Wednesday, May 16, 2018

What the Holy Spirit Does

MAY 13, 2018
ST. JOHN 15:26
What the Holy Spirit Does
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
ST. JOHN 15:26 When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father—he will testify about me. ENGLISH HERITAGE VERSION 2017
One more time this Easter we listen to Jesus on the night He was instituted His Holy Supper. Today we hear Jesus telling His apostles that He would send His Counselor to testify about Him after He ascended into heaven.
Who is the Holy Spirit and what does He do? In some circles the Holy Spirit is not just a Counselor who comforts us with Jesus' promises that our sins are washed away in Baptism; some Christians go further. They view Him as the One who can give them extra information beyond what the Holy Scripture says. They can get special insight from the Holy Spirit, they think, if they can carefully watch for signs from God in their lives. These clues will help them solve puzzles in their lives: where to go to college, what career to pursue, who to marry, where to live.
For example, a mother tries to discern the will of God by looking for clues when she and her husband are trying to decide whether to have more children. When that new baby is colicky for months, she might be tempted to think she had misinterpreted the clues the Holy Spirit had given her. In this case, she had seen four minivans with those families stickers on the back … in a row! (Okay, the last one was on a different day, but it was the first car she saw on that day.)
These puzzles of life can be difficult, but as Lutherans ought to know, no matter which path we take, the journey is going to bring the good and the bad. Our blessed task as God's children is not to uncover hidden clues from God, but to listen His revealed word.
This is the work of the Spirit and He has done it well. The Holy Book that is too often not in our hands is the inspired Word of God. The Holy Spirit testifies about Jesus Christ through the Holy Bible and Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. These are places and ways in which the Holy Spirit puts the Words of Jesus into our ears, and upon our heads, and into our mouths. He says that we are going to be okay no matters what happens because He keeps us in the one true faith. This is the promise you hear when receiving the living body and blood of Christ, He strengthens and preserves you in the one true faith unto life everlasting. And then you depart in peace to go and live in our lives.
And we live our lives according to the Spirit, who testifies today is probably the Day when Jesus will return—the end of all things is near—and that we ought to
1 PETER 4: 7–11 have sound judgment and be self-controlled for the sake of your prayers. 8Above all, love each other constantly, because love covers a multitude of sins. 9Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10Serve one another, each according to the gift he has received, as good stewards of the many forms of God’s grace. 11If anyone speaks, let him do it as one speaking the messages of God. If anyone serves, let him do it as one serving with the strength God supplies so that God may be glorified in every way through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. ENGLISH HERITAGE VERSION 2017
The Holy Spirit testifies about Christ and the lives we have now because of Him. To try and find extra words from Him is to miss Jesus Christ.
It is like a child who had heard his mother tell him to make his bed every day for the last seventeen months. Yet he still thinks that there is some special clue that she is putting out there, something that means messy beds are fine. Instead the kid should listen to his dad who says, “Listen to your mother.”
Our heavenly Father has sent His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ to suffer and die to be completely punished for our disobedience and pride. And now the Son has sent His Holy Spirit to testify that our disobedience and pride has been forgiven. And by the Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life, He creates His bride and our mother, the Holy Christian Church, where we are given re-birth by the Holy Words of the Holy Spirit.
Next Sunday we celebrate the birthday of the New Testament Church on the Day of Pentecost. This Church will endure until the end of all things. I know this not because of some special clue or sign from God, but He told us:
ST. MATTHEW 28:20B And surely I am with you always until the end of the age. ENGLISH HERITAGE VERSION 2017
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
In Jesus' Name. Amen.
God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Thanks be to God!

