Easter 2, 2015
"Where are the wounds?"
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Lord is Risen! He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia! That beautiful phrase that we greet each other with; that phrase that gives us hope and joy, that phrase which is used by Christians round the world is not a phrase that Thomas would have shared that first Easter day. Thomas was nowhere to be found. We don't know where he was. We do know that he wasn't with the other disciples when Jesus appeared to them.
We can only imagine the joy the Disciples had in sharing the wonderful news of the resurrection with Thomas. But Thomas would have none of that. "Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (John 20:24-25)
Did you hear Thomas? Unless he can see and touch the wounds he would never...NEVER...believe. Where is his faith? Not only does he not trust the other Disciples...but he doesn't trust Scripture or Jesus' very own promise spoken to him. This is a flat out denial of Christ, His promise, and His Word. This is a lack of faith.
Seeing is believing. It was for Thomas. It has been for many in this world. It often is for us. In the movie "Expelled: No room for Intelligent Design" Ben Stein interviews the devout atheist Richard Dawkins and asks this question: "What if after you died you ran into God, and he says, what have you been doing, Richard? I mean what have you been doing? I've been trying to be nice to you. I gave you a multi-million dollar paycheck, over and over again with your book, and look what you did." Richard Dawkins responded: "Bertrand Russell had that point put to him, and he said something like: sir, why did you take such pains to hide yourself?" (Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed) For Richard Dawkins seeing is believing...when it comes to God.
How often does the world struggle with this? Throughout history when tragedy occurs people question asking "where is God?" Many reject the resurrection because nobody has ever seen a resurrection. Not only is seeing believing...but touching is even better! Just ask Thomas!
But faith isn't just "seeing is believing...or touching is believing." "In a bunker near Cologne some hunted men had hidden for a time during World War II. This inscription was on the wall: "I believe in the sun even if it is not shining! I believe in God even if He is silent. I believe in His love even if it is hidden." This is how a sorely afflicted person hallows the name of the heavenly Father. But Christ, who taught us to pray in trust to His Father and ours, grants us the grace to say: I believe in the light, for Christ is the light in the darkness; I believe in God, for He spoke in Christ and is not silent; I believe in love, for love appeared on the cross."
I can't see the wind but I feel the effect of the wind. I don't know how electricity is made, or travels, or works...but I trust the light to turn on when I flip the switch. I may not see God, understand His will, or know His plans...but that doesn't mean He isn't here, or active, or planning for our good!
Believers in Christ: Thank God for Thomas. For in Thomas we see both the love of Christ and the basis for seeing the true Christ by faith. "Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, 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; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, 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 believed.” (John 20:26-29)
Now our dear Lord appears to the Disciples again...but especially for Thomas. Our Lord could have thrown Thomas out. Our Lord could have killed and damned Thomas for disbelieving. But what does our Lord do? He gives Thomas the proof he needed. Each demand Thomas had....our Lord fulfills. Here we see the love of God in Christ Jesus. Here we see our Lord's love for poor miserable sinners...whose faith falters...whose disbelief gets in the way. Jesus loves sinners! Jesus died for sinners! Jesus rose for sinners! Jesus loves each of us...you and me...all of us who are sinners. Thank God for that!
But there is more. While Thomas's questions came from a lack of faith...they are valid and worthy. For the cross and the wounds that our Lord endured are at the center of the Gospel. "There is a legend of old Saint Martin. One day he sat busily engaged in his sacred studies, when there came a knock at the door, and a stranger appeared of lordly look and princely attire. "Who art thou?" asked Martin. "I am Christ," was the answer. The confident bearing and the commanding tone of the visitor would have overawed a less wise man. But Martin simply gave his visitor one deep, searching glance and then quickly asked, "Where is the print of the nails?" He had noticed that this one indubitable mark of Christ's person was wanting. There were no nail scars on those jeweled hands. Confused by this searching test question and his base deception exposed, the Prince of Evil--for he it was--quickly fled.
That is only a legend, but it suggests the one infallible test that should be applied to all truth and life. There is much in these days that claims to be of Christ. There are those who would have us lay aside the old faiths and accept new beliefs and new interpretations. How shall we know whether to receive them? The only true test is that with which St. Martin exposed the false pretensions of his visitor: "Where is the print of the nails?" Nothing is truly of Christ that does not bear this mark on it. A gospel without a wounded, dying Christ is not the real Gospel."
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ. The world doesn't like to hear about Jesus suffering and death. The world doesn't like to see the image of a man dying on the cross. We cry when we watch the suffering portrayed in movies such as "The Passion of Christ." It's hard not to be sad...and have tears of sorrow after Good Friday services. Yet notice that even after the resurrection, Jesus in full glory, still bears the mark of the nails and the spear in His hands, feet, and side.
But why? Why are the marks still there? They are proof of His love and crucifixion. They are proof that Jesus is truly the Christ. They are there because of what God tells us: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) God's grace is sufficient for you. His power was made perfect...and is perfect even in the perceived weakness of Jesus suffering and death. Those wounds show the power of God over sin, death, and the devil.
Seeing is believing. We see by faith. We see God's love acting in this world and our lives. We see Jesus in worship forgiving our sins. We see Jesus, touch Jesus, and taste that the Lord is good in with and under the bread and wine. Here at this altar we receive the very body and blood of Christ that was given and shed for you on the cross. Here we receive God's sufficient grace that is made perfect in the weakness of Jesus death on the cross. Seeing is believing. We see by faith. We see our Lord. We see His wounds...and by them we see His love for us. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.