Living Proof!

Meditation on John 20:19-31

Pastor Karen Crawford

The Presbyterian Church, 142 N. 4th St., Coshocton, OH 43812

April 11, 2021

I was in the lobby of Cleveland Clinic in Wooster, when I sensed Jesus standing in the midst of patients and caregivers. Waiting for Jim to finish with a blood draw, I felt the presence of Christ with the people around me.

    A man named Herb walked by me, and, noticing his hat, I asked if I could take his picture.  He wanted to wear that hat to the clinic, his wife said. He had bought it in Nashville, Indiana, so that he could make other people smile, she said. The world needs smiles, she added. “Yes,” I said.

   

Then a lady in a wheelchair whizzed by me and quickly hoisted herself out of the wheelchair into a lobby seat. I marveled at her upper body strength. She was 62, she said, and could probably win in an arm-wrestling match with her grown sons.  She had been in the wheelchair 16 years—since a surgeon had amputated her leg. Cancer. Her muscles grew when she adapted to life in a wheelchair. She praised the surgeon for saving her life and offered his name.

    She shared more painful things. How her husband didn’t want to be married to someone without a leg, leaving her in her time of need. I listened, feeling the breath of God blowing through that room where people wait for good news and bad news, carrying hope in their heart for a better tomorrow.

***

    The presence of Christ is found in all sorts of unexpected places. The Bible tells us where Christ may be found.  He hung out with children—gave them hugs and blessed them when their mothers brought them to him.

He ate and drank with people from all walks of life, including prostitutes and tax collectors;

he sought out to bless and heal those on the margins—a demon-possessed man who lived in the tombs outside of town;

he fed the poor and hungry,  restored the blind and lame,  and a man with a withered hand; and healed those who were sick with diseases without cures!

He opened his door at night to seekers, such as Nicodemus.  

He hung out with people who believed in him or were going to believe and those who would not,  including one of his own disciples—Judas Iscariot, who would betray him.

In today’s gospel reading in John, all of the disciples are hiding in fear in a locked room in Jerusalem in the evening of the discovery of Christ’s empty tomb, on the first day of the week.  Thomas has a bad reputation for being the one who doubted, but the reality is that everyone deserted Christ in the end, and the empty tomb wasn’t enough for any of them to believe. Why else were they hiding in fear in a locked room?

     They ALL needed to see him in his Resurrected Body.  They needed LIVING PROOF!

    “Maybe there are people who have never had a doubt,” says Pastor Brian R. Bodt in The Upper Room’s Disciplines. “Introduce me, please, because I’ve yet to meet one. Coming to authentic faith means wrestling with honest doubt….  We do not know why Thomas demanded tactile and tangible proof of the resurrected Christ before he would believe. Perhaps it was simply that he was not in the room when Jesus first appeared to the other disciples.  Or perhaps he knew the other disciples too well and questioned their reliability.”

    What we do know is that when he encountered the Risen Christ unexpectedly, he immediately declared his belief, “My Lord and my God.” Tradition holds that Thomas brought the gospel to India and died for his faith, once he was set free from fear with the other disciples, when Jesus breathes on them the breath of God, revealing he is ALIVE! “Peace be with you!” Jesus says. “Shalom!”

   This Hebrew word means not just peace but safe and sound, whole and complete. Shalom is one of the names of God in Isaiah 9:6,  “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

     Shalom is revealed as the reconciliation of all things to God through Christ in Colossians 1:19-20 and Romans 5:1. Healed, reconciled and empowered with peace, Jesus sends out the disciples to bring peace to the world, commanding them to forgive people of their sins with his authority.  “Here the Spirit is both the evidence of resurrection—that is, that Jesus is alive—and the empowerment of the disciples to do what he has just sent them to do.” –J. Ramsey Michaels

    “The image of Jesus breathing on the disciples in verse 22 points … to the creation account and the Hebrew prophets.  When God formed Adam out of the dust, God ‘breathed into his nostrils the breath of life’ (Gen 2:7). Similarly, when Ezekiel prophesied to the valley of the dry bones, Ezekiel concluded,  ‘Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live” (Ezek. 37:9).  (John) … situates Jesus’ resurrection account within this larger Hebrew tradition. Jesus’ appearance and invocation of the Spirit inaugurates new life for followers of Christ.”—Johnathon L. Walton.

***

   When Jim and I visited Cleveland Clinic on Friday, the presence of Christ was all around. The breath of God was blowing, “Jesus is alive!”

    Christ was with the man who wore a funny hat and wanted to make people smile.Christ was with the lady in a wheelchair for 16 years who lost her leg and her husband to cancer.

    It was a hard time, she said, dropping her voice to a whisper I could barely hear from across the room. He remarried within 2 weeks of their divorce. But she is ready and open to new relationships that God would have for her, she said. She has scars, but she is healing. She is at peace.

     I thought of Thomas in our scripture today and how Jesus, though healed, still carried the scars of the crucifixion. This is how he would be recognized by those with fear and doubts. He would be known by his scars. I thought of how the Lord, who has numbered the hairs on our heads, knows every scar of our body, mind, and heart and the stories behind them. 

    “Cast all your cares on him,” says 1 Peter 5:7, “for he cares for you!”

    The woman at the Clinic apologized for talking so much. She thanked me for listening.She didn’t know I was a pastor. I only told her my first name! But Jesus knew and had planned this meeting—for both of our sakes. For when we seek to be a blessing, we are the ones who are truly blessed!

     She was grateful to receive her second COVID vaccination that day, she said. You know where she wanted to go after a year of isolation? She wanted to go to her church! She missed worship with the people of God!

    The Lord wants to set us all free from our fears and heal our broken relationships—with Him and one another. Christ, who suffered and died for us, wants us to know the power of His resurrection and the joy of our new lives in Him! We are the redeemed of the God who knows us intimately, down to the tiniest scar.

   The invitation is to all of us when Jesus says,“Do not doubt but believe.”

    “Blessed are all who come to believe…  In a single chapter, John has moved from a tiny cemetery filled with grief and a narrow church locked away in fear, to us today and beyond to the hopeful picture of Christ’s abundant life flowing out joyfully to all humankind.” – Thomas G. Long

     The Lord wants to remove your fear and restore your hope in Him—not in yourself, your own strength and wisdom, or your own ability to struggle through your circumstances. We can trust in Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. Through believing, we have life in his name!

    Wherever you go, whatever you do, you who have not seen, but still believe, go and be blessed!  And be a blessing!

   Offer the Lord’s forgiveness! Be released from your burden and freed to serve a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

   The breath of God is blowing! Jesus is alive!!!!

  May all who come to know you come to see the Savior in you and know what God has done!

   YOU are LIVING Proof!

Let us pray. Heavenly Father, thank you for the Risen Christ’s unexpected presence with us always—proof that you have raised him from the dead, with the promise that we, too, will be resurrected with Him. Thank you for your Spirit blowing into us new life as we pray…and for the peace of Christ that strengthens us through our days, days when there might be good news or bad news but always, always hope for tomorrow.  Help us to break out of the comfortable spaces in which we dwell, as you send us out to share your steadfast love, faithfulness, grace and mercy with others who need to be reassured they are not alone in their suffering. Stir us to see your presence and to BE the presence of Christ for others. May we always be living proof of the goodness and grace of the Lord. In the name of the Triune God we pray. Amen.

Published by karenpts

I am the pastor of The Presbyterian Church in Coshocton, Ohio since January 2019. Come and visit! God's love is here for you!

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