May I speak, and may we listen – in the name of Jesus Christ our risen Lord and Saviour.
I don’t know about you, but other people’s wounds are things I prefer other people to keep hidden. And hearing the writer of John’s Gospel talking about people putting hands into open sides makes me cringe….!
We all have *that* friend, who, post-surgery will unwrap the bandage their doctor encouraged them to keep on, just to show you the hell they have gone through under the knife.
In part, that can be encouraging, if we are soon to have a similar op…and if the wound doesn’t look too intrusive…at worse it can make us throw up in our mouths and walk away.
Thomas needed to see Jesus wounds, and Jesus needed to show them to him….because it was that that Thomas needed to come back to his senses.
Last week, I spoke about the fact that when someone dies for you –
When someone gives the greatest sacrifice that they can for you, the gift of their own life.
Then there’s nothing more to be said or done.
In other words, once it has happened, it’s happened. You either accept it, or you feel so indebted that you decide your life must end aswell….which is perhaps what took Judas to his early grave.
Not just guilt, but an indebtedness to Jesus for his sacrifice.
The thing is, when the person who gave their life for you –
Is alive and well again, in your midsts. You can’t just get back to business as normal.
That requires some sort of response.
It requires action.
It requires acknowledgement.
And no matter how much you deny it, and reject it, and run away from it, you know at some point you will have to face the facts.
Well, Thomas this evening doesn’t want to face the facts.
And who can blame him?
The man that they all saw,
Nailed to the cross and bleeding and shaking in agony –
Is alive again.
Can you imagine what this does for your head.
And not only is Jesus alive again, but poor Thomas has people coming to him, running to tell him, that they themselves have seen him!
Thomas is full of fear, anxiety, worry, guilt – all sorts of things will be going on inside him at this point of the Gospel.
And while all the other disciples have stayed together, in one room, locked away for fear of the Jews – Thomas, for whatever reason…God alone only knows.
Has decided to do his own thing.
He’s gone to clear his head.
He’s gone to get a break from it all.
He’s gone to have some me time.
Perhaps, he thought that by going his own way, he might avoid all of the noise and excitement and news that he’s just received.
But not so easy.
Jesus isn’t done with him just yet.
Infact, there’s a sense that for Thomas things have only just begun.
And in many ways, the Gospel reading we hear today, is a Gospel reading all about the power of truth and honesty. Thomas’s honesty before he sees the risen Christ – when he says very clearly that until he sees, and touches the risen Jesus, he will NOT believe…no ifs, no buts.
He is clear.
And then, Thomas’s raw honesty when having just seen the risen Lord Thomas falls to his knees and declares his faith for all to see and hear.
It’s raw, and gritty, and real.
I was in my study yesterday, getting so frustrated because –
In many ways, John tells us so much in this Gospel, but he also tells us so little.
I want to know what Jesus was wearing, and where he stood, and where the others were, and how got into the locked room and what the disciples really thought about it all….I also want to know what it was about him
That looked so different that it prevented his own followers from recognizing him at times.
Jesus, at this point in the Gospel is both the same yet different.
And it’s only when Jesus does the familiar things with the disciples – when he calls Mary Magdalene by name, when shows his wounds to the other disciples and then to Thomas, when he breaks the bread on the road to Emmaus…that he is recognized as the risen Lord.
What Jesus’ encounter with Thomas tells us, is that Jesus is wounded still.
So that means that while he travels with his disciples for this little while, and as he stays with them before his ascension – he bears the marks that remind them of his sacrifice and triumph over death.
There’s something as visceral about Jesus’s resurrection as there is about his crucifixion – it’s personal, and emotive, and life-changing.
Whether it’s changing the life of the Centurion at the foot of the cross, or the thief upon the cross, or the life of Thomas – Jesus just by sight, is able to do things in people’s lives that they never dreamed of.
You know, what I love more than anything about this part of John’s Gospel is the honesty of it all….
Here is Jesus, just risen from the dead.
He sees Mary Magdalene in the Garden of the Tomb. They talk, when he says her name she realizes who it is.
Then Jesus goes to his disciples. Where they’ve locked themselves away, and stands amongst them and says “peace be with you”.
And at this point Thomas isn’t around – but a week later the disciples are all together and Thomas is with them, and again Jesus says “peace be with you”.
Now, this was Jesus’ greeting everytime he went into that house where the disciples were.
Peace be with you….
Peace be with you, even though you betrayed me
Peace be with you, even though you’ve failed me.
Peace be with you, even though some of you denied me
Peace be with you, though you couldn’t even wait up with me when I needed you, and even though after giving my very life for you, you hide …for fear of your own lives….
Peace be with you even though you doubted.
Peace be with you….
This isn’t a Jesus who is angry, or bitter, or upset by his pretty useless friends.
It is a Jesus whose mother tongue is mercy, and love, and grace.
When those of us, who are totally human, would be fuming and raging at the fact that our friends let us down, and didn’t believe in us, just when it mattered…Jesus shows the complete opposite and speaks peace to them, and to their hearts.
It says to me, that Jesus is willing to come to us, and meet us wherever he find us.
It says to me that Jesus is prepared, even though he is God, to seek us out, and to speak peace into our fears and our anxieties….
I see in this encounter with Thomas, a Lord who is willing to bear his wounds, so that we might learn to bear our own wounds to him.
Because what Jesus is saying as he bears the wounds of his crucifixion to Thomas is really Jesus saying to us,and to the whole world –
“Peace be with you. Do not be afraid. See, I, am wounded too!”
I know what it is to hurt.
I know what it is to lose sight of hope.
I know what it is to be betrayed.
I know what it is to feel let down.
I know what it is to grieve, and to fear, to be abandoned.
Now, trust me – and let’s do this life thing together….!
Of course, it’s not that easy to just put your trust in Jesus.
Thomas found it difficult,
Peter found it difficult,
Judas found it very difficult,
Wesley found it difficult…no matter how high up on a pedestal we put him at times….!
We too will find it difficult – and when the storms of life are raging all around us, it is easy to lose sight of God’s promises.
Even in this Easter season – some of us will be carrying crosses too heavy to find words to express.
We may find ourselves feeling some of the feelings that the disciples and Jesus felt –
Yet Jesus says to us, those precious words:
“Peace be with you – do not be afraid”.
We have a God to whom we can bear our wounds, and our brokeneness.
A God who knows the weight of the cross – the weight of death, and fear, and despair….a God who knows the burden of a broken heart.
Maybe like Thomas, what we need is to allow Jesus to come to us – in his Spirit, and through each other –
And in allowing him to come to us, we might see his wounds, become less afraid of our own, and find strength and renewed faith.
The most moving part of this chapter in John, is that we see a Jesus – who doesn’t see the faults and failings of his disciples – but sees their potential.
He sees, the ordinary human beings that he has called.
He sees the potential for all of them to go on to do great things.
And so Thomas goes off and becomes an apostle to India,
And Peter ends up crucified up side down,
And Paul ends up in prison, and is killed for the faith.
And all this time, the women that the Gospel writers don’t tell us much about, are out bankrolling the disciples and spreading the Gospel in their own way.
No-one is useless in Jesus eyes.
No-one is beyond hope in Jesus eyes.
No-one is beyond transformation – not even Thomas, not even you, not even St Paul.
To all the wounds that we carry, we know that we can bear them to our wounded God –
Who speaks to our fears, and our anxieties and doubts – and says:
“Peace be with you – do not be afraid. Do not doubt, but believe”.
For he who was dead, now lives – and prays at God’s right hand – for us.
Let us not be afraid. But trust in his risen Son, Our Saviour – Jesus Christ.