John 20:27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing."
There is an old proverb, familiarity breeds contempt – if we think we know something, often we stop listening to the story, and that is the issue that is at the heart of our lesson. Its not hard to reduce our lesson to a single law – Don’t be a doubting Thomas! The problem is, that this misses most of the teaching, and does not answer the fundamental question – how? If I am a doubting Thomas, how can I stop being this way?
But lets back up a moment and look at the text. In John, the whole of the Easter story is one of seeing, then believing. Mary Magdelene is the first to the tomb, she sees it is empty and tells Peter and John, who go and see – John goes in, sees the shroud and believes – it doesn’t say he understands, not then – just that he sees and believes. Mary Magdelene is weeping outside the tomb, angels appear to her, and then Jesus is there, she listens, and she tells the disciples, I have seen the Lord. The disciples have heard Jesus is risen, but they are still locked in the upper room in fear of the Jews, and Jesus appears to them – and they are glad when they saw the Lord. Everyone has seen the risen Lord except Thomas. Thomas does not believe their report, and that’s what starts it all, and he should have believed, after all it wasn’t just one, they were all saying that Jesus is risen.
And that gets us to something that is really helpful – faith is not about proving something is true, faith is believing something that you have not seen. And while that’s a beginning, the next thing is just as important, it is God who creates faith, and the Spirit works through the Word. So that if one were to be a doubting Thomas, the answer is not that we should just believe harder – the answer is to listen to the Word of God as it speaks to us. God sends the word to us to create and to strengthen faith, the problem is that often we just don’t listen.
Looking from Thomas’ perspective, it would not be hard to say – why should I listen to Peter, didn’t he say – I’ll suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from you, and then didn’t he deny Jesus, not just once, but 3 times – why should I listen to this unreliable witness? And that is a real problem in the church, because if we look at any witness, its not hard to find fault with them, because we are all sinners, we all have faults, we come to Jesus for forgiveness, and Jesus knowing our faults still sends us out into the world to bring the message of salvation. He sends us, not because we are perfect, but he sends us because we know what it means to have a Savior, because it has made a difference in our lives.
You see the test of the message is not the messenger, but the message. God’s word can come to us even from people we don’t respect – and its still God’s message, and we still need to listen to it – because if we don’t we really are in danger of becoming a doubting Thomas. I’m not saying that you need to believe everyone – but you do need to listen, and to test it against the Word of God – you test the message, not the messenger. Because the message of the Word of God is faithful, it is faithful because God is faithful – it is worth listening to because God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son so that whosoever beleiveth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. God’s Word works faith in our hearts so that we can believe, so that we can have faith, so that we can know that our sins are forgiven, so that we can be certain that we have everlasting life.
And because God knew, that weak faith can lead to doubt and despair, he has given us the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine for us to eat and drink , so that touching his body, we too might know and believe that he is risen indeed, and since he is risen that we might know that our sins are forgiven.
So it is that we are moved by the Word, to turn from our ways, to turn from our sin, to turn from our doubt and turn to God in hope, because of the promises that are ours in Christ. We pray that he might open our eyes to see, our ears to hear and our hearts to faith. And we pray that we might be faithful messengers carrying with us the hope that is ours in our Risen Savior, that many might hear, believe and be saved.