Summary: Final in the Series "Near to His Heart: The Gospel of John." Easter Sermon, Jesus invites us to draw near in spite of our doubts and questions.
Birthday invitations—the kids start on them months before the party because they want people to come.
For the last several months I’ve been sharing stories from the Gospel of John about Jesus invitation to us—the invitation to come near to Him. This morning we both celebrate His resurrection and conclude this series of messages—appropriately enough with another invitation from Jesus to draw near—Near enough in this case to feel the scars.
I believe that invitation echoes through the ages to us here in this room this morning. And like he did on that day I believe that Jesus extends that invitation to us in spite of ourselves. First of all I’d like us to remember that
Jesus Invites us near in spite of our Failures.
19On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors 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 side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Among those there was a man who gets a lot of bad press at Easter time. A man who had declared proudly that even if he had to die, he would always stay by Jesus’ side. Jesus had predicted that not only would that man desert him, he would deny even knowing him three times before the rooster crowed the next morning. The way that story turned out is found in
John 18: 25-27 25As Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it, saying, “I am not.” 26One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the olive grove?” 27Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.
Of course its easy to forget that Peter stayed with Jesus longer than most of the others—they had fled when the guards came to arrest Jesus. In fact as far as faithfulness was concerned it was a room full of failures to which Jesus showed the proof of His love for them—See here my hands and side that bear the scars so that you may be forever with me.
Perhaps you are here today because it’s Easter and somebody asked you to come and this is the first time in a very long time that you’ve been in church for anything other than wedding or funeral. It’s become easier to stay away because the guilt isn’t quite as bad when you’re not here.
Maybe somewhere in the past you made a commitment to the Lord. But like Peter’s commitment it dissolved in the realities of a harsh world.
Hear the Lord’s word to you this morning, just as surely as if you had been one of the ten in that room two thousand years ago:
“Peace to you, come near and see the scars—these were for you, so that we could be together forever. It doesn’t matter now that you ran away, stay with me now.”
Jesus invites all of us near, in spite of our failures. There’s another group that I think the Lord wants to invite near this morning.
Jesus invites us near in spite of our Doubts.
24Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” 26A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Jesus has always invited the skeptics to come near. A faker never invites the crowds to come close. A magician won’t let you examine the props too closely. But Jesus virtually ordered Thomas not just to see but to feel the scars.
I’ve been preaching about drawing near to Jesus since Christmas time and in some sense we’ve come full circle here. At the birth of Jesus the shepherds were invited to come and see, now at his resurrection Thomas is invited to see and to feel the evidence of Christ’s love.
If you’ve come here this morning not knowing how much of the story of Jesus you believe, I’ve got news for you: I’m not scared of you—more importantly, Jesus isn’t scared of you. The unsure, the seekers, and even the skeptics have always been invited to come near.