Sermon Easter 2 April 23, 2017
Acts 2:14a, 22-32 Psalm 16 1 Peter 1:3-9 John 20:19-31
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer.
Easter is over and now the doubts begin. Jesus’ Resurrection, the single greatest event in history since Creation itself, takes a lot of believing. Thomas the Apostle, who had such a sterling reputation and faith, and who was ready to die with Jesus at one point (John 11:16) doubted. Thomas had been mystified by Jesus, saying that he could not comprehend what Jesus was talking about when it came to the afterlife (John 14:5). So no wonder Thomas has a whole bucket full of doubt when Jesus appeared to the disciples when Thomas wasn’t there. We have to remember that this occurred on Easter Day. Jesus had risen from the dead only a few hours before. The same day that Mary Magdalene had run and told the disciples of her encounter with Jesus at the Tomb, and the disciples thought it was idle chatter (Luke 24:11). The same day the disciples met Jesus on the road to Emmaus but didn’t recognise Him (Luke 24:13 ff). This is breaking news and it’s very hard to accept for them all. Mary had thought Jesus was the gardener (John 20:15) and why not ! This is all happening very fast and is really unbelievable.
When things happen in a rush we all naturally summon speculative thoughts about what is being told and how it affects us. I’m sure that we all thought the worst when the United States launched missiles into Syria just recently, destabilising the status quo. First of all does this mean war, will the Russians retaliate ? Or in today’s climate is this fake news ? Our family in South Korea, and we too, were made very nervous when we heard that a US naval ‘armada’ as its Commander-in-Chief described it, was headed to Korean waters. We checked passports and made early plans to accept our family if the need arose and they had to evacuate. Then we found out that the fleet is three thousand miles away heading in the opposite direction ! You don’t know what to believe any more !
To add to the disciples’ disbelief the Sanhedrin had started spreading rumours that the guarding soldiers had fallen asleep and that the disciples themselves had stolen Jesus’ body. And we thought fake news was a recent phenomenon. We know the disciples didn’t do it they were huddled away in a house trying to keep as low a profile as possible, scared out of their wits. It couldn’t have been them – except maybe for Thomas the only one without an alibi !
So what are we left with ? Eyewitnesses; now eyewitnesses speak to what they see and what they know to be the truth. Mary Magdalene was an eye witness, but she wasn’t believed by the disciples. The disciples were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ appearance but they weren’t believed by the absent Thomas. The really curious thing is that the soldiers who were eyewitnesses too, were believed, believed, by the Sanhedrin of all people – Jesus’ dreaded opponents. The soldiers who were told to guard the tomb to make sure the body wasn’t stolen witnessed the whole thing, but stunned, weren’t able to do a darned thing about it, except tell the truth of what they saw. The members of the Sanhedrin were in a desperate position, they did not want to accept the truth of the Resurrection but they, along with the soldiers, were among the first ones to believe it ! The Lord works in curious ways ! So they made up some fake news. The soldiers were to say that the disciples had come and stolen the Body while they slept (Matthew 28:13). There’s a couple of problems with that. First, soldiers would never admit to sleeping on guard, it was punishable by death. And how can you see someone stealing a body when you are asleep, all of them ? And wouldn’t the earthquake and the noise of it dislodging the stone have woken them up. Fake news is easy to determine, it lacks credibility and is loaded with alternative facts.
So let’s go with eyewitnesses even if the story seems unbelievable, especially if there are multiple witnesses, such as, all the female and male disciples and a whole troop of soldiers. The Resurrection happened ! Thomas finally believed it and called Jesus “My Lord and my God !”
We have not seen but the evidence is irrefutable, Jesus rose from the dead. What does that mean for us is the obvious next question. Well first of all Death has been defeated. The body will die but the spirit will not. Now Sin cannot exist in the world of the spirit. So our sins have to be purged from us at death like the chaff from the wheat on the threshing floor. Well you may say that the Devil or Satan is Spirit and does sin. Satan is Evil but his whole power lies in tempting us to sin, to do his dirty work for him. Read the Temptations of Jesus again (Luke 4:2 ff) and Judas Iscariot’s betrayal (Luke 22:3) for confirmation. Practically that means that we are the ones who give the Devil power every time we dip our toes in the Pool of Temptation. He can wash his hands clean like Pilate (Matthew 27:24) but not really, he is still guilty.
So here we are. Jesus has risen from the dead – irrefutable fact ! As that is the case, then a whole lot of other things are proven too. There is a God ! Death has been defeated ! Sin no longer can have an unbreakable hold on us ! When we sin, we will be forgiven and redeemed ! Faith in Jesus leads to everlasting life ! And if that is not enough we are able to worship, give thanks, and be joined with our God forever, through Baptism and the Eucharist ! And if that is not enough we can live our lives in a loving way, knowing that we are loved, and that we are living in accordance with God’s plan and no matter how difficult it may be our lives have purpose and are precious. That all becomes true because of the events of Easter. There was only one Easter, God doesn’t need to do things over and over until they come out right, God does things right the first time. What we have just done and what we are called to do is celebrate Easter every moment because Easter recalls the rightness and the salvation of God’s mightiest act. Thanks be to God ! And that my friends is the Good News for today. Amen. Alleluia !