“Get it off of me!” the child cried when he looked in the mirror and saw the tick latched onto the skin of his neck. Yes, once again tick season is right around the corner, and with it the usual warnings about ticks and all the diseases they carry. One thing you perhaps didn’t know about ticks is that in some cases when they latch on with their jaws, they can cause minor paralysis. It’s true; it’s called “tick paralysis.” They have a toxin in their bite that’s meant to paralyze its prey. The symptoms start small; you become uncoordinated. Then numbness spreads across your limbs. Before you know it, parts of your body can’t move anymore.
Kind of scary to think about, isn’t it? But the funny thing is, shortly after you remove the tick, the symptoms go away. The body returns to normal.
If only it were that easy to deal with the things in life that paralyze us with fear! If only it were so easy to remove those nagging doubts that exist in the back of our minds! And yet, in the power of Christ’s resurrection, isn’t it just that easy?
It’s the Sunday after Easter and all the decorations are put away. Everything seems to be back to normal, but really—in the light of our risen Lord we live in a new normal, don’t we? A normal where, yes, we continue to experience fear; where doubts still latch themselves onto our hearts and try to suck the life out of us and paralyze us with fear. Yet in our new normal, we have a Risen Savior—and The Risen Savior Removes All Doubts!
- The risen Savior removes all doubts with His resurrection proof.
Jesus’ disciples were caught up in that paralyzing fear, weren’t they? On that first Easter night they were hiding for fear of the Jews. The “doors were shut to them” (v. 19), but now every door in life seemed to be shut to them. They didn’t know what to do. They had all but forgotten about the promise Jesus had given to them before His death—the promise that He would rise again on the third day. But then, out of nowhere, without having messed with the locks at all, “Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’” (v. 19). He showed them His hands and side. He gave them the proof they needed to see to know: 1) this was really Jesus; and 2) He was truly alive! In that moment, when they saw the nail holes, when they saw the mark of the spear, “Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord” (v. 20). There could be no doubt. The risen Savior removed them all with the certain proof of His resurrection!
And that same proof was there for Thomas too! Thomas, who wasn’t there on that first Easter night, stubbornly refused to believe what his fellow disciples were telling him, that they had seen Jesus alive. He wanted more evidence. He wanted to see with his own eyes, touch the nail holes with his fingers, thrust his own hand into the hole in Jesus’ side. So, on the eighth day after the first Easter—today, according to the church calendar—the disciples were in the upper room again, Thomas included this time, and Jesus appears again! And Jesus challenges Thomas, almost word for word with Thomas’ own need for evidence: “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (v. 27).
The evidence is incontrovertible. There’s no mistaking now for Thomas that Jesus is alive. He’s so shell-shocked and stunned that Thomas simultaneously confesses the shame of his own doubt and trust in the Risen One standing before him: “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28). All of Thomas’ doubts were completely removed by Jesus with the sure and certain proof that He was alive!
Thomas could easily be the poster child for our generation, couldn’t he? People today largely look at the world the same way that he did: “Unless I can see it, feel it or touch it for myself, then I’m not going to believe it.” Neil DeGrasse-Tyson, the famous scientist on the Cosmos mini-series, is known for knocking the Bible because in his words, “It’s not scientific.” (On that point, he’s right, by the way. The Bible is not scientific, but that does not mean that the Bible is not true.) The idea that a human being after dying could come back to life would, under most circumstances, be the most far-fetched fantasy a person could concoct.
And yet… when it comes to Jesus of Nazareth, what does the evidence say? Jesus was truly dead. John wrote about how when the spear pierced his side, blood and water flowed out. The red blood cells had separated from the plasma because the blood had stopped circulating—and had been stopped for some time. Jesus didn’t suffer a fainting spell or fall into a coma. Everyone around Jesus knew He was dead—otherwise they wouldn’t have buried Him. And then we have the testimony of the women who saw the empty tomb, who talked with the angel. When Jesus appeared to them on the road, they clung to His feet—ghosts don’t have feet! The disciples not only saw Jesus that night, but they saw Him eat! And they continued to see Him on many occasions over the next forty days. The apostle Paul recounts an occasion where 500 people saw and heard the living, resurrected Jesus.
The Bible is not scientific, but it gives us all the evidence we need through the eyewitness accounts recorded by the gospel-writers and the and the apostles. We have all the resurrection proof we need to know and believe that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (v. 31).
And yet we still have our doubts. Even in light of all the evidence some still refuse to believe. In our heart of hearts sometimes, don’t we struggle with nagging doubts, lingering questions of “what if”? “What if it’s not true?” “What if Jesus wasn’t the Son of God?”
That’s why Jesus says what He says: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (v. 29). Faith by ourselves is impossible. “No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:6). Faith that believes in our risen Lord is a real blessing—a blessing that the Spirit gives us when we hear the truth of Christ’s resurrection. A blessing that removes all doubts.
In the moment of our conversion, faith is planted in our hearts, not just with the assurance of the fact of His resurrection, but with the assurance of the peace His resurrection brings us in our lives.
- The risen Savior removes all doubts with His resurrection peace.
Time and again, Jesus greets His disciples with peace: “Peace be with you!” (v. 19). But what kind of peace is this? Christ tells them exactly what it is: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (v. 22-23). In the power of Christ’s death, all sins were paid for. Now, in His resurrection, Jesus demonstrates that all people have been declared not-guilty of sin! Now, when you tell people that their sins are forgiven, you’re telling them the sure and certain truth! It’s not some pious wish or heartfelt prayer; it’s a fact! It’s a blessing! It’s the peace of reconciliation!
And this peace belongs to you and me through faith in Christ. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). By the Spirit’s work in bringing God’s grace to us in Word and Sacrament, we now have the peace that removes every doubt we might have about our relationship with God! In other words, I don’t have to rely on my own feelings or my personal experiences to be sure about my relationship with God. And neither do you!
You no longer have to live in the paralyzing fear of God’s wrath. No matter what’s happening to you, no matter what temptations might have befallen you, you have the proof in black and white. Jesus lives—and in His life all of your sins are forgiven! God now sees you as His own dear child through faith in Him. And you’re going to live with Him!
This peace belongs to us—and it’s this peace that we proclaim! Christ has sent His church to proclaim this peace to all the nations (v. 21). To proclaim the proof of the risen Christ—the clear testimony of the Gospel. To proclaim the forgiveness of sins for all nations. And to do so trusting in that same peace of reconciliation for ourselves: that by believing we “have life in His name” (v. 31). The life that lasts forever.
The paralysis of fear may still grip us from time to time. The teeth of doubt may try and latch onto our souls. But we have our risen Savior, Jesus. By His Word all doubts are removed. He reaches into our hearts and pulls them right out. And with our doubts removed, our fears dissipate. In their place: the certainty of faith and the peace of forgiveness. In Him we live and move and have our being. Amen.