Seeing Unbelief Then; Blind Faith Now

MAY 10, 2018
ST. MARK 16:14–20
Seeing Unbelief Then; Blind Faith Now
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
ST. MARK 16:14,20 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen… Then [after the Ascension] the disciples went out and preached everywhere. NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION 1984
Think of it. These Apostles saw and heard the evidence: the empty tomb, the reports of those who spoke to Jesus. But they didn't get it. They saw, but they didn't see.
Think also of the Mary Magdalene and the Emmaus disciples. Jesus did let them see Him until He wanted them to see and then He was went away. Jesus told Mary not to cling to His physical body once she recognized Him; Jesus was only recognized by the Clopas in the breaking of bread and then He vanished.
But this is what Jesus does. He hides His visible presence, in order that He might create trust in His word and be with us everywhere we go, in sickness and in health, in life and in death.
Ascension is the day when Jesus went away and hid Himself from visible sight. And Jesus hiding Himself from view makes all the difference in the world. For years the disciples had seen Jesus, yet they stumbled around saying things like:
“Could you explain this parable again?”
“We don't have enough bread.”
“You'll never die, Jesus!”
But now after Jesus hides Himself, they joyfully trust His word by the work of the Holy Spirit and now understand His purpose and their purpose. He taught them to see Him when they wouldn't be able to see Him anymore.
But we still can find Him. We just have to look for where He wants to be found until the end of time: in Baptism and preaching.
ST. MARK 16:15–16 Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION 1984
But we want to see. We want to see results. This is why some seek validation of their faith by speaking in tongues or handling snakes or behaving well according to their goodness checklist. They want visible and aural proof that they are worthy of God's love. But they are seeking Christ where He hides Himself, and they will not find Him there.
Lutherans aren't immune from wanting to see Jesus where He isn't to be found. We want to see Jesus in numbers. We want to find our confidence in growing schools and churches with lots of young people. We want to see Jesus make our country great again. We want our pastors to be CEOs who lead our churches into a glorious future. But all of that is a sinful lust for glory here on earth.
Repent. Dear friends, turn and look at your Savior. See His cross that saves us through His blood. Bathe in your Baptism every morning by confessing your evil ways—yes, actually saying them out loud wouldn't hurt—and then die to them. Die to your sinful selfish self. Then rise to new life by the grace of your Savior Jesus, who washes you clean and new.
He does this because He is at His Father's right hand. He went up and then He sat down. He did this so that He would keep His promise to be with all of us.
If He had not ascended to heaven and visibly remained on earth, millions would flock to seek an audience with Him, but billions more would never enjoy His gracious presence.
Yes, Jesus could have promised to still be with us, even if He had remained visibly on earth, but think of how the devil would use that against us. Most would be convinced that unless you made a pilgrimage to see Jesus in Jerusalem (probably), you wouldn't be a good Christian. Think of the powerful drive of so many religions to be a pilgrim and visit holy sites like Mecca or Rome or Statue of Liberty or Wrigley Field.
So Jesus went up to be with us down here through His word.
To the world Jesus' ascent is a weakness. The world claims that if it had physical proof, they would believe. But they do not know what they are saying. Many saw Jesus and most did not believe.
The only thing that creates faith in Christ is His word.
To His people Jesus' ascent into heaven is good news because He's risen from the grave! He's gone up to heaven! And now He's here!
In Jesus' Name. Amen.
God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Thanks be to God!

