StJohn&StStephens-logo

Easter 3, 11th April 2021

tomb

John 20:19-31: Resurrection

These things 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.

 

Our gospel passage today starts on Easter Sunday, late in the evening of the first day of the Jewish week, two days after Jesus’ crucifixion.  The previous day had been Saturday, the Sabbath, when journeys and work were forbidden, so Jesus’ body had been left in the tomb as it was.  [Picture 1 The Resurrection, William Blake, www.christian.art.]  Then came Easter morning, Easter Sunday.  [2 The Holy Women at the Tomb, George Minne.] The women had been to the tomb early in the morning, and seen angels telling them that Jesus was risen (Mt 28:5, Mk 16:5, Lk 24:4).  Soon after Jesus had appeared to Mary Magdalene (Mt 28:9, Mk 16:9, Jn 20:10).  Then Cleopas and another disciple had seen Jesus in the afternoon on the road to Emmaus (Mk 16:12, Lk 24:13).  [3 Friends of the Humble (Supper at Emmaus), Léon-Augustin L’Hermitte.]  At the end of day, he had stopped for a meal with them, revealed to them who he was, and disappeared.  The two disciples had hurried back to Jerusalem to tell the others, to find Peter had also seen Jesus (v34, 1 Cor 15:5).  Then here Jesus appears to the disciples inside the house where they are staying (also Mk 16, Lk 24:36, 1 Cor 15:5).  (The accounts in the 4 gospels and 1 Corinthians are slightly different, though similar; I have put the references in the written version of the sermon, which will be on the church website.)

 

 

There is something different about Jesus: he appeared in a different form (Mk 16:12).  Even those who knew him well do not always recognise him –they were kept from recognising him (Luke 24:16).  And he ‘appears’, inside rooms, in different places.  Here Jesus appears inside a locked house.  But Jesus is real, a person with a body.  He lets people touch him, he eats.  In Acts it says he gave many convincing proofs that he was alive (1:3).

 

The doors to the house were locked because, although some of them had already seen Jesus, the disciples were confused, and afraid.  They wanted to believe, but were unsure.  And the Jewish authorities had just had Jesus killed, and would want to silence the disciples too.

 

So, perhaps not surprisingly, his first words are Peace be with you!  They had had their world shattered, the rabbi they had given up everything to follow, who they thought was the messiah, had been killed.  They were grieving, disappointed, thinking that they had got it all wrong, had even been misled.  No!  They had just misunderstood.  Be at peace!  Or rather, receive peace, peace from God, peace from Jesus, the peace of the Holy Spirit.  And he gives them the Holy Spirit, Receive the Holy Spirit.  Fully understood only a couple of months later, at Pentecost, but this was to be the underpinning of the church.

 

This is where the church starts: As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.  It would be this small number of disciples that took the gospel out to the world, to billions of people, so that now there are hundreds of millions of Christians, and about a third of the world are in Christian countries.

 

Jesus’ words on his appearance are part of his commission to his disciples, like the Great Commission at the end of Matthew, but in the other gospels too.  I think this is where the rather odd words about forgiveness of sins fit in: If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.  It seems out of tune with other parts of scripture to say that that God delegates his judgement to fallible humans, even the apostles, though more high-church people may say this is the basis of priestly forgiveness after confession.  There are apparently some complex tenses here (those whose sins you forgive have already been forgiven – note in NIV).  Christ’s death and resurrection is the means by which we receive forgiveness of sins, through which we can come to God.  In this resurrection appearance, Jesus is declaring that this forgiveness is available.

 

Which is why the resurrection is so important.  It shows who Jesus really was.  This is why the early Christians preached the resurrection.  In our first reading from Acts 2 it said With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  Later on, when Paul was preaching to the Greeks, his hearers thought he was talking about multiple gods, Jesus and Anastasis (Acts 17:18 – resurrection in Greek is Anastasis, from which we get the name Anastasia).

 

[4 Doubting Thomas.]  Thomas was not there.  Doubting Thomas would not believe the others; it was too incredible.  Then, a week later, Jesus appears again, and Thomas is present this time.  I am a little surprised that Thomas does not get a ticking off for his unbelief.  The two disciples on the road to Emmaus were told How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken (Lk 24:25).  But no, Jesus gently lets Thomas see and touch him, and come to accept what he thought was too good to be true.  It is a kind response, presumably what Thomas needed.

 

[1] Resurrection.  It is the heart of the gospel.  It is in all the creeds.  Christianity is not just a philosophy, good ideas to live by.  It is God’s incarnation as a human, his death for us, attested by this as a real historical event.  Jesus’ words, teaching, his life, show us God, but faith is rooted in one event: Jesus was raised from the dead.  Through this comes forgiveness.  Through this God gives us his peace.  Through this comes the Holy Spirit to be in us and with us.  Through Jesus’ new life comes our new life.

 

These things 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.

 

 

Jeremy Thake

St. John & St. Stephen.

 

 

Acts 2

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

 

John 20

19 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.’ 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

 

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 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.’

 

26 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.’ 27 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.’ 28 Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ 29 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.’

 

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 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.

 

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicized