Summary: A sermon for the 2nd Sunday of Easter, Series B
2nd Sunday of Easter, April 19, 2009 “Series B”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, the resurrection of your Son, Jesus the Christ, has been the greatest news that the world has ever heard. It turns our priorities upside down, and draws us into an ever-deepening relationship with you, the source of life itself. Grant us your Holy Spirit, that we might continue to grow in faith, witness to others of your tremendous gift of redeeming grace, and live our lives in praise and thanksgiving as our Lord’s disciples. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
Our Gospel lesson for this morning is a familiar story. We know it well, at least those of us who come to worship on this Second Sunday of Easter. It is the appointed lesson for this day, every year, regardless of which series of lessons we happen to be following. And I’m sure you have sat through your share of sermons that have focused on poor old Thomas, who has, for his moment of questioning the witness of his comrades, forever born the label, Doubting Thomas.
And the truth is, we should be grateful to poor old Thomas, for he is a lot like most of us, if we would be honest about it. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is not the easiest truth to grasp and believe. I think Christians throughout the ages have struggled with what the church proclaims at Easter. And the fact that Thomas was not shunned by the other disciples, but together with them a week later, and the fact that he was not condemned by Jesus when he made his second appearance to the disciples, should give us all courage.
But this morning, I would like to take a different approach to this text, one that I am not sure I have truly explored before. And I would like to thank William H. Willimon for his commentary on our text, which helped me to see this lesson in a new light. [Pulpit Resource, 2009]
First, let us return to our Gospel lesson from last Sunday, the day of our Lord’s resurrection. There, Mark tells us, some women went to the tomb of Jesus early Sunday morning, two days following his death, to anoint Jesus’ body and assuage their grief. To their alarm, when they got to the tomb, the stone that had sealed the tomb had already been moved, and the body of Jesus was not there.
Instead, a strange man, dressed in a white robe, was sitting in the tomb, who told the women, “If you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified, he is not here. He has risen from the dead. Go and tell his disciples that he will meet them in Galilee.” But the women left, Mark tells us, seized by terror and amazement, and said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. And with those words, many Biblical scholars believe, the oldest copy of the Gospel of Mark ends.
Well, given the social and political culture of that day, had those women
chosen to go to the disciples and tell them what they had experienced at the tomb, their story may well have been dismissed as some sort of idle tale, or delusional thinking due to their grief. The unfortunate truth is, women of that day, in that region, had little standing, as is still evident in the lives of women in the Mid-East. Just think of what we have seen as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, of how women are still treated in that region today.
But today’s Gospel is a different story. John tells us that the disciples of Jesus are gathered together behind locked doors, in fear of the Jewish authorities. For the threat to their lives was real. Not only did the disciples fear that they might also be accused and sentenced to the same death that Jesus had to endure because of their association with him, but according to Matthew, additional charges loomed against them. They were accused of stealing a corpse and perpetuating a hoax, both crimes punishable by death.
But in the midst of their fear, in the relative safety of their tightly locked door, the risen Christ came and stood among them. Just imagine the suspense of that moment! Here they were, huddled in fear for their lives, and their crucified and risen master comes and stands in their midst. I can picture Peter being the first to fall to the floor, trembling in total despair for having denied even knowing Jesus. I can picture the rest of the disciples following suit, for they all deserted him. I can imagine the fear that they felt from those whom they felt might do them bodily harm, was totally replaced by total fear and awe of being in the presence of the risen Christ.