Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!


Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Repentance, Forgiveness, Gift Refusal, and the Gospel Motivation

Mrs. Smith passed out a new box of crayons to all the children in the class. She told them to be careful, to not push to hard so they would not break their new crayons. As the class began coloring, little Johnny pushed too hard and broke his crayon. A little later Mrs. Smith told the children to put their broken crayons on their desk. Little Johnny, not wanting to get into trouble, placed the bottom part of his crayon in the box and the top part on top. No one would be the wiser he thought.

A little later Mrs. Smith came around the classroom, picked up the broken crayons and gave the children new crayons. All the children received new crayons except little Johnny who refused a new crayon by not confessing that he had broken his crayon. The same is true with forgiveness, when we fail to confess our sins, we refuse God’s forgiveness.

Now, if Mrs. Smith had begun by telling the students that she was going to give them new crayons for broken crayons, little Johnny may have been motivated to confess that he had broken his crayon. Here we see that repentance is motivated, not by the law, but by the Gospel. It is the Gospel message that we have forgiveness, already earned by Jesus that motivates us to repent. And with repentance is forgiveness, life and salvation.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Jurassic Park and the Religion of Evolution Revisited

Having just watched Jurassic Park the movie after twenty years, as it celebrates its twentieth anniversary, and after some study and research, I am amazed at what is portrayed as real. The movie Jurassic Park makes too many assumptions from “logical” human reasoning, assumptions that may or may not be true, assumptions “science” has declared as fact with no actual “proof”. As an example of such assumptions, just because an animal has “carnivorous” teeth does not mean it is necessarily a carnivore.

The problem with the religion of evolution is that it takes faith to believe and the stories it tells grow larger and larger as the lie gets bigger and bigger. There is actually no proof of the claims that are made in the movie Jurassic Park, nor any of the claims made by anthropologists in regards to their knowledge of dinosaurs. Well, I guess I should not say no proof, certainly some of their findings may be right, however, much of what they present as truth is merely conjecture and human reasoning, which is fallible and may be flawed. There is no proof that Raptores are the intelligent hunters they are portrayed to be in Jurassic Park.

The more one seeks the facts and a better explanation of the evidence, the more one can see the fallacies of the theory/religion of evolution. Simply do a “google” search, and especially this author would point you to www.answersingenesis.org to find answers and better explanations to the evidence.

After twenty years, after confessions of the hoaxes and misrepresentation of much of previous evolutionary discoveries, after much study understanding evidence and its explanations, I am convinced that there truly is no proof of the religion/theory of evolution, rather there is more and more logical, reasonable, and explanations that point to the validity of the Biblical account, as God, who was there, explains what He did. Personally, I believe it is much more difficult to be a true evolutions, believing in the unbelievable, that all things came from nothing, than to be a Christian, believing in a designer, namely in God, who created order from chaos.

One of the most interesting phenomena of “science” is the fact that real science poses a theory and then tries to disprove that theory. However, the theory/religion of evolution refuses such intense scrutiny and study, instead lashing out, name calling and belittling those who would challenge their creative evidence explanations.

To anyone who is or thinks they are an evolutionist, believing in the religion of evolution, I would challenge and encourage you to actually search for the truth. Search for the history as well as the confirmation of the fallacies that have been presented along the way (much like the history of the predictions of the false prophecies of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who have stricken from their record all the times they have falsely predicted the end of the world). You might be amazed and actually stumble across the truth.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Hearing Sheep - April 21, 2013 - Fourth Sunday of Easter - Text: John 10:22-30

