The Second Sunday of Easter
You may wish to listen/sing along to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkbeGsOo2Nk
you have given your only Son to die for our sins
and to rise again for our justification:
grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness
that we may always serve you
in pureness of living and truth;
through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Please read before continuing: https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=40
Footsteps. Torches. Voices. Betrayal. Fearful. Run! Guilt. Rejection. Despair. Distraught. Depressed. Afraid.
Not exactly a cheery way to begin the second Sunday after Easter, a Sunday when we think specifically, once again, about God’s mercy.
In many ways, those words fill in the blanks of the Gospel reading. The Gospel begins with fear. The disciples locked themselves away for fear of the Jews. The words probably sum up exactly what was foremost in their minds: fear.
Fear has been their constant state since that Thursday night, on leaving the upper room and entering into the Garden of Gethsemane. That moment when they sense footsteps approaching, see torches and hear voices. That moment when they experience betrayal, and out of fear, run! They are guilty. Then they reject, and even deny. They despair of their actions. They are distraught, and depressed, and now today, they are locked away in an upper room out of fear.
And then, in one moment, fear gives way to astonishment – astonishment gives way to life, for the one they betrayed, the one they denied, the one they abandoned, the one who was crucified is there in their midst, alive! Alive! He who was dead is now alive!
In this age, and over the course of history, betrayal comes at a high cost. Hitler executed those who plotted against him. Stalin liquidated his top military commanders for supposed ‘betrayal’. In our own day, Kim Jong Il even kills members of his own family for their actions. Politicians are removed from office at a stroke of a pen, or by the sending of an email. We cast aside those who have done us wrong, never to speak of them again. They are in effect, dead to us, and removed from society.
And yet, today, in this moment, Jesus appears, alive. The resurrected one, the word of life, stands before them. Instead of removing he restores. He does the complete opposite of what we might expect, what the world might expect. Instead of chastising them, instead of dismissing them, he restores them.
In the Bible, betrayal nearly always results in death – but not today. He who is the resurrection and the life bestows life. He who is the resurrection and the life bestows grace. He is who is the resurrection and the life bestows forgiveness. He who is the resurrection and the life bestows mercy! Mercy is the key to the Gospel, Holy Week, the week of mercy continues into Easter, to the season of mercy. Mercy is for all time.
Jesus restores the fearful disciples. He speaks ‘peace’ to them. He grants them mercy: mercy for their abandonment, mercy for their denial, mercy for their disbelief. Mercy for their fear. Mercy restores them, mercy heals them, and mercy empowers them.
How often does Thomas become the exemplar of the one with little faith? But we mustn’t forget, that all the disciples failed in their duty, all the disciples bar John failed in their discipleship, all the disciples abandoned him in the moment of trial. All the disciples ran. And now today, all those who are left are granted mercy.
Mercy that wasn’t deserved, but freely, patiently and lavishly given.
Mercy to start again, mercy to restore, mercy to revive, mercy to equip.
How many of us, in our own lives have acted like those disciples? Running away? Being cowards? Betraying? Denying? All of us over the course of our lives have fallen into the trap. And yet, like the disciples, we, his disciples today, are offered the same mercy. The mercy that restores, and the mercy that forgives.
That day, the disciples, receive his mercy. Who’d have thought, that they, the ones who abandoned, denied, rejected and locked themselves away might be the ones to set the world on fire with the message of mercy?
Who’d have thought that the ones who cowered behind a locked door, perhaps even those who had barricaded the door, might be the ones to break down the doors of the world with the message of mercy, with the message of Jesus Christ?
The disciples, ‘uneducated, confused…with few social graces, limited knowledge of the world, no money, poor leadership’ would be the ones who would take the message that Christ who was crucified to a waiting world?
Their message, his message, the one that they boldly proclaimed set the world on fire: that message was the message of mercy. Which means, that despite our mistakes, despite our failings, despite our betrayal, despite our cowardice, despite our sins, despite our failings, there is always the possibility of his mercy, if we simply open the door of hearts. He is always ready to forgive and restore, he is always ready to speak that word of ‘peace’.
The disciples that evening needed to hear his words. We do today, as we celebrate his resurrection. Those disciples needed to be restored: we do too. They received his mercy today and changed the course of the world by proclaiming his message of life. They said: ‘what we have heard and what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands’. Will we tell the world what we have heard and seen, will we tell the world of his mercy?
Will we, like them, receive it?
Lord God our Father,
through our Saviour Jesus Christ
you have assured your children of eternal life
and in baptism have made us one with him:
deliver us from the death of sin
and raise us to new life in your love,
in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
You may wish to listen to/sing along: