First a Follower

Scriptures: 1 Peter 1:3-9, John 20:19-31

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you our Rock and our Redeemer, amen.

C.S. Lewis once asked the rhetorical question, “What are we going to make of Christ?” He went on to answer his own query: “There is no question of what we can make of him, it is entirely a question of what he intends to make of us. You must accept or reject the story.”[1]

Thomas faced that very question in today’s scripture lesson from the Gospel of John. At what point does he accept the story? Only after Jesus appears a second time to the disciples and confronts Thomas: “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”

I am positive that was an incredibly powerful witness for Thomas. I prefer to imagine and hope that had I been there and heard the disciples’ story the first time, I might have responded differently. Instead of saying, “Unless I see…I will not believe” I pray my response would have been, “O Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!”

We are among those who have heard the story but were not there to witness it. What is your response today? “Oh Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” Have I yet reached belief? Have any of us yet reached belief? Or are any of us still like Thomas, refusing to believe until confronted with the risen Lord? If that is the case, then hear this challenge:

Open your eyes and look around you at the people in your community! Christ is there – in the eyes of the weary, the worn hands of the worker; in the slow step of your neighbor and the lives of young parents just trying to survive day to day life.

Perhaps a more accurate question for us today is, “Are we followers? Or are we disciples?” I am not a Thomas, that is for sure; I think I am more of a Peter…yet, he, too, had to face the question, “Do I accept this or reject this?” time and time again over the three years of Christ’s ministry. Peter, a simple fisherman; was asked to, “Come, follow, and I will make you fish for people.” Well what if I don’t want to fish for people, Jesus? What if I want to remain in the comfortable and familiar? I don’t want to rock the boat, I just want to pull in the net. I know about fish, Lord. I don’t know anything about people! Oh, really? And is that the same excuse we make today? That we don’t want to rock the boat; that we want to remain in the comfortable and familiar?

But Jesus called and Peter went. Peter tried. Peter fell.

Yes, I can easily imagine my place with Peter; Peter who saw so many miraculous things occur in the three short years Jesus spent with him. But Peter’s falling is not the end of the story.

I wonder, at what point in his story does he go from being a follower to being a disciple?” When he walked on water, following the will of his Lord, then sinking beneath the waves until Christ’s very hands reached out, took his and placed him back in the boat? Is that when he became a disciple? Did it take saving his literal life to do it? Or, remember when Jesus was sleeping in that very self-same boat in the midst of a terrible storm over the Sea of Galilee? Remember they called out to Jesus and awoke him and he stood up and rebuked the wind and sea and they became still and calm.

Or, did he become a disciple when he and James and John witnessed a dead girl rise in Capernaum at the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler? Or, was it when he found Jesus speaking to a Samaritan woman at the well in broad daylight?

Or did he become a disciple when with James and John he witnessed Moses and Elijah appear and speak with Jesus dressed in dazzling white on the Mount of Transfiguration?

Or, does he become a disciple when he runs to the tomb after the women tell them they have seen the Lord? Remember he and John run to the tomb and peer inside to see the grave clothes rolled up, lying where Jesus had lain.

Only Peter doesn’t just look in, he has to bodily go right into that tomb of death and experience the place where Jesus once lay lifeless. Is that when he finally becomes a disciple?

Perhaps that is where all of us begin. Perhaps all of us have to go right on in and experience places of death in our lives before we become disciples. Up until that point perhaps we are just followers, milling around and doing what the crowd does, believing in name because, “Everyone else is doing it so we might as well do it too.”

I can only imagine for Peter, what great courage it took to step out of the boat and walk to Jesus on the sea. I can only imagine what it must have been like to see Jesus in his future state of glory, blazing white in the clouds speaking with the Saints from long ago and then be hit with the very voice of God saying, “This is my son, listen to him!”

I can only imagine what it must have been like to watch Jesus mocked, whipped, stripped, and flogged – then to have him turn and look right at me as the cock crowed the third time. I can only imagine what it was like when Peter and the others were fishing early in the week, casting their net over and over again and finding nothing until the Master Fisher appeared walking on the beach and called out across the water saying, “Cast your net on the other side of the boat.”

Oh, my God, I believe, help my unbelief! O God, I doubt, help me doubt no more. O, God is it really you who comes to me and not I who come to you? Is it really as C.S. Lewis says, that it isn’t what I make of you and your story, but what you make of me?

Then, O, Lord, re-make me, that I might hear and understand; re-make me that I might see with clear vision the Kingdom you have established on this Earth and my place in it; re-make me from the corpse of my sleep-walking existence and cause me to awaken to the glory of a new day – of new life in you!

Holy Spirit, breathe your Breath of Life to renew us all, and may all glory be unto the one who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who was, who is, and ever shall be Christ for us all. Amen? May it be so.

[1] P. 265, Bread and Wine, Readings for Lent and Easter. Orbis Books, 2005 Maryknoll, NY

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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