2nd Sunday after Easter – Confirmation
He is risen, He is risen indeed! Grace and peace to you from Him who is and who was and who is to come, our risen Lord Jesus, the word of our God that we’ll focus on this morning is from the Gospel of John chapter 20 (read text)
Have you ever seen someone with conviction? You know, being sure that what you’ve seen or believe is the truth, ever see it? What does it look like? One aspect of our generation is that people can generally identify and detect when someone is being fake or phony or un-genuine. So, a political candidate needs to have conviction, needs to believe that was he or she thinks is right. A good salesman needs conviction, needs to be certain that his or her product is valuable and important. The public speaker needs conviction, needs to be certain that his or her message is going to help people. Well, what about you and me, do we have conviction when it comes to our faith? Do we need conviction?
Well, the nemesis of conviction is doubt. What about us? What about our faith? Do we have doubt? What about this Jesus? Is He really legit? Is it really true that about 2000 years ago Jesus was born of a virgin, suffered and died the worst criminal’s death and then rose from the dead? Really? Does that really happen? That this same Jesus would go around and heal people, feed thousands of people with a handful of food, walk on water, calm storms, and raise people from the dead? Really? Does that really happen? And does this same Jesus really rule over all things in the world and does He really guide all things in the world for the good of His people? Really? Do we have doubts?
But it’s natural to doubt and question, isn’t it? Well, sure, it’s natural to our sinful nature. Doubt itself is sin. Doubt is not ok. It’s sinful to doubt what God says is true. It’s sinful to call God’s Words into question. It’s not an ok thing to have any doubts. And since it’s a sin and since each one of us has had some sort of doubts at some time or another we deserve God’s condemnation.
Well, we could hardly say that the disciples themselves had conviction on that 1st Easter Sunday. Where were they? Locked behind closed doors because of the fear of the Jews. Jesus had just been put to death, will they be next? Are there lives in danger? More than that, if Jesus is dead, what was the point of the last 3 years following him? What are they going to do now? They can’t follow a dead person. Was it all a waste? And then that same Sunday morning they had been told by some that Jesus had risen from the dead, but where are they? Still behind locked doors and in fear. Perhaps that was even worse news. If Jesus is really alive, what’s He going to do to them? First, they had all abandoned Him when He was arrested, Peter had denied him, and none of them intervened to help Him in the least bit. Add to all of that the fact that they didn’t believe Jesus’ own words about dying and rising, nor did they seem to really believe the eye-witnesses that told them that He was alive! How is Jesus going to feel about them now? Grief, guilt, shame, fear.
And in the midst of all of this Jesus Himself stands among them shows them His hands and side and says, “Peace be with you.” Why did Jesus show them his hands and side? Think about it: there on His hands and side are the marks that Jesus when to the cross, the proof that He paid for the sins of the world. There were His hands and side that were once dead and now alive, the proof that death itself has been defeated. And if those hands and side were alive that meant that there IS peace between us humans and God! And so we’re told that “the disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” The fear and doubt were driven out of their hearts and replaced with joy, peace, and confidence because of the factual reality that Jesus was alive.
One of the beautiful things about our faith is that it’s based on realities, on real historical facts. Jesus really did come, Jesus really did live, Jesus really did die on a cross, Jesus really did rise from the dead. They really happened. So no matter how hard the devil might try to get you and me to doubt it or question it, he can’t change the reality that Jesus really did appear alive and really did show His hands and his side to the disciples.
The disciples must have just about bowled Thomas over when he refused to believe that Jesus was in fact alive. “It was amazing! We saw the Lord! He’s alive!” Thomas had the evidence of the open tomb, he had Jesus’ own promises, he had the eye witness testimony of those who did in fact see Jesus alive, but he refused to believe, refused to believe unless he put his finger into the nail marks and put his hand in his side. His doubt was sinful and wrong, just like all our doubts are sinful and wrong. So what did Jesus do? In amazing grace Jesus came to Thomas, appeared to him alive, talked to him, invited him to touch Him and Thomas responded, “My Lord and my God.”
Then Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” He said that for us. We haven’t had the opportunity to see Jesus with our own eyes. Rather, we have the factual reality recorded for us by God Himself in His Word and it’s that word that drives away our doubts and fears.
In our world people look to all kinds of things in life to give peace and security; maybe its money or power or getting ahead in life or things or popularity. But finally, the most important thing in life is knowing where we will be when we die and why- knowing that gives peace and conviction. And yet so many people in life have so little conviction in the face of death. Many when asked if they will go to heaven when they die say something like, “I don’t know, I hope so.”
And yet there are so many things in our life that we wouldn’t settle for such a “I don’t know, I hope so.” Is the doctor who’s about perform your heart surgery qualified to do it? “Um…I don’t know…I hope so.” Is your child coming home on the bus today? “Um…I don’t know…I hope so.” Are you going to get a pay check this month? “Um…I don’t know…I hope so.” Would we settle for a “hope so” in any of those situations? We want to know! We wouldn’t tolerate such uncertainty with the things of this life, but we would with regard to life’s most important question!!??
You see, we study Scripture not just to know facts, but to know what they mean for us. We study Scripture not just to know that Jesus died on a cross outside of Jerusalem, but that He died on that cross to pay for our sins in full so that we will live with Him forever. We study Scripture not just to know that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead, but even more important to know that because Jesus rose from the dead we have the proof that our sins ARE forgiven and that we will one day rise from the dead and live forever with our God in heaven!
God had His Word written that we might KNOW and BELIEVE that Jesus IS the Christ – our Savior and that by believing in Him we might know that we HAVE life eternal. And finally, Isaiah, that is why we studied Scripture again and again over these past 2 years in catechism class, that is why all of us want to study Scripture over and over again in our life that God might build in us that certainty of our salvation, that He might drive away our doubts, that He might continually strengthen us in the convictions of our faith. Then having been strengthened through His Word we have peace, peace in this life knowing that we have a God loves us, who’s forgiven us, who’s given us a place in heaven AND peace eternally with our God in the glories of heaven! So live, live with that conviction! Amen.