John 20:19-31; 1 John 5:4-10; Ezekiel 37:1-14
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The Second Sunday of Easter is a very fleshy Sunday. It’s all about the body of flesh – sinews and muscles, bone and skin; touching, handling, seeing, and believing; breath and spirit – life. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! And so, we have the repeat of a reading heard at the Easter Vigil, Ezekiel prophesying to a valley of dry bones. And, by the Word of the Lord and His Spirit-breath they are enlivened, a remembrance of the creation of man on the sixth day and a foretaste of the resurrection of all flesh on the Last Day – “Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. […] And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live.”
Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, the firstfruits of those who fall asleep. He was raised in His flesh and blood body – the same flesh and blood with which He enclosed Himself in the incarnation in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the creative Word and Spirit of God, now glorified, passing through walls and doors, appearing and disappearing at will, yet still His body, recognizable by the wounds of His sacrifice, now appearing as glorious scars.
This was the body He presented the evening of that first Easter Sunday to His disciples huddled in fear behind closed doors. He “came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’.” And then He showed them His wounds, His hands and His side. “Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.” First, He proclaimed to them His Word, “Peace be with you.” Then he showed them the sign of that peace, His wounds. The sign strengthened and reinforced their faith so that they were glad when they saw their Lord. He spoke His peace to them again and He ordained them by breathing His Spirit upon them with His Word, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
But, Thomas wasn’t there. So the disciples went and found him. And, filled with Christ’s Holy Spirit, now set apart for the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments, they told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But, Thomas wouldn’t believe them. He insisted, “Unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into His side, I will never believe.”
Thomas should have believed the Word of the Apostles, of whom Christ promised, “He who hears you hears me.” But He didn’t. He needed more. We all do, and God knows this. Therefore He graciously provides us seeable, touchable, tasteable signs to strengthen and reinforce the faith of His people. Though His Word of grace is sufficient, He graciously gives you even more that you may believe and have life in His Name. Still He sends His Apostles, His pastors and undershepherds to proclaim His Word of grace and to show you His holy wounds, His blessed sacraments, Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, and Holy Supper, that you may believe and have life in His Name.
Eight days later, on the next Sunday, again Jesus appeared to His disciples, this time Thomas being with them. He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Theologians have disagreed whether Thomas touched the Lord or not. Some have maintained that the text does not expressly say that Thomas touched and that it was likely sufficient that he saw – “Seeing is believing.” However, I am inclined to believe that Thomas in fact did touch Jesus’ wounds. After all, this was the invitation and command of His Lord who, by His Word alone spoke the stars into existence and commanded Lazarus to rise up from death and leave the tomb. Moreover, the Lord would not have you merely see and adore His body and His blood, but invites and commands you to take and eat, to touch and to handle, for the forgiveness of your sins, the strengthening of your faith, life, and eternal salvation.
Thomas’ response to this enfleshed Word of grace from Jesus was a confession even more profound that that of Peter, “My Lord and my God!” There was no doubt for Thomas any longer. He had the Word and He had the flesh – He had Jesus, His Lord and His God. And so do you! Jesus asked Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” That is you! You are those who have not seen, not in the way that Thomas and the other Apostles saw, and yet you believe. And to strengthen and reinforce your faith in His Word, Jesus gives you His body and blood that you may touch and handle, taste, and believe, and have life in His Name. In truth, you have something greater than the disciples who ate and drank with their Lord, for you eat and drink your Lord’s body and blood and share communion in and with Him. You couldn’t be any closer to Him than you will be when He raises your body from the dead to commune with Him in heaven.
The resurrection of our Lord has changed everything! The stone has been rolled away from the tomb, never to hold you in death again. His is not there! Why do you seek the living among the dead? Jesus is not in the tomb. His body does not lie in the grave. He is not there, but He is here – in living Word, living water, living flesh, and living blood – for you. He is here, now, for you, that you, blessed of the Father, may hear and believe and have life in His Name. He is here, for you, now, that you, O Thomas, may touch, handle, taste, see, and believe, “My Lord, and my God!”
In the + Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.