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Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A., Editor


The Second Sunday Of Easter

Option #1: "The Story of Thomas"
(John 20:19-31)
Rev. Wayne Dobratz


Introduction: Thomas is one of those names that have been etched in history. Some names have become an expression all by themselves and just about everyone knows what you mean. A "Jezebel" is a violent and powerful witchlike figure, as was the wicked queen who persecuted Elijah. A "Benedict Arnold" is a traitor--and no parent would ever saddle his son with such a name. And then there’s "doubting Thomas" in today’s text. Though some preachers will "beat up" on Thomas today, I don’t think you and I should join them. Thomas was an honest man. Thomas didn’t hide his feelings. After all, didn’t Jesus say: "In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while, you will see me"?

I. Doubts expressed

       A. Thomas was willing to die with Jesus--John 11:16

       B. Jesus had absolved the disciples, and Thomas needed it too--text, 19-23

II. Doubts satisfied

       A. Jesus returned one week later--text, 26-28--and honored Thomas’ request: "put your finger here...reach out your hands"

       B. The Handbook of Bible Application has some good advice when you have doubts: "Some people need to doubt before they believe. If doubts lead to questions, and the answers are accepted, then doubt has done good work. It is when doubt becomes stubbornness and stubbornness becomes a lifestyle that doubt harms faith. When you doubt, don’t stop there. Let your doubt deepen your faith, as you continue to search for the answer."

III. A prescription for faith

       A. Accept the evidence of the eyewitnesses

             1. Many TV stations call their news programs "Eyewitness News"

             2. The replacement for Judas had to be an eyewitness--Acts 1:21-23

             3. Jesus still helps doubtful minds today with abundant evidence (1 Cor 15:6) but it is still faith alone that saves--text, v29

       B. Accept the testimony of the Word of God, which provides all that we need for faith--text, 30-31

IV. A life lived for Jesus

       A. Church history reports that Thomas traveled to India as a missionary and was martyred there

       1. Jesus made it clear that "evangelism is absolution"--text, 21-23

       2. Thomas’ later life paralleled David’s lifestyle after being forgiven--cf Ps 51:12-13

       3. Thomas died as he had lived: there is a Christian community in India (the Kerala district) that claims descent from Christians converted by the the preaching of Thomas. The tradition among Christians in India is that Thomas was speared to death near Madras and, accordingly, he is often pictured holding a spear. Paintings of martyrs often show them holding or accompanied by the instruments with which they were put to death. (Episcopal Church Lectionary Home Page)

These things did Thomas hold for real: the warmth of blood, the chill of steel,
the grain of wood, the heft of stone, the last frail twitch of blood and bone.

His brittle certainties denied that one could live when one had died,
until his fingers read like Braille the markings of the spear and nail.

May we, O God, by grace believe and, in believing, still receive
the Christ who held his raw palms out and beckoned Thomas from his doubt.


(Thomas Troeger, 1984, Psalter/Hymnal of the Christian Reformed Church)

 

+  +  +

Option #2: "Easter=Peace-->Spirit-->Forgiveness
(John 20:19-31)
Rev. Kelly Bedard

A. Lock-In

       1. Thomas isn't the only doubter among Jesus' disciples, either then or present-day

       2. The central issue: can/does the resurrected Lord really replace the many other lords in our lives?

B. Break-In

       1. Jesus doesn't wait until we express our doubt and unbelief but, rather, comes with His peace and forgiveness

       2. The central issue: the Lord sends us, still doubting and unbelieving, with His peace and Spirit and forgiveness

(This outline is inspired by those by Ed Schroeder and Cathy Lessmann)


Notes

1. ...these "lords" are anything but "benefactors"! Their "gifts" to us are only tyranny, desolation, fear-full living, and annihilation--all in stark contrast to the gifts which the Eastered Lord--a genuine "benefactor"--bestows: Life, God's own peace, God's forgiveness of sins, God's Holy Spirit. (Cathy Lessmann)

2. What we need is word beyond judgment, a word that brings fresh air into our stifled hallways. Jesus' breath of fresh air comes inside the locked vicinity of our world and speaks renewal for us all: "Peace be with you." That peace comes with a price tag; hence, the death marks of his having to enter our airless death and grave. But he has come through, and now shows the marks as victory signs, and these breathe new life into our flagging bodies. (Michael Hoy)

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