Peace Be With You
Peace Be With You
On the second Sunday of Easter we come to a familiar story: Doubting Thomas.
The encounter with Thomas has the potential to dominate any discussion that we might have about this passage. While Thomas’ point of view is important and his encounter with Jesus helps inform us about our faith. There are other things at place within this passage.
Scripture: John 20: 19-31
Peace Be With You
What would you do if you had heard that the tomb was empty, your friends had seen Jesus, that by all accounts the things he said had come true?
Would you hide in the upper room? Friends, why aren’t the disciples out looking for Jesus?
Did the disciples believe Mary or not? Was Peter amazed by what he discovered in the empty tomb when he picked up the grave clothes? Did they remember back to the words that Jesus spoke, about his life and death?
Why didn’t they go looking for Jesus?
Our passage this morning deals with doubting Thomas. It is a passage that asks us to confront whether we are willing to trust on faith that Christ is alive, that he has overcome the grave. This is the if I don’t see it I won’t believe it passage. And still I ask, why didn’t the disciples go looking for Jesus?
Well perhaps the answer is because Jesus comes looking for us.
Jesus comes looking for us during those difficult moments when we’d rather he not show up. He finds his way into the closed off parts of our hearts and minds. For some reason we’re afraid of his presence, afraid that he might judge us, find us unworthy of being loved, chastise us for a sin we’d rather not admit. We close ourselves off from him, or we try to. We build up walls, we roll a stone in front of the entrance, like a tomb.
But those are the places that Jesus comes looking for us. And when he arrives, all he says is ‘Peace be with you.’
Like the disciples we are called to move from a place of fear to life. At its heart this is a passage about life. Life which is full and life which is valued. A life which is cherished. We are called to move from merely existing to live in the abundance and eternity of God.
The disciples are called to move from a life which is rooted in fear, to a life which is full of God’s abundance. It is with abundant life that we find the disciples in our passage from Acts, declaring that they must follow God, that they must teach and talk about Jesus!
They repeat the refrain: Peace be with you.
What of Thomas? Was he right to doubt? And what exactly is he doubting? Whether Jesus was raised from the dead? Hadn’t all the disciples doubted the words of Mary, calling them nonsense? I’m not sure that Thomas is doubting the resurrection as he is doubting what his friends are telling him. It makes me wonder if all the practical jokes that the disciples might have participated in all had Thomas as the target. Is this just another in a long line of jokes. Has being cooped up in the upper room for a week gotten the best of the disciples? But perhaps a better question to ask is whether the title Doubting Thomas is fair or even accurate.
We think that Thomas doubts, but let’s be honest. If you had any doubts about who Jesus was after he was crucified, you’d have left. You’d have jumped ship and caught the first train out of town. Thomas doesn’t do that, Thomas stays. He doesn’t doubt who Jesus is, but he wants what everyone else had.
Karoline Lewis puts it like this “all Thomas wants, all Thomas needs, is what everyone else had and, if we are honest, what we want — to see Jesus. One more time. Mary saw the Lord. The disciples saw the Lord. Because the Word made flesh isn’t — if you can’t see and feel Jesus one last time.” (reference)
Thomas doesn’t doubt he simply wants affirmation in what he believes.
It is Thomas that has the most heartfelt confession in our passage from John. This week I encountered the following quote about this passage. The quote are some lyrics from a song called Wonderwall:
Jesus said to Thomas, ‘I’m sure you’ve heard it all before but you never really had a doubt.’
Putting his hand in Jesus’ side, Thomas said to him, ‘Maybe you’re gonna be the one that saves me.’ – Oasis, Wonderwall
The words that Thomas speaks, ‘My Lord and my God!’ highlight what the author of the gospel follows up with: ‘these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.’
Our assumption about resurrection is a one-time event, that it is over and has happened. That it is done and finished. We simply need to trust, believe or have faith that it occurred. What we fail to see is that resurrection happens all around us. Christ’s dying and rising, is synonymous with our own lives. How often have we felt that something in our own lives was lost to us or dead? We stare into the void and we wonder how do we recover? How do we move forward? Then resurrection occurs, our eyes clear and we realize that all we needed to do was trust. That we can move forward in faith.
Thomas helps us understand that the Word did indeed become flesh. That resurrection matters because of the encounter we have with God. Thomas reminds us of the importance of this moment and the next one. About the intentionality of our actions as we live in the abundance of God’s love, finding life with God.
Remember, no matter your circumstances Jesus will always come looking for you.
Peace be with you. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.