Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

They Still Didn't Beleive

They Still Didn’t Believe

The events of Easter are pretty fascinating. The women reach the empty tomb, they hear the angels tell them Jesus has risen. They run back to Jerusalem to the upper room and tell the disciples what the angels had said and the disciples didn’t believe the women. The disciples even run out to the empty tomb and they still don’t believe Jesus has risen from the dead. The couple from Emmaus saw the risen Jesus and ran 7 miles back to Jerusalem and told the disciples, and the disciples still didn’t believe it. On one hand it is pretty hard for us to believe but on the other hand can you really blame them? People raising from the dead isn’t something we understand either. We’ve heard this story year after year after year and we say we believe but if we get down to the inner parts of ourselves, don’t we at times doubt that all this is real. We would really like to understand how this all happened. That Jesus really died; that Jesus really came back to life; that Jesus can really bring us peace in our life; that Jesus can give us power to do things we don’t think is possible….. It is hard to believe.
Even after all the resurrection stories they have heard about Jesus, the disciples are still huddled together hidden behind locked doors, afraid. They are convinced that all is lost; there is no hope; all these people who have reported they saw Jesus were just delusional - they were just victims of wishful thinking. So now they are locked in the upper room trying to decide what to do next…. when all of a sudden Jesus appears to them in the locked room. His first words to them are: “Peace be with you!” Then he shows them the wounds in his hands and his side. And they were filled with joy. It was true! Jesus really was alive!

But one disciple wasn’t there that night. Thomas was somewhere else and later in the week when the disciples see Thomas they tell him what has happened. Jesus alive? “No way”, Thomas says. Unless I see him with my own eyes, I am not going to believe. After all you guys didn’t believe anyone else when they told you they has seen the risen Jesus. Why should I believe you now?”
And now for all eternity, because of this one statement, Thomas is going to be known as ‘doubting’ Thomas. You have to feel a little bit sorry for Thomas - one incident, one remark - after the trauma that he had experience over the last several days. The murder of his master… the fear and worry and disappointment that goes along with what he has been through. Again, can we really blame him for being a little skeptical?
Thomas wasn’t always ‘the doubter’. The first time we encounter Thomas is in the 11th chapter of John earlier in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus has just been informed that his friend Lazarus was so sick that he was about to die. Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, lived in Bethany near Jerusalem, but Jesus and the disciples were a day’s journey away across the Jordan river. Word then reached Jesus and the disciples that Lazarus had died. Jesus says, “Let’s go over to Bethany to see Lazarus”. “Wait a minute” the disciples say. “It is too risky. The authorities there have threatened to kill you. We can’t go there.” But Jesus insists that he is going. Here we meet Thomas for the first time. Because Thomas is not a doubter here, Thomas says, “Let us go with Jesus that we may die with him.” Earlier in this ministry of Jesus, it is Thomas who is not the doubter; not the fearful one but Thomas who is the faithful friend - willing to go to his death to be with Jesus.
The next time we find Thomas mentioned is in the 14th chapter of John. The apostles are gathered to celebrate the Passover - the night we call Maundy Thursday - the meal we call the Last Supper. Jesus is trying to explain over that meal the task for which had he had come to earth. Jesus is trying to explain to them that he will be leaving them. And at this point, none of the disciples believed or understood. Jesus keeps on talking and teaches about going to prepare a home for them. The disciples don’t have a clue what to say; they don’t understand at all and they don’t want to appear stupid by asking what Jesus is talking about. Fortunately for them Thomas is there at the table. Not doubting Thomas - but a thoughtful, questioning Thomas. Thomas who is willing to step up and ask the question everyone else was thinking. Jesus is talking about going to his Father’s house and preparing a place for them and then Jesus says, and you know the way to the place where I am going.” “Wait minute, Lord” says Thomas. “We do not know where you are going. We don’t understand what you are talking about. So how can we know the way?” A good question. Courageous Thomas. If you don’t know something, ask! Thomas reminds us that true faith means that we have to think about what we believe and we have to ask questions and then decided that we can believe…..
Now we meet Thomas for a third time in the Gospels. The other disciples have told him that Jesus is risen from the dead. But Thomas cannot believe it. It is not as if Thomas hasn’t seen someone risen from the dead before… He witnessed the raising of Lazarus; he had seen the daughter of Jairus raised from the dead and the same with the son of the widow of Nain - who came back to life. But there was just something about the way Jesus had died - the cross and the nails and spear to his side. This kind of death just couldn’t be reversible and Thomas just tells them - “Unless I see the nails in his hands and the wound on his side with my own eyes,

