There was a large group of people. On one side of the group stood a man, Jesus. On the other side of the group stood Satan. Separating them, running through the group, was a fence.
The scene set, both Jesus and Satan began calling to the people in the group and, one by one – each having made up his or her own mind – each went to either Jesus or Satan. This kept going. Soon enough, Jesus had gathered around him a group of people from the larger crowd, as did Satan. But one man joined neither group. He climbed the fence that was there and sat on it. Then Jesus and his people left and disappeared. So too did Satan and his people. And the man on the fence sat alone.
As this man sat, Satan came back, looking for something which he appeared to have lost. The man said, “Have you lost something?” Satan looked straight at him and replied, “No, there you are. Come with me.” “But”, said the man, “I sat on the fence. I chose neither you nor him.” “That’s okay,” said Satan. “I own the fence.”
On the first Sunday after Easter we always read the account of Doubting Thomas, and I still believe that Thomas gets a bad rap. Yes, he doubted, but it wasn’t long before this that Jesus said he was going to return to Judea and all the disciples were responding in fear, “You can’t do that! They just tried to kill you and you want to return?” Yet it was Thomas who said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” That took a lot of courage, so instead of picking on him, I would like us to consider another aspect of our text today. You can actually see it.
Jesus appears to his disciples the second time. Thomas is present. Jesus says, “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!”
If you look at you insert, you will see Jesus’ words: “Do not doubt but believe,” then there is a period, followed by a closing quote mark, a space, and finally, the word “Thomas” begins the next sentence. Today, I would like us to not consider the words of the text, but instead, that one space. That small space between the time Jesus stopped speaking and Thomas responded, because that one space of time is the most critical moment in Thomas’ entire life. It is the time of decision.
For those of you who know the movie, The Matrix, it is red pill / blue pill time. For those of you who don’t know the movie, The Matrix, it is truly a decision between eternal life and eternal death.
Not all of our decisions are so vital. British prime minister Herbert Asquith once spent a weekend at the Waddesdon estate of the 19th-century Rothschild family. One day, as Asquith was being waited on at teatime by the butler, the following conversation ensued:
“Tea, coffee, or a peach from off the wall, sir?”
“Tea, please,” answered Asquith.
“China, India, or Ceylon, sir?” asked the butler.
“Lemon, milk, or cream, sir?”
“Milk, please,” replied Asquith.
“Jersey, Hereford, or Shorthorn, sir?” asked the butler.
Life and death are not hanging in the balance with such decisions; however, the decision in that space – that space between the invitation of Jesus to believe and your response to that invitation is vital, and although sitting on the fence is an option, it is not advisable.
Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and out of slavery. Following their forty year trek through the desert, they came to the Jordan River. However, due to his disobedience, it was not Moses that led the people into the Promise Land. That duty fell to their next leader, Joshua. At a certain point, Joshua summoned all of Israel and had them renew the covenant that they had made with God. In concluding, he said: “Now therefore revere the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River, and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. Now if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
Choose this day whom you will serve. That’s one of those verses you will find printed on coffee cups, cross stitched on pillows, and painted on door plaques, but it’s a bit weightier than a simple catch phrase. “Be decisive. Right or wrong, make a decision. The road of life is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t make a decision.” The author of that is unknown, but since Leslie posted it on Facebook, it must have been somebody important who said it. Joshua said, Choose this day whom you will serve—either God or something else—but don’t be indecisive.
It is a bit lengthy for a sermon quote, but it is too good not to share. From C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity: When the author walks on to the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else—something it never entered your head to conceive—comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing; it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it.
Yes, Thomas doubted, but in the space provided, he made a decision. The time is now. Make your’s.
Let us pray: Breathe into us Holy Spirit, that all our thoughts may be holy. Move in us, Holy Spirit, that our work, too, may be holy. Attract our hearts, Holy Spirit, that we may love only what is holy. Strengthen us, Holy Spirit, that we may defend all that is holy. Protect us, Holy Spirit, that we always may be holy. Amen.