19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And 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 withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, 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 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.”
26 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.” 27 Then 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.” 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 believed.”
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
The first words of Scripture you heard in today’s service came from 1 Pet. 2:2, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk [of the Word].” Hear that again, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk [of the Word].” A newborn child, when placed on her mother’s abdomen, will push herself up to nurse from her mother’s breast. This is such a beautiful testimony to the fact that God has created and designed us so that even from the moment we are born, we know what we need and where to get it.
And then, we grow up… and think we know better.
As kids get older, their sinful nature becomes more and more evident. Kids don’t know what they need and they chafe under the direction and discipline of their parents. When I was a teenager, I would beg my parents to give me more freedom and let me stay out late. God be praised that they knew better than I did and loved me enough to not allow it. When I moved away for college and had the freedom to make my own decisions about when to be home, I quickly realized that freedoms came with responsibility. Just because I could stay out until all hours of the night didn’t mean actually doing it was a good idea. The need to study, pay attention during lectures, and function at work didn’t go away just because I exercised my freedom to start another round of Mahjong with my friends at 2:00 AM.
Christian, God knows better than you do. God has begun a good work in you, and He will complete it. But it isn’t complete yet. God knows that you need to be nurtured and fed, and God knows exactly what food you need – the pure spiritual milk of His Word and specifically the Gospel. Which is why Scripture tells us to continue longing for the pure spiritual milk of the Word as a newborn infant.
Listen carefully: You don’t outgrow your need for the Gospel. Ever. There are many things that Scripture teaches that are important about how to live and function in this world, and all of us need to heed that instruction from the Word. But you don’t graduate from the pure spiritual milk of the Gospel. You never mature past the point of needing to hear about the peace that Jesus has won for you on the cross and which He preaches to His disciples in this text.
That is why Jesus preaches the same little sermon three times in this text, “Peace be with you.”He proclaims it to them twice the on evening of His resurrection, and again one week later.
The day of Christ’s resurrection was a day of both joy and fear all mixed together. Jesus appears first to Mary Magdalene (Mk. 16:9; Jn. 20:11-17). Then, Jesus appears to all the women who had gone to the tomb (Mt. 28:8-10). Jesus appears to the two disciples who were on their way to Emmaus (Lk. 24:14-32). Shortly after that, Jesus appears to Peter (Lk. 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5). And now, all the disciples are gathered together in Jerusalem minus Thomas. They are wondering what might happen to them because they knew that the chief priests were concerned about them stealing Jesus’ body which is why the stone had been sealed and the Roman soldiers kept watch at the grave (Mt. 27:62-66; 28:11-15).
So, imagine the ten disciples (again minus Judas and Thomas) gathered in that room terrified of any sounds outside. At any moment, soldiers could arrive to arrest or kill them. But instead of soldiers banging on the locked door, Jesus suddenly appears in the room. It is possible that they were even more afraid of Jesus than of the soldiers. Jesus could have shown up angry and mad. Jesus might ask them, “Where were you guys? Why did you all abandon Me?” Or they might have been afraid of Jesus because it was, after all, their sins (and ours) that He died for.
But Jesus doesn’t do any of that. Instead, Jesus is almost giddy (if you’ll allow that description of our risen Lord). He stills and removes their fears with His word, “Peace. Peace be with you.”And He shows them His wounds. In other words, Jesus is saying, “All of My suffering, My being forsaken by My Father, My death, and My burial is all so that you can have the peace which I have secured for you.”And He preaches to them once again comforting them with the same sermon, “Peace be with you.”
Jesus tells them that He is sending them out into the world with the Holy Spirit to forgive sins in His name. Keep this in mind for a minute: Jesus breathes on them, giving them the Holy Spirit, and commissioning them with the message of forgiveness.
Eventually, Thomas meets up with the disciples, and Thomas doesn’t just doubt, he is disbelieving. We have inherited the bad habit of calling him ‘doubting Thomas,’ but Jesus will call him ‘disbelieving Thomas.’ He refuses to believe until he sees what the other disciples have seen.
Now, fast forward to the following Sunday (Easter 2, if you will). Remember, the disciples have been given the Holy Spirit. They have been sent by Jesus with His authority to forgive sin. But where are they? Not out forgiving sins in Jesus’ name! They are in the same room, behind the same locked doors. If I was their pastor, I’d be irate. Time to give them some Law. Time to preach a new strategy – Four Steps to Being a Better Apostle. But what does Jesus preach? Literally, the exact sermon: “Peace be with you.”Jesus gives them the same pure spiritual milk of the Word – the same milk of peace. Jesus knows how to preach better than I or anyone else.
Christian, according to Scripture, you need this constant milk of peace. Paul writes, (1 Cor. 1:22-24), “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
Jesus, with His same preaching of peace, also removes Thomas’ disbelief and calls him to faith,“Do not disbelieve, but believe.”And, of course, Thomas does.
Now, I could spend a lot of time on Thomas, his disbelief, and his conversion, but I have in the past. Instead, I want to close with Jesus’ response to Thomas’ conversion. “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Jesus is speaking about you. Christian, Jesus had you in mind when He spoke those words. You have not seen Your resurrected Savior in the flesh. You don’t see the marks in Jesus’ hands and side. Instead, you see crosses that remind you of the death that Christ died for you. You see the font where Jesus delivers to you His mercy and forgiveness and washes away your sins. You see an altar on which nothing has ever been sacrificed but which Jesus uses as His table to feed you His risen Body and Blood.
You do not see, but you hear the same proclamation of Jesus, “Peace be with you.”That peace is yours because Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from all eternity was crucified, died, and was buried. He is risen again to give you the milk of peace, the forgiveness of your sins now and for all eternity. And, according to Jesus, because of what He has done, you are blessed. Christian, nurse on that, now and forever.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.