Sunday, April 19, 2020
How long, O Lord?! Isn’t that the question on most of our minds these days? We know that we need to be staying at home for at least awhile longer, but we’re not sure for how long, or what life will look like as our society tries to return to “normal.” There are so many unknowns, and so many questions that can’t be answered. Wouldn’t it be nice to know at least a little more than we do now?! Today, our gospel tells us of the disciple who comes to Jesus with a lot of questions. Thomas has always been my favorite disciple because I can so relate to him. He wants to see Jesus for himself. He wants the facts. He wants answers. He is not afraid to express some doubt, and for good reason – people don’t just die and then show up in locked rooms alive again every day. Is this surprising turn of events, Jesus raised from the dead, true or not? Thomas wants to know for sure for himself.
I think Thomas too often gets a bad rap. The other disciples see Jesus and for some reason, we don’t know why, Thomas misses Christ’s first appearance. Maybe Thomas was braver than the other disciples, and was out and about doing his shopping even though he was a little afraid, instead of locked in a room with his friends. The other disciples have already seen the Lord, so it is easier for them to believe in Christ’s resurrection. Thomas needs to see, and touch Jesus, for himself, too. He wants to be able to do what the other disciples have already done. Who can blame him? If you could, you would want to, too, right?
In response to Thomas’s uncertainty and reservations about Christ’s resurrection, Jesus shows up and gives him what he needs to believe. First, he says what he said to the disciples the first time AGAIN, “Peace be with you.” And then, without Thomas saying a word, Jesus says, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Jesus knows Thomas has questions, and he knows what his questions are. He knows that Thomas needs to touch him and see his wounds. Jesus knows what Thomas needs to be able to believe in him. And then, Jesus speaks to us so that we have what we need to hear: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Keep the faith. Trust and believe, even though you can’t see what Thomas and the other disciples have seen, Jesus says. “I am still with you.”
It is the second week of a strange Easter where many of us are still huddled at home with at least a little fear and anxiety, and SO ARE THE FIRST DISCIPLES. We are not alone, and God’s Word gives us comfort during this stressful time, that others have been where we have been before. Into a locked room, into a gathering of fearful and anxious followers, Jesus appears twice and says, “Peace be with you.”
We are living with a lot of unknowns. We know that this will all be over eventually, but when? What about our economy, which was healthy just a month ago? Some of you may be wondering about your job, your future employment, your kids’ or grandkids’ schooling, your long-term health care plans, your retirement accounts. Like Thomas, we have a lot of questions, and at least a little bit of doubt. Today, Jesus enters our uncertain situation to say, “Peace be with you.” It’s not exactly a straight answer, but it is what we need to hear. Does it comfort you as much as it comforts me to hear Jesus say those words? Peace. And then Jesus blows the Holy Spirit on them so that they will know for certain that God is with them always.
Often when we read this story or talk about it in Sunday School or Bible study we focus on “doubting Thomas” and that we need to have a stronger faith. As I read this gospel passage this time around, I think it is more about Jesus giving us what we need than about Thomas needing to have blind faith. Thomas’s reaction is normal. What we are feeling in these abnormal times is normal. The challenge for us is not to stuff down our doubts and pretend we don’t have them, but to trust in the midst of our questions and doubts that the Holy Spirit is still present and will give us peace. Jesus gives the disciples peace, the Holy Spirit, and shows them his hands and feet so that they might believe. Jesus gives us those things, too. We won’t feel at peace all of the time, but when we return to God’s word and make space in our lives for worship, prayer, meditation, and Bible study, we can find some peace. When we take time to simply enjoy being with our families at home or over the internet, when we write and receive letters, when we talk to someone on the phone – that is a small gift of God’s peace to us during this difficult time. God will give us what we need to continue to believe, and to find peace, Christ’s peace. Peace be with you! Amen.