The Second Sunday Of Easter
April 28, 2019
“The Spoken Revelation”
Rev. Richard Langness
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Grace, mercy and peace are yours this day from our triune God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) These are the first words of The Revelation. Now here is where you might want to say, “Hey Pastor, you might want to stick with stocking groceries. Those words are the first words of Genesis not Revelation.” And you would be perfectly correct in your connection with the book of Genesis. Yet, when we see the Bible as the true and inerrant Word of God, then we must also recognize it as The Revelation of God, God’s revelation of Himself to His creation. It is the written revelation. In our Gospel reading we have the spoken revelation, the revelation that Jesus is risen from the dead. Thomas heard the spoken revelation, “We have seen the Lord.” (John 20:25)
“We have seen the Lord.” Thomas did not believe. Thomas would not believe. But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (John 20:25) For Thomas, the words, “We have seen the Lord” were just as hard to believe as the words, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The words just did not fit with his human reasoning, his human understanding. Like many other people, Thomas needed hard evidence. And like many other people, the hard evidence he demanded was the evidence that fit his own understanding. He was not open to the evidence already given to him by the other apostles.
There are many people who reject the proclamation of Genesis 1:1. They reject the idea that God is greater than the creation that we know. Like Thomas who thought he knew death and life, there are people who think they know heaven and earth and do not believe that God is greater than them. Just as Thomas thought that death was greater than Jesus, there is the idea that the cosmos is greater than God and the primary reason for it is because the cosmos is greater than us and we cannot comprehend a God who is greater than us. We cannot comprehend the incomprehensible and so we reject it unless we can see it, touch it, and probe it.
We are told in Romans 10:17 that faith comes through hearing and hearing through the word of Christ. Now that might strike you as odd since we are used to hearing that hearing comes through the word of God. Thus, we may want to reject it simply because it is not what we know. But that also hits on the issue of Thomas and those who reject a God who has revealed Himself and the creator of the heavens and the earth. Thomas heard the words of Christ yet he did not believe the words of the apostles who spoke of Christ. Was Thomas without faith? Was Thomas without hope?
When one reads or hears the words, “pros and cons”, the immediate connection that is usually made is idea of for and against. Thus, when a major decision is to be made we break out the list of pros and cons, the reasons for the decision and the reasons against the decision. We weigh them out and make a decision based upon which list appears to be the strongest. Yet, there are other meanings to these words that we might overlook. They can also mean “before” and “with”. Thus, we may be comfortable with one definition over the other and so we cling to our “go to” definition and cast aside the others that might be more appropriate to the conversation.
The writer of the book of Hebrews says this, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Hebrews 1:1-3) Jesus is the true spoken revelation of God. He is the Word who was in the beginning with God and the Word who is God. Yet, how often do we hold onto our own definition of Jesus rather than listen to Him as He reveals Himself?
Jesus told the disciples on multiple occasions that He was going to Jerusalem and there He would be killed but on the third day He would be raised again. He spoke the plan of God. He revealed what was going to take place. Yet, it was not just Thomas who failed to hear; all of the disciples were lost and in despair after Jesus was crucified. None of them expected to see a living Jesus again. Even John, who was with Peter and James on the mountain when Jesus revealed His glory did not expect to see Jesus again. He heard the Father speak the revelation that Jesus was His beloved Son with whom He was well pleased. The Father even told him to listen to Jesus. Yet, John, along with Thomas and the other disciples didn’t hear the revelation spoken to them. They held onto a Jesus that they were comfortable with rather than a Jesus that would challenge all that they knew and understood.
This is the challenge of God’s first words of revelation. We are forced to either accept or reject a God that is bigger than our known universe and all the knowledge contained therein. In a sense God says, “This is who I am. Will you believe me?” But it is even more of a challenge when we have to believe His Word based upon the human witnesses who have proclaimed it to us. This is the issue with Thomas.
It is interesting to note that the disciples were given the very things that Thomas demanded from Jesus. Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19-20) The only thing that is different is that Thomas actually wants to touch the hands and the side. Thomas wants to touch the hands of God. And that is where we get it wrong as well.
There is a part within us all that wants a God that we can touch, a God that we can comprehend. Of course the beauty of it all is that the incomprehensible God has made a way for us to touch Him! It began with the incarnation, God became one with us in our flesh. This is truly remarkable for God will forever be flesh and blood. When Christ returns we will indeed behold His the mark of the nails in His hands and see the place in His side where He was pierced. God entered our world from the place where He dwells, the place beyond the heavens and the earth. And God revealed Himself in flesh and blood.
John did not hear Jesus at first. It took an empty tomb for him to believe. John 20:8-9 says this, “Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first,” that would be John, “also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” Over the course of time, however, John began to hear Jesus clearly. Thus, He is not surprised when Jesus speaks to Him on the island of Patmos. The Revelation that spoke to him upon the cross was now speaking to Him in His ascended glory.
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white like wool, as white as snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:12-18)
“But he laid his right hand on me.” Did you catch that? John did not need to touch the hand of God because God laid His right hand on him! This is God revealed. God does not expect us to reach out and touch Him. Rather, God, the God who created the heavens and the earth, reaches down to touch you and me. And He says, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”
Today, you cannot touch the mark of the nails but you can taste the very body of Christ. You cannot put your hand in His side but you can partake of the very blood that flowed from it. No. it doesn’t seem logical or even reasonable but the God who spoke the universe into being says, “Take eat, this is my body.” “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood.” (Matthew 26:26-28) The spoken Revelation declares, “You are forgiven.” Now you can touch it and taste it for yourselves. Amen.