THE 2ND SUNDAY OF EASTER AD 2018
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
John 20:19-29 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.
Fake News. Why does Mr. Trump get so much traction with so many people with those words? Because we all know it happens, even if we might dispute who the fakers are and what’s true and what’s not. At times the whole thing reminds me of a typical childhood squabble that features such learned debate as: “are too" - “am not”, repeated ad nauseam.
Fake news. It happens. You only need to think of people like Gordon Lightfoot whose deaths are reported when they are still very much alive. The premature report of Mr. Lightfoot’s death has stuck with me because it was particularly amusing, since upon hearing the report himself on the radio he called them up. I remember smiling from ear to ear as I listened to him informing them that he was still very much alive.
Fake news. Yes, it happens. And it has been happening for a very long time now. Contrary to what we might want to think, there were no glory days for the truth. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth has been out of our grasp ever since that day shortly after the beginning of all things, when our first parents listened to the first lie and taking it into their hearts and believing it became liars themselves.
When you take on a lie, you see, when you accept it, believe it, it turns you into a liar, even if the lie just remains in your own heart, even if you are only lying to yourself. But if you can lie to yourself, deceive yourself, the closest person you know, lying to others isn’t such a big hurdle to get over. This of course was Satan’s goal when he told Adam and Eve his lie to cut them off from God and His truth.
He wanted to plant his lie deep within them to turn them into liars like himself, to deface, to disfigure, to deform the beauty of God’s true image in them and make them as ugly as himself. He wanted to turn all men into liars and so fill the world with lies. Because in a world where all news can be “Fake news” it’s hard to have open ears for God’s News - the Good News.
Satan’s goal was to leave us all standing before God as the bewildered Pontius Pilate stood before Jesus, asking Him, “What is truth?" The Truth was starring him in the face but as a liar - one disfigured in the image of the father of lies, he can’t see it, believe it, accept it. The lie within himself gets in the way. As it got in Thomas’ way until Jesus in mercy overcomes it.
Fake news. Yes, that’s what Thomas took the reports of Jesus’ resurrection as, fake news. Now, unlike the Chief priests and scribes, I’m sure he didn’t believe that the other disciples or women were intentionally trying to deceive him. He may have thought that it was wishful thinking on their part, or maybe an over active imagination, or their overwhelming grief that had them seeing what wasn’t really there.
Whichever it was, he did not, could not, believe. He doubted because of the lie planted within him. That is after all where all doubt comes from - the lie. If the lie had no place in him there would have been no doubt, only belief. What the others reported to him wasn’t something new after all. It was old news. Jesus Himself had told him that it would happen, but the lie kept it from grabbing hold of his heart, even when it was confirmed by the witness of others. He had to see for himself. He had to touch, to feel for himself. Only then, would he believe.
Thomas of course is not alone here. Remember all men are liars. The lie has a place in every son of Adam and every daughter of Eve, which would include you and me. Christ alone as the Son of God conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary knows no deceit because He is the truth. All others know the lie and live in it which is why we doubt when we should believe … why we fear when we should be at peace … why we worry when we should trust.
Doubt? Fear? Worry? Who doesn’t have those? Who doesn’t wrestle with them? We all do. About different things at different times perhaps, but they’re all there. Whether it’s about our husband or wife, our marriage, our children, our health, our work, our country, our province, our world, our church, our faith. Doubt, worry, fear shouldn’t have a place in us, should they beloved? God has after all revealed His love for us in Jesus. He has shown us just how far He will go to care for us. The truth Himself died as a lie so that we might have forgiveness and life in Him. How can we look on Christ on the cross … how can we hear about the empty tomb … and still doubt, worry or fear about anything?
Unless, there is still a part of us that stands with its arms crossed beside Thomas. Unless, there is still a part of us that buys into the lie and refuses to belief the truth. Unless, they’re is still a part of us that cries out “fake news” when it comes to Jesus’ resurrection. Unless, there is still a part of us that remains a liar. The Lord in mercy has set His truth before us over and over again to overcome the lie. In our Baptism, in His preached Word, in Holy Absolution, in His Body and Blood, He has repeatedly declared to us who He is and what He has done for us, and yet part of us keeps on resisting Him and the work of His Spirit.
And so what a blessing it is to have Thomas set before us this morning and to see ourselves in him. And what a joy to see our Lord’s love for him and His patience with him. What compassion and mercy we see in our dear Lord Jesus as He appears again to the disciples, all of whom are still struggling with their fear because of the lie that still has a hold on them. “Peace be with you,” He says, shutting down their fear with His Word as He shuts up the lie with His voice. Then in love He turns to Thomas and to silence the lie within him invites him to reach out and touch … to feel … and so believe.
The only answer to the lie, beloved, is a steady and regular application of the truth. Only as we hear that truth over and over again can it take root deep within our hearts and shut the liar in us down. This side of heaven that will never be a done deal but a work that we must rely on the Holy Spirit to continue to do. How precious then is the Word that sets that truth before us over and over again and how blessed is this place where God is at work to proclaim it to us week in and week out.
And so as the Lord sets his mercy and compassion for Thomas before us this morning, as He demonstrates His patient love for him, He reveals it again to and for each and every one of us. And yes, as Thomas, reaches out and touches, he does it for the doubter in all of us. He receives the proof that the liar in each of us demands - to shut him down and shut him up, so that when the Lord comes to us this morning with forgiveness and life in His body and blood, we might be moved to cry out from the depths of our hearts against the lie and every doubt, every worry, every fear it causes: “Christ is Risen He is risen indeed, Alleluia” Amen.