This is the sermon I preached on Sunday, 4/3 at St.Timothy and St. Mark Lutheran Churches. The gospel is John 20:19-31.
What comes to mind when you hear today’s gospel? Doubting Thomas, right? After all, it is a story about Thomas and he has a hard time believing, doesn’t he?
One of the greatest lessons I learned in seminary is that in scripture God is always the One who is acting. Look at Jesus’ interaction with Thomas: Is Thomas and his lack of faith the center of the story?
Or is Jesus and his gracious offer of himself to Thomas the center of the story?
Let’s look at what God is up to in today’s gospel. The gist of today’s text can be boiled down to these three words: breathe, receive and reveal. Jesus BREATHED on his disciples for them to RECEIVE the Holy Spirit so that he could continue to REVEAL himself.
However, before Jesus can breathe on his disciples, he needs to calm them down. They are scared and locked themselves behind closed doors. The disciples were not in any shape to receive Jesus’ breath, so he gives them the promised gift of his peace.
“Peace be with you” means “Peace is yours.” This is more than a mere greeting. It is an impartation of divine peace. Such peace is not a feeling as much as a description of a relationship between people.
This gift of peace was not just to give the disciples the warm fuzzies about their connection with Jesus.It was so they could participate in God’s mission on earth.
Jesus comes to people who are locked in fear, locked in grief and locked in darkness—people like the disciples, people like us, and people in this broken world.
Jesus breathed on his disciples. God’s breath is creative: In the beginning, God’s breath brought life to creation. In the book of Ezekiel, God’s breath brought life to dry bones. Jesus breathes on his disciples so that they receive the Holy Spirit. This is a new kind of creation. Like God’s peace, the gift of the Holy Spirit was not the private possession of Jesus’ first followers.
The purpose of the giving of the Holy Spirit was so that Jesus would be revealed. Have you ever noticed during children's time, that when a group of children is asked who did something in scripture, the answer is always, “Jesus.” ? It doesn’t matter if the story is from the Old Testament or the New—whether it’s related to the ark, the 10 commandments, or who gave us the Lord’s prayer. The answer is always, “Jesus.” At least they know they’ll be right some of the time.
Like the children, we need to remember that the answer is always Jesus—and his revelation in our world. We have an amazing message to share— the good news of God revealed in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, is able to break through locked doors of fear AND through the limits of time and space.
Like Thomas, we were not among the disciples who first saw Jesus after his resurrection, but that doesn’t matter. We have God’s word that is written so that we may believe. We are to bear witness to that word of God’s identity revealed in Jesus Christ.
Another way to describe the church’s mission is: by loving one another as Jesus loves—God’s people reveal God to the world. By revealing God to the world—the church makes it possible for the world to enter into relationship with our God of limitless love. Our mission is to bear unceasing witness to the love of God in Jesus Christ for which the Holy Spirit has empowered us.
There is a pattern that exists throughout the gospel of John. God sends Jesus. Jesus sends his disciples. Just as Jesus’ commission extends to the disciples, it extends to us as well. God BREATHES on us and we RECEIVE the Holy Spirit so that we may REVEAL Christ to the world.
The revelation of Jesus is ever present, ever new, and ever available because of the work of the Holy Spirit.