Thomas, Peter, Us – Confronting the Resurrection

The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”  So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”                    John 20:25

It seems that St Thomas could have used a better press agent.  But really how much different was he from among the other followers of Jesus?  Despite the numerous times when Jesus predicted His coming death and subsequent Resurrection on the third day [John 2:19; Matthew 12:40; 16:21; 17:9,22; 20:19; 26:32], consider the following:

In Luke 24, the women return from the tomb with Good News, but “their words seemed to [the disciples] like idle tales, and they did not believe them” [v 11]; later with the two on the road to Emmaus, they recount to the “Stranger” on the road:  “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened.  Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us.  When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive.  And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see”  [vv 21-24].

Then after the two from Emmaus had come back to the disciples and told of their experience, Jesus appears to them all, but the reaction of the disciples was that “they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a ghost.  He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?’”  [vv 37-38].  Even after Jesus showed them His hands and side, they still “did not believe for joy,” until the Lord ate food in front of them [vv 41-43]

Perhaps the most puzzling is when after 40 days of the resurrected Jesus being with them, as the disciples gathered on the mountain of the Ascension, Matthew tells us “When they saw [Jesus], they worshiped Him; but some doubted” [28:17] – still!!  It raises the question whether the name of any other disciple could be in Thomas’ place and the story really wouldn’t change.

Especially when it comes to God, doubt is very powerful and very common.  Why is it so hard to take Him at His Word, and to expect that He would do as He said He would?  That simply is as old as Adam and Eve, who agreed with Satan, that God was holding out and holding back on them, He was being selfish and a liar.  From then on, our human nature has been severely infected by those suspicions.  Therefore we are inclined to ask “What’s the catch?’ in response to his promises.  After all, the Resurrection is impossible, so what is His angle?

But perhaps even more so, there are many other hindrances to belief.  One might take St Peter as an example.  Despite Jesus appearing to the disciples, in the midst of the relief and outburst of joy, Peter hung back, even to the point where in John 21 [:3] his “I’m going fishing” – was it a statement of despair, or of frustration, or even of resigning from the disciples?  His emotions seemed even desperate, as when he single-handedly pulled ashore the net of 153 large fish (which many men could not pull into the boat) [vv 7-11].  For a man who knew that he had betrayed: Jesus, the “team” (the rest of the disciples), and his own standard of integrity; every time he looked at his Lord, all he could see was the burden of guilt which prevented him from experiencing the joy of the Resurrection.

This was the burden that each disciple shared in their own way.  Faith was blocked by guilt for their failures where it had mattered to them, for, despite their self-acclaimed loyalty, they had run out when “the chips were down”; they could see only the disgraced collapse of their noble avowed loyalty, their deserved condemnation, the expected withdrawn forgiveness, and the assumption that God would reject keeping His Word to such hopelessly unredeemable people like them.  On one hand they could believe that the Resurrection did happen, but they were left out like a child whose nose was pressed against a window with a party going on inside.

Years ago, I was running a powered jointer-planer, and my finger felt just a whisper, but I knew that it had made contact with the spinning blades.  I wrapped up the blood-soaked finger in paper towels and got myself to the hospital emergency room near-by.  As the doctor cleaned the wound, I was afraid to look and see just how much damage was done.  Suddenly the doctor took my hand and put the finger right in front of my eyes.  I couldn’t miss the result of the injury, but it was necessary if I were to take care of the finger while it healed.

In a sense, Jesus had to do that to the disciples.  He had to show them His hands, His feet, His spear-pierced side, His whip-scarred back, His thorn-punctured scalp.  Up to this point they didn’t want to see what was their contribution in the suffering and death of Jesus, neither the failures at the lead up to the Cross, nor in how the rest of their lives also contributed to the weight on Jesus as He hung there.  When one is confronted with such major self-disappointment, it can produce a cascade effect of memories which reveal other times and places where one has failed even his own standards, hurt others, and rejected his God and Savior.

