SMM/NR Easter 2006
A Touch from the Risen Lord
The bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a central pillar of the Christian faith.
St. Paul summed up the Christian faith like this:
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance:
i) that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
ii) that he was buried,
iii) that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and
iv) that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve
After 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. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Cor. 15:3-8).
Paul records 513 (five hundred and thirteen) men as having seen the risen Lord.
Have you ever therefore wondered why John mentions only four post Resurrection appearances of the Risen Jesus.
In this Chapter, John 20 we read of three of these.
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 his having breakfast with them.
Surely 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. I wonder if Jesus appeared to Nicodemus - the Jewish rabbi who had sought him out at night in Jn 3 and who had helped Joseph of Arimathea bury Jesus
The reason John doesn’t record more post Resurrection encounters with the Risen Lord can be found in the last verse of our Gospel reading today: 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, the three stories of John 20 have been recorded to awake faith in us.
So what is so special about these three stories?
I would like to suggest that each story shows a barrier to faith – which can be overcome by the presence of Jesus.
And they are all barriers that we as Christians will experience at some time in our lives.
1. The first of these barriers to faith was GRIEF
And this was overcome by hearing the voice of Jesus
Mary Magdalene, in last week’s Gospel reading, couldn’t see Jesus for her grief.
It was only when she heard him call her name that she realises that He was risen.
Jesus spoke to her – and by speaking released her from her grief.
There are going to be times when we suffer from grief.
We may grieve for the loss of loved ones. And it is at times like this that we need to listen for Jesus’ voice calling us.
2. The second barrier to faith was FEAR
And this was overcome by experiencing the presence of Jesus
The disciples in that event were gathered behind closed doors in fear . Jesus had been crucified – and were they next on the list?
And so Jesus comes to them and speaks words of peace. He showed them his crucified hands and St. John records:
“The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord” (Jn 20:20)
Fear can cripple us at times. It can make us irrational. And at those times, we need to seek Jesus’ presence in our lives– and it is His Presence that will bring us peace.
When I get stressed out with worry and fear – I find wonderful comfort in the words of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel
"Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn form me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls For my yoke is easy and my burden light." Mt 11:28-30)
3. The third barrier to faith was DOUBT and this was overcome by the touch of Jesus.
Thomas seems rather unfairly to have had a bad press for the last 2000 years. His name has even entered into the English language.
(You might call someone who doesn’t believe something a “Doubting Thomas”)
But you have to remember that Thomas wasn’t with the other disciples when they saw Jesus. He didn’t have the benefit of what they had seen.
He couldn’t believe that Jesus was risen – it was something outside his experience.
Our faith is not an unreasonable faith. St Peter tells us for example
"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have (1 Pet 3:15)
God has given us minds and wants us to use them.
Thomas in rather flowery language says: “I’m not going to believe until I can stuff my hand actually into his side.” That’s the force of what he is saying.
Our faith has to be based on a firm foundation – and Jesus realised that Thomas needed that confirmation.
Once Thomas got the evidence he needed he simply said: “My Lord and my God”
What Thomas asked for was very reasonable and so Jesus gave him what he needed for his faith.
There are times when we need a special touch from God. It is not a sin to be sceptical. What is sin is to go on disbelieving when you are given the evidence.
Jesus deals with each person’s needs differently. He treats us as individuals
Mary simply needed to hear Jesus’ voice and her grief was healed.
The disciples needed to receive the peace of Jesus into their lives to release them from their fear.
Thomas needed to see the Risen Christ. He wanted to put his hand in Jesus’ side before he would believe (Actually there is no evidence that he actually did so).
Each of us has different needs – we all ask different questions - but there is only one solution – a touch from the risen Lord.