The Second Sunday of Easter

The Very Reverend Steve Lipscomb, Dean
John 20:19-31

When we last left the disciples, on Easter Day, there were lots of doubters. The women had gone to the tomb, taking with them spices to anoint Jesus’ body. But when they got there they found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. And two angels (or as the scripture reports “two men in dazzling clothes”) told them Jesus had been raised. They ran to tell the others what they had seen and heard but the men found the women’s story unbelievable. (Seems that Thomas wasn’t the only doubter in the beginning!)

Well, this morning, as far as the story is concerned, it is Easter evening. The disciples are scared and broken-hearted and still doubters of the Resurrection. They believe what they see with their own eyes, not what they hear from hysterical women.

Then, suddenly, though the windows and doors to the house are closed and locked, Jesus is standing right there in front of them. And after a moment of complete shock and awe, Jesus says to them, “Peace.” Then, he shows them his hands and his side, and they know this is, indeed, the crucified and dead and buried and Risen Lord.

But Thomas was not with them that evening, so when the other disciples told him about Jesus and what they themselves had seen—the mark of the nails and the spear—Thomas was indignant. He regarded their story with the same worth as the women’s: As invalid. For Thomas, too, had eyes to see. And what his eyes had seen was Jesus nailed to the cross, bleeding, dying. What he had seen was a lifeless body taken from the cross and wrapped in a linen cloth and taken to a tomb, where he was laid—and a stone rolled in place.

That was the fact of the matter. That is what Thomas knew to be true. Jesus was dead, and dead was dead, and idle tales and wishful thinking would not bring Jesus back. For Thomas to believe such a fantastic story, he would have to see with his own eyes the man. He would have to see and feel the wounds to know that this was the same Jesus he knew and loved. The same Jesus he saw die. For this was the only risen Christ that mattered. The only one he would accept. Anything less—another like Jesus—or anything more—a brand new Jesus—would not do. Only the wounded, risen Christ, the same Jesus he loved and served and wept over would do, and would heal Thomas’ broken heat and hurting soul. As much as Thomas wanted to believe the others’ story, the very idea of Jesus’ “escape from death” added insult to injury.

Then, it is a week later. This time Thomas is in the house with the other disciples. Again, the doors were closed and locked, but suddenly, Jesus was there among them. And he says to them, “Peace.” Then, he says to Thomas, “ Put your finger here and see my hands. Put your hand here and feel my side. Know it is I, Jesus, the same Jesus who died on the cross. The same Jesus you love. Do not doubt, but believe.” And Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

But then, Jesus says a very interesting thing to Thomas (and maybe to the others as well). “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” In other words, a trust and belief are essential to faith and a true relationship with God. Not just believing what we see but believing before we see, believing what we cannot see: trusting in God’s promises. Jesus is talking about those people of faith who came before the disciples as well as those who would come after.

People like Abraham and Sarah, who trusted in God’s promises, even when those promises seemed impossible to them. They left their home and their people, and not knowing where they were going except that God wanted them to go, they moved, in faith, in the direction God led them.

Moses, based on his total trust in God, returned to Egypt as a wanted man to do the work God called him to do—to lead God’s people to freedom and the Promise Land.

Countless martyrs and missionaries have placed their lives in God’s hands—given their lives—based on an unwavering trust and faith and belief in a God who promises to be with them and bless them in all things: in life, in death, in life everlasting.

You and I, and all God’s people today, should have that same trust too, and believe in the Lord’s promises. God will be with us in all things because God has already been there. Through Jesus, God has lived the same life we all live. He has laughed and cried and loved and suffered and died. And Jesus has been raised from the dead so that we also may rise. Through his life and death and resurrection, Jesus gives us the promise of everlasting life.

So, Believe. Walk by faith, not by sight. Give thanks to God in all things and trust in him. And all will be well. And all will be blessed. We will be blessed.

In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Our Lord and our God. Amen.