This peptide was prepared for providing outstanding tanning sildenafil 100mg price results to human’s skin. But why? What do I need them for? It turns out that I used to be loose and not hard. This issue is serious as it does not go away completely from a person. This index file can be blank or you can be really creative and add some promotions to it. cialis without prescription But in confronting the damage, the Risen Lord is not just showing the nail holes, but also revealing that in spite of the wounds, these hands will never change from touching hearts and minds with His love, the feet will still come whenever there is need, His heart still pours out His soul to give abundant life, His back still lifts our burdens, His head now bears the crown of Lordship over all things for the sake of disciples like you and me [Ephesians 1:20-23].

Having faced the damage but also all which the resurrected Jesus brings into life, with extraordinary forgiveness and full reinstatement as a follower of Jesus – only this confrontation within such an atmosphere of acceptance broke the disciples free from the blockage of doubt, fear, and guilt which had inhibited their faith.  Only now can the effect of the Resurrection truly be the delightful celebration of the conquering of death and the release of bondage to sin, the freedom to experience the fullness of life in the presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

What Thomas – and Peter – have done is to set before us a description of our lives in a contrast of the before and the after.  On the one hand, we have traveled the route of the disciples.  In many ways we have journeyed with them, having lived in the doubts, the blockages of faith, the fears locking us in dungeons of hopelessness, the things which rob us of the benefits of the Resurrection by denying us of this power, preventing it from being a reality in our lives.

Then somewhere along the way, as Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples, He has done so with us.  We have been confronted with our role in His death, exposing our guilts, fears, failures – the destruction which Jesus absorbed into His own body –, but He has also made us discover that we know those hands, and heart, and feet, and back – we have felt His touch, seen His Love, tasted of His forgiveness, recognized His new Life. Like those disciples now at Jesus’ appearance, the blockage preventing our faith is gone, there is tremendous freedom from the burden of guilt, and the overcoming of the fear of His condemnation.  He has shown us of the spiritual injury we have caused so that healing of others and of ourselves has begin.  We have in our hands the joy and celebration of the presence of our Lord [I John 1:1-04].

Yet at the same time we are like Peter and Thomas.  Even today there are places where we hang back and find our vision of Jesus clouded, and even places where everyone else seems to be celebrating, but like Peter we seem to be on the outside looking in, and like Thomas, we are dragged down by the inability to trust that the Lord can handle the issues we have with His promises, His deeds, His gifts – His resurrection within our lives.

Although it is pretty obvious that the second appearance of Jesus the following week was particularly for Thomas’ benefit, I think that this second appearance on the first day of the following week was Jesus setting the practice where His People would gather in worship, prayer, and teaching, and He would grace them with His presence, particularly to deal with their doubts, fears, and guilts – which we modern Peters and Thomases still have.

This would be the pattern repeated throughout the coming centuries.  As Jesus was known to the Emmaus disciples in the Breaking of Break, so also would Jesus be known among us in the Holy Communion, presenting the Body broken and the Blood poured out, as He provides us the sin-destroying, forgiveness-giving, eternal life-bestowing Sacrament.

In those areas in which our own Peters and Thomases exist, as we take seriously being confronted again by the cost Jesus paid, repenting of how we have injured others and our selves, as we have broken trust with God and obscured again the power of the Resurrection, Jesus now presents in very real terms that He is indeed alive and among us, touching us with wounded yet resurrected hands that we may be certain that He now lives where doubts and fear once dwelt.

Jesus also did more than just demonstrate His Resurrected Presence in Luke’s account, “He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; …’” [vv 22-23].  We have been empowered to bring this same Resurrection confrontation to others, giving them also the ability to have removed the Peters and Thomases in their faith-life so that no longer is the power and the joy of what Jesus does obscured for them.

Finally we end with what Jesus began with when He appeared before His disciples, “Peace be with you.”  In the Hebrew Shalom, which all the disciples were familiar with, is the idea of wholeness – total wholeness: body, soul, and spirit, the unity of the godly person before His Lord and Savior.  As Jesus presents Himself to us again today, let us look for the unobscured faith which is the result of how He makes His Resurrection power transform what we see, what we believe, what we are, and how our lives are affected by the reality that “Christ the Lord is risen!”

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