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19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
26A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
Growing up as a child in my family, there was always excitement around Easter time – the days were growing longer, the weather was warmer, and I always got to go shopping for a new Easter dress to wear to church on Easter morning.
About a week before Easter Sunday, we would always gather around to dye Easter eggs. While waiting for the eggs to boil and then cool off, which would feel like it would take a lifetime, we would get everything ready. Once the eggs were dyed, we would quickly put them in our Easter baskets, run out into the backyard while someone hid the eggs and the rest of us would search for them.
When the evening before Easter Sunday came along, we would set out our Easter baskets, excited about what they might be filled with once we woke in the morning. And then I would get to put on my new Easter dress and go to church.
Easter Sunday worship for me was always and still is, the most beautiful time in the Season of the Church.
However, like most children, I’m not sure that I completely understood the real reason for Easter. The Cross, Jesus’ death and resurrection was difficult to grasp – And, honestly, even as an adult.
At Christmas, I could understand a child being born and that He came into the world so that I could go to heaven.
But the Cross? The horrible things they did to Jesus and his crucifixion? That’s hard stuff! It’s hard to understand the reasons why…
But then Easter morning would come, I would put on my new Easter dress and it was so wonderful because after all, Jesus wasn’t dead – He was alive!
Jesus had resurrected – He has Risen!
And so I can imagine Mary Magdalene’s joy on that day when she stood by the empty tomb and Jesus appeared to her and spoke to her. She saw Him with her very own eyes! Jesus was not dead!
Mary went quickly to tell the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”
Well, no wonder on that same evening, after hearing the news from Mary Magdalene and Peter and the other disciple had witnessed the empty tomb, that they went into the house and locked the door. They were afraid.
They were afraid of the Jews who might come for them because of their relationship with Jesus and that they too, would be crucified.
And, so they gathered together in a room and locked the doors to hunker down – perhaps to think about what they were going to do…what happens next?
Where are they supposed go?
Everything all locked up and tucked in with their fear – then Jesus just suddenly appears?
Jesus appears right in the middle of their very being.
Transformed, but yet, still human with his scars, a pierced side, and the wounds from being flogged – He stands among them.
He doesn’t yell at the disciples.
He doesn’t scold them for betraying, denying, and leaving him –
But instead – the disciples receive these amazing Easter-Evening Gifts –
Jesus gives to them on this Easter evening the Gift of Peace – “Shalom” – Peace be with you. Jesus gives to them His love, forgiveness, and a gift of sheer grace –
In John’s Pentecostal moment, Jesus BREATHES on them and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit. He empowers them to have the ability to forgive and retain sins.
And then finally, He gives them the gift of purpose. Jesus tells them they are to be “SENT” just as Jesus Himself was called by His Father to be “SENT” – they too will go and continue the mission that Jesus had started –
No doubt, we see this text – not just a story – but a reality and what it means for us as disciples –
I believe that Jesus not only empowered them to forgive sins, but first forgives THEIR sins – a demonstration of sheer grace as how they are to live their lives.
I cannot help but to wonder, that in order to live out the mission of Jesus- that first and foremost they would have to forgive the ones that crucified their Lord – the very ones that would possibly persecute them for their belief in Him and the reason for their fear?
Because think about it – how could they possibly be sent into the world to do the work of the Lord and the Lord’s mission without forgiving the very ones that had killed him – and possibly kill and persecute each one of them?
Jesus had forgiven the disciples for betraying him, denying him, and leaving him… and now they were called to forgive those who had crucified him –
Forgiving and Retaining Sins – Jesus gives the disciples the Keys into God’s Kingdom.
And, with this power of forgiveness they are given a new purpose.
With these EASTER-EVENING GIFTS – the disciples are equipped, empowered, and prepared to live out their mission…
His disciples are privileged and honored with the responsibility to carry out the special mission of the church – Which is…
-to give Jesus to others in such a way they may believe that Jesus is Risen and Lord -where they can receive the free forgiveness of sins, the free gift of the Holy Spirit, and the free privilege and honor of passing Jesus and His forgiveness on to others.
However, there is one thing that the Apostles had that you and I do not have – and that is the opportunity to be with Jesus – to have Jesus stand among them in the flesh – and to see and witness the marks of the nails on his hands and his pierced side –
When Jesus gave his disciples his crucified hands and wounded side, it was as though Jesus was saying to them, “I want to give you the reason for the peace I am speaking, a reason for peace that is deeper than a wish or words.
The crucified Jesus is, really, alive again; my wounded hands and side are evidence and proof of my Resurrection!
Can you imagine their excitement?! They were ecstatic! They were filled with Joy! At this moment, their faith could not have been any stronger! They were witnesses! They had seen it with their very own eyes…The Dead Jesus is ALIVE!
You and I have not had that opportunity. We were not there on that day of Jesus’ resurrection. We did not get to SEE to BELIEVE…
But yet…we do!
In first Peter 1 – Peter says, “Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy…”
Our FAITH then is lived out in Witness of the Apostles – Those who witnessed the Resurrection – wrote it down – so that you and I could hear the stories and have the opportunity to know and love our Lord Jesus Christ –
And, therefore, you and I receive the ultimate blessing from Jesus Himself:
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.
I loved Easter when growing up as a child. There was so much excitement about dying eggs, hiding and finding the eggs, and then put out our Easter baskets the night before and then to wake up on Easter morning to see what our baskets overflowing with candy and goodies.
They were wonderful childhood memories – a memory and a gift that cannot ever be taken from me.
And while I reminisce the past Easters in my life of my Easter baskets filled with candy, Easter eggs, and a new Easter Dress –
it is this Easter that I am FILLED and overflowing with the EASTER EVENING GIFTS that Jesus gives to us…Gifts that can never be taken away.
Yes, I can reminisce past Easter Sundays in my life – But it is this Easter that I reminisce The CROSS – the death and resurrection, that are still hard to grasp and understand, even now as an adult…
I know there have been times in my life when I have betrayed, denied, and left my Lord – Just as the disciples did in their lifetime…
But yet, Jesus comes…He comes and stands among us and offers His peace – His love, forgiveness and his favor and an ultimate blessing.
While, I don’t doubt that Jesus died and was resurrected – My doubt is not, “Did it really happen?’ But why and How could a God possibly love me and each one of us that much?
But yet, He stands among us – RISEN and ALIVE!
In our broken and hurting world – We now have a shared HOPE – a Peace that passes all of our understanding – knowing that even though we hunker down in our homes in fear…and behind locked doors – Jesus appears among us – freeing us –
He stands among us – RISEN and ALIVE…
Empowering each one of us with the gift of the Holy Spirit to forgive and retain sins – The power to forgive the very ones that have hurt us –
Jesus Stands among us – Risen and Alive…
GIVING -FORTH…Being “SENT” we now have the privilege and honor to represent Jesus to the church and the world with the promise that in receiving our Lord Jesus by pure FAITH – they too, will receive His Forgiving Grace with His renewing Spirit.
This Easter – Jesus comes to us RISEN and ALIVE –
not for his sake – but for ours – and at a time that we need to be reminded, more than ever, that we will receive the “Outcome of our FAITH – The salvation of our Souls”
“My Lord and my God!”