Second Sunday of Easter
April 19, 2020 - John 20:29
The moment Jesus tells Thomas to see His hands and touch His side, the apostle instantaneously confesses, “My Lord and my God.” He recognizes Jesus as His God, His Savior. Then Jesus replies, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Believed what? That Jesus – who was nailed to a cross, whose side was pierced with a sword bringing about a flow of water and blood – has been raised from the dead. Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia! Thomas sees His Lord and believes the resurrection.
There are those who haven’t seen and yet have believed. Adam and Eve, the first receivers of the promised Savior, trusted the Lord’s promise. And though they died not seeing, yet they believed. Abraham received three promises from God – the land, a great nation, and all of the families of the world blessed through his offspring Jesus – but Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all died not receiving any of these promises in their earthly lives. The book of Hebrews says they saw them and greeted them from afar.
Then there’s Judah who received the promise that the scepter – the rule and reign – wouldn’t depart from him. And one of Judas’ descendants – King David – was promised a son to rule on the throne forever. David even prophesied of the Christ in Psalm 22, where he proclaims the One who suffers even the wrath of God, yet God prolongs His days in resurrection. David prophesied that God wouldn’t let His Holy One see corruption and St. Peter preached that David spoke of Jesus risen from the dead. David died, not receiving the promises in his earthly life, but He too greeted them from afar, believing that His Son, His Lord, would claim the throne of Israel eternally.
Of this Holy One, Isaiah declares, “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned––every one––to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Most Christians are familiar with that passage, but maybe less familiar is what Isaiah prophesies a few verses later, “When his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.” The One crushed for our iniquities shall rise. And He has! Isaiah also greeted these precious promises from afar. Blessed are these Old Testament saints who have not seen and yet have believed that Christ is risen indeed!
Blessed are those who haven’t seen and yet will believe. Jesus tells His disciples, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.” They shall listen to the voice of Jesus, having believed Him to be raised from death. We even heard John state a few minutes ago that “these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.”
The Lord commands the Church, “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Believe what? That Christ who was crucified has been raised from the dead. Baptized into what? Paul says we are baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ.
And the blessing that is derived from this we heard in today’s Gospel, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” Jesus establishes the ministry of teaching the Gospel and forgiving sins – a result of His death and glorious resurrection. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet, through the preaching of Christ crucified and raised from the dead will believe.
You also who celebrate with me the joy of Jesus’ resurrection are receivers of Jesus’ blessing, for you believe even though you haven’t seen. The Old Testament saints greeted these things from afar as they were to happen in the future. You and I greet them from afar as, from our vantage point, they happened in the past. But nevertheless, Jesus died and was raised for the blessing of the world – and you share in that blessing.
Because Christ is raised from the dead, you know that your sins truly are forgiven. Paul points out that if Jesus didn’t rise, we’re all still in our sins and we should be pitied. However, we know that Christ has been raised from the dead, we know that our sins are forgiven, and so we show mercy and forgiveness to others. Because Christ is raised from the dead, you know death is defeated, because the one who conquers death truly is the master over death – and Jesus conquered death for you! So you are blessed. Jesus came that you may have life and have it abundantly – and you do – for even though you and I die, yet shall we live!
Because Christ is raised from death, you know that no matter what suffering, trial, or affliction you face in this life, you have a glorious kingdom awaiting you – your heavenly Father’s kingdom – where Christ, your brother, will richly bless you as you live and reign with Him in His kingdom. No earthly sorrow can ever compare. Using picture language Revelation says that streets are paved with gold. Heaven is so great that one of the best descriptions we have is that dirty, yucky, gross streets are paved with the most sought-after, precious metal on earth. What a blessing that you receive in Christ who has been raised from the dead.
BLESSED ARE YOU – FOR THOUGH YOU HAVE NOT SEEN WITH YOUR EYES, YOU BELIEVE THAT CHRIST TRULY IS RISEN, LIVES, AND REIGNS FOREVER!