Second Sunday of Easter: The Gospel Passage – After-Resurrection Joy

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.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” (John 20:19-20)

They rejoiced. After believing their teacher dead and buried, they “simply” rejoiced?! I suspect that the writer of the gospel of John is understating it just a bit. You think the glee of a child finding their Easter basket is “rejoicing”? That is nothing, I suspect, compared to the rejoicing that the disciples did.

“Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (Verse 21)

I imagine also that Jesus was emotional too. These were men (and women) who had shared life together for at least 3 years, good times and bad.

“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.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.” (Verses 22 – 24)

It was a shame that Thomas missed out on seeing the Lord when the other disciples were there. I have to wonder if his insisting on not believing was partly disappointment for having missed it.

“So 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.” A 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.” Then 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.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (Verses 25 – 28)

But Thomas did not miss out on seeing his believed Messiah. Jesus appeared again and gave Thomas ample opportunity to confirm that it was indeed the Risen Lord. Even to this day, our Lord God gives us ample opportunity to confirm and encounter/experience with the Lord, if we will but believe in it!

“Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But 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.” (Verses 29 – 31)

Now I must tell you something, beloved reader. I have never with my own human eyes seen Jesus, nor our Lord God. But I do not need to see with human eyes in order to believe with human heart. I am not boasting or bragging, just stating simple fact. But I have seen evidence, and am convinced I will continue to see evidence that will affirm and confirm my faith. It is my hope and prayer that you are able to say the same thing. Selah!

JUDGMENT . . . of not action but belief?

Then Jesus cried out, “When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.” (Reference: John 12:44-48 )

On the last day, our belief or unbelief will rise up and condemn us. Not the judgment of God, nor even the judgment of Jesus. But whether we have believed in God or not. More explicitly, beloved, we in a sense pass a judgment on ourselves. If we have not believed in God or Christ, that is a judgment on ourselves, and rests on our conscience. Actually it burns and ferments on our conscience. It eats away at us, that we know Christ’s words are true on some level, but we refute them and deny them. At least . . . that is the theological theory.

But the wider truth is that people do not believe in God everyday; or more precisely, do not include it as part of their personal life view and perspective. And even if they do, it does not mean that they orient their life around that belief. It does not mean they are living an authentic Christian life. There is why there seems to be a paradox imbedded in this verse.

What does it mean to hear Christ’s words AND keep them? Perhaps it is not believe, or more precisely, lack of believe that condemns us. But belief that does not translate into action. Just as each one of us had to decide for him or her self what he or she believes, each of us has to decide what we are going to do about/with that belief. And that, beloved, is the greater burn.

May you believe our Lord Christ, and believe in God. And may that belief rule and guide your life. Selah!

FAITH . . . Believe it in your heart and confess it with your mouth!

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Reference: Romans 10: 9-10 )

When I was growing up, the era of Anabaptists/Mennonites was to be “the quiet in the land.” Quietly and humbly going about one’s life, doing good things but not shouting about it. That was an outgrowth of the decades and generations of persecution and the desire to live as the believers felt God demanded. Too much argument and had taken place, and too much scrutiny about religious practices. Better to keep to one’s self and to fellow believers than to shout and evangelize. I do not think our historic Anabaptist spiritual ancestors would have been pleased with that. Leonard Schiemer in his 1527 “True Christian Baptism” said, “But our scribes (and other falsely famous ones) [I think this means “scribes” means another sect of believers, but I am not sure] do not want anything external; the reason: they see how we are burned, killed, suffer, are beheaded, so they keep it in their heart and deny it orally, Matt. 10:38-39. Yet Jesus says, those who deny me before others, I will also deny before my heavenly Father, Mark 8:34-35. Paul says if we confess Christ with our lips we shall be saved, Rom. 10:10.”

Some where around the late 1990’s [I think] modern Anabaptists/Mennonites “found their voice”, or I “fell into the company” of more vocal Anabaptists/Mennonites, because suddenly “we” were speaking up about all kinds of things. And people all over the world, literally, on all the continents of the world, were confessing Anabaptist/Mennonite faith and seeking to spread this faith. I think these people were much more in line with the spirit and intent of the historic Anabaptists. But, beloved, even in the early days of Anabaptism there were different regions of Europe who were coming to a common conclusion about this “new” Anabaptist faith, and some regions were more “quiet” in their faith.

Really, this is not much different then other developing religions – personal and culture norms will influence a common faith system in differing ways. You, beloved, may express and live you faith out differently than others in your faith circle. It is the common core of belief that holds a faith community together. The faith/belief may be the same but the way the mouth, body, and actions “confess” it can differ. Do not let divisions come between you, but unite under a common faith that forms a solid connection. (Oh my! Now I am sounding like Paul! I better “sign off”)

May you beloved believe with courage and conviction concerning the faith in your heart, and confess it in a multitude of ways in your life. Selah!

FAITH . . . in a realized a glorified Trinity

. . . and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified. ” (Reference: John 7:38-39 )

I very much like the gospel of John. But the writer of the gospel of John was very much taken up by spiritual nature of Jesus, and apparently was very specific and precise as to when Jesus’ spiritual nature became a reality. This puzzles me because the Jews spoke of the “Spirit” of God, and had a word for it, “ruach.” I won’t go into the complicated Jesus-was-God-and-God-was-Jesus argument. Suffice to say if was part of God before Jesus came, Jesus had it. So where comes this idea that there was no “Spirit”? I don’t know.

The historic Anabaptists certainly believed in the Spirit and that it was from God and present before, during, and after Jesus. Faith, they believed, was a gift from the Spirit of God, and belief in God predated Jesus. For historic Anabaptists, and their modern spiritual descendents, God/Jesus/Holy Spirit are interchangeable dependent on the spiritual perspective being used or presented. I have talked previously, and extensively, about the triune nature of God. It has its basis, for Anabaptists/Mennonites, in historic Anabaptism.

May you beloved believe in the risen Jesus and the Lord God that sent the Messiah. And may you drink deeply of that belief and faith. Selah!