Monday, November 12, 2007

Doubter's Reality (John 20 19-31)

We had a guest speaker again last week, so I've dusted off another oldie.

Poor old Thomas. Forever the doubter, right? Wasn’t there when Jesus appeared to the disciples so he insists on his own personal encore before he’ll believe it. As if the word of the other disciples wasn’t enough for him.

Well of course it’s not good enough for him. Remember who these guys are. They’re one short because their treasurer sold Jesus out for money. Their leader denied knowing Jesus three times before breakfast. They all, Thomas included, bugged out when the soldiers arrested Jesus.

Sure, the disciples have a credibility problem, but I think Thomas figures them for delusional more than he figures them for liars. They wish Jesus was back and everything was all right, and they wish for it so hard they might start to see things, like him back and standing with them.

What we know of Thomas from his other appearances in John teaches us that Thomas doesn’t play wishing games. Jesus didn’t listen to the disciples who warned him that he risked his life by going to Jerusalem – and Thomas spoke up and said, “Let’s go die with him then.” Thomas deals in reality, no matter what it is.

I believe that’s why he wants to touch the scars, and not just hear about it from the disciples.

Thomas, like the other disciples, saw Jesus heal people. He didn’t say, “Now, you people shouldn’t look down on someone just because they can’t see,” for example. “You should get rid of the barriers your society creates for him and view him as a person of equal worth to the rest of you.” Sure, he would love it if they did that, just as he would love it if we did it today. But he didn’t raise consciousness or increase awareness or whatever.

No, he just healed them. Blind, deaf, mute, lame, possessed, whatever. Real people who had real problems received real healing.

And Thomas also saw Jesus arrested and he knew Jesus died. Maybe he came back and maybe not. But if he was just some spirit, some pretender who just looked like he suffered and looked like he died while somehow being above it all, then he had lied to them.

So Thomas wanted to see the scars. Was this man the one who walked with them, who healed and taught the people and who died on a cross? If he lied about suffering and dying, why believe him about anything else?

If the resurrection was just a big ol’ no-harm, no-foul do-over, then Thomas wanted none of it. Whoever or whatever had showed up to tell the others he was risen had better be a real person or he had lied in everything he said and did.

No shiny, happy pie in the sky would satisfy Thomas. He wanted the real meat of what he’d seen and heard in his time with Jesus. Jesus loved and cared for real people because they mattered to him. He healed them because their real hurts mattered to him. If that Jesus rose, then he’d have scars. He would show his people their pain mattered by keeping the signs he had gone through pain himself.

And now Jesus comes, and he invites Thomas to do what he said he wanted to do. “Touch the scars, Thomas,” he says. Thomas doesn’t even need to now. Meeting the risen Christ for himself is enough and more. “My Lord and my God,” he replies.

Because now he knows that Jesus is indeed what he says he is. He is the Son of God and the Savior of all humanity, a real person who came to love his Father’s people with a real love. He is the Lord of life and of death, and he showed it by really dying and really returning.

Such a being is indeed Lord and God, and Thomas acknowledges it the only way he can, and the way we acknowledge it today.

Real hurts need a real healer. Real sins need real repentance. And real people need a real Savior, and we have all of these in Christ the Lord.

Which sounds like good news to me.

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