This morning, our reading picks up in the middle of the Easter Story. Last week, we focused on Mary Magdalene’s visit to the tomb. She was surprised to find it empty and assumed Jesus’ body was stolen. But, eventually, Jesus appeared and soothed Mary in her distress. He told her he had been resurrected from the dead. Mary went and told the other disciples about her conversation with Jesus. We pick up after she informed them of the Easter miracle as we read from the Gospel of John chapter 20 verses nineteen through thirty-one:
Proclamation of the Scripture John 20:19-31
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!”
After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.
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.”
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!”
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.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.
But these are written that you may believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Here ends this reading of the word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Let us pray — Open our ears to hear your Word proclaimed in this place.
Open our hearts to know your Love offered in this congregation.
Open our eyes to see your Presence blessing us in this moment. Amen
Message Holy Language
Thomas is usually held up as the great doubter of the Disciples. He wanted to see evidence of the resurrection, and did not want to rely on the words of the others when they told him they saw Jesus. But, he wasn’t the only one of the Disciples, disciples then and disciples now, who sometimes struggled to believe in Jesus and his teachings.
Earlier on in the story of Jesus’ life, Thomas was very faithful. When Jesus told his friends they needed to travel to Bethany when Lazarus was sick, Thomas first warned Jesus that he would get killed going there. When Jesus said he would go anyway, Thomas remarked to the others they should go and die alongside Jesus. Thomas was enthusiastic and was up for an adventure, even one with a potentially negative outcome. But, after he experienced that negative outcome, and Jesus was arrested, tortured, and killed, Thomas’ enthusiasm was chilled.
We get this. Thomas experienced something horrible, and he was heart-broken. He was disillusioned. He had put his trust in Jesus, and he didn’t expect things to totally go off the rails.
In our lives, we also struggle to regroup after tragic situations in our lives. We can look back over our past and recall experiences that shocked and dismayed us, that threw us off-kilter – a bad grade in a class we expected to do well in, a break-up with a person we weren’t ready to lose, a job loss, a death of a close relative, anything terrible that happened to our children – sometimes these events have completely wrecked us. And, it took us a long time to recovery, and even after a possible recovery, things never were quite the same.
Thomas was not ready to accept the good news of Jesus’ resurrection after all of the bad things that happened to Jesus. He especially wasn’t ready to turn on a dime and become hopeful once again when he didn’t see Jesus for himself. Thomas needed to see Jesus. He needed to touch Jesus. But, when Jesus appeared a week after Easter and Thomas saw him for himself, Thomas was hope-filled and positive once again.
Thomas had the advantage of seeing Jesus for himself. We probably will not experience an in-person visit with Jesus in this life-time. Like Thomas, sometimes we also struggle to believe. Sometimes, it is difficult for us to accept what we cannot see. It is particularly difficult for us to believe when we are experiencing hard times. Sometimes, we can just bear to crawl out of bed in the morning, and struggle to have faith in anything – in other drivers, in our co-workers, in the weather, in God. As we have been having conversations with the Confirmation students, I have wanted them to know that even adults have doubts, even adults have questions, even adults don’t feel like we have it all figured out. Somedays it is easy for us to accept and believe; other days, we struggle.
Thomas may have been one of those people who said out-loud the things that the rest of us are thinking to ourselves. Like all of us, he struggled to accept our faith 100% of the time. Like all of us, it was difficult for him to keep his faith in-tact after he underwent a really horrible week, he witnessed the heart-breaking death of Jesus.
But, Thomas rebounded. He got his faith back. He embraced the Good News once again. When we are having a hard time accepting and believing, we must also work to regroup. We must pray, even when we feel like we are talking to ourselves. We must read the Bible and seek in it words of comfort and hope. We need to talk to our fellow Christians and listen to how they endured their times of trial and hardship. Sometimes, when we sing hymns in worship, or sing hymns in the shower, we feel supported and bolstered by the words and the melody and the music helps us reembrace our faith.
Even when we struggle to believe in God, God doesn’t struggle to believe in us. God sends us messages in the words others say to us, the beauty in the natural world around us, the good deeds and actions others take in front of us, and through these messages from God our faith is restored.
Friends, take heart, we are not alone when we doubt, but we can be assured of God’s love and grace directed to us all the days of our lives. Thanks be to God. Amen.