When you first read or hear our text for this morning what might come to mind is a school hallway setting in which the students are busily getting their books from their lockers and moving on to their next class. Then there is a break in this scene. Several of the school bullies have cornered an unsuspecting student and are confronting him. In the scene from our text we are not in a school hallway, but we are in the temple courts and the bullies are not after Jesus milk money, they are after His reputation.
John tells us, “So the Jews gathered around [Jesus] and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly’” (v. 24). At this point we have to stop and define the word, “Christ.” The word, “Christ,” is a Greek word which means christened one or anointed one. One who is christened or anointed is one who has had oil poured on them, and they have been anointed for a purpose. The word, “Christ,” comes from the Hebrew word, “messiah,” which also means anointed. In Old Testament times prophets, priests and kings were anointed with oil which was a symbol of their being put into their specific office, as either a prophet, a priest or a king. If Jesus were simply the christened or anointed one, that is, if He were simply anointed to be a prophet, or a priest perhaps, but certainly not king, there might not have been a question concerning His true identity. The problem is that this word, “Christ,” also has deeper connotations for the Jews. The Jews were looking for a “Christ,” a “Messiah,” to come. But their idea of the “Christ” or “Messiah” who would come was more than just a prophet, more than just a priest, even more than just a king. They were looking for an anointed one, a Christ, a Messiah, a Savior, who would come to deliver them from their bondage by the Romans. And that is the rub of Jesus’ identity. “Are you the Christ?” “Are you this Savior we define?” is the question asked of Jesus.
Before we continue, I want to reiterate what we heard all through our Lenten Season this year, that is that in the Garden of Eden, immediately after Adam and Eve disobeyed God, ate from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil and sinned, immediately after God dispensed His judgement and cursed the world, God promised to send a Savior, a Christ, a Messiah and this promise was made before there was a Jew or a Gentile, or any other ethnicity for that matter. The promise was for a spiritual, eternal life in heaven Savior. When God promised that the Savior, the Christ, would be born through the line of Abraham, He did not make a new promise, He simply narrowed the line of fulfillment of the one promise He made in Eden. As the Children of Israel continually sinned, fell away and were allowed to be disciplined through other nations and as God continually forgave and restored them, their history inferred God’s promise of a social, political Savior so that by the time Jesus lived too many were no longer looking for or thinking in terms of a spiritual, forgiveness of sins, eternal life in heaven Savior, Christ, Messiah, they were continually looking for a deliver them from their enemies, social, political Savior, Christ, Messiah.
Now, back to our text and the question, “Are you the Christ?” At first we might think that Jesus is avoiding their question. “Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock’” (v. 25-26). Time and again Jesus pointed to His works, His miracles, His teaching and preaching. Jesus is asking the question, “What do you see?” “Do you see the works that I am doing?” “Are you listening to the message I am preaching?” The Gospel writer John makes much of these signs, wonders and miracles of Jesus. Who else could do the things that Jesus was doing? Certainly, no mere mortal could do these things; heal, cast out demons, forgive sins, bring back from the dead; only God could do these things. So, Jesus does not answer directly, but points to His preaching, teaching and the miracles He has performed.
Fast forward two thousand years and we have a new group of Jews gathering around Jesus and asking the question, “Are you the Christ?” “Are you the Messiah?” “Are you the Savior?” This new group of Jews is the society in which we live and often includes us. We live in a society which constantly asks the question, “Is Jesus the Christ?” “Is He the Messiah?” “Is He the Savior?” And, “What does it mean if He is the Christ or the Messiah or the Savior?” Certainly we must all confess that there are times in our own lives when we too ask these questions, if not out loud, at least with our actions. We are not immune to the temptations of doubt and misunderstanding brought by the world in which we live. We are not immune to the struggles of life which bring doubts in our minds. Sometimes we may wonder, “Is Jesus the Messiah?” We question Jesus’ Messiahship when we fail to acknowledge our sins, when we fail to recognize our need for a Savior, and we do this when we fail to make regular and diligent use of His means of Grace, being in Divine Service and Bible Class, reading our Bibles, having personal and family devotions and the like. Anytime we think we do not need Christ as our Savior, or anytime we try to lessen our total dependence on Him for forgiveness and salvation, such as when we believe that Jesus had to die only a little for us, we question His Messiahship.
Too often, today, we, like the Jews, look for Jesus as the Christ according to our own understanding or misunderstanding of who He is. Here again, when these struggles, temptations and doubts arise we are pointed back to where Jesus pointed the Jews, back to His miracles, back to His teachings. Today we are pointed to His Word and that is where we see the signs, wonders and miracles He performed. That is where we see that He is, indeed, the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior and He is the Christ as He defines Himself, the spiritual Savior of the world. That is also where we are shown how we too, along with the Pharisees fail to recognize and confess our sins, how we daily sin much and are in need of a Savior and forgiveness.
Very often Jesus used the imagery of the sheep and shepherd. The sheep and shepherd relationship was quit close, because the shepherd was with the sheep twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The shepherd knew each sheep individually and the sheep knew the voice of their shepherd. The sheep, then, are those who listen to Jesus’ voice, who know Him and who follow Him. Those who have no faith are not His sheep, they cannot see Jesus for who He is, their Savior. For those who have no faith they also have no hope, only death, even eternal spiritual death.
We are Jesus’ sheep. He is our shepherd. He knows us, intimately. He knows everything there is to know about us and we might rightly say, and He loves us anyway. And we know Him. We know His voice, because we hear His voice as He speaks to us through His Word. We are members of His flock and, as the saying goes, “membership has its privileges.” As a member of the Body of Christ we see Jesus as the Messiah, that is we see the signs, wonders and miracles which He performed and know that they are what show Him to be truly God.
As a member of the Body of Christ we believe Jesus is the Messiah. We believe that He is the one who came to take all our sins upon Himself and to suffer and die for our sins. He is the one who paid the price, the wage, the cost for our sin, the cost of eternal spiritual death.
As a member of the Body of Christ we hear the Shepherd’s voice. Every time we read and hear read His Word we hear His voice. Every time we read and hear His Word we are given the gifts which He has to give, forgiveness of sins, faith and strengthening of faith. Every time we read and hear His Word, His Word does, in and for us, what it says, that is it brings and gives us forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
As a member of the Body of Christ we are protected. We have Jesus’ promise, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and  no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (v. 29). We have security in the hands of God the Father. Surrounded by His almighty hand we are protected from the wiles of the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh.
As a member of the Body of Christ we have forgiveness of sins and all the other rights and privileges of membership. As a member of the Body of Christ we have the privilege of reading, hearing and understanding His Word. We have the privilege of being mindful of our Baptism and the fact that His name is on us, that we are His, that we have forgiveness and eternal life. As a member of the Body of Christ we have the privilege of confessing our sins and hearing His awesome words of forgiveness and knowing our sins are forgiven. As a member of the Body of Christ we have the privilege of coming to the Lord’s Table to eat and drink His Holy body and blood and thus to participate in His death and resurrection, so that His perfect life becomes our perfect life, His death becomes our death, His resurrection becomes our resurrection, and His eternal life becomes our eternal life.
As a member of the Body of Christ we have eternal life. This is not something we have to wait for, this is something we have now. Eternal life is ours right at this time. Yes, we will have to wait until we pass on from this world until we enter into heaven, but it is ours now. It is somewhat like if you were to purchase a retirement home to move into after you retire. It is yours now, but you will not use it until you retire. Heaven is ours now, but we will not move in until after we pass on from this world. As members of the Body of Christ we are given all the rights and privileges from this membership.
How are we members? We are members first and foremost by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection. Faith given to us through the Word of God and through Holy Baptism. Faith strengthened through the Word and the Sacraments, in other words, faith strengthened through our continual reading of God’s Word, faith strengthened through our being mindful of our Baptism and faith strengthened through our making regular and diligent use of the Lord’s Supper.
By God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, His perfect life, suffering, death and resurrection from the dead, faith given through the Word and the Sacraments, we are all sheep. We are all members of the flock. We all have eternal life. Just look around and see those with whom you will be spending eternity. To God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Do Not Conform

