A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (Read the whole passage)
It has been a week since we released the alleluias from their captivity, since we gathered around the story of the empty tomb and pronounced that Christ is Risen, Christ is Risen Indeed! Easter has come after a long time spent in the wilderness of Lent, after a Holy week where we did holy things like wave palm branches, share in the eucharist and lament at the foot of the cross.
And even though we are now a week into the Easter seaason, we a reminded today of that first Easter day…. the whole 50 days of Easter have been long held up as one great day of celebration of the resurrection.
So we go back to day one, we hear a story from that first Easter day. And it is a familiar one.
Thomas… We always get Thomas on the second Sunday in Easter.
There must be something about this story that we hear it every year.
It begins on the day of the resurrection, the disciples have heard the news of the empty tomb so they are naturally hiding away in fear. To give them the benefit of the doubt, they did watch their teacher and master be executed by the state and now three days later to hear that he has risen from the dead. This probably seems like too much to handle.
So while they are hiding away, Jesus shows up in their midst. He offers them peace… peace after of the chaos of the previous week. He then blesses them and sends them out, reminding them of the mission that he had been preparing them for.
But Thomas wasn’t there.
Perhaps he wasn’t afraid like the others, or maybe he drew the short straw and was sent to the grocery store for some milk.
Regardless, when Thomas returns he hears the news, the story from the others. Jesus has appeared to them. The rumours are true, Jesus has risen from the dead.
But Thomas will not believe.
So often we portray Thomas as some kind of skeptic… almost scientist like. Thomas the crime scene investigator who needs some evidence, some DNA to put under a microscope, some unassailable proof that Jesus is indeed alive. But those are 20th century concerns… not 1st century ones. And in some ways our 21st century world has moved much closer to the Thomas’s 1st century one.
Thomas lived in a world much like ours. Political leaders or dictators ruled cruelly and with fuzzy relationships to the truth. People were desperate for hope, for salvation, for quick fixes. Jesus wasn’t the only healer and miracle worker around. They were a dime a dozen, messiahs on every street corner collecting followers with promises of salvation, promises of revolution, promises of a better life. And most were fake news.
Thomas had heard the crazy stories before, his world was full of them. He knew what fake news sounded like, stories or conspiracies or promises too good to be true.
And after the week that he had just lived through, one where his beloved teacher and friend Jesus had been crucified because of fake news, because of false claims brought against him by the religious authorities and mobs, because of the heartless Romans who knew very well that the charges were false yet executed him anyways… because of all the events of the previous week…. this news that Jesus was alive was probably too much to deal with.
Thomas wasn’t a scientist or crime scene investigator. He was a hurting human being. Someone who was too wounded and grief filled to get his hopes up again for story that was too good to be true.
Because what if he did believe that Jesus was risen from the dead and it turned out to be another false hope…
We have been living in Thomas’s world for a while now. Despite all our technological advancements and progress, we find ourselves in a society where truth and facts are largely irrelevant. Fake news is everywhere. Just the other day I saw a news story about a group of people in the United States who believe that mass shootings are conspiracies. Fuelled by internet conspiracies, this group travels around the country to confront the families of victims of mass shootings… to tell them that their loved ones were not killed and probably never existed in the first place.
Of course, not all fake news is so extreme.
A recent survey of Canadians and their perception of climate change revealed that one third don’t believe that human beings have contributed to climate change, and only about half believe that addressing climate change should be a government priority.
And who among us hasn’t received a spam email from a Nigerian prince offering to give pass on a fortune to us.
Christianity isn’t immune from those who peddle fake news or false hope either. Turn on the tv and find any number of prosperity gospel preachers offering miracles, health and wealth all for a modest contribution to their ministry.
We know what Thomas’s world was like, we know that we cannot trust every story we hear out there. We know what it is like for those in power to twist the truth for their advantage, we know what it is like for those who lead our world to lie to us.
It is easy to see that Thomas might be distrustful of a story that seems too good to be true.
And we also know what it is like to have a lot invested in Jesus, to have all our hope and all our faith in the Christ.
Especially having just come through Holy Week ourselves, having been gathering together week after week proclaiming the importance of this story of Jesus’ resurrection… we too know the heartbreak that would come if it turned out to be just fake news.
That heartbreak is exactly what Thomas is guarding himself against. He knows that he just wouldn’t be able to handle getting his hopes up, only to have them crushed all over again.
So when Jesus shows up again, he does so to give Thomas exactly what he needs. Just as he came and stood among the disciples, he comes and stands before Thomas.
And both times, Jesus does something that is so opposite of how our world would choose to spread the news of someone back from the dead.
Jesus begins with peace.
So often Fake News declares, “Look at me!” “Be surprised!” “Be enraged!”
Yet Jesus speaks, “Peace.”
Peace, so that the disciples can see their Risen Lord.
Peace, so that Jesus can break through Thomas’s guarded heart.
Peace, to calm our troubled hearts that need to know Jesus.
And then Jesus offers Thomas his hands and his side.
It is easy to think that it is holes that are important for Thomas to see. The holes in Jesus hands and the holes in Jesus’ side.
But it is the hands that have shared bread with Thomas for years that reach out.
It is the body that has walked and sat and slept next to Thomas that is offered.
It is the flesh of the one whom Thomas loves and follows who breaks through to Thomas’s guarded heart.
Thomas wasn’t looking for evidence of crucifixion and death, Thomas needed to see that Jesus was alive.
And that is what Jesus gives him.
And is what Jesus gives us.
Because Jesus does the same for us. Jesus continually breaks into our fake news world offering peace and life.
Peace to our troubled hearts.
Peace so that we can be calmed down in order to hear God’s promise given to us.
Peace so that we see.
Jesus breaks through to us, through all the stories and people of our world that we are suspicious of, that we know are too good to be true, that we cannot unguard our hearts for.
And Jesus reaches out to us in the hands that share peace with us,
the hands that place the bread and wine into our outstretched hands,
the hands that welcome us here.
And Jesus offers his side,
his body given to us in the bodies of our brothers and sisters
who sing and praise and pray next to us,
the bodies who come to table and receive next to us,
the body of Christ that we eat and share,
the body of Christ that we become.
Jesus has been breaking into our world over and over again, from the empty tomb, to the upper room, to the waters of font, to the table of the Lord.
Jesus breaks through to us in order that our guarded hearts might know Peace.
Jesus break through in order that we see the Christ, God in flesh.
God in wounded flesh, Risen from the dead.