Posted on Apr 28, 2019 by Pastor Dave Whetter
Do you believe in miracles? I don’t mean a miracle like KU beating Alabama in football, although that would be quite the miracle! No, I mean the kind of miracle that defies all natural rules of life. I mean, do you believe in miracles like the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Now, before you say “yes” because, after all, you’re sitting here in church, know you are in good company if you say “no” or “I am not sure.” After all, not only are there many faithful Christians who struggle with this question today, there were lots of people on that first Easter who weren’t sure, either — folks like Peter, James, John, Matthew, and a man whose name has become synonymous with doubt — Thomas, “Doubting Thomas.”
Remember, as we heard last week, when the woman told the disciples about Jesus being alive the men thought it was an “idle tale”? They did not believe! But then as we heard today, that evening when they were all locked inside filled with fear, Jesus showed up and said, “Peace be with you,” and then he showed them his hands and feet. When they heard him and saw him, they were filled with joy. But then Jesus continued on and breathed into them the Holy Spirit and commanded them to go into the world. Wow, that must have been an incredible experience! And, of course, it wasn’t until that experience that they really believed.
But there was one little problem. Thomas wasn’t there that night. Why? He was there earlier, because as we heard last week, the eleven were all there when the women returned to tell them about Jesus. Was Thomas no longer afraid to be out of the locked room? Was Thomas in a different locked room somewhere grieving alone? Or was Thomas out looking for the Resurrected Jesus to see if he could find him? We have no idea; we only know he wasn’t there.
It’s unfortunate that Thomas is remembered as a “doubter,” and in such a negative way, because there is much more to Thomas. In the Gospel of John, we first hear from Thomas in Chapter 11. Lazarus had died and Jesus was ready to return to Bethany, but the disciples didn’t want him to go because there was a death warrant out on him, but Thomas, who John says was a twin, said to the group, "Let us also go, that we may die with him" (John 11:16). From this brief statement we know that Thomas was a man of great courage. Thomas knew the leaders were out to kill Jesus and his followers, but he was still willing to follow Jesus.
We also hear from Thomas on that infamous “Thursday” night. According to John, Jesus had just washed the feet of his disciples and given them the great command to love one another. Judas had just left to do his “dirty deed,” and the rest of the disciples crowded around Jesus when he said to them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 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 a 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" (John 14:1-4). But Thomas, who had been listening intently, blurted out, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (John 14:5). While everyone else sat there perplexed, Thomas spoke up. Thomas was a man who was willing to risk embarrassment and seek answers because he was faithful to Jesus and he truly wanted to follow Jesus, wherever he went. Thomas was a man of courage, faithfully committed to Jesus, and a man who was not afraid to share his concerns and doubts and seek real answers. So it is no wonder when the other disciples tell him about what earlier he had believed to be an idle tale he had his doubts.
After all, on that first Easter, no one, not the women, not the eleven, not the other disciples, expected the Resurrection. Now, it’s true that Jesus had predicted that he would be put to death and then raised to life, but his followers did not understand it. A resurrection was the farthest thing from their minds. Forget His predictions. Forget all that brave talk. They had given up. In many ways, I think on that first Easter night Thomas wasn’t with the others because he had given up, too. He wanted to believe in Jesus and Jesus’ promises, but he had seen Jesus die a horrible death on the cross, and this courageous, inquisitive, faithful man had lost all hope.
I get that, don’t you? In a world where people think nothing of blowing up churches, mosques, and synagogues, it is easy to lose hope. In a world where we would rather shoot our enemies and kill them than talk to them and find a way to live in peace, it is easy to lose hope. In a world where greed and power, racism, sexism, and so many other “isms” seem to be the norm, it is easy to lose hope. But what we hear today is that Jesus understands why we might lose hope, and Jesus understands why we might doubt, and so he continues to come back.
Here is what I find so cool about Jesus’ return that following Sunday. Not only did Jesus come back, but when he did he went directly to Thomas and said, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe" (John 20:27). Jesus knew about Thomas’ doubts and unbelief, and instead of scolding him or turning from him he went directly to him. Even in our unbelief, Jesus will not let us go.
No one wanted to believe more than Thomas. But he had seen too much; he knew too much. All the facts pointed in one direction, which is no different than our lives today. We have seen too much horror. We know too much about the reality of this world, and it is often difficult to believe. Brothers and sisters, I firmly believe in the Resurrection. There is no doubt in my mind today that it happened, but like Thomas I have had my doubts at times. Over and over in those times of doubt, though, Jesus comes to me and says to me, “See me, touch me and believe.”
It is perfectly okay to doubt, but don’t let your doubts keep you away. Continue to seek, continue to study, continue to ask questions. Never stop seeking, and Jesus will never give up on you. Do you want to touch Jesus? You will touch Jesus in the hand of your neighbor when you offer them Christ’s peace. You will touch Jesus when you receive the bread and wine, and you will see Jesus in the eyes of those strangers you will meet on the street today. Jesus is alive and well, and like Thomas today, even in my doubts, I proclaim, “Jesus, you are ‘my Lord and my God’ ” (John 20:28). I pray the same is true for you. Amen.