Hope for Revival – Samuel Sarpong

Hope for Revival

April 12, 2015

John 20:19-31

            To those sitting in prison, facing a death sentence, filled with fear at what awaits them, nothing is more welcome than someone coming with a message of pardon and release. Those words come as words of life in a world of fear and death1.

            The disciples were hiding from the Jews. They were hurt, there was no help and there had no hope. The atmosphere was not something to be played with. The threat was real. They witness, their master death on the cross. They know that his body has gone from the tomb.  Mary has told them she has seen the Lord, but this does not make any sense to them. Who will believe a woman in such a society? Their whole world has come trembling down and they locked themselves and were in voluntary  house arrest. But won’t they hide?

       They could not be faithful to him during his trial  and crucifixion. It is true that history repeats itself, Just as Adam and Eve could not be faithful to the end so did the disciples. Jesus was still emptying himself for them, but what did they do? Judas betrays him. Peter of all people denied him even once, but three times. The others rejected him. He was tortured and this friend could not come to his aid. He has ridiculed and no one seems to care. He was mocked even unto death.

            But can we blame the desciples? Imagine you and your friend look so much alike that people mistake each for the other. You heard the police is looking for your friend for crime and you know you were an accomplice. You are thinking to yourself, “How am I going to get out of this? How am I going to get out of town?” Your hopes have been dashed and a once bright future is now dark. This is how the disciples find themselves.

            The situation in the locker room was not fun. Their master is gone. Their leader refuse to defend himself. He seemed powerless in front of his accusers. Some disciples watched him crucified. The disciples could not help him.

            The atmosphere of the room could be summed up as fear, defeat, doubt, despair and even death. The disciples have been hurt, their leader is crucified. Their hope is gone and you can see that from their faces. All the prophecies concerning the Messiah have come to nothing. This could not be real they told each other. 

            How can this be and how could explain this situation? Yes, we could not help him, but are we to be blamed? One told the others. “I wanted to help but Chris said if I am the one you are looking for let my people go” Peter said. O what a courage!

            Some of the disciples question if the testimony of John the Baptist was indeed true. Now Peter, James and John, tell us, are you guys sure about the appearance of Moses and Elijah on the mount of transfiguration? Another said we witness all the miracles, wonder and powers with which he shows love and compassion to people.

            All these were part of the stock taking over the day’s business. The Gosple of John tell us that in the evening, they gathered to comfort each other. The promised Holy Spirit has not yet come and there is no help from anywhere. It is like taking account of business and realizing not only are missing items, but your inventory supervisor is nowhere to be found.

            Not only were they afraid, but they were lonely. You only need to be in the shoes of the disciples to experience such fear. I don’t take the disciples’ fear lightly. Not that they don’t have faith. There was real danger out there. We should not forget that fact, those who crucified Jesus are still out there in the streets. Do you hear they accusing the disciples of stolen the body of Jesus?

            The disciple seems defeated. They are now in some leadership crisis. No one seems to have an explanation of the situation.  Our master is dead, we do not hear  him tell us what to do next. His mother is helpless and still not consolable.  What should we do? They asked one asked, one another.

            Brothers and Sisters in Christ, the story in the text we just heard is not so much about Thomas’ disbelief, but about the fear of the other disciples. Why should Thomas believe when the others were still cowardly hiding behind closed doors, not acting as if they’d seen the risen Christ? Thomas may have asked, if you have really seen him, why are you still here in close doors.

            Let us consider if our friends come to us to seek the risen Christ and see you in fear and closing ranks out of fear of the unknown? What would they learn about our Christ and the house of prayer for all people?

            And here are the “faithful” disciples, after Jesus appeared: the disciples were still in the locker-room. What struck me particularly about this story is that, Thomas came back. Whatever had taken him away from the community, Thomas came back and find Jesus, and without so much as a confession, offered him what he needed to believe: “Touch, me Thomas. Do not be faithless, but belief.”

            One of Thomas’ great virtues was that he was real he was not a faker. There was an uncompromising honesty about him: he would never say yes when he is not convienced.

