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Second Sunday After Easter

Option #1: "The Story of Thomas"
John 20:19-31
Rev. Wayne Dobratz, B.A., M.Div.

Introduction: Thomas is one of those names that has 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, vv26-28--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, vv30-31

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, vv21-23

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)

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The Message for Children

Do you know what the word "faith" means? It means that we trust that something is true and we put our weight on it. You don’t sit on a chair if you don’t think it will hold you.

Every day we put our faith in things or people that we don’t even know. Your parents taught you to cross the street in a crosswalk. A car is more than a block away when you start crossing. You trust that the driver will not hit you. We trust that someone will stop at a red light, and we cross there too. You don’t ask your mom to have some laboratory test your breakfast cereal. You just eat it. When you get on the school bus, you believe that the bus driver will take you to school safely and back home again.

Jesus rose from the dead on the first Easter Sunday morning. That same night he came to the disciples. There were eleven of them left now, but one of them was missing. His name was Thomas. When he finally got there, they told him that they had seen the Lord Jesus alive. He wouldn’t believe it, he said, unless he saw Jesus for himself.

Now if you lived your life that way, you’d cross the street only if there were no cars anywhere around. You’d also tell your mom that there’s no way you’re eating that oatmeal unless the lab says its okay. And you’d want to see the bus driver's license every time you boarded the bus.

You see? We just can’t live our lives that way. When Jesus came back a week later, Thomas believed. Jesus told him: "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." The last part of that is for you and me. We haven’t seen Jesus alive, but we know that he is alive. We will wait for the day when he comes again and then we will see him face to face; then we will see the wounds from the nails in his hands and feet; then we will see where the spear pierced him.  Until then, we live in faith, trusting that what God says is true. Faith is taking God at his word.

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Option #2: "At God's Mercy!"
1 Peter 1:3-9
Rev. Kelly Bedard, B.A., M.Div.

The Point: God is mercy-full!
The Problem: Grief and trials seemingly weaken, not strengthen, our faith in God's mercy.
The Promise: God keeps our "reservation" in heaven through Jesus' grief, trials, death and resurrection on our behalf and, more than that, shields us by/with the power of the Holy Spirit, keeping us faithful until the end.

1. Faith untried may be true faith, but it is sure to be little faith, and it is likely to remain dwarfish so long as it is without trials. Faith never prospers so well as when all things are against her: tempests are her trainers, and lightnings are her illuminators. When a calm reigns on the sea, spread the sails as you will, the ship moves not to its harbour; for on a slumbering ocean the keel sleeps too. Let the winds rush howling forth, and let the waters lift up themselves, then, though the vessel may rock, and her deck may be washed with waves, and her mast may creak under the pressure of the full and swelling sail, it is then that she makes headway towards her desired haven. No flowers wear so lovely a blue as those which grow at the foot of the frozen glacier; no stars gleam so brightly as those which glisten in the polar sky; no water tastes so sweet as that which springs amid the desert sand; and no faith is so precious as that which lives and triumphs in adversity. Tried faith brings experience. You could not have believed your own weakness had you not been compelled to pass through the rivers; and you would never have known God's strength had you not been supported amid the water-floods. Faith increases in solidity, assurance, and intensity the more it is exercised with tribulation. Faith is precious, and its trial is precious too.

Let not this, however, discourage those who are young in faith. You will have trials enough without seeking them: the full portion will be measured out to you in due season. Meanwhile, if you cannot yet claim the result of long experience, thank God for what grace you have; praise Him for that degree of holy confidence whereunto you have attained: walk according to that rule, and you shall yet have more and more of the blessing of God, till your faith shall remove mountains and conquer impossibilities. (Charles Spurgeon) 

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