Easter II 2019
by Rev. Ken Hilston
Gospel: John 20:24-29;
Jesus and Thomas
24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin[c]), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Thomas could have espoused an easy faith and said “nothing.” Then you are not wrong in your words, and not right. A timid, bystander, on-the-fence spectator faith.
But, Words can be cheap. Words are too easy to say. Words come back to haunt. Words betray our sinful self since it can be the best and easiest way we can do to get out of awkward situations. Still, Easter tells us, Words can be forgiven.
With a dying Lazarus and impending threats in Bethany, Thomas with great bravado proclaims undying allegiance to our Lord, “Let us go into the teeth of the enemy, together. Let us go with Jesus and die with Jesus.”
It’s not that he didn’t mean it, at the moment. It’s not he wasn’t brave. It’s not he wasn’t oblivious to the situation near Jerusalem. It’s not he thought it would never happen and this sounds good and faithful.
Maybe, saying anything else would have sounded selfish, cowardly, such as, “I will not back you when the going gets rough.” Maybe he just said it so later he wouldn’t change his mind, as,
“If I say it, I’ll have to do it, to save me from trying to make a tough decision later! I forced myself, backed myself into a corner.”
Maybe after listening to the profound words of our Lord that give great shape to life, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep,” he felt he had to extend himself and do the same. Of course, when we try to reach beyond our capabilities, even with good intentions, the grand words sound good, but really do not comprehend all they imply. Our Regal sounding words should only come from great wisdom, not brash words to overly simplify life’s complexity and depth.
It is so easy to say, “I love you,” because that is what we are supposed to say, and are expected to say, even when the depths and costs of love have not been fully investigated. We claim to say glibly, “I am in favor of “Peace,” and proclaim peace, but true peace is never as easy as just saying the words. We toss around words like, “forever,” or, “I’ll change this time,” words we simply do not have the capacity to live out, though we know we should.
It isn’t that we do not mean these words, we are just too careless when it comes to uttering them for all to hear. Some words are simply bigger than our lives. We hope we can grow into them, but usually, that is not the case.
How often don’t we say, “I’ll be there for you…, whatever you need,” and just cannot follow through, or promise it to too many people, or a week later, forget what we said.
Because we know the situation calls for grand words, and we must fill in awkward silences, bold promises slide out of our mouths too easily, and we make it sound like any problem is not that large, because I can say words to cover it.
When it came time, as it also did for Peter after his bravado in the garden, the words of promise could not hold up in the “court” of Caiaphas, could not sustain Peter enough to carry them out. We don’t like to think we cannot follow through on our grand words, and it is a most humbling feeling to be brought down to earth, and eat those words, without relish.
And of course, the grander the words and promises, the more they make us look good when we say them, but they are harder to swallow when we can’t carry them out.
Today is the day Thomas must eat those words, a week after Easter. And this is the test of the words spoken in haste, words too heavy for him to carry out. Can we eat them, when necessary? Can we face our false bravado? Can we find the humility to ask for forgiveness and admit we spoke too quickly and too grandly? Peter and Thomas eventually could face their ill-conceived words.
(Faith, learn how to see life clearly by swallowing our words after misspoken; candor needed but so is the humility??)
The week before, Jesus came to be with the other disciples in the locked upper room to show them his hands and his sides, before they had a chance to ask. The other disciples saw, what Thomas did not: Thomas was not there.
What a week it must have been for Thomas. The disciples told him Jesus was alive, the one he promised he would never abandon, yet did abandon.
He naturally doubted the disciples, but Thomas knew if he really wanted to know the truth, he wouldn’t just talk to the other disciples, He would have to go to the source, Jesus. Attempting to face the truth, is tough.
Yes, he doubted, and maybe all the others would have doubted if they had not seen Jesus. Yes, Thomas doubted but would seek out the truth and find out if his bravado was faulty: “I will face the source of the truth, no matter what it does to me. I will face words that might convict me. I will face the truth, head on! I cannot hide from my words.”
BUT, he had to wonder, “how can I face Him after going back on my word. I wasn’t there for Him on Good Friday! What will his eyes tell me when I meet Him when I have to look Him in the eyes?”
When Jesus did enter again, now also to Thomas, he didn’t hide from his promises and shame. With the same bravado and stubbornness from before, he said to Jesus, “OK, prove to me how wrong I was! Make me face the One I left behind! Make me eat my words in front of You! If I was wrong, let me know it, fully!
I will accept it, even in front of all my friends. I need to know if what I said held any truth. I need to know who I really am.”
Thomas was willing to own up to his hasty words.
When Jesus showed him his nail printed hands and pieced sided proof, though embarrassed, Thomas acknowledged His Lord, as Lord of His life. Thomas spoke honestly from his heart, words probably all the rest were too timid to say, even though they thought them. Thomas owned up to them, out loud!
What Judas said and did were not a whole lot greater than the conduct of Thomas or Peter, but Judas could not face them. His answer was suicide. It is not easy to ask for forgiveness!! IT COSTS!
Both aspects must be held Together. In the faith, we need to speak the truth about how we feel and how we see life, but we also need in great humility, to accept what our Lord also has to say about it, no matter how humbling it is to accept.
This is just one of the many dialogues of prayer life, speaking the truth about our lives the best we can understand, and still listen to our Lord when maybe He sees it otherwise. Obviously, the first part is just a little easier to handle!
But with our Lord, even eating crow, is not terribly hard to digest, if we just give our Lord a chance to forgive us! Our words tell us who we want to be, of course at the same time, reveal who we are, and are not.
Thomas had the faith to face Jesus, fully put himself in His hands, before knowing for sure what he would find!!
Easter tells us, nothing can keep our Lord from loving us, not even our false pride, and inflated words!
It took a long time getting there, but after all his struggle, with confidence, finally, Thomas could truthfully profess, “My Lord, and My God.” Amen