By Rev. Jennifer Christenson
For Christus Lutheran Church, Greenville, Wis.
April 7, 2013
Easter 2C – Holy Humor Sunday – John 20:19-31 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%2020:19-31&version=NIV
I hereby state that I believe Thomas, the Twin, gets a raw deal.
He’s the guy who makes the profound confession of faith, “My Lord and my God” yet he’s not known to us as “Confession of Faith Thomas” or “He Really Gets It Thomas” or “Awesome Thomas”…no, they call him “Doubting Thomas”.
And all because before he makes that dramatic confession of faith he has the audacity to…
…want to see Jesus. The nerve!!
He wants what the other ten guys, plus Mary Magdalene, already got. Thomas wants some visual confirmation that Jesus is risen. He wants to see, with his own eyes, he wants to see Jesus.
And for that, he’s been known to the Church and popular culture as The Doubter (Doubt-Meister, Doubt-o-Rama, Doubty Doubterson) .
That’s so not fair.
Because when you think about it, the other ten were just as filled with doubt as he was. In verse 18, just before our reading begins, Mary Magdalene, who had had her own encounter with the Risen Jesus in the garden, she said to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”
And their response…was to run and hide out in a locked room. Which means either they believed Mary Magdalene and were afraid that Jesus was going to come and give them what for about their failures to stand by him, their denials, and overall wimpiness.
OR, they didn’t believe Mary Magdalene and they hid because they were afraid in general…that what happened to Jesus might also happen to them.
Given that Jesus has to show them his hands and side FIRST before they start the rejoicing, I’d guess it’s the latter.
In fact, Thomas may be the only one who actually DOES believe Mary. Maybe the reason he wasn’t there was because he was out looking for Jesus. John doesn’t tell us what he was up to or where he was, so that guess is as plausible as believing he drew the short straw and was sent down to McMatzo’s to pick up some dinner.
Regardless, until Jesus showed up and shared his peace with them and breathed out his Spirit on them, the other disciples weren’t so sure about this resurrection thing either. So why don’t THEY get slapped with the label “Doubting”? Doubting Disciples has a much nicer alliterative ring to it anyway.
You’ve got to feel for Thomas too in that it had to have been a colossal bummer to have met up with his fellow disciples, or returned with the hamentaschen and haroset and have them share the news.
Guess who we saw today! Jesus!!! He IS risen!! Mary wasn’t out of her gourd after all…who knew? Or maybe it was worse, maybe it was (sing-song) “We saw Jesus! We saw Jesus!”
You can see poor Thomas’ face fall as he mutters, “Aw man!”
No wonder he responded in the way he did. “Aw man! I always miss the good stuff!” Which, given that he was there when Jesus raised Lazarus and was there for the footwashing too, means that wasn’t TECHNICALLY true.
It almost seems like his response is less a rejection of the story his buddies told him and was more just pouting…a “Me too” vs. a “That’s a bunch of leros”.
Thomas gets a bad rap. He’s not “Doubting Thomas”, he’s more “Me Too Thomas” or “Why Did I Get Left Out Thomas” or “Aw Man Thomas”.
He feels a lot like a lot of us do, that it would be soooo nice to have seen what Mary saw and heard what Mary heard, to hear Jesus say our names in a garden, on the freeway or anywhere. It’d be so nice to see what the disciples got to see, Jesus standing there, breathing on them the breath of life that got the world started. I wonder what that smelled like anyway? At any rate, it’d be so nice for us to have that visual too. So, on behalf of all of us, “Aw man.”
Jesus, I believe, agrees with me regarding Thomas. OK, that’s a dangerous thing to say…maybe it’d be better put to say I agree with Jesus.
I say this because Jesus a) doesn’t leave Thomas hanging, for long anyway and b) doesn’t call him “The Doubt-meister” either.
Jesus just shows up and graciously gives Thomas exactly what he asked for.
The next week the disciples are all back in that same room. Which again, makes me wonder, DID they believe? Jesus gave them his promised peace, breathed out his Spirit on them and said he was sending them as the Father had sent him, so why weren’t they out there sharing the good news? Why were they still hiding out in that room? Or were they all just there in solidarity with Thomas: “Until our bro sees Jesus too we’re all staying put.”
Maybe it was both. John leaves that detail to our imaginations.
Anyway, back in the room they are and once again Jesus shows up and once again he offers his peace, “Peace be with you.”
And then Jesus turns to Thomas, not with a condescending look of disapproval or disappointment. I think it was more a look of amusement and love. Jesus had a twinkle in his eye that day.
“T-dawg, my friend…here’s my hand, here’s my side, just like you asked, put ‘er there.”
And that gesture was enough. John doesn’t report that Thomas actually poked his finger in Jesus’ nail scars or jabbed him in the side. He only reports that Thomas breathed out that awesome confession of faith, that moment of true belief that the whole of John’s gospel had been driving toward since the “In the beginning was the Word.”
Thomas looks at Jesus and says, “My Lord and my God.” My Lord and my God. You are who you say you are! You are the Word made flesh. You are the Father’s only Son. You are the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. You are the Good Shepherd, the Gate, the Way, the Truth, the Life. You are my Lord and my God.
And then Jesus chuckles, I’m sure he chuckled, “Oh Tom, you thought this past week was hard for you…just think of all the people who will have to come to faith without seeing me like this! You’re blessed by your faith Thomas, and your faith blesses you. But blessed even more are the ones who will come to faith not by sight but by hearing, believing and living the testimony of awesome believers like you.”
And that – as an aside – that is one of the hands down coolest verses in all of scripture. Seriously, we should all get chills when we hear or read it. Because it’s here that Jesus is blessing US. He’s reaching out from the pages of scripture and blessing you and me directly. That comment by Jesus wasn’t so much him lecturing or teasing Thomas as it was Jesus offering a shout-out through the centuries to all believers who would have to do this faith thing without the benefit of seeing Jesus in the same way as Thomas.
Jesus says to Thomas and the gang, “Just as the Father sends me, so I send you. Because they…the future disciples, they need me…and you’re gonna give me to ‘em.”
And thanks be to God that AWESOME Thomas did…right?
Thanks be to God that Thomas and the rest of the disciples eventually broke out of that room and spread the good news that Christ is Risen, indeed.
Thanks be to God that Awesome Thomas, Faithful Thomas, No More or Less Doubtful than the Other Disciples Thomas asked to see Jesus. And that Jesus answered with his presence and then blessed not just him – but all of us.
That, my dearest sisters and brothers in Christ, is something that should put laughter in our hearts and smiles on our faces today and every day. Amen