Paul writes in Romans 12:1-3
1I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 3For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

In the first verse Paul explains our role as priests, that we are to offer sacrifices which was the job of the priest. Our sacrifice is to be living our lives in service to others which is our service to our Lord. This living is what we call our vocation or calling.

In verse two we are instructed to not be conformed to this world but to be transformed, that is to be different from this world. Yet not transformed by ourselves, not from within but from with out by the Lord. This not being conformed is troublesome because as we look at our world, everyone seems to be conforming to the world, and even in the Christian Church, too many denominations are conforming to this world so much so that in many instances one cannot distinguish between the world and those that would call themselves Christian churches.

And how are we to be transformed and not conform to the world? Be as the Bereans (as Paul encourages us Acts 17:11) by discerning and testing everything against God’s Word. It is God’s Word which is our standard, not our interpretation (or misinterpretation) or understanding (or misunderstanding) of God’s Word, not our questioning of God’s Word (Genesis 3), but God’s Word as He speaks it to us whether we like it or not.

Finally, in verse three we are encouraged not to think more highly of ourselves, which causes our elevating our misinterpretation, our misunderstanding, our questioning God’s Word. Our sober judgement includes our confession that our minds, our thinking, our will has been tainted by sin and the cursed world in which we live as well as the temptations from the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh to acquiesce to the world thus being conformed by the world.

