+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen +
Text: John 20:19-31
Theme: Too Good To Be True
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
Christ is Risen! Alleluia!
Darkness fell on Good Friday and the hearts of the disciples were gnarled in blackness. But Christ did not leave His disciples lingering after the resurrection. He sought them out and greeted them with peace and forgiveness. Reconciliation was the first order of business for they had all abandoned Him in the hour of need. But now the cross and empty tomb radically change everything. They were ordained to be His ambassadors and the task was nearly at hand. As part of the “one holy Christian and apostolic Church”1 we still stand on their witness.
Where was Thomas on the first Easter Sunday? We’re never told. His skepticism lends a measure of realism to the account. The post-resurrection frame of mind of the disciples was not very upbeat or optimistic. Even after seeing Jesus on the evening of Easter Sunday they remained dumbfounded and to some extent incredulous. These truths give credence to the resurrection. Its impact was overwhelming. We do not immediately see the disciples brimming over with excitement and understanding. Think of the narrative of events. Jesus had been warning them of His pending arrest for some time. The betrayal of Judas stunned the group already in the Upper Room. Prayerful meditation in the Garden of Gethsemane ends with the soldiers coming and Peter wielding his sword. Trials before the High Priest, Pilate and Herod commence. Finally the trek to Calvary is too much for the disciples.
Now, here Jesus is, among them again. Humans are generally incapable of absorbing too much shock at once. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was never portrayed as a magical or mythical show of glory. The narratives of the event are very matter-of-fact, lacking exaggeration or flowery descriptions. Even compared to Christ’s baptism, and especially His transfiguration on the mountain, the resurrection appeared diminutive. There was no voice from heaven, no obvious manifestation of the Spirit, no overpowering radiance. Of course, in heaven, there was momentous celebration. The angelic ranks were extravagant in their expressions of joy.
The Holy Spirit must teach us where true joy is to be found lest we spend our lives stumbling around for fleeting pleasures. Today advertising and media are often trumped up with unreasonable exaggeration. Everything they want you to believe is always the latest and greatest, the biggest, the best, the fastest, and the strongest, that is, until the next model or release. Apparently the public has a fair degree of tolerance and even desire for this approach. In some ways we are hopeless, even naïve optimists that are easily flattered and impressed.
But a deeper skepticism is often being masked. Quick fixes aren’t as cheap and easy to come by as many of the pundits would like us to believe. The resurrection of Jesus should not be interpreted as a magical quick-fix either. When miracles are construed in this way (and this is the greatest of all miracles) faith often becomes misplaced. God is not a conjurer of fleeting illusions. Don’t look at Christ as you would a good luck charm. You cannot hold Him in your keeping as you would an inanimate object. You can’t treasure Him as you would a material possession.
Faith is not an inert entity. Christ pulls us into a dynamic relationship with Himself. All attempts at manipulation are evidences of unbelief. Plenty of unbelief remained after the resurrection. Unbelief leaves no place for a Redeemer. It claims its own authority, ventures its own destiny, and risks its own failure. It recognizes no judge, no jury, no executioner, and no saviour. All other sins are some form of expression of idolatry or unbelief; a replacing of or denial of God. We may not consciously think of a particular sin, say, dishonesty, in terms of idolatry or unbelief. Yet, every transgression of God’s will betrays an attempt to find answers, security, hope, or, in this case of dishonesty, advantage, apart from God’s will and blessing. Whenever we sin we seek our own advantage in some way. Whenever we transgress any commandment we always break the First Commandment. Whenever we act in our own self-interest original sin is always on display.
Dear friends, Easter means you cannot govern your own destiny. Thankfully, it means we have been relieved from that burden. You cannot domesticate the Holy Spirit either. The Holy Spirit works in an orderly manner, but not programmatically. We cannot paint God into a box. We cannot bend Him to our will. We cannot claim that He is too hasty, too slow to act, or too unfair. Yet Satan foments these grievances within us. Why are some people’s tribulations addressed immediately while others seem to get no answers or justice? Why are some always harried and hurting while others are happy and care-free? The detailed answers are beyond our capacity. Yet we are promised the future is not in doubt.
The Scripture says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade- kept in heaven for you.”2 Your baptism is only less dramatic than Jesus’ resurrection from the standpoint of outward appearance. But both are events illustrating the miraculous power of life in God’s Son. And both originate in the power of Christ’s triumph over death. Through baptism we are incorporated into the incorruptible life of Jesus; His death becomes ours, His life becomes our, and His inheritance becomes ours also.
The followers on the road to Emmaus recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread. He still reveals His presence among us every time we kneel to receive His body and blood. Every time we kneel the glorious exchange takes place: Our sins for His grace. The sinless Son of God was laden with guilt so that you and I, the truly guilty ones, could be freed from the sentence of condemnation. Easter is the vindication of His sacrifice.
Christ’s indivisible and indissoluble love has been manifest from the start. Thomas saw it with his physical eyes. We behold it with the eyes of faith. The apostle Paul reminds us with great conviction. “Who shall separate from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”3
Christ is Risen! Alleluia!
+ In nomine Jesu +
1 The Nicene Creed
2 1 Peter 1:3-4
3 Romans 8:35-39
Second Sunday of Easter
27 April 2014
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt