Monday, April 24, 2017

Sermon on John 20:19-31, for the 2nd Sunday of Easter, Quasimodo Geniti (1 Year Lectionary), "Confessing Thomas!"

Sermon Outline, expanded: 
**Church Trivia--the Latin name for "Quasimodo Geniti" Sunday comes from the words of the Introit: "Like newborn... (babes crave pure spiritual milk)" (1 Peter 1)--and the character in the novel "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" was named "Quasimodo" because he was abandoned at the church on that Sunday, and the priest gave the name.**

  1. On Easter evening, what still trapped the disciples? Fear. John 20:19? What did Jesus’ words, actions, and presence bring to the hearts and minds of the troubled disciples? Peace. John 20:19-20. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you…not as the world gives…” (John 16)
  2. When Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to the disciples, what did He empower them to do? Forgive sins (of the repentant), withhold forgiveness (from the unrepentant) John 20:21-23. How does the church still do this publicly today? Matthew 16:19; 18:18. When does it happen in the worship service? Confession and absolution, start of service. Why are ministers of Christ authorized to speak this message? By Christ’s authority, spoken in John 20. Do they have independent authority to change the terms of His forgiveness? No! Can only mirror the forgiveness that Christ has already won. Mouthpieces to announce His forgiveness to all who turn from sin, and to call to repentance those who do not. When is the forgiveness of sins to be “withheld” or “bound?” When a person does not confess their sin before God. 1 John 1:8-10. For what reason? To bring them back to repentance so that they may finally be forgiven.
  3. Thomas was tested whether he would believe the report of the resurrection of Jesus, without having seen it. The other disciples had already seen, had a leg up on him. Often called “doubting Thomas”—which unfortunately highlights his lowest point—but if we were to focus on the apex of his faith, in just a few verses later, he might be called “Confessing Thomas!” or “Believing Thomas!” But Thomas experience helps us because  Thomas was stuck where many other people are stuck—can’t believe in the resurrection of the body. Now if a doubter or skeptic believes that—it’s not unusual, because it goes against our senses. Everything we see is that death is a one-way street. But just how far are you willing to take that? Is it an unshakeable belief? Nothing can challenge that? There is no life after death; no one can ever rise from the dead? Free to live that way, but have to ignore the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. The testimonies of many eyewitnesses (1 Corinthians 15 list!).
  4. Or, what about skepticism about believing the testimony of others? How skeptical are you willing to be? No one is consistently an unrelenting skeptic of everything that they haven’t seen or experienced with their own senses, or else you’d have to deny everything known about the past, anywhere and anytime, and about things, places, and events you’ve never seen for yourself.  Everyone has a threshold of evaluating what has compelling evidence to believe it.
  5.  How did Thomas and Jesus both measure how he did on this test? John 20:25, 27. Thomas: I will never believe. Jesus: do not disbelieve! How was his unbelief transformed into real, living, confessing faith? John 20:27-28. Saw the nail marks and spear wound—“Jesus’ credentials to suffering humanity” (see Jesus of the Scars poem…) and knew this was the very same Jesus who had been crucified and died on the tree. Knew that no fraud had been perpetrated on him, and there was only one thing to say: “My Lord and My God!” Only God could defeat death—doubt transformed to faith.
  6. How does this encounter address the claims of some that the resurrection is just an “idea” or a “spiritual hope”, but doesn’t have to do with real history, and whether or not Jesus actually came out of His grave? Had to be living, in the flesh, heart pumping, lungs breathing, brain waves moving…real living resurrection, or it’s all a lie and hopeless. Why  does this show that it is essential that Jesus actually was alive again? A dead Jesus forgives no sins! A dead Jesus saves no one! What hopes and doctrines would all be lost and shattered if Christ were not raised? 1 Corinthians 15. No rescue from sin or death.
  7. Why must faith avoid the opposite extremes of, on the one hand, gullibility and believing everything uncritically, and on the other hand, being skeptical of everything and unable to believe anything you didn’t see for yourself? Bible encourages “healthy skepticism” to not be deceived or taken in by clever teachers, but to test everything. Tells us to be wise, mature, reasoned. Does not  encourage gullibility or naiveté. How do we find the right “middle?” Who is at the center of faith’s “target?”  Jesus Christ, the Risen Son of God, and the faithful testimony of the eyewitnesses. John 20:28-31. All of John’s Gospel points to the importance of believing in Jesus Christ so that we may have eternal life and be saved.  

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