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Lessons

John 20:19-31

 2 Easter – April 24, 2022           John 20: 19-31 Grace and peace to you from Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier.  Amen. I the gospel for today we hear about Jesus’ encounter with Thomas and we are given two great truths which are presented in the form of reversals. The first great truth, put quite simply is: scepticism and doubt lead to believing. Thomas demonstrates this very clearly when he states: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” That is one of the most honest statements of scepticism and doubt in the Bible. Many look upon scepticism and doubt as something very negative. For Thomas and many, many others, it is actually something quite positive. Only by expressing his doubts and letting them “all hang out” does Thomas come to believe. This is also very true of many other biblical characters. For example, Job doubted the way in which God seemed to govern the world. The writer of Ecclesiastes reveals the doubts of a wise and searching person. Jeremiah, in one of his prayers to God said: “Truly, you are like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail.” (15:18b) A Lutheran theologian from the middle of the last century, Paul Tillich in his book “The Dynamics of Faith” said that faith and doubt are not opposites but different sides of the same coin. For Tillich, without doubt faith is not genuine. Our gospel today, in the person of Thomas, speaks to us by telling us it’s quite alright to doubt and be a sceptic. God is not so small, or limited or vulnerable as to be destroyed of offended by our doubts and scepticism. Life is a complicated mixture of doubt and faith. We all have our days of doubt and scepticism as well as faith and hope. Thomas challenges each one of us to be honest with God, others and ourselves about our doubts and scepticism. In doing so, we are led to a deeper, more genuine faith in God. The second great truth in today’s gospel is: those people are blessed who believe in the resurrected Christ without seeing. This is a tough one for us, since we live in a world where seeing is believing. An event takes place in our province, nation or world and we will not believe it until we have seen it on television or computer, read it in the newspapers or our newsfeeds or heard it on the radio. Many of us are very deeply entrenched as seeing and touching Thomases. The irony of this is that what we see or hear or read in the mass media is not provable by us because we were not eyewitnesses to these events. We rely on the reporting of journalists who are biased and are only able to present incomplete coverage of the events. Our reliance upon the reports of journalists is a form of faith on our part.  And more and more these days there is still the fear or concern that some stories may be “fake news.” It is very interesting that when the resurrected Jesus did come to Thomas, there is no mention of Thomas touching Jesus, even though he is given the opportunity. It was enough for Thomas to see Jesus and then believe. Even doubting, sceptical Thomas did not carry out his own conditional terms of coming to believe. Yet, more interesting is Jesus’ comment on believing without seeing. Jesus very quickly reminds Thomas that it is, by far, more difficult to believe without seeing than it is by seeing. These words speak to us and our situation today. The blessed ones, according to this gospel passage are not the disciples who witnessed the resurrected Jesus; not those who experience marvellous healings or dramatic conversions and visions; rather, that multitude of people who believe without seeing. Those of us who have plodded along without extraordinary, spiritual experiences. Believing without seeing is difficult and risky; there are few, if any, extraordinary experiences upon which to base one’s faith or relieve some of the doubts that occasionally seem too much to handle. But believing without seeing does make one keenly aware of the fact that belief comes from God; it is solely God’s work not ours. As Martin Luther put it: “I believe that I cannot by my own understanding or effort believe in Jesus Christ my Saviour or come to him.” This is only possible through God’s effort and work. It is thanks to being privileged to hear the proclamation of the Gospel and participate in the sacraments that faith is given, nurtured and strengthened. Today as we celebrate God’s Word and the sacrament of Holy Communion, the risen Saviour is right here with us. That’s why we keep coming back over and over again to receive his blessings through these means of grace. God continue to grant each of us that wonderful gift of believing without seeing. Let it be so. Amen.