Pastor Sean Willman
Good Shepherd Pleasant Prairie
Quasimodo Geniti (Easter 2)
8 April 2018
Life in the Words
The wounds of Jesus are at the very center of the life and faith of the entire church. If the Jesus who appeared to the disciples on that first Easter morning didn’t have those wounds, then he wasn’t the same Jesus who died three days earlier. If not for the wounds, the nail marks in his hands and the spear mark in his side, then Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead. But in fact, the wounds were real. This was the resurrected Lord Jesus. “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 then and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.” It was his wounds that made them glad. It was his wounds that proved to them he was alive – risen from the dead. We know the rest of the story. Thomas, who wasn’t there that day refuses to believe what the other disciples tell him. He must see these wounds for himself. He must place his fingers into the holes left by the nails and spear, or he’ll never believe.
The wounds of Jesus are the source of the gladness and faith and peace of the disciples. They are the source of their sending. “As the father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” If not for the wounds, what would they have told people about Jesus? But as it is, with Jesus there with them, wounds and all, they are sent to do the work of Jesus: forgiving sins. “And when he had this this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.’” In the death and resurrection of Jesus the sins of the world are forgiven, and now the disciples were sent to deliver that gift of forgiveness. All by the wounds.
But none of us has ever seen those wounds. They may be the source of our forgiveness, but we’ve never laid eyes on them. We’ve never had the chance to take our own fingers and sink them into the holes in Jesus’ hands and side. We’ve never had the gentle invitation extended to us that was given to Thomas. And for this, we’re tempted to say as Thomas does, “I’ll never believe.” This is a fact-filled world. You can make whatever claims you like, but what’s ultimately real is that which is based on verifiable evidence. Observable, verifiable, without-a-doubt evidence. Otherwise, what is real?
Thomas knew what was real. He knew what he had seen and verified. He knew that the blood of Christ was real. That it had dripped out of his back, raw from being whipped and scourged. He knew that it had poured out his side after a spear had been thrust into him. He knew that the steel of the nails and the wood of the cross, stained with deep crimson were real. He knew that the last breath of Jesus, and the stone placed over his grave were real. These are the things that he knew, and the reality of a living breathing Jesus simply didn’t fit with the reality that he had already seen.
You know what’s real. Death. You’ve seen the graves, held the hand of a dying family member. You know what’s real. Heartbreak. You’ve seen the one you loved walk away, or perhaps never show up at all. Yes, you know what’s real. A disease that only gets worse and never better. Failure, pain, disappointment. On and on. And like Thomas you allow these truths to define what you know about God. That he can’t help you. He loves others more than he loves you. Repent. Faith isn’t built on sight. It isn’t about what you’ve seen.
WE DON’T BELIEVE BECAUSE WE’VE SEEN THE WOUNDS OF JESUS.
No, believing isn’t about seeing. In fact it’s about what you don’t see. Faith is about the unseen. Believing that God is present even in our suffering and death. That he is present even in the suffering and death of Jesus upon the cross. That in fact, He lives and is raised from the dead, and that you too will rise.
God doesn’t remove all of your pains, sufferings, or problems on earth. But he does give you peace. The peace which surpasses all understanding. The peace which clings to the words spoken to you, “I forgive you all your sins.” It isn’t peace in what we see, but rather the peace that flows from the life given to us from the Word of God. “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 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.” The life and peace that we have flows from the wounds of Jesus. Not wounds we see in hands and side, but wounds we hear of. Wounds we taste and see in the Lord’s Supper. Wounds we see poured out here in the font. Wounds confessed by the Word. Wounds that give us faith in this life. Wounds that give us peace.
Seeing the wounds of Jesus with our eyes and touching and feeling them with our hands would have been incredible. But we’re the blessed ones. For “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Yes, we’re the blessed ones. For we know what’s real. We know that in spite of what we may see; pain, suffering, death, our own unfaithfulness, that God is always faithful. He was faithful to die and rise. He is faithful to forgive. And he will be faithful to raise us up. Faithful to give us his eternal peace. We know that this peace of Christ is real. And so we exclaim, along with Thomas, “My Lord, and my God!” Amen.