1 John 5:4-10
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
That’s the point. These things happened. Impossible things. Men rising from the dead. New life in dead bodies. “Thomas move your fingers through the holes in My hands. Thrust your hand in my side. Stop doubting whether it is possible and believe that it is possible for Me, for I am God. I hold the power of life and death. See it with your own two eyes. For millions won’t have what you have Thomas. Millions won’t be able to see Me, they’ll only hear these eyewitness accounts. And it will be enough for them. They will realize that these events having actually happened indicate that Jesus Christ is, in fact, the Son of God with power over the universe.”
That’s what the belief is that conquers the world: not that Jesus existed—that’s an indisputable historical fact; not that He rose from the dead—also an indisputable fact with enough eyewitness accounts to verify it in a court of law; but what it means! It means that Jesus is God. He has the power to bend the physical laws of the universe, to conquer sin and death.
And if you believe that this is so, that He has, in fact, conquered death for you—conquered your death—it means that you also will have life in His name! Eternal life. So should your body die before He comes back, it will be raised again because it is not natural, not right to be disembodied. You are your body. Your body is you. When your spirit departs your body, which we call death, that is wrong. Our Lord will come again to right that wrong. It’s what He did when He rose again. He rose to give you life!
And that eternal life, that undying life, begins now. It changes your reality. It teaches you to say no to ungodliness, to what is wrong, and full of death, depression, and void of meaning. It teaches you to embrace what is right and life-giving, joy-filled, and full of meaning. For Jesus, the risen Son of God, conquering death, teams with life, with purpose, with joy in midst of the sorrows that surround us here. He will turn our mourning into dancing on the Day when He comes again, conquering our death, bringing victory to bear on our bodies so that all will be right, so that we shall team with life. We shall leap up and dance and sing, even you stoic Finns.
And that victory isn’t just a far off thing. It is a here and now thing. It is called faith. Belief. Belief that Jesus is the Son of God. He has not left Himself without witness to this fact. The four Gospels of the Bible are eyewitness accounts of His Godhood, of His death conquering life, death and resurrection, and His laws-of-nature-bending power. And if He has such power, then what He says IS. So if He breathes, and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” You’ve got it. If He says to the Twelve Apostles, “You have the power to dismiss sin from people, to speak and to cause the shackles of their guilt, shame, and consequences fall off their wrists and ankles, but also to speak and to bind all the more tightly those shackles to them if they don’t want to be loosed of them.” Then the Apostles, in fact, have that power!
For Jesus, the God-Man, wants people to be free of sin. He died so that you could be. He rose to show you that sin is defeated. But He will not force you into His freedom. He wants you to want it. Thus, He binds you in your sin, in the consequences of your actions, till that time when you should long for, desire, and look to Him for freedom! He does it like a parent who must discipline a child, though it is painful to them personally, doing it for their good, knowing that such discipline will teach lessons that will bring forth a harvest of good things again and again later in life.
And so, what Our Lord says is full of His Spirit. But so that it won’t stop with Him He gives to the world other men who will speak His life-spirit into others when they forgive people’s sins. But that’s not all.
There is not just one witness, but three. There is not just the Spirit which He gave up on the cross and flows to you and me from His Word of forgiveness. There is also the water and blood which flowed from His side. And now come to us in the fount of Baptism and the cup of His Supper. When these things come into your life, first, His water of washing, then His Spirit of forgiveness and blood of blessing, then the witness is not only an external witness of men who wrote down what happened, but then it becomes an internal witness as you believe and experience His peace to you. Peace which comes through the Water of Baptism, the Blood of the new covenant meal, and the Spirit which is spread abroad through preaching of His sent ones.
So even though you have not seen Jesus’ risen body with your own two eyes, stop doubting and believe. For His witness comes into you through these three means. And that means you and I like Thomas must put our doubts, our sins, our fears, failures, and shortcomings in His side. We must thrust them in, and cast them on Him. He already took them to the cross. So let go of them. Throw them on Jesus. He took them from you in your baptism, suffered for them on the cross, and gives you eternal victory of them through these three beautiful witnesses.
In + Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON