Second Sunday of Easter – 12 April 2015 Reading: John 20: 19-31
I wonder where Thomas was on the day that changed the world. The rest of them were there, shut up in a room – frightened, anxious, because the friend they had betrayed, denied, abandoned, the one they had left to die, well, he was alive again, walking around, even maybe on his way to see them… and suddenly…there he was!!! – and Thomas was off doing something else!
How he must have kicked himself when the others told him how Jesus had put them at their ease – “Peace be with you.” In effect Jesus says, “Don’t worry, I’m not angry or upset with you. Things are going to be all right.” Whatever the other disciples told him, however they put it, they would never be a substitute for the real thing, would they. Nothing ever is, is it?
We may be told about something or other, something or other that we really ought to know, that we need to know, that will help our lives no-end, but…until we experience it ourselves we can’t grasp it fully. If it’s like that for us why should it have been any different for Thomas?
Thomas had experienced Jesus in his life; he’d spent lots of time being with him, watching what he did, seeing how he did it, seeing people’s response to this extraordinary man; he’d had a relationship with this man, known him, got used to his presence, been there through it all and to miss out now…
We all know how time can drag when we’re waiting for something. Thomas needed to know the risen Jesus for himself. Those eight days must have been the longest of his life – questioning the others, questioning himself… Thomas had the courage to doubt and not try to hide it or be ashamed of it. He tested the truth of what he had been told. He did not let his doubting stop him.
…and Jesus comes back for him, to reassure him, to calm his fears, to put his mind at rest: he goes out of his way for this one person, and deals with him exactly where he is, so that Thomas too can have his faith confirmed and discover the meaning of the risen Christ in his life… so that Thomas realises “My Lord and my God!”
We, too, can use our doubts in a positive way. We all have doubts – it’s human nature. We don’t have to (and to my mind, shouldn’t) worry about examining our faith – this examination, this not being willing to accept someone else’s faith but to find out for ourselves – leads us to our own relationship with the same risen Christ that met Thomas where he was… that is there to meet us where we are.
Just think about those first disciples, their look at their calling – the lack of qualifications but the willingness to follow; how the disciples faith grew – by spending time with Jesus and spending time together (a good example of how we too can grow as disciples); how the resurrection changed everything, that event that was both a moment in history two thousand years ago and a moment for all time – but it was only afterwards that things started to slot into place for those whose experience was first hand.
Those first disciples had a personal knowledge of Jesus, which (when they spent time together) became a shared knowledge of Jesus – talking and mulling over things that had happened.
It was this shared knowledge that, when shared with others who had not known Jesus, led to people becoming (new) believers.
We were not there to see or touch the physical Jesus as the first disciples were, so our knowledge of him comes from various directions; from the faith that is built up by reading the bible; trying to follow good examples given; prayer; hearing stories about God; allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us; attending worship with other Christians; interacting with other Christians; hearing about other peoples faith journeys; to be willing to follow…
We sometimes get things wrong; sometimes we don’t live up to even our own expectations – we all fall short of the glory of God – but Jesus still speaks to us, “Peace be with you. Don’t worry – you can try again sometime. I’m not angry or upset with you – things are going to be all right.”
Presumably, our being here this morning means that we want to experience for ourselves, just like Thomas, that relationship with God, that relationship which leads us to experience all the life that God has for us, that relationship with God which sends us (just like the first disciples) as a church and as individuals to play our part in God’s world, our place in the body of Christ… to live God’s love and grow God’s kingdom.
Seeing is believing – we can help others in a relationship with Christ by showing what a difference he has made – he makes – to our lives…daring to care about those that Jesus cared about (those who need help); and we all know that our actions speak louder than words.
To confidently answer people’s questions about Jesus, about our faith, we really need to have asked the same sort of questions of ourselves – to have confronted any of our doubts. Then, when someone asks us, “What about this Jesus then?” we can answer, as boldly as Thomas, “He is my Lord and my God!"
LLM Rachel Pound