How does one go about not being conformed but transforming the world? “According to the measure of faith that God has assigned,” as always we begin with our Lord. We begin by making regular and diligent use of His means of grace (Holy Baptism, Confession and Absolution, the Word of God, the Lord’s Supper). As we make regular and diligent use of the means of grace, our Lord comes through these means and works through these means to give, strengthen and keep us in faith, to give us forgiveness of sins, and to transform us to be His people!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

It Is the Lord - April 14, 2013 - Third Sunday of Easter - Text: John 21:1-14 (15-19)

I will confess, sometimes I am a bit dense. I am not the type of person you can hint around at and expect me to “get it.” Sometimes you have to be direct and simply tell me. I think you might understand what I mean, it has happened to all of us, at some time or another, someone says something, expecting us to understand what they are saying and we just do not get it. Well, we are in good company. Jesus’ disciples were that way. Yet, we have an advantage over the disciples, because we are hearing the Word of God some two thousand years after it all happened, so we are getting the whole story all at once, we should “get it.” For the disciples, they were living the story, each day getting bits and pieces, so they did not always get it. They did not always understand what Jesus was saying. Remember, Jesus told His disciples before He died that He would see them again (Matt. 26:32).
For us, it has been two weeks since we celebrated Jesus’ resurrection. For the disciples it had been a little more than a week since Jesus’ first appearance to them. Now, at this time, after His resurrection and before His ascension, Jesus was not with the disciples every day to physically guide and lead them. And, this is before Pentecost and the giving of the Holy Spirit, so they were not yet organized, nor did they yet understand what they were supposed to do now. In His state of humiliation, Jesus did not always nor fully use His divine attributes. Now, in His exalted state He did use His divine attributes to their fullest. Have you noticed? Before His death and resurrection Jesus walked or rode everywhere. Now that He has risen He simply appears here and then appears over there. He is not bound by physical time and space. Thus, the disciples only saw Him from time to time as He made Himself and His physical resurrection known as a public fact to many people.
So what is a disciple to do? For Peter and the other disciples, namely Thomas (Doubting Thomas whom we talked about last week), Nathanael (the one about whom Jesus said, “is a true Israelite”), James and John (the sons of Zebedee) and two other unnamed disciples, they went back to Galilee and went fishing. They went back to what they knew. After all, they were now out of work and needed to make a living. They decided to go back to their old trade of fishing. Unfortunately they fished all night and caught nothing.
Early in the morning, John writes, Jesus stood on the shore and called out to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” Actually, Jesus calls out in the negative, He literally says, “You haven’t anything to eat, have you.” He knows they have not caught any fish. Jesus calls out to them and yet, they did not recognize Him. Perhaps they do not recognize Him because it was dark. Perhaps it was because of the distance, they were some hundred yards from the shore. Or perhaps it was because He did not reveal Himself to them immediately.
Jesus then instructions them in catching fish. He tells them to “Cast the net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” Concerning this lack of catching fish, the commentator Paul Kretzmann writes, “Note: In any calling, trade, occupation, or profession the blessing must be given by the Lord; without Him the most assiduous efforts and apparent success are without value.” His words reminds us that in all our works we will want to begin with the Lord and His blessings. As Christians we understand that the work we do to “make a living,” is not just work, but is to be done as our service to the Lord, in other words, we are to work in whatever our occupation or station in life as if we are working for the Lord. If you are not currently working with that mind set, try it and see how it changes your attitude for work. We see the truth in what Kretzmann says as all night the disciples fished with no catch, yet when Jesus blesses their work they catch 153 fish and the nets do not break. Not only did Jesus bless their catch of fish, He also blessed their equipment.
Jesus had arisen and now He continues to show Himself to be alive and that He is the same person who had died on the cross. Even more, He now uses His divine attributes to their fullest and shows His authority over all creation. There are times that we may have doubts about the Easter story, about Jesus death and certainly about His resurrection. How can we be sure? How can we know for certain? And that is why Jesus showed Himself time and again after His resurrection. That is why Jesus did even more signs and wonders, so that we might know for certain that we worship, not a dead God, but a risen Lord and Savior.
In our text, John tells us that, the disciple whom Jesus loved, in other words, John himself, immediately recognizes Jesus. I wonder if maybe John is reminded by this event of what happened when Jesus called them to be disciples and they had their first great catch of fish. Anyway, John recognizes Jesus and he tells Peter who is standing next to Him, “It is the Lord!” Truer words and more exciting words could never be spoken. It is the Lord. Jesus is Lord, Lord over all. Lord of all creation and able to give a great catch of fish. Lord over sin, death and the power of the devil. Lord of these confused disciples.
