Deep & Wide: Stretching our “Branches”

One week after Easter Sunday, our scripture reading took us back to the very day of the resurrection. The disciples were hiding out, afraid for their lives in the reading from John 20:19-31:

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.”

But Thomas said to them, “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.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”

Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Poor Thomas. Everyone remembers him as “Doubting Thomas” when all he asked for was what every other disciple was privy to: to see with his own eyes. Peter denied knowing Jesus and oh yeah, he SUNK when he tried to walk on water, but we don’t remember him as “Denying Peter” or “Sinking Peter!”

And listen, if I happened upon my friends who told me they had seen the risen Lord, but were still hiding behind a locked door I would probably be skeptical as well. Because wouldn’t something like that: seeing Jesus, touching his wounds, talking with him, receiving the Holy Spirit from him in a breath of life — would that absolutely transform your life?

But there they were. Doing nothing different than they had directly after the crucifixion. I imagine they were sitting around in some kind of a stupor, trying to get a grasp on reality. Why wouldn’t Thomas ask to see for himself?

In Thomas’ asking, we receive a blessing. When he sees the wounds and falls on his knees to worship Jesus, he is told, “You believe because you have seen with your own eyes; BLESSED are they who believe but have not seen!”

That’s us! We’re the blessed ones. We believe even though we have not seen with our eyes or touched with our hands.

But. . .

Are we still keeping ourselves safe and sound behind closed doors like the disciples?

Or have we not only allowed ourselves to believe, but to be transformed and changed and emboldened to go out into the world and start the work of Jesus for ourselves?

As we move through the 50 days of Eastertide we are going to challenge ourselves to let go of our fears and doubts about sharing our own encounters with the risen Christ. We’ll start with casual discussion during our worship services and move to talking to our friends and family. The only way we can assure that The Story keeps on going is by actually sharing The Story and sharing how that Story makes a big difference in our lives.

The Story has shaped my entire life, and you know what?  I’m learning more and more about it through all the good and especially the not-so-perfect saints I have met and loved along the way. I am looking forward to learning more about our Story from you!

In Peace,

Rev. P