Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter
Quasimodo Geniti – “Like newborn infants…”
Ezekiel 37:1-14 + 1 John 5:4-12 + John 20:19-31
“Show me! Show me, show me! I won’t be convinced until I see it for myself,” said Donald Trump for the past many months. “Show me your birth certificate, President Obama.” “Show me!” says the great state of Missouri. “We are a skeptical bunch of people and not easily convinced. Don’t just tell me. Show me that I can trust you.”
“Show me!” said Thomas to his ten fellow apostles. “Show me the nail prints in Jesus’ hands and the hole in his side where the spear impaled him. Show me the man I used to believe in who, you say, came back to life after he was crucified. Let me see him with my own eyes and touch his wounds. Because I don’t believe you, and I never will, unless you show me!”
“Show me!” Christians, too, often plead when the devil attacks our faith, when our Christian religion starts to fade into the realm of fantasy, a great story and all that, but hardly relevant to my daily doings and struggles. When it looks for all the world like Jesus can’t possibly be even real, much less risen from the dead and reigning, the Christian pleads, “Won’t you just show me?”
And Jesus answers, “No, not yet. First hear me, hear my Word, and believe. Then you will see, in good time. Then I will show you everything.”
It was different with the Eleven apostles, but only a little different. They heard Jesus’ Word and believed in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, long before they saw Jesus risen from the dead. In fact, if they had only held onto the Word of Jesus and the Old Testament Scriptures in their hearts, then they would never have doubted his resurrection.
As it was, they forgot his Word, and as a result, they were cowering in fear behind closed doors on that first Easter Sunday, afraid, because even though two of them had seen the empty tomb, and Jesus had appeared to Peter, and all of them had heard the reports of the women who had seen Jesus with their own eyes, they still weren’t convinced. And so they were afraid: afraid of the Jews, afraid of being tried and convicted as Jesus had been, afraid of death, afraid of life, afraid of God, afraid of everything.
Until Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” “Shalom!” “Everything’s all right!” And that word of peace from Jesus, combined with the visible proofs of his crucifixion and resurrection turned the disciples’ fear into joy.
Well, almost. Luke’s Gospel fills out this resurrection appearance for us, and as he explains it, even after all of that, the disciples still weren’t fully convinced that this was the risen Lord Jesus and that everything really was all right until Jesus opened their minds to understand the Word of God, the Old Testament Scriptures, that told how the Christ had to suffer, be crucified, rise from the dead on the third day, and then one more thing: repentance and forgiveness of sins had to preached in his name to all nations.
But he wouldn’t be doing that himself, or at least, he wouldn’t be doing that by showing the nations his hands and his side. And so, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
And with that Great Commission, Jesus gave his apostles all they would ever need to convince people that he truly was risen from the dead, that he was truly the Savior of the world.
But what about when the nations cry, “Show me!” Jesus, won’t you come with us and show yourself to people so they can see you, as we have seen you? Won’t you give us some scientific proof of your resurrection? And Jesus says, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age,” but no, I will not show my hands and my side to the world again, until the end, until everyone already believes who is going to believe. Then all people will see.
How, then, will they believe, if you won’t show them your hands and your side? “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
You see, this is how Jesus has chosen to show himself to the world and build his church and keep his saints – his disciples – in the one true faith – not with periodic resurrection appearances, but by the power of his Holy Spirit, whom he sends forth in the preaching of his Word. Rather than walk through these church doors today to show you his hands and his side, rather than walk into your hospital room or your living room or wherever it is you’re suffering, the Lord Jesus has instead ordained that you should see him – crucified and risen from the dead – through words; that you should know him through words; that you should receive him and trust in him, not by feeling him or perceiving him in your heart, but by listening to the voice of his called servant when he announces to you the forgiveness of sins in Christ, and the unforgiveness of sins to the one who hopes to be justified before God in any other way than by Christ alone.
Where does Thomas fit into all of this? He wasn’t there on that first Easter Sunday, but he was there on the second Sunday of Easter, still disbelieving, still demanding, still putting the Lord to the test, “Show me!” Imagine the shame he must have felt when Jesus came in and showed him what he should have believed all along and had no reason to disbelieve. It’s one thing if a person is known as a deceiver or less than honest. Then you might have reason to disbelieve his word. It’s one thing if a person is accustomed to making promises he can’t keep. Then you might have reason to disbelieve his word. But when you have a person like Jesus, who has always kept his Word, who has always proven himself faithful and always keeps every single promise he’s made and every promise that’s been made about him in God’s Word, then the only reason to disbelieve is that you are a sinner who has been deceived by the Deceiver – not Jesus, but the devil.
The devil pulled Adam and Eve away from God’s Word in the Garden of Eden and he’s been doing it ever since. “You can’t trust him, you can’t trust God. Make him prove his love to you. Make him show you!” And people fall for it! Thomas, one of the Twelve apostles, fell for it. You and I have fallen for it, too, haven’t we? “The Word of God is irrelevant to my life. The Word of God is unreliable. The Word of God is not enough. Show me!”
Aren’t we miserable creatures that way? It goes to show how lost we are by nature, how unreasonable, how unbelieving, how totally and completely we cannot save ourselves and are dependent on God, not just to help us along to salvation, but to do everything for us, even the bringing us to faith part.
But Thomas – Thomas is given to us as a gift by the Apostle John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that, instead of despairing when we realize how foolish and unbelieving we’ve been in the past, we should take heart and hold all the more firmly to the Word of Christ, who announces “peace be with you” not only to those disciples who have believed, but even to this one who disbelieved.
But it won’t always be that way. A time is coming when those who disbelieve the Word of Christ will be condemned forever. When he comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead, people won’t get the chance to say, “Oh, there is he! It’s true! Now I believe in him!” There will be no more chances to believe in him, no more chances to hear his Word and receive forgiveness of sins from him and enter into his heaven. That’s why he says to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
That’s you and I. It’s for our sake that the Apostle John wrote his Gospel in the 90’s AD, to people who, he knew, would never in their lifetime see the risen Lord Jesus as John had been privileged to see him. But that was OK. He had completed the written record of Christ, which, he knew, was more than words. It’s the Gospel, which is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. And that was enough. Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
That’s you and I – baptized into the name of a Savior whom we have never seen, and yet in whom we have believed as the Christ, the Son of God, and the one who gives us the gift of eternal life through faith, created by his Word.
That brings us back to our Introit and the famous name for today, the Second Sunday of Easter. Quasimodo geniti, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk of the Word.” The Word of the risen Christ gave you faith, and with faith, life. The same Word sustains your life. Without it, you cannot live, just as newborn infants cannot live without milk. It’s in the Word of Christ that he shows himself to you now, that you see him now. There are three, really, that testify, as John said in today’s Epistle: The Spirit, the water and the blood, and they’re all connected to the Word. The Spirit, breathed onto the apostles, who grants forgiveness of sins through the Absolution of a pastor, the water of Baptism that washed you by the wounds of Christ into God’s family, and the blood of the covenant in Holy Communion that keeps you in communion with the risen Lord Jesus, whom you see now in bread and wine, whom you will see one day as he truly is.
Thomas and the other disciples saw and then believed. But for you it’s reversed. You believe, and then one day, you will see. You will see with your eyes the risen Lord Jesus, just as the disciples did. Until then, you and I live by faith and not by sight. Until then, Quasimodo geniti – “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk of the Word.” That’s where you meet the risen Lord Jesus. That’s where he shows himself to you. Peace be with you. Amen.