This morning we see the disciples minus Judas and minus Thomas. They’re scared, deathly afraid, and hiding behind locked doors in the upper room. It’s the evening of Easter. That morning Mary Magdalene and the women had already reported that they had seen the risen Christ.
That afternoon the two disciples on the Emmaus road had already walked and talked with the Risen Lord. These disciples in the upper room are scared for their lives. We know they are scared of the Jews but perhaps they are even scared of Jesus. If he is alive the disciples know what they deserve. They betrayed him. They denied him. they fled from him. They said “I do not know the man” and they hid themselves. They sinned against him.
The Jews has once begged Moses that God should keep a distance from them. They too knew what they deserved. They knew that if they came face to face with God they would be destroyed by his anger.
Maybe you can relate. You haven’t been much of a friend of Jesus either. You haven’t exactly been the devoted and loyal disciple you promised to be since you stood so tall and proud on the day of your confirmation – promising that you would rather die than fall away from weekly worship and the true Christian faith.
Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver – a fine payment in those days but you have been disloyal to God for far less. Peter denied knowing Jesus to save his own hide but you deny him for far less. By the websites you visit on the internet, by the curses your reign down on your fellow Christian, by your loveless attitude toward those closest to you. You too by word and action have screamed out “I do not know the man!”
Yes, you know what it’s like to live behind locked doors. You say you love God but you like him at arm’s length. You certainly don’t want him to get in the way of your fun. Like the Israelites we have golden calves galore –we enjoy our amusements more than we delight in God.
So put yourselves in the shoes of the disciples. If you knew the Christ was coming back to dole out his justice and to give you exactly what you deserve, your knees too would be knocking.
So see yourself among the scared disciples in the upper room with bolted hearts and terrified souls. Deniers, betrayers, and fair-weather friends of God. But then lift your weary souls, behold him with your sullen eyes – and let your hearts give way to the gladness. He is risen. Your Jesus is living and back from the dead and he doesn’t come to you like a fire-breathing dragon. He doesn’t come back saying “look what you’ve done” but “look what I’ve done for you!” The first words out of his mouth are the same words announced by angels at his birth. Peace be with you. Do not be afraid!
Dear Christians of St. Paul Lutheran Church, your sins are not too great for Jesus on the cross! If you think your sins are too serious and so wicked as to not be forgiven God don’t deceive yourself! God is not impressed by your false piety. Repent. He who knew no sin became sin so that you, through Him, might become the very righteousness of God. Jesus died for sinners. He rose for you. His grace covers you.
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.
Today, like Eve Charlotte, we are all new-born babies. Baptized. Born from heaven. Cleansed from all sin. Brought from death to life. Adopted as sons and daughters of the king. We belong to a royal and noble family with God as our Father, the church as our mother, and Jesus, our ever protective big brother.
The season of Easter is all about rebuilding our lives on this one foundation - that Jesus lives.
So be like Thomas. Do not be unbelieving but believe. The Risen Christ stands among you in love. He doesn’t have a single word of judgment. Not a single threatening word. Only words of comfort and peace for sinners. Love for fair-weather friends and deadbeat disciples.
He invites you to gaze into his pierced side, to touch the baptismal font on your way to the altar and behold the water and his word which cleanses your soul.
The Lord Jesus stands among you, fresh, and risen from the grave. Like Thomas reach out with your fingers for the chalice of his love, reach out, touch and taste his body and blood. Behold him face to face and declare once again “My Lord, and my God.” In the name of Jesus. Amen.