SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER
APRIL 8, 2018
ST. JOHN 20:25
Where Was Thomas?
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Where was Thomas on Easter evening? The instinct of the other ten was to stay together, at the very least, for the illusion of safety. (It's unlikely that one locked door and ten non-soldiers would keep out any brutes sent by the authorities.) On the other hand, at best, they were together praying and keeping watch to see what the day would bring. They had heard strange reports. I would think a safe guess would be that Thomas had the rumors, too. Whatever the exact reasons, and whatever they had exactly heard, these ten did it together, as the Church, which is exactly what they were.
Except for Thomas, who was conspicuously absent.
We do not know where he was. We do not know why he wasn't there in the upper room. But based on his reaction to the wonderful news that Jesus was alive and that His mercy overflowed to His apostles and to His Church, it makes me wonder if he wasn't very purposely staying away from the Church on that first Easter Sunday:
ST. JOHN 20:25 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 it.” NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION 1984
Couple of things. First of all, these were men, hopefully some of them friends, who were all telling him the same thing: our Lord is risen. He is not dead. He breathed on us. He is alive. One friend says this, then perhaps he is seeing things. But the testimony of two or three, then even Moses declares this to be true. And ten!
Secondly, this wasn't unexpected. It was impossible, but it wasn't unexpected. Christ had predicted His dying and rising more than once.
ST. LUKE 18:31–34 Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock Him, insult Him and spit on Him; they will flog Him and kill Him. On the third day He will rise again.” The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what He was talking about. NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION 1984
The end of this passage is important for our Lord's Easter appearances: His miraculous body convinced His apostles that He was alive, but the words of peace that He spoke from His mouth—once dead and now filled with life—caused them to believe that His death and rising was for them. Miracles do not create faith; only the Word of God does that.
Yet, for a week, Thomas is not believing. He had been missing from that first Easter celebration. And I think it because he was done. Thomas: “It was a good run. I've seen some amazing things. Jesus was very kind and very smart. But it's over. My life hasn't improved in any tangible way. All I can add to resume is: “3 years—religious disciple.” And Jesus never even gave me the secret recipe for the best wine ever. So, hey, it was a good run, and maybe I'll see you around, but obviously Jesus raised some other people to life, but if Jesus dies, that's it. So take care, guys.”
My guess is based on that strong denial of the eyewitness testimony. A more logical reaction would be to a least give some room to doubt your doubts. If all his associates are saying that Jesus is risen, either they're trying prank him or they are telling him the truth. Yet he is very determined to ignore what they are saying, because he wants to move on.
But Jesus won't let him. For a week His disciples keep on telling Thomas who they saw. The details don't change. The truth remains and they keep pointing it out. To Thomas. I have no record from Scripture of this, but based on the fact that Thomas shows up the next Sunday testifies to their persistent efforts to get him to church.
And there he is that Sunday. And then there He is. And then He speaks. And then Thomas with faith created by His words and His Spirit, confesses what is true: Christ is risen.
I hope you are encouraged by Thomas to persist in your efforts to bring Jesus to skeptics. And specifically the Christ who dies and rises. Confront your Thomas—gently or firmly, as needed—with our risen Lord. Bodily and physically risen.
And if you are Thomas, if you struggle with the central historic fact of Christ's death and resurrection, then you're in the right place, where you will hear the testimony of Christ.
He suffered. He was dead. He was buried.
The impossible happened—God died for sinners.
And now He is not. He is alive.
The impossible happened—God rose from the dead.
And all of this is for you.
In Jesus' Name. Amen.
God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Thanks be to God!