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Our Commission and Confidence

John 20 ends describing real people given a real commission to spread news that they initially find unbelievable themselves. They are told to preach the Resurrection. They are told to preach the forgiveness of sins. Both of these concepts can seem unbelievable but they are true, and they are our mission to tell the world!

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Our Commission and Our Confidence

Good Morning. Our lesson with Thomas is certainly one that grabs attention before I can say anything. I think it can even overshadow the great comission we have to proclaim both the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of the dead. It also reemphasizes my main point from Easter that in our minds, we find both of these concepts to be impossible.

The easy one to understand is the idea of the Resurrection. It goes against everything we see around us. And the same was true for those living 2000 years ago. They couldn’t believe it either, without God’s help.

As for our sins, that might be a little harder to understand, but I will begin with this idea. I think one thing that is the root of people returning to sin, struggling with addiction and depression, is the idea that we feel that we aren’t good enough, we don’t deserve it. Truth is, we don’t.

Jesus doesn’t give them a big smile, and say you had it in you all along. This separates Jesus teaching from those of, say Joel Osteen. Jesus symbolically breathes on them, more on that in a second, and declares the impossible possible, not by us, but by HIM.

This lesson is Easter evening, and the disciples locked in a room out of fear. They heard the news of His resurrection. John records that he and Peter had seen the cloths that once wrapped his corpse lying without Him.

The disciples knew that Jesus tomb was empty, and that He had appeared to Mary and to two disciples on the road to Emmaus who had returned to Jerusalem and were in that room according to Luke 24.

We read that Jesus “stood in their midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’” To their marveling eyes Jesus displayed the wounds on His hands and in His side. And because they were reasonable, rational men AND they had paid close attention to Jesus’ many predictions that He would rise from the dead, …they thought He was a ghost, and panicked.

Luke 24:37… (again pains to understand faith is a miracle)

So Jesus said again, “Peace be to you, As my Father has sent me, even so I send you.” How was Jesus sent, what is the “As”? By the Spirit, Mt. 3:16.  And here, He was about to impart the same Spirit and commission to His disciples that the Father gave to Him. Jesus said, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” v.22. And suddenly, miraculously, by God’s intervention, the disciples’ fear was replaced with gladness.

When God created Adam, He breathed into him the breath of life. You may remember from a couple of recent sermons how the words for breath in both Greek and Hebrew could also mean Spirit or wind. Here it is the same word used in Genesis 2:7 to describe God breathing life into Adam. John is trying to point you back to the Creation story, to compare the breath of life with having new life in him.

Just as the breath of God brought Adam to life, the Spirit of God brings the Church to life. This image is also found in Ezekiel 37, in that awesome scene of the valley of dry bones where the wind (spirit/breath) animates the bones to bring God’s people back to life as a new people/Church just when everyone thought God’s people were done for.

The miracle is also how God choses frightened, uneducated, and very confused people to be the bearer of his message into the world. Not based on who they were, or what they had done, but chosen out of love. This wonderful, powerful fact should cause us to fear nothing and no one as we work to fulfill the Father’s will in this world. And we will actually see this in just a moment with Thomas!

The mission to share God’s forgiveness, and bring the world back into communion with God, which was also the message the Father sent Christ into the world with, is now ours: reconciling all people with the Father. Paul also shares this in 2 Cor. 5, saying we are ambassadors of the Father by virtue of Jesus’ imparting His mission and Spirit to us.

The other great miracle in our lesson is Jesus turning doubt into faith, and this was overcome by the touch of Jesus.

Thomas seems to have had some bad press for the last 2000 years.

His name is commonly referred to as “Doubting Thomas.” But you have to remember that Thomas wasn’t with the other disciples when they saw Jesus.  He didn’t have the benefit of what they had seen.

He couldn’t believe that Jesus was risen – because it was something outside his experience. His experience here is an encouragement to us.

There are apparently some JW’s coming around the neighborhood now, I had some come and try to recruit me during Holy week. If you don’t know, they are not Christians, but actually a very anti-Christian cult that denies many Christian beliefs.

Though they say they believe the Bible, they don’t believe that Jesus is God, he’s just the Archangel Michael. Don’t know where the Bible says that! And so JW’s really have a problem with what Thomas says in the lesson today. It is very interesting that the clearest statement that Jesus is God in the Gospels comes from the mouth of Doubting Thomas.

It is the only place where the word ‘God’ is used of him without qualification of any kind, and in the most unambiguous form of words. Not merely God, but MY GOD! And this is said, not ecstatically, or with a cry of astonishment, like he’s swearing “Oh My God!”, but with a flat conviction, as of one acknowledging (clear) evidence: ‘2 + 2 = 4’, That is the sun in the sky,’ and “Jesus, You are my Lord and my God.’”

One author, Dorothy Sayers, has said, “Each of us, at times, has doubts. For that reason, I think it is helpful to remember that the doubt of Thomas may have done us more good than the faith of Mary.” 

Thomas, when told by the other disciples that Jesus had risen, SAID in rather flowery language says: “I’m not going to believe until I can stuff my hand actually into his side.”

At least that’s the force of what he is saying in Greek. Our faith has to be based on a firm foundation – and Jesus realized that Thomas needed that confirmation. So, did he believe? First, once Thomas got the evidence he needed he simply said: “My Lord and my God.”

But his belief wasn’t just a modern day understanding of believing in existence, but more of a BELIEF that results in action.

When Thomas believed, not only did it drive him to his knees to confess “My Lord and my God!”  But history tells us that Thomas lived and later died for his faith – as a missionary to India. After the disciples were scattered from Jerusalem, he went East, and kept going East and further East.

Thomas is known for leading a huge evangelism of India. Preaching across the West Coast, he moved to the East Coast, where he was eventually martyred by being run through with a spear. When Missionaries came to India when England, Portugal and Spain began sailing around the world, they found millions of Christians all over India, all who traced their church back to it’s founding by Thomas in the 60’s and 70’s AD.

In our Gospel reading today Jesus gave Thomas what he needed for his faith. And Thomas Responded! And he gave his disciples a commission to preach the miraculous. The resurrection of Christ, and the forgiveness of sins, both of which mean our redemption.

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