Year A Easter 2 John 20 2011
You may be interested to know that in the first three gospels we are told absolutely nothing at all about Thomas. It is in John's Gospel that he emerges as a distinct personality, but even then there are only 155 words about him. There is not a lot about this disciple in the Bible but there is more than one description.
When Jesus turned his face toward Jerusalem the disciples thought that it would be certain death for all of them. Surprisingly, it was Thomas who said: Then let us go so that we may die with him. It was a courageous statement, yet we don't remember him for that. We also fail to point out that in this story of Thomas' doubt we have the one place in the all the Gospels where the Divinity of Christ is bluntly and unequivocally stated. It is interesting, is it not, that the story that gives Thomas his infamous nickname, is the same story that has Thomas making an earth shattering confession of faith? Look at his confession, "My Lord, and my God." Not teacher. Not Lord. Not Messiah. But God! It is the only place where Jesus is called God without qualification of any kind. It is uttered with conviction as if Thomas was simply recognizing a fact, just as 2 + 2 = 4, and the sun is in the sky. You are my Lord and my God! These are certainly not the words of a doubter.
Unfortunately history has remembered him for this scene where the resurrected Christ made an appearance to the disciples in a home in Jerusalem. Thomas was not present and when he heard about the event he refused to believe it. Maybe he was the forerunner of modern day cynicism. Maybe the news simply sounded too good to be true. Thomas said: Unless I feel the nail prints in his hands I will not believe.
Now I cannot help but notice that Thomas has separated himself from the disciples and therefore, in his solitude, missed the resurrection appearance. I think that john is suggesting to us that Christ appears most often within the community of believers that we call the church, and when we separate ourselves from the church we take a chance on missing his unique presence.
But the story doesn't end here. The second time Jesus made his appearance Thomas was present with the disciples and this time he too witnessed the event. This time he believed. What can we learn from the life of Thomas?
- Jesus did not blame him.
- The most endearing things in life can never be proven.
- We must move beyond doubt to faith.
The Five-a-Day Rule
By now all last week's hard-boiled eggs have been transformed into egg salad and consumed. Right?
Of course, it goes without saying that the contents of all those Easter baskets have disappeared, except, of course, the nasty black jelly beans. On this Sunday the spiritual and sugar high of Easter Sunday is wearing off. Hence the colloquial designation of this week as "Low Sunday."
After the "high" of Easter, we come back to the everydayness of life. It is when we are most "low" in energy, in desire, in hope that we start to entertain the most doubts about ourselves, our lives, our choices and our faith.
With Spring Break lines behind them and a long time until summer vacation, even the most serious student can start to doubt the value of slogging on and staying in school. As spring and new growth bursts all around us, the same old job, the dullness of deadlines, the grind of every-day work, can fertilize furtive doubts about the value of our work, of our careers, of our dreams.
With so much of our culture completely "unchurched" and biblically illiterate, especially about the New Testament, there are still three stories, three individuals, that remain popular in the common cultural vocabulary.
The first is the Good Samaritan, Jesus' classic story of an unexpected compassion.
The second is the Prodigal Son. Again a tale of unlooked for grace and unpredictable acceptance.
The third is Doubting Thomas, the story of the disciple who would not take anyone's testimony as true unless he could see for himself. Since the Enlightenment our rational, empirical, scientifically centered world has found the attitude and questions of Thomas, the Doubting Disciple, to be logical and legitimate.
Why believe the fantastic reports of others?
Why shouldn't we demand physical evidence?
Why shouldn't we require proof we can feel with our own hands, see with our own eyes? Why shouldn't "faith" be grounded in "fact?"
The fact that "Doubting Thomas" has remained one of the most memorable of gospel figures says as much about our own doubts and indecisions as it does about the appeal of this particular disciple...