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  • Writer's pictureRyan Heckman

Brave Thomas


John 20


Grace and peace to you from our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ! Alleluia, Christ is Risen! He is risen Indeed Alleluia!

 

Do you hear that Alleluia ‘ringing’ in the air? It’s a vestige perhaps of last week….? Here we are, one week after Easter Sunday… the flowers have dwindled… the choir is resting after a week of singing… You’ve even got the Director of Christian Ed this week instead of the Pastor!

 

In the midst of this little break that is gifted to those who diligently serve this church with extraordinary energy, we may be tempted to think or say, “Tisk, you really missed it if you weren’t here last week! What a service! What a day!”

 

But we must remember, we’ve reached the 2nd Sunday OF Easter, which is a great big 50 day celebration! So, we say just as energetically today, Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia!!

 

Now, I wrote that enthusiastic line of this sermon specifically for Thomas, our seemingly doubting apostle who we meet in today’s Gospel text from John.

 

You know, I think Thomas gets a bad rap. We know him as “Doubting Thomas”…. I feel bad for him! I feel bad for him because he missed Jesus’s appearance to the rest of the disciples on the day of Christ’s resurrection.

 

I like to imagine that Thomas must have drawn the short straw and had to go take the trash out or something, and OF COURSE THAT’s the moment when Jesus shows up! It’s like when we’re watching the Red Sox play and we’re on hour 2 of a low scoring game… then you get up to refill your plate with nachos in the kitchen and BAM the two-run homer happens! The most exciting moment of the game so far, and you were squirting nacho cheese from a can onto your plate… OF COURSE THAT’s when the big moment happens.

 

So, Thomas comes back from his trash run, and the first thing he hears from the Disciples is: “We have seen the Risen Jesus!!”

 

Thomas’s reply gets him the moniker “Doubting Thomas” for the rest of eternity. All because he had FOMO circa 30 CE. That’s Fear Of Missing Out for those who may have never used that particular acronym before.

 

Thomas just wants what all the other disciples got. Visual confirmation, the time to examine Christ’s wounds and the opportunity to rejoice, as we saw in the first several verses of our text, the rest of the disciples got. They all saw, in person, the amazing, glorious, never-before-seen thing: The Resurrection. Thomas just wants the proof that everyone else in the room already received.

 

So, can we lighten up on Thomas? I wonder how much we’re picking at the stick in Thomas’s eye, while we ignore the plank in our own eye? We pick at the stick in Thomas’s eye through our very own order of service, the book that determines what texts from scripture are read on Sunday mornings, our scripture readings selected for today are packed with what sound like the “Greatest Hits” of scripture.

 

In our Second Reading from 1 John, we hear an emphatic exclamation: “1We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—2this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us—3we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

 

The writer in 1 John is emphatically telling us THIS IS ALL TRUE! I’ve seen it, touched it, heard it and now I’m declaring to you – without a shadow of a doubt – what God has done for us! HELLOOOO, you out there are you listening?!?

 

We can apparently now stand on the rock of faith that is absolutely and unshakableythere for us – the writer in First John is making sure we know that.

 

This is the text that surrounds Thomas’s request for proof, an act we have come to  name: “Doubting.”

 

Now for anyone who experienced the small earth quake we had on Friday, perhaps the “solid rock” foundation upon which we stand has come slightly into some more doubt…

 

But that text from First John might strike us as today in a way that makes us feel uneasy… because it might be heard as a strong dose of something to counter OUR own requests for proof that we might sometimes silently, and maybe even shamefully, make about our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This kind of text can make us feel a little small and a bit thick – like we aren’t listening hard enough.  It makes Thomas seem like his request sets him out as being lesser-than any of the other disciples because, “Tsk, well he doubted…”

 

All while, deep down, some of us might be needing some tangible proof today to believe all this stuff. And if you aren’t doubting today, I’m sure you have in the past and I bet there will be moments in the future where you will doubt God’s promises and Jesus’s resurrection.  Let’s not pick at the stick in Thomas’s eye and ignore the plank in our own.

 

I want to draw your attention to what Thomas asks for in his request for proof, because I think there lies a key for moving forward with this text and a key for moving through both our belief and our doubt.

 

Thomas wants to see and to touch Jesus’s WOUNDS.

 

Thomas doesn’t ask to see powerful deeds, miracles, wonders, signs, imperishable, undefiled, unfading Hollywood Super Hero Jesus… he needs to see and to touch the Wounded Christ. To have a tangible human EXPERIENCE of Jesus, the risen one.  Thomas wants to be in the real presence of Christ again.

 

I think that’s quite a juxtaposition to our emphatic, declaratory texts that surround our gospel. Thomas’s desire to gently touch the wounds left by the nails that pierced Jesus’s hands - to feel with his hands the hole made in Jesus’s side by the soldier’s spear. Thomas is asking to touch and be touched by the resurrection.

 

And, Thomas’s wish is granted. Christ comes and meets Thomas right where he needs to be met. What wonderful news is that?? Christ comes and meets Thomas right where he needs to be met.

 

Christ appears to the disciples again in the locked room and he specifically offers Thomas his wounded hands and his pierced side, just as Thomas needed. These wounds that are still present on Christ’s risen body show Thomas, and show us, that Jesus’s resurrection is not some undoing, or reversal of Christ’s death, but that resurrection is a continuation of life through death. The wounds show Thomas that this appearance is INDEED the same Jesus who Thomas knew to be crucified and who is now coming to be with Thomas anew. Thomas sees the same Jesus who suffered on the cross. The same Jesus who’s suffering was born for our sake. Suffering that killed Jesus. Suffering that transformed the cross from a device for torture and death into the very symbol of our faith.

 

This story is a beautiful testimony of a Wounded Christ meeting someone exactly where they need Christ to meet them, lifting them up, reassuring them and saying, touch and see, the resurrection is real and it’s for you. And it’s a story that shows us that Christ’s wounds are open to us in his resurrection, they show all the tender mercy of God’s forgiveness and promise of life after death, perhaps life through death. A story that shows us that God bears wounds, like we do from the trials of our lives. God knows what it means to be hurt and so is with us in our times of hurting.  And yet, this is also a story that shows us that there is Resurrection, new life through and beyond our wounds. God shows us the great joy we can experience and is with us throughout our Easter Season filled with Alleluias! Indeed, Christ’s presence to us in our Baptism, in the bread and wine at communion and in the living Word of God which we hear today, are the very reasons we shout Alleluia – Hooray! Praise God!

 

We may not have seen Jesus in the flesh. We were not present at the empty tomb or in the room with Thomas and the disciples. Yet, thanks to Thomas’s boldness in asking Jesus to meet him where he needed to be met, and to the testimony we’ve received in this story about him, we believe.

 

So now, instead of calling Thomas “doubting” perhaps we can call him brave Thomas or Bold Thomas. Because he, out of all the disciples, had the courage to ask for what he needed and he had the deep faith that Christ would indeed come and meet him. Today we learn that Christ comes to us and meets us right we need him to. It’s not doubt that Thomas embodies, no it’s a deep and real faith that Christ will come and meet him where he needs Christ to meet him.

 

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

 

Amen.


Ryan Hecjk

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