The Easter People- Sunday, April 15, 2018

Scripture Lesson:

John 20:19-31 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

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), 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.

Living as Easter People

Have you heard the fancy word called “claustrophobia?”” It comes from two words: claustrum, meaning “a shut-in place,” and Greek “phobos” from which we have phobia, meaning fear. From these, we have, claustrophobia, the fear of having no escape or being closed in, especially in a small, confined space. Normally people who suffer from claustrophobia fear been trapped in small space. So, they fear riding an elevator, or fear being crushed in a crowded stadium.

In life sometimes, we fear or feel trapped by circumstances. At times some of us feel trapped in an abusive or painful marriage or relationship. Some feel trapped by grief or anger, or debt, or physical condition, etc, so much so that it becomes an obstacle that limit, confine and make us powerless. We feel being trapped in a condition that there seems to be no way out.

This describes the experience of the disciples after Jesus was crucified. Their Lord and Savior was confined to a tomb, sealed out with a large stone. As our text reveals, the disciples too are behind locked door. They are trapped by fear of the Jewish religious and Roman authorities who had crucified their Lord. They are confined and hiding in a little space/room even though they had gotten the news on early Easter morning, that Jesus had risen from the death.

While the disciples were trapped behind the locked doors,  Jesus suddenly appeared in their midst, and his first words to them were, “peace be with you.”   Isn’t this what we want most when we find ourselves in the state of fear and uncertainty due to peril of life? We certainly need God’s peace that transcends all human understanding. This is the peace that nothing in life can give us. It is the “shalom” of God. This what Easter brings to us. God’s peace.

The text says after this, Jesus showed them his hands and his side. He did this to dispel their doubt. It was like saying, it is I Jesus, your Lord. Verse 20b says, “then the disciples rejoiced after they had seen the Lord.” I wonder why we treat Thomas unfairly by naming him “Doubting Thomas?”, For all the disciples fear and doubted. Thomas was only asking for the same opportunity theys had. He wanted the same personal experience.  He did not want their second-hand information. “Unless I see the marks of the nails in hands and put my fingers in his side, I will not believe, “Thomas said. He wanted no pretense. Faith in God must be a personal experience for each of us. We cannot pass it on to our kids, or grand kids.

Verse 26 says, A week later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. “Although the door was shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he told Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas, the made his famous confession: “My Lord and my God.”

Like these fears-stricken disciples trapped behind locked doors, sometimes we too feel trapped by the circumstances and conditions of life. We are trapped in painful marriages and relationships, trapped in addiction, trapped in grief and depression, trapped by job insecurity; trapped by uncertainty of life; trapped by the feeling of lack of self-worth, and the list goes on.

As he did to his disciples, the resurrected Jesus comes to meet us where we are. He comes to meet us right in those trapped conditions.  Jesus is aware that we may not be able to get out of such situation; so, he comes to meet us right there.

Next, like the disciples, the resurrected Jesus comes to also give us assurance. He showed the disciples his wounded hands and side and gave them the opportunity to discover that it was their Master.   This is what Easter is. Easter assures us that Christ is alive, that the price of our salvation has been paid and we can now have peace with God and be at peace with others and ourselves.

Romans 5:1, says, “Therefore since we have been put right with God through faith, we now have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Not only does Jesus assure us of his presence, but his resurrection points to the fact that we serve a God of possibilities. The ground could not withhold him; the stone could not stand in his way and the locked doors could not prevent him from reaching the disciples.  This is Easter. Go on and live it.

Easter reminds us of the beginning of something new, of a fresh start, of a time to triumph over our fears and insecurities. Easter offers a time to focus on the possibilities of life, rather than what we perceive as limitations. It is a time to trust that God through Christ has removed the barriers that hold us back, that keep us in fear or that close our hearts and minds.

Easter is a dawning of a new day; it’s a new life. Just as the stone that sailed the tomb of Jesus was rolled away, things that trapped us, things that stand in our way, or hold us back, or hinder us from realizing our true potential, can be overcome. Therefore, we must live as Easter people.

You and I can begin to look at life with freshness, worshipping God with a deeper sense of awe and appreciation, and living more fully in his grace. Easter offers us a new lense to look at the possibilities of life, instead of the limitations. So, let’s live the Easter.

Sometimes we have been trapped in some conditions so long that overcoming it seems impossible, but you and I can live the Easter by taking new steps that will liberate us.

New Testament scholar, N. T. Wright suggests, “But if you really make a start on it, it might give you a sniff of new possibilities, new hopes, new ventures you dreamed of. It might bring something of Easter into your inner most life. It might help you wake up in a whole new way and this is what Easter is all about. “We are Easter people; let’s live as such.

When we focus on the only the negatives, or the obstacles, we often tend to lose sight of the possibilities, the opportunities, and even the miracles God has placed right before us.

During this Easter, you and I can begin to take some new steps of faith and live as Easter people. It’s possible to make your marriage or relationship move loving, or score better grades, or get admitted to your dream school, or get out of debt and begin saving for retirement or give some of your time to help make the world a better place.

As we continue to celebrate Easter, may we seize the opportunities and possibilities that God has placed before us as a congregation and individuals.

May we live the hope and victory of the Resurrection.

God bless you.

 

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