Jesus Appears to His Disciples
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Jesus Appears to Thomas
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed;blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
The Purpose of John’s Gospel
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
At one of my step-sister’s wedding rehearsal dinners, I was asked if I would be willing to say the prayer before the meal. Without any sort of hesitation, I said sure. Now the room wasn’t overly large. It was about the size of Pastor Meyer’s Bible Study room. However, when you have about 30 people in a room together of that size and everyone is talking to someone … it can be hard to get everyone’s attention. However, God has blessed me with a somewhat of a deep voice which carries well. In trying to get everyone’s attention, I said the six most famous words used in a setting like that … “May I have your attention please!?!” After I said that, all you could hear was my brother next me who said, “hello pastor voice!” Needless to say, I had everyone’s attention and we had a nice prayer before supper that night.
When parents want the undivided attention of their children who are being loud or misbehaving, they don’t just say that child’s first name over and over again. Parents pull out that secret weapon which every kid knows that when they hear it that mom or dad mean business and they better pay attention. When that all too mysterious middle name is spoken, parents have the undivided attention of their children in record speed.
This morning, even though we find ourselves a week after the celebration of Jesus’ victorious resurrection, for the disciples in our reading from John 20, it is later on the same day in which Jesus rose from the dead. Early that day the disciples heard from the women who went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body that his body was missing. Upon hearing that, Peter and John run to the tomb to see it for themselves. After seeing that the tomb was empty like the women had said, they return to the other disciples to report their findings. Everyone is together in the upper room except for Mary Magdalene. Mary was all alone at the tomb and was weeping. Mary begins a conversation with a man who she thinks is the gardener, the caretaker of the area around the tomb. She asks him where he has taken Jesus. Now remember, John earlier says in his gospel that God’s sheep know their shepherd, that they know him simply by his voice and that he will call his sheep by name. Jesus easily grabs, re-directs and has Mary’s undivided attention by doing just that. Jesus calls her by name and her eyes opened in utter amazement. Her Savior, her teacher, her friend who was once dead is standing before her is alive! Upon seeing the risen Jesus with her very own eyes, she runs and tells the disciples.
And so we find the disciples in our reading later that same night locked in an upper room of a house in fear of the Jews. They locked themselves in this room in order to hide and not draw attention to themselves because were afraid that at some point, the Jewish leaders who instigated the beatings and crucifixion of Jesus would try to find them and arrest them for being a part of a conspiracy to overthrow their authority and that of the Romans by stealing the body of Jesus. The disciples hide and lock the doors in order to prevent them from being the next ones who would be flogged and crucified in the same hideous way in which Jesus was.
Amidst their fear, amidst them being locked in a room, probably an inner room with no windows … Jesus gets their undivided attention in a rather dramatic way. He just shows up! Jesus, who they believed to be dead is now standing before them in this locked room! He appears to them and to calm their fears he says, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19). Jesus then shows them his hands and his side to prove to them that it is really him. After Jesus shows himself to the disciples, John tells us that the disciples were overjoyed. Their teacher, their rabbi, their friend who was brutally beaten and crucified is alive! After giving them the Holy Spirit, the disciples couldn’t wait to tell Thomas what he missed out on. Now one would expect Thomas to be a little skeptic, I mean really, how often does a man who was dead come back to life? But upon hearing the news … Thomas isn’t overjoyed like they were, instead Thomas flat out doesn’t believe them. He says, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it” (John 20:25).
In order to get someone’s attention, you sometimes have to do something which is a little over dramatic. In the days of the old west, you wanted someone’s attention, you fired a shot from your gun into the air. When driving, we honk the horn to get someone’s attention. I know of a professor who in order to get the undivided attention of the class would take a piece of chalk and chuck it against a wall and watch is shatter into a bunch of pieces. Teachers use to take rulers or yardsticks and slam them on a desk. My mom got my attention one day by slamming a wooden spoon on the counter so hard it splintered into pieces.