Pray in Jesus' Name

MAY 6, 2018
ST. JOHN 16:23–30
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
On the night in which Our Lord was betrayed, the very night in which He instituted His Holy Supper, He washed the disciples’ feet and gave a long discourse on what life would be like between Pentecost and His return in glory, that is, what it is to live in the current age. Our Sunday readings spends five Sundays in a row on that discourse as recorded in John’s Gospel. We are now in our third week of it.
In that discourse, the Lord mentions prayer three times. He also breaks into prayer at the end of it. He prays that His Father would be glorified through His offering of Himself on the cross and that His Father would bestow a loving unity upon His disciples and the Church that would follow them.
Remember that the word “pray” is simply Old English for “ask.” Here are the three passages from this discourse where Jesus tells the disciples about the promise of prayer.
He says: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:13–14, ESV)
And “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.... You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (John 15:7-8, 16 ESV)
And, finally, from today’s Gospel: “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:23–24, ESV)
If we string these together, concentrating only on what He says about prayer, here is what we hear. Jesus says: “Whatever you ask I will do. Ask anything, whatever you wish, and it will be done. Whatever you ask the Father in My Name, He will give you. Until now, you have asked nothing in My Name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
The emphasis is clearly on the generous promise of our Lord to hear and answer prayer.
The next verse in today’s Gospel puts that promise in perspective. Immediately after Jesus says: “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” He says: “The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father.” (John 16:25b, ESV)
The passages that say whatever we ask in Jesus’ name He will give to us are figurative speech. Whatever we ask in Jesus’ Name means whatever we ask that is in accord with His Name and mercy.
If we ask that God damn our brother because he does not deserve God’s love and has hurt us, God will not do it. He desires repentance and faith in all. He has counted our unworthy brother of being worthy of the life of His Son and He will not turn His back on him simply because we are angry or hurt. The Lord receives and eats with sinners. So “whatever you ask” and “anything you ask” are modified by the figure of speech “in My Name.”
But the hour is coming when Jesus will no longer speak in figures of speech. He will tell us plainly about the Father. That hour refers to His death upon the cross.
This is a common use of the word “hour” in John’s Gospel. In this very discourse, John set the stage by writing: “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is the hour when the Father is plainly revealed and no figure of speech is needed. The Kingdom of God is not like Jesus dying on the cross for the sins of the world. It is Jesus dying on the cross for the sins of the world. It is not a sign or a figure, it is the reality itself. It is the cost of our rebellion and the purchase of us by the Father. It is by that hour, by the cross, that we pray in Jesus’ name. For if He had not sacrificed Himself for sinners then His Name would have no power for sinners. If we were not redeemed and declared holy by that generous gift, we could not approach God in any way nor would our prayers be pleasing to Him. But having been redeemed and washed clean, having made the great exchange of our sins for His righteousness, we are now free to pray for anything, even stupid and small things, as well as large and impossible things, as dear children coming to their dear father, trusting that He will not grow angry or frustrated but that He, who counts every hair on our heads, delights in our conversation.
Natalie and Ethan, you have listening and talking to Jesus your whole lives. Your holy baptism created faith in your hearts; you know your sin and you know Jesus who washes your away. And now you receive the living body and blood of our Lord Jesus. This gift of life that you receive through water, word, and meal will keep you alive your whole life long. And being one of God's living beings means He wants to talk with you, and encourage you, and give you even more.
All our prayers must be offered through His cross. But through the cross, there need be no hesitancy. Through the cross, we can be bold in our prayers and unashamed, confident that whatever is prayed in Jesus’ name will be done, given, and bestowed.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
In Jesus' Name. Amen.
God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Thanks be to God!

