The Sunday After, John 20:19-31
Christians believe there has to be a Sunday after Easter because the story of Easter cannot be told in the events of one day. If the story of Easter could be told in one day, there would be no blessing of the peace of Christ for people like Thomas.
Thomas had a reputation for being a doubter. Some people might even call him a pessimist. Other people might call him a pragmatist. If Thomas saw a glass that was half-filled with water, he would say it was half-empty.
Thomas was not present on Easter evening when his fellow disciples were met by the living Jesus Christ in the upper room. Gathered behind closed doors, they were afraid they might be next in line to be crucified. Allowing their fears to corner them, they were probably wondering if they were going to make it to another Sunday. Jesus met them in the presence of their fears as he said, “Peace be with you.” Greeting them in peace, Jesus invited his disciples to believe in the Sunday after.
When his fellow disciples told Thomas about their Easter encounter with Jesus, he doubted and said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
On the Sunday after Easter, Thomas was present when the resurrected Lord of Life offered new life to the disciples. Sharing the same message of peace that he had offered on Easter Sunday, Jesus invited Thomas to place his finger in the nail prints and to place his hand in the side where a spear had been cast. It was a powerful moment, a resurrecting moment, for Thomas on the Sunday after Easter as he proclaimed Jesus as “My Lord and my God.” The Sunday after It was a time for Thomas to believe in the resurrection of Jesus.
For Christians, there is always a Sunday after Easter because the story of Easter cannot be told in one day. If it could, then there would be no blessing of the peace of Christ for people like Thomas. On Easter Sunday, believers of the risen Lord are called to witness to the presence of the risen Lord as we worship in the truth and hope of the resurrection. On the Sunday after Easter, we have the same responsibility to share the message of a risen Lord with people who are sitting behind closed doors. Every day and every day after, Christians are called to witness to the fact that Christ is risen and greets us in peace.
In his book Wishful Thinking, Frederich Buechner shares these thoughts about peace.
Peace has come to mean the time when there aren’t any ways or even where aren’t any major wars. Beggars can’t be choosers; we’d most of us settle for that. But in Hebrew, peace, shalom means fulness, means having everything you need to be wholly and happily yourself.
One of the titles by which Jesus is known is Prince of Peace and he used the word himself in what seems at first glance to be two radically contradictory utterances. On one occasion he said to his disciples, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). And later on, the last time they ate together, he said to them, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you” (John 14:27)
The contradiction is resolved when you realize that for Jesus, peace seems to have meant not the absence of struggle but the presence of love.: (p. 69)
On October 13, 1946, after his release from a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, Leonard Wilson broadcast these remarks:
I remember Archbishop Temple, in one of his books, writing that if you pray for any particular virtue, whether it be patience or courage or love, one of the answers that God gives to us is an opportunity for exercising that virtue. After my first beating, I was almost afraid to pray for the courage lest I should have another opportunity of exercising it; but my unspoken prayer was there, and without God’s help I doubt whether I would have come through. Long hours of ignoble pain were a severe test. In the middle of torture, they asked me if I still believed in God. When, by God’s help, I said, “I do,” they asked me why God did not save me. By the help of the Holy Spirit, I said, “God does save me. He does not save me by freeing me from pain or punishment, but he saves me by giving me the Spirit to bear it.” And when they asked me why I did not curse them, I told them that it was because I was a follower of Jesus Christ, who taught us that we were all brethren.
Wilson went on to become Bishop of Singapore, then Bishop of Birmingham. One Sunday he found himself confirming some confirmands in a church. As he did this, he placed his hands on the head of each person. Placing his hands on one person, he recognized that the confirmand turned out to be his principal torturer to whom he had witnessed while a prisoner of war.
For Christians, there is a Sunday after because the story of Easter cannot be told in one day. If the story could be told in one day, there would be no blessing of the peace of Christ for Thomas. There would be no blessing of the risen Christ for the torturer of Leonard Wilson.
Followers of Jesus believe in the Sunday after because there would no blessing of peace for people like you and me:
- people who sit behind the closed doors of our fears
- people who need to know the peace of Christ
- people who need Christ’s forgiveness
- people who need to kneel with Thomas and confess Jesus as their Lord and God
Thank God for the Sunday after.
April 11, 2021