Today’s scripture is the basis for the introduction of Doubting Thomas. . . a term that has been used in both the sacred and secular world since the time of the earliest Christians. But maybe he should be a called Searching Thomas as well as Doubting Thomas.
Let’s set the stage:
- On Easter morning, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb to find it empty, but an angel informs her that Jesus body was not stolen, but that He has risen
- Mary runs to tell the disciples that Jesus is resurrected. They don’t believe her (after all she is a woman)
- Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, although she initially does not recognize Him.
Now it is Easter evening, and all the disciples except Thomas were hiding in a secure place.
They were behind a locked door. They did not fully understand the resurrection and they were scared. Scared that:
- those who caused the death of Jesus would come after them. Not an unrealistic concern.
- Someone had stolen Jesus body
- They would be accused of stealing His body
- Wondering where the body of Jesus was
- Because they did not know what to do or what was going to happen to them.
But they may have also felt ashamed:
- ashamed that they had not been able to save Jesus,
- ashamed that they had denied Jesus
- ashamed that they abandoned Jesus in his time of need,
- ashamed that they did not believe in Jesus enough to feel assured of His resurrection
The other ten disciples had told Thomas that Jesus had been resurrected, but he refused to accept it without proof. After all, even though Jesus had told then again and again that he would rise from the dead, it was something they had trouble grasping. Coming to life after three days in the tomb was not a common occurrence then – – – or even now!
Then suddenly, Jesus appears to the disciples in this locked room. . . just walked through the closed door.
He came looking for the disciples when they were in need. He forgave them for their denial and calmed their fears. He blessed them with the gift of the Holy Spirit and gave them a ministry. The nail marks and spear wound were comforting to the disciples – –they knew that this was indeed their Lord. They had been to the crucifixion and seen his death. Now this man standing before them bore those same scars.
But Thomas was not present in that locked room. Thomas was a practical man — he wanted to understand what was going on and be ready to deal with whatever was going to happen. He was not hiding behind locked doors, but searching for proof that his Lord had indeed risen from the dead.
According to John 20:26, it wasn’t until eight days later that Jesus again appeared to the disciples. This time Thomas was there. He had heard Jesus was alive, but found it hard to believe, even though he wanted to believe more than anything in the world.
He is very much like each of us wanting to believe and still unsure that Jesus has actually risen. He wanted to see the scars and touch them to ensure himself that it was really true.
Just as Thomas wanted physical proof, when we wander off the beaten path, need to be reassured of God’s love and forgiveness.
And we get that every Sunday.
When the priest says:
- “Peace be with you, (John 20:21)
this is what Jesus told the disciples when he first appeared to them. . . when he blessed them with the Holy Spirit.
Just as Thomas doubted, we must also see for ourselves. And we see that risen Christ each time we partake of the Eucharist.
Delivered at Church of the Good Shepherd, Athens OH, 30 March 2008