Extravagant Worship w/ Dan Rogers
Welcome to the Gospel Reverb podcast. Gospel Reverb is an audio gathering for preachers, teachers, and Bible thrill seekers. Each month, our host, Anthony Mullins, will interview a new guest to gain insights and preaching nuggets mined from select passages of scripture, and that month’s Revised Common Lectionary.
The podcast’s passion is to proclaim and boast in Jesus Christ, the one who reveals the heart of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And now onto the episode.
Anthony: Hello friends, and welcome to the latest episode of Gospel Reverb. Gospel Reverb is a podcast devoted to bringing you insights from scripture, found in the Revised Common Lectionary and sharing commentary from a Christ-centered and Trinitarian view.
I’m your host Anthony Mullins. And it is my joy to welcome this month’s guest, Dr. Dan Rogers. Dan is the current pastor of Grace Communion Las Vegas, after spending 20 years as the Superintendent of U.S. and Mexico ministers in Grace Communion International. In retirement, Dan not only serves as a pastor, but also continues to teach a course on The Acts of the Apostles and [to teach] Homiletics at Grace Communion Seminary. And I’ve been blessed through the years to know Dan, as a boss, as my Professor of Homiletics, and as a personal friend.
Dan, thank you for joining us today and welcome to the podcast. For those of our listeners who may not know you, please share a little bit about yourself and what you find yourself doing these days.
Dan: Alright. Thank you, Anthony. I appreciate your invitation to be on the podcast.
Tell you a little bit about myself? I grew up in the St. Louis area and went to Ambassador College in Pasadena, California in 1966. I graduated in 1970, had graduation ceremony on a Friday, got married on a Saturday, and entered into full-time ministry on Sunday.
Anthony: That’s efficiency!
Dan: That was over 51 years ago now. So, we’re 51 years in ministry with what is now Grace Communion International. I had the opportunity to be the associate pastor of the Boston church for a couple of years, started a church in Springfield, Massachusetts, became the lead pastor in the Concord, New Hampshire [and] Montpelier, Vermont churches, and was there for 10 years.
And during those 10 years, I started three churches in Maine: in Bangor, Augusta, and Portland. And then I was transferred to the Greensboro/Winston Salem, North Carolina churches for 7. And then I was in the Atlanta area for 7 years before being summoned into our headquarters, at that time in Pasadena, California, to become the superintendent of ministers, which I was, as you’ve stated, for about 20 years or so.
During that time, I had the opportunity to attend the Boston University School of Theology in the MDiv program there. I’ve also done postgraduate work at Azusa Pacific University. I have a master’s in theological studies from Emory University in Atlanta and a PhD in Religious Studies from Union Institute and University of Cincinnati.
So, what I’m doing today, I thought I was retired. But the local congregation here in Las Vegas, where my wife and I live, needed a pastor. They were without one. And they asked if I would come out of retirement and pastor the church, and I agreed to do and that’s been about two or three years now.
And so that keeps me very busy with the challenges of COVID, and pandemics, and such; it has been a challenging time.
Anthony: Yeah. We’re so glad that you have continued faithfully in ministry. We’re not surprised by that. And may you and your wife, Barbara, be blessed as you go through this time of retirement that sounds like it’s keeping you very busy.
Let’s get onto the 4 pericopes that we’re going to unpack together today. It’s going to be John 12:1-8 “Extravagant Worship,” that’s for the 5th Sunday of Lent April the 3rd. Luke 19:28-40 “Blessed Is the King,” that’s on Palm Sunday, April the 10th. We’ll move to John 20:1-18 “The Resurrection,” that is on Easter Sunday, April the 17th, And finally, John 20:19-31, “My Lord and My God,” that’s for the 2nd Sunday of Eastertide, April the 24th.
I’m going to read our first pericope, John 12:1-8. It is the Revised Common Lectionary passage for April the 3rd, which is the 5th Sunday of Lent.
1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
Dan, what do you consider to be the main thrust of this passage and how it ties into the Lenten season?
