Providence Church (CREC)
April 19th, 2009.
Sermon: Peace be with you!
Text: John 20:19-31
Pastor Uriesou T. Brito
Text: John 20:19-31
19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 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.
O Lord, open my lips, And my mouth shall show forth Your praise. May we rejoice in the Resurrected Lord and be blessed and thus believe. For this is our prayer, O Lord. Amen.
People of God, the empty tomb was a sign of the beginning of the New World. It conveyed to us that death’s sting is no longer potent; that the grave is no longer victorious. The empty tomb proved to the world that Christ does not hide in a cave, but that He comes to the world to save the world, not to condemn it. He leaves the tomb because His work is not hidden; it is vey much on display to the entire world. Calvin once said that the world is God’s theater to display His glory. One of the greatest glories displayed by God on earth is the resurrection of His beloved Son. So the empty tomb is more than mere historical fact, it actually communicates the glory of God to this world and it calls us to go out into the world and live resurrection lives.
On that Sunday evening of the Resurrection, John tells us that the mood among the disciples was not an empty tomb mood. They were rather fearful of the Jews. After all, they had much to fear if their Master was dead. If they killed Jesus, then they may kill his disciples. There is great fear in that evening church service. But let us not forget that they are together on the Lord’s Day. It is true that they may be weak in their faith for not believing that their Lord would rise from the dead, but they have learned that on the Lord’s Day whether in fear or not in fear, they were assembled.
And right in the middle of that fearful evening service, Jesus comes and stands among them.  The text says that the doors were locked, but John tells us that Jesus appears in their midst. This is a glorious manifestation of the resurrected body. This is a picture of what our bodies will look like in the New Heavens and New Earth. We must remember here that Jesus’ body does not become ghostly-like, it is a real body. This real body bears the marks of the cross. In verse 20, Jesus shows his hands and his side to the disciples.
The appearance of Jesus is one of comfort and blessedness, not one of fear. Throughout the Scriptures when a covenant member sees an angel or a manifestation of Christ himself, they are usually alarmed, but God always comforts His own. Jesus says: Peace be with you! He says this again in verse 21 and verse 26. Jesus wants not only to calm them down, but he wants them to know that there is completion in this three-fold peace. This peace is being passed to the disciples because they are the ones to pass it to the world. Jesus says in verse 21 that as the Father has sent Him, so He is sending them. The word “mission” comes from the word “to send.” Jesus is commissioning his disciples. Jesus knows that the disciples will go through great trials and that the people of God will suffer great trials. So Jesus wants the disciples to know His peace, so the people of God of all ages may also know this peace.
In the middle of persecution, Peace be with you! In the middle of war, peace be with you! In the middle of turmoil, peace be with you! Peace, Peace, peace…the peace of Christ is not like the peace the rulers of this world offers, the peace of Christ is based on His hesed, His covenant love toward His own.
As the peace of Christ permeates that Sunday evening service, the disciples turn from gloom to glory; from darkness to delight. In verse 20 we read: “Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.” They were no longer the disciples to be pitied, but the renewed disciples filled with hope. The resurrection gave them new reason to live and not fear.
In verse 22, Christ commissions the first century ministers to the task of the gospel proclamation. He ordains them for this task by breathing on them and they received the Holy Spirit. Calvin writes: “And, indeed, to govern the Church of God, to carry the embassy of eternal salvation, to erect the kingdom of God on earth, and to raise men to heaven, is a task far beyond human capacity…no one is qualified unless he is inspired by the Holy Spirit… to perform such an office.” This, brothers and sisters, is the task of the minister of the gospel: to proclaim the excellencies of the risen Christ to the people of God and to the world. Our prayer is that God would continue to raise men in the CREC and in every evangelical denomination who relies solely on the Spirit to perform the duties of the gospel. This breathing is the breathing of creation. The breath of God in Genesis 1 is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit makes all things efficacious; makes the ordinary, extraordinary. Apart from this Breath, there can be no power.
The disciples are equipped and sent out by the power of the Spirit. The fullness of the Spirit’s display would come at Pentecost when the spirit would be bestowed on the church.
But not all the disciples that Lord’s Day were recipients of that joy. Thomas was not there when Jesus first appeared. The disciples gathered, they assembled themselves, but Thomas forsook the church assembly. He doubted the report of Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus could have come back again and given Thomas a private showing. He could have come on Monday morning, but verse 26 says that it was eight days later. The gospel of John is filled with symbolic language. We would expect this from the author of Revelation. Eight speaks of newness. The eighth day is a new day. It’s the climactic day of the New World. It is the Lord’s Day; the Day of Resurrection. “When the world started over with Noah after the flood, there were eight people; circumcision was done on the eighth day because it was the beginning of his life.” Jesus met Thomas on successive Sundays. As one pastor has observed, “These back to back appearances show a pattern that the new day is the Lord’s Day.”  We no longer celebrate the Old Covenant Sabbath, which is Saturday, but the new day of the New Covenant, which is the eighth day, Sunday. Thomas forsook the assembly of the saints on that Sunday of the resurrection. As a result, Thomas missed the peace of the Lord. He missed the comforting presence of the Lord and the fellowship of the saints. Thomas decided to remain in isolation. Brothers and sisters, isolation from the body of Christ leads to doubt. They go hand in hand. Faith is born and nourished in the context of Christian community and worship. No one can live faithfully and mature in the gospel of our Lord apart from the Church.
