JESUS APPEARS TO THOMAS
Last week I said that we were going to look at three post resurrection stories in the New Testament and see what they say to us about how we live our lives for Christ. We are, after all, a resurrection people. It is because of the resurrection that we are who we are, followers of Jesus Christ. It is he whom we worship and adore. It is because of him that we are right with God and have eternal life. But how do we live that out?
Last week, if you recall, we looked at the story of the disciples who were locked in a room behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities. In their fear they were immobilized. But then something happened. Jesus showed up and changed everything. He turned their fear to joy and they rejoiced in the power of the resurrection. That’s great news.
But someone was missing from the room that evening when Jesus first showed up. His name is Thomas. If you want to follow along, his story is found in John 20:24-31. We don’t know why he wasn’t in the room. We just know he wasn’t. When he finally arrives back, all of the other disciples say, “You’ll never guess what happened!” And then they tell him that Jesus appeared to them and showed them his hands and his side and they believed.
Thomas, of course, is skeptical. Who wouldn’t be? And so, in verse, 25 Thomas lays down his bottom line. He says, “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.” Is he being unreasonable? I don’t think so. All he’s asking for is the exact same thing that the other disciples saw when Jesus appeared to them. If it was good enough to convince them, than Thomas figures that it will be good enough to convince him as well.
Beginning in verse 26, we discover that a week passes and nothing happens. But then the disciples are all together again, in the same place, in the same room and the doors are locked. But this time Thomas is with them.
And what happens? You guessed it. Just like last week, Jesus shows and says, “Peace be with you!” In verse 27 Jesus looks right at Thomas and says, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Jesus shows up and gives Thomas everything he asked for. It was the same thing that had been given the other disciples the week earlier. Not surprisingly, it has the same affect.
In verse 28, Thomas says, “My Lord and my God!” What that means that Thomas too now believes and recognizes Jesus as the risen Saviour.
WORDS & ACTIONS
There are certainly similarities between last week’s story and this week’s. In both cases, the disciples are locked in a room. In both cases, Jesus shows up and says, “Peace be with you.” In both stories Jesus does something; he gives them the evidence they need to believe. But each time Jesus shows up, he is dealing with something different. Last week Jesus allowed them to face their fears. This week, fear is not the key motivator. This week it is doubt. Do you remember that Jesus said to Thomas, “Stop doubting and believe!”
That’s important because doubt is one of the biggest barriers that preventing people from coming to faith in Jesus. It was true even for the people in the Bible. Last week, the disciples had trouble believing that Jesus was alive even though they had the testimony of Mary and Peter and John. Today, Thomas has trouble believing the resurrection even though lots of people testified that Jesus showed up a week earlier. And remember, that these are the very same people who went on to spread the good news of Jesus and establish the Church that is still with us today. They laid the foundation for everything that we do now. If they had their doubts, then let’s not be too hard on others who may still doubt today. That may even include you. If people are going to be honest, even long time, committed Christians will often tell you that they went through their times of doubt. So, if you’ve been there, if you have had your doubts, even if you’re facing doubts right now in your life, you’re not alone and you’re not unusual.
So, here’s the question. How did Jesus enable Thomas to get past his doubts? Like most things in faith, it’s not difficult. In fact, it’s pretty simple. Jesus did something. What did he do? He showed Thomas his hand and his side and, when he did that, he believed. Jesus did something that helped Thomas to get past his doubts. Note this – and it’s important – that he didn’t just say something. He actually did something. Maybe that’s the biggest lesson for us today.
Walt Kallestad told one of the best stories I have ever heard about how important it is to act our faith in the world. Walt is the pastor of the Church of Joy in Phoenix, Arizona and one of the real pioneers in the church growth movement in North America. I met him at a conference a few years ago. Unlike my image of the lead pastor of a mega church, he is a very quiet, unassuming and humble man.
He said, that we as Christians, need to understand something. We can talk about our faith all we want. But until we do something, those words don’t mean much to other people. He also said that we need to realize that people who are interested in Jesus will watch what we do to see if what we believe really makes a difference to the way we act.
And then he told this story. It was summer and his family was all loaded up in the minivan to go on vacation. On the way out of town, he stopped to get gas. When he was waiting in line to pay for the gas, there was a display of CD’s strategically placed so that people waiting in line could see them. Walt looked them over and picked out two new CD’s for the road trip. When he got to the cash register, he paid for the gas and the CD’s and walked out to his car.
But as he sat in the car, it came to him that the salesclerk had undercharged him. He knew how much the gas was and he knew the CD’s were $9.99 each and it just didn’t add up. He checked the receipt and discovered that he was correct. She had only charged him $.99 for the CD’s. So, he got out of the car, waited in line again to let the clerk know that he still owed her money.
When he finally got the cash register a second time, he told the clerk that she had undercharged him. She looked at him and said, “I know I did.” And he looked at her, somewhat bewildered, and asked why she had done that. This what she said. She said, “I undercharged you on purpose. I was at your church last Sunday and I liked it and was thinking of going back. But before I did that, I just wanted to know if you are an honest man.” Ouch.
I’ve never forgotten that story. And more than once, I’ve found myself going back into a store because the salesclerk undercharged me. The point is that we need to be aware that people who are interested in Jesus are watching what we do. It’s all well and good to say the right things but if our actions don’t measure up to our words, people will see through that and our well intentioned words will mean nothing.
We represent Jesus to the world. Jesus might have showed the disciples his hands and his side but he can’t do that same thing today. Since he can’t show them his hands and his side, guess what he shows them? He shows them us. We are the evidence that faith is important and that faith makes a real difference in life.
There’s a word for that. It’s called integrity. As followers of Jesus Christ, we have to have integrity. That means that our actions must match our words. Because, if they don’t, people can smell the hypocrisy a mile away. And please also understand this. It is only after our actions match our words that our words become important. Jesus showed Thomas the scars in his hands and his side and it was only after those action that Thomas believed the words that Jesus had risen.
Does that mean we can never make mistakes? That our words and our actions always have to be consistent? That would be nice but it usually doesn’t work out that way. I know that I make mistakes. In fact, I make a lots of mistakes. You probably do too. And sometimes each of us, despite our best efforts, will do something that is completely inconsistent with the faith in Jesus that we profess. And when that happens, we need to rely on God’s grace always remembering that God loves us even when we blow it. Even in those instances when our own hypocrisy lies outstretched before us for all to see, God, in his infinite grace and mercy, still loves us and makes us his.
That, my friends, is the richness of God’s love for us. When we blow it, he picks us up, brushes us off, and sets us back on the path of his making. One of my favourite verses is found in Isaiah 30:21 (NIV). This is what it says: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” God calls us back to him as many times as it takes. And in the process we learn how to better put together our words and our actions so that the integrity of our faith will shine through and that, through us, people will see the importance of faith and the difference it makes in life.
That’s what happens when Jesus shows up. Next week, he is going to show up one more time. It will be on the road to a town called Emmaus.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Holy God, our Friend and Father, we thank you for all of the good things that you have given. We are so blessed that we often fail to recognize your great generousity. We can take for granted those things that seem ordinary but you are in the simple things of life. As we consider all of your blessings, help us never to become conceited or arrogant at our good fortune. Enable us to embrace humility in our hearts, knowing as we humble ourselves and seek you and your way of doing things, you will bring light into our lives at the proper time in the proper way.
Our hearts and prayers go to the people of Nova Scotia as they deal with the death of so many people in the horrible shooting spree that happened last weekend. Be with them as they seek to mourn and in an environment where the normal channels of community grief are not available to them. Help us to hold them in our prayers that they may feel the strength that only you can give.
We pray for the sick at home or in hospital this week. Grant them a special measure of your Healing Spirit and hold them safely in your arms giving peace and comfort.
And once again, we pray for the front line workers in our health care system who are dealing with so much right now. We also ask your blessing up those who also must work to help us through this time. We remember the police, firefighters, military and funeral directors, all of whom have to adjust the way they do things to keep both us and themselves safe.
Loving God, we come to a new year. Help us to remember that you are always near. There is no limit to your great mercy, patience, and care. Thank you for the assurance of your faithful love, freely given without condition or limit. Help us to love you with all of our hearts and to exemplify your character and way of doing things in all that we do and say in the coming new year. We pray our prayers in Jesus’ name. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
April 26, 2020 / Easter 3
Acts 2:14 a, 36-41; Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19; 1 Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-35
CALL TO WORSHIP
ONE: Praise be to God, our Protector and Saviour.
ALL: Praise be to God, who gives us life.
ONE: Praise be to God, our Protector and Saviour.
ALL: Praise be to God, who gives us love.
ONE: Praise be to God, our Protector and Saviour.
ALL: Praise be to God, who gives us Christ.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
Great and Holy God, our Father and our Friend, your hand guides us. Your eyes watch over us. Your ears hear our cries and our laughter. You know all and see all from the time of our rising to the moment when sleep comes. You protect us in our times of rest and restore us to strength. How Great and Holy you are, our Father and our Friend. Enter our worship as you enter our lives. Fill us, anew, with your Spirit that we may enter your gates with thanksgiving and praise.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
God of Mercy and Compassion, we come before you with gladness but we come, also, with troubled hearts. We acknowledge our sin and the harm that it causes in the world. We mourn the pain that we have brought into the lives of others, sometimes intentionally and sometimes by accident or carelessness. Have mercy upon us. Remind us of our sin and call us to repentance. Cleanse us by the washing of the blood and the power of the cross.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Though we sin, God sees the good within each of us. Though we fall short, God knows that we try to walk in a holy way. Through the simple acts of confession and repentance, we are forgiven and restored to God through Jesus Christ our Risen Lord and Saviour.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
Here, O God, are the works of our hands, the fruit of our labours. As we give them to you, we offer them to the world that your purpose may be accomplished and your Word made known.
In God, we have our Creator. In Jesus, we have new life. In the Spirit, we have a holy presence and a constant comfort. God’s love abides. It is ours to have to and share.