The Second Sunday of Easter
Pastor George Pejakovich
John 20:19-31

 


TODAY IS OFTEN CALLED LOW SUNDAY. I’M NOT SURE IF THAT REFERS TO THE LOW ATTENDANCE ON THE SUNDAY AFTER EASTER, OR IF IT REFERS TO THE LET DOWN AFTER ALL THE JOY AND NOISE OF EASTER MAKING TODAY SEEM LIKE JUST ANOTHER ORDINARY SUNDAY. THE EASTER SEASON BEGINS WITH THE SUNDAY OF THE RESURRECTION AND CONTINUES FOR SEVEN MORE SUNDAYS UNTIL THE DAY OF PENTECOST. NONE OF THE SUNDAYS OF EASTER ARE ORDINARY, THEY ALL BEGIN AND ARE GROUNDED IN THE RESURRECTION, AS IS THE GOSPEL FOR TODAY.

THIS IS THE EVENING OF THE DAY OF RESURRECTION, AND A LOT HAS HAPPENED. MARY HAS BEEN TO THE TOMB AND FOUND IT EMPTY. INSTEAD OF FINDING THE BODY OF JESUS, SHE MEETS TWO STRANGE MEN WHO TELL HER THAT HE IS NOT HERE. SOBBING OUTSIDE THE TOMB, IN HER GRIEF SHE DOES NOT RECOGNIZE JESUS UNTIL HE CALLS HER NAME. SHE DOES WHAT HE TELLS HER, AND RUSHES TO TELL THE DISCIPLES THAT SHE HAS SEEN THE LORD. PETER AND JOHN RUN TO THE TOMB, AND FIND IT EMPTY AS MARY SAID. CONFUSED AND WORRIED, THEY RETURN TO THE HOUSE WHERE THEY ARE STAYING, AND LOCK THE DOORS. THEIR FIRST REACTION TO THE EMPTY TOMB IS TO LOCK THEMSELVES IN AND HIDE. THEY DON’T BELIEVE MARY; IN SPITE OF HAVING SEEN JESUS RAISE LAZARUS FROM HIS TOMB. THEY SAW WHAT HAPPENED TO JESUS AND WERE AFRAID THE SAME THING WOULD HAPPEN TO THEM.

JESUS WAS FULL OF THE POWER OF GOD WHILE HE WAS ALIVE, SO THEY COULD GRASP HIS RAISING LAZARUS FROM THE DEAD, BUT NOW HE WAS DEAD, AND WHAT POSSIBLE POWER COULD THE DEAD HAVE OVER LIFE. SO THEIR RESPONSE TO THE EMPTY TOMB WAS TO HIDE IN FEAR. THE OPPOSITE OF FAITH IS NOT DOUBT, IT IS FEAR. WHILE THEY WERE COWERING IN FEAR, JESUS CAME AND STOOD AMONG THEM. I WONDER IF HE WAS THERE WITH THEM THE ENTIRE TIME AND SUDDENLY REVEALED HIMSELF TO THEM. AFTER ALL, HE DID SAY WHERE TWO OR THREE ARE GATHERED TOGETHER IN MY NAME, THERE I WILL BE ALSO. HIS FIRST WORDS TO THEM WERE, “PEACE BE WITH YOU.” HE IMMEDIATELY SHOWED THEM HIS HANDS AND SIDE SO THEY WOULD KNOW THAT IT WAS REALLY HIM AND NOT SOME APPARITION. IN RECOGNIZING WHO HE WAS, THE DISCIPLES REJOICED.

AGAIN, HE SAID, “PEACE BE WITH YOU,” AND, “AS THE FATHER HAS SENT ME, SO I SEND YOU,” AND BREATHE UPON THEM THE HOLY SPIRIT, GIVING THE DISCIPLES THE SAME POWER AS HIS OWN FROM GOD TO FORGIVE OR RETAIN THE SINS OF OTHERS.

MORE POWERS OF THE SPIRIT WERE TO COME ON PENTECOST, BUT THIS WAS TO PREPARE THEM FOR THEIR MISSIONS TO COME. THEN HE WAS GONE FROM THEIR SIGHT, BUT, ALAS, THOMAS WAS NOT WITH THEM. WHY WAS THOMAS OUT AND ABOUT WHILE THE REST WERE HIDING BEHIND CLOSED DOORS? THOMAS WAS ONE OF THE MOST FAITHFUL FOLLOWERS OF JESUS WHILE HE WAS ALIVE, AND HIS DEATH MAY HAVE CRUSHED ALL THE TRUST HE HAD PLACED IN JESUS, AND PERHAPS WHATEVER TRUST HE HAD IN HIS FELLOW DISCIPLES WHO HAD RUN AWAY TO HIDE. CERTAINLY WE HEAR HIS MISTRUST IN THEM WHEN THEY TELL HIM THEY HAVE SEEN THE LORD; “UNLESS I SEE THE MARKS 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.”

