Summary: Only four post Ressurection appearances of Jesus to disciples are recorded in John’s Gospel - and each makes a significant contribution to imparting faith
Ashby Folville 30-03-08
Story Sherlock Holmes and his friend Dr. John Watson went on a camping trip.
They set up their tent and fell asleep.
Some hours later, Holmes woke his faithful friend.
"Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see."
Watson replied, "I see millions of stars."
"What does that tell you?" asks Holmes
Watson pondered for a minute.
"Astronomically speaking, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets.
Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo.
Horologically, it appears to be approximately a quarter past three.
Theologically, it’s evident the Lord is all-powerful and we are small and insignificant.
Meteorologically, it seems we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. “
Then - after a pause, Watson said:
“Well, Holmes, What does it tell you?"
Holmes was silent for a moment and then he said.
"Watson, you imbecile, someone has stolen our tent."
In the same way as Dr Watson missed the blindingly obvious, - so (in the words of the late Professor Charlie Moule)
"the birth and rapid rise of the Christian
Church ... remains an unsolved enigma for any historian who refuses to take seriously the only explanation offered by the church itself - the Resurrection."
Story: A few years ago Maddy and I went to Pfarrwangen in Switzerland to visit a good friend who is the Swiss Reform pastor there - Philipp Nanz and his wife Suzy.
And while Maddy and Suzy went horse riding, Philip and I went for a walk.
And we started discussing Islam, and then got onto the subject of what makes Christianity distinctive?
How does Christianity differ from other religions?
And we came to the conclusion that the answer lies in the Easter story.
No other religion has ever claimed that its leader rose from the dead
St. Paul - who was nobody’s fool - had this to say about the centrality of the Resurrection:
3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance :
that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.
6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Cor. 15:3-8).
When you add that up you get at least 514 men.
And that doesn’t include the women like Mary Magdalene who also saw the risen Jesus.
So if the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a CENTRAL PILLAR of our faith
- after all it is central to our three main CREEDS-
have you ever wondered WHY St John ONLY mentions FOUR post Resurrection appearances of the Risen Jesus.?
In this Chapter, John 20 we read of three of these. Here John records how Jesus appeared to
i) to Mary Magdalene
ii) to all the disciples except Thomas and finally
iii) to Thomas
And in the following Chapter, John 21 we read of Jesus appearing to seven disciples including Peter, James and John, Thomas, Nathanael and two unnamed disciples.
And he had breakfast with them.
Surely - one might argue - if the resurrection is such a big deal, why didn’t John add many more of the stories of these encounters?
At the very least – why didn’t he simply catalogue when, where and who had seen the risen Christ. Surely that would make interesting reading.
1. Have you ever wondered what the reaction of James -Jesus’ brother - was when Jesus appeared to him.
2. Have you ever wondered if Jesus appeared to Nicodemus - the Jewish rabbi who had sought him out at night in Jn 3 and who had helped Joseph of Ari-math-ea to bury Jesus.
The reason St John doesn’t record more post Resurrection encounters with the Risen Lord - can be found in the last verse of our Gospel reading today:
Here St John wrote:
"Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.
But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in his name."
In other words, these three stories of John 20 have been recorded to awake faith in us.
If that is the case - what is so special about these three stories?
I would like to suggest to you this morning that each story is special because it shows a barrier to faith – a barrier which can be overcome by the presence of Jesus.