John tells Peter, “It is the Lord,” and Peter, Mr. Impulsive, Mr. Spontaneity, puts on his outer garment (which he had taken off to fish) and jumps in the water to go to shore to see Jesus. Peter had already seen Jesus two times before (as John says in verse fourteen, “This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.”) and at this time, as with the two previous times, his denial of Jesus is sure to be still hanging over his head and we will get to that in a minute.
Anyway, John tells us that the other disciples brought in the fish and there they see that Jesus has a fire burning with fish on it and some bread. And nowhere are we told that this fish and bread came from anyone except Jesus. Notice then, Jesus is the supplier, He supplies them with all their needs. He supplies them with their physical needs, as He does so for us. One thing you might notice here is that there is no blessing given before the disciples eat. There does not need to be a blessing. Jesus is there in His exalted state, giving these gifts, what more need of blessing is there?
John goes on to relate the account of Jesus conversation with Peter following breakfast. Jesus calls Peter aside and asks him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Jesus’ question is rather loaded because His question is referring to the time the disciples were discussing who was the greatest. Also, the word love Jesus speaks is the agape or self-less concern love. Peter’s response, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Note here that Peter’s response is not that He agapes Jesus, but that he brotherly or phila loves Jesus and notice also that he does not touch the issue of “more than these.” A bit of humbling for Peter. Jesus response, “Feed my lambs.” In other words, take care of the least and weakest of people. But Jesus is not through, He asks a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Again Jesus speaks the agape love word but directs Peter’s answer only to Himself. Peter’s response, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” And again, Peter does not use the agape love, but the brotherly phila love word. And Jesus tells him, “Tend my sheep.” In other words, take care of all my people. Finally, a third time Jesus asks “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” This time Jesus asks Peter if he brotherly loves him to which Peter grievously responds, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Peter confesses Jesus omniscience and his complete faith and trust in Him to which Jesus responds once more “Feed my sheep.”
This morning we are confronted once again with the facts and the facts are that Jesus is truly alive. We do not worship a dead God, we worship a living God. We do not worship a powerless God, we worship a powerful God. And we worship a God who forgives us and renews us.
Out in the world we are confronted day after day with the lies of the devil. The devil would have us question God and His Word and the validity of His Word. The devil would have us believe that Jesus died and remained dead. The devil would have us believe that Jesus has no power. The devil would have us believe that our doubts will condemn us. The devil would have us believe anything but the truth.
And so, in order to combat the lies of the devil, we have the Word of God. God’s Word is the truth of the events and life of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We can believe the Word of God, because it is His Word, because He testifies to its truth, and because it is a Word with power, the power to give forgiveness of sins and to create and strengthen faith.
The Word which we heard two weeks ago. The Word which we heard last week. The Word which we hear this week and the word which we hear all during the season of Easter (and hopefully every Sunday) is that Jesus is alive. Yes, Jesus did live, suffer and die. He had to suffer and die in order to pay the price for our sins, the cost, the wage for our sins which is eternal spiritual death, yet He did not stay dead, but He rose from the dead and we know this is true because He showed Himself time and again to be alive. And because Jesus rose we know that we too will rise. Death and the grave have no power over us. This morning we are reminded once again that Jesus provides for us all that we need.
What is more is that as we hear Jesus reconcile Peter, even after his denial of Jesus, so we know that Jesus has reconciled us with Himself even though we daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness. He has forgiven us, He has reconciled us, He continually calls us back to a right relationship with Himself because of His great love for us.
We are imperfect sinful human beings. We deny Jesus as Peter did. We have our doubts, as Thomas did. And that is why we have today’s text. That is why we have God’s Word. When we are in doubt, we go to His Word. When we struggle we go to His Word. When we go to His Word He shows Himself to us so that we may, as Thomas, as Peter, as all the disciples, not doubt but believe. Remember, at Jesus’ ascension, as the disciples gathered, Matthew tells us, “And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted (Matthew 28:17 (ESV)). Even some of His disciples doubted. We are indeed in good company. But again, that is why we go to His Word, so that He may come to us through that word and show Himself to us so that we may be given faith and be given the reward which Christ earned for us, forgiveness of sins and eternal life. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Life in His Name - April 7, 2013 - Second Sunday of Easter - Text: John 20:19-31

