(Preached at Royston Methodist Church Sunday 7th April 2013).
May I speak and may we listen, in the name of God, Father Son and Holy Spirit. Amen
Today – the Sunday after Easter and just as we begin to come to terms with the miracle that is the resurrection of Jesus, the narrative reaches a totally new level!
Jesus, after rolling the tombstone away, and being mistaken for the gardener by Mary Magdalene, decides it would be a good idea to go and seek out his disciples. And so he finds them, (well, most of them!) and somehow as if by yet another miracle Jesus manages to enter the locked house where the disciples are, and he greets them “peace be with you!”
The fact that the disciples were locked away for their own protection, suggests that they weren’t expecting Jesus to turn up and if they were expecting him, they certainly expected him to knock! (So I’ll leave Jesus’ method of entry to your imaginations).
You can just imagine –
The dropped jaws,
There before their own eyes, stands their Lord and their Saviour,
He who had been crucified just three days before
He who had taught them all they knew
He who made the un-thinkable promise to return.
On a scale of 1 to 10 – I think it’s safe to say that in terms of miracles and their magnitude, the resurrection of Jesus is well and truly off the richter scale.
And yet, with all of that – there in the very backdrop of everything, hidden away – is Thomas.
Thomas with his turmoil and disbelief
Thomas with his half-heartedness and doubt
Thomas in whom many of us, if we are honest, so often see a dim reflection of ourselves –
For in the light of the resurrection Thomas’s mind says ‘no’ –
It. Cannot. Be. So.
“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 it”.
In this moment, Thomas is so consumed by skepticism and his own inherent hard-headedness that he simply cannot bring himself to believe it.
A whole week later, and Thomas decides to join the other disciples in the house where they were hiding. Once again, although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them – greets the disciples – and looking Thomas dead in the eye Jesus says to him “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Then comes the moment – When metaphorically this hiding place is turned upside down – into a confessional
And Thomas can do no other than declare before the risen Jesus: “My Lord and My God”.
There standing alive and strong was He who Thomas did not think could return.
There standing alive and strong was He who had taken Thomas on a journey and taught him things he had never known before.
There, standing alive and strong was He who even through all his doubt and lack of faith was there once again standing beside Thomas as faithful friend and loving King.
Friends, it was Christ who sought Thomas out among the disciples –
It was Christ who in the midst of Thomas’ doubt and lack of faith declared himself to be the risen savior –
It was Christ who knowing that he would be betrayed, doubted, and murdered made the journey to the cross of rough wood –
It was Christ who went and stood behind the tear-drenched Mary Magdalene at the tomb.
And it is Christ who comes – here and now – to prove himself to be alive and risen!
In the midst of our sin and shame.
In the midst of our doubts and fears.
Even when our minds and hearts are in conflict – in those moments when the heart knows it to be true, but the mind says ‘It cannot be’. Christ comes.
I find the appearances of the Risen Christ to be extremely powerful. Not simply because of the emotional dynamic that must have been felt by those who saw Christ, who was once dead alive again, but because on each visit to the place where the disciples were Christ’s first words are ‘Peace be with you’.
Having experienced all that pain and anguish. Having been betrayed by those closest to him…
Jesus greets them. Not with rebuke, or anger…not with rage or upset…but with love.
Peace be with you – even though when I needed you most and tried to save you from yourselves, you fell asleep.
Peace be with you – even though after all I have done for you, you betray me like a stranger.
Peace be with you – even though I told you I would return, and you failed to take my words as truth.
Peace be with you – even though you only believe that which you have seen.
Let us here today, give thanks for Thomas. Hard headed as he was, doubting Thomas gives us hope.
Hope that it’s not just us who sometimes feel like running away when Christ stands before us as a mirror into ourselves.
Hope that it’s not just us who though we start off believing, go through times when it all gets way too much and the barrier between reality and mystery become too thin for comfort.
Hope that out of our disbelief can come a firm and resolute faith in our Lord and our God.
Hear again the words of Christ to Thomas: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”
May the risen Christ strengthen us in our weakness and guide us through our disbelief, that we may in every time and place be preachers of that message which offers resurrection to all who hear and believe.
For He lives, who once was dead.