Thomas

Scripture: John 20:19-31

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Let us pray:

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to thee, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

I wonder where Thomas was that first time Jesus appeared to the disciples in the upper room. Was he far away on the shores of Galilee? Was he grappling with grief so deep and tender he had no words to express it? Jesus, his master, his teacher, his friend, had died – a political expediency to an unholy collusion between Rome’s power and – of all things – his own body of Elders in the Jewish faith! How could they? How could they?!?

What wordless prayer might he eventually have found words for in his state of deep grieving?

Suddenly awake to the whispers of my heart,

I cry speechless, with my world torn apart.

Feeling a dream in the mist tug and tear,

Plucking heartstrings, I’m caught unaware.

Phantom fingers, grasping like my own,

Salty hair whips in the wind and foam;

Bare feet pacing over sifting sand,

Now nail scarred holes in the palm of his hand!

O heart! I longed for freedom for our own,

Why strike him down to seal in stone?

I pillow my head on a rock by the shore –

While tears trickle down into night once more.

 

When I imagine that prayerful poem might be something like what Thomas felt, I am much more able to forgive his treatment of his friends when they tell him they have seen the Lord. Like a slap in the face, he vehemently doesn’t believe them; which can be seen as a rejection of their friendship and the life they had together for so long.

Since this is John’s multi-layered gospel, in the bigger picture of symbol and metaphor, what that can signify for later readers such as ourselves, is that from the very beginning, doubt and skepticism threatened the community that Jesus tried so hard to build. In response, John captures that community-shattering doubt right away, following the first vision with a second; only this time, Thomas is there. Jesus then teaches Thomas and those who will come into the community later that any who do not actually see Christ and believe are blessed.[1]

Compare that with the signs we examined during Lent. “Jesus performed seven “signs” which served as vehicles for eliciting belief.”[2] Each of these signs were very visual in nature; now we are told after the very real and wounded Jesus Thomas witnesses, that seeing is not necessary for believing. Thank God! Maybe there is yet hope for me!

But Thomas was in deep grieving, and I think now I understand why he was so vehement about not believing what his friends told him. He simply could not handle it in his grief. Thomas loved so deeply and so relationally that it crushed him to have Jesus die. Thomas, nicknamed “the Twin,” has felt a separation like that of losing one’s twin. Or, one’s spouse, or one’s closest friend or sibling. Thank you, Thomas, for being so real to me now. Maybe, maybe, I can learn from you.

The disciples still loved and accepted him into their midst, even in his grieving state, such that a week later he was with them when Jesus returned. Thomas is given the proof that cuts through his grief and opens his eyes once more, restoring his belief – and I dare say his trust in the disciples – even as Jesus is restored to him.

For some of us, that may be all we need; and some day we will see Jesus face to face. For others of us, it there may be a different kind of longing that makes us feel complete or engenders belief – a longing that the Holy Spirit would be something palatable, a real felt presence that surrounds us and envelopes us in warmth, giving us the strength, the encouragement, and the deep soul-capturing peace we need to feel; then others around us might feel it too.

This is John’s gospel, and it is a multi-layered text, with meaning upon meaning. In this gospel, Jesus breathes out Pentecost right here, right now. Commentator John Stendahl observes,

With his breath he explicitly gives his disciples the Holy Spirit; but thereby he also makes them his apostles, his sent ones – “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (v.21). [3]

What if we applied this to ourselves as modern day disciples? Againa Stendahl writes,

If this breath of ours is indeed that of Jesus, moreover, it is not in our lungs only for the purpose of sustaining our flesh with life –giving oxygen. It is there for us to breathe out as well, giving it the shape of words, expressing it in speech and sign to inspire others…May Jesus breathe in our words, but also let our hearers speak in kind.[4]

May all glory be unto the one who lived, who died, and who rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ, Amen? May it be so.

Questions for Reflection

Thomas doubted the resurrection until he saw the nail holes and put his finger in the wound of the risen Christ’s hands and side. We, too, have been wounded in this life, and our society often teaches us to hide our wounds and vulnerabilities. What might happen if, like Christ, we invited those shut down by life to explore our wounds?

Household Prayer: Morning

Gracious God,
you are the God
who is and was and is to be.
Thank you that Christ has freed us
to be a kingdom of priests
serving you and your world.
Give me a deeper sense, as I move through this day,
of what it means to say
that you are my “Alpha and Omega,” my A to Z. Amen.

Household Prayer: Evening

Jesus, tonight I remember
that your gospel gives me the power to forgive any and all, through the gift of your Holy Spirit,
and that includes forgiving myself.
Breathe your peace into me
so that even if I pierced you today,
I can still see you coming to embrace me
with your freedom and love this night. Amen.

[1] Nancy Claire Pittman, “Homiletical Perspective, John 20:19-31” in Feasting on the Word – Year C, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.

[2] Gregory A. Robbins, “Exegetical Perspective, John 20:19-31” in Feasting on the Word – Year C, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

[3]John K. Stendahl, “Pastoral Perspective, John 20:19-31” in Feasting on the Word – Year C, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

[4] Ibid.

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
This entry was posted in Conversation Starters, Poetry, Sermon. Bookmark the permalink.

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