By Archdeacon Michael Smart

posted in: Sermons | 0

Jesus showed them his hands and his side. (St John 20: 20)  Only a God who carries the scars of pain and suffering can win our hearts and minds in worship; otherwise we would in the strength to suffer be superior to the Creator.

Aristotle the Greek philosopher saw God as the Great Unmoved Mover….  A God who is unmoved and untouched by our sadness, and joy, becomes a stone statue.                                                                                                                                                                     

It is God’s character that we see in Jesus. Without getting into the complex theology of the Trinity, let us just stay with this truth….God was in Christ. Therefore as the Christmas carol states so beautifully…” he feeleth in our sadness and he shareth in our gladness.”

In the beginning of his Gospel, John states; “And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” What then follows in the rest of his gospel helps us understand this willingness and ability of God to identify with and share in the sorrow, pain, joy and delight of our human existence.

In the Koran, Jesus is not crucified. Jesus is sent by God, according to the Koran, but ( and it is a big but ! ) God would not  allow his prophet to be crucified, so the Koran states that God made an effigy to replace Jesus, while Jesus is taken straight to heaven.

Jesus showed them his hands and his side….this is our God …the capacity to suffer in our sufferings, and to rejoice in our joy. God does allow Jesus to be crucified, but not as a sacrifice to God, but a sacrifice by God. Divine Love has the capacity to suffer with and for others. This is the God to whom we can give our heart, love and service.

Doubting Thomas !  To be called a doubting Thomas is not meant as a compliment, more a criticism of a lack of faith. The Pharisees asked for a sign and Jesus refused, because their desire was not to believe, but to avoid believing.  Recall the temptation of Jesus, to throw himself of the Temple wall and have the angels catch him before he hit the ground. Love to be true love has to be a response of a willing heart. Love only counts if it is freely given and not extracted against our will. Think how destructive and depressing it would be to follow Jesus, but, all the time wishing it were not true.

Doubt does not indicate an unloving heart. Doubt does not indicate that we do not genuinely seek truth. When as a young man I was engaged to my now wife, I doubted for some time that she could love me and really want to marry me. Doubt can be a sign that we think it too good to be true, not that we are a reluctant believer.

Thomas was devoted to Jesus. It was Thomas who said; “ let us go up to Jerusalem that we may die with him.” There is a doubt that is born not of reluctance to believe, but as a way of avoiding the implications of believing. There is a type of doubt that does not want to discover the truth, for then the doubter may no longer stand apart, no longer remain in control, like a person afraid to really love another, least they lose their independence.  

In conversation with a man who was questioning the reality of the Risen Christ, I asked him if he would be willing to make a test of Jesus and see what happens. He thought for a while, then smiled….”no, it might turn out to be true and then I have lost control of my own life”.

Thomas represents those of us who quite rightly do not want to be fooled, or disillusioned, so we ask to see his hands and put our finger in his side, not because we are afraid of giving ourselves in love, but we do not want to tricked into blind or irrational faith.

The disciples of Jesus had seen Jesus, heal the sick, lift up the fallen, challenge corruption and the abuse of power, they had heard his parables of compassion, of God seeking the lost, they had been with him when they feared for their lives in a storm on the Lake….their trust in him was not an overnight explosion of irrational faith. In the Letter of John, the writer, begins by claiming  “ we declare to you, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands”

We  trust Jesus based on the evidence as to the transformation that happens when Jesus is taken as truth and his ways are lived in our lives.

When I have doubts that there is a God, when I am confronted with cruelty and the abuse of power in high places and God is silent in the face of obvious evil, I ask to see his nail pierced hands and put my hand into his side. I ask, not because I am unwilling to follow, but I need to be reassured and reminded that in the face of the power of evil and corruption, the answer is not more evil and corruption, not more fear and rejection. I need to be reassured yet again that the way of self giving love, compassion and forgiveness is the only power that can bring heaven on earth, the only power of God that I can worship and devote myself to….

This is why today we say, with Thomas,  “My Lord and my God”