It is amazing how there are so many signs in our world which point to our Savior Jesus Christ, yet there are so many who do not know, or at least do not profess to know or believe in Jesus.  Here we are worshiping on Sunday, no longer on Saturday. Why? Because something important happened on Sunday. Something important enough for the world to change its pattern of worship.  We are living in the “year of our Lord” 2013. The years before our Lord was on this earth are referred to as the “Before Christ” or B.C. years. And the evidence of Jesus’ life continue, but we seem to find ways to doubt and to not believe the evidence which is before us. We are a skeptical bunch of people. And I must admit that there are times when I may be one of the most skeptical. In a few minutes we will meet up with Thomas, affectionately known as Doubting Thomas, a man with whom many of us can easily relate.
There are times that I believe we should be skeptical, not of our Lord and His gifts, but of the false teachers and false leaders of this world. Our Lord has given us His Word and it is His Word which helps us to understand His Word. You may have heard the phrase, “Scripture interprets Scripture.” In other words, if you do not understand one part of the Bible, keep reading and it will explain itself. I get real skeptical when someone says, “what this means to me is . . .,” especially if they are trying to pass their interpretation off as being what God had in mind. I get skeptical when people change what happens at Baptism, when they use something other than God’s name as He has given it to us, when they baptize in some other name than Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I get skeptical when people change the Lord’s Supper to tell me that it is merely a symbolic act, when our Lord tells us that it is His body and blood, with the bread and wine. I really get skeptical when people attempt to change the Gospel of the Lord into a new law with phrases like, “all you gotta do . . .,” “if only you . . . do this or that,” or when they use the salad phrases of “let us . . .,” “may we . . .,” as if we do anything for our salvation, and the list of my skepticism goes on.
Because our Lord has chosen to come to us through means, namely through His Word and Sacraments as His usual means, we are reminded that when we neglect to make use of these means, when we neglect to make regular, meaning every day and every week, and diligent use of these means, when we neglect to read His Word, when we neglect to remember our baptism, when we neglect to come to His table, when we neglect to make regular confession of our sins and regularly hear His words of absolution, we take away His usual way of giving us His good gifts and blessings and we put ourselves in jeopardy of weakening our faith. Likewise, when we misinterpret His Word, when we add our own interpretation, when we change what He has given us and how He has given what He has given, we put ourselves in jeopardy of losing His gifts.
As I took the time to look at what we have said about “doubting Thomas” in past years, perhaps we have been a bit unfair. Earlier in John’s Gospel, when Jesus was getting ready to go to raise Lazarus from the dead, although Thomas misunderstood Jesus’ words yet, he showed his true faith in his words that he was ready to die with Jesus (John 11:16). Yet, we beat up on Thomas because of his doubting. Perhaps we might put Thomas into a more favorable light in suggesting that his skepticism was simply a desire to be fully convinced of something that, at the time and even today, might be truly unbelievable. Is it believable that someone would be raised from the dead? What we can say about Thomas was that he was demanding that God deal with him the way he wanted. Let us look at our text and see what is happening.
Our text begins setting the scene. It was the evening of the first day of the week. It was Easter Sunday evening and the disciples were gathered behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jews. Of course they were afraid of the Jews, Jesus’ body was missing and the disciples were the number one suspects. John does not give any explanation, but simply says, “Jesus came and stood among them.” Jesus Christ, true man and true God, risen from the dead, stood among them. Before His death Jesus did not always nor fully use His divinity, but now, after His resurrection He does not limit Himself. However, how He got there is not the important thing, that He was there is what is important. Jesus stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” What wonderful words our Lord speaks. The disciples were afraid because of the Jews and Jesus tells them He has brought them peace. But Jesus peace is more than a mere human peace. His peace is the peace which only He can give. His peace is a peace which passes all understanding. The peace which Jesus is giving to His disciples is the peace which He earned for them, and for us, on the cross. Jesus peace is that of a restored relationship between us and the Father. Jesus peace is true peace. Notice here that, as always, God’s Word does what it says. When Jesus speaks His words of peace, there is peace.
