March 30, 2008 – John 20:19-31
The gospel reading for this Sunday is the third in a 3-part series of resurrection appearances in John 20: Peter and John at the empty tomb; Mary Magdalene; Thomas and the other disciples.
Thomas is named two other times in John, and neither pictures Thomas negatively. I don’t think his reaction in John 20 (“unless I see the mark of the nails…”) should be taken negatively either. In my Easter sunrise sermon, I took these three responses to the resurrection as relating to evangelism: John believes on the merest of evidence; Mary Magdalene believes when Jesus calls her name; Thomas believes when he sees the wounds. John seems to be pointing up that people come to belief in different ways, and therefore evangelism is not a “one size fits all” kind of thing. John needs the slightest evidence (perhaps a logical proof?), while Mary needs to be known and loved, and Thomas needs to see the wounds. In all cases, the point or aim is belief (John 20:31) but that belief is arrived at in different ways. I think it would be well for churches and Christians to consider what type of person they’re evangelizing (a John, a Mary, a Thomas) and tailor the message accordingly.
This coming Sunday I’ll be trying to relate this story of Thomas to the 3:16 campaign. The theme for this Sunday is God’s love (the first in Max Lucado’s summary “He loves, he gives, we believe, we live). One direction I’m thinking of is that the love of God, unlike human love, is strong enough to bear the scars of loving us. (love “bears all things, endures all things”). When I consider the cross, it comes to my mind that it cost Jesus something to love me. That cross, and the remembrance of his wounds, does not leave me frozen in guilt, however, or despairing about my own sinfulness. Instead, the cross reminds me of the magnificent strength and durability of God’s love. Therefore it makes me less afraid.
On a different note, here’s one place I disagree with Lucado. His take in his 3:16 book is that 1) you can’t win God’s love; 2) you can’t lose God’s love; 3) you can resist God’s love. I’m quite in agreement with #1 and #2, but since I’m predestined to be a Calvinist 🙂 I quibble with #3. Classic Reformed theology holds that God’s grace is irresistible.
In the short run, we all resist God’s grace and love. Biblical examples abound: Moses, Jeremiah, Peter, Paul, etc. But in the long run God’s grace cannot be resisted.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,Isaiah 55:10-11 (ESV)
If God’s grace can be resisted, then He may fail. If He may fail, why bother with faith?
Your thoughts are welcome in all this – the sermon isn’t written yet!