Summary: The barrier to faith for the disciples was fear and for Thomas Doubt. A word from Jesus overcame fear and doubt
Story: The late Dr Billy Graham told this story based in the 19th Century
Auguste Comte (19 January 1798 – 5 September 1857), the French philosopher, and Thomas Carlyle, (4 December 1795 – 5 February 1881) the Scottish essayist met and started to have a discussion.
Comte said he was going to start a new religion that would supplant the religion of Christ.
It was to have no mysteries and was to be as plain as the multiplication table; its name was to be positivism.
"Very good, Mr. Comte," Carlyle replied, "very good.
All you will need to do will be
to speak as never a man spake, and live as never a man lived, and be crucified, and rise again the third day,
and get the world to believe that you are still alive.
Then your religion will have a chance to get on."
And in the same way, Professor Charlie Moule, the famous NT theologian once said:
"the birth and rapid rise of the Christian Church ... remains an unsolved enigma for any historian who refuses to take seriously the only explanation offered by the church itself - the resurrection." (C.F.D. Moule, The Phenomenon of the New Testament).
Story: Many years ago (2004,) whilst Maddy and I were visiting in Pfarrwangen I went for a walk with
a good friend of Maddy and mine, Pastor Philipp Nanz.
Philipp is the Swiss Reformed pastor of that village – and while Maddy and Philip’s wife Suzy went horse riding, we went for a walk.
And we started discussing Islam, and got onto the subject of what makes Christianity distinctive?
How does Christianity differ from other religions?
And we came to the conclusion that the answer lies in the Easter story.
No other religion has ever claimed that its leader rose from the dead
St. Paul - who was nobody’s fool - had this to say about the centrality of the Resurrection:
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance :
that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.
6 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. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Cor. 15:3-8).
When you add that up you get at least 514 men.
Have you ever therefore wondered why if the Resurrection is a CENTRAL PILLAR of our faith. It is after all it is central to our three main CREEDS
The Apostles Creed,
The Athanasian Creed and
The Nicene Creed.
Yet St John ONLY mentions 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 Arimithea bury Jesus
I believe the reason that St John doesn’t record more post Resurrection encounters with the Risen Lord is to be found in the last verse of our Gospel reading today:
St 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, these 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