Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:19-31)
Last Sunday we greeted our Lord’s Resurrection with loud singing, with trumpets, and joy. Easter is always great. The flowers, the hymns, the Easter breakfast. Who does not love Easter?
But this week we have a different sort of scene. It’s Easter evening and the disciples aren’t singing, not even smiling. They are terrified. They are locked in the upper room with the doors shut. The bolt is locked and and they are all quaking with fear. Their knees are shaking. They were convinced everything was over and done. Jesus was killed by a bloodthirsty mob and now they were coming after the disciples. No trumpets here. No joyous singing and alleluias on Easter evening. Just a bunch of scared and quivering sinful disciples.
As they whispered together in fear, planning how they would just survive the rest of the day, Jesus comes among them. Risen and fresh from the grave he stands before them -arms outstretched, showing his pierced hands, he blesses them, saying “Peace be with you.” The disciples are in total awe. They saw him tried before Pilate, beaten to a pulp, and hanged on a tree until he died. His lifeless body was laid in a tomb – dead as a doornail.
But he’s not dead now. Their Jesus is alive. He breathed on them His Holy Spirit and sent these apostles –the first pastors to do the work of the ministry – to forgive the sins of those who repent and to withhold forgiveness from those who refuse to repent and turn from sin.
Yet Thomas who was not with them refused to believe. He is something of the first Christian skeptic – he wants to believe – but needs some proof. He needs some good evidence to set things straight, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hands into his side, I will never believe!”
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again and Thomas this time is with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus stood among them. He said to Thomas “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Then Thomas comes back with the most wonderful confession of who Jesus is in all of Holy Scripture. He believes. “My Lord and my God” says Thomas.
Now Thomas gets a bad rap and it’s unfortunate. In everyday life if someone is doubtful or wavering in confidence they get called a “doubting Thomas.” But why are we so hard on Thomas? Peter denied Jesus several times but we don’t call him Peter the denier. And we let Judas off the hook a bit. We don’t call him Judas the betrayer. But for me, Thomas I like because he’s stubborn like us. He’s a skeptic. He doesn’t take someone’s word for it. He needs proof.
And we’re a lot like him. We are of the attitude as well that if it sounds to go to be true then, well it’s probably not. Thomas we should like because he speaks for us. “Unless I place my finger into the nail holes and unless I place my hand into his side I will never believe.” Jesus is patient with him. He invites Thomas to put his fingers into the nail marks of his hands and to put his hand in his pierced side. My Lord and my God!
You are a lot like those scared disciples in this morning’s reading. You too have a problem with locking your doors too much. You are afraid of the whole world. Afraid for aging parents. Worried about money. Fretting about the future of your children. Worried about the future of our church as if Jesus was still dead and buried in the tomb. You worry about everything. And your incessant worrying is killing you.
But be of good cheer. This morning there is good news for faithless and anxious disciples! Jesus stands among you to announce his love for you. When he shows himself to his frightened and skittish disciples he doesn’t say “Look what you’ve done to me!” but rather “look what I’ve done for you!” He doesn’t remind Peter of his denials. He doesn’t slap Thomas for his problem with doubt. He just says “Look here, reach out your hand..it’s me! Your sins are forgiven. Do not doubt but believe!”
There is room in Christ’s church for faithless disciples like ourselves. There is room for doubting Thomas’s and there is room for you. Jesus says to you this morning “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, this is my body and this is my blood. Don’t disbelieve but believe.”
This morning you have proof that you can sink your teeth into. You have evidence that you can drink as he reaches out to you with his life-giving blood. You have proof of God’s love for sinners. For Jesus died for all your unbelief. He paid for all your faithless fears. He was troubled and worried about your future so that you wouldn’t have to.
Let Jesus unbar the gate of your heart and let him enter in. He stands among you and he speaks tender words of love and forgiveness. He doesn’t remind you of your sins he just forgives them all.
This morning we doubting Thomas’s can again be sure of God’s love once again. We can see Jesus among us, risen from the grave and confess with all boldness and confidence “My Lord and My God.” In the name of Jesus. Amen.