Sermon: Easter 2 RCL B – “Doubting?”

TomasPerhaps you’ve seen the letter. It is to Jesus from Jordan Management Consultants.

It would seem that Jesus used these consultants to help identify potential leaders from his followers. The letter states that JMC has done extensive research on the candidates and then provides it’s recommendations:

Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale.

We feel that it is our duty to tell you that Matthew has been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau. James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus definitely have radical leanings, and they both registered a high score on the manic depressive scale.

One of the candidates, however, shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious, and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right-hand man.

Did you ever notice how easy it is to pull a snippet out of a person’s life and from then on judge and label them according to that snippet. We hear the stories of many of the characters in the Bible and do the same thing.

In the Old Testament Abraham lied, David was an adulterer, Moses argued with God, Jonah was flat disobedient, and those are only a few. Those in the New Testament aren’t any better. The apostles questioned the methods of Jesus. They argued amongst themselves. They wanted to call down fire from heaven and destroy cities (I actually kind of like that one). They abandoned Christ in his time of need. They denied him and so on.

And then there is poor old Thomas. It is easy to understand why grade schoolers think his last name was Thomas and his first name was “Doubting.” Doubting Thomas. To tell you the truth, I think he gets a bad wrap, so today I would like to try and remedy that a bit.

Thomas is mentioned in all four gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, but it is John’s gospel where he receives the most attention.

In John’s gospel, he is first mentioned as Jesus is making plans to return to Judea where he would later raise Lazarus from the dead. The disciples are concerned because it was in Judea that the Jews had tried to stone Jesus just a short time earlier. Despite their concerns, Jesus says, “Let us go to Lazarus.”

Have you seen The Lord of the Rings? Great films. Gimli is a main character and a dwarf. There is a huge battle about to take place where the chance of victory is slim, so there is an argument on what they should do. Stand and fight or flee and possibly fight another day. Gimli settles the argument when he states, “Certainty of death, small chance of success- what are we waiting for?”

When Jesus said, “Let us go to Lazarus,” even though there was the possibility of death and everyone else wanted to stay put, Thomas said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Note to the wise: if you can find a friend like this, don’t let them go. Thomas in this situation demonstrates bravery, loyalty, and dedication. When the rest were “doubting,” Thomas is prepared to lay down his life for the Lord.

In a later event Jesus would cryptically explain to the disciples that he would be killed and be going to the Father. He goes on to tell them that they know the way to where he is going, yet Thomas says, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus goes on to explain that he is “the way and the truth and the Life.”

No one else understood either, but Thomas demonstrates simple honesty in that he did not pretend to understand what Jesus was trying to tell them.

Brave, loyal, dedicated, honest, and now from today’s text – doubting.

When Jesus first appeared to the disciples ten were there who saw and believed. Thomas was not.

Some have suggested that Thomas’ greatest mistake was not his doubting, but his absence. After the death of Jesus, instead of remaining in the Christian community, it is postulated that he withdrew and sought out loneliness. In isolating himself from the community of faith he failed to witness the appearance of Christ.

Whatever the case, Thomas doubts. The Lord appears again and Thomas is present. It is at this appearance that Thomas redeems himself from his initial doubt, because after laying eyes and possibly even his hands on the Risen Lord, he makes a confession of faith regarding Jesus. This confession is greater than what all the rest have said to this point. Thomas declares, “My Lord and my God.”

A football game has been described as eleven men in desperate need of a rest being criticized by thousands in need of some exercise.

Sitting on the sidelines it is easy to criticize Thomas, but it seems that his doubting was brought on by his need for facts. Once certainty was attained, Thomas commits himself fully to Jesus, declaring him to be Lord and God.

Brave Loyal Dedicated Honest Doubting Fully Committed. That’s a better first name than just “doubting”.

The beginning of the Acts of the Apostles records the last appearance of Jesus to the apostles, and Jesus’ final words to them were, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” It is clear from the remaining text of Acts that several of the apostles did just as Jesus had commanded them; however, we don’t hear about them all, Thomas being one that scripture is silent on.

There is however what is known as the New Testament Apocrypha. It is not considered scripture or even true, but included in this work is a book titled “The Acts of Thomas.” According to this book, with regard to being “witnesses to the end of the earth,” we learn that the apostles divided up the earth and went out into the world to spread the Gospel message as Jesus had commanded. Thomas, as the legend tells, was assigned to the area we know as India.

When he arrived in India he was enslaved, but it came to the attention of Gustafor, an Indian king, that Thomas was a carpenter. Learning this, Gustafor commanded Thomas to build him a palace. The king gave Thomas a considerable amount of money to buy the materials and pay the workers; however, every time the king gave him money Thomas gave it all the way to the poor. The king finally got suspicious, so he sent for Thomas and asked him, “Have you built my palace?” Thomas answered, “Yes” The king asked when he could go and see this palace and Thomas replied, “You cannot see it now, but when you depart this life, then you will see it.” Thomas was building for the king a palace in heaven through good works. At first, the king was furious and Thomas was nearly put to death, yet through this situation Thomas was able to win the Indian king to Christ. Legend has it that this is how Christianity came to India.

True or false? It’s hard to say, but here’s a fact: to this day, the Church in India traces its roots back to the apostle we refer to as Doubting Thomas.

What can we gain from this apostle with the unfortunate first name? One theologian wrote, “What this church needs is what every church needs a man who knows God at more than second hand knowledge.”

When Jesus first appeared, Thomas wasn’t willing to take the other apostles’ word for it. He didn’t want second hand knowledge. He wanted proof for himself. He wanted to see and hear and lay his own hands on the risen Lord.

That is what we should all want. Jesus does say to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” It is true. Faith is believing in the things we cannot see, but to bounce along in an unsubstantiated faith is foolish, for when the trials come, that type of faith can abandon us.

Therefore, we must also lay hold of the Risen Lord and we can do so through prayer, study of Holy Scripture, meditation, our own experiences of the Risen Lord, and the witness of others. It is then that the roots of our faith will be grounded in the Rock who is our Lord and our God. Then, when the trials blow through our lives, they may knock us around a bit, but we will not be uprooted. Like Thomas, we will learn to never doubt the one who saves us.

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