But these wounds are different. These wounds are still present. Just as John refers to the twelve even though there’s only eleven now, Jesus remains the crucified one. Even though Jesus is resurrected, He is always the crucified one. His wounds are always there. His hands and side still bear the wounds by which we are healed. Even in His glorified body, Jesus had scars. Jesus ascended into heaven, where the Father is constantly looking at the crucified one, remembering the sacrifice that atoned for all the world’s sins. Those wounds are still open, pouring out the blood and water that flowed from His side during the crucifixion. Those wounds are still flooding our baptismal fonts and overflowing our chalices. And as Jesus invited Thomas to touch His wounds, Thomas cries out the great confession. This great confession is the church’s great confession. Without doubting Thomas, we don’t get this beautiful moment. With Thomas, we all cry out, “My Lord and my God!”
The elephant in the room is that you weren’t there. The answer to the question of the hymn, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” is a resounding no. You weren’t in the upper room as Jesus appeared to the Apostles. John knows the dilemma, so he adds, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (Jn 20:29b-31)
Thanks be to God for Thomas, who was a skeptic of the resurrection so we don’t have to be. Thanks be to God for Thomas, so that we can be sure of the Pax Domini, the peace of the Lord, that the pastor speaks right after the words of institution. Thanks be to God for Thomas, who received the nickname Doubting Thomas, so that we don’t have to doubt that the word of forgiveness our pastor speaks is true and backed up by the historical reality of the resurrection. With Thomas, we cry out our Easter anthem… Christ is risen, He is risen indeed, Alleluia.
At the end of this most holy week, the King who marches into the city will take His place upon the necessary throne outside of the city. Upon the hill of Calvary, Jesus is raised to His seat of mercy adorned with a crown – a crown of thorns. Here he would hang as the King of the world. Here we witness the very emptying of which the Word of God speaks. From His side and pierced wounds flow the very means through which the church has, does, and will find her forgiveness of sins and strengthening of faith. The blood of the Lamb has been shed. Emptied into the eternal chalice of grace, we hunger and thirst for the blessing that is a continued feast – the very body and blood of Jesus.
Jesus still hides in many ways. He hides in His Word, as many people don’t recognize Him there. He teaches in parables so those who don’t stop to consider the Word won’t get it. He hides in the bread and the wine, so that the unbelievers don’t recognize that we have God’s very body and blood among us in the Eucharist. He hides in the liturgy, where He continues to confront our sin with confession and absolution. He hides in the liturgy, where little children are taught the grand course of Christology, even though they don’t know it. They know that Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world because we sing it every week. People have foolishly taken away parts of our worship service because they don’t think the Agnus Dei matters, but these simple words are more Christ filled than any creative worship PowerPoint slide could be.
But most importantly, Jesus still hides on the cross. It’s not a game of hide and go seek so that you’ll never find Him. Many people have seen a picture of a cross or crucifix. The hiding is that the cross is the most magnificent and glorious event the world has ever known. The rational mind thinks a torture device is no place for God to be. But this is where Jesus must hide so that He can confront sin. As Jesus confronted sin on the cross, His Father hid His face from Him. But now, the Father is always looking at the cross, an eternal payment for your sins. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. You have been purchased with His blood, and because of Christ’s work and redemption, you will never taste death. You will live forever. Amen.
As the Bread of Life, Jesus would eventually be lifted up to death. And in that death, life would be won. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32) As the remnants of bread are gathered, the remnants of the faithful are gathered. No longer remnant pieces, we are made one as the body of Christ. As He was stricken, smitten, and afflicted for your sins, it was for good. Good that you may be forgiven and nourished through the sacrifice once given for all.
What does that mean for us? First, it means that we repent. We repent of our sins regularly and often and receive the grace of forgiveness. It means that we go about filling our baskets not with that which leads to death, but rather life. We fill our baskets daily with the bread of life through the ingestion of His Word. When able and as often as possible we prioritize getting to this pasture of peace – the church – to be fed the very Bread of Life. We despise not His preaching and teaching or worship. And we go from here each week in full confidence that we will indeed be blessed with daily bread, fully trusting and looking forward to being gathered at last to all eternity. Amen.
