Let us pray.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength, and my Redeemer. (Psalms 19:14 NKJV)
Sermon Second Easter 16 April 2023
Right at the end of this Gospel, the author tells us there is enough information there for us to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the anointed One, who has risen from the dead and by believing in Him we may have life in His Name.
Continuing the theme of darkness and light – Sight- the Healing of the Man Born Blind, now, with the addition of belief and disbelief we arrive at Seeing is believing or Faith is a leap into the dark.
Thomas desired proof since he was an empiricist. But keep in mind how enthusiastic he was prior to the raising of Lazarus. Let’s all go with him so that we may die with him, Thomas had urged his compatriots as Jesus announced his return to Bethany. It seems that just as long as he had his Master in his sights that he could believe. Did Thomas believe that Jesus was the son of Man, the Son of God, or a marvellously dynamic leader on the way to the gallows? At that moment in time, the latter was true.
Had any of them utterly understood what Jesus had told them, three times in each Synoptic Gospel, Jesus said that he would die and be raised again on the third day, and three times Jesus mentions and teaches about his death and resurrection.
Then the night of darkness arrives when Jesus is betrayed and arrested. Jesus sent his disciples away to fulfil the Prophecy that not one of them was lost. Was it here, that all hopes and dreams of liberation ceased to be?
At certain times in our lives, we may have followed Causes led by Charismatic fellows, some of those Causes we believed in while others became an ideology, a cult of the Charismatic one. On how many occasions did those marches end in tears when the police intervened, or the Great Leader fled. People bundled into paddy wagons, while others fled the scene to lie low for a while. And reporters never quite get it right?
At such times it can seem very dark when all that has been worked for goes down the plug hole, a metaphorical death.
In finding Thomas we discover Jesus
It was the First day of the week, Sunday to you and me, ten disciples, Judas was gone, and Thomas was late, were consoling themselves, in the house where they had taken refuge. Behold the Lord appeared, walking through the locked door. The doors were locked for ‘fear of the Jews’ Judeans would have been a better choice of words.
A Ghost!? Well, no – merely the Crucified Lord demonstrating the benefits of the Transfiguration of Resurrection. Saying – “You too will do this.”
When Jesus had shown them the holes in his hands and side they rejoiced because they knew and believed it was Jesus. They were blessed because they had seen and believed. Once again Jesus urges them to do his will just as he had done the will of the One who sent him, and then He breathed the Holy Spirit on them; saying words to this effect “If you forgive someone’s sins they are forgiven; but if you don’t, you hold them in the bondage of their sins.’ A formidable legacy.
When the late Thomas arrived, having missed the Lord and the gentle kiss of the Holy Spirit reiterating the New commandment – forgive as you would be forgiven; the others told him that Jesus was alive because they had SEEN him. Thomas didn’t want a second-hand Faith, he wanted Empirical evidence – and said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger there and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’”
Today is Thomas Sunday and a week after the Resurrection, again Jesus enters through the locked door and presents his wounds to Thomas to investigate. Evidence at last “My Lord and my God!” Jesus replies to the empiricist, Okay – you believe because you can see, you can touch! Blessed are those who believe and have not seen.
We refer to Thomas as the doubter though others have said that in his need for evidence, he demonstrates irrefutably the Saviour’s Resurrection from the dead.
Let me say that again! Thomas demonstrated irrefutably the Saviour’s resurrection from the dead because he saw Jesus’ wounds and touched them.
What does it mean to ‘see and believe’ or indeed, ‘to not see and believe’ for Believers today?
Today different concepts of sight and belief are in play where what we see and believe are not always on the same planet, country or in the same room with us. I saw Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, on the T.V. set in the Science Lab in 1969 and I believed my eyes; did I believe it because I saw it via official media relay or did, I believe it because it was on TV.? Today the closest we may come to seeing anything that confirms the latest word about town is to experience it via the news Media by radio, television, or YouTube on the computer but, in Philip’s words ‘if there’s no picture or video, then it didn’t happen’.
I have to say that I believe very little news wise until time has told, as we used to say because there are so many Fake News half-truths, and deliberate obfuscation and seeing it read from the News Reader’s desk is just so much hear-say.
From Empiricism, the use of our five senses to confirm the existence of – history has brought us to a new age of quasi-empiricism where we use one or two senses to watch or listen to something – second-hand- – and then we believe what we have remotely seen. Or not. Thomas would just not approve and there would not be guaranteed proof of Resurrection.
These days we have an even greater need for personal experience so that belief is incontrovertible. But what do these experiences look like? How do we recognize the breaking through of the Kingdom of God? In the present time, what does resurrection look like anyway?
8Although we have not seen him, we love him; and even though we do not see him now, we believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9for we are receiving the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls. (1 Pt 1:3-9 – adapted NRSV)
Lord! Open the eyes of our mind, that we may see!
Throw open the door of our heart to receive you in the blazing glory of your Spirit.
Let those that do not see fall into the void of Faith and believe that we have life in his name. Amen