Rev. Wilson’s Sermons

Jesus Gives Us What We Need

John 29:19-31

23 April 2017

Who doesn’t like a good mystery?  Judging by the number of books written in this genre and the number of TV shows that fill the airwaves now, an awful lot of us do.  I’ve been watching one of my favorite mystery series on Netflix recently.  It’s called Death in Paradise.  It’s a BBC production.  I just discovered the 2016 season had been released.

There is a regular cast of characters of course.  Humphrey Goodman is the Detective Inspector on the fictional island of Saint Marie.  This island is in the Caribbean, so the setting is lush and beautiful as you can imagine.  Humphrey is a bit bumbling—he’s socially awkward and physically clumsy.  An Englishman, his fair complexion is not necessarily suited to the climate.  He always dresses in rumpled linen clothing.  Yet he has a keen mind and a heart of gold.  He lives in a police-supplied run-down house that is right on the beach with a pet lizard with whom he has some rather lively conversations.

Florence Cassell is the Detective Sargeant.  Humphrey often calls her “Two,” as she is the second in command of their small crime-solving group.  Florence is a native of the Caribbean and hails from a neighboring island.  She is a good Girl Friday, keeping Humphrey, or “Chief” as his subordinates call him, on schedule and supplied with pens and paper when he interviews suspects.  She acts as his chauffeur as well.  It’s probably for the best that Humphrey doesn’t drive on the island.

There are two officers who work with the Chief and Florence:  Dwayne Meyers and JP Hooper.  Both are native islanders.  Dwayne is a confirmed bachelor, a bit of a ladies’ man—at least in his own mind—and the senior of the two officers.  JP is a young guy still wet behind the ears.  He is better at the technical police work while Dwayne tends to go with his gut.  Dwayne is often offering ridiculous advice on all sorts of topics to JP who is impressionable.

There is always a murder with many suspects.  Sometimes the story revolves around islanders; other times it involves tourists who are visiting the paradise.  The team investigates throughout the show.  The conclusion is always the same.  Humphrey gathers all the suspects together.  He addresses each one of them, explaining their motive and why he or she could not have been the murderer.  The last one addressed by Humphrey is the one who done it.  Humphrey explains the how and why.

Why is the show entertaining?  There are enough clues given during the investigation to keep you guessing before the big reveal.  The cast of characters are all entertaining enough to bring a few laughs throughout the hour.  Also, the scenery is spectacular!

Today’s scripture presents us with a mystery.  We think we have it solved.  But if we can put ourselves in the shoes of our intrepid disciples, we can begin to imagine just how big the mystery really is.  In truth, it is a mystery many of us still be wrestling with ourselves.

The disciples continue to reel from the empty grave discovered just hours ago.  It is inconceivable to them that Jesus has risen from the dead.  They do not understand what has transpired.  They huddle together behind a locked door, terrified of what may happen next.

I don’t know about you, but I probably would have done the same thing!  They had spent all this time with Jesus who kept doing things that just couldn’t be explained.  He started out his ministry by turning water into wine.  Who does that?  He healed countless people including a royal official’s son in Capernaum whom he never even saw but healed based on a conversation with the official; a man who had been crippled for 38 years; and a man who had been blind since birth.  Jesus performed other miracles as well: he walked on water; fed 5000 people with five barley loaves and two fish; and raised his friend Lazarus from the dead.  Jesus knew people they met along the way in their travels that he had never met before like the Samaritan woman at the well.  These signs and wonders you would have to see to believe, and even then, it would be difficult to truly understand.  Surely there is mystery shrouding all these signs and wonders.

Here comes Jesus in this locked room.  They know it is him for they can see his wounds—his hands, his feet, his side.  Jesus tells them he is returning to God.  Thomas, who was not with the disciples that evening, could not believe what the others told him about Jesus coming to them.  Jesus came again into a locked room, inviting Thomas to touch his hands, his side.  You can imagine his fingers coming away with the evidence—Jesus’ blood.

We know that even this was not enough to fully convince the disciples.  The mystery was too big, too far beyond what they could imagine.  Jesus did many other signs for them so that they could believe.  We don’t know what those signs are for John’s Gospel does not include them.  What we do know is that Jesus gave them what they needed to believe.

The witnesses who presented their evidence—Mary Magdalene, Peter and the Beloved Disciple, those gathered the next day in a locked room, Thomas—find that their testimonies are still not sufficient.  After all, this is huge—Jesus himself raised from the dead and ascended to be again with God.

In church history, this time between Easter and Pentecost is known as the Great 50 Days.  Lent was a time of catechesis—when new believers were instructed in the faith.  These new believers were baptized during the Easter Vigil—often at dawn.  The Easter season, or Great 50 Days, was used to instruct the newly baptized in the mysteries of faith.  John’s gospel was frequently used in the mystagogcial catechesis—or preaching.  This Gospel is filled with the signs and wonders that marked Jesus’ life and ministry.  Like any good mystery, these signs and wonders provide the necessary clues to solve the seemingly unknowable aspects that make up faith.  At least they provide the accounts we have available to us in Scripture.

We know these accounts may not be enough.  Many require more convincing, including those first disciples.  Just as Jesus did throughout John’s Gospel for his first disciples, Jesus will do for each of us.  Jesus will give you—each of you—what you need so that you might solve the mystery of faith.  At the very least, you will be able to embrace the mysteries that compose your beliefs.  Any good doctor listens to each and every patient to discern the proper treatment, knowing there is not just one treatment for everyone.  Jesus has given us numerous signs and wonders in John and the other three Gospels.  Yet Jesus knows this may not be enough.  Just as Jesus provided additional proof for the disciples not accounted for in John’s Gospel, Jesus will provide for you the signs and wonders that you need.

We need to be open to that proof.  We may not see Jesus, be asked by Jesus to place our hands on his wounds in the way that Thomas was.  The signs and wonders I require to work out the mystery of my faith may not be the same that you require.  Jesus knows this.  Jesus will provide.  Keep your hearts and minds open so that when that evidence is placed in front of you, you will know without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is Lord.  Christ is risen.  Alleluia!

Blessed be the Lord, who had given us a new birth into a living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Amen.