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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

John 20:19-31 04/22/2017

The disciples were hiding behind locked doors. They were lost, confused, and terrified. They had seen the rulers take their leader Jesus and torcher Him and kill Him on a cross. They feared that they were next. They were trying to keep a low profile. All at once Jesus came and stood among them. He greeted them with “Peace be with you”.

This is peace with God- a peace that no one deserves.

A peace that means sins are forgiven

A peace that means our relationship with God is whole again.

This is a peace that means all the sins that they have done are set aside.

And there were plenty of sins.

On the night that Jesus was betrayed, all the disciples promised their lives and their honor to their master Jesus Christ.

But after the temple guard came and arrested Jesus, they all fled.

And Peter who said that he would never deny Jesus, in deed denied Him 3 times before the cock crowed during Jesus trial.

There were events that happened earlier, like arguing that who would be the greatest.

They even prevented children from coming to Jesus. The disciples sinned often.

But all of these sins are forgiven as Jesus came and stood among them and said “Peace be with you”.

Then Jesus showed the token of the struggle that earned Him that peace. The holes in His hands from the wrought iron nails, that were driven through His hands and the hole in His side where the spear pieced his side. There on His body is the story of the suffering and death that Jesus had earned for their salvation.

That salvation is also for us. We like all humanity as well as the disciples have sinned.

Are there times when we have denied Jesus? Or used His name in vain?

Have we made promises to God that we haven’t kept?

Have we blamed God for our own faults?

Like the disciples we often focus on ourselves instead of God.

We know that our sin has earned us the eternal wrath of God.

Never the less, Jesus comes to us and says “Peace be with you”. The wounds on His hands and His side tell us that He has made everything right. Everything is new again and we have a healthy relationship with God. The peace that Jesus offers is not only for our relationship with god, but also for our relationship with each other, as we share that peace of the Lord with others.

Then He says to the disciples again, “peace be with you, as the father sends me, even so I am sending you.” And then He breathed on them and said

“Receive the Holy Spirit.” If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold the forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.”

Just as God breathed the breath of life into Adam and gave life to all mankind, so also Jesus breathed on His disciples and brought life to His church. 

As Jesus breathed life into His church, He gave his peace, the forgiveness to the church. The mouth of the church is the mouth of Christ and that mouth gives peace and forgiveness. In public Christ’s words of peace and forgiveness comes from the mouth of the Pastor.

As Martin Luther said, “We receive absolution, that is forgiveness, from Pastors as from God Himself, not doubting, but firmly believing that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven.” When the Pastor says ”I forgive you in the name of the Father, and the Son and of the Holy Spirit”, you can know that she or he is bringing the words of Christ to you. The sins of all who confess and believe in Jesus Christ are indeed forgiven just as certain as if Jesus Christ stood before you here and forgave your sins.

Whoever believes in Jesus Christ shall become the dwelling place and the temple of God. The Holy Christian Church is a beautiful and glorious being. In her we hear what God speaks and desires. In Church we hear about repentance, forgiveness, baptism, and faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. 

For we hold fast that we receive salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and savior. This grace is a free gift of God and there is nothing that we can do to earn it.

Now Thomas wasn’t present the first time when Jesus appeared to the disciples. So where was Thomas? What was so important that he would not be there when Jesus came? His place was with his fellow disciples. Last Sunday we heard the words of Jesus say to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, Greetings”,  and He said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me. “So where was Thomas?

Was he on a mission of mercy? Perhaps he went to comfort others. Maybe he went for supplies and food. Maybe he was afraid to be seen with the other disciples. There could have been some trivial matter that kept him away. Or did his doubt overcome him? Whatever it was, his place was with his brothers, the disciples, to receive the blessings from Jesus.

Like Thomas, There are many excuses for people to not attend church services and receive the blessing and forgiveness of God. It could be a ballgame, a fishing or hunting trip. We could be too tired, or maybe we wanted to go out of town on shopping or take in a concert. When we miss the sacraments and forgiveness at church and a chance to praise God, we are robbing ourselves of receiving that Peace of Jesus Christ. 

Thomas lacked the faith. He said “I will not believe without seeing Jesus hands and the marks of the nails and place my hand in His side.” It was sad that Thomas wasn’t there to hear Jesus words of Peace and forgiveness. Just as it is sad when anyone misses out on hearing the words of Peace from the church, the body of Christ.

I think that John is suggesting to us that Christ appears most often within the community of believers that we call the church, and when we separate ourselves from the church we take a chance on missing the unique presence of Jesus Christ and hearing His word.

The world is not polite and is full of Satan’s lies that fill us with doubt. The television, books, and movies try to fill us with lies and doubt about the life of Jesus as well as the Christian Church. They are more interested in making money and profits, than bringing us the truth. We are helpless before those lies without Christ’s words of Peace. This is what can happen when we miss out on hearing the word of God. We miss out on hearing the peace of God.  Many books claim to be written about life, but only one actually gives life, The Holy Bible. What is more important is what we believe in our heart by Faith that Jesus died for our sins and was resurrected as our savior.

The second time Jesus visited the disciples, Thomas was with them. He didn’t say to Thomas, why didn’t you believe when your friends told you the truth? Instead he said “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and reach out your hand and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

We are like Thomas. It is difficult to accept the truth about something without any tangible evidence or without a sign to guide us. As with Thomas, God gives us signs: His Word and sacraments. In them God gives us Christ’s forgiveness, life, and salvation. In short, He gives us Jesus.

For our benefit, Jesus said; “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” This is what we call faith.  

Faith is: belief with strong conviction; firm belief in something that there is no tangible proof; complete trust, confidence reliance or devotion.

Faith is the opposite of doubt. Unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence; unquestioning belief in God.

Faith is the most important element in the Christian life. As we read in our second lesson 1 Peter 1:8-9; although you have not seen Him. You love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

When Thomas finally saw Jesus, he rejoiced at the truth of the living Savior. We also rejoice with Thomas in seeing the savior, not with our own eyes, but with the signs, God gives us, that enables us to see with the eyes of faith, that in Jesus, God is truly with us.

It is easy to pick on Thomas. He will forever be known as Doubting Thomas. In truth, the other disciples doubted until they saw Jesus standing before them. The only disadvantage was that Thomas was for some reason missing that day when Jesus first appeared.

The real lesson is how Jesus continues to bring His greeting of peace and forgiveness.

Jesus is patient, tenacious, and merciful. He continues to offer that peace and He gave it to His church. Now we receive that Peace through the church. All we have to do is have faith.

That peace Jesus Christ earned for us with His perfect life, His innocent suffering and death, and His resurrection.

It is the peace of forgiveness, life, and salvation. Which surpasses all understanding.

AMEN

George Balko

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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising Michigan ~ An ELCA, Northern Great Lakes Synod Congregation
P.O. Box 360 ~ 1150 West M-28 ~ Munising, MI 49862 ~ 1-906-387-2520 ~ contact@edenonthebay.org

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