Second Sunday of Easter
April 23, 2006
The Gospel: John 20:19-31
Sermon: "Thomas Offers Hope for Us All"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe." A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, 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. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
Thomas Offers Hope for Us All
Second Sunday of Easter - April 23, 2006
I have always been fascinated with history. As a boy and young man I read a great deal about the history of the United States between the years of 1915 and 1950. I was fascinated by the tumultuous events in this country during those years. We went from incredible highs to deep lows and back to incredible highs again. As I read about these years I became very interested in what happened with people when The Great Depression actually occurred.
The reactions to that fateful day were varied. Some people refused to believe it. They tried to remain in their world even though they had lost everything. Some people lost all hope. They simply quit. Some gave up their life because they lost all hope. Others went through the motions of simple survival. Some people tried to salvage something out of what had happened. They went to the banks or they tried to sell what they owned. Finally, some people started all over again. There is a great picture of a man in one of the books I own. He has on a bowler hat. His clothes are expensive. He has a pocket watch on a chain across his vest. He has a black cane with a silver or gold handle. From the picture he looks to be somewhere in his fifties in age. He is standing by an apple cart. In his hand he holds an apple for sale. The caption said that he had been doing well before the stock market crash. He had built his own business and lost it all. However, it also said that he had built his business before and he was going to do it again. I remember that picture because this man showed great courage and perseverance. He also exhibited hope. He had a great deal of hope that the country would rebound and that restoration of his previous life was possible.
Today, we heard the story of the disciples shortly after the resurrection. They too, had experienced a crash. Their crash was spiritual. The reactions were also wide and varied. Judas killed himself because of what he had done. The women went to the tomb to do the duties called for in burial but they expected nothing unusual. Many of the disciples hid in fear in an upper room. The doors were locked because they were afraid of being arrested and killed. Let's be real. They had lost hope. They were scared to death and had no hope.
Suddenly, Jesus appears among them and they believe. Hope is restored because Jesus spoke with them. He spoke with all of them except one, Thomas. Thomas was not there. Perhaps he was on an errand for food or some other necessity. Maybe he was out trying to gather information concerning the possible arrest of the disciples. Maybe, just maybe, he needed to get out for a while. Whatever the circumstance, Thomas was not present. Therefore, he missed the wonder of the appearance of Jesus.
When he walks into the room, he is besieged by his companions. They are excited. They are joyful. They are exuberant. Can we imagine how he must have felt? It would be like walking into a surprise party late. You don't know exactly what happened, but something marvelous occurred and you missed it. Everyone else was apart of it, but due to circumstances you missed it. Instead of being joyful with everyone it is possible to be upset, bitter, even angry.
So, now we see Thomas. He missed the event and he doesn't know what to believe. He was present for most of what had happened that week. He knows Jesus died on that cross. For three days, he has been confused, upset, fearful and angry. Suddenly, everyone says everything is all right. It might be all right for them, but he needs something more. He needs something to grab. He needs something to hold He needs something to help him see and understand. He needs hope.
For Thomas that hope means seeing Jesus like they did. He has to see the wounds. He has to touch the wounds. He has to see with his own eyes the resurrected Jesus. He has to hear with his own ears the words Jesus might speak. He is looking for something tangible to give him hope.
We are not so far removed from Thomas. All of us have had times in our lives where we questioned. We have had times in our lives when we have been hurt by something or someone. We have lost a loved one. We have been rejected in love. We have been hurt by someone even when we were trying to do the right thing. We have felt confused, alone, or frightened. Hope has waned and we need something tangible to grab to help hope return.
Yes, Thomas needed that help. He did one thing that is remarkable. He placed his fear and frustration into words. He stated plainly what he needed to have hope again. He named it and proclaimed it to everyone around him. God responded with just what he needed. Jesus came to him and restored his hope.
Now, I know we might be thinking, "Well, I'd believe better too if Jesus came to me like he did to Thomas." I'm sure we all would. The question is, "What do we really need to believe?" Notice I did not ask what we want. What do we need to give us hope? Do we need a vision? Do we need a friend? Do we need a sign? Do we need love?
The wonderful message from Thomas is that we will have times when we doubt. We are human and hard times tend to bring out feelings of doubt. Yet, the second part of the message from Thomas is just as important. God will provide what we need. Imagine if Thomas had never asked for Jesus to come to him. God will supply our needs. In that message, we can place our hope and our trust. God is always with us. God is always more ready to forgive than we are to receive. Thank God for God's grace. AMEN.