Jesus Sends Us His Holy Speaker

APRIL 29, 2018
ST. JOHN 16:5–15
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
It was a strange sight. Hundreds of men were yelling at the sky. They were dancing around a pile of stones with a dead bull on top. Then it got stranger. The men started taking knives and cutting themselves. They shouted, danced, and slashed all day long, but there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.
This sight is from 1 Kings 18 on a mountain called Carmel. The prophet Elijah had challenged his fellow Israelites to a test. Since many of them worshiped several different gods, Elijah proposed an experiment to determine which god was fake and who was real. Any god who sent fire down from the sky to burn up a designated altar sacrifice was the real god.
Baal was a popular god with many of the Israelites. So the prophets and priests of this false Baal had a lot riding on this contest; they needed a positive result to keep their positions of influence. Their cushy lives would evaporate unless their Baal god worked some magic. So they put on a show. These prophets shouted, danced, and slashed themselves, hoping that their performances would win the attention of their god. But their god was only a figment of their imagination. No fire came down from the sky.
Then Elijah prayed and God immediately burned up Elijah's altar, which Elijah had made ridiculously wet. Here was a science experiment in full swing. Hypothesis: Real gods can do real things, such as send down fire from heaven. And now this hypothesis was tested. And the evidence was conclusive: the Lord God is real.
The people of this world and their priests always claim to want to see proof that God exists. But when confronted with the truth, the world proves that it cannot see Jesus, even when it's right there in front of their eyes.
The strange day on Mt. Carmel had begun with Elijah calling on his countrymen to decide which god to worship, but by the end of the day, after seeing the clear evidence of the true God, they rejected Him. The people put the false priests and prophets to the sword, but they failed to follow the way of the true God.
And after all of this, Elijah was quite sure that he was all alone. Roughly a thousand years later Jesus warned His disciples that they would feel all alone when He returned to His Father upon completing His mission of salvation. He would die and they would feel all alone.
JOHN 16:5–6 But now I am going away to Him who sent Me, and not one of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ Yet because I have told you these things, sorrow has filled your heart. EHV 2017
Jesus was telling His disciples that after He was put to death, He would be raised from the dead, but after that He would not be with them for long. Jesus knew that His disciples would think that they would be all alone. So He told them that they would never be alone; He was sending the Holy Spirit to comfort them with His promises for the rest of their lives.
JOHN 16:13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth. For He will not speak on His own, but whatever He hears He will speak. He will also declare to you what is to come. EHV 2017
When you read the Holy Scriptures later today at home, when your child listens to you tell her stories of Elijah and Moses and Paul and above all Jesus, we are hearing the Holy Spirit speak. He is declaring to you what has happened and what is to come. And not just that these things that happened, happened, but that they happened for you! And since Jesus happened for you, you are never alone.
Elijah thought he was alone, but the Lord never left Him. The Lord fed him and spoke to him and in the end, He took Elijah home to heaven.
There are times when we think we are alone, but the Lord never leaves us, either. We feel alone at school because our friend wants to play with somebody else. We feel alone because we don't get enough “Happy Birthdays” on our Facebook feed. We feel alone because our child died. But we are not alone.
His Holy Spirit speaks to us and He feeds us with Jesus' living word and living body and living blood. The Holy Spirit is here and the Father and the Son, one God, present and with us. He speaks to us, and in the end, we know the future: He will take us home to heaven.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
In Jesus' Name. Amen.
God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Thanks be to God!

Our Lord Joyfully 'Mothers' Us

APRIL 22, 2018
ST. JOHN 16:16
Our Lord Joyfully 'Mothers' Us
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
ST. JOHN 16:20–21 Amen, Amen, I tell you: You will weep and wail, but the world will rejoice. You will become sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy. A woman giving birth has pain, because her time has come. But when she has delivered the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, because of her joy that a person has been born into the world. ENGLISH HERITAGE VERSION
The most painful childbirth in the history of the world was the birth of the Holy Christian Church. And the Church was born through the pain and suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was a long and difficult labor, but in the end Christ was filled with joy to see His own children, alive and well.
Think of a mother's labor. All the discomfort, all the preparation, all the waiting have led up to that time of delivery. It is painful, but when it is finally over and the baby gives out her first cry, the mother—no matter how tired she is—is filled with joy. She is filled with joy because her child is alive. In a little while after the nurses have sent the happy family home, those cries might have the opposite effect. Yet the joy of mothering is still joy despite all the weariness of labor and then the years of caring for that child.
Billy Collins was the poet laureate of the United States. He wrote a poem called The Lanyard. It begins with him coming across the word “lanyard” in the dictionary and sparks a memory of a years-gone-by summer camp:
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that's what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-clothes on my forehead,
and then led me out into the air light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-toned lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

We are like that little boy. We think we can repay our mothers for all they do: enduring our peevishness, serving us food, getting up at night to help us be sick into a bucket. But our mothers even do this: they receive our little lanyards with joy.
This is the joy of our Lord on Easter. He comes to His own in joy because they are alive. They are only alive because He underwent the most painful childbirth ever, the agony of the cross.
He explained to them what was going to happen before it happened, sometimes clearly, at times in ways that would only be clear later. Our text for this Sunday is one those that would be clear later:
ST. JOHN 16:16 In a little while you are not going to see me anymore, and again in a little while you will see me, because I am going away to the Father. ENGLISH HERITAGE VERSION
He spoke this on the night He was betrayed. A little while is His passion, His suffering and death, and His resurrection.
When we explain life to our kids, we can become frustrated when they haven't listened. The disciples at the tomb, on the way to Emmaus, and in the locked room were just like frightened children. They had heard Jesus, but they hadn't taken His words to heart. And so even though on Easter they were still afraid, He did not become frustrated. He was glad and filled with joy.
In these middle days of Easter, after the lilies have started to wilt and we have turned to more pressing matters, let Jesus' joy fill you with joy. As we wait for more than just a little while and as we live lives of sorrow and loss, hang on to Jesus' promise:
ST. JOHN 16:22 So you also have sorrow now. But I will see you again. Your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. ENGLISH HERITAGE VERSION
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
In Jesus' Name. Amen.
God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Thanks be to God!