            In John’s account, Thomas exhibited three positive traits which should be an integral part of every Christian’s character. When Lazarus became ill, Jesus expressed his intention of returning to Judea. Thomas urged the disciples to accompany Him even though they might die doing so: “Let us also go, that we may die with Him2”. At his last Passover service with Jesus Christ, not afraid to show his ignorance, he asked, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?3” . Thomas is a real seeker of truth and understanding. When Thomas saw what he had to believe, he urgently wanted to prove it, and when he did, he had no doubts. John repeated in verse 25 that, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe”

            Thomas is a very brave person. The is why when all of them were in the locker room Thomas was the only guy who could go out and search, listening to the latest news in town and come back to the room again. What a brave guy he was! Thomas was the first to confess Christ as Lord and God, what a revelation he had!  Thomas was to first to be called and feel the passion and suffering what a privilege guy he was! He enjoys all this because he is a searcher. Like the Thessalonica, when they hear the words they search to see if it is true.

            But let’s remember one positive thing that the disciples were doing. They were all in one accord consoling each other. My dear, thinking you are making loses should not push you to isolate yourself from your friends and family. The perceived and actual loss should not let you isolate yourself from the family of PFC.

            The Lord, who knows the beginning from the end knew that at a point you will feel lonely in this life and that is why He gave you all these nice people around you. I am speaking to couples thinking of divorce, I am speaking to siblings who have not talked to each other for some time now, I speak to parents who have neglected their children and I am speaking to children who have neglected their aging parents. I am sure one of these categories fits each of us.

            My Dear friends our story cannot end in amusement and fear as we heard last week from Mark’s gospel4. Our doubt and despair may endure all day, but the presence of Our Risen Lord Will surely be felt in the evening. In the mist of doubt, defeat and despair,Our Lord declares Peace be unto you. 

            Christ comes to them week after week in their helpless situations and say peace be unto you as he breathe into them same as God breath into man in the initial creation.  This reminds us of the new life and creation, we inherited in Genesis. The spirit creates and breathes life into the first humans. We have the same experience in the wonderful story from Ezekiel as new life is breath into the  valley of the dry boned.

            Brothers and Sisters in Christ, situations will arise, just as Thomas experienced. We as followers and believers of Christ, testifying his resurrection may be called upon to touch his suffering. Have you met him. You have to touch his suffering and passion to receive his compassion. I come to bring you a good news that if you have died with him you will resurrect with Him.

       I am here to encourage you that God understands your situation. Sometimes you have to come close and touch his passion before you can experience his compassion. Yes, it looks as if everywhere you turn you have to carry a cross, but my dear, if we do not carry a cross we will get not a crown.

            In the mist of our hopeless situations we experience God presence, hope, love through family members and friends. Instead of defeat, doubt and despair, I entrant you to walk by faith, not by sight.

            It does not matter whatever is death in our lives, be it physical or spiritual. Today, as you seek for the raisin Christ, as you feel and touch his suffering and you become bold and vendor out in search of the trust may the peace of Christ with you.

            If you want to be my disciple then touch me. You must be close enough to feel it. You can’t just describe it. Be close enough to fell my suffering. How many people miss this feeling. You can’t avoid it simply because you are too close to him.

            Our Raising Christ promises to come to our dark place and shine so we can see our way out. Though we were accomplish to the charges that was used against him, he still love us. Though we sit in our dark and solitary places, Our Risen Christ will surely visit. Come Our Risen Lord, for we are hurt. Come our helper for we seem defeated. Come our prince peace for we seem, doubtful. 

            May the Lord appear to you in your secret place in whatever state you find yourself? God has not finished writing your story yet. You are still in the Lord business. Soon his presence will be felt.

            Beloved, Our Lord is alive and will surely visit you when there seems to be no way. March on, my dear Christian soldier for our Lord is alive. Peace and love onto you. Amen.

1 Words of Life” (Sermon on John 20:19-31; Acts 5:12-32; Revelation 1:4-18; by Pr. Charles Hendrickson)

2 John 11:16

3 John 14:5

4 Mark 16:1-8

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