I just can’t believe.” Thomas who had been Jesus’ faithful friend; who had been thoughtful and courageous enough to tell Jesus he didn’t understand when no one else would; Thomas is just afraid to believe that it is true.
Perhaps Thomas’ real problem was that he was just devastated by what had happened and just couldn’t deal with it. He was so devastated by the loss of his friend and the hope of what he had promised that he couldn’t see the sheer joy in the faces of the other disciples who had seen the risen Jesus. Seeing that risen Jesus had changed them and given them power to be able to do what they didn’t think was possible - leave that upper room and go out and actually tell people what they had seen. But Thomas was so torn up he couldn’t see that joy.
And often that is where we find ourself. We are devastated by events in our own life; we are devastated by the events we see happening to others or around the world and we have our doubts that any of this is true.
But the next week when Thomas has joined the rest of the disciples in that upper room and Jesus again appears to them all. Jesus goes right over to Thomas and shows Thomas the holes in his hands and the wound in his side and once again says those words “My peace I bring to you.”
Now really think about this moment. The risen Christ came to his disciples in the midst of their turmoil and fear. He came to Thomas in the midst of his doubt. Jesus could have very easily miraculously obliterated his wounds after he was raised from the tomb, but chose not to. He bore the marks of his wounds into the presence of his disciples.
Bearing the scars of those wounds he says to them, Peace be with you.” It was as if Jesus was saying - “See these wounds- feel them and know that it is all right to hurt, to doubt, to question. Pain comes to us all - I was hurt by the very people I came to save.
I told you I would suffer. But these wounds prove to you that I have now overcome hat suffering and pain; even death no longer has any power of me. And because of that, through me, I can offer you that same power - I can offer you peace in your life because I bear these scars.”
What a perfect time to hear this. We are all scarred in one way another by this Coronovirus. We are scarred by the questioning about what is right. Who do we believe? Who is right? There are so many conflicting reports and suggestions. What do we do? How are we safe or can we be? We are tired of not doing ‘normal things’; we want to see people; we want to get back to doing what we want! Our emotions aren’t a whole lot different than Thomas who was just unsure…..
The peace that Jesus offers is a confidence we can have from the resurrected appearance of Jesus. His return after his death signals the fact that his life and his promises will endure. His “peace be with you” is more than just a casual greeting like when we say, “Hey, how are you doing?” His “peace be with you“ is a declaration of a fact of the peace that comes by being a follower of Christ. Because Jesus lives, because Jesus bears his scars, Jesus is showing us that even with the scars and wounds we carry through the events of our own life, even with the doubts and questions we have sometimes, we now know for sure that nothing can separate us from Jesus and from a life in him.
The confidence that the disciples received when Jesus came and said to them “peace be with you” is demonstrated in the response of the disciples to his appearance. Peace showed itself in Thomas’ confession of faith - Thomas’ falling to his knees after seeing the wounds and the scars on the resurrected Jesus and declaring “My Lord, and my God.”
But remember one more thing. The disciples, including Thomas, now believed. They had confidence in what Jesus had done. They understood the peace that comes from knowing without a shadow of a doubt that nothing could separate them from God’s love - but they still had to face the same situations they faced before Jesus appeared to them in that room. They still had to face the Jewish authorities who wanted rid of them; they still had to deal with the crowds of people who had mocked and crucified Jesus. The still had many trials and tribulations to face - as we will to.
This virus isn’t just going to disappear. We still are going to have trials and tribulations of knowing wha to do - of fear and concern and fatigue.
“Peace be with you” Jesus says. Not because life will be easy for you. “Peace be with you” Jesus said not because you will always have life filled with joy and will never have to suffer.
But “peace be with you” because you have decided to follow the one who has a power greater than yours; to a power that promises to always be with you; the same power that raised Jesus from the dead; the same power that that will sustain you and lead you into life everlasting. Jesus last words to his disciples: Peace I leave to you, my peace I give to you.. Not as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. Believe in God - believe also in me. Amen.