The Right Shepherd Is Good For Us

APRIL 15, 2018
ST. JOHN 10:11,15
The Right Shepherd Is Good For Us
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
There is a lot of very popular Christian art that we often display in our homes and churches. Some of the top picks: Jesus with a lantern standing outside a door of one of His believers, Jesus walking with the Emmaus disciples through a boulevard of trees, and Jesus as the Good Shepherd. This last image has several variations: Jesus in a close-up holding a lamb. Another is Jesus in a wide-shot amidst the flock. All these images are right from the Scriptures. So we want to know the words behind these images well. If we don't, there's a danger that our ideas will fill in the back story of these pictures.
A case in point: Jesus is the Good Shepherd. The word here translated “good” is word kalos. It means good, right, fitting. It means true, beautiful, and accurate. It means competent, good for you, and worthy of praise. Jesus is the Kalos Shepherd. “Good” is a good translation into English. But since we are surrounded in a world that loves to use the word good to promote evil, we need to ask: what does it mean when Jesus calls Himself kalos, good?
There have been many good men who have done many good things. Abraham moved to a distant land, Moses delivered the slaves from Egypt, David fought Goliath. But they are only shadows of the Good Shepherd who came to rescue us. And all there good deeds flowed out of their trust in the Lord God.
The same is true of our pastors. We are only echoes the Good Shepherd. In fact that's our only job: repeat what Jesus has told us. Pastors (which means shepherds) are good and right only in so far as they are repeating the words of Jesus.
There are lots of shepherds calling you to follow them. Some of them are good-looking; others aren't. Some of them are pastors; others aren't. Some of them speak plainly; others don't.
Some sheep will follow a shepherd because he is good-looking. Maybe that means he's handsome, but sheep also want nice guys who are good with kids and young people. You hear that in church meetings when deciding who to ask to be the new pastor. “The pastor should be good with the youths.” How often do you hear someone asking if the pastor is good at visiting old and sick people?
Some sheep will follow a shepherd just because he's a pastor. Others will follow anyone as long as they are not a Christian pastor. Politicians, entertainers, Fox News anchors, or TED talk expert.
Most sheep will claim to want straight talk, until the straight talker is talking to them. We detest sexual sins, until talk turns to the sins that you like. Yes, impenitent homosexuals are in grave danger of hell, but so are fornicators who are in denial that living together before marriage is wicked. This also goes for any parents who defend their impenitent grown children.
If we have only or mostly contemplated Jesus as the Good Shepherd from a beautiful painting, then straight talk about the Sixth Commandment will be jarring. But even in the painting, there's a clue. What is Jesus holding in His hand?
A staff. It's not mentioned in John 10, but it is mentioned in Psalm 23:
PSALM 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. ENGLISH HERITAGE VERSION
Staffs are used to prod the sheep to warn them out of danger. A pastor's rebuke can often be received as painful blow, even when it's meant to guide you back to the way of the Lord. But the faithful pastor is simply doing the work Christ has ordered him to do. Protect the flock and protect each sheep.
Staffs are also used to hit wolves and lions when they try to attack the flock. But the greatest weapon Jesus used against our enemies was a piece of wood shaped into a cross.
This is the essence of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. He is good morally—all the commandments He has kept perfectly. But that doesn't do you any good, unless He also laid down His life for yours. He is not just kalos; He is good for you. This makes Him the Right Shepherd for all of us.
Indeed, the art used for Good Shepherd Sunday is of Jesus as a shepherd with the sheep. But of course, just as fitting is Christ hanging on the cross for His sheep, for you.
ST. JOHN 10:14–15 I am the Good Shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me (just as the Father knows me and I know the Father). And I lay down my life for the sheep. ENGLISH HERITAGE VERSION
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
In Jesus' Name. Amen.
God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Thanks be to God!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Where Was Thomas?

