Summary: The resurrection of Christ is the most important event of both history and the individual's life.
Belief in the Risen Lord John 20:19-29
Easter Sunday Sermon by Don Emmitte, Grace Restoration Ministries
Take Your Bibles, Please…
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “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.” Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then 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.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:19-21 ESV).
Picture yourself sitting in the waiting room outside of the intensive care unit of the hospital. You have been there for hours and have lost track of time. All of the outdated back issues of the magazines have been read, but you really don't remember what any of them said. Many attempts have been made to help you take your mind off the crisis of the moment, but none of them really have. You are only aware that someone you love very much is separated from you by only a few feet, though it may as well be miles. The doctor has spoken to you, and you're trying to grasp the full implications of his words, “...the situation is critical, these next few hours will be crucial, and they may go either way."
So much hangs in the balance in such a time. You think of all the love you will lose or things that will never come to be if your loved one dies. You make new resolutions concerning what is going to be important to you if that loved one lives. The entire experience brings a new reevaluation of life. You try to brace yourself for the words, "I am so sorry. We did everything we could." You hope and pray to hear the words, “The crisis is passed. They are better. You can go in now."
All of us if we live long enough, in one form or another will confront such a time in our lives. Perhaps you have already had such a time in your life. These are the hinge moments of life, the moments on which the rest of our lives will swing. The disciples of Jesus were obviously in such a crisis situation following the His death. In the seemingly endless hours before the resurrection became a reality to them, they found the meaning of their total lives to be unclear. Huddled together for mutual support in the face of a hostile world, they did not seem to be able to find any basis for confident and affirmative action. Would the crisis pass or would they have to accept the end of all their hopes and dreams for the future?
The entire chapter of our Scripture text today contains several incidents of the day of resurrection. The significant experiences of Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John are related (cf. vv. 1-18). The appearances of Jesus to the disciples and others are contained in the latter part of the chapter (cf. vv. 19-29). The chronology of the appearances of Jesus are very difficult to determine with absolute confidence. In fact, most interpreters do not attempt to do so, and neither should we. The emphasis should be given to the event of resurrection itself.
It is interesting to note that the experiences of Mary Magdalene are given prominent position in the narrative. She was the most unlikely witness to such a crucial event in the development of the early church. In a court of law or in the court of public opinion, her witness would have been suspect. Her past defects of character and her emotional instability would have made her amazing story much more difficult to believe. In addition to these facts, her gender made her a very unlikely witness for her day. This must have added to the crisis situation of the disciples.