Summary: Through our belief and faithful witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, we can influence this community to have life in Jesus name.
What is our motto, our slogan, at St. Thomas? A Believing Church in an Doubting World. From the very beginning, God called His people to believe, to be faithful, to trust Him. God told Noah to build an ark; and he believed Him and was saved. He told Abram that he’d give him the land of Canaan and a true heir of his own flesh; and he believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Likewise, from the beginning there was unbelief. Cain didn’t believe that God would accept him if did what is right, and he murdered Abel; his labors were cursed. When Noah built the ark, no one believed the prophecy of the coming flood; they were swept away. Belief has rewards and unbelief has penalties. Saddest of all, God told Adam and Eve to eat anything they wanted, except for the fruit of one, measly tree; they broke faith, believing the serpent rather than God, and paradise was broken.
Unbelief, faithlessness, distrust in God, is a sure source of death and destruction. That’s the counterfeit, saints. Here’s the genuine article. Belief, faith, trust in God and in Christ Jesus, brings life eternal. We will investigate this in today’s Gospel. John 20 starting at verse 19.
“On the evening” (Jn. 20:19). Disciples were in overwhelming darkness ever since Judas went out to betray Jesus, “And it was night” (Jn. 13:30). Nevertheless, it was the first day of the week—the beginning of the new creation, when God says again “Let there be light.” On Easter even, though the disciples locked themselves in for fear of the Jews, Jesus—the light of the world— penetrated their darkness, entering in spite of the locked doors. He came and imparted to them the ministry of the reconciliation of the world. “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Co. 5:20).
Now, when the risen Lord appears, it’s hard to keep it secret. Moreover forgiveness of sins wasn’t meant to be confined to the community of disciples (that’s us). So the disciples made a small, weak first step, and told Thomas. There could be no safer place to start evangelization than within the group of Jesus’ own followers. They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” And the disciple’s first attempt to witness to the resurrection utterly failed. Thomas said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it” (Jn. 20:25). Thomas wasn’t just saying, “There, there; now, now,” figuring the others had a tough day, patronizing them. He was calling them liars and demanding radical proof for a radical claim.
The disciples couldn’t respond to Thomas’ demand, only the Lord could. Here’s what I find very encouraging: the following week Jesus appeared again to Thomas as well. God took the witness of the ten, and He gave it legs. They offered Thomas all the testimony they had, and when he asked for more than they could give, God provided. We are responsible to witness to what we have seen. As St. John writes, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at, and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life” (1 Jn. 1:1). We aren’t expected to provide evidence that God alone can give, just what He’s given to us.
Thomas saw Jesus, but he perceived more, declaring; “My Lord and my God!” Jesus says, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jn. 20:29). St. Thomas believed that Jesus was Lord and God because he saw the risen Lord. The author of Hebrews tells us, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1). Faith is trusting that God’s promises are true. When Thomas stared at Christ, with His pierced hands and gaping side, the bridge that his faith had to traverse was shortened. Jesus was risen! Thomas now had to accept or reject the evidence before him.
God offered to Thomas the chance to shine, to accept the testimony of the other disciples, yet Thomas’ dullness became a source of encouragement to future generations. His skepticism touches the hearts of all Christians who “missed out” on the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. No Christian with a considered faith fails as some point to ask whether Jesus yet lives—and thus, whether every promise of God, all of which have the perfection and fulfillment in Christ Jesus, is trustworthy. And so Thomas became every man. Thomas was called Didymus, which means twin; and you and I are his twin. When I ask, “Where are You, Lord? Are You still there?” then my cry resounds, “Unless I thrust my hand into his side.” Christ says to each of us, “Stop doubting and believe” (Jn. 20:27).