Jesus gets Thomas’ undivided attention in a very dramatic. A week later when he was gathered with the other disciples in the locked upper room, Jesus appears and says “Peace be with you!” Then Jesus turns his attention specifically to Thomas and says, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:27). By his appearance, by showing his wounds, and commanding Thomas to touch them, Jesus has Thomas’ undivided attention as Thomas responds, “My Lord and my God!” (20:28).
Michelangelo Caravaggio, not to be mistaken with the famous Michelangelo who painted the Sistine Chapel and other famous pieces, Caravaggio did a painting entitled “Doubting Thomas.” I want you to focus on the disciples’ eyes in this painting. Two of the disciples’ brows are furrowed in concentration as they stare at this scarred spectacle. Thomas’ eyebrows look like they are about to hit the ceiling as his eyes widen with shock, amazement, and surprise. He is literally watching Jesus put his own finger entering the scar formed by the fatal spear which was thrust into Jesus’ side. All the eyes in the painting are fixed on this miraculous sight.
Or are they? There are three disciples in the painting and there are three pairs of eyes fixed on Jesus’ side. But there is a fourth pair of eyes, Jesus’ own eyes. Where is he looking? Is he looking down at his side, smirking with smug satisfaction that he has finally proven this know-it-all disciple to be wrong and shown without a doubt he is a live? No! Jesus’ eyes are fixed on his own hand, which is fastened around Thomas’ wrist. Jesus is watching himself guide Thomas’ hand to his side. Jesus’ attention is entirely focused on bringing Thomas from doubt to discernment, from unbelief to belief, from a lack of faith to an abundance of faith. Jesus has risen from the dead, he has conquered sin, death, and Satan for all who believe, but his work is not over. Jesus is not done yet. This morning we see Jesus continuing his saving mission, Jesus is continuing to bring faith into the world. Caravaggio’s painting shows you and me a Savior who doesn’t give up on us sinners. Jesus won’t be put off by skeptics, he won’t stop trying even when someone says, “I will never believe!” Jesus won’t stop getting the attention of people until he hears the words Thomas spoke, “My Lord and my God!”
Every day Jesus is trying to get our undivided attention as well as the attention of the one who doesn’t believe in him. Every week here at church, God is reaching out with His hands and giving you faith. He reaches out and gets your attention not by yelling at you or by throwing down lightning bolts. Instead God gets your attention through His Word, through the wonderful Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. God reaches out through things you can hear, taste, and touch. The Word of God creates faith in the heart of those who hear or read it and believe in it. After you receive the Lord’s Supper, Pastor Meyer and I pray a blessing over you when we say, “Now may this precious gift of Christ’s body and blood strengthen and preserve you in the true faith till life everlasting. Depart in his joy and his peace.” All the way through this service, and every service, Jesus reaches out to you with his nail scarred hands to get your attention, to beckon and rescue you from doubt and unbelief.
More than that though … Jesus reaches out through you. He reaches out through you to get people’s attentions so that they too may be rescued from doubt and unbelief.
What exactly does that look like though? Let’s say for example that you have your unbelieving relative over for a holiday dinner, do you have a knockdown drag-out vicious debate that runs from the time your unbelieving relative enters the house until the short while later when they leave in a hurry? Of course not. Here’s what it looks like … the meal with the family is peaceful and friendly. After the meal, you ask your relative to come with you off to a quiet place, and there, when you have their undivided attention, you begin telling them about your concern for their salvation. You tell them about the comfort you have in your life because of Jesus. All the while, you are keeping all your attention focused on bringing your unbelieving relative from doubt to faith, just as Jesus focused on bring Thomas from doubt to faith.
Jesus doesn’t get your undivided attention by yelling at you, by cursing you out, or slapping you around when you commit another sin. No, Jesus comes to you through His Word, through the voice of a neighbor or the person singing a song behind you in church. Jesus comes to you through this meal where he gives all of himself. Jesus comes to you with outstretched arms, with holes in his hands and side to show you his love for you and to have your undivided attention. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.