The Body of Christ
The Body of Christ
2 Corinthians 4:7-18
Easter was last Sunday... we’ve (hopefully) found most of the eggs... the Easter Baskets have all been put away, the ham/or turkey is long gone... our new Easter clothes are hanging along-side everything else.
We’ve, in a sense, moved on, haven’t we? We’re already looking forward to the next holiday. But the truth is, Easter is not over...
The time-line in the biblical story of Easter doesn’t move as fast as we do. In fact, we’re still in Chapter 20 of John’s Gospel... and the beginning of our lesson for today takes up immediately where we ended last Sunday. It’s still Easter Sunday at the beginning of lesson.
The disciples (Jesus’ disciples) were gathered together, probably the same place where they’d shared the Last Supper (the Passover Meal) with Jesus only days before. Of course, only three days prior they had all watched from a distance as Jesus was nailed to a cross and died. I’m sure Peter could still hear the sound of his denial of Jesus ringing in his ears.
As we heard last week... Mary Magdalene had run to the disciples with news that Jesus was not in the tomb - and two of those disciples (Peter and John) verified that Jesus’ was missing, probably stolen by some officials who wanted to make sure he was gone for good. But, Mary would run to the disciples, a second time, insisting that she had actually spoken to Jesus! That he was alive!
Of course, at this point... the men were not sure what to believe.
But that evening, their doubts would dissipate. Jesus appeared to the disciples, despite the room being sealed - the doors locked - because they were hiding, thinking what had happened to Jesus would most likely happen to them.
And it’s not so much that the disciples’ were not sure what to believe, as it was, they’d been through too much to believe on the simple testimony of a single person. In fact, at the moment, they were having trouble believing their own eyes! But when Jesus reached out his hands, and his showed his disciples his side... they knew it was him. They, like Mary earlier that day, were overjoyed!
They were filled with the peace and Spirit of Christ, and commissioned by Christ to be his witnesses and to carry out his ministry.
Of course, all the disciples believed that Jesus was alive except one. Thomas had not been there when Jesus appeared. So he doubted and said that until he had seen for himself he would not believe. And so, we’ve come to know him as Doubting Thomas.
But I’ve never thought that was fair. After all the other disciples had doubted before they saw Jesus, too. And a little doubt is not a bad thing. A little healthy skepticism keeps you from believing all the falsehoods out there.
Most of us were taught from the time we were kindergartners NOT to believe everything you’re told, right? We shouldn't believe everything read, or hear. People say all kinds of things that are not true. If there’s anything AT ALL that the internet and the modern MEDIA should teach us it is this truth. A little healthy skepticism is a good thing.
Of course, the story finally jumps ahead... a whole week, to the following Sunday! Jesus appeared to the disciples again. This time Thomas was there. And Thomas was finally able to reach out, and touch Jesus’ hands and side... and he stopped doubting, and believed. "Doubting" Thomas became “Believing” Thomas!
Jesus had made his presence known to his disciples... his resurrected presence. Fully flesh, with wounds from his suffering clearly visible... and Fully Spirit, with the ability to pass through locked doors, and to appear in different places at different times.
Jesus was expressing in a real and tangible way that everything he had been saying, preaching and teaching... was real. It was all true. And his revelation of himself (as flesh and spirit) brought something the disciples desperately needed; it brought them peace in the midst of their turmoil, hope to their hopelessness... and purpose for their lives.
The disciples finally, fully, believed. They believed that Christ was alive, no doubt! But they also believed in Him, in his word, and everything he’d spent years teaching and revealing about himself. They now believed it all! And they committed themselves to live for Christ, Thomas declaring, what the whole group was apparently thinking, by calling Jesus, “My Lord and my God.”
The Disciples finally understood that through believing, they - like Jesus - received new life.
Of course, that revelation, fully unfolded when the disciples had gathered together, the Sunday after Easter.
Well, guess what today is? It's the Sunday, a week after Easter, too!. And Jesus' disciples are still gathered. Of course, Jesus promised that whenever two or more were gathered in his name he would be there. That means... the risen Christ is with us, right now.
Do you still doubt his presence? Do you need to see the wounds in the Body of Christ before you’ll believe?
Well... just look around you. Look at the Body of Christ. I see wounds everywhere. I see the scars of life. We are Jesus’ hands and feet, are we not? Just touch and see that we have all been wounded. We all bare the marks of grief, and struggle, and sacrifice. We’ve all been betrayed, we’ve all been hurt. And, yet, we’ve all found life, that’s abundant, and free, in Christ.
Like the Word of God says... “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in us...” Christ has raised us up... time and again... giving us grace upon grace...
Making us who were once dead, alive.
Jesus is here breathing the Holy Spirit on all who will believe. He says "Peace be with you." Believe in the risen Christ. Embrace the wounds... and know, that He is our “Lord and our God.”