In Nomine Iesu
Thomas, Thomas, Thomas. Where were you, that Easter evening? Out with your twin brother? Hiding somewhere? We hear nothing from you since the upper room on the night Jesus was betrayed, and then you didn’t know where Jesus was going or the way. Before that, you pessimistically suggested that they all go with Jesus to Jerusalem to die, which was more correct than you imagined? But where were you on the evening of that first day of the week when the news came from the women and Peter and John that Jesus had risen? Why weren’t you in that upper room with your fellow disciples? Why did they have to go out and find you? Why didn’t you believe them when they said, “We have seen the Lord?”
So many question on this second Sunday of Easter, called “Quasimodogeniti” Sunday, “new born baby Sunday.” “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation.” The reference is to the newly baptized, the infants of faith, born at the Easter Vigil and now returning to the church a week later to taste again the goodness of the Lord. Every Sunday is a little celebration of Easter.
In John’s gospel, Jesus seems to appear only on Sundays. Not that He’s limited by the calendar or clock, much less locked doors, but Sunday seems to be His day. The Lord’s Day. Resurrection and Holy Spirit day. So there they were, the Twelve minus Judas minus Thomas. One betrayer, and one no-show. Ten fearful disciples, locked up behind closed doors in their own self-imposed prison of fear. They were afraid of the Jewish authorities. The word was out. Jesus was risen. The tomb was empty. Jerusalem was buzzing. There were sure to follow arrests, inquisition, torture. They had good reason to be afraid and lock the doors.
There stand Jesus in their midst. Not standing at the door and knocking, the wouldn’t have opened it anyway. Not dissolving through the walls or beaming in like they did on Star Trek. Just appearing in their midst, as though He had been there all along, which He had been. “Peace be with you,” He says, showing His wounded hands and side, the identifying marks of the real Jesus. Yup, that was Him all right. The wounds prove it. “They were glad when they saw the Lord.” He told them He’d rise, but they were slow to believe. Now they see Him, and fear dissolves to gladness and peace.
Again, He says it. “Peace be with you.” Jesus’ words aren’t simply fond wishes. They convey what they say. Talk may be cheap, but not when the Son of God is talking. He is the Word who created and ordered all things. These words of peace come at a price. See the wounds. His hands, His feet, His side. “By His wounds, we are healed.” Those wounds are your peace, your healing, and the source of your forgiveness. “He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities.”
He breathed on them. Genesis 2. God made man of the dust and breathed the breath of life into him. New creation on the first day of a new week. The eighth day, and the Son breathes out His Spirit-breath on His church. “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Pentecost in miniature. And holy ministry. Jesus sends the Twelve minus two as He Himself had been sent by the Father. The Apostle of the Father apostles His disciples with His words and breath.
Forgiveness. That’s what it’s all about. Sins forgiven. “If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness, it is withheld.” Jesus binds His words to their words, His breath to their breath. It is His church, His office. “Do you believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?” That’s the question of Holy Absolution. Can a pastor forgive? Is there authority upon the earth to the forgive sins? That’s what astounded the people when Jesus forgave the paralyzed man. “My son, your sins are forgiven.” Who can forgive sin except God alone? And those whom God Himself has authorized with His Word and Spirit. “He who hears you, hears me,” Jesus told His disciples on a prior sending.
That’s the gift of the resurrection. What was won on the cross is not packaged for delivery. Forgiveness won for all on Calvary, forgiveness delivered by the speaking of forgiveness. Or not. Sins can be retained, forgiveness withheld, as when someone says, “I don’t need your Jesus or His forgiveness.” So be it, but it’s not the will of God. He wills it that you be forgiven. Not just one time for all time, but all times in the one time of His death for you. Faith comes by hearing, and so Jesus has arranged for your hearing. How do you know for certain you are forgiven? You just heard it.
Thomas wasn’t there. We don’t know why. No point in speculating. He just wasn’t. His fellow disciples went and found him. At least they did that much for him. Thomas doesn’t believe, at least initially. He wants some hard evidence. He wants to believe on his own terms. He isn’t “doubting Thomas.” Everyone has doubts. Doubt goes with believing things you can’t see. Thomas isn’t doubting Thomas, he’s “faithless Thomas.” “Apistos,” Jesus says. It was faithless not be to in church that Sunday. And it was faithless not to believe the word of the disciples in view of what Jesus had said. He told them, Thomas included, that He would die and rise. But Thomas did not believe the word of Jesus.
He wants to see and touch. Thomas is a true Missourian. The state motto for Missouri is “the show me” state. Seeing is believing. No, it’s not. Seeing is seeing, the opposite of believing. Believing is trusting what you cannot see. Or touch. Thomas is the scientific skeptic. He wants to do the measurement, size up the wounds, see and touch them. He wants to do a CSI number on Jesus. Only then will he believe.
The next Sunday, Thomas was there among them. Now it’s Twelve minus just one. Eleven. Almost an Israel. Again, Jesus pops into view. “Peace be with you.” Then Jesus looks at Thomas. “See my hands and side. Go ahead, Thomas. Put your finger in my wounds. Put your hand in my side.” That’s what you wanted, isn’t it, Thomas? Notice that Jesus talks as though He had been there when Thomas said what he did. Because He had been there. Unseen, that is. So Thomas gets what he asks for. Did he touch? The text doesn’t say, though every indication is that he didn’t. No need. He had the Word of Jesus. “Stop being faithless but believe.” And Thomas confesses, “My Lord and my God.”
You and I are Thomas. Skeptical, scientific, faithless. The Word isn’t enough for us. We want a clincher, proof, something we can see and handle. That’s old Adam at work. And the devil. “Did God really say?” You have the word of eyewitnesses. You have the testimony of the Spirit. What more do you need? But old Adam always needs more. And on his terms. A sign. A vision. A something. The wounds. If only we could see a Jesus with wounds, believing would be so much easier, wouldn’t it? No, it wouldn’t.
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” It’s as though Jesus turns from the pages of John and talks to the audience listening in. To you and me. We do not see. We will never see in this life. We hear but we do not see. Faith comes by hearing, not by seeing. Faith is trust in the word, in the unseen things. We see water, but we hear Baptism. We see bread and wine, but we hear body and blood. We see a fellow sinner, but we hear absolution, forgiveness. The eyes of faith are blind to this world. Seeing is not believing. Believing is seeing what you cannot see.
There are many things to see in this world. Marvelous things. Beautiful and wonderful things. Horrible and terrifying things too. We rightly look both ways before crossing the street. We rightly lock our doors and check the locks. We rightly go to the doctor when we are sick and take our prescribed medications. We can learn a lot by seeing and touching. We call that “science” today. But science cannot tell you that Christ is risen. Nor can it tell you that your sins are forgiven any more than it can