Living Worship Series: BELIEVE IN ME
Second Sunday in Easter - April 28, 2019
To Live for Jesus is to Believe in Him
Points to Explore:
The presence of Jesus is the Presence of Peace.
Jesus arrives among a group of disciples who are scared for their lives; they have every right to be. They saw their leader crucified and are concerned that they might be next. It is perfectly understandable for them to feel scared, anxious, and nervous—anything but peaceful. Then Jesus appears and states, “Peace be with you.” This ought to be seen as more than just a greeting. With Jesus, comes peace. I imagine that the disciples felt better once they saw that what was before them was not a ghost, nor a figment of imagination. Before them was Jesus; and to be in the presence of Jesus is to experience a “peace that surpasses all understanding.”
The Peace of Jesus Brings Power and Responsibility.
After greeting them and bringing them peace, Jesus breathed on them, gave them the Holy Spirit, and then immediately gave them a task. God’s peace does not mean lack of fear or anxiousness. Having received verification that their leader was still with them, and that, indeed, they served a risen and living savior, they were instructed about how their life would change. They were to live as sent people. With the power of the Holy Spirit, they were sent into the world to reconcile the world to God and to forgive.
Thomas is often given a bad rep for not believing what the other disciples had told him. However, it is perfectly reasonable to not believe that a dead man has risen from the dead. To believe also presents a certain vulnerability. If one believes that a deepest desire is true, that person opens himself/herself up to a happiness that could be taken away if proven not to be true. It is understandable. However, Thomas robbed himself of a week of joy because he refused to believe the testimony of his trusted friends. Jesus did not hold it against Thomas. Instead Jesus gave Thomas what he needed so he could believe. Jesus gives make-up tests. We don’t miss out because we don’t believe when others believe. Jesus meets us where are. Jesus also spoke to Thomas in a way that did not focus on his doubt, but that was meant to move Thomas to belief. And Thomas believed. This belief then moved him to make a strong confession. To say “My Lord and my God” is to recognize the divinity of Christ and to recognize that Jesus is one with God. Thomas’ belief moved him to make a powerful confession of who Jesus is.
“Blessed are those who have not seen but have come to believe.”
I have never seen the human, historical Jesus. Yet, it does not mean that my belief hasn’t been helped by seeing and believing. I saw the work and life of Franciscan nuns and other Christian believers. Seeing them helped me believe in a historical Jesus whose form I do not see. But I do see Jesus in other ways. May we be blessed because we believe, though we do not see!
A Word of Warning
“Fear of the Jews” is always a dicey statement to preach, and the way that this is preached can either provide clarification or anti-Semitic rhetoric. It is important to remember that the disciples in that room were all Jews, just like Jesus. The Johannine community, however, were majority Gentile Christians. While the disciples were afraid, this was not a matter of fearing all Jewish people because they were wicked or evil people. The disciples feared the Jewish and Roman authorities who had conspired to crucify Jesus. They feared those authorities because they feared that they could be next. That is a justified and specific fear that ought not be preached like a general fear.
Questions for Reflection:
- What event or series of events made you a believer? How can you connect to those moments in difficult times of unbelief?
- When you gather on the first day of the week, like the disciples did in this passage, what is your purpose for gathering? Do you expect Jesus to show up?
- Now that we have the peace of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, what action(s) are we being called to do?
- In what ways can you live your life as proof to others that Christ is alive?
Rev. Annie Lockhart-Gilroy, PhD is Assistant Professor of Christian Education and Practical Theology at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, OK. She has served several congregations as a deacon focusing on youth ministry and Christian education. She received her M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, then worked with and directed a faith-based nonprofit before attaining her Ph.D. in Christian Education and Congregational Studies from Garrett-Evangelical Theological School. She publishes on various topics surrounding education and adolescent spirituality through blogs, articles, and scholarly publications.