The Sunday after Easter
Sunday, April 07, 2013
“And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God” (John 20:26–28).
Scripture Reading: John 20:19–29
A minister once suggested to his music director that they sing “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.” The director protested, “But this is the Sunday after Easter.” The minister replied, “I know, but every Sunday is an Easter.” The good pastor had not misread the calendar. He was quite right in saying that every Sunday is an Easter.
The music director was right too. This is the Sunday after Easter. Anyone can see that! Last Sunday the churches were crowded, chairs were placed in the aisles, and to accommodate the throngs at worship, many churches had to have multiple services. That was last Sunday. Last Sunday the minister read the resurrection story and the choir sang “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.” Then most of us went home to the same old kind of living. We became occupied again with the “cares of this world.” We were beset by frustration, fear, and fatigue. Did Easter really make any difference? So what that Christ the Lord is risen today?
It must have been a little like that the first Easter. The women had come back from the empty tomb with the wonderful news that Christ had risen, but that seemed like an idle tale. Peter and John, the investigating committee sent to check out the women’s story, returned with the disappointing news that the tomb was indeed empty, but they could not find the Lord. Officially, the report was that the disciples had stolen the body away. It is no wonder their hearts were filled with fear and doubt. What should they do now? It seemed best to call for a church meeting that night to hear all the stories and try to get at the truth. Many questions needed answering. Where is he now? Would he show himself again? Would we recognize him? What would he look like? It was a group of anxious disciples that met that Easter Sunday night in the Upper Room.
1) Easter Sunday night.
The risen Lord.
Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he showed them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost. (John 20:19–22)
Glory! Hallelujah! It is the Lord. He is risen indeed! What an unexpected blessing it was to experience the living presence of the Lord himself. He gave his blessing of “peace” and breathed on his disciples the Holy Spirit. You never know what may happen at church on Sunday night!
The absent Thomas.
“But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came” (John 20:24). I wonder why Thomas was not at church that Sunday night. Maybe he was sick, or maybe company came and he forgot about the meeting. Maybe he got tied up in some business matter, or maybe he stayed home to watch a movie. Whatever the reason for his absence, he missed a great blessing.
The witnessing disciples.
“The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).
That whole week after Easter, Thomas was on the prayer and visitation list of the church. On Monday Peter and John visited Brother Thomas and shared their story of running to the tomb at the report of the women, of finding the tomb empty, and then of seeing the risen Lord in person. Thomas said, “I don’t doubt what you saw, but unless I see it too, don’t expect me to believe.” On Tuesday he was visited by Mary Magdalene. Mary related her story of the early morning visit to the garden, of seeing the empty tomb, and through tears and weeping for sorrow, of seeing the risen Lord also. Thomas said, “You’ve had a great emotional experience, Mary. I’ve just been reading The Motivational Psychology of Apparitional Experiences. You know, doctors claim that sometimes in the midst of a great emotional experience, you can see and hear just what you want to—real or not.”
Poor Thomas, see what doubts he had by missing church last Sunday night! But the story of “doubting Thomas” does not end here.
2) The Sunday after Easter.
The risen Lord appeared again (John 20:26–29).
Oh the blessed patience and grace of our Lord! He did not write Thomas off. He would not let him go on in doubting faith. How tenderly the Lord stooped to Thomas’s demands. Jesus allowed Thomas the very proof he had been demanding. He allowed Thomas the double proof of sight and touch. Jesus said, “Be not faithless but believing.” “Faithless” here means a state of contentment with disbelief—a settled condition of doubt. This is the danger of missing church! Your faith cools off. The joy you once knew in Christian service and fellowship is lost. You begin to deny and doubt and grumble. Do not let this happen to you.
Thomas’s confession of faith (John 20:28).
This is the cry of personal faith. Thomas is not quoting someone else. It is his own conviction: “My Lord and my God.” Being in church the Sunday after Easter had done something to Thomas. He had a fresh vision of the risen Lord. He made a rededication of his life. His faith was revived. What Thomas said became the pattern of confession for all believers. Others had called Jesus the Christ, good teacher, miracle worker, and the Son of God, but Thomas called him “Lord and God”—“Adonai and Elohim.” Condensed here in one utterance is the meaning of the person and work of Jesus. He is Lord; that means Sovereign, the Master of life. All is committed to him. He is God; that means he is divine, Messiah, Savior.
Jesus thou art my Lord and God.
I joy to call thee mine;
For on thy head, though pierced with thorns,
I see a crown divine.
Now in Conclusion
Jesus spoke a beatitude in John 20:29. He said, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” It is what we do not see that is the strength of our hearts. The apostle Paul said, “We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18). There is a danger in seeing—in making sight the satisfaction of curiosity—and then being content. Seeing and touching may help faith, but they can never produce it.
Years later the apostle Peter remembered that Sunday after Easter and wrote: “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). I call you to such a faith and joy today—this Sunday after Easter.