2 Easter – April 16, 2023
We’re hearing about two resurrection stories this morning. Jesus appearing one week after the first, coming through locked and closed doors, saying “peace be with you” for the second time. It is the juxtaposition of fear and peace.
And so, today, one week after we shout, “Alleluia!” and sing, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today!” John invites us to face our doubts, speak our fears, and yearn for more — more intimacy, more encounter, more experience of the living, breathing Christ. We take a good, hard look at God’s post-resurrection world, and think, “Now what?” Or, if we’re really honest, “So what?”
There is a lot to explore in our Gospel story for today to answer those questions, but this year I noticed Jesus’ resurrected body. What is written in John’s Gospel calls our attention to the wounds and traumas inscribed in his body. John invites us to see the life Jesus has given to the world in the midst of wounds, pains, and traumas. Debi Thomas beautifully writes: “Jesus appears to his skeptical disciple in a body that is scarred and wounded. A body that openly bears its traumatic history. A body that refuses to hide its suffering, its sorrow, its brokenness. What Jesus sports are not old wounds. They are wounds so raw that the doubting disciple places his fingers inside of them. Perhaps Jesus winces when Thomas touches him, but the wincing signals real life, lived at a level we can comprehend. It signals real engagement. Real presence. Real pain. It speaks the very words I hunger to hear: “I am with you. I am with you where it hurts. I don’t float thousands of sanitized feet above reality. Even after death, I dwell in the hot, searing heart of things. Exactly where you dwell.”
So this year — more than ever — I cherish the wounds in Jesus’s post-resurrection life. We have so much pain in our world today, so much to fear, just listening to the news of violence, tragedy, death. So, on this first Sunday after Easter, even though we are a resurrection people, we are still hurting.
Thomas wanted to see Jesus’ wounds and put his fingers in them. Jesus invited him to do so. Jesus, in wearing his wounds—even in his resurrection— confronts us with our own and calls us to move through them into new life.
The crucified Christ challenges us to discern how our wounds will serve as doorways that lead us through our own pain and into a deeper relationship with the wounded world and with the Christ who is about the business of resurrection, for whom the wounds did not have the final word.
As Thomas reaches toward Christ, as he places his hand within the wound that Christ still bears, he is not merely grasping for concrete proof of the resurrection. He is entering into the very mystery of Christ, crossing into a new world that even now he can hardly see yet dares to move toward with courage.
When Thomas’s doubts meet Jesus’s wounds, new life erupts, faith blossoms, and the doubting disciple becomes an apostle of the good news. Resurrection happens all over again.
In his book Hope: Moments of inspiration in a challenging world, Tim Costello tells the story of a coalminer that took his son with him into a mine shaft where he worked. He writes: The father told his son, ‘Wait here in this lit space, as I need to go along this tunnel.’ While the son was waiting, the light in the mine failed and he was in pitch darkness. He screamed out for his father. Down the tunnel he heard his father’s voice tell him to start walking toward him. The boy cried that he couldn’t see anything. His father asked him if the light on his helmet was on and the boy replied yes, but he could only see one step ahead. His father said, “Well take that step.” This happened over and over again, and the boy followed the soothing advice of his father until he finally reached the safety of his father’s strong arms.
Our faith journey with Jesus is similar. The disciples didn’t fully understand what Jesus was teaching them yet Jesus advised them: ‘Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these.’
God is with us on our faith journey and while we may not fully understand. all we have to do is follow him by word and example and we will come to know more fully the abundant life God wants to share with us.
Jesus looks with love, seeing and knowing what we lack, how we doubt, what we fear. “Peace be with you,” he says. “Put your hand in my side.” Consolation, love and surprising, graphic touch: notice the echo of last week when the two Marys went quickly with fear and great joy to tell the disciples and then Jesus met them on their way and they held onto his feet, they touched him. And remember Jesus reassuring his frightened followers during that last great conversation on Maundy Thursday. Jesus washed each of their feet and then said: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Jesus is present with us amidst the world’s bewildering confusion and suffering. Know that he holds you even in your doubt and confusion, and that he will continue to hold you until you come to faith. And even then, he will not let you go. For there will be times of testing, times of uncertainty, times when your faith is challenged by the evil that is in the world or by the pain of suffering and loss. Do not despair. He knows you and loves you and will never let himself be separated from you. He loves it that you care enough to ask difficult questions or to confront your uncertainty and confusion. We are believers, but at times we will know doubt. He promises always to be with us, holding us close until we can trust again.
Believing in what is not yet seen means we practice or behave as if it already exists. Martin Luther said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” This is what leaders and visionaries do. They believe in something bigger than themselves, and they begin to act as if it is so.
Jesus’ life, and death and resurrection are proof of God’s love for the world. It is the evidence of life out of death and the assurance that things thought to be impossible can become reality.
Blessed are those who face contradictions with God given confidence. Blessed are those who hear the facts, but trust the truth. Blessed are those who have not seen, but yet come to believe.
May we all join with Thomas in saying, “My Lord and My God!” Amen.