Sermon for Quasimodo Geniti, the Second Sunday of Easter, AD 2021

John 20:19-31

Alleluia. Christ is risen!

John always has a theological point he is trying to make in his gospel. One of John’s trademarks that the other gospel writers don’t do is to jump in and “take the mic” so to speak in order to explain the significance of what he is describing. Jesus will say “destroy this temple and I will build it in three days” and John will jump in and explain: he means the temple of His body. He does the same in this lesson. Here the sum of what Easter means, your salvation, is expressed in the words “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
           
The disciples’ first Easter doesn’t look like our typical celebration, but it does look like last year. They’ve locked themselves in the upper room in fear and trembling. Yes, they fear the Jews who have killed their master and may be coming for them next. Yet they have heard many reports of the resurrection already. The women, the disciples at Emmaus, and Mary Magdalene have all told them that wonderful news that “He is risen!” There is more to it than fear of the Jews. As Jesus predicted, “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered” (Matthew 26:1). The disciples all fell away and abandoned Jesus. Peter denied Him three times. Who would this resurrected Jesus be? What would he do to them?
           
The disciples should know this, Jesus told them many times. However, the disciples may have been full of pride, unbelief, prejudice, and obstinacy -  and we are even worse. We fear the judgment of this world. We fear its attacks and ridicule. So we back away, we hide, we even deny the very one we should confess. We are ashamed to come to Christ and confess our sins when we should be ashamed of sinning. How will the resurrected Christ come to us?
           
He comes as the Crucified One. “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 comes despite the locked doors. By His Word and Spirit Jesus enters the hearts of believers without hurting their conscience. Jesus comes into their midst and he shows them his five holy wounds on his hands, feet, and side. The disciples then were glad, for they knew that Jesus had not come in vengeance for their betrayal. He was not resurrected in order to destroy his enemies. He is resurrected as the one who has paid for his enemies. His wounds show that the disciples are forgiven. The payment is made. The resurrection shows the payment is accepted.
           
Thomas misses the whole thing, and because of that he is going to be called “doubting” until Our Lord comes again. Maybe Thomas gets a bad rap. Certainly, everything written about Thomas here in the gospel of John was divinely written for our benefit. If Thomas is a doubter, and the faith he had earlier, saying, “Let us also go that we may die with him” (John 11:16), has gone, then there is hope for us too, who are full of doubts. The rest of the disciples too, who had seen Jesus, still gather together a second time in the locked room in fear. Even more, we have doubts, we return to our old fears, our old besetting sins.

Jesus comes in the midst of those fears and sins. There is truly no excuse that Jesus is terrifying to sinners and treats them fearsomely. To those wretched sinners and unbelieving men, just like us, Jesus comes right up and lets them touch him. He says, “you who are burdened and full of fear, come to me, all you weary. I will refresh you and give you rest.” He can say this because he is crucified. He bears the tokens of his passion that paid the penalty for our sin. That’s how he can come to the sinners and the doubters. Or maybe Thomas does get a bad rap. Thomas isn’t doubting, but saying, “unless I see with my own eyes, the resurrected, ascended on the cross, spirit-giving Christ, then I’m not going to believe it. If God loved this world in this way – lifting his Son up on a cross – then I don’t want a part of this unless that resurrected Jesus is the Crucified One.”

Many Christians object to crucifixes showing Jesus on the cross. They often argue, “If Jesus is raised from the dead, why is he still pictured on the cross?” Thomas knew the answer to that. Our risen Savior is a savior because he’s the one who was on the cross. The resurrection reveals the content of the cross. The resurrection reveals that the cross is where Jesus went in perfect obedience to the Father. The cross is where Jesus took our sin upon himself. The cross is where Jesus was sacrificed to fulfill the wrath of God.  The cross is the tree of life from where all good comes. The cross, not the empty tomb, is the symbol of Christianity because our risen Savior is the one who bears the marks of his payment.

Christ shows his holy wounds so that we may know that we did not gain salvation for ourselves, but by them he fought for us, overcame death and he devil, blotted out sin, and will now be gracious and merciful. When he comes in the midst of the disciples showing his holy wounds he says, “Peace be with you.” Having peace is believing Christ died for our sin and was raised for our justification. That peace comes in the midst of us now.

These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” You may wish that you were there now, with Thomas, maybe even daring to place your finger inside Christ’s wounds to see for yourself. John grabs the mic here to say “you don’t need to.” What you have now is as blessed as what the disciples experienced. Bring the doubts and sins that trouble you and confess, be forgiven. Christ has given his word that whatever his ministers forgive is as if he has pronounced the forgiveness himself. For you untimely born in the 20th and 21st centuries, Christ died for your sins. He is in your midst bodily every Lord’s Day. You are just as blessed as Thomas in the 1st century. Every week His true body and blood are raised before you as the pastor says, “the peace of the Lord be with you.” He is in your midst, do not disbelieve, but believe. The Crucified One is with you. No isolation or quarantine, no virus, no poverty, no rulers or authorities, not even death can snatch you out of His hand.

The one who rose from the dead is the one who bears the five holy wounds, the marks of his payment for sin. The resurrected one comes to us not in vengeance but as the one who loved us enough to die for us. Easter 2021 AD has just passed. We can’t go back to the first Easter. Why would we? For now, we live by faith, trusting in Christ’s Words. In the resurrection we will finally see clearly. For now, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” Alleluia! Christ is risen! Amen.

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