Peace be with you!
John 20:19-31

Everyone has there own perspective on things in life, we see things from our own eyes, come to our own conclusions about things, and the more we ‘progress’ through life the more adamant we seem to become in particular areas.  Today we shared the peace for the first time in a long time in our congregation, some of you will have loved it, some will have gone with the flow, and others may even go so far as saying you hated it.  We have our reasons for holding those opinions, probably based on previous experience or even lack of it, but we hold them anyway.

I wanted to have you share the peace with each other because we heard Jesus do just that three times in our text.  First he said, “Peace be with you” to the disciples as he appeared to them, then he reiterated it, “Peace be with you, as the father has sent me, so I send you”.  Then a week later when he met up with Thomas he used the same words, “Peace be with you.”  Their potential shock at having a dead man appear among them was reduced by his calming presence and words of peace.

Now peace for each of us is interpreted in a different way too, some of us see peace as the classic ‘world peace’ that seems to be too far off and difficult to achieve but the idealist in us seeks it anyway.  Then there are those who see peace as taking a quiet moment to themselves in the midst of a busy schedule to spend time meditating, or relaxing, or being intimate with God.  Others would say that peace is what you have when the kids go back to school after the holidays. 

On Tuesday I am involved in an ANZAC service for eleven primary schools at Lilydale, my role is to pray a prayer for peace.  The difficulty I face is to be clear in the prayer about what the peace is that we are praying for.  In this context it is of necessity for an end to war and a physical and political peace, But the peace that God offers, through his son goes beyond that.  This is a peace which goes beyond human understanding so of course it is hard to understand, but it is the peace of knowing and living in forgiveness, of having eternal life promised to you, of not fearing death or its consequences.  This is the peace that Jesus offered to his disciples and then a week later to Thomas.

Just as we form opinions about what constitutes peace we do a similar thing when we encounter Jesus and his disciples and their interactions with each other following Jesus’ resurrection.  Most of us call this the story of doubting Thomas, after all that’s the opinion we have had of him ever since we first heard the story, (and for some of you today may have been the first time).  I was actually happy to see the heading on the New Revised Standard Version for this text was simply “Jesus and Thomas” rather than doubting Thomas.  When you think about the way Thomas reacted it fits with what almost every one of us would do if the scenario arose for us.  Thomas was perhaps a forerunner to the post-modern person of today.  We want the authority and the power to make decisions for ourselves, to believe in what we want to believe and not have someone else tell us what to believe.

If someone tells us something amazing has happened we want to see for ourselves, we want to have an encounter, an experience that we can call our own, otherwise we are just going on second-hand information.  We want to be the experts and eye-witnesses, not rely on someone else’s authority.  All of the other disciples had seen Jesus when he appeared to them behind locked doors, they had their encounter, and when they told Thomas about it, he wanted it too.  He was patient and it happened for him.  He got to see, and feel so that he was sure that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead, once again behind locked doors, and with the peace proclaimed.

Some of us are certain about what we believe, that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day and has ascended into heaven, others doubt, some are uncertain.  Funnily enough I read in my devotion on Friday the following quote;
“Every gathered congregation today is still like that locked room in the first century since, just like just the disciples: some doubt, some are seeking, some are troubled, and some believe.  "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." All of us are welcome, even if we are plagued with doubts. That is why the Scriptures were "written so that [we] may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing [we] may have life in his name."”

What a blessing it is to see and hear those words, this was written so that we might have an eye-witness account for us to hear and learn and believe.  Jesus wasn’t telling Thomas off with these words, he was simply stating that Thomas believed and what a blessing it will be for those who simply hear it and believe.

No matter where you are at in your faith journey, regardless of the struggles you face in your life, or your opinion on various issues, Christ died for you, he rose again for you and he appeared to his disciples so that they could act as witnesses to his resurrection and go and tell others about it.  This is the evidence we have, this is all the proof we need.  Our encounters with Jesus happen in his Word, by the power of his Spirit and in his body and blood in the Lord’s Supper.  Blessed are you who have not seen and yet believe.

Amen