Sermon; Easter 2; John 20:19-31
Besides Trinity Sunday, I really need to look into getting a supply priest/guest preacher for this Second Sunday of Easter. Like Trinity Sunday, where the topic is always the Trinity, the topic for this Sunday is always Thomas. Unlike Trinity Sunday where we get different gospel passages every year, though, this Second Sunday of Easter is always this passage. Same topic, same readings, second verse, same as the first. Ho hum, here we go again.
But let's dispense with the repetition and redundancy. Let's dispense with the misguided notion that only poor old Thomas had doubts about the resurrection. Let's look for something new.
On the evening of the resurrection ten of the disciples were all gathered together behind locked doors. Thomas was not with them. Scripture doesn't say why this was so, but my standard answer is that he had been appointed by the group to take over the duties held by Judas – mainly that of being the treasurer. I've said this before, but I think he was down at the bank filling out a new signature card when all of this happened.
Regardless of the reason, he was missing for that first group encounter with the resurrected Christ. When he comes back from the bank the other ten tell him what happened, but he won't believe until he sees the nail wounds and places his hands in Christ's side. We know this story. It's one of the favorites of our tradition. But let's look at a few pieces and maybe connect some dots a little more deeply.
Jesus said, “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” The disciples are now apostles, being sent out to teach and preach the message of the Good News. The disciples are now Christ's representatives on earth. They are his hands and feet, his ears and mouth. They are now charged with forgiving, healing, and restoring all things to unity with God in Christ.
In this story, the disciples represent you. As the disciples were sent, so you are sent. This means that you all are responsible for the spread of the kingdom, as am I. We are all Christ's representatives on earth. We all have a responsibility to teach and preach the Good News of God in Christ. We all are Christ's hands and feet, his ears and mouth.
In today's gospel, the ten disciples hiding away in fear. That means that we are also hiding away in fear. But as Christ moves the disciples from fear to action, so are you moved. As the disciples are sent, so you are sent. As the disciples were given the gift of the Holy Spirit, so you have been given the same gift. You have been sent by Christ to proclaim the good news, to be his hands, feet, ears, and mouth on earth, and you have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit. Be not afraid.
So if the ten disciples represent you, who does Thomas represent? I think Thomas represents everyone outside these walls. He represents everyone who does not know Christ.
Thomas represents everyone who believes that Jesus actually lived. He represents everyone who believes that Jesus was executed by the Romans for being a troublemaker. He represents those who may even believe Jesus was a great prophet, teacher, and/or healer of his day. And Thomas represents those who simply cannot believe in the resurrection without proof.
Origen writes that Thomas was a precise and careful man (proving my point that he was now the treasurer for the group) and didn't at first believe because others had thought Jesus an apparition. Thomas didn't believe in ghost stories, so for him to believe Jesus was indeed Jesus and not a vision, he had to see and touch. And Peter Chrysologus questions why Thomas felt the need to touch and handle wounds and organs laid bare by the cruelty of his tormentors.
Thomas represents the skeptic, but he also represents all those seeking alliance with one who has been wounded. He represents those seeking to be comforted by those who have also suffered.
MADD came about when anguished mothers had had enough of children being killed by drunk drivers. AA works because people who fight that addiction help others who also struggle. Within our building are people who suffer and struggle with a variety of issues. We know what it is like to be broken, injured, and neglected.
We know, and Jesus knows. This puts us in an interesting position because Christians are the only people who's Savior was beaten, broken, suffered, and died. Christ is with us in our sufferings.
We represent Christ, who suffered like us and suffers with us. This allows us to stand with all the Thomases of the world who are searching for solidarity and solace at the hands of someone who understands.
Thomas did not say, “Unless I see the size of your endowment, or your cars and boats, or other signs of blessings, I will not believe.” Thomas was looking for the person who knew sorrow like his sorrow. Thomas didn't want easy answers or pithy platitudes. Thomas wanted a real person who would walk with him through difficult times.
Thomas represents all those who are suffering and in turmoil. Thomas represents those who are searching for someone who understands life can be painful.
Jesus is that person. We are those people. We are wounded. We have been afflicted. We have had broken hearts and painful experiences. Those experiences can let us empathize with the Thomases of the world – those who are hurting and exposed.
We are the disciples. We are Jesus. We have been sent to teach, proclaim, and heal, because that's what Jesus did. But we haven't been called in our perfection; we have been called with our wounds exposed.
Everyone out there is Thomas. Everyone out there is looking for someone who understands, or at least empathizes with, their own pain.
If we are going to reach the Thomases of the world, we need to be willing to expose our own wounds. Because it is often in that place of vulnerability where Jesus is present.