Blessed are those who believe
Last Sunday, Jesus was resurrected. This came as a surprise to everyone. It came as a surprise to those Jews such as the Sadducees who didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead. It came as a surprise to those people who didn’t believe in anything. It came as a surprise to those Jews such as the Pharisees and Essenes who did believe in the resurrection. These Jews believed that everyone who died stayed dead until the last day and then everyone would be resurrected together.
It came as a surprise to his disciples, who also believed the resurrection of the dead came only on the last day. But who also believed that Jesus was the messiah and the messiah cannot die. They seem to have believed that the messiah would establish the messianic era, which would climax in the resurrection of the dead.
I’m guessing the resurrection of Jesus also came as a huge surprise to Satan, who thought he’d just won the final battle in his war against God. Only God wasn’t surprised.
It isn’t surprising therefore that last Sunday when the women disciples told the men disciples that Jesus their leader was alive, the men didn’t believe it.
The men insisted on running to the tomb to see for themselves.
We can, and often do, interpret that as them having doubt. We say the disciples lacked faith. In their defence, only a few days earlier Jesus had told them not to believe rumours about him.
In Matthew 24 we can read that he had said, “if anyone tells you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah,’ or ‘There he is,’ don’t believe it.”
Of course, at the time he had been talking about the end of the world. An event they thought was in the distant future and not at all about to happen next week.
Jesus also told them, “So if someone tells you, ‘Look, the Messiah is out in the desert,’ don’t bother to go and look. Or, ‘Look, he is hiding here,’ don’t believe it! For as the lightning flashes in the east and shines to the west, so it will be when the Son of Man comes.”
That first Easter Sunday evening many of the disciples were gathered behind locked doors, “because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them!”
It says they were filled with joy. They knew it was Jesus. He showed them his wounds, but their spirits just knew who he was. The sheep knew their master.
Now they believed he was resurrected. The light had flashed in their minds and hearts. They knew it was Jesus.
And then Jesus gave them a greeting and instructions. Jesus said: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”
We don’t know what Jesus did on Monday or Tuesday. We don’t know what happened the rest of the week. It was the week of Passover festival. The Passover ended on Saturday. The traditional period of mourning was a week, but perhaps they weren’t mourning.
What we do know is that they were meeting together again the next Sunday.
One of the disciples was absent from the meeting last Sunday. We don’t know his name. They called him ‘the twin’, which in Aramaic is Thomas. So we call him Thomas.
He heard from the others that Jesus had attended the meeting. They told Thomas that Jesus had passed through locked doors and stood among them. They said he was resurrected.
Thomas replied, “I won’t believe it.” I’m not sure why he said this, but perhaps he was also thinking of what Jesus had told them about people who say ‘Look, here is the Messiah’. Don’t believe them! He would perhaps have thought they were deluded. He felt he should have some proof perhaps.
Let us not think too badly of Thomas. He was there the next Sunday meeting – today – with the other disciples. They were again behind locked doors. Again, suddenly Jesus was standing among them. Again he said, “Peace be with you.”
This time he spoke to Thomas. Jesus knew what Thomas had said. He told Thomas to touch his wounds. Jesus said to Thomas, “Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
Thomas didn’t touch Jesus. He didn’t put his fingers into the holes. His spirit knew. All doubt vanished in that instant and Thomas said an amazing thing.
Let’s pause here and go back a bit.
Thomas doesn’t have a big role in the Gospels. But where he does turn up it is important. The last time Thomas said anything was in John 14:5. Jesus was telling the disciples about his father’s home. He said he was going to prepare a place for them. He said that when it was ready he would come and get them.
Jesus said to them, “You know the way to where I am going.”
The poor disciples always seem to be confused. They are always struggling to understand Jesus. This time was probably no different, and it was Thomas who spoke up. Again he needs some more concrete information. Sound discretion and good judgement are vital for spiritual matters.
“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going.”
As a result we all benefit from Jesus reply. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”
Thank you Thomas. That was amazing. This time the amazing thing that Thomas says is: “My Lord and my God!”
It is not only the human senses which are required to discern the truth, but the divine senses of the heart, called Faith, working together with the human senses of reasoning. By this means Thomas at once knew that Jesus was his Lord, but also that Jesus is God. Jesus is Lord and God, and he is resurrected. Blessed are those who believe without seeing.
This Sunday is the day on which Thomas declared for all the world that he believed that Jesus is Lord and God. He believed that Jesus was resurrected. Jesus was pleased with that. Thomas sets us an example of discernment and faith.
It is also recorded in Matthew 28:18 that Jesus during this period gave his disciples authority and sent them out. “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Thomas acted on his belief. He went out from Jerusalem to Nineveh, where Job had taught the people of the one true God. He told them that the messiah had come and that his name was Jesus. He told them that Jesus is resurrected. They believed, and today they still believe.
Thomas went on to India, where he taught them about Jesus. He told them that Jesus is Lord and God. He told them that Jesus is resurrected. They believed because of his testimony, and today they still believe.
Thomas is a great example for us all. He showed discernment and he showed faith in action. He believed that Jesus is Lord and God, and that Jesus is resurrected. He told others.
His spirit knew and he was confident. Our spirits also must know the truth, not only our minds. Thomas didn’t need to touch Jesus with his fingers. And neither do we. We instead have to be ready to recognise him when he approaches us behind the locked doors of our minds.
We allow our spirits to discern the truth that Jesus is Lord and God, and that Jesus is resurrected. Then we must act on it.
Don’t allow yourselves to be led astray by clever talk. Ask Jesus himself to guide you.
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires, drink freely from the water of life. Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s holy people.