Summary: A sermon preached at the Salem Lutheran Home Chapel in Elk Horn, Iowa during the week of the 2nd Sunday of Easter. This sermon looks at doubt, both Thomas’ doubts about the resurrection, as well as our doubts, and what Jesus has to say about them.
How many of you there this morning have ever heard the phrase “Doubting Thomas?” I’m guessing quite a few of you have at some point in your life. We usually use it to refer to someone who doubts the truth of what we’re trying to tell them. That phrase “Doubting Thomas” comes from Thomas, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus. We see where he gets that label in our Gospel reading for this week, that I just shared with you. Today, we’re going to find out why he gets that label, and what Jesus can do when doubts plague both Thomas, and you and me.
As the reading opens, it’s the evening of the first Easter. The disciples are in a locked room, and they’re afraid. Understandably so too! They had quite a past week. They saw Jesus come into Jerusalem, hailed as a king, to shouts of “Hosanna,” meaning “Save us now”. He got a king’s treatment when he entered the city, but by Friday, the crowds changed their tune to “Crucify Him!” The disciples saw Jesus arrested in the Garden, and then ran off and hid. Peter had denied even knowing Jesus three times, Judas, the one who had betrayed Jesus, had hung himself, 9 of the others, Thomas included, run and go into hiding, the Bible doesn’t tell us where, and only John has enough courage to be at the foot of Jesus’ cross, but still saw what happened. They saw Jesus die, and be buried in a tomb, which was sealed by orders of Pilate. So they’re afraid of what could happen next. Which one of them would be the next to be arrested, beaten, set up in a sham trial, and executed as their leader, Jesus, had been? Needless to say, the room was pretty quiet that night.
But, out of nowhere, despite the locked doors, the resurrected Jesus appears! Not just some ghost of Jesus, but the real, flesh and blood Jesus. They get to see his hands and his side, and see the wounds. The reports of the women who had been to the tomb that morning were true! Wow! What joy they must have had. But there’s one problem.
For some reason, Thomas wasn’t there that night. We’re not told why, but we do know he’s not in that locked room to see his resurrected Lord. So when his fellow disciples tell him “Hey, Thomas, guess what? You’re not going to believe this, but Jesus isn’t dead, he’s alive! We just saw him! It’s true!’ Now, Thomas would have made a great spokesman for the state of Missouri, because he essentially tells his fellow disciples to “Show me!” He says unless he gets to see the resurrected Christ, put his finger into the nail prints, and his hand into his pierced side, he won’t believe it. I don’t think it’s a matter of whether Thomas wants to believe it or not, as a follower of Jesus for nearly 3 years, I have no doubt he wanted to believe these reports that Christ had risen! But, his own experience wasn’t letting him believe it. Thomas had not seen someone executed by the Romans and then rise again. For Thomas, seeing got in the way of believing.
That happens for us too sometimes, doesn’t it? What we see with our eyes gets in the way of believing in Jesus, and His promises for our lives, doesn’t it? For many of you, you’ve had situations in your own lives you’ve had to face, with finances, health, dealing with the death of a loved one or close friend, where you see all the bad stuff going on, and you look up to God and say “God, I know you say in Your Word that you cause all things for my good, but I’m sure not seeing it right now!” It’s easy to fall into the same trap that Thomas did too, because we’re so focused on the things of the world, that we forget to listen to God and His Word, and realize that it’s always true no matter what our eyes and our personal experience at the time might be telling us.
Well, 8 days later, Thomas and his fellow disciples are together again in a locked room. And again, just as He had the previous week, Jesus appears in their midst. He asks Thomas to come over to Him, touch Him, put His hand into that pierced side, and what happens? Thomas believes! “My Lord and My God!” Just imagine the joy that Thomas must have experienced at that moment, along with perhaps a bit of embarrassment or shame, for not believing the word that Jesus had risen. Jesus says to him “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”