2nd Sunday of Easter
April 8, 2018
“Irritating No More”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. The text that engages us today is today’s Gospel lesson from John 20.
My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
Well..guess what? This is the part where you say “what.” We’ll try that again. Well…guess what? We went and had our taxes done and turns out that we have a refund coming – albeit a small one – and that’s better than paying in…been there, done that. But here’s the thing. Our tax lady was looking at our previous tax records, and at some point last year the IRS – check this out! – the IRS increased our taxable income for which no taxes had been taken, then they assessed us a fine/late fee for not paying! What! We poured over the numbers for 25 minutes and now our accountant has the call the IRS because none of it makes any sense. Tax stuff and the IRS. Argh! It’s so frustrating! It’s so irritating.
It’s a good thing it’s the 2nd Sunday of Easter, because right about now I NEED this Gospel lesson. Every year, our assigned readings for the Sunday after Easter always assign John 20:19-31; kind of like the way that the Gospel lesson every Thanksgiving is Luke 17 and the 10 Lepers. It’s a good thing we hear about “Doubting Thomas” today (more on him in a moment), especially since next Sunday is April 15th…that irritating day when taxes are due. In today’s Gospel lesson our risen Lord Jesus comes to remove the irritation and brings what you and I really need…peace.
I’m sure that most if not all of you have, at some time, seen or read the saying “NO Christ, NO peace; KNOW Christ, KNOW peace.” That is most certainly true today. When there was no – NO – Christ, the disciples were irritated, frustrated, afraid, and conflicted. They had locked themselves away out of fear that the irritated crowds might come after them, the followers of Jesus whom had just been arrested, condemned, and executed. Jesus comes to them amid their irritation and fear and reveals Himself as risen to them and giving them…well, peace.
However, the disciple Thomas hadn’t been there. Why not? Who knows. That sounds about right, because little is known about Thomas anyway. In John 11:6, it was Thomas that suggested the disciples follow Jesus even if it meant death. In John 14 and the well-known passage typically used at funerals, Thomas said, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:5-6 ESV).
Anyway, as a result of today’s lesson, we have a habit of calling Thomas “Doubting Thomas.” We never call him “Denying Peter,” so why Thomas? Be that as it may, Thomas is irritated and skeptical. “You’ve seen Jesus? Right. I’ll believe that when I see it. Good one, guys” (paraphrase of 20:25). Thomas needed tactile proof. He was skeptical; full of doubt and irritation at such a preposterous situation.
So also you and I live in a doubt-ridden, skeptical society. Our communities, nation, and world are FULL of skepticism and irritation. There was a time when, if you heard something on the Network News, you believed it as absolute truth. Not anymore. Everyone has a “I’ll believe that when I see it” attitude. We really struggle to trust anyone. And because we lack trust, we are anxious about our economic future, doubtful about the future of our wellbeing and our rights, irritated with government, family, even our Church. And the areas that should be safest – our school and churches – keep getting shot up and blown up and these attacks continue to undermine our confidence. Like I said, NO Christ, NO peace. Giving ourselves over to sinfully charged and powerful emotions like irritation, doubt, anxiety, anger, and the like does exactly what Satan wants it to do – drive a wedge of doubt between you and God.
Easter reminds us of the second half of our saying: “KNOW Christ, KNOW peace.” When Jesus appeared to His disciples after the resurrection, notice what He brings: “peace be with you” (20:19, 21). Thomas needed tactile proof? Well, he got it. Jesus showed him those awful scars inflicted by nail and spear. Thomas no longer was irritated. He believed: “My Lord and my God!”
And now, check it out. Jesus said, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). Whoa. The kind of peace that Jesus brings and offers is way more than the “put down your weapons” kind of peace that people think. Jesus brings a peaceful reconciliation with God secured through His death and resurrection. By believing – faith – in our risen Christ, our sins are forgiven (20:23). We have peace with God, something the world cannot offer us. In addition, Jesus says that those who believe, but have not seen, are blessed. That’s the same word He used in Matthew chapter 5 and the Beatitudes at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount.
Yes, ours is a skeptical age full of irritation and irritating things, but Christ Jesus brings peace – reconciliation with God so that by believing we will have life in His name (20:31). That reconciliation comes to you through His Word and through the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. The life that Jesus offers you – the peace that He brings – is the kind of life that forgives the co-worker, the neighbor, the family member who is irritating you to no end! The life that Jesus offers you – the peace that He brings – is able to love that difficult child, reconcile with your spouse who you’re fighting with, and strengthen you to face tomorrow even amid the pain and fear and uncertainty. The life that Jesus offers you – the peace that He brings – enables you and strengthens you to forsake the material things of the world and seek instead of the Kingdom of God; to leave behind irritations of the flesh in favor of eternal things that are ours in the promise of heaven.
Yes, paying taxes is necessary. It’s irritating, but it is necessary. Money comes, money goes. No big whoop, right? What REALLY matters is what Jesus secured on that cross and in that now-empty tomb: reconciliation with God, hope, life, peace. NO Christ, NO peace. KNOW Christ, KNOW peace. Check it out…I’m not irritated anymore! I pray you aren’t either.
Happy Easter everyone. Amen.