he says to Christians just like us: Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Likewise, Paul writes in Romans: Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Or again, in 2 Corinthians: We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. And again: We walk by faith, not by sight. And in Hebrews it says: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. All these passages are saying the same thing: What you dont see is what you get! Eternal things, like the salvation of our souls and the redemption of our bodies. We dont see those things with our eyes. Yet this is our certain hope, as sure as the resurrection of Christ himself.
So how does it happen? How do we get that faith, that trust in our Savior Jesus Christ? Answer: By the Word! It is the Word of God that gives us the faith to believe, to trust in Christ as our Savior. The word of the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, who he is and what he has done for us. The Holy Spirit works through the gospel means, Word and Sacrament, to give us that saving faith and to keep us strong in it. Theres no other way. Gods Word is what we need.
This is why John writes, at the end of our text today, his purpose statement for his whole gospel: Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. Its the gospel, the good news of Christ, as it is preached to us, taught to us, sacramented to usits the gospel that the Holy Spirit uses to create faith to trust in Christ and to keep us strong in that saving faith. As it says in the explanation to the Third Article of the Creed: I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. The Holy Spirit works this saving faith in us, our whole life long, from start to finish, and the means that he uses to do this is the gospel.
So whats the takeaway in all of this? Two things: 1) Jesus really is risen from the dead; he is victorious over sin and death, and he gives us life in him. And 2) Since faith in Christ is created and nourished in us through the Word, its kind of important that we regularly be in the Word.
Right now we cant be in church to receive the Word and Sacrament as we normally do. But were doing the next best thing: Were sharing the Word of God here through this gift of modern technology. Youre still able to hear the Word of God, and thats a good thing! God is still blessing us! God is still with us! Thank God for that! But we still long for the day, hopefully soon, when we can get back together, as church, in church, to take part together in the Divine Service of Word and Sacrament. Lord, hasten that day! It will be sweet indeed!
But take heart, dear friends: Christ is still risen, and the Word is still going out. And you are still on the receiving end of Gods good gifts. What you dont see is what you get. So take heart. Today our risen Lord Jesus comes to us through our doors, into our isolation, and he reassures us with his words: Peace be with you. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, Peace be with you. When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you. And 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 withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.
Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, 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 in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, 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; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, 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 believed.
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
God intended His Church to be His creation, no sacrements etc save us, it is a living walk with Him, today..How many would sell all they have and give it to the poor, and follow Him, ie carry your cross, as he told the man seeking what he needed to do to have eternal life. Christ calls us to give Him our lives, beyond what man sees, the true vision of the correct life on earth was given to the Israelis in the desert, many today believe Christians have replaced God’s people because the Jews killed Christ, How shallow a spiritual vision, how self serving, was the church formed in to discount God’s commandments, and save man from God, what lies have spread on the earth since man got the football..
Yes the Jewish priest out of the same problem man has today wanted to kill truth to preserve their failing power over that which is already dead..Todays church without the Israeli walk is deficient, Israelis without Christ are not fulfilled, we will come together as Israel and be His people, we will observe His feast and festivals, for they are designated by God as Holy...and the Jewish faith will be God’s priest to the world, having been redeemed by Christ.
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