you been reading the newspaper in the last couple of
weeks? All kinds of interesting miracles reported. In
fact, there have been two articles about people coming
back to life. Some dude named Lazlo or something just
walked out of his tomb in front of his family and
friends all wrapped up in these white fabric wrappings.
No major medical intervention, his best friend just
standing there calling his name.
Oh, and then not long after that
the best friend gets killed - you know brutally beaten
and tortured and the kind of stuff that is great money
maker at the movies. They bury him and then people start
seeing him walking around the town a few days later.
Hold up Newspaper. Anybody
believe in this stuff? Not me. I'd have to see it to
believe it. And even then, with all the high tech
gadgets, virtual reality, holograms and such, I'd still
not believe it. I'm a skeptic all the way. Remember the
line, Believe half of what you see and none of what you
What about you? Do you believe
what you have heard? Is the story behind this garden
scene these ladies have so beautifully created real for
you? Last Sunday we celebrated the resurrection with
overflowing pews and nearly double our attendance. Can
you say it? Christ is Risen …. He is Risen Indeed! Let
me hear it again only a little louder! Christ is
Risen….He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!!!! Amen!!! I know
this is a little uncomfortable for us Lutherans to shout
out loud but think about it folks! We have just
remembered the most wonderful event in all history and
that's all you can do? Can you say, "I believe!!!!
____________! Really? Then what are you doing here? Why
are you not shouting it from the rooftops, the street
corners, calling everyone you know and then those you
don't to tell them? I was kinda hoping to have either an
empty house because you were so excited and busy sharing
the good news - or a packed house cause you had found so
many new folks who were interested enough to come and
see what Jesus is all about.
Truth is, we're all a lot like
the disciples. We believe enough to get together and
talk about it with one another, but our world is a
pretty volatile place. There's atheists who want to
remove all hints of religion from any public space.
There's zealots who believe our country is God's gift to
the world. Then there's radicals who just don't like us.
And, its easier and safer to stay with our own kind and
worship inside churches.
So, there were the disciples,
hiding behind locked doors. Not just the Eleven who had
been chosen, but other believers as well. They were
gathered for fear of the Jews or at least some of their
own people. Now, they all had knowledge that something
big had happened. First they heard the tomb was empty.
And, then Mary told them she had seen Jesus - face to
face. He had spoken to her. But nevertheless they were
hiding. All but one, that is….Thomas.
Now as the story goes, he was
not present at this closed meeting when Jesus arrived.
For the most part folks malign Thomas. Translators use
the word doubt and we assume his faith wasn't strong
enough to even prompt him to gather with the rest of his
friends to talk about what they were going to do now.
But I think we need to be
careful with our assumptions. The Gospel of John gives
us more clues than any of the other gospels into Thomas'
character. He's the one who insists the disciples
accompany Jesus when he wants to return to Bethany - a
place they had all narrowly escaped being stoned to
death. He says, "Let us also go that we may die with
him." John 11:16.
Then at the Supper when Jesus
was telling them he was going to prepare a place for
them and would come again to take them to himself.
Thomas was the one to speak up and ask questions. He was
the one who was honestly seeking to know instead of
sitting there silently dumbfounded trying to hide their
lack of understanding. So, while Jesus was saying, "so
that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to
the place where I am going. He said, Lord, we do not
know where you are going. How can we know the way?
Jesus' response is gentle. I am
the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to
the Father except through me. If you know me, you will
know my father also. From now on you do know him and
have seen him.
I see Thomas as a doer. A
practical man who knew what he needed to get the job
done. I see Thomas after having heard Mary's
announcement that she had seen Jesus, he was out there
looking for that same experience himself…not sitting in
a room somewhere. Then, when he found out Jesus had
appeared to the disciples and they were ragging him
about it saying things like, "We saw him, "We saw him
with our very own eyes". Thomas was not going to take
anyone's word for it. He knew what he needed to enliven
his faith. He knew he wanted to see Jesus again. He knew
what it would mean for his life and he wanted it. As
gory as it may sound to some of us he wanted to touch
the places of pain and death and see what unbelievable
things Jesus had overcome. To get in touch with the
magnitude of suffering that Jesus had borne for him.
I can picture him, weeping as
the reality swept over him the truth of who Jesus is. I
can see him sinking to his knees, hands clinging to
Jesus' robes, As he confessed, "My Lord and My God."
Any of you who are educators
know that not everyone assimilates information through
the same methods. Some are visual. They can see
something in print, read it, and they've got it. Others,
have to reinforce the information by writing it down, or
repeating it outloud. Others have to hear it, or see for
themselves, others have to touch. So, if there is
important information to impart for critical
understanding, then a good teacher uses every method at
his or her disposal so that the one receiving, gets it,
She gets it - and is able to put it into practice in her
own life. And Jesus has always been the ideal teacher,
using every possible method available to him to help his
flock be prepared in every way to continue the work that
Jesus began. When Mary was emotionally distraught in the
garden, he spoke her name. When the disciples were too
afraid, he came to them. He was not upset with Thomas
for not being there the week before. He simply gave
Thomas exactly what he needed for his faith.
It is interesting, in the
original Greek, Jesus does not say, "Do not doubt" -
because doubt is skepticism - you know perhaps it didn't
really happen so let me go check it out for myself,
maybe I'll discover some clues to the real story. Rather
Jesus says, "Be not unbelieving but believe." The verb
forms here are two different states of being. It's a
sense of a new life. What the other disciples had
received a week ago was just that. He breathed on them
and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit." It invokes the
beginning of life in Genesis, when God breathed into
Adam and Eve.
Jesus shared his peace with them
and sent them out! And now, Thomas is receiving that
very thing. He too receives Jesus' peace. He too is
blessed with understanding - critical understanding -
for the days and weeks, and years ahead. For
understanding is powerful when one is facing adversity
and you need courage and strength.
We know something big happened
to these disciples in those few days because they
changed 180 degrees. They went from timid men hiding out
at someone's house to becoming extremely visible and
heard. The history portrayed in Acts tells us of bold
men, imprisoned for their witnessing, freed by angels,
and confidently teaching again and again in the temple -
unafraid of imprisonment or floggings.
Church tradition tells how they
each went to different lands spreading the news. And
each one martyred for his faith. Matthew in Ethiopia,
Mark in Egypt, John in Turkey, Peter in Rome, James the
Just Jerusalem, Bartholomew also known as Nathanael in
Asia, Andrew - Greece, Thomas - India, Barnabas -
Salonica, Italy and Cyprus. James the Greater was
accompanied to his trial by a Roman officer who listened
amazed at his eloquence. As he walked with James to his
beheading he was so overcome that he declared his new
faith and knelt beside him to receive his own beheading.
At the beginning of the message
I talked with the children about signs. How signs don't
just share knowledge with us or direct us where to go,
but point the way to a greater truth that may be
experienced. The resurrection is like that. It is more
than a miracle, it is more than a fulfillment of
prophecy. It is a sign that points us toward
experiencing the power of God.
Jesus said to Thomas, "Have you
believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who
have not seen and yet have come to believe." He is
speaking about those who would come to have faith in the
days when Jesus was not physically present. He is
speaking about us. God knows what you need to enliven
your faith and God offers it to you daily. And when your
faith takes fruit in your life it is not a "decision" on
your part but rather a work of the Holy Spirit that has
changed your life and has caused you to believe - to be
alive. To experience a relationship. That is what Jesus
means by Blessed are those.
And so you have come, hoping
that you may be showered with that blessing. Hoping that
God will breathe into you new life that will carry you
back out into the world.