Lutheran Service Book

Divine Service Setting One, Page 151
490 Jesus lives!  The Victory is Won
470 O Sons and Daughters of the King
741 Jesus Christ, My Sure Defense


Easter 2 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Hilbert Kamps 
April 19, 2020
Acts 5:29-42, 1 Peter 1:3-9, John 20:19-31

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

One week ago, we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus in a special way.  It was the first Sunday of Easter.  Today is the Second Sunday of Easter and we are still examining the events of the day that Jesus rose from the dead.  For centuries the church has set aside the Second Sunday of Easter as the day we consider the first time that the Apostle Thomas saw our risen Lord. 

We call Him Doubting Thomas, but that is really not fair.  One of the things that makes the resurrection accounts of the Gospels more believable is that everyone doubted His resurrection.  The women who first came to the tomb thought that someone had done something terrible to Jesus' body.  After the angels proclaimed the good news to them, they told the disciples and the disciples thought they were suffering from some sort of hallucination. 

The only difference between Thomas and the other disciples was that Thomas wasn't with them when Jesus appeared to them that evening.  Before Jesus appeared to them, they were behind locked doors.  They were afraid that they were next on the Sanhedrin's to-do list.  When the women told them that they had seen the Lord, the disciples didn't believe them.  When Jesus first showed up He showed His hands, His feet, and His side to the ten disciples so that they would finally identify Him and believe.  Jesus had to convince them all.  When Thomas asked for proof, he really wasn't asking for anything that Jesus hadn't already shown to the other ten.  He just missed out because he wasn't there. 

Furthermore, the Bible doesn't tell us why he was missing.  He probably had a perfectly sound reason for not being with the other disciples that evening.  As much as we might like to say that he should have been there, we can't really criticize him even for that.  It really isn't fair that we should single out Thomas as the only doubter in the bunch. 

That is the reason that this event is one more way that Jesus shows His love to us.  He could have said, "Hey! For months now, I have been telling you people that I was going to suffer, die, and then rise from the dead.  Why are you so thick?  You should have been expecting me."  He had every right to be that frustrated and more. 

Never the less, Jesus came to His disciples.  He showed them His holy wounds - the wounds that witnessed to the love that He showed to us with his suffering and death.  He encouraged them to touch and investigate His body until they were absolutely convinced that it was the same body that hung dead from a cross as the loving sacrifice that paid for our sins.  The Apostle John would later describe this investigation with these words: [1 John 1:1] "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life."  With these words, John describes a God who loves us so much that He let's us touch Him. 

In patient love, Jesus allowed Thomas to have the same privilege that He gave to the other disciples.  The next week, Thomas was there and Jesus came again.  Jesus invited Thomas to poke around until he too was satisfied that this really was His friend, teacher, and master back from the dead.  He said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe." 

Just like the disciples of old, we also doubt.  We are also afraid.  We have been ashamed of our savior.  We have wanted to fit in and so denied that we knew Jesus.  We've all made promises to God that we haven't kept.  We often focus on ourselves instead of God.  We know that our sin has earned the eternal wrath of God.  We know that God should be our enemy. 

What comfort today's Gospel has for us.  In spite of all that we have done to make God hate us, He still loves us.  He searches us out.  He comes to us.  He gives us His peace.  He encourages us to touch Him and investigate Him.  He overcomes our terrors, our fears, and our doubts.  He unites us to Himself in love. 

In today's Gospel, He even gives us the authority to forgive sins.  He breathed on [His disciples] and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld."  With these words, He authorized the church to forgive sins in His name.  When the pastor says, "I forgive you all your sins," he is using this authority to speak as Jesus.  It makes no difference how sinful the pastor is or how sinful you are, all your sins are forgiven.  The authority lies in the words of Jesus and in the work that Jesus did on the cross. 

Through out history people have done all sorts of things to experience God.  They torture themselves.  They meditate.  They deprive themselves of food and drink.  They attempt to do good works.  They try to achieve some sort of emotional high.  They buy all sorts of self help books.  They go on quests.  The harder they search for God, the farther away He seems to be. 

For the time being, He does not come to us as He came to His disciples in today's Gospel.  When we hear and read the Bible, we hear and read Christ's Words.  As the waters of Holy Baptism make us wet, the Holy Spirit joins us to Christ.  As we live lives of continuous repentance, Jesus gives us continuous forgiveness especially when the pastor forgives our sins in His name.  As we eat the bread and drink the wine of the sacrament, Jesus comes to us as we eat His body and drink His blood in, with, and under the bread and wine of the sacrament.  In all these ways He comes to us just as He came to the disciples. 

Jesus does not want us to think of Him as some "big guy up there."  He isn't some far off, remote God.  He has given us all these gifts so that we will know that He is near us and with us and in us.  He wants us to understand that He is as intimate with us as our hearing and sight, our touch and our taste.  He wants us to investigate Him and learn as much about Him as we possibly can. 

Through out history people have done all sorts of things to experience God.  They torture themselves.  They meditate.  They deprive themselves of food and drink.  They attempt to do good works.  They try to achieve some sort of emotional high.  They buy all sorts of self help books.  They go on quests.  The harder they search for God, the farther away He seems to be. 

In today's Gospel, we learn that God comes to us in His Son Jesus Christ.  He comforts us with His peace.  He takes away our fear.  He gives us His forgiveness in such a way that we can give it to others.  He gives us all of this purely out of divine love for us and we need do nothing in return. 

On this Second Sunday of the Easter season, we learn that, like Thomas, we all struggle with doubt.  We all miss out from time to time.  We can all be stubborn.  Instead of focusing on the stubbornness and doubt of Thomas, focus on the love, mercy, and grace of Jesus as He patiently displayed His wounds of love.  As we focus on how Jesus showed Himself then, let us remember how Jesus shows Himself to us in His Word and sacraments.  He shows His love to us by giving us His Word to hear and His body and blood to eat and drink, In His love, He comforts us with His forgiveness and gives us His peace.  AMEN