Message for the 2nd Sunday of Easter on John 20:19-31 given April 24, 2022 at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Richardson, Texas
Dear Saint Thomas,
Aren’t you tired of being called a “doubter?”—I mean it’s been two millenia! And I’ve learned that is not even what the text really says. Jesus says, “do not be an unbeliever, but believe.” You ask questions and make demands not because you doubt, but so that you can experience Jesus, so you can understand what he’s up to, and so you can believe. You are seeking faith vigorously, otherwise, why would you bother?!
Maybe many of us forget that this is not the first time you ask questions and make demands of Jesus. Why do we forget the other aspects of your story, the other questions you ask, the other truths you seek? All we remember is one word, “doubt.”
Maybe we have been captivated by your so-called “doubt” for so long because it validates our own doubt and difficulty believing in Jesus really rising from the dead.
We are so glad you asked for proof, for an experience of Jesus, because, the truth is, we need that too. All this dogma and doctrine—it just doesn’t mean that much when too many people we know have cancer, when Covid is an on-going struggle, when war rages, and when people we love are struggling with anxiety, work problems, and other issues too numerous to list here.
But it’s hard to speak up—sometimes we are not sure what to ask for, or what to stay, and we wonder if anything will change; if it matters at all—so we stay silent.
We always think someone has it worse than we do, that we should somehow muddle through on our own, so we do not speak up for what we need from Jesus, or about the things that matter to us, and we do not name those things that will help us, the way you did, Thomas.
We just stay silent, for ourselves, for others, and feel lousy about it. It’s easy to think that someone else will stand up and say something. Surely someone else will speak up –they will give voice to what we feel and know and want. Someone will speak out against the loneliness and isolation. Someone else will stand up and say something about feeling overwhelmed, and unsure, and say that the wounds are too deep and that the pain is too much.
But the truth is, YOU were the one, Thomas. You were the one who spoke out for us. Mary Magdalene and all the other apostles saw Jesus, but like us, you were not there. And it did not make sense. And we needed someone to say it out loud and no one else would, except you, Thomas. You said it. You asked for what you needed—what we all needed for Jesus coming back alive, to make sense: To see and to touch Jesus yourself, to see and touch the scars and to know they are real—yes, Thomas—YOU asked for what you needed from Jesus.
You took Jesus more seriously than any other disciple—you asked Jesus to be a man of his Word. You pushed him to make good on the promise he made when you asked him the last big question! No one else seems to remember, but we do—and it had nothing to do with doubt—it had to do with your vigorous questions to get to the truth! You remember…
Jesus said, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare an abiding place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.”
And then you, Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” That was your first big question, Thomas!
And then Jesus said to you: “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.”
Wow, that took guts. Now we wonder Thomas, if your desire to put your hands on the scars and in the side of Jesus was not because you were looking for proof, but because you really began to grasp Jesus’s response to your first question—Jesus is the way to God—and you wanted to be with him. You needed to abide with Jesus in his aliveness in the living dwelling place with him because that is where you experience and know God’s love most fully! You just needed to be with Jesus: to touch him, to feel him, see him, hear him, to embrace him. One more time. You needed to feel that abiding place again, you needed to feel The Way, again. Maybe it wasn’t about the scars themselves at all—they just let you know it was truly Jesus—your real need was reconnecting and abiding in a relationship with Jesus who is the way the truth and the life in the fullness of God.
You were not even after belief, Thomas, were you? You were after abiding, dwelling in Jesus who is dwelling in God—that is the vigorous faith you sought. And it all started –both times –with asking Jesus questions—questions about what you needed—clarity, yes, but really, Jesus’ presence, for his abiding love.
You took Jesus at his Word and asked for what Jesus said you should ask for. You needed what Jesus said is already yours – to abide with him – always.
And Jesus gave it to you! Jesus gave you exactly what you asked for and needed both times—which was not proof, but a relationship with the Way to God—his abiding presence. And in that moment, in that abiding, you saw Jesus as your Lord and as your God. What a “wow” experience!
So, thank you Thomas, for your big questions, and your vigorous faith. And mostly, thank you, for your courage to ask for you what you need, so we can ask Jesus for what we need, too. Which is to abide in our relationship with Jesus always, who is our way, our truth and our life.
The saints at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, where spirits dazzle!
Image: Doubting Thomas, Mary Jane Miller, 2008.
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