April 19, 2020: 1st Sunday after Easter

Let us pray: Dear Savior, our lives are filled with doubt and uncertainty.  So today we ask You to focus our attention on what is totally certain and true—Your love for us and Your resurrection from the grave.  For then we will have a Rock to hold onto which can never be moved.  Amen


TEXT: John 20: 19-31

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

          It was a cool Spring morning.  The day was slightly overcast and the Spring ornamentals were blooming.  I drove about 30 minutes to visit an aged member who was dying in a rest home. I was contemplating what devotion to use as I said my final goodbye.  When I got there I walked into their room, as I knew where it was located.  I thought the person was sleeping.  It was cold in the room since the window was cracked.  Then I realized that they were dead.  They had died a couple hours prior and I hadn’t heard.  The attendants were keeping the body in the room, waiting for the funeral home people to arrive.  I had a prayer for their newly departed soul. That’s the closest I’ve come to being present at a death.


          The disciple, Thomas, was probably present  at Christ’s crucifixion.  We know John was there.  No doubt, so was his brother James.  As to the others, well, you can speculate on that.  But from Thomas’ reaction to the news of Christ’s resurrection, I think he witnessed His death.  Seeing a dead body of someone you have loved and cared for deeply is unsettling.  Seeing Christ’s body, limp and lifeless, was branded into his conscience.  That would help explain Thomas’ reaction when the others told him their good news that Christ appeared to them.  It’s hard to get over complete shock.  Such shock would also explain why he was off by himself and not with them in the upper room.

          Apparently, after a lot of cajoling, however, the disciples did convince Thomas to rejoin them.  No doubt, they told him of their joy at seeing the risen Lord.  No doubt, they recounted His first words to them: “Peace be with you!”  How often had Thomas heard those same words from His lips?  And no doubt, they also told him of Christ’s marvelous words outlining their purpose in life: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you…Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven, if you do not forgive them they are not forgiven.”  Thomas must have thought of himself and his sulky behavior and his own letting Christ down.  But here was his friends’ account of Christ forgiving him in spite of it all.  The shock of death now led to remorse, regret, and second-guessing.  So when they came and told him, he knee-jerked into questioning their words with an attitude of doubt and fear mixed together.


          How would you react in a similar situation?  More on point, how DO you react?  When your own eyes have seen pain, violence, and death, it’s hard to do a 180 from it.  That’s because we often cope with such pain by employing denial.  We cope by employing a certain cockiness, as Thomas voiced here.  His mind just could not take it all in.

          But, at least they got him back into the psychological safety of the group and a week later, literally today, he was in the upper room with them.  That’s when Jesus miraculously appeared in their midst!  Jesus passed through the physical reality of the locked door and solid walls to appear.  After all, He’s the Lord of all creation and isn’t bound to temporal/spatial reality like we are.  Again, Jesus uses that beautiful greeting: “Peace be with you!”  That’s Gospel.  It also actually gives to us what it says: Peace.  The pain, the anguish, the regret of the past which so weighed Thomas down, were taken away in an instant.  All that human “yuck” was replace by a calm soul.  That’s our Savior, isn’t it?

          Thomas wasn’t patient with the others when they first announced Christ’s resurrection reality.  But Jesus is very patient with him, just like He is with all of us.  Jesus doesn’t write him off.  Jesus doesn’t get angry with his slowness of faith.  Instead He gently gets right to the point as He doesn’t want Thomas to suffer any more.  “Put your finger here; see my hands.  Reach out your hand and put it into my side.  Stop doubting and believe.”  How those exact words of Thomas’ previous doubt must have seared his soul?!  But they did something else, too.  They cauterized the pain of his being.  And so it is for us each time Jesus forgives us all our sins via His absolution.

          To such words of loving truth, there can be only one response, and Thomas blurts it out: “My Lord and my God.”  Those are words of complete faith and confidence.  They are words of confession as to Who is really in charge of all creation—including our entire well-being.  They are words they come from a soul infused with the realization that Christ never, ever, will leave us nor forsake us.  This encapsulates the “ahhh” moment when  surrendering our entire being to Christ and His guidance in all things consumes our whole self. 

          And finally comes the clincher: “Because you have seen Me; you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  This is not a put-down of Thomas’ need for visual proof of Christ’s divinity.  No, it is simply a statement showing us that some humans are wired a bit differently than others.  Some think with their heads while others think with their hearts. 

          Which group do you occupy?  It doesn’t really matter.  Christ loves all of us.  He died for all of us.  And He finds a way to meet us where we are at and give us His healing, His hope, His forgiveness, His joy.  He provides all of us with a purpose in life beyond holding onto personal pain.  Yes, right here we see that Jesus gave Thomas a reason for his existence beyond himself.  And by His grace, He gives us the exact same gift of grace!  All this because: “The Lord is risen!” He is risen, indeed!  Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox

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