First Lesson: Acts 4: 32-35
Responsive Reading: Psalm 133
Second Lesson: 1 John 1: 1-2:2
Gospel Lesson: John 20: 19-31
Grace and peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
I want to tell you the story of ten men locked in a room. These men’s lives were about to have an encounter that was going to change their lives’ forever. Only one man was left out. Our story for today is the story of the week after Holy Week. Our lesson tells how a man named Thomas was at the center of the story.
Our lesson begins the Sunday night of Easter in a locked room at the same house in Jerusalem where the Disciples had shared their final supper with their savior a few nights before. The Disciples were terrified. They were witnesses to Jesus’ arrest. John had been a witness to his crucifixion and death. Peter was so scared at being recognized by the mob that he denied knowing Jesus on three separate occasions. The Disciples feared that the same Chief Priests who had Jesus killed were coming for them next.
So the Disciples that Sunday sat and sat some more. They were thinking about how to escape town without being recognized. They were living like outlaws. Then one disciple saw him. Then another disciple’s eye became open. Another disciple started shaking his head like he was living in a dream. There standing before them was what appeared to be “Jesus”. The same “Jesus” who they thought was dead was now standing before them.
The first words out of Jesus’ mouth upon seeing the Disciples were “Peace be with you”. Jesus knew what the Disciples reaction was going to be. Sure they had seen Jesus perform miracles, even raise Lazarus from the dead, yet seeing Jesus coming back from Roman Crucifixion that’s just going to freak people out. Was Jesus a ghost? Jesus knew what the Disciples were going to think. So Jesus sets out to prove that he’s all flesh and bone to the Disciples at this moment. Jesus shows the Disciples his hands and his side. Jesus extends unto his disciples the very hands that were pierced by nails and the very side that had been whipped. The Disciples were convinced that they were dealing with the same guy; they had supper with a few days prior. The Disciples started yelling like you would upon seeing a long lost family member. A few disciples even busted out dance moves in celebration.
Only one of the eleven remaining disciples wasn’t there for Jesus’ appearance, a man known as Thomas. Why was Thomas not there on Sunday evening? Thomas was sick of being in a locked room. Thomas was sick of being asked the same few questions again and again. Thomas was tired of hearing other people crying. Thomas would rather be alone. Think of all the people that you know in your life that have just lost someone close to them. We all know how people grieve differently. Some people grieve by always needing to be around people. Other people might not show up to church for a little while. They might not want to spend a lot of time doing things with friends. We all know people who would rather grieve alone. Thomas was this type of griever. Thomas’ grief explains why Thomas wasn’t there at the Lord’s first appearance.
Thomas finally comes back to where the Disciples were staying. Thomas knocks a special code so that they know he’s safe to let in.
Thomas comes back that Sunday night to hear a tale. “We have seen the Lord” “He was just here” “Thomas, you totally missed him.”
Now imagine Thomas’ reaction to hearing the Disciples story.
Thomas when you left, and we had the doors locked real tight, Jesus just showed up here, and Jesus then left.
We have no idea where he went, we don’t know when he might return, and He didn’t really stay all that long. But Thomas, you need to believe us that he was here.
Thomas was probably thinking, wait a minute, we spent the last three years together with Jesus, he then just shows up and leaves again.”
Let me tell a story, When I was a freshman in college, I worked as a Bible camp counselor. 8th and 9th grade week was the toughest week all summer. The kids were at just the age, where causing mischief for authority figures was the most exciting thing in life. One day the heavens opened up over Pine County. The kids were supposed to stay inside. Kids being kids they kept threatening to bolt out the door. I was started to freak out whenever anyone would make a quick step towards the door. Finally an old maintenance guy named Phil who had worked at the camp for decades, comes up to me, tells me not to worry about it because “Where exactly are they going to go”.
Even if Thomas thought Jesus might be alive, the idea that he would be staying somewhere else in Jerusalem or out traveling by himself, after all, that went down in the past week seems kind of far-fetched. Where exactly would Jesus go without the Disciples? Thomas had good reason to believe the Disciples’ story was fishy. Thomas wasn’t the type of guy that was going to fall for a story. Thomas wasn’t going to have people laughing at him behind his back. To Thomas, what the other disciples were saying seemed to be as believable as saying that someone saw Elvis Presley down at Bri-Esa’s.
So Thomas did what nearly anyone would do. Thomas came up with a series of demands, proofs, or prerequisites that he needed to have met before he would finally declare himself to be a believer.
“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. “
Whenever I preach on this text, my reaction is always the same. Thomas is the most misunderstood character in the Bible. Peter is never called “Denying Peter,” none of the other disciples have the nickname “cowardly” attached to them for abandoning Jesus upon his arrest. Despite all this, Thomas is the one with the negative sounding nickname “Doubting Thomas”. Whenever we attach a nickname like this to Thomas, we are failing to admit that he was just as human and flawed as any of Jesus’ other disciples. Nor does Thomas ask for more proof of belief that the other disciples had already received.
