April 12, 2015 A+D
St. John 20: 19-31
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The antiphon and the name of this Sunday comes from 1 Peter 2. Peter writes: “So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation — if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” 1–3 (ESV) .
Liturgically, there is this idea that during Lent and Holy Week we were re-living the events of Our Lord’s ministry, passion, and death. On Easter, it was as though we were re-born, baptized at the Easter Vigil, so that now, one week later, we are like newborn infants. St. Peter wants to remind us that we must put away all malice and deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander, and that we need pure spiritual milk, that is we need pure doctrine. We are not strong enough to take poison or to believe false things about God and be good. Doctrine matters. Ideas have consequences. Children prefer candy to milk. They need discipline to get what is good for them.
We tasted the goodness of the risen Lord in the forgiveness of sins and the bestowal of life that Christ gave us in the Sacrament of the Altar on Easter. That taste satisfies and creates hunger at the same time. It feeds us and causes us to long for more, to long not for the Easter Bunny and plastic eggs, but for the pure spiritual milk of God’s Word and Sacraments, to desire His presence and His love.
St. Thomas and the others are a warning to us. This is what happens when we neglect the Word and prayer. Thomas was deliberately absent when the others gathered for prayer on Easter evening. He willfully insisted that he would never believe in Christ unless his demands were met. He tempted God.
We are not so much like him as we are like the others. They were where they were supposed to be – but they weren’t desiring the pure spiritual milk of God’s Word. They had disbelieved the report of Mary Magdalene, of Cleopas and the other disciple, and of the angels. We don’t know what they were afraid of, but we know they were afraid. They might have been afraid that those who killed Jesus would kill them, but they might also have been afraid that Jesus was risen from the dead and that He was angry, that He was come back in vengeance for their infidelity and cowardice in His hour of need.
Whatever it was that made them afraid, Jesus came to them in peace, through locked doors. He did not rebuke or lecture them. He spoke them clean, bestowing His Holy Spirit upon them, and making them His Apostles. He opened the Scriptures are open to them and their hearts burned with joy. It was necessary for the Christ to suffer, die, and rise and He was not bitter or sad about it. All of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms proclaim this. Jesus went to the cross not in anger or disappointment, but in obedience to His Father’s will and out of love for them. This was always the plan. And in this way, He atoned for the sins of the world, He made satisfaction and ended the Law’s demands, and He bought the Apostles and us as His own. He keeps His promises. Thus He came into the Upper Room in fulfillment of what the angels told the Shepherds in their fields: Peace on earth.
The next week, though, after all of that, they were still afraid – not just Thomas but all of them. They were grown men who had spent three years at the feet of Jesus. No one has ever had a better education or more life-transforming experiences or a greater measure of wisdom than those men, but they were still newborn infants in the faith. Their spirits were willing, but their flesh was weak. They needed the pure spiritual milk of Jesus’ Words and Sacraments and they allowed themselves to be taken over by Thomas’ doubts, by the world’s false threats, and their own insecurities.
So back He came, into the Upper Room, through doors locked in fear, to speak peace again to them and to bestow again a new measure of His grace. That is not the end of their failure, nor is the misbehavior of Thomas them at their worst. Yet the Lord is steadfast in His mercy. It is not the end of His faithful seeking, finding, absolving, and loving them. He who was faithful unto death, is likewise faithful in life.
He is the Lord who has brought us out of death. Open your mouth and He will fill it with honey out of the rock, that is with His risen body out of the ground. For He gives pure milk in His Word and He gives His living Body as meat and His living Blood as drink. In this way, He sustains us frail sinners, us newborn babes, and brings us to pastures green.
Do not be afraid and do not be ashamed. Christ comes in peace in this Sacrament with what you need: forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.
Christ is risen. Alleluia.
He is risen, indeed. Alleluia.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.