John 20:19-31 “Signs of Christ”
It was so nice after worship last week, Easter, to get those little snack bags that Kathy put together in lieu of coffee hour. I wonder if any others of you noticed something very unique in the bags. There were little chocolate bars. Some bags had Snickers, others had Milky Ways, and some had Twix. If you happened to get a Twix in your little gift bag, you might have noticed that that it was not really a Twix as you might remember it. You see, a Twix is supposed to be two chocolate bars together. Yet, in its smaller size it becomes only one piece of chocolate. On the package it still states that it is a Twix even though it is no longer two. “Twix” means “two.” So, on the wrapper it says that you are only getting either the “right” or the “left” Twix.
This fits our scripture for today so well. The text is about Thomas who is called “Didymus” or “the Twin” in Greek. He is just like that Twix bar. He is supposed to have another half somewhere. Yet, like our Easter baggies, we never see the other half of the set of twins. We only get the “right side” Thomas!
I think that this scripture really does show the right side of Thomas! History has painted him as the “doubter.” Our own scripture reading this morning claims that he would not believe unless he actually touches the wounds of Jesus. But, we have to also take note that despite this, he actually does believe WITHOUT touching the wounds of Christ. Did you notice that in the story? He never actually does the physical examination on Jesus. Why not? Because he has seen the other signs already!
First, we have to note that Jesus is the one who challenges Thomas at their meeting to go ahead and touch him. This seems a little bit confusing to us, I know, because last Sunday, Easter, we heard Jesus tell Magdalena not to hug him because Jesus had not yet ascended. Now Jesus is telling Thomas to do just that.
But, how does Jesus know this is the issue in Thomas’ heart? You can see for yourself that it is not Thomas who approaches Jesus demanding to touch the wounds. Strangely enough, Jesus seems to somehow know what Thomas has told the other disciples, what is clanging around in his skeptical brain, and preempts him from even ever asking. Jesus just tells Thomas to touch his wounds so that he will finally believe. That is either very unique coincidence or, as I like to think, it is the true sign of Jesus’ divinity and resurrection that he knows what is already on our hearts and challenges us in our disbelief accordingly.
The scripture for today also tells us that Jesus seems to be able to walk through locked doors. What are the disciples thinking as Jesus just simply appears before them in a closed off room? This also seems to be the case with our thoughts and our feelings. Jesus seems to be able to get through all that we have locked away.
I am just going to say this: We are all just like Thomas. We have so much locked up in our hearts that we really do not, or maybe cannot, share with others. Jesus knows this. So, we have a reverse action with Thomas going on. Thomas recognizes Christ not because Thomas sees Jesus’ wounds but rather because Jesus sees Thomas’ wounds. Jesus sees his doubts, his fears, and all of his troubles.
The first sign of Christ is not that we see his wounds, but that he sees ours.
Second, when Jesus enters the room, what does he say? Did you catch it? “Peace.” Yes, the “shalom” is the standard greeting, but it is repeated again and again in this scripture to the point of leaving the greater impression that Jesus really has come back to give peace into the disciples’ lives again.
We all know that when Jesus was preaching, he was most of the time talking about bringing peace. Who can forget that blockbuster sermon he did on the mount, “The Sermon on the Mount,” in which he rightfully says “blessed are the peacemakers.” This is in Matthew 5 of course. Anybody remember the rest of the quote? “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.” This leads us to the conclusion that God is the Father of all peacemakers!
What kind of peace are we talking about here though that Jesus would come back from the dead on Easter, walk through a wall, and state “Peace.” I believe that the peace in this case is not the cessation of warfare on the planet, which would be nice, but rather the idea that humanity has finally made peace with God—more importantly God has made peace with the planet!
Do you remember when God got angry with Adam and Eve? If you do not, your homework is to read Genesis 1-3 again. The short version is that Adam and Eve disobeyed God, ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and in so doing committed the original sin that we have been as a race living with ever since. That is to say, we allowed death to enter into paradise, and were subject therefore to decay—“from dust you were made and to dust you shall return” Genesis 3:19.
After the resurrection, Jesus comes to the disciples once more and says: “Peace, peace, be unto you.” Wow, how exactly do we achieve this “peace of Christ”? That is the key to it all, is it not?
Third, John 20:23 is the famous line that in some Christian circles is called the “Keys to the Office.” That is the office of Christian priesthood! Jesus breathes over his disciples. I know that is not Covid safe today. At the time it was a good thing. Jesus first says that he is sent by the Father in heaven, then he mentions himself as being sent, and lastly he speaks of the Holy Spirit. Wow, here is the establishment of the Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. (I point this out because still some today make a false point of saying that the Trinity is never mentioned in the scriptures. Here it is very plain to see.)
Our peace with God rests in the very notion that we are all forgiven. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. . . .” And then, it follows that if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.
The idea of sin here itself is referring to the brokenness we would have had with God if Jesus had not come to bridge us back to the Father in heaven. The Greek word here is “harmatia.” It refers to the sense of brokenness in what should be a close relationship with God.
At Easter, death is defeated. On the Cross all of our sins are forgiven. We are at peace with God and with this life that we are living. It is all in God’s hands. On that note I want to go to Psalm 121, but before we go there, just a quick look into my favorite Prophet Isaiah, 26:3 “Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace—in peace because they trust in you.” God keeps us in peace. It is not something we can manufacture ourselves. It is from being kept by God.
Okay, Psalm 121! I think we all kind of know it: “I lift up my eyes to the hills—from whence my help comes, my help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber nor sleep. . . .The Lord will keep you from all evil. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.”
Let me sum up what John has written so far for us: Jesus sees us and knows our hearts. That is really the first sign of the resurrection in this story. Second, we find peace with God through Jesus Christ—that is the therefore the second sign of the resurrection. Thirdly, we now know the forgiveness of Jesus over our lives, which means we can now approach God as the brokenness has been healed. That is the incredible third sign of the resurrection.
So, according to John, the notion of seeing the wounds of Jesus as signs of His resurrection really is not important. Hence, we read “blessed are those who have not seen yet have come to believe.” If you were wondering who those blessed are by name, they are all of us because we were not in the room when Jesus appeared to his disciples.
Really, this stands as the greatest sign of all of the resurrection of Jesus Christ: that we have believed although we have not seen. The old adage “I have to see it to believe” has been turned upside down to read now as “I have to believe in order to see.”
This may seem as a bit of reverse logic to you all, but just think about this: Perhaps the greatest sign that we have today of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is that we still believe. One of the things I have noted recently is how quickly we expose lies in this day and age. Just as quickly as Satan can come up with the next lie, the truth seems to break out all over it. As Shakespeare says: “The truth will out.” And as Jesus says: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” That stands now for over 2000 years. If it were a lie, we would have figured it out by now!
Why do we believe? We need peace with God. We need forgiveness. We need to know that we are kept in God’s Almighty hand—that God knows us, and we are His children. And, because we do believe, we see and acknowledge that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.
Verse 31: “These things are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”