The day after Jesus was crucified was a hard day.
His disciples had been told, but they didn’t understand.
There was no doubt that Jesus was well and truly dead,
the same Jesus who had healed so many,
and even raised the dead to life.
They had put their hope in Him for their own resurrection,
but how can the dead raise the dead?
How can a dead person raise Himself?
The disciples were overwhelmed by their earthly senses.
They had seen Him suffer, seemingly helpless.
Their reason told them that if Jesus couldn’t prevent it,
then He surely could not overcome death.
Then He did. The tomb was empty that morning.
Our text picks up the same evening, and then one week later.
Jesus appeared to them where nobody could appear,
and best of all, He was alive.
His resurrection explains their behavior afterward.
Nothing else could. They gave their lives for this message.
Most of them held to it to the point of death,
and many even through torture. You see, they knew.
Nothing shall be impossible with God.
Because the Lord is Risen.
Because you are forgiven.
Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
Nothing shall be impossible with God.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? And not hard to believe.
That is, it’s not hard to believe in a story.
For us, though we believe what the Bible says,
it seems a bit detached from our lives, like a story.
So we feel a little embarrassed when it mentions our sins.
We feel a little relieved when it mentions our forgiveness.
We feel sort of happy with miracles like the resurrection.
But we don’t necessarily think of that as here and now.
People have the same problem with history, especially Americans.
In Europe and certain places here, every day shows history:
battlefields, cathedrals, ancient buildings.
But the oldest history many of us can see here
is found in things like arrowheads and stones for making flour.
The history of the Bible is something else, detached from our world.
Our problems are present and real, though.
You know them well:
the scarcity of time or money,
your health issues and the certainty of death,
your difficulties with other people,
and over it all, the uncertainties of your future.
You may know others who don’t have the same problems,
maybe even oblivious to the ones that you carry each day.
It can irritate you when someone else pulls you in,
involving you in their optimistic, hare-brained view of life.
Your problems are real, and altogether unforgiving.
What business does someone else have being so unrealistic?
So you understand well how the apostles felt in Luke 24:
It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them.
The women were talking about the empty tomb.
But the apostles’ view of things wasn’t large enough for that.
Jesus was made to suffer. He had died. He was buried.
The apostles’ couldn’t get past that. Who can get past death?
I know, I know. You say, “Those disciples were being foolish.”
After all, who can argue with an empty tomb?
Well, you can, for one. You do.
No, you probably don’t claim the Bible’s wrong about that.
But that’s the Bible. It’s history, detached from your life.
Shouldn’t the empty tomb also affect every one of your problems?
Are the challenges you face, or that the church faces today,
any more difficult than the suffering and death of Jesus?
If the tomb was really empty, and Jesus truly risen,
don’t you think He can also take care of you today?
Don’t you think He can take care of His whole Church?
We all share your problem: doubts, weak faith, worldly thoughts.
They’re not so unusual. The apostles had them too!
Why do you think the women were so alarmed at the tomb?
They didn’t expect it to be empty!
Neither do you expect that God will deal with your problems,
and yet the tomb was empty, and Jesus is with His Church.
Nothing shall be impossible with God,
because the Lord is risen.
The problems that bother us are actually the lesser things.
Our greatest problem is the true cause of death: sin.
If we really understood our situation,
we’d see every day that nothing else matters so much.
Your sin begins deep inside you, inherited from sinful parents.
Even there, it puts you under God’s righteous judgment,
but it doesn’t stop there. It erupts into outward wickedness.
When you use any name for God in an irreverent way,
you are misusing His name and bringing down His wrath.
When you show disrespect to authority,
you are again offending God, the highest authority of all.
When you harm a neighbor through negligence or intent,
you have violated the bounds God places upon us all.
God correctly demands nothing short of perfect love from you,
because He is perfect.
But it goes without saying that you have failed Him.
And that is really your greatest problem.
The apostles were bothered by this, whether they knew it or not,
because they had fulfilled the scripture quoted by Jesus: (Mark 14:27)
Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered.’”
Any time your fear gets the better of your faith,
you are also made to stumble, like those disciples.
Yes, the future is unknown and may bring hard things,
but will they be so hard for the One who conquered death?
Our risen Lord brings you a blessing even from His grave,
so that you can live with complete confidence in Him.
The basis for your confidence is the fact of the resurrection,
but Jesus applies that to you through the ministry of His Word.
Where the Gospel is preached and taught,
from the pulpit, at the kitchen table, or in the classroom,
Jesus brings the answer to your greatest problem:
the answer of forgiveness.
Jesus forgives you your doubts and weakness of faith.
He forgives your stumbling for fear and worldly concerns.
He forgives your misuse of His holy name,
your rebellion against His authority,
and the many times you’ve harmed your neighbor.
He forgives your imperfect love.
Even His apostle Thomas had doubts, knowing Jesus had died,
but Jesus forgave Him too.
This is all possible because His death has redeemed you.
He truly paid for the sins of the world,
and His resurrection proves it.
Now, you can rely upon these words,
because He has entrusted this ministry to His Church.
Jesus said, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven
them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
So when I tell you you are forgiven,
you can take it as it is: the promise of Jesus Himself.
Nothing shall be impossible with God,
because you are forgiven.
Soli Deo Gloria!