Dan: The main thrust of this passage is explicitly given in the passage itself. It’s the anointing of Jesus in preparation for his burial. John evidently wants his readers to see Mary of Bethany, seemingly unknowingly performing a prophetic action that foreshadows Jesus’ death.
It was common at that time to anoint a person’s head as the sign of honor and hospitality, and to wash (not anoint) a guest’s feet with water. However, one did not anoint the feet of a living person. It was customary to anoint the body of a corpse with spices prior to burial.
Now, one can only imagine what the dinner guests (other than Judas) may have thought of Mary’s actions, but John states clearly for his readers, the meaning of the anointing. And thus, invites his readers (including us today) to reflect back on its significance, especially at this time of the year, as we remember Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Anthony: It seems that Mary’s way of honoring Jesus was very extravagant. What do we have to learn, Dan, from her action?
Dan: The value of the perfume Mary used to anoint Jesus’ feet has been estimated to be a year’s salary. That’s a lot of money, and we’re not told how Mary came to have this expensive perfume. John simply wants us readers to understand Mary’s actions, and probably hopes his readers can make application in their own Christian lives.
Her actions remind me of a hymn. Maybe you’ve heard it. Give of Your Best to the Master written by Howard B. Grose, and hymn stanza 3 says:
Give of your best to the Master;
Naught else is worthy His love;
He gave Himself for your ransom,
Gave up His glory above.
Laid down His life without murmur,
You from sin’s ruin to save;
Give Him your heart’s adoration;
Give Him the best that you have.
And Mary, in front of a room full of dinner guests, humbly and adoringly, knelt at Jesus feet, poured very expensive perfume on his feet, and unabashedly let down her hair in front of everyone, which was just not the custom for women to do at that time, and used her hair to wipe the feet of Jesus. What can we learn from that? May we as Christians, humbly and adoringly kneel daily at Jesus’ feet. And whatever we may have, our lives and our treasure, let’s make sure we give of our best to the Master.
Anthony: In verse 8, I’m just curious, is Jesus being dismissive of the poor and their needs? How can we rightly understand what he’s communicating?
Dan: I think we need to understand that, as Jesus said, the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart. And the second is to love your neighbor.
The priority in our lives is to love God. And indeed, it’s only in loving God that we are empowered to love our neighbor who is created in God’s image. When we love and honor God, it will result in our loving our neighbors. The scripture says the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
Now Mary had a unique opportunity to honor God. And so, she did. She did so with all our heart and all she had at her disposal. And as so doing, she set an example for all Christians who would follow and read her story.
Now look, if her perfume had been sold and the money given to the poor, it would not have solved the human problem of poverty. It would have remained as indeed it does to this very day. Now should Christians help the poor? Of course, as much as we can! But we’ve got to realize our human efforts are not going to make poverty go away. Only God – the return of Christ in glory – can accomplish that. So, we as Christians do what we can for the poor but recognize that only when (like Mary) all worship and adore God, can human poverty be ultimately eliminated.
Yes. We must help the poor, but the answer to poverty lies in all people coming to Christ and worshiping as Mary did. And only when that day comes, will there be no more poor.
Anthony: [I have] a follow up question, as I look at this text. Obviously, the theological question on any pericope is: who is God? Who is the God revealed in Jesus Christ? Any comments you’d like to share about the God that we see revealed in Jesus in this passage?
Dan: We’re coming up to the time of the Triumphal Entry, and we’re going to be talking about. We see Jesus as the king, as the ruler and our Lord and our God. And we’re going to cover all of that, I think, today in the pericopes that we have laid out.
But one thing I would like us to think about is Jesus is our best friend. Mary loved Jesus. Jesus loved Lazarus. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. He loved Martha. He loved his disciples. And he was one of the nicest guys! Let me put it this way. He was the nicest guy who’s ever lived, and what a joy it was to be around him and be with him.
And yes, we know he’s King; he’s Lord; he’s God Almighty, but he’s also our best friend. And the fellowship that we can have with him in the Spirit is priceless.
