Blessed are Those Who Believe – May 5, 2019
Isaiah 35:1-10, John 20:19-29
May 5, 2019
This is another of the Easter Day stories. John tells us that the first part of this story took place “later that same day,” So it was Easter Day, the day of the Resurrection. And the Disciples were… hiding! We can’t forget that! They had not only lost their leader, and all the devastation that went along with that, but they had every reason to believe they were next! And it would come close to that in the weeks and months ahead.
We can only imagine their emotional and psychological state! It’s no wonder that some of this talk about “seeing Jesus alive” was met with cynicism, and I’m betting a certain amount of anger! I don’t think Thomas was speaking “logically” here. This wasn’t, “No guys, it is not possible for a person who has died to come alive again. And I will not believe it unless I have some proof.” This was not a well thought out, reasonable explanation about the impossibility of what they were saying. I believe there was some real anger here! In the middle of the terrible sense of loss he (and the others) were feeling, to suggest that Jesus was alive again, must have felt like a mockery of the already horrible situation!
As I’ve always said, I don’t believe Thomas was any more of a doubter than the rest of them. Let’s get that out of the way right now. Thomas was simply the one who was not there. He was the one who had not yet seen! His reaction was one of skepticism, cynicism, and I’m betting anger, just like any of them might have shown. Just like we might have shown!
That’s what I believe was happening here! That was this scene on Easter day. Thomas was angry with the others. How dare they make such outlandish statements when they were all so devastated, and fearful?! “I’m not going to believe this unless I put my finger in the nail holes in his hands!” Those are words spoken in anger!
What did Thomas think when they told him? Did he think they were seeing things? People do sometimes “hallucinate” in certain stressful mental states! People do sometimes “see what they want to see?” (Of course this would have been a shared hallucination by 10 people all at the same time! But still…)
Whatever the case, Thomas has some time now to “stew” about this. Eight days later, the following Monday, we have the follow-up scene in this story. It’s similar to the first one, but this time, Thomas is there. This time Thomas sees what the others see. This time Jesus address him personally. Jesus calls him on his words – which I have no doubt Thomas remembered! And I wonder, is Jesus’ tone gentle and loving? Or is it stern and admonishing?
Did you ever get called out later on words you spoke in anger? Were you rebuked or was it gracious? I’m thinking Jesus was gracious. But he did go right to heart of the matter with Thomas. And Thomas very quickly knew, that Jesus knew what he had said! Because he addressed him with his own words! He was very specific. And of course Thomas didn’t need to do any of the things he said. His only response was acknowledgement! “My Lord, and my God!” He believed. And Jesus then gave this great line, “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe.”
What about us? In a way, this is a “wake up call” to that whole thing about “belief.” We say we believe, but are there times we aren’t quite sure? Are there things we “say” we believe, yet deep down inside, there’s some question? And this one was a “tall order!” It was a big thing! Jesus had come back from the dead! He was alive again! And that was very difficult for Thomas to believe that day!
Would we have believed it? And don’t forget, we already know. We’re in the position of the other ten disciples. As we’ve read this story year after year, we’ve seen Jesus alive, right along with them. Can we imagine what Thomas was thinking – and for eight days!
I’ve been thinking about that. And I’m loving it that this was eight days later. What do you think the disciples talked about for those eight days? Were they all together? Was Thomas with them at all during that time? Did they spend eight days trying to convince him? Were they all excited, knowing what they now knew, that Jesus was alive? Of course, they didn’t know what it all meant yet, but they knew he was!
And maybe there was Thomas, listening to them talk about it? Did he start to get over some of his initial anger, and think maybe there was something to this? Was there maybe even a spark of belief after being with the others and hearing them talk? Or was he growing even more angry? I wonder.
So what about us? What about our times of doubt. And we all have them! (If you say you don’t, I doubt that!) When we doubt, it makes us feel inadequate in a way, doesn’t it? Don’t we feel like we’re failing in our faith, and maybe even failing our Lord?!
What do we do about that? Well, one big thing this story tells us is that, when we doubt, we can know that we are in good company! We have a “kindred spirit.” We have a “friend in high places!” – literally! And he’s one of Jesus’ top guys! Actually, we have a lot more than one! Because none of them believed! Not at first!
I think we can also know that we don’t doubt completely. We usually just doubt a portion of what we believe. One think, maybe. So maybe it literally is true if we pray the prayer we thought about a few weeks ago when looked at in this man who said, “Lord, I believe! Help thou my unbelief!” That may be one of the best prayers, ever! “Lord, we believe. Help thou our unbelief!” And in believing, in reaching out to God, our belief can then grow within us!
The story of Thomas is a great story! It’s a timeless story! And it terms of faith – that is having faith – believing, it is one of the most important stories! Because it’s not just about Thomas. It’s about all of them. It’s about us!
The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed! Even if we sometimes doubt that, we can know, we are promised that it is still true. And we can read the stories, and we can start to know it again, too! And when we come back to our belief, and I believe we will, we will grow in our understanding and in our Joy!
All Praise and Glory to our risen Lord! Amen!
Eternal God, help us when we doubt. Break through our weakness and give us the assurance we need as your people. Help us to see your power in every part of your creation. Help us to grow in our belief in Jesus, our Living Lord. For we pray in his name, and for the sake of his kingdom, Amen.