Christ is risen!
He has risen indeed!
The Easter season lasts 40 days because for the 40 days between His resurrection and ascension, the risen Christ walked in a visible way and appeared to several people. First, Mary Magdalene. Then on the same day, two disciples on their way to the village of Emmaus. Eventually, says St. Paul, the Lord appeared to 500 of the brothers at the same time.
Our text for today is the account of Saint John of the first appearance of Jesus to ten of the eleven disciples chosen to be apostles. "And on the same day at nightfall, being the first of the week, when the doors were closed where the disciples were gathered for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and, standing in the middle, said to them: Peace be to you."
The disciples still thought that the enemies of Jesus had won the victory. Perhaps they had heard the account of the women and of the two of Emmaus. However, they had not seen the risen Christ with their own eyes. Therefore, they thought that those who killed the Master were going to kill their followers. But, Christ appeared and said "Peace be to you" and again, "Peace be to you".
Why twice? After the first time, "He showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. "The marks on His hands were those of the nails on the cross. After His death, the Roman centurion penetrated his side with his spear and water and blood emerged from it. They were the evidence of degradation inside, so Jesus was truly dead. In this instance, those marks testified of the real presence of Christ in his body. Remember the story of when the disciples went on a boat on the Sea of Galilee, Christ came to them they walked on the water. And they thought it was a ghost, because it was not possible for a living man to walk on water. At this time, they thought it was not possible for Jesus to be with them in his body. However, it was the truth!
"But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came." The text does not say why Thomas was not present, but we can assume that he was very disappointed, very disillusioned, and did not want to meet with the others . But, they sought him and said, "The Lord lives!" Thomas answered, "Unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails, and put my finger in the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe. "
But, eight days later, Thomas was present when Jesus came again and said, "Peace be to you." He had good reason to be angry with His disciples. Only John and the Virgin Mary were present before the cross. The others fled. What’s more Peter refused to meet Jesus three times. But, Jesus told them, "Peace be to you" because He did not come to condemn anyone, but to save the whole world.
Also, He did not condemn Thomas for his doubts. "Put your finger here, and see my hands, and place your hand here, and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believing." And Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord, and my God!" the Lord said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen me, you believed; Blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed. "
Those who do not see and believe are us. Now, Jesus is not with us in a visible way, because as we confess in the creed, He went up to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God Almighty Father, and from there He will come to judge the living and the dead.
Why do we believe in Jesus Christ? St. John says in the epistle (1 John 5: 4-12): "For there are three who bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three who bear witness on earth; the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one. "
The Word is the same Word that John says was in the beginning with God and was God, and was made flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Son and the Son is equal to the Father and both are equal to the Holy Spirit. They have the same divinity and the same will.
The Holy Spirit was sent to the church, by the Father and the Son, to bear witness in the preaching of the Word and the sacraments. Our definition of sacrament is a means of grace instituted by Jesus, with the Word and visible elements. In baptism the visible element is water; in the Holy Supper, the bread and wine with which we receive the body and blood of the Lord. We can not touch the hands and side of Jesus, but in the sacraments we have our evidence that Christ lives and is with us.
In this sense, the church itself is evidence of the presence of Christ. Since 2,000 years, there is still a body of believers who do not think of Jesus as a historical figure, but He is alive and present each time two or three are gathered in His name. To receive the blessings of the Word and the sacraments, we must be present in the public worship of the church.
Thomas would have been lost in his doubts if he had not faced the Lord. In the same way, in our reading of the Old Testament (Genesis 32: 22-30), Jacob did not flee from the presence of God, but fought against the Angel of the Lord and received his blessing. To remain in the faith is to remain in the Word and the sacraments, no matter our doubts and fears. In this, we have the peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.
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