The Rev. Casey dunsworth

serves as Associate Campus Pastor to the Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry to UC Davis

and as Program Director for LEVN, the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network.

What About Thomas? -- John 20:19-31

     In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were locked in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Temple authorities. Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Having said this, the savior showed them the marks of crucifixion. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw Jesus, who said to them again, "Peace be with you. As Abba God sent me, so I am sending you." After saying this, Jesus breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained."

     It happened that one of the Twelve, Thomas—who was called Didymus or ‘Twin’—was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples kept telling him, "We have seen Jesus!" But Thomas’ answer was, "I will never believe it without putting my finger in the nail marks and my hand in the spear wound."
     On the eighth day, the disciples were once more in the room, and Thomas was with them. Despite the locked doors, Jesus came and stood before them, saying, "Peace be with you." Then to Thomas, Jesus said, "Take your finger and examine my hands. Put your hand into my side. Do not doubt but believe."
     Thomas said in response, "My Savior and my God!" Jesus then said, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
     Now Jesus performed many other signs as well—signs not recorded here—in the presence of the disciples. But these have been recorded to help you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Only Be- gotten, so that by believing you may have life in Jesus’ name.

Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Christ is risen, indeed! We have seen the Lord! Alleluia! Amen!

But, you may still feel like Thomas. Certainly in this building last week and again this week we have proclaimed at the top of our lungs that Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! There were lilies up here and joyful music and an egg hunt and birds were chirping and the sun was shining and it is spring time in San Francisco. Alleluia.

But when we walk out the doors of this place, it may not feel that way. When we walk out these doors there is cold and wind. There is homelessness and hunger right here in our neighborhood. There is violence on our streets. There is unrest in our communities. There is fear in this country; there is hate in this world.

Children of color are afraid to walk alone because our son Trayvon Martin did not make it home last month—the shooter, George Zimmerman, was finally charged last week, but the culture of the streets remains unchanged.Teens all over the US are afraid of being their true selves because of the meanness of bullying in the schoolyard. Six students in the Anoka-Hennepin school district in Minnesota committed suicide because of rampant anti-gay bullying in their schools—the district recently settled a lawsuit, but the culture and the policies remain unchanged. Americans of all stripes sit jobless, hoping for phone calls about applications and résumés, with little to encourage them. Last summer, I spent a lot of my time as a hospital chaplain with a woman named Jessica, who though she was only 28 had had three miscarriages before the pregnancy I sat through with her—high-risk twins.

And still, Jesus says that blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.

Blessed are the Martin family—and many just like them—who have not seen justice for their sons, and yet have believed that someday soon justice will be served.

Blessed are the families of those Minnesotan students who have not seen a change in their school district and yet have believed that, someday soon, reconciliation will come.

Blessed are the homeless and the jobless who have not seen safety and security and yet have believed that, someday soon, they will get back on their feet.

Blessed are Jessica and her husband JT—and all other couples who struggle with infertility—who have kept faith in the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit and have believed that life will come to them.

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.

But didn’t we just read the story of our friend Thomas, who did not know that his Savior had risen? Who was unable to say “Indeed!” His friends, the other disciples, are calling and responding—Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!—just as we have done…and yet Thomas is unsure. He has heard from people he trusts that this is the truth—Jesus the Christ is risen today! Alleluia! But Thomas looks around him and says, “I don’t know, y’all. You saw him? I’d like to see him. I’d like to touch his wounds and see his face and hear his voice—as you have done—so that I may say, without a doubt, that he is risen.” And that’s not really too much to ask, is it? The other disciples have seen and touched and heard, shouldn’t Thomas be afforded the same?

Thomas had every right to be skeptical. Just a week earlier he had watched as the empire crucified Jesus. Murdered this man who was his teacher, his friend, his Savior. We talk a lot about the trauma of crucifixion for the ones being crucified, certainly, but what about the witnesses? What about the trauma suffered by the disciples and their mothers? It is unlikely that in one week’s time they have forgotten the sound of the nails being hammered into the flesh and wood, or the jeers of the crowd there, watching the same horrific scene, but mocking the life and death of Jesus. Thomas and his friends will not easily forget that scene. Trauma like that will haunt their waking and their sleeping for a while yet. And a week is no time to have grieved the loss of Jesus, either. Thomas may very well still be coming to terms with the idea that all of it even happened. Weren’t they just traveling the Palestinian countryside together, the 13 of them, a few weeks ago? Weren’t they just riding in to Jerusalem? Wasn’t Jesus just here

Everything has been ruined. The man who was supposed to bring about the kingdom of God has been wrenched from their grasp. What is there to believe in anymore?

With all this rattling around in his mind, what does it feel like to hear the other disciples proclaim that Jesus is risen from the dead? A lot of people get hung up on the logistics of how someone could possibly rise from the dead, but what about the psyche of Thomas, here? 

Thomas has been told that Jesus is not dead—Jesus is alive! He was here! But Thomas just watched Jesus die. Was that real? Did that happen? Was it not Jesus that he saw nailed to the cross, after all? Was this all some kind of trick? Or, what if the disciples are mistaken? What if it is an impostor claiming to be their Savior? 

Thomas needs to see this man who claims to be the risen Christ and see and touch those wounds. This is important. Thomas does not ask that he see Jesus perform a miracle. Thomas does not ask that Jesus break bread with them. Thomas wants to touch the wounds—Thomas wants to know that the resurrected Jesus continues to be the crucified Jesus. That all of that was real. That Thomas did watch his friend die, and that that friend who really did die is really now raised.

The range of emotion in these few weeks of the life of Thomas would be enough to send any of us off the deep end. Because then, a week later, Jesus does appear! A whole week! What was Thomas doing the week in between these events? Trying to grieve the death of his friend, trying to reason out how he could be resurrected, trying to figure out who to believe...

And as is the nature of Jesus, he arrives, saying, “Peace be with you, my brother Thomas. Touch, see, hear that your Savior is alive and with you.” And Thomas recognizes this resurrected Jesus as his friend, teacher, Savior—the one whose torture and death he had witnessed just two weeks before. It was true, what his friends had said! He is risen! Thomas recognizes him, exclaiming “My Savior and My God!” And Jesus’ cryptic words, as well, prove that he is the same man. “But did it take the seeing and hearing and touching for you to believe it was true?” He asks. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

These days, you and I, we are among those who have not seen. The risen Christ does not appear in the flesh before us this evening to allow us the opportunity to see, hear, touch. We have not seen Jesus as the disciples saw Jesus. And yet; we have proclaimed that he is risen, indeed. Alleluia! Jesus shows up for us just as Jesus showed up for Thomas. Instead of the living flesh of Jesus, we have seen the goodness of the Savior among us this evening. Instead, we have heard the word proclaimed. Instead, we will eat the bread and drink the wine—we will taste and see! Jesus has come to us today, just as he came to Thomas, just as he will come every day.

As our dear friend Martin Luther might remind us, it is not up to us to see Jesus—he will make himself known. He comes to us. Our doubt and our belief not withstanding, Christ comes to us though we are trapped in our deepest and darkest of traumas, though we look out onto this world and struggle to see resurrection joy. Despite the locked door, the risen Christ shows up.

So, you see, whatever way you stack it, we are the blessed. Whether we have seen the face of Jesus or whether we still look. Because Jesus has promised that he will be made known. We may not have the slightest idea what it is we are actually looking for, but that’s just it. We believe there is something to see.

Christ is risen, indeed! – Alleluia, Amen.

A little bit o' love.

Doubting Thomas