We have heard the Gospel reading which is my focus but today I want to step back to the predictions of Jesus about his death and connect that with the peace he now gives us. Recorded in the Synoptic Gospels we will find where for at least three distinct times Jesus told his disciples that he would be leaving them and that he would be killed. But somehow, they did not believe him. How many times we too find ourselves in situations where we too fail to be more attentive and even fail to believe what we hear. Often we recall, after the fact that there were some signs, we had some idea based on certain information but could not put it all together. We say, “Oh yes, I remember when…” Paying attention is so important. It was last week the preacher asked ‘are you hearing?’ It does make a difference.
So in Mathew, Mark and Luke Jesus was with his disciples when he made the first prediction. It was Peter who chimed in “nonsense!” What do you mean that you are going to be killed? And we will recall Jesus’ response to him “get thee behind me Satan.” On the second occasion, the disciples still did not believe Jesus and it is recorded that they were filled with grief, in disbelief; they did not understand and were afraid to ask him. When we come to the third prediction, there is a particular phrase that tells us something had changed. We find it in Matthew, “from this time on…”. There were enough clues that were given, had the disciples being more alert and attentive to the sayings of Jesus. For here, during his Triumphal Entry and all the excitement, Jesus responded to a request by saying “I am on my way to Jerusalem and I am going to be killed”. This was the third time and none of the disciples, even up to that point believed. In the Gospel of John too Jesus said “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified”.
Then came the crucifixion. And today we find them all hobbled in the room behind closed doors for fear of the Jews. They must have been looking back on the times they spent together, roasting fish by the sea, reflecting on all the miracles and more. But now they are sad. When tragedy hits home, we too lock away ourselves. We look back on times shared with our loved ones. We too get sad. And so the disciples are locked away.
And Jesus appeared! It is in those times when we need him most that Jesus appears (although Jesus is always there). When Jesus comes thing are calm again. When Jesus comes the tempters power is broken. When Jesus comes all tears are wiped away. And Jesus said to them Peace be with you. Jesus comes to us and gives us his peace.
It was not the first time that Jesus gave peace to the disciples. While he was with them, as recorded in the Gospel of John Chapter 14, Jesus told them, “let not your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me. In my father’s house are many mansions”. And as that conversation continued there were doubts. It was here that Thomas’ doubt was first revealed. Thomas said ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. Tell us where that place is.’ Philip doubted Jesus. Others doubted too. And so Jesus answered ‘I am the way, the truth and I am the life’. Later on in that same chapter, Jesus said to them “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.”
So now here Jesus has appeared to them after the resurrection and once again he said “Peace be with you.” It’s all coming back to them. Those were familiar words! After Jesus said that, they recognized him and they ‘rejoiced’. In this first instance of sharing the peace with them, Jesus wanted them to get rid of the fear that overcame them. He repeated it but sandwiched it as it were with a command. You have to go back into the world “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” So now we see a movement from fear, to rejoicing and now shock. What are you saying Jesus? Are we to go out there into the world to face those Jews who want to lynch us?
This brings to my mind the story of Jesus with three of his disciples – the Transfiguration Story, when Peter said to Jesus “Let us stay up here and build three tabernacles one for you one for Moses and one for Elijah”. Jesus said to them, O no, you all need to go back down into the world to minister among the people. Here, Jesus is now telling, not just three, but all of them, that they have to go out into the mission field. They cannot stay behind closed doors and do mission.
Well, here we are in St. John’s this morning, we too cannot stay in here. We too have to go out into the community with the Word of God. We are to go into the world, into our homes, wherever we go and share God’s Word.
Doubting: I could not leave the sermon here this morning without mention of ‘doubtful Thomas’. For it is because of his challenge and statement that “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.” what you are telling me, that you have seen the Lord! I believe that we all have a Thomas inside us, whether it is a little Thomas or a big Thomas. We do have doubts from time to time.
I remember a story of a Christian young man who was sent off to college and the mother had great hopes for his future. He returned home for holiday and the mother was disappointed in his appearance and his change of mind of not believing in God anymore. He told his mother that she had to prove to him that there was a God who he could touch and see and feel and when she did he would return to being the son she once knew. They both went to bed that night and his mother was awakened by his cry. She went to him and he complained for a terrible tooth ache. They mother asked him how he knew his tooth aches. He responded “mom, it hurts so bad and I can feel the pain moving up and down my face”. The mother immediately remembered his question of the day before and reminded him of his statement to prove that God is real. The mother said “son, do you remember that you asked me to prove to you that God is real by looking at him and touching him, and I told you I could not? He said “yes Mom”. The mother then said “well in the same way that you cannot see the toothache or touch it, it is the same way I cannot see God of touch God, but I know that God is real”. We all have doubts from time to time.
It could be argued that it is because of Thomas’ doubting too, that faith has been handed down to us. Having expressed his doubt, the question that Jesus asked and the statement following, are what we have today. “”Have you believed because you have seen me?” This is a question for us. We were not eye witnesses. This is what we have confessed in our Baptismal vows. It is a faith question and it requires faith to believe without seeing. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe”, Jesus said. We are blessed to believe, even as small as a mustard seed because it will grow into a big tree. We have not seen, but we have come to believe.
Today, we have the gift of peace from Jesus “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, I am sending you” and he breathed on them and said “Receive the Holy Spirit” – this was a mini Pentecost. We are now sent out into the world and his words are with us as we go “lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”.