The Sixty-Third in a Series of Sermons on the Gospel of John
Jesus was not only alive three days after being crucified, but he was now appearing to his disciples. And he was appearing to them in a resurrected body which was transformed into an imperishable body, no longer subject to human frailty, or even death. In allowing his disciples to see his wounds, then appearing to them in the Galilee, and then eating a meal with them, Jesus offered his disciples compelling proof that he had indeed done as he said he would do–conquer death and the grave and accomplish the salvation of all those given to him by the Father. As a new era in redemptive history dawns, Jesus is now equipping his disciples for that mission of which he had been speaking, and which will begin in a matter of weeks at Pentecost–to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
As we near the end of our series on the Gospel John, we move into the epilogue of the gospel in which John recounts some of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. Jesus has already appeared to Mary Magdalene, and to a number of the other women devoted to Jesus from the early days of his ministry. Jesus also appeared to Cleopas and an unnamed disciple as they traveled along the road to the village of Emmaus. Then Jesus appeared to Peter (although the details of this encounter are not revealed). Finally, Jesus appeared to a number of his disciples who had gathered together on the evening of the first day of the week (Easter) to recount how Jesus had appeared to many of their number and, no doubt, to share their collective joy and to discuss what all of this might mean.
With the doors locked for fear of the Jews–who were already spreading the rumor that the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body–Jesus suddenly appeared (he “materialized”) in their midst and pronounced his word of “Shalom” (his word of “peace” and forgiveness) upon his disciples. No doubt, the disciples were overjoyed. They had seen the empty tomb and the grave clothes, and yet Jesus’ body was nowhere to be found. They heard the testimony of the women that angels had appeared to them, and told them that Jesus is risen from the dead. The angels instructed the women to go and tell the disciples what the angels had told them. The empty tomb, the grave clothes, and the testimony of the woman was good as far as it goes. When Jesus appears among them that Easter evening, whatever doubts any among them were still harboring now became the certainty of sight.
Except for Thomas, one of the twelve, who will not believe until Jesus himself appears to Thomas and confirms that he is risen from the dead. According to John 20:25, Thomas tells the other disciples that “unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” As we saw last time, Jesus graciously grants Thomas’ request. “Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, `Peace be with you.’ Then [Jesus] 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.’ Thomas answered him, `My Lord and my God!’” Thomas’ confession is truly remarkable–perhaps, the clearest declaration of the deity of Jesus found in all the Bible. Thomas sees that Jesus is truly alive and makes the immediate and proper connection to the fact that a risen Jesus, must be God in human flesh. Even more remarkable, perhaps, is that Jesus accepts his confession.
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