NOW THIS IS A WEEK AFTER JESUS FIRST APPEARED TO THE DISCIPLES, AND THEY ARE STILL IN THE HOUSE WITH THE DOORS LOCKED; THEY ARE STILL IN FEAR. WHEN JESUS DOES SHOW HIMSELF TO THEM AGAIN, HE ONCE MORE SAYS, “PEACE BE WITH YOU.” HE DOES NOT CONFRONT THOMAS, BUT OFFERS HIM THE PROOF THOMAS NEEDS TO BELIEVE IN HIS RESURRECTION. I SINCERELY DOUBT THAT THOMAS PUT HIS FINGERS IN THE MARK OF THE NAILS OR IN JESUS’ SIDE, BECAUSE THOMAS’ REACTION TO JESUS SHOWS THAT HE UNDERSTANDS JUST WHAT THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS MEANS; “MY LORD AND MY GOD!” THE RESURRECTION IS THE PROOF THAT JESUS IS INDEED OUR LORD AND OUR GOD, AND HE COMES TO HIS DISCIPLES TO DRIVE AWAY THEIR FEAR BY GIVING THEM HIS GREAT SHALOM; THE PEACE THAT ONLY HE CAN GIVE. HIS RESURRECTION MEANS THAT HE IS THE LORD OF LIFE, AND OUR TRUST IN HIS RISEN PRESENCE MEANS THAT THERE IS NOTHING IN THIS LIFE TO FEAR.

JESUS CAME TO HIS DISCIPLES. HE CAME TO MARY SOBBING AT THE TOMB, HE CAME TO HIS FOLLOWERS HIDING IN FEAR AT THE LOWEST POINT OF THEIR LIVES, HE CAME TO THOMAS TO OPEN HIS EYES TO THE TRUTH. JESUS CAME TO HIS DISCIPLES TO FORGIVE THEM, TO TRANSFORM THEM, AND PREPARE THEM FOR THE WORK THEY WILL SOON TO DO IN HIS NAME. SO IT IS WITH US; WHEN MISERY OVERWHELMS HOPE, WHEN FAITH DISSOLVES INTO DOUBT, WHEN FEAR DRIVES OUT COURAGE, WHEN LONELINESS LOCKS US AWAY, GOD COMES TO US. HE FINDS US WHEREVER WE ARE, AND COMES TO US TO OFFER HIS PEACE. LIKE THE DISCIPLES, WE MIGHT NOT RECOGNIZE HIM AT FIRST BUT STILL HE COMES TO US. IT MIGHT BE IN THE KIND WORDS OF A STRANGER, THE WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT FROM ANOTHER, THE WARM EMBRACE OF A DEAR FRIEND, OR IN THE WORDS OF TOUGH LOVE FROM OUR FAMILY. OUR LORD AND OUR GOD COMES TO US.

WE DESPERATELY NEED OUR LORD AND GOD TO COME TO US AND GIVE US HIS PEACE. WE TEND TO HIDE BEHIND LOCKED DOORS OF OUR SOULS. WE HIDE BECAUSE WE ARE AFRAID, WE HIDE BECAUSE WE ARE ASHAMED OF OUR PAST, WE HIDE BECAUSE OF OUR ADDICTION TO THAT WHICH HARMS US, WE HIDE BECAUSE WE ARE WOUNDED, SORROWFUL, OR HURT. WE HIDE BECAUSE WE HAVE HURT ANOTHER, WE HIDE BECAUSE OUR PRIDE PREVENTS US FROM SEEKING THE HELP WE NEED. YET, OUR LORD AND GOD COMES TO US, TO FORGIVE US WITH HIS GRACE, TO COMFORT US WITH HIS PRESENCE, TO TRANSFORM US, AND TO GIVE US HIS PEACE. HE COMES TO US TO MAKE US THE CHILDREN OF THE RESURRECTION; THE EASTER PEOPLE WHO RISE UP FROM THE SEALED DOORS OF OUR SOULS AS CHRIST ROSE OUT OF THE SEALED TOMB.

WITH THE BREATH OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE DISCIPLES EVENTUALLY CAME OUT OF THE LOCKED ROOM TO BRING THE GREAT GOOD NEWS OF THE RESURRECTED LORD TO ALL THE WORLD. IN THE PEACE OF CHRIST, ALL FEAR WAS GONE, AND THE COWERING DISCIPLES BECAME THE FEARLESS APOSTLES OF THE LORD. SO TOO, DOES OUR LORD STILL CALL US TO GO INTO THE WORLD AND PROCLAIM THE GREAT GOOD NEWS BY WORD AND DEED, NOT KNOWING WHERE HE WILL SEND US OR WHAT WORK HE WILL CALL US TO DO IN HIS NAME. THOMAS ENDED UP IN INDIA, WHERE HE FOUNDED SEVERAL CHURCHES, AND EVENTUALLY WAS MARTYRED FOR HIS FAITH. FAITH IN THE RISEN CHRIST DRIVES OUT ALL FEAR AND OPENS TO US POSSIBILITIES UNDREAMED OF, AND IT ALL BEGINS IN THE RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD AND GOD.