In verse 27, Jesus appears again on the first day of the week, on Sunday. He appears on the day of worship and directs his words directly to Thomas. But who is this Thomas? John gives us a glimpse of Thomas’ character. In John 11, we see a picture of Jesus as the Resurrection and the Life. Thomas has been with the Messiah. He is committed to the Messiah, but he lacks faith in the work of Messiah. Thomas says in John 11 that he will follow Jesus, but only to die. Thomas lacks hope and faith that Jesus is able to bring the dead to life.
In John 14, we get another taste of Thomas’ character. In that glorious chapter of comfort where Jesus says that we should not let our hearts be troubled; He is the way, the truth and the life, Thomas once again speaks his disbelief when he says: Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way? Jesus has been saying that he is the way, the light, the Savior, but Thomas still doubts. Even in chapter 20, the disciples must have spent that entire week telling Thomas that they had seen the risen Lord, but Thomas still will not believe. In essence, Thomas is accusing the disciples of being false witnesses and he sets himself up as a standard of what is true and what is false. Unless I see it myself, he says, I will not believe. On that Sunday service, Jesus stoops to Thomas’ unreasonable demands and shows His hand and side. Thomas somehow connects the hand and side of Jesus as a proof of His deity. Notice his reply in verse 29, My Lord and my God! This is not just a typical reply; this is an affirmation that Jesus is the God of Israel. This is similar to the language of the Psalmist when He turns to His God: O Lord, My God. Thomas realizes for the first time that Jesus is the embodiment of Israel’s God. He is not just a great man, but truly God and truly man. Thomas realizes that God has entered Israel’s history to pass on from death to life victorious over the grave. Somehow the wounds of our Lord made Thomas into a Trinitarian Christian. The Godness of God is most clearly seen in the crucified God/Man. Thomas affirmed with that great statement that if there is death, there is resurrection.
The words of Jesus are the words for those in the church and in the world today. Blessed are those who have not seen, but yet believed. Blessed are those who trusted in the Resurrected Christ without the need to see the Resurrected Christ physically. There are so many outside the Church today who say: Unless I see a miracle or evidence that Jesus was raised from the dead, I will not believe. To these people Jesus says: “Believe without seeing and One day you will see me face to face.”
How shall we then live?
I want to direct our attention to a couple of significant elements in this text that speaks to our situation today. Shortly, the cup of wine will be passed to all of you and we will say the words that Christ said to his disciples on that Second Sunday of the Resurrection. On that Lord’s Day, the saints received the peace that came directly from our Lord. That peace permeated the lives of the disciples. Just as the bright sunshine permeates the room, so too, the peace of Christ is to permeate our lives this morning. When the peace of the Lord is passed, we do not fear, but we rejoice in this company of saints. We rejoice for the resurrection gives us hope.
John tells us that when they saw the Lord they were glad. We join our voices in adoration this morning with the disciples. They were glad because they saw the risen Lord, we are glad because we commune with the Risen Lord in Word and Sacrament. In this New World, death has no sting and the grave has no victory.
Finally, the story of Thomas is one of doubt, but ultimately faith in the Risen Lord. Thomas does not confess Christ as a Lord and a God, but as His Lord and His God. Thomas embraced Christ as His God. He said these wounds are for me; these wounds cover my sins. If an unbeliever asks us where can he read about who this Christ is? Our answer is simple: In Jesus’ encounter with Thomas. In this encounter, we see death in the wounds and resurrection in Thomas’ declaration “My Lord and My God.” In The Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 Calvin argues that the text does not validate the idea that Jesus walked through the doors, rather than he simply appeared in their midst. The papists, says Calvin, maintains this interpretation, for the purpose of proving not only that the glorious body of Christ resembled a spirit, but that it was infinite, and could not be confined to any one place.
 John Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, 20:22.
 The Reformation Study Bible, pg.1553.
 What follows is a summary and, in some cases, direct quotations from Pastor Rich Lusk’s sermon preached at Trinity Presbyterian in Birmingham, Alabama.
 Ibid. Lusk.
 Direct quote from Rich Lusk.
 Some passing thoughts come from my readings of Herman Ridderbos’ commentary on John and a sermon by Dr. Berke Bergsma of WTS/ California.