It is our sins which separate us from our Father in heaven. It is our sins of disobeying the commandments, of putting ourselves before God, of taking His name in vain, of not letting His Word work faith and strengthening of faith in our hearts, of disobeying our parents and authorities, of murdering, hating and hurting, committing adultery, of stealing, of gossiping, coveting, and the list goes on. We are sinful human beings, we are born in sin and we daily sin much, adding to our sin, and it is our sins which keep us from a right relationship with our Father in heaven. Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection which we celebrated last Sunday and which we celebrate each and every Sunday are what brought us back into a right relationship with God the Father. It is because of Jesus’ work on the cross that He gives us His true peace, peace which only He can give.
John goes on to tell us that after Jesus reiterated His peace to His disciples, He gave them and His church on earth, the office of the keys. Jesus gave His church on earth the authority to preach the Gospel, to administer the Sacraments, and to forgive and retain sins. Jesus gave the office of the keys to His church which calls pastors to exercise that authority in the local congregation. Jesus has given us our church in this way for good order. It is not an either\or, but a both\and proposition. Without the congregation there can be no church. Likewise without the pastor there can be no church. A church is made up of a congregation and a pastor, again, this is for good order. God gives us His gifts for our good and this is another example of our Lord’s usual way of dealing with us, His people.
As we continue in our text, John tells us that Thomas, the one we call Doubting Thomas, was not with the disciples when Jesus appeared to them this first time. When Thomas returned, John explains Thomas’ response to the excitement of his fellow disciples as they told him about their seeing Jesus alive. And he tells us about his requirement of faith. Thomas, required that for him to believe that Jesus was alive, all of his senses must be convinced. Thomas required not only to see, but also to feel. He would not be convinced unless his senses were convinced.
Immediately we are moved to a week later. Again, all the disciples were in the house, and we are told specifically that this time Thomas was with them. Now, do not misunderstand, the Lord does not always bow to our requirements. The Lord does not always bow to do what we want Him to do in order for us to believe. Here, however, in this case, our Lord saw the value in showing Himself personally to this great skeptic Doubting Thomas. Maybe the Lord knew there would be a lot more Thomases in our world and if one were convinced it might convince others.
Jesus appeared and called Thomas to put his finger in His hands, to touch His side, to stop doubting and to believe. Immediately we are told that Thomas believed. We are not told that he actually touched Jesus at all, simply that Thomas’ response was “My Lord and My God!” Thomas was convinced and if he was convinced so should we be convinced.
Jesus’ response to Thomas’ faith may be seen as a chastisement, but for us it is a blessed assurance. Jesus said, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Although we have not physically seen Jesus, we have seen Him in His Word and we believed. How blessed are we.
But our text does not stop there. John goes on to give us a bit of commentary. John tells us that “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book” (John 20:30). In the very last verse of his Gospel John expands these words saying, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25). In other words, John has not set out to give a full, detailed account of all the events of Jesus’ life. He has given us just enough and all that we need to know for our salvation.
John’s objective was, as he says in verse thirty-one, “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” (John 20:31). John’s objective was to present the Gospel to us so that the Holy Spirit might work through these words in order that we might be brought to faith, strengthened in our faith and have eternal life.
What John has given us is our Lord’s usual order for dealing with us, His people. God’s usual order is that He works through means, namely through His means of grace. Yes, God can come directly to us, or in a vision, or a dream, but those are not His usual means. His usual means for coming to us are through His Word, the Bible, through confession and absolution, and the sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. When we read His Word, when we confess our sins and hear His word of absolution, when we remember our Baptism, when we are given His body and blood at His table, that is how our Lord comes to us. He comes to us through these means to give us His gifts and blessings, the gifts of faith, forgiveness, life, eternal life, and salvation. We rejoice, because every time we hear or read God’s word, every time we confess our sins and hear His word of forgiveness, every time we remember our Baptism, every time we are given His body and blood, we are reminded that we are forgiven and that we have life and salvation in our Lord’s name.
It is no wonder that Thomas was skeptical, because he wanted God to work his way. Although we may be skeptical of the things of this world, when God works in and through us the way He has given Himself to, then we no longer will need to be skeptical of our Lord. Our Lord has given us His Word and His Sacraments. We know that with our Lord, He does what His Word says and when His Word says we are given faith, we are given faith. When His Word says we are forgiven, we are forgiven. When His Word says we have life, even eternal life, we can be sure that we have eternal life. Our Lord works through His means of Grace in order to give us faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. And we say, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.