Demons are real, so we need to always run to the one who can drive out the demons. Jesus is still doing the same work today. In times of chaos, where the demons seem to be running wild, He is still bringing His Spirit of peace. He is still driving out our demons as we return daily to our baptism as we repent. The Holy Spirit drives out the demons of our doubt, our fear, and our guilt. He gives us the Holy Spirit, which allows us to hear the Word of God and keep it. The finger of God that set you free from the devil is the same finger that wrote the Law on the tablets at Sinai, and it’s the same finger that allows you to hear the Word of God and keep it.. Those who hear the Word of God and keep don’t need to worry about the demons. When you do sin and fall prey to the demons’ lies, you have the assurance of the Jesus ascension, as He promised to send His Holy Spirit to you. You are forgiven. You need to be aware of the demons, but Jesus still drives out the demons by His Word and Sacrament. Jesus says, “Depart O unclean spirit, and make room for the Holy Spirit. I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Amen.
Beyond the truth of sin, there's a deeper answer to the why of our struggles. When it looks as if God is the enemy think again. Search for His mercy underneath your suffering. The Lord wishes for us to draw closer to Him, for His ultimate will for our lives is salvation. And salvation comes only through faith - faith in Christ - and His work to set us free from sin.
Go therefore, dear children of God and struggle with God. But as you do, cling to Him and His Word knowing that He will bless you with all you need. It may not be what you want but will certainly be what you need. And that need begins with this - you are forgiven for all your sin. Amen.
Your baptism comes with a tattoo. At your baptism, the pastor made the sign of the cross on your forehead. This sign of the cross acts as a seal, or a tattoo. Your whole identity is wrapped into this. Like a person enlisting in the army, you don’t own any of your clothes anymore. You get fatigues. You get military issued armor and weapons. Whether you like it or not, at your baptism, you become a soldier, and you have the tattoo to show for it. This tattoo comes with certain connotations. Baptism isn’t a mere appeasement for your grandparents; it’s war.
This parable, first, describes why people don’t believe. We all have family members who aren’t Christians, and their unbelief often confounds us. But wide is the gate to destruction, and we see all the forces of this world and the devil working against the Word of God. Keep inviting these people to church, even if you know they received the Word like the bad soils. The Word of God does not return empty. This parable, second, is an invitation to repentance. Sometimes you might feel like you fit in a number of these categories. You see the inconsistency in your roots or how the worries of this life creep up and choke out your faith and cause doubt. But today in your ears, the seed that is the Word of God is being thrown again. We aren’t capable of receiving perfectly on our own, but the Holy Spirit is working in the Word convicting us of our sin and pointing us to Christ and Him crucified. Repent, receive forgiveness, and bear much fruit.
Your Lord is interested not in how fair you think it is, for what He has to offer you is based not on fairness. It certainly was not fair that Jesus laid aside His divinity in humility to live our life. It certainly was not fair that He faced an unfair trial, horrible beating, and gruesome crucifix to pay the debt owed because of your sin. It certainly was not fair that Jesus needed to face the stench of Satan in hell in order to conquer death and rise again. It certainly is not fair that God loves you so much in that while you are yet in your sin, He forgives you on behalf of His son. No, dear friends, life is not fair.
The final transfiguration will happen on the last day, when we will be raised from the dead. The crosses we bear today won’t matter anymore because our sufferings now aren’t even worth comparing to the glory we will receive on the last day. In the twinkling of an eye we will be changed. You are baptized into Christ’s death, but you are also raised with Christ and transfigured with Him.
As one clothed by and in Christ, you then are made one with His work. “He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.” The Lord of creation saved us from the eternal damning consequence of sin by Himself receiving the brunt of sin’s wrath. Another storm would shake the earth when Jesus dies on the cross. And later, Jesus would be buried in the belly of death and rise again. Jesus’ complete and perfect obedience becomes ours as He continuously swamps us with His divine love through Word and Sacrament.
Vicar Reber preaches of two kingdoms represented in Matthew 8. The first kingdom seeks out the strong. It speaks few words and things happen. The first kingdom is small but appears to be big. It appears to be big, but the checks this kingdom writes don’t always come through.
The second kingdom seeks out the weak, those who know they have no power. It, too, speaks few words and things happen. “Your sins are forgiven.” “Eat.” “Drink.” The second kingdom is bigger than we can ever imagine, but it appears to be small because that kingdom is a man, Jesus Christ.