Summary: A sermon for the second Sunday of Easter, Year B
April 11, 2021
Hope Lutheran Church
Between Faith and Uncertainty
Friends, may grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and Christ Jesus our Lord.
Every year on the first Sunday after Easter, we hear the story about Thomas. Poor Thomas! He’s really gotten a bad rap. He’s known for only one thing: he had trouble believing that Jesus had risen from the dead. “Doubting Thomas” is what we call him. But he wasn’t the only one to have trouble believing this phenomenal news.
Let’s go back to the morning of Easter. Mary and her friends go to the tomb and find it empty. They run and tell the disciples. A little while later, Mary returns to the tomb. She’s crying because she thinks someone has broken open Jesus’ tomb and stolen his body.
She turns around, and there stands Jesus. He’s standing right in front of her! But she can’t recognize him. Her mind just cannot compute that he has risen from the dead. That simply doesn’t happen! She thinks he’s the gardener. “Do you know where they’ve taken his body?” she asks. Finally, Jesus utters her name. And when she hears him say her name, only then can she see him for who he is!”
Now, about those disciples: Luke writes that when the women initially told the disciples about the empty tomb and the men in dazzling white clothing, the disciples dismiss their news as “an idle tale.”
That might explain why they cowered behind a locked door at the close of Easter Sunday. They were afraid. The same forces that came after Jesus might come after them next.
But that evening Jesus appears before them. He enters the house despite the fact that it’s secured. If a tombstone can’t stop you, then a simple lock doesn’t stand a chance! Jesus shows them his scarred hands and side.
Mary, the disciples, none of them display the actions of a believer. They have to get knocked over the head with proof positive, they have to hear Jesus’ voice, they have to place their hands on his body before they can believe that he’s actually arisen.
They’re not exactly pillars of faith in the resurrection. So to pick on poor old Thomas and target him as the doubter, well, I just have to speak up for the guy.
Some things are just so astounding that they’re hard to believe in.
British travelers to Australia first encountered the platypus in the late 1700’s. They reported back in England about this very strange creature they had seen. It was a furry mammal with a tail like a beaver. But it had a bill like a duck and, get this, it laid eggs. But it was a mammal, yes, it was! Despite the webbed feet and the duck bill and the eggs, this was a furry mammal.
Well, the people in England simply didn’t believe them! So when they returned to Australia, they found a pelt from a dead platypus. They brought the pelt to England to show people this remarkable animal.
But even when they held the pelt in their hands, nobody believed that this animal existed. The Australian explorers had taken their hoax to a new level. Some taxidermist had sewn a duck’s bill on the hide of a beaver. Even when they held proof positive in their hands, they couldn’t believe. An animal like this was just to fantastic to exist.
If it was too hard to believe in the existence of platypus when they held the skin in their hands, is it any wonder that Thomas had trouble believing in Jesus’ resurrection? He only wanted to experience what Mary and the other disciples had witnessed. He wanted to see Jesus.
Doubt is something that assails every person of faith. Faith and doubt are twin sisters. Where faith goes, doubt isn’t far behind. It’s natural for all of us to feel doubtful about our faith in God. We doubt Jesus’ divinity; we doubt his miracles. We doubt his resurrection, his ascension into heaven. We doubt his true presence in the eucharist; we doubt even the existence of God!
Christian author Frederick Buechner wrote about doubt in his book "Wishful Thinking." He wrote:
“Whether your faith is that there is a God or that there is not a God, if you don't have any doubts, you are either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.”
Faith and doubt pull against each other. Doubt keeps faith in a lively tension, like a guitar string.
Some dynamic of doubt will be present in our lives of faith. It doesn’t make us any less faithful. A father with an epileptic son once approached Jesus. He asked Jesus to heal his son. When Jesus asked him if he believed that Jesus had the ability to heal his son, the father answered, “Yes, I believe; help my unbelief!”