Rev. Peter J. Haugen
St. Paul Evangelical
On the evening of our Lord Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples are not rejoicing. They are so captivated by their own anxieties and worries that they have locked themselves in the Upper Room “for fear of the Jews” (St. John 20:19). Even worse, this is after St. Mary Magdalene has reported that our Lord’s tomb was empty, after Ss. Peter and John have run to the tomb and seen that truth for themselves, after our Lord has appeared to two of His disciples on the Emmaus road. Yet still they are hiding in the fearful weakness of their faith.
And our Lord appears to them there, as they cower in fear and uncertainty and confusion. And what does He do? He speaks His peace upon them: “Peace be with you” (St. John 20:19). He speaks, and His Word is powerful to create reality. He speaks peace, and then He immediately shows the poor, cowering, fearful disciples the very source, the very proof of that peace in His wounded hands and side. “There are three that bear witness, the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement” (1 John 5:8). There are three that bear witness, the absolving Word of God spoken by our Lord and delivered by the Spirit, and the water and the blood that poured forth from our Lord’s pierced side.
These three testify to you, as to the disciples. And yet the disciples were weak. So our Lord again comes the following week into the Upper Room, again comes to the confused disciples, comes to St. Thomas, who has fallen, who is doubting, who has challenged God to prove Himself. And our Lord invites Thomas, “Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing” (St. John 20:27).
We are present here in St. John 20:19-31. Do you notice that? We are those whose sins are forgiven through the apostolic ministry. We are here with Thomas, and we are blessed by our Lord Himself: “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (St. John 20:29). Blessed are we Christians, for we have not seen, and yet we believe.
We do not have our Lord present with us exactly as He was with the disciples during His earthly ministry. We have something more: The fullness of the apostolic witness, the fullness of God’s revelation about Himself. And “these [things] have been written that [we] may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing [we] may have life in His name” (St. John 20:31).
What teeth, then, does fear or uncertainty or doubt retain? Our Lord is the One who delivers to us His own peace. What sting, then, does death still hold? Or suffering? Or trial and tribulation? Go forth into the world, resting in the peace of our Lord pronounced upon you, and loving your neighbor in that peace. Amen.