2nd Weekend of Easter - 4/24/2022

2nd Weekend of Easter - 4/24/2022

April 24, 2022 | Bryan Simmons

Passage: John 20:19-31

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    Almost sounds like a political campaign. Right?

    Make every Sunday. Easter Sunday. But it is true, we are in the midst of the celebration that Jesus rose from the dead. Seven weeks is, you know, seven is a nice round biblical number -- so seven weeks it is. And it's just that ability to be able to celebrate that Christ has risen. Christ has risen, indeed. Alleluia. Got you! You weren't ready for that.

    And in this in this church season, you know, us pastor types we get really excited about these things. Because we want the world to know, right? That Christ is risen. And we want the world to know that because of this, there is love and forgiveness in Christ's name. And that the beauty of that is that it can strengthen people for service in this world to truly love one another, as God loves us. But I think we all have to admit in this church and throughout God's church that it is a weird story. We are talking about Jesus Christ RISEN from the dead. It's a bizarre thing. And sometimes it's hard to come to terms with. And hard to fully understand. Hard to accept. We take it on faith after all.

    We have the eyewitnesses and the Gospel accounts after that. And every time we get together this week after Easter, we focus on this story in the Gospel of John, this Doubting Thomas story. And every week or every year, I should say, we focus on this. And you know, the guy has been known as Doubting Thomas for how long? Right? And in some ways, it's an unfair moniker because he's never referred to that in the gospels themselves. We just call him that because, well, he's the one that doubted after all. I was talking to a member here about this and talking about how Thomas gets such a bad rap that it really got to the point in the church where doubting it all was seen as bad, maybe even sinful. Where if you doubt -- that is sin. And you even need to repent of that because belief is solid and you need to believe in order to even be considered a Christian. And this member said he remembered growing up in the church, and it wasn't this church, but it might have been the same story here, I don't know. A lot of the church has done this, he said, "I remember growing up as a kid and I would get Thomas confused with Judas."

    That's a pretty stark comparison. I do not think Thomas's actions are the same as Judas's actions. And if we do truly look at the story, this is the same, Thomas, that earlier in the Gospel when Jesus sets his sights on Jerusalem, Thomas is the one that says, "let us go to Jerusalem and die with him." Thomas knows exactly the tensions that have been raised. He knows what's going on. Thomas was with the rest of the disciples, walking with Jesus daily for over three years, hearing Jesus preach and watching Jesus do miracles, and hearing Jesus foreshadow the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. And when that Good Friday came, Jesus was crucified, died and buried. It understandably hit Thomas just like it hits all of us when we lose a loved one. We hear the story of the resurrection. We hear this foreshadowing in our own lives that we, too, will be raised one day. But it is really hard to feel that in the loss of a loved one close to you. So too with Thomas.

    So too with the women that were first at the tomb. The great first preachers of Easter morning. So too, were the disciples hiding in fear. The promise of resurrection is harder when the death of a loved one is met face to face.

    And so the disciples get the benefit of hiding out and Jesus, coming to them, saying, "Peace be with you." Poor Thomas wasn't there. So Thomas had a reasonable amount of fear I would say. Fear that these disciples, the women before, are victim to some tale, some thing that is not true, not going to help or worse. If it IS true there's fear of what happens now? What happens to us with the rest of our Jewish brothers and sisters? What happens between us and the Romans? Thomas says what I believe you and I would probably say in that moment -- it sounds too good to be true. So unless I can touch him. I will not believe. It's almost I CANNOT believe. Right?

    There are people in this church right now that, you know, we were baptized as infants. I'm one of them. And we grew up in the church and we heard the Sunday school stories and we've been reinforced and reminded of God's love all the way through. And for many of us doubt creeps in every now and then. But it just becomes so patterned in our lives that we tend not to think about it even as doubt, necessarily. And then there are some in here that have come to Christ later in life. Who started with a good degree of doubts. Their lives were patterned with people that doubted in their lives as well. Until they came to see the faith for themselves. And believe in this story of resurrection and life and forgiveness.

    And I'm sure there are all of us in here that do doubt and wonder and try to make sense of it all. Particularly in a world of pain and grief. A world where countries simply invade other countries for their own gain. A world where people are oppressed, pushed down for the sake of those in power. Sure, it's reasonable to doubt. And Thomas, who is walking with Jesus, is no different than you and me. The difference is, Thomas was walking with Jesus. Thomas had that benefit. And even though Thomas doubted, Thomas is no Judas. Thomas is still as zealous for Jesus as before. The mark of proof is a desire within that doubt. A desire to know more. To gain more. To want more.

    And Jesus gives it to him. Jesus doesn't shun Thomas. Jesus doesn't cast Thomas out. Jesus doesn't say of Thomas better for that person to never have been born at all. But instead offers to Thomas. Reach out. Touch my hand. Reach out. Touch my side. That we are more blessed for believing without seeing does not mean that Thomas is less. Or that Thomas isn't blessed. Through our doubts, through our desire to know more about these things Jesus continues to offer. Jesus continues to show us who Jesus is. Often in the goodwill of each other. Always in the meal that we share.

    We are doubters. We believe as best as we can, and the Holy Spirit guides us in the process. Jesus is there for you and for me. Jesus continues to offer: come and see. Let the bravery of Thomas be our bravery. To desire to know more about the truth of this Jesus who was risen from the dead for the sake of the world. May we continue to pursue our doubts and our belief so that we may be strengthened by both. To share with others what we have discovered about the truth of this Jesus Christ. For you and for me. Because he lives. So we too. That is the strength we need for this world. Amen.