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       Sermons | Passionate worship

      This sermon was preached by Pastor Keith Cardwell at Swift Presbyterian Church.

      April 11, 2021 | Second Sunday of Easter

      Jesus Appears to Thomas
      John 20:19–31

       W HEN JESUS APPEARS to the disciples in the locked room, Thomas is absent. We don’t know where he is. We don’t know where his friends find him, but somewhere, sometime, they connect with Thomas and tell him the news.

      “We have seen Jesus. He’s alive.”

      On hearing that the disciples have seen the risen Jesus, Thomas neither overjoyed or comforted. He reacts just as the disciples do when Mary tells them the same thing.

      It is then that Thomas makes his dramatic statement:

      “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and shove my finger into the mark of the nails, and shove my hand into his side, I absolutely will not believe.”

      † † †

      THOMAS HAS A LOT of conditions to belief. This may make him relatable to you. He wants hard evidence. He wants to be an eyewitness to the fact that Jesus is risen.

      For this, he gets labeled as doubting. Was Thomas the only person to doubt Jesus’ resurrection? Of course not. In fact, everyone doubted it!

      He is only asking to see what all the other disciples have already seen. I can’t blame Thomas. He’s more like me (and perhaps you) than we want to admit.

      So, what happens?

      † † †

      EIGHT DAYS AFTER Thomas stands his ground, his wish comes true. Jesus appears and speaks directly to Thomas.

      We don’t know if Thomas ever touched the wounds. What do you think? Did Thomas still want to see and touch the nail prints? Did Thomas still want to thrust his hand into Jesus’ side? What we know is that once Thomas looks at and feels the presence of the risen Lord, the only thing he can spit out is:

      “My Lord and my God.”

      † † †

      YOU KNOW WHAT Jesus says to Thomas?

      “Have you believed because you have seen me?” Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

      Jesus is, of course, talking to us. John invites us to face our doubts, speak our fears, and yearn for more — more intimacy, more encounter, more experience of the living, breathing Christ.

       

      THOMAS SAYS what we’re too timid or afraid or embarrassed to say. “I need to become a witness in my own right. I need my own story of radical encounter. I want Jesus’s resurrection — if it’s real at all — to become real for me.”

      How many of us go our entire lives without ever yearning as boldly as Thomas does?

      What Thomas desires is holy and beautiful — a living encounter with Jesus. A man who won’t settle for someone else’s experience of resurrection but sticks around in the hope of having his own. A man who dares to confess uncertainty while surrounded by those who were certain. A man who recognizes his Lord in scars, not wonders.

      † † †

      WHAT I ADMIRE about Thomas is that he raises his concerns, his expectations, his conditions publicly — without shame or guilt. And I admire that his faith community allowed him to do so. And I love Jesus’s response. Jesus meets Thomas right where he is.

      Jesus freely offers Thomas the testimony of his own scars, his own pain. After such an encounter, I can only imagine the tenderness and urgency with which Thomas repeats Christ’s words to other doubters:

      “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.”

      Isn’t this us? We wrestle with hidden doubts. We live with hidden fears. Don’t we all wonder sometimes if the miracle of resurrection will hold up beyond Easter and into ordinary life?

      † † †

      THOMAS’S STORY reminds me that resurrection is hard. It was hard from the get-go, and it is still hard. Hard to accept. It is hard to apply to our lives — especially when our lives are marked by pain, loss, uncertainty, futility, and death.

      If nothing else, Thomas reassures us that faith does not have to be straightforward; the business of accepting the resurrection, of living it out, of sharing it with the world, is tough.

      It’s OK to waver. It’s okay to take our time. It’s OK to hope for more.

      John’s purpose for writing is:

      “So that you may come to believe.”

      John chose an encounter between doubts and scars to help us come to believe.

      — Keith Cardwell   


      «Isn’t this us? We wrestle with hidden doubts. We live with hidden fears. Don’t we all wonder sometimes if the miracle of resurrection will hold up beyond Easter and into ordinary life?»

      SCRIPTURE FOR THE DAY


      ►This is the Word of God for the people of God:


      John 20:19–31
      Holy Bible, New International Version


      Jesus appears to his disciples
      19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

      21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

      Jesus appears to Thomas
      24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

      But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

      26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

      28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

      29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

      The purpose of John’s gospel
      30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

       

      — This is the Word of the Lord.
      — Thanks be to God.


        

      Footnotes:

      a.  John 20:24  Thomas (Aramaic) and Didymus (Greek) both mean twin.
      b.  John 20:31  Or may continue to believe


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