Easter 2, 2017
"I believe, help my unbelief"
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
This morning we are going to learn a very important Greek word from Scripture that is used in our Gospel lesson. The word is pistoV. pistoV. No, I'm not saying you should be mad or angry at someone... The word pistoV means believe. So this word isn't just important in the Gospel lesson it is important for each one of us...for we too must believe God and His Word.
"On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” 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 20:19-25)
Unless Thomas can see and touch Jesus and His wounds he will never pisteusw (believe). This is a firm denial by Thomas. We shouldn't refer to Thomas as "Doubting Thomas" but as "Unbelieving Thomas." Thomas isn't saying... you know guys... I want to believe you... I want to believe that your really did see Jesus...but I'm having a hard time believing... No! This is Thomas firmly saying he will NEVER believe unless he sees and touches Jesus himself. Seeing is believing after all...isn't it?
"And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:20-24)
Here is the story of a man that is seeking help...any kind of help...for his child. He would do anything for him! He begged Jesus to help...if he could. Jesus response is "If I can?" "All things are possible for one who believes." (Mark 9:23) For one who pisteuonti. And the Father, seemingly begging, replies: "I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24) I pistenw; help my apistia!
In a reversal from Thomas who said He would never believe we have here a Father that begs Christ to help his son... begs as a believer that needs help overcoming his unbelief. Jesus words to Thomas were "Do not disbelieve, but believe." (John 20:27) They are the exact opposite of the father. And to this Father our Lord's reply was "You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again." (Mark 9:25) Our Lord's response to the Father was to rid his child of the demon once and for all. The father's prayers were answered. That man had faith.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ do you believe that Jesus is the Christ; the Savior of the world that was born, crucified and rose for you? Do you pistoV like the father or have unbelief apistoV like Thomas? Let me remind you that both the father and Thomas the Disciple/Apostle have faith in Christ Jesus.
If I were to answer which person or believer I am...I would have to honestly say both. Yes there are times when this poor miserable sinner standing before you has had the unbelief of Thomas...thinking I know better than others. Prove it to me... show it to me! Sometimes its pride that gets in my way...sometimes arrogance... but always its sin and unbelief that cause me to fall. And sometimes my belief is like that of the Father. Maybe I relate because I am a father. This is the faith that comes begging to God as a sinner for help. A beggar that realizes that while I believe and have faith in Christ...it is not a perfect faith...it is a faith that constantly needs help and strength to overcome.
The wonderful news is that Christ died and rose for sinners like Thomas and me. Christ died and rose for sinners like you. Jesus loves us. He loves His children...He loves those that believe in Him...no matter how strong or weak that belief and faith in Him is.
Of this you can be certain God always answers the prayers of His children. He answered the prayers of both the father and Thomas. To the father he granted healing by casting the demon out of the man's child. To Thomas he showed everything that was demanded of our Lord for Thomas to believe. "Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:27-29)
Dear Christians, believe! When you remember the promises God makes in His Word: believe. When you remember the promise God made in your baptism: believe. When you remember the promises God makes to you in the Lord's Supper: believe! "Blessed are [you] who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29) Blessed are you! For God blesses you whether you are a believer like Thomas or the father. Blessed are you... for God forgives you of your sins. Blessed are you for Jesus restores you, shows His love for you in His precious wounds, answers your prayers, strengthens you, and gives you faith.
This very day we get to see Jesus...by faith. For Jesus is here and active in His Word. Jesus is here and active in Baptism with the Holy Spirit. And Jesus is here for all to see by faith in His very body and blood. Believe that! For that is what Scripture says. That is what our Lord promises.
Maybe Luther had the begging father in mind just before he fell asleep in Jesus. Maybe that is why Luther's last words before death were: "Wir sind alle bettler." We are all beggars. May we all be beggars like Thomas and that father...who were granted their peace in Christ as their prayers were answered, their faith was given and strengthened, and at their appointed hour were called home to be with Christ.
That is God's promise. He will never leave you nor forsake you. He may not answer your prayers the way you want them...but He always answers. He always answers with what is best for you. And what is best for you is Jesus. Jesus was born, lived, died, and rose for you. And He is here right now; always for you. And in His body and blood gives you forgiveness, faith, and strength. He gives you Himself...the very best...that you may inherit life eternal with Him. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.