John 20:19-31 “The Path of Life” [Or, “Resurrection From…and In”] Acts 2:14a, 22-32; Psalm 16; 1 Peter 1:3-9
Caitlin Trussell – April 27, 2014
Augstana Lutheran Church, Denver, CO
[Additional scripture for today is posted at the end of the sermon]
John 20:19-31 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “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.”
26A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
Alleluia, Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed, alleluia! Ahhhh, the words of Easter, the proclamation of resurrection, the sweet relief from the dark days of Lent. Christian churches fill up on Easter Sunday and right then and there, the very first thing, we show our hand. “Christ is risen indeed, alleluia!” These are party words. Celebration words. And do we ever revel in this celebration. Trumpets, lilies, singing, smiles, Easter Eggs – these are symbols of the celebration. And we keep right on partying for 50 days as the season of Easter unfolds. And so we should. This is the biggest and best of the good news – God coming in flesh, in the person of Jesus, dying and rising to new life, and saying to Death, “Your services are no longer needed.” For Christians, it truly doesn’t get any better…or any more scandalous.
Make no mistake, it is a scandal. Through sealed stone and an armed guard, all meant to protect death inside a tomb, life emerged. Not just any life but the life of the One and from the One who brings all things to life. If death is no longer a given, no longer secured in a sealed tomb, then what kind of life are we talking about? What kind of life are we celebrating these 50 days? This is a fair and honest question.
Peter preaches to this question of life eschatologically, that life for the Christian is “revealed in the last time.” He reassures exiled people that their suffering will end even though they suffer right now. Peter’s words are a blessed assurance in a painful time.
A few years ago I was leading a Bible study out at New Beginnings Church in the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility. The topic of life after death, eternal life, came up as a philosophical question – a question we wrestled with intellectually and thoughtfully. The conversation moved along as these conversations often do, with a lot of opinions thrown around and some curiosity sprinkled in for good measure. When from the back of the group of about 100 women, one of them chimes in with a lot of anger. Her words ring in my ears today. She said, “I don’t know what you all are talking about but I believe God has a place for me where crying and dying are no more…I’m counting on it!” She preached as powerfully from her own moment as Peter preaches from his. We even get in on their preaching when we join our voices with theirs as we speak to the “life everlasting” in the Apostle’s Creed. This is the Easter promise as deliverance. This is resurrection from something – from this life that can include the unbearable.
As a relevant aside, some of you may know how much some Christians delight in prepositions. Those small words of grammar tucked in front of a noun to help us write about things in location to other things. For example, Lutheran Christians will say that Jesus is “in, with, and under” the communion bread and wine. The theological battles waged over these little words of location are stunning. Nonetheless, prepositions have their helpful place. As in the Easter promise of eternal deliverance from this life once having passed through death. But this week, Thomas makes me curious about resurrection in this life. “In” being the operating preposition, the key word.
Thomas and the disciples have locked themselves in a room in Jerusalem. The metallic taste of terror still on their tongues after Jesus’ crucifixion. Terror that includes their own inability to prevent Jesus’ death or be present for it. A week before this moment in the locked room, Thomas missed out on seeing the risen Jesus with the other disciples. But Jesus shows up, wounds and all, and Thomas’ mind and faith are put at ease as he puts his fingers in the hand and side wounds of Jesus. Which, by the way, gross! Most of us can’t stomach a small wound that needs stitches much less a stab-wound created by a spear or a nail-hole through a hand. And there’s Thomas, poking and prodding in the wounds of Jesus like he’s on an Easter egg hunt.
To what end is Thomas physically examining Jesus? More importantly, why is Jesus subjecting himself to this exam? The end-point is not deliverance from the locked room or from eventual death. Thomas goes on to die a martyr after all is said and done. This is the resurrection of Christ, wounds and all, playing out in the locked room with Thomas and the other disciples – resurrection in, not from.
A good friend of mine has been listed in our ongoing prayer requests for some weeks now. Her name is Chris. She gave me permission to tell you her story. Chris and I go back a ways. The kind of friendship that includes talking about our families and our lives within the context of our faith. In part because of this soul-searching and Christ-searching, Chris formally presented me during my ordination. She and I continue to talk faith, life, and Bible with seamless fluidity. A year older than me, six months ago Chris was living daily life with the usual mix of highs and lows and good health. On November 5th, her hands started to hurt during the night. From that first symptom we fast forward to today. She now has muscle weakness that makes it difficult to walk up stairs, empty a dishwasher, and swallow. Looking more and more to her doctors like some kind of autoimmune inflammation in her muscles, she and I spoke at length this past Monday night.
In our usual way, the conversation wove together her Prednisone questions with how her family is doing with what we heard during the Easter sermons at our churches. She told me that the Easter gift for her this year is a bone-deep certainty that Christ’s resurrection is in her current situation. She talks about Christ’s resurrection in her current situation whether or not the medications bring physical healing to her disease, whether or not she is delivered from her disease. She doesn’t know what that will look like but she is sure of it. I can’t help but hear her voice in today’s Psalm, speaking to the Lord, “…my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure…You show me the path of life.”
There are many of us or people we love dealing with situations in life along the lines of Chris or Thomas. During Easter we celebrate Christ’s resurrection as life everlasting even as we celebrate Christ’s resurrection in our lives now.
Christ now breathes the Holy Spirit on you, sharing his peace.
Christ’s resurrection, wounds and all, is in this life for you.
Alleluia, Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed, alleluia!
 1 Peter 1:5
 Revelation 21:4
Acts 2:14a, 22-32 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, 22You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know — 23this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. 24But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. 25For David says concerning him,
‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken;
26therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
moreover my flesh will live in hope.
27For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One experience corruption.
28You have made known to me the ways of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
29Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. 31Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying,
‘He was not abandoned to Hades,
nor did his flesh experience corruption.’
32This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.
Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
2I say to the LORD, “You are my LORD;
I have no good apart from you.”
3As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble,
in whom is all my delight.
4Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names upon my lips.
5The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
6The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
I have a goodly heritage.
7I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
8I keep the LORD always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
9Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;
my body also rests secure.
10For you do not give me up to Sheol,
or let your faithful one see the Pit.
11You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.