APRIL 8, 2018
ST. JOHN 20:25
Where Was Thomas?
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Where was Thomas on Easter evening? The instinct of the other ten was to stay together, at the very least, for the illusion of safety. (It's unlikely that one locked door and ten non-soldiers would keep out any brutes sent by the authorities.) On the other hand, at best, they were together praying and keeping watch to see what the day would bring. They had heard strange reports. I would think a safe guess would be that Thomas had the rumors, too. Whatever the exact reasons, and whatever they had exactly heard, these ten did it together, as the Church, which is exactly what they were.
Except for Thomas, who was conspicuously absent.
We do not know where he was. We do not know why he wasn't there in the upper room. But based on his reaction to the wonderful news that Jesus was alive and that His mercy overflowed to His apostles and to His Church, it makes me wonder if he wasn't very purposely staying away from the Church on that first Easter Sunday:
ST. JOHN 20:25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe it.” NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION 1984
Couple of things. First of all, these were men, hopefully some of them friends, who were all telling him the same thing: our Lord is risen. He is not dead. He breathed on us. He is alive. One friend says this, then perhaps he is seeing things. But the testimony of two or three, then even Moses declares this to be true. And ten!
Secondly, this wasn't unexpected. It was impossible, but it wasn't unexpected. Christ had predicted His dying and rising more than once.
ST. LUKE 18:31–34 Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock Him, insult Him and spit on Him; they will flog Him and kill Him. On the third day He will rise again.” The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what He was talking about. NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION 1984
The end of this passage is important for our Lord's Easter appearances: His miraculous body convinced His apostles that He was alive, but the words of peace that He spoke from His mouth—once dead and now filled with life—caused them to believe that His death and rising was for them. Miracles do not create faith; only the Word of God does that.
Yet, for a week, Thomas is not believing. He had been missing from that first Easter celebration. And I think it because he was done. Thomas: “It was a good run. I've seen some amazing things. Jesus was very kind and very smart. But it's over. My life hasn't improved in any tangible way. All I can add to resume is: “3 years—religious disciple.” And Jesus never even gave me the secret recipe for the best wine ever. So, hey, it was a good run, and maybe I'll see you around, but obviously Jesus raised some other people to life, but if Jesus dies, that's it. So take care, guys.”
My guess is based on that strong denial of the eyewitness testimony. A more logical reaction would be to a least give some room to doubt your doubts. If all his associates are saying that Jesus is risen, either they're trying prank him or they are telling him the truth. Yet he is very determined to ignore what they are saying, because he wants to move on.
But Jesus won't let him. For a week His disciples keep on telling Thomas who they saw. The details don't change. The truth remains and they keep pointing it out. To Thomas. I have no record from Scripture of this, but based on the fact that Thomas shows up the next Sunday testifies to their persistent efforts to get him to church.
And there he is that Sunday. And then there He is. And then He speaks. And then Thomas with faith created by His words and His Spirit, confesses what is true: Christ is risen.
I hope you are encouraged by Thomas to persist in your efforts to bring Jesus to skeptics. And specifically the Christ who dies and rises. Confront your Thomas—gently or firmly, as needed—with our risen Lord. Bodily and physically risen.
And if you are Thomas, if you struggle with the central historic fact of Christ's death and resurrection, then you're in the right place, where you will hear the testimony of Christ.
He suffered. He was dead. He was buried.
The impossible happened—God died for sinners.
And now He is not. He is alive.
The impossible happened—God rose from the dead.
And all of this is for you.
In Jesus' Name. Amen.
God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Thanks be to God!