At Home. Easter 2. Sermon. 4.19.2020 John 20: 19-31
We want to make this story about the doubting faith of Thomas. We assume he wouldn’t believe until he could see Jesus and touch his wounds.
I suppose it’s a story that we all can relate to on some level. Whether we admit it or not, we all live with doubt. When things are too good to be true – we say they’re “beyond belief” – could God really make this happen? And when a pandemic invades our world, causing massive death and loss socially, economically, or emotionally – we ask, is there even a God? Because if there is, this wouldn’t be happening…. Our faith, it seems is rocked to its very core… Just as the disciples were holed up in fear, and grieving massive loss over the death of their beloved friend, Jesus, so too are we in many ways holed up in fear, practicing social distancing, set apart from our loved ones, and grieving the loss of our world as we have known it.
But I don’t think today’s story – or lesson – is about doubt or the lack of faith or how to have more faith. Instead, I think it’s about the affirmation of our relationship with Jesus – how we relate to Jesus and how Jesus comes to us – and claiming the promise of the Resurrection that God never abandons us. It’s not about doubt, it’s about hope!
Let me back up just a bit: In the book of John – after J’s Resurrection, John records Jesus appearing 4 times: 1st to Mary, when Jesus called her by name. Second, in today’s text, to the disciples when he appeared to them that evening. The third appearance was one week later to Thomas. And lastly, on the beach when Jesus was frying fish for the followers.
In each one of these appearances, to particular people at a particular time, Jesus affirms his relationship by revealing his identity in specific and personal ways. To Mary, she heard Jesus’ voice and responded in faith when she heard her name. For the Disciples their fears were calmed by the presence and peace of Jesus. The Risen Christ came to Thomas by sight and inviting Thomas to touch his wounds. And when Jesus’ followers were on the beach: Jesus became known to them as they eat breakfast.
When the word became flesh and dwelt among us, God established a relationship with all of humanity, with you and me. Here now, in the resurrection, Jesus shows up – not only re-affirming that he will never abandon us, but he meets us where we are at.
Where and how does the Risen Christ show up to you? Where does God meet you?
Now we don’t know where Thomas was when Jesus appeared to the disciples on the evening following Jesus’ resurrection. Perhaps, because of his curiosity of always asking questions, Thomas was out looking for Jesus – not holed up in fear behind locked doors as the others are. He had heard that Jesus is alive, and now he wants to see Jesus too! After Jesus appears to the disciples, Thomas wants what the others already have – the very presence of Jesus. And so he summons Jesus to show up and patiently waits for his own encounter with the Risen Christ.
When have you summoned Jesus to show up?
Summoning – demanding – that the Risen Christ show up, I believe, comes from a profound hope. A profound yearning for what has already been promised.
A week later Jesus shows up ..again. Alive, in the flesh, bringing peace.
We might say Thomas was waiting for proof before he would believe. But I don’t believe Thomas was looking for proof of the Resurrection – Thomas was looking for the word made flesh. He was claiming the promise of the word made flesh for himself. You see, it’s Jesus’ healed wounds – his scars -that assures Thomas and you and me that Jesus suffered in his very humanity . And if Jesus suffered in a human way, then I know that Jesus knows my suffering, and the suffering of the world. But it doesn’t end there and Thomas knew that. That’s what Thomas hoped for. You see, these scars reveal a fully human God who also conquered suffering and death on a cross, rising from the dead.. So Jesus comes to Thomas, affirms his love for him and says – “ for you…See and touch the scars of my wounds.” Perhaps as if to say, “I know your suffering, and healing is on the way.” Hope is ignited.
It is only then, in the very presence of Jesus – in Thomas’ own encounter with the Risen Christ – that he would and could definitively proclaim this Jesus to be “My Lord and my God”– to be the one he knew fulfilled the promise of healing and new life.
This is the same Risen Christ who shows up for us, bringing hope and breaking through the barriers that have held us up in confinement, bringing new life. Bringing peace.
So grab on to this hope, my friends. Especially in these days of pandemic and the uncertainty, grief, and fear and just plan weariness that surround us. Don’t be afraid. Instead, like Thomas, courageously summon – demand – to see Jesus, demand to be reminded of the wounds he bore and the victory he claimed over them, so that together we can cry out and claim that Jesus is “My Lord and My God!”