Easter 2A 2017 Sermon
John 20:19-31 from the New Revised Standard
19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of
the week, and the doors of the house where the
disciples had met were locked for fear of the
Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and
said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he
showed them his hands and his side. Then the
disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus
said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the
Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he
had said this, he breathed on them and said to
them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the
sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain
the sins of any, they are retained.”
24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin [a] ), one of
the twelve, was not with them when Jesus
came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have
seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see
the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my
finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his
side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were again in the
house, and Thomas was with them. Although the
doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among
them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he
said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my
hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side.
Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered
him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him,
“Have you believed because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet
have come to believe.”
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence
of his disciples, which are not written in this
book. 31 But these are written so that you may
come to believe [ that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son
of God, and that through believing you may have
life in his name.
The door was locked. They feared
for their lives. The Jewish Temple
leaders had spies. And, besides that,
those leaders had proven their capability
in bringing demise upon anyone they
choose. So, behind a locked door, Jesus’
disciples huddled, fearing the worst.
Before we go on with the story, we
must remember that at the time John’s
Gospel was written, most likely in the last
decade of the first century AD, the Jewish
Temple located in Jerusalem, was nothing
but rubble. The heart of Judaism, had
been forever destroyed by the occupying
Also, toleration of the Christian sect
as a branch of Judaism ceased to exist.
Toleration had been replaced with great
tension between many religious Jews and
Christians, even though they shared a
common heritage and some Christians
were culturally and ethnically Jewish, just
like Jesus, his twelve disciples, and most
of his earliest followers.
John’s Gospel reflects this Jewish –
Christian tension. And, it does us well to
acknowledge that the term ‘Jews’ used in
this gospel, signifies Jewish authorities
opposing Christianity and actively
attempting to scandalize its message. The
term is not referencing an entire group of
people based on ethnicity.
Behind those locked doors
somewhere in Jerusalem, Mary
Magdalene announced her encounter with
the risen Jesus earlier that day. But there
was no physical evidence. There was
only an empty tomb and the story of one
grieving woman. And, even if Mary’s
vision was true, Jewish authorities still
had the power to eliminate Jesus’
followers and any controversial evidence.
When Jesus enters the scene, he
walks into a room clouded with fear.
Peace is what the disciples need, but are
they ready for it? They’d have to let go of
their worst-case scenario dread and just be
present with the crucified, risen Jesus.
After he shows them his wounds, then the
disciples believe and celebrate. They
were ready to welcome Jesus’ peace.
When Jesus breathes on them, he
empowers his disciples to be witnesses of
his life, death and resurrection. And, he
says the strangest words: “If you forgive
the sins of any, they are forgiven them”…
Emory Assoc. Prof. Susan Hylen writes:
“The image is not a narrow one of a priest
assigning penance but a broader
recognition that the church becomes the
arbiter of acceptance or rejection of
As members of the Christian
community we are go-betweens,
peacemakers, for the sake of bringing
people into relationship with Christ Jesus.
And as go-betweens, we sadly realize that
some people will choose to reject Jesus,
declining the peace and life he offers.
After these events, we learn that one
disciple has missed all of it. Thomas is
absent. When he shows up, he can’t
believe his ears. He knew Jesus was
dead. He couldn’t be alive; he was
crucified. Thomas thought his colleagues
Now, Thomas is not a bad person or
fallen disciple for doubting his brothers’
seemingly bizarre story of seeing
crucified Jesus alive. Thomas was really
no different from his brothers. They were
once terrified, huddled behind a locked
door doubting Mary Magdalene’s story –
doubting before having their own
encounter with the risen Jesus.
Notice that when Jesus once again
appears to his disciples, he honors
Thomas’ request. He didn’t chastise
Thomas; he welcomes Thomas to see and
touch his wounds. Jesus meets Thomas
right where he is, in the midst of his
doubts. And Jesus meets us wherever we
are as well.
One of the most valuable gifts the
Episcopal Church offers is the gift of
allowing people to think. Thinking
includes space to ask questions, ponder
possibilities, and even doubt. Doubting
can be disbelieving or simply uncertainty.
It’s OK to be uncertain; it’s OK to
question; it’s OK to doubt.
I believe God honors wherever we
are in our personal faith. God encourages
each of us to deepen our relationship with
God through the gift of thinking
(mediating and pondering) with the hope
of finding God’s peace.
At the same time, I believe God
longs for us to risk taking leaps of faith
into what is unfamiliar or appears
illogical, with the purpose of discovering
God’s infinite possibilities within the
mystery of God’s love.
You and I cannot experience Jesus’
resurrection in the same way as those first
disciples. And, just because they saw the
risen Jesus doesn’t mean that they
understood the depth of who Jesus truly
is. It does us well to note that “the
disciples embody a belief that reaches
toward but never quite achieves complete
understanding of Jesus” (Susan Hylen).
A more comprehensive awareness
empowered Jesus’ followers after
experiencing God’s Holy Spirit given at
Pentecost. Yet, comprehending Jesus is
never a done deal, and includes
experiencing Jesus just as much as
thinking about Jesus.
For certain, we can’t experience
Jesus’ resurrection in the same manner as
the earliest of his disciples, but we can
experience the presence of the risen Jesus.
I experience Jesus in the Blessed
Sacrament of the Eucharist and I
experience Jesus living in people like you.
On Easter Sunday, at the 10:30
Eucharist, as the children were sharing the
Peace around the Flowering Easter Cross
they had decorated, a couple of the kids
reached out their arms and hugged me
tight. Through their innocence, joy and
purest love, I felt the arms of the living
Jesus wrapped around me.
Sometimes, I travel north on Far
Hills as far as the McDonalds. Every now
and then I get a craving for an
inexpensive iced vanilla coffee or a
caramel frappe. I usually choose the
drive-through because of wanting to save
on time. But every now and then, it
doesn’t work out that way. Sometimes
the drive-through just stops. It’s a good
lesson in patience for those of us always
trying to beat the clock.
Invariably, after the cars trapped in
the drive-through finally resume moving,
I hear pronounced voices coming from the
cars ahead of me venting frustration
toward the workers at the window.
When it’s my turn at the window, my
usual response is to share an empathic
smile and some laughter. But one day,
after spending at least 20 minutes stuck in
the drive-through, I was greeted – not by
a cowering worker – but by a presence I
The stranger’s smiling eyes, her
welcoming face and focused attention,
offered me much more than my beverage.
Her presence invited me into a place of
hospitality where I felt valued and
And, is often my custom, she said to
me upon my departure, “I hope you enjoy
a blessed day.” I drove back to the church
office knowing, within that encounter, I
had witnessed the presence of the living
In simple, yet poignant moments like
that one, I’m reminded that Christ Jesus is
very much alive and actively working
through his followers. In those moments,
I feel love – love just as God intends for
each of us to feel and share.
As I said last Sunday, those special
moments result from more than acts of
kindness. There’s something revealed
within the experiences, sparking our
hearts with blessings of encouragement,
welcome and undying love. I urge you to
look for those moments in everyday life.
I also urge you to be conduits of those
Whether you actively experience the
presence of Christ Jesus or, like Thomas,
you have doubts, you are welcome here.
Whether you are at a place of
pondering questions or taking leaps of
faith, or a little of both, God’s love
embraces you, right where you are along
All God asks of us is to be open to
Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is
risen indeed. Alleluia.