Summary: Sermon for the 2nd Sunday of Easter, Series C. A different approach to the doubting Thomis norm for this Sunday

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2nd Sunday of Easter, April 15, 2007 “Series C”

Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Let us pray: Lord Jesus, through your death and resurrection, you not only defeated sin and the powers of death and evil – you came back to us, breaking through our locked doors, overcoming our reservations and doubts, calling us to follow you in newness of life. Keep coming to us, Lord, keep raising us from the dead, keep empowering us with the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen. [1]

Our Gospel lesson for this, the Second Sunday of Easter, is the same every year, regardless of the cycle from which our lessons are drawn. It is John’s account of our Lord’s appearance to his disciples, with the exception of Thomas, on that first Easter evening. Then, a week later, after the disciples had shared with Thomas that they seen the their risen Lord, Jesus again appears to the disciples, revealing to Thomas the proof he demanded to see, before he would believe.

As a result, many sermons have been written and preached focusing on the skepticism of Thomas, which has resulted in his being forever dubbed, “Doubting Thomas.” It is a nickname that is truly undeserving for this disciple, whom scripture elsewhere holds up as a very faithful disciple of our Lord.

But this morning, I would like to take a rather different approach to this text, as suggested by William H. Willimon, in his commentary. He states, “The opening verse [of our lesson] sets the tone. The disciples are hiding behind locked doors. We are told that they are locked in because of ‘fear.’ We are not told the reason for their gathering, except for ‘fear of the Jews.’ This is curious. Perhaps the Jews that the disciples feared were their friends and relatives, because their Messiah had died such a [shameful] death.” [2] End quote.

Now, regardless of the reason that the disciples had gathered together that first Easter evening, we can’t ignore the fact that they did so in fear, behind locked doors. Some of their fear may well have been justified. After all, just a few days before, they had seen Jesus arrested, falsely accused by the religious authorities, severely beaten and nailed to a cross as a seditious person by the Roman governor. As Jesus’ closest disciples, they may well have been sought by the authorities for the same offense.

But I have never thought about the fear that Willimon alluded to in his commentary – the fear of facing the jeers and mocking of their friends and relatives, for having left everything to follow Jesus. A part of the fear that gripped the disciples that night, may well have included the fear of having made a fool of themselves – especially in light of the fact that the common belief of that time was that the Messiah would free Israel from Roman occupation.

Yet Jesus died on a Roman cross, and with his death came the end of any expectation the disciples may have held concerning the fulfillment of their hope, regardless of how they may have envisioned it. They had invested their whole being into following Jesus, trusting that he would lead them to a new and better life, and now he was gone.

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