Anthony: Yeah, and it always strikes me how in that culture, how the people of that day, who would be considered outsider, felt like insiders with Jesus. Talking about this God, who you were drawn to, that you wanted to be with, that there was an experience of the embodiment of joy when you’re with him. It’s a powerful thing to look into the eyes of Jesus and draw more and more in love with the one who ultimately loves our soul.
Let’s move on to the next pericope, which is going to be Luke 19:28 – 40. It is the Revised Common Lectionary passage for April the 10th, which is Palm Sunday. Dan, would you read that for us please?
28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”
32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”
35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Anthony: Dan, what’s the big deal about Palm Sunday? And what is significant about Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem as we’re thinking ahead about Holy Week?
Dan: In all four Gospels, the significance of Jesus entry into Jerusalem is his triumphal royal entry into the city, leading to his enthronement as King. Now for the Gospel writers, the lifting up of Jesus on the cross was the Ascension of the King to his throne. And in one sense, the first step in Jesus’ Ascension to the Father.
Anthony: If you preach this passage, Dan, (which you most likely will, and we’ll be listening) what’s going to be your main teaching emphasis?
Dan: In my over 51 years of ministry, I’ve preached on the triumphal entry many times and will continue to do it many times, but my teaching emphasis varies a bit, depending on which Gospel account I’m preaching from.
The triumphal entry is found in all four Gospels. And that indicates its importance to the story of Jesus. Now, if I’m preaching from John’s account, I note a lot of John’s use of biblical imagery to show Jesus as the Messiah, the prophesied King of Israel, the King of the Jews who was to come and bring in a new age of peace and freedom.
And the concepts of peace and freedom were very important to John’s readers who are probably enduring a great deal of persecution at the time they read his Gospel. John especially, though, draws on imagery from the Jewish feast of Sukkot or Feast of Tabernacles, as it’s sometimes called. And though this festival came in the fall of the year, John moves many of its symbols to the springtime story of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.
Now the Feast had become separated from its original agricultural roots and had come to be seen in the days of the Old Testament prophets as a celebration of the enthronement of the Messiah, the King, and the beginning of the Messianic Age. And thus, John uses the festival’s imagery to illustrate this is what’s happening with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.
But now if I’m preaching from Luke’s account (which is the Lection for this year), I know how that Luke omits most of the Jewish imagery John uses. Perhaps lest his Gentile readers get the mistaken impression that the focus of Jesus is on a nationalistic Jewish kingship. For Luke, Jesus’ enthronement on the cross begins the rule, (basileia, sometimes translated kingdom) the rule of God for all followers of Jesus, both Jew and Gentile, all people.
And I teach it this way as a story of contrast. For his final visit, Jesus enters Jerusalem as the people’s Messiah king and savior, but not in the way most would have expected here. Hear the contrast in this story. We have the Messianic King coming to save his people, riding on a white charger, a battle horse? No, on a donkey. He brings peace, not war against the Roman. He conquers hearts and minds, not nations. He’s not welcome with royal robes, but those of the common people.
His crown is one of thorns. His throne is a cross. His coronation is an execution. His victory is in death, but through his death and resurrection, King Jesus succeeds and in saving his people. And through his death, King Jesus triumphed over all the powers of sin, death, and evil. And through his death King Jesus wins the war. The battles and skirmishes obviously continue, but through his death, victory is assured.
The triumph and victory are ours through our King, our Lord Jesus Christ. And this event of the Triumphal Entry assures us that we can have great comfort and peace because no matter how “wrong side up” things may look in the world around us or in our own lives, we can know triumph has already come.
Eternal peace, eternal joy, and eternal life have been won and secured for us because of the triumph of our King Lord Jesus. So as the crowd said, “Bless it be the name of the Lord.”
Anthony: Yeah, it reminds me how Jesus is our Deliverer, and he is faithful to deliver us ultimately. But often that deliverance doesn’t look the way I anticipate it looking or the way that I think would be best for it to happen – as the people of the day thought as well.
It seems that the Pharisees are trying to shush the multitude of disciples celebrating Jesus. I’m just curious, in what ways do we today need to be on guard that we aren’t hushing those seeking to worship Jesus?
Dan: Let me first speak to the meaning of the passage, and then I’ll comment on your question.
In the Lucan text, the Pharisees ask Jesus to rebuke his disciples for declaring him as king. And as the kingship parable Luke places just prior to the Triumphal Entry states, the Pharisees were determined not to let Jesus rule over them and were determined to have him killed. They are also undoubtedly concerned that the public proclamation of Jesus as king, a Jew as a king, would draw the attention and ire of the Roman authorities.
But your question does give me an opportunity to talk about one of my pet peeves about Christian worship in some settings. As Paul tells us in Corinthians, our community worship should be in decency and order. That is why we must not be disruptive and cause offense and confusion in community worship. Also, we should respect the worship traditions of different Christian tribes.
Now some Christian worship traditions are highly liturgical with lots of pomp and circumstance and some focus more on preaching and teaching. And some, such as the Quakers, emphasize the spiritual discipline of silence. We should respect the varying Christian traditions and not judge, or (to use your word, Anthony) “hush” them because they may be different from our own.
Also, pet peeve! Worship leader, please don’t tell people how to worship! Again, with decency and order, people should be free to worship as is appropriate for them. For example, please don’t tell people to bow their heads in prayer. Some may want to lift their eyes to heaven. Invite people to join with you in prayer.
Don’t tell people to stand; invite people who are able and so desire to stand. Don’t tell people to remain standing; invite them as they are able, and so desire to remain standing. Some of us have physical challenges, especially those of us who are older. And we can’t stand as walk as we used to. So please don’t embarrass us because we need to sit down when you say remain standing.
So, the key is don’t command! Invite people to participate with the worship leader and the worship team in community worship. So, thank you for allowing me to share one of my pet peeves.
Anthony: You are welcome.
Let’s move on to our next pericope. This is going to be for Easter Sunday. The text is John 20:1 – 18. It is the Revised Common Lectionary lection reading for April the 17th.
1Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
Wow! So, Paul writes that if Christ hasn’t been raised, our preaching, Dan, is in vain. I just want to give you an opportunity to rift on the stunning reality of the resurrection of our Lord, which makes what we do not in vain.
Dan: Absolutely. You mentioned reality. And that’s a very important term in considering the resurrection of Jesus. As there are those who have suggested that while Jesus may have existed, his resurrection from the dead was imagined or just plain made up by his disciples. So, the question is, who is Jesus?
If Jesus is dead, then he was a young Jewish male who taught some good things but, so what? There’ve been a lot of good teachers down through history. But so what? We’re still born, live, and die and return to dust, that’s it.
But if Jesus is alive, if he were resurrected in a glorified body, then he is the Son of God. That’s who he is, fully human and fully God. And in him, all humanity has the opportunity to be resurrected in a glorified body as well. And physical death, decay and corruption is not the end of our existence.
Indeed, as John’s Gospel tells us, the one who became Jesus is the Creator, Maker of all things. In Jesus’ bodily resurrection, we have God’s pledge that along with the Creator in his human nature, the entire creation can and will be renewed. A new spiritual heaven and new spiritual earth populated by God, his angels, and glorified, spiritual, bodied humans. That is the hope of the resurrection.
Anthony: As I was rereading through this passage, I was struck by the phrase, “It was still dark,” in verse 1. And what came to my mind, it seems that new life often starts right there in the dark. Surprisingly enough, it’s a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb.
And if that’s the case, what might we learn about the darkness we sometimes experience in our own lives?
Dan: Since we’re discussing a text in the Gospel of John, we should look at how John uses the imagery of dark and light. Oh! John is a master at the use of imagery and with layers and depth of meaning and understanding. John begins his Gospel with, “In the beginning,” harkening back to the opening words of the book of Genesis and the creation story. In the Genesis creation story, darkness is prevalent, and then God introduces light!
Now in John’s Gospel, John introduces Jesus as the light that came into the world, which darkness could not overcome. And throughout his Gospel, John uses the imagery of light, day, and sight versus darkness, night, and blindness. Seeing and knowing Jesus is to see and know the light, to live in the day, to see clearly.
Not knowing Jesus is to be in darkness, in the night, and to be spiritually blind. Thus, when the physically bind came to know Jesus, they were healed, and they could see. Now we notice that Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night, a Pharisee who wanted to ask Jesus some questions. So, he comes at night, and he doesn’t understand Jesus’ teaching.
When Judas betrayed Jesus, he goes out at night. He does not understand who Jesus truly is. So, when John tells us that Mary Magdalene went out to Jesus tomb while it was still dark (and we noticed that all the other Gospels speak of an early morning arrival), John is telling his readers that Mary does not yet truly know who Jesus is.
She is still operating in the dark. But the darkness cannot overcome Jesus, the light. So indeed, Jesus comes forth from the darkness of death. And Mary eventually comes to know and understand who Jesus is.
And when Jesus comes in glory, John tells us this, the eyes of the blind will be open. And also, that every eye will see him. Blessed are the eyes of those who now have come out of darkness.
I think that’s a great lesson. Blessed are our eyes. We don’t realize how blessed we are that our eyes have been opened, that we’re not in the dark, that we’ve come out of darkness, and we can see and know who Jesus is. And we pray for the day when all will see and have that vision and not be in the dark. As the well-known hymn says, “Open my eyes that I may see.”
Anthony: Mary didn’t recognize the risen Lord Jesus, right in her presence. Is there anything we should make of that, in terms of a lesson for us?
Dan: I think we should note from the text and just to give Barry some benefit of the doubt, Mary had been crying and tears filled her eyes.
It also says that she turned around (whatever that means exactly.) But here’s the key. It was when she heard Jesus’ voice, she turned toward him and cried out, “Teacher!” Now on a practical level, Mary was not expecting to see a living Jesus. She was looking for a dead body, a naked, dead body that had been tortured, hung from a cross, pierced in the side by a spear and was all bloody.
What she glimpsed was a man who looked like a gardener. And indeed, he was the gardener, having made the garden of Eden, but he looked like a gardener. So, he looked pretty fit, and he was wearing clothes, not like someone who had been crucified and had laid in a tomb for three days. But I think John wants his readers to understand something a bit more theological.
Mary recognized Jesus when he spoke to her. It is truly in the spoken words of Jesus that one has the means to recognize his presence. Christians today do not see the risen Lord as Mary did, but we recognize his presence with us just as she did. We have his spoken word in the scriptures and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ in our lives.
And we have his presence in the elements of communion. We recognize him in the breaking of bread. We must understand from reading this and thinking about it, that Jesus is always with us, even when we don’t see him.
There’s the old saying that you don’t see what you’re not looking for. We need to look for Jesus and we need to see him in our lives. And we must realize that he is always with us. Look for him and expect to see him because he’s there.
Anthony: Yeah. What is Jesus ultimately communicating to Mary when he tells her not to hold on to him (I’m sure she wanted to), but not to hold onto him because he had not yet ascended to the Father?
Dan: When Mary first saw the risen Jesus, she called out to him, “Dear Rabbi,” or special teacher. She did not yet see or understand him as Lord or God. And perhaps it appeared to her that she thought she could now continue following and being with Jesus just the way she had all during his ministry. So, everything’s back to the way it was. Everything’s the same. This is good.
But Jesus lets Mary know, things have changed. The next step in God’s plan of salvation is Jesus going to the Father in heaven. Wow! And when he returns to his disciples, he’s going to establish them in a new relationship with him and with the Father, by giving them the Holy Spirit to be with them and in them. It’s a new way to carry on his ministry. And obviously, it’s very Trinitarian.
We can note that after Jesus explains what he’s about to do, Mary then goes back to the disciples and tells them she has seen the Lord. At that point, she has a new understanding of who Jesus is.
Anthony: I wonder in the fullness of the kingdom if Peter’s going to try to set things right by having a sprint race with John. What do you think?
John seems to make the point that he arrived first and he’s the swifter of the two, but I say we should have a match race in heaven.
Dan: John mentions it twice. Now he doesn’t even use his name. He says that disciple or whoever. So, he tries to remain humbly anonymous, but it is interesting that two times he wants every one of his readers to know.
And you can imagine let’s say, John as an older man, at the time he’s writing this Gospel, wants his readers to remember that you know that was pretty fast!
Anthony: The glory days.
Dan: Yeah, back in the glory days. And I could beat Peter, I’m telling you. So yeah, a little bit of interesting humor there from the apostles.
Anthony: Then let’s move on to our final pericope of the month. It’s for the second Sunday of the Easter season. It’s John 20:19 – 31. It is the revised common lyric common lectionary passage for April the 24th.
Please read it for us
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 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.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Anthony: “As the Father has sent me, I send you.” What is Jesus revealing about the Father and also about us as disciples of our Lord Jesus?
Dan: Jesus said, as the Father sent me, I’m sending you and then he breathed on them. And here we find that Jesus is sending out his disciples. He’s telling them that they’re going out with the same authority and the same mission that he’s had from his Father. We understand that the mission of Jesus, the mission of the church is from the Father through Jesus and in the Holy Spirit.
It is a Trinitarian mission to save humanity and indeed to save all of creation. So, Jesus’ followers are to continue in his ministry on the earth, even after he left. After he went back to heaven, he sent the Holy Spirit and in the Holy Spirit, all of his followers from that day forward will be able to work with him in his ministry.
And the followers of Jesus will have the power of the Spirit to continue the Father’s mission through Jesus and in the Holy Spirit. So, his followers participate in the heart, the goal, the mission, the purpose of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.
Anthony: Yeah. That’s encouraging to know that the mission is God’s mission.
It’s the Fathers in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. It’s not my mission. It’s not the church’s mission. It’s God’s mission. And so, whenever we engage our neighbor, love our neighbor, work in our community, we know that God is at work already in front of us, at work.
Help us to theologically understand verse 23 about if you forgive, it is forgiven, if you retain, it’s retained. Is Jesus really saying sins will be retained if the disciples don’t forgive them?
Dan: This particular verse over the years has been subject to many different interpretations. And indeed, it is a challenging verse to look into. The Roman Catholic church has used this as a proof of needing to go to a priest and receiving forgiveness for your sins, from the priest and the act of confession.
Protestants have looked at it in several different ways, including the communal view, where it is the community of faith, the church, which either lets people into the church, allows them to be baptized, or denies them admission to the church, or something along that view. But let me give you an analogy that at least works for me, and I hope it may work for others who are listening.
Let’s say a man robs a convenience store and steals all the money, makes a getaway. But from that day forward, he lives with a feeling of guilt. He knows he’s done wrong. And so, for the next 20 years, every time he sees a police car, every time he hears a knock at the door, he wonders, is this it? Have they finally caught up with me? Will I be going to prison now?
He can’t sleep at night, lives in guilt for 20 years. And then suddenly one day there’s a knock on his door and of all things, it’s the sheriff. So, he puts out his hands and says, “All right. Put the handcuffs on me. I know you’ve been looking for me. I knew my day would come. Take me away to prison.”
The sheriff looks at him and says, “No, you’re not guilty. Let me tell you what happened. Even to the very moment that you robbed that convenience store, the governor simultaneously, and even previously, pardoned you and declared you not guilty. We’ve been looking for you for 20 years to tell you that you’re a free man.”
Now, the person who robbed the store would probably say, “What took you so long to find me and tell me that? I’ve lived 20 years of my life under guilt, and in fear. I’ve been cursed, and you tell me I’m not even guilty of the crime.”
You know to be free, to be declared not guilty and to [not] know it, is to continue subjectively to live with a feeling of guilt, not knowing that you’re really free. How many people do not know that God, Jesus Christ has indeed forgiven them of their sins?
And because of their not knowing they are living a life of condemnation, a life of guilt, a life where they fear what the final judgment may be. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone would find those people, and tell them that they’ve been declared not guilty, and that in Jesus Christ, they are free of their sins?
As the followers of Jesus today, as his disciples, we need to let people know that in Jesus, their sins have been forgiven. Now, if you let someone know that their sins are forgiven, they can experience that forgiveness. If you don’t let someone know that their sins are forgiven, they do not experience that forgiveness. And they feel as though their sins have been retained, even though they have not. So, the responsibility, I think, is on the followers of Jesus to let people know Jesus has forgiven you of your sins. You are free.
Anthony: Jesus repeatedly said, “Peace be with.” What a beautiful greeting, not only for his friends that heard it, but also for us! And if that’s the case, how so?
Dan: In Aramaic, which was the primary dialect of Jesus and his disciples, the word for peace is shlomo alach. In the Hebrew Old Testament, the word is shalom.
And it has a broad range of meanings. It’s its meanings included primarily health, good life, and prosperity. But it also included notions of security, completeness, blessing, and salvation, and all Shalom was viewed as coming from God.
Now I’m a big Star Trek fan, and I hope you or maybe some of the listeners are, and you can appreciate what came to be known as the Vulcan salute. Leonard Nimoy portrayed Mr. Spock in the series. And Leonard Nimoy was Jewish; he grew up in the synagogue. And they were looking for a way that Vulcans might greet one another. And Mr. Nimoy reflected back on his time as a boy in synagogue, and he remembered the priestly blessings.
The priests would bless the people, the rabbis would bless the people by forming the [Hebrew] letter shin, which was the beginning letter of one of the names of God. And so, what he did was he separated the two hands into one hand: the thumb extended, the ring finger and the middle finger together and the little finger and the other finger together in what came to be known as the Vulcan salute. But it came right out of the synagogue as a blessing from God.
And the words that Spock would recite would be “Live long and prosper.” And the response was “Peace and long life.” And those are exactly the meanings of Shalom. I have to admit that when I pictured Jesus in this scene saying, “Peace to you,” I keep seeing him give them the Vulcan salute. At least that works for me.
Now in the Greek New Testament, the Hebrew meanings carried over, but some Christian nuances came to be understood. And the word peace is used in three basic ways in the New Testament. One is the opposite of war or strife. And two, it’s used to describe restored, happy, personal relationships. And three, it’s use for peace of mind, especially in a contrast to a troubled and fearful heart or outlook on life.
Now in our passage, Jesus appears to use the term mostly as number three, but not excluding the other two. The peace Jesus passed onto his disciples and to us today is the peace of God. The peace of mind that comes from knowing and trusting Jesus, the peace that is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, the peace that erases a troubled and fearful heart.
The peace that comes from realizing Jesus has entered the building. (A little play there on “Elvis has left the building.”) But literally in the story of Jesus, [he] did enter the building. In our lives, Jesus has entered the building. He is always in our lives.
So, the New Testament tells us 365 times, (and mostly from the mouth of Jesus) fear not. Peace. Have peace in Jesus. He is here. He is with us. He’s in our lives. Trust him. You have hope in him. You can have confidence in him. Fear, not. Shalom, live long and prosper!
Anthony: While you were talking, our podcast producer, Reuel, typed in the chat area that he’s a fan of Star Trek. But I got to tell you, you lost me. I don’t know that I’ve seen a single episode, but I’m with you in that, what a beautiful greeting of shalom from our Lord!
Finally, “My Lord and my God.” [verse 28] What a stunning declaration from Thomas! Tell us more, Dan.
Dan: In the verses that we read, Jesus said to Thomas, put your finger here and see my hands, reach out your hand, and put it into my side, stop doubting and believe. And so, Thomas has been known, down to this day, as Doubting Thomas. And anytime someone doesn’t have a hope or belief or they’re being negative, people say you’re a Doubting Thomas.
So, Jesus said to Thomas, stop doubting and believe. Now here, Jesus allows Thomas to make a scientific experiment. You know, stop doubting, believe, except God’s reality. It’s a far greater reality than the one you know as a human. I’m the same Jesus you knew, fully human, but also fully God, come back from the dead. And I still bear the scars in my body.
And some ask were the scars not healed? Why did Jesus still manifest these scars? One reason is so that Thomas and the others would know he was Jesus. He was the same human that they had known for so many years. He’s not some different being, he’s not some ghost, some spirit thing, something of their imagination.
He is really, and truly Jesus, fully human and fully God standing right there before them standing right before Thomas.
So, we note what Thomas says in his reply in verse 27.
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Now, I don’t think Thomas should be known as Doubting Thomas. In fact, in this verse, he’s probably made one of the most important and powerful statements in the New Testament about the divinity of Jesus Christ. He’s called him my Lord and the Greek word for the Lord, Kyrios, is the same word that’s used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament for the Hebrew word Yahweh. So what Thomas is saying here, in a sense, is Yahweh, my Lord, my God.
Now I feel for so-called Doubting Thomas. And on behalf of all realists everywhere, I’d like to suggest we now call him Believing Thomas, because Thomas accepted God’s reality as the most real reality of all.
And Thomas becomes a faith-filled believer.
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Thomas was blessed. He saw, he believed, and he gave a profound announcement of faith.
But it makes me think, what about us today? What about you and me? We’ve not seen Jesus, literally, physically with our own eyes. We’ve not been able to perform a scientific experiment of touching scars. And yet we believe. Jesus said blessed are those who believe without seeing. We do know that Jesus is alive. We experience them in the spirit.
And as he becomes to us – over time, communing with him – our best friend. He was a friend of Thomas and the other disciples. He was close to Thomas, but he’s close to us too. He is our best friend, as he was Thomas and the other disciples. And he’s also our Lord and our God. But as I said earlier, we worship him as our Lord and our God, as Thomas did [with] a startling claim in the New Testament to Jesus’ divinity as fully human and fully God. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that he’s not only our Lord and our God, he is also our friend. Again, as one of the famous hymns says, “What a friend we have in Jesus.”
Anthony: Dan, thanks for being my friend and be my guest here today. I so appreciate the commentary you provided as I’m sure our pastors and teachers will as well. It’s our ongoing rhythm at the podcast to have our guests pray a blessing over the pastors, preachers, teachers, Bible students.
So, would you say we’re to prayer for our listeners?
Dan: Our Lord and our God, we come before you Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus to ask your blessing on your disciples today, especially those who minister in the word. May we speak your word rightly, truthfully, powerfully, and boldly.
May we be empowered and abled, strengthened by the Holy Spirit. And may those who hear the words we speak also be empowered by the Spirit to understand, and to apply these words in their lives. We thank you, God.
Father, we know it is your mission through Jesus and in the Spirit. And because it is your mission, it cannot fail. Sometimes we wonder if we’re adequate preachers or, if we’re doing a good job, or if we’re having any effect at all, or if our lives make any difference. And yet if we’re participating in the ongoing mission of Jesus from the Father in the Spirit, we cannot fail.
We can only succeed. And as Jesus said, numerous times in the passage we just read, let his peace be unto us. And let us know and have that confidence, that trust and that faith, that though we are human, we cannot fail for we are on mission with the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. Thank you for allowing us to participate.
Thank you for the success that you give. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of it. Bless us, please. For we love you, Lord. And we want to serve you and minister to your people. We ask your blessing as well as give thanks, in Jesus’ name. Amen
Thank you for being a guest of Gospel Reverb. If you like what you heard, give us a high rating and review us on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcast content. Share this episode with a friend. It really does help us get the word out as we are just getting started. Join us next month for a new show and insights from the RCL. Until then, peace be with you!