Easter 2A

"Thomas" by  Evan Courtney

"Thomas" by Evan Courtney

216: April 23, 2017

60: April 27, 2014

Exegetical Notes

John 20:19-31

Initial Thoughts

Bible Study

  • John merges the events of Easter and Pentecost.  

    • Giving of the Holy Spirit occurs while Jesus is present.

    • Jesus is closely linked to church

    • Mission of Jesus as sent from God is parallel to mission of Church as sent from Jesus.

    • “The beginning of the community’s life is not separated from the story of Easter; indeed, in John, the gift of the Spirit and the commissioning of the church occur on Easter Sunday evening… [which] serves as a reminder that the church’s life is intimately bound to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection” (Gail O’Day, New Interpreter’s Bible v. IX, p. 848)

  • Jesus Appears to Mary v. 11-18

    • Lection leaves this part out, but it feels improper to leave it out. Should at least be informed by this part of the story.

    • Mary discovered empty tomb, with stone already rolled away. Runs to get Simon and the Other Disciple. They find empty tomb, then go back to where they were staying.

    • Mary lingers, and meets a “gardener.” Gospel of John is the only one that specifies that Jesus was arrested in a garden. Now he is also resurrected in one.

      • Matthew and Mark call it “a place called Gethsemane.” Luke says he went to the Mount of Olives. Only John names it a garden.

    • “Woman, why are you crying?” asked twice.

    • Mary recognizes Jesus when he says her name.

  • First appearance

    • Door locked for “fear”

      • “In truth, Easter absorbs both the joy and triumph as well as the fear and disbelief, and is irreducible to just one experience of it. It would be easier if Easter were only the trumpet blasts and Alleluias. Or, it might even be easier if Easter were only fear and disbelief. But Easter is all of this, it holds all of it, even the contradictory emotions, and makes them one.” (David R. Henson, “Easter for Doubters”)

      • How terrifying to be confronted by the one who you have abandoned and betrayed- will Jesus come back with vengeance?

      • This sermon/article points to the idea that the disciples were afraid of running into Jesus.  When he came, he broke into their fear and offered peace.  http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/thisWeek/viewArticle.php?aID=794

    • Jesus appeared in the midst of the locked room, and said “Peace be with you.” Then they rejoiced.

      • Jesus didn’t knock this time.  He was there among them without them doing anything.  – this is an illustration of Prevenient Grace – the grace that is offered to us before we even know it.

    • Reports of his resurrection were not enough, his assurance of peace is what brought them to rejoicing.

    • He showed them his scars.

      • Jesus is wounded- the triumph of Easter does not erase the pain of Friday.

      • They don’t ask to see it, but he shows them anyway.

    • They have no particular reaction.

      • No confession by any disciples at seeing Jesus.

    • He breathed on them the Holy Spirit. Mini-Pentecost.

      • No response by disciples at receiving H.S.

      • Jesus Breathed on them- passing the Holy Spirit – Genesis 2

      • Forgiveness is a foundation of this community. That is the only thing they are directly told to do.

        • Forgives them - for their abandonment, for their fear, for their paralysis.

        • Sends them out to forgive others.

  • Second appearance

    • Eight days later they are still locked in a house

      • If they had seen the risen Lord, and been given the Holy Spirit, shouldn’t they be doing something other than chilling in a locked room for a week?

      • What have they been doing?

      • Where was Thomas?

    • Thomas: “Unless I see the nails marks in his hands… I won’t believe”

      • Disciples didn’t believe the women until they saw. Thomas doesn’t believe the disciples unless he sees

      • Thomas demands no more evidence than they received.  

      • Thomas didn’t want anything that the disciples hadn’t gotten themselves.  He was no less a believer than any of them.  He didn’t doubt Jesus – he doubted their testimony.  Maybe because he was living in the same fear that they had.  Once he encountered the risen Christ, that was enough.

    • He does not doubt Jesus, he doubts them.

    • Doors shut (not locked) Jesus appears

    • Jesus’ first words again, “Peace be with you.”

    • He shows Thomas his scars (no evidence that Thomas actually had to touch him). Jesus’ presence and assurance were enough.

      • "Jesus said…Thomas answered." The word did it; touching had become irrelevant, perhaps even rude and offensive. (Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary - Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 2: Lent through Eastertide.)

    • Thomas’s response is the greatest yet, “My Lord and my God”

      • Only time in Gospel of John where Jesus is referred to as “My God”

      • “Doubting Thomas” is a pretty bad nickname.  He is actually the first to declare Jesus’ divinity.

  • Generally believed to be the original ending to John.

    • Jesus last words are a call to future readers.  Witness and testimony of Mary, then Disciples, then Thomas is meant to lead readers to their own witness and testimony:

      • Blessing to “those who believe, but have not seen,” is a direct call to the community receiving this gospel. They now have the complete good news, and are free to believe where they have not seen.

      • Readers are pushed to proclaim, as Thomas, that Jesus is “My Lord and my God,” which was the point of the prologue, back in 1:1. Probably the end of the Gospel of John, but “there is no evidence that John’s Gospel was ever circulated without chapter 21” (Common English Study Bible, p. 212 NT).

    • The next paragraph is seen as an epilogue, reminding people of what they will gain if they believe.

    • Truth of the Gospel lies not in historical facts, but in its ability to inspire faith in Jesus.  The gospel’s own stated purpose is not to report history, but to help readers understand the truth of Jesus Christ.  Once again, the writer uses two levels of meaning.

Preaching Thoughts:

  • What were they afraid of?  Fear didn’t keep two of them from sprinting to the tomb when they heard the body was gone.  After the tomb, they returned home.  Why were they now locked in a room? Now faced with reality of resurrection, why were they paralyzed?

  • Thomas didn’t want anything that the disciples hadn’t gotten themselves.  He was no less a believer than any of them.  He didn’t doubt Jesus – he doubted their testimony.  Maybe because he was living in the same fear that they had.  Once he encountered the risen Christ, that was enough.

  • In Easter, Jesus is called “Teacher,” “Lord,” and “My God.”  What do each of these titles mean?  Is he teacher, Lord, and God?  What does it mean to my life if he is all of these things?

  • Doubt is the pathway to faith.  When we doubt, we probe, question, and search.  Perhaps Thomas started with doubt, but he ended with the greatest testimony of the disciples.

  • Thomas didn’t doubt Christ, he doubted his followers. He doubted those that gave witness to the risen Christ, perhaps because they showed no evidence. Even after encountering the risen Christ, they were locking themselves in a room. Is there any wonder that he didn’t believe them? What evidence do we show that there is a risen Christ? If all we do is lock ourselves in rooms (sanctuaries, churches, institutions), then why would anyone believe that we have been changed by a miraculous experience?

  • Readers at the end of this passage are pushed to recall the prologue. The gospel started by proclaiming that Jesus is the eternal Word made flesh. At the end, Thomas is able to declare that Jesus is “My Lord, and my God.” This is the culmination of belief. Just as the gospel is structured with increasingly dramatic signs and wonders, so is the increasingly bold witness. In the end, we are left to witness that Jesus is Lord and God. This might be a difficult thing for those with low Christology, but it is a basic tenet of Christianity that Christ is fully human and fully divine.

  • What did the disciples do for eight days after they “received the Holy Spirit,” and were still locked in the room? The disciples are passive in these stories. They have no real response. Except for Thomas who declares “My Lord and my God.” He is the only one who makes this stark confession to Jesus’s resurrection.

  • This passage is more about the readers - the Johannine community - than it is about the disciples themselves. To a group that is beginning to face scrutiny and persecution, it is a word of encouragement for those who believe though they had not seen.

    • “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see and believe.” This is clearly an exhortation to the community receiving the gospel. The good news is that you need not have seen Jesus to believe. The offering to see and believe is made to all. The question is, “What have you seen?” The gospel closes (kind of) with the words, “believing, you will have life in his name.” What does it mean to have life in Jesus name? Is it purely about afterlife? Is following Jesus just about believing so that you can get to heaven? Or does life in Jesus name mean something more?

Acts 2:14, 22-36

Initial thoughts

  • Response to vs. 12 - “What does this mean?”

    • This is not the resurrection, but the bestowing of the Spirit

    • Obviously linked to the resurrection as Peter will claim

  • Four Sundays on Peter’s Sermon and the results - Three Whats

    • WHAT? - Easter 2 - Acts 2:14, 22-32 - Second half of Peter’s Sermon

    • SO WHAT? - Easter 3 - Acts 2:14a, 36-41 - Response of the crowd

    • NOW WHAT? - Easter 4 - Acts 2:14a, 42-47 - formation of the community

    • Pentecost - Acts 2:1-21 - Pentecost (last day of Easter, not the first day of a new season)

  • Read all of Acts 2 - How would you like if someone only read your sermon in bits and pieces and out of order?

  • Read through verse 36

Bible Study

  • Peter makes sense of the resurrection

    • The resurrection was not God fixing a mistake but making a declaration

      • No take backsies

    • David died, was buried and decayed and Jesus didn’t

    • Therefore:

      • Jesus must be the “Holy One” David talks about in Psalm 16

      • Jesus is the foretold descendant of David, who is seated at the throne, therefore inherits the sovereignty and power of God.

      • Jesus is greater than David

      • Jesus is the Lord and Messiah (v.36)

  • Crucifixion, resurrection and exaltation of Jesus linked

    • Crucifixion is the result of evil humanity killing an innocent man. The resurrection does not “undo” crucifixion, it is God’s comment on it. Crucifixion is not allowed to be the end of Jesus because such an ending is against God’s very nature.

    • Matt Skinner, workingpreacher.com: “During Easter, then, we remember that the resurrection is not "death moving backwards" or God's "Plan B," it is part of the mysterious means by which God makes Jesus of Nazareth ruler over all creation, even over death itself.”

    • Jesus’ death, resurrection and subsequent exaltation - proclaim that God’s purposes cannot be undone by any evil, human act, or even death itself.

      • God’s reign is still at hand

      • God is still our protector and refuge, Ps 16

      • God will remain faithful and deliver those who are persecuted Ps. 110

      • God keeps God’s promises to our ancestors, Ps 132

      • Occupation, deception, betrayal, torture, desertion and death cannot undermine God’s unfailing love for creation.

    • Resurrection is inevitable result of God being God. This is not some struggle between God and Satan where the end is in doubt.

      • “Resurrection is” just as “Creation is”

  • What does this mean?

    • Means we can “live in hope” (lit. “pitch our tents in hope” - see Mitzi Smith, workingpreacher.com) because God is always with us, nothing we can do, nor anything others can do to us can separate us from God

    • The death of Jesus does not reveal the powerlessness or unfaithfulness of God, but the enduring love of God through the cross to the resurrection and beyond.

    • Resurrection is a continuing act of God. It is God who worked through Jesus, and it is God who raised Jesus from the dead, and it is God who empowers the community.

Preaching Thoughts and Questions:

  • When are those moments when we feel our doubts have been justified? That God has abandoned us? That the Kingdom of God is not at hand, but is very far off and the world is going to hell in a handbasket?

    • To proclaim the resurrection is to proclaim an optimistic worldview - hope eternal.

    • Are we pitching our tents in hope of God or are be building institutions of sustainability? Or are we too busy pointing out all the injustices in the world without making systemic change to overcome them? Or are we too busy seeing those injustices and ignoring the blessings?

  • Jesus is dead and has risen...now what? The church has received the gift of the Spirit (but do we really know what that means?) and you are called to preach to the “gathered assembly” - what do you say?

    • How do you answer the vs 12 question?

1 Peter 1:3-9

  • You can share in Jesus’ resurrection
  • Develops meaning of the resurrection.
  • What does resurrection of Jesus mean to me?
    • Affirms belief that resurrection of Jesus was about more than one many coming back to life.
    • New life of humanity goes beyond biological function.
    • Greek word translated as soul (psyche) refers “not to some abstract peice of the human being, but to the very core fo life itself.”  This is not just about second life, or otherworldly aspect.  Christian life is holistic.  “salvation can be thought of both as present and as future” (Beverly Gaventa, Texts for Preaching: Year A, p. 270)

Psalm 16

  • Used by Peter when talking of his faith in Jesus’ resurrection.
  • Properly understood as a voice of Israel’s faith.
  • Affirmation of trust comes from understanding that life and all gifts come from God.
  • God’s goodness lies at the heart of the psalm, and is the source of all.
  • Memory of acute time of trouble only heightens intensity of praise for God, who worked through the difficulty for good.
  • After rescue life has resumed.


Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and The Steel Wheels for our transition music(“Nola’s First Dance” from their album Lay Down, Lay Low) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).