Sermon St Paul’s Gulworthy Sunday 18 April 2021 Easter 3 Year B
Acts 3v12-19 Psalm 4 1 John 3v1-7 Luke 24v36b-48
Let us pray:- ……….. Amen
Let us this morning journey back in time and join with those disciples, and I suspect Jesus family, the women and some others, assembled together on the first and second Easter Sunday evenings. As we do so may we now be overjoyed and rejoice, as did those disciples, as we sense the Lord coming into our midst. May we with the psalmist say “Put your trust in the Lord.”
But what questions I wonder arise in your minds when you ponder that room on the first Easter Sunday evening when the disciples met in secret for fear of the Jewish authorities? Maybe they gathered in the same upper room as for the last supper, but now with its doors securely locked. The disciples present had heard the stories from the women, and from Simon Peter and John, of the empty tomb, and maybe also from Simon, and from James-the brother of our Lord, who told them that Jesus was indeed alive and that he had met with each of them earlier that day. And then appeared the two disciples who had returned hurriedly from their journey to Emmaus, and they shared how Jesus had also met with them, and related how Jesus had revealed himself to them in the breaking of the bread. A prayer that each of us can make, that Jesus will again reveal himself to us, as we gather round our Lord’s table to remember him as we break bread together this morning.
When we put together the accounts of that evening from John and Luke’s gospels, we can get a more complete view of that special time. So let us become a fly on the wall of that upper room as the disciples came together on the first Easter Sunday, to discuss what all this could possibly mean.
What’s this? Here’s Jesus standing before us, and he does look real, not like a ghost, but how did he get in through those locked doors? Are we hallucinating?
But he’s speaking “Peace be with you”. “Why are you frightened and why do doubts arise in your hearts.”
Look, He is showing us his hands and side. Those look like awful wounds Lord, what did they do to you. And now He is inviting us to touch him, so he can’t possibly be a ghost, He has real flesh and bones. If only Thomas were here to see them as well, I wonder what he would make of all this, after all he is a pretty good realist.
If Jesus got in here through those locked doors, then there has to be something very different about his body, I wonder what is it?
But what is Jesus saying now? “Have you anything to eat?” What; are you hungry Lord? Oh I see, you can’t be a ghost as ghost’s don’t eat.
Now what’s He saying. “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you”. Has Jesus then just come from the Father? That means after he was buried he must have gone back into heaven. Well, he used to tell us that he had come from the Father when we were with him on those endless walks through the Galilean countryside; and what did he say to Nathaniel, “You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”.
But what does he mean “so I send you.” Send us to where, and to do what? Did I hear Him right? But what is he doing now?
He’s breathing on us and what’s that he’s saying? “Receive the Holy Spirit”. Ou, that’s a bit tingly; but Oh, its so very warm and comforting.
I rather like that feeling; wonder why he did that? What’s it meant for?
What! Did I just hear you correctly Jesus? Can’t be. You have said some pretty challenging things in the past, but “forgive sins”. I need some time to digest that one.
And now He’s talking about Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms, and saying they all speak of Him, and they show that He is the Messiah, and so he had to suffer and die and rise from the dead. I think I will need to read those scriptures more deeply in the future to grasp all that. What Lord? You are going to help us do that by opening our minds, wonder how that will work?
And what’s Jesus saying now. That we are to be his witnesses to all these things. Well we have certainly spent enough time with him these past three years so I suppose we are witnesses to him. And now, where’s he gone?
Perhaps that is what went through the minds of some of those gathered that evening, and what they then shared during the following week with Thomas. Those disciple told Thomas, “We have seen the Lord.” Thomas’s reply then gave to him his nickname of ‘doubting Thomas’ as he replied, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
I wonder if some of us are like Thomas in that respect? We need to see some sign, some proof that Jesus really did rise from the dead and is alive today.
But what are we told by Saint Paul in Romans? ‘The just shall live by faith’ (Rom1v17). Paul was here repeating a theme, that started with Abraham, and that then runs throughout the Old Testament by quoting from the prophet Habakkuk (2v4), ‘the righteous shall live by faith’. Our hope as Christians is firmly based upon our faith in the risen Christ. The writer of Hebrews (6v12) reminds us that we are to be ‘imitators of those who through faith and patience shall inherit the promises.’
But as we read in last weeks gospel, Thomas was soon to be enlightened when one week later the disciples once again gathered together, but now with Thomas present, and in that same upper room. Once more through locked doors the Lord appeared, and greeted them all with those comforting words, ‘Peace be with you’. Those comforting words are words that we still use some 2000 years on, as we remember that we Christians are called to be a people of peace.
In his grace Jesus then gave Thomas the opportunity to “Put his finger in Jesus hand and to reach out and put his hand in Jesus side, and as Jesus did so Jesus gave to Thomas, and to all of us also, the words, perhaps we should say almost a command, “Do not doubt but believe.”
We do not read that Thomas any longer needed the opportunity to put his finger or hand in the marks of Jesus passion, but instead Thomas replies with words of complete belief, “My Lord and my God.” A reply that I trust, you and I can also make as we gather in the presence of our risen Lord this morning.
John’s gospel records that Jesus then had a word for each one of us, and a word that he has had for all Christians down through the ages, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
It is through our faith in our unseen, but risen Lord, that we are now-in this present time, and continuing on into the future, to accept the promise that we are to receive the manifold blessings of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Apostle John reminds us in his first epistle that we can look and see what love the Father has given to us, and through that love rejoice in the knowledge that we are truly God’s children. As God’s children we do not yet know what further blessings God has prepared for us who love him, for those blessings have not yet been revealed. But what we do know is that we are promised that we shall be like God, like our Lord Jesus, when we finally see him as he is, in all his glory.
Now that is a good reason in this Easter season to shout ‘Alleluia’.
I guess that when we shall see Jesus in his glory, as we inhabit our new resurrection bodies, we shall then understand more of that resurrection body of our Lord that was able to enter the upper room through those locked doors. As a Physicist that is a burning question I long to have answered.
So with that hope of seeing Jesus as he is, we have a call to purify ourselves, for we serve a pure, righteous and Holy God. Let us now with obedient hearts, look with those early disciples to respond to Jesus words spoken in that upper room, “I send you”. What that means will differ for each one of us, but we know from Jesus teaching that we are all called to be ‘salt and light’, salt and light to all those around us, as we seek to dispense the love of God through the fragrance of our Lord Jesus Christ in us, through his indwelling Holy Spirit.
Let us pray: The shorter collect for this 3rd Sunday of Easter:
you filled your disciples with boldness and fresh hope:
strengthen us to proclaim your risen life
and fill us with your Holy Spirit and with peace,
to the glory of God our Father.