Second Sunday of Easter 2021
April 11, 2021 | Bryan Simmons
Passage: John 20:19-31
As I said in the children's message, this is the Sunday that we talk about Doubting Thomas. It Comes up every year after Easter Sunday. And what's funny about it is a lot of people that show up on Easter that, you know, could benefit from this text afterwards. There's always this dearth of attendance afterwards. So maybe they don't know this text! But we're going to talk about it today. It's an important one because of who we are in this world in relation to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are those that believe, that have not seen. Right? So thankfully, John includes that in the gospel there, where he says that Jesus said, "blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." It does feel blessed at times, right? And particularly those moments, you know, Easter morning when we celebrate and we are here and it just seems a little brighter in the room and we're all excited! It was 80 degrees last week. What's not to celebrate with Easter? I don't think it's even 50 right now. And that kind of feeds into this, too, doesn't it? The high is gone, quite literally with the temperature. We are back to the cold in the darkness of what is happening here.
For you and me, we celebrate and we think about the joy of what Easter brings, the joy of what the resurrection brings. But that was not so for these early disciples. Just ahead of this text, it talks about Mary and the excitement Mary had to the resurrection to Jesus. Didn't know who Jesus was, thought he was the gardener, right? She's the first at the tomb early in the morning -- until Jesus calls her by name, "Mary." And then she says, "Rabbi." She remembers who he is and is excited to see him.
The same narrative has Peter running to the tomb to see the tomb empty and then just going home. The so-called apostles, the 12 that followed Jesus, did not react to the empty tomb in the same way. They were frightened, terrified. Of those in power that put Jesus to death and those in power that had the authority to do so to them. The doors were locked. Because they were afraid, the doors were locked. This is not a celebratory moment. They did not believe. They did not understand. And yet their Jesus shows up standing among them, saying, peace be with you. Sign of that peace is so needed at that time, for they had great fear. And he volunteers to the disciples that are there for Thomas is not he's missing. But he volunteers to show his hands and his side and only then did the disciples rejoice.
So when Thomas comes and misses this moment, and only has to hear from what the disciples are saying, we have seen the Lord, he's heard that story already. Unless I see the marks in his hands, and the mark in his side -- I will not believe. So later on, when Jesus shows up and says directly to Thomas. Peace be with you, put your finger here and see my hands, reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt, but believe the Greek is actually "do not be unbelieving, but believe." It doesn't even say that Thomas did what Jesus said. It doesn't say that he put his fingers in the marks, but that he immediately says, "my Lord and my God." I think we give Thomas this unfair name. Doubting Thomas. I don't think we take into context for this poor guy the fear of the moment. Jesus was not supposed to raise from the dead. Nobody does that. There's only a couple of times in recorded scripture where somebody was resuscitated from the dead. Jesus doing that to someone later in or earlier in John himself. And so to think that Jesus could raise from the dead. And be this son of God that they were hoping, is not something that was readily understood.
It's amazing to me to think that a week goes by when the original disciples saw Jesus and they rejoiced. And Jesus gives them this incredible authority from the Holy Spirit that they remain locked away for the next week in fear of the Jews.
If Thomas is going to go through this process of struggling to understand, of struggling to know for himself that Jesus is truly raised from the dead. How can we ever say to ourselves that we cannot doubt but only have faith? After all, it's a pretty crazy story, isn't it? Jesus, the son of God, raised from the dead. For you and for me. But there is a difference between doubt and unbelief. And it is a key difference. You and I live our lives believing in things that we don't know to be true without them. But we don't unbelieve these things that we don't. It's OK to doubt the resurrection story. It's OK to doubt that you are indeed loved by God. It's OK to doubt the way these things play out. And as I said to the kids, I'm going to say to you, I encourage you to doubt these things. Because in doubting, we can strengthen our faith, we can pursue what we don't understand. And not be so brittle in our own belief. Faith is a thing that carries us on, that carries us forward.
And our doubt and faith are the building blocks of belief. You've probably heard me say that before. And that faith in doubt helps us to move to that point of belief where we don't have to live in fear, where we truly can live our lives in this world, knowing Jesus, knowing the grace of God, knowing eternal love.
Now, those just come in moments, don't they? None of us are always in that mode of certainty of the resurrection, of certainty, of God's grace and love and peace. That's why we have each other. So that through our doubts, we can be carried by others' faith as well. Thomas is not rejected in this narrative, but invited into it. To know Jesus, His Lord and his God.
The author of this gospel thinks that's sufficient for you too. You are invited into this story. You are invited to reach out with your hands, pursue for yourself. This narrative that is being told. This wonderful story. That is true for you and for me. He is risen, he's risen, indeed, Alleluia! And he has been raised from the dead for you and for me. So that we may know God's love, we may know God's forgiveness in a world that challenges and encourages our doubt. We can move forward in the strength of faith. Amen.