USCP Sunday, April 19th Bulletin

Click the link above for the Sunday 4/19/20 Bulletin


April 19, 2020

John 20:19-31

Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.

Upper St. Croix Parish UMC

 “Ask God if You Are in Doubt. 

When I was not a Christian, I used to think of Christians how foolish they are. I did not try to know about God and not to hear them at all. When I was in a hospital with a broken spine due to a car accident, I met a girl in the same room with me in the hospital. She also involved a car accident. Her injury was more severe than mine. She had broken her spine as well as two legs. However, while I was depressed, losing hope to walk again, she was always smiling. I thought that she might be out of mind because she had her brain injury seriously.

One day I knew that she is a Christian with strong faith. I told her, “If you are a Christian, you must complain to God because God did not protect you from that accident.” But, she said to me, “I do not complain to God that I got an accident because God promises me to be with me always, not to protect me from any accident. Even though I could not walk again, I am fine because God is with me.” I could not understand her at first. After spent more time than six months in the same room of the hospital with her, I began to be curious about God. While I was in fear, anxiety, and hopelessness, she was in hope without any doubt and worry. How could God make her like that?

I learned two things from her.  One is the words “fear and anxiety” of opposite meanings are “faith.” If you do not believe in God, you must be in fear and anxiety. In other words, if you are in fear and anxiety, you must not believe in God. Even though we were in the same situation, ̶ literary she was in a more severe condition than me  ̶ the reason that she was in hope and I was in fear and anxiety is that she believe in God, but I did not. The other is that “doubt” and “curiosity” may lead to faith. My curiosity and doubt about her faith in God led me to try to know about God. I asked her about God again and again because I could not believe in God, even I heard her several times.

In the Scripture, the disciples were in fear and anxiety after Jesus died on the cross. They gathered in fear behind locked doors. They were afraid that sooner or later, the Jews who arrested Jesus will seek them out. The disciples did not believe that Jesus will resurrect and be with them always, even though Jesus taught them in many times. They failed to follow Jesus. They used to confess, “You are the Son of God, the Living Messiah.” But after they lost their Messiah, they denied being his disciples, left Jesus alone on the cross, and ran away.

Nevertheless, the resurrected Jesus came to the disciples who failed to believe in him, and “stood among them.” It shows that Jesus is present at the center of their lives, where it is in fear and anxiety. The risen Jesus’ first word to his disciples was “Peace be with you.” It was far more than a family greeting. This gift of peace is the fruit of the salvation that Jesus has won on the cross. If you believe in Jesus, even though you are in crisis, you may be in peace of God. Because it is the gift of God for your faith that God is with you as if it is the presence of God. Jesus showed his disciples his hands and his side. Finally, his disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

At that time, the disciple Thomas was not there. Later, Thomas heard from the other disciples that they have seen the risen Jesus, but he did not believe it. He said, “Unless I see the mark of the nail in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” These words, he said, led us to call him the suspicious disciple Thomas. However, he was not only one to doubt about Jesus’ resurrection, but the others were also. When Mary saw Jesus at first, she told the other disciples, but they were still in fear and anxiety locked doors (John 20:18-19). After they saw risen Jesus, they rejoiced (v.20). Thomas was honest about his feeling.

Thomas was a practical realist. When they went to Judea, Thomas thought of going to “die” with Jesus (John 11:16). Therefore, the crucifixion was the end for Jesus as far as Thomas was concerned. For the disciples and Thomas, the most fear was who would go to the next. This hidden fear of the disciples made them gather together and lock the doors (v.19), even though Mary told them that Jesus resurrected.  Only Thomas expressed his most profound doubt in fear.

So, when the other disciples seek Thomas out and declare, “We have seen the Lord,” he simply demands proof. Unless he can see and feel Jesus’ scarred hands and wounded side, how can he certain these others have seen anything more than a mystical apparition? I could understand Thomas’s doubt. Moreover, I am profoundly grateful to Thomas, who expressed his doubt honestly. It gave me hope that I can begin a faithful journey at first, even in uncertainty.  Sometimes, doubt leads us to deep faith in the risen Jesus. Like Thomas, doubt may lead us to see the risen Jesus. So, if you are in doubt, do not hide your mind. Please ask God the proof if you are in doubt. God may be present in evidence before you.

When I was indifferent about God, I did not doubt Jesus at all. My curiosity and doubt made me ask her to tell me about God. We can all thank God that the other disciples somehow got Thomas to come to their next meeting eight days later because we see how Jesus care those who are still in doubt. Jesus came again to the house where they gathered and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Jesus offers them the gift of his presence. It is as if he has come to meet personally with Thomas, to deal with his misgivings gently. He came to Thomas, not with words or arguments, but offering himself saying, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it on my side. Do not doubt, but believe” (v.27).  Wow, how did Jesus know his doubt exactly? If I were in his shoes, because it is a too glorious moment, I might feel suffocated.

Jesus’ wounds are a sign of his presence. Furthermore, it is a sign of forgiveness and healing. Thomas did not have to touch. He has moved beyond sight to faith. All he can do is fall before Jesus and cry out in adoration, “My Lord and my God!”  He speaks twice the personal “my,” showing that he speaks from a lively and earnest feeling of faith. He spontaneously gives Jesus the loftiest title that can come from human lips. It has been the central Christological affirmation of the living church. The resurrected Lord is [my] God! It is confession deeper level than Peter’s confession, “you are the Son of God, the Living Messiah” (Matthew 16:16).

To Mary, Thomas, and the other disciples, the sight of the resurrected Lord has been granted. But faith does not finally rest on sight or smell or touch, but on the word and call of the risen Lord! Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (v.20).  Instead of blessing on Thomas’ confession, “My Lord and my God,” it sounds like to scold him. But Jesus blesses us through Thomas. Among disciples of Jesus, there were few people not to see the risen Jesus because Jesus stayed with them for forty days, and showed more than five hundred people before he was lifted to heaven.

So, who does believe without seeing Jesus?  That is, we are as well as the next generation of the disciples. Jesus says to us through Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” You are blessed because you believe without seeing Jesus. But, if you are in doubt yet, it is okay, please ask God the proof of his presence. God may empower you to see the presence of God through your family members, church members, or people around you, or your pets or plants. You may recognize his life revealed in the community of those on whom Jesus has breathed.  The Spirit then confirms that you are the children of God, as blessed as those who have seen and believed. Peace be with you and all who are under the fear of COVID 19.

Thanks be to God, Amen!