Saturday, April 30, 2011
Readings are here.
Every year, the first Sunday after Easter, the church reads this Gospel. It is a challenge to say anything new about the appearance to the disciples who are hiding in terror from the religious authorities and the soldiers of the Roman Empire. Are any of the women followers of Jesus with them? Is it just the 11? Hard to tell from the word "disciples," because in Greek if there is even one man in a group the male plural is used to describe the group. One wonders why Thomas was not with the group? Was he not afraid? Did they send him out for food or to see if the streets were safe for them. Was he tired of living in the atmosphere of fear? It was evening of the same day when Magdalene had been the first to see Jesus in the garden. Peter and the others had gone home after seeing the empty tomb. He and most of the disciples had run off after Jesus was sentenced to death on Thursday so it was Sunday evening when those in the locked room had experienced Jesus alive in their midst.
Now it is a week later. Thomas has resisted their story all week - saying - I have to see him with his wounds to believe you. Thomas appears 3 times in the Gospel of John. The first time is when Jesus insists on going so near Jerusalem after the death of Lazarus, when the sisters send for Jesus. While most of the disciples say it is not safe and they should stay where they are until things calm down, Jesus is determined to go. At that point Thomas says, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." (John 11:16)
Thomas appears again in John 14. Jesus is telling the disciples that he is going to prepare a place for them in his Father's house and that they already know the way. Thomas says to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?' Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." Thomas may not understand what Jesus is saying at that moment but in our Gospel to day he finds out.
So today we find our selves in that locked room with Thomas, with an unbelievable story that the a man has returned from death, is able to come into our midst regardless of the solid doors and locks we have built between believing and unbelieving. For that is what is being explored. The Greek does not say doubt. It speaks of two states of being - being believing and being not believing. Doubt, in its way, is part of believing - it is saying "maybe" "maybe not" - having a part of oneself that is open to the possibility. Thomas is not believing - there is no room in his heart or mind to accept what happened to Magdalene, the other women, nor those in the locked room. He is not doubting at all - he knows. Jesus is dead. This is not a Lazarus story - Jesus is dead and buried and gone.
Now the door is locked once again and Thomas has locked out everything his friends are saying. And yet - still - suddenly - Jesus is there. Does Thomas even need to touch the wounds that Jesus shows him? He "gets it" -- and even more so than the others - he declares "my Lord and my God" -- the answer Jesus gave him to his question of John 14 is standing before him - Thomas sees God in the wounded One. The way to God is through looking at the wounded of this world. We will see God when we present to wounded-ness - our own wounds and the wounds of the world.
Jesus says in Matthew 25 - that when we help the "least of these" - those who are hungry, sick, imprisoned, without clothing, thirsty, or the stranger we will be helping Christ. That is what our Gospel shows us today. When we don't hide our wounds or hide from others who are wounded - we will be on the Way, the way that leads to God.