Let’s be honest about a second point. Monday passes, no Jesus. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, no signs to see of Jesus and no reports to hear of Jesus. Every day in the week after Jesus’ death, Thomas is probably feeling more and more convinced the Disciples had just been drinking a little too much wine with their Sunday evening supper. As for the other Disciples, they have what would seem to be the definition of a life-changing encounter with Jesus. Though they still sit around the same room acting like nothing has ever changed.
Let me tell another story, when I was sixteen years old, I didn’t have a driver’s license, and my parents were going away on vacation. My parents decided that in case my sister, and I needed to go anywhere they would give my friend Ben the keys to their new Mitsubishi Galant. Ben was the friend whose wedding ceremony I performed last month in Mexico. Giving a sixteen-year-old keys to a car like that is a terrible idea. This case was no exception. Ben drove everywhere that we could think of with this thing. Ben drove to eat in Hinckley. Ben drove to the Mall of America. Ben drove to Minneapolis multiple times. Ben drove miles backward through the streets of Lindstrom trying to get the odometer to reverse. Ben drove around back-country Chisago County roads at way above the speed limit. This thing handled so smooth that it could take corners at well over a hundred miles per hour. If boldness were ever going to get me killed any week of my high school life, this would have been the week. I’ll just say there is some good luck involved with that week and me speaking to you today.
The thing about Ben and I is we had been given a new lease on life, we weren’t just going to sit around watching T.V. Yet in the wake of encountering Jesus, the Disciples just sat around and did nothing. The Disciples didn’t seem really all that interested in convincing Thomas that the Resurrection was for real. Doubting Thomas is only a creation of the Disciples not being the most effective evangelists themselves.
The following Sunday night though Thomas would have his moment. It was almost as if God was saying “Thomas, you think you can run away, no, you can’t.” He’s back. The long hair guy who the Swedes think had blond hair and blue eyes. Thomas was now like the guy saying “There is no way anybody can beat Kentucky in Basketball”, yet you shut up pretty quickly when Kentucky losses.
Here was Jesus standing before Thomas. The script played out the same as last Sunday’s visit. Peace be with you, See my hands, Touch my side, Stop doubting and believe. Thomas from this point forward in life was going to confess Jesus to every person that he was going to meet.
Interestingly enough, Jesus never dwells on Thomas’ doubt. Jesus is much more interested in extending Thomas peace and forgiveness so that he can move forward with life.
So the story of Thomas brings us to this morning. We reflect on the meaning of Thomas’s story for our story.
Fredrick Buechner says, “Whether your faith is that there is a God or that there is not a God if you don’t have any doubts you are either kidding yourself or asleep.”
So might doubt have a spiritual purpose? Doubt isn’t good or bad. Doubt is merely a reality of faith. When people say prove that Jesus rose from the dead. Perhaps you can make the case that without some sort of spiritual intervention that there is no way that eleven men hiding scared in a room would one day be the founders of a religion with over one billion followers at every corner of the Earth. Perhaps you could give a testimonial of how your faith led you through a particularly dark moment in your life. The truth is that none of these things can convince an unbeliever unless God decides to touch them just like he touched Thomas. The reality of faith is that there will always be open questions or things that we won’t know this side of heaven. We can do one of two things with our doubts. We can either drown in our doubts, embrace our excuses, stand on the street corner pointing out all the hypocritical Christians who give someone a nickname like “Doubting Thomas”. The other option is we can admit that we will have doubts as Christian people that will never smooth over, and that’s O.K.
Why would God allow this? Why was my friend put to death? Thomas is not a raging skeptic; Thomas is an everyman for the Christian faith. Thomas is a hero whose life story takes him all the way to India way farther than any of the other disciples to start a church.
You actually believe that when you die that you’ll eventually wake up? Sure, do. I’ll take Thomas’ word for it. Amen
 The following sermon is a semi-creative retelling of Thomas’ story based on John 20:19-29.
 John 20:19
 John 20:19
 John 20:20
 John 20:20
 These are not reasons from any sort of academic speculation. This serves merely as a way to imagine Thomas’ story.
 John 20:25
 This part of the sermon along with the section pointing out Thomas’ reasons for being skeptical of the Disciples claims were inspired by an article entitled “Correcting Saint John” written by Russell Saltzmann (NALC) published at First Things on 9.Apr.2015. Web. Apr.9.2015
 John 20:27
 The Buechner quote appears in a sermon by Reverend Tim Zingale entitled “? Thomas” published at Sermon Central in March 2008.
 Ed Markquart gives a really powerful testimonial in a Series B sermon entitled “Thomas, an Honest Doubter” that can be found at Sermons from Seattle. Markquart’s testimony inspired the last section on the importance of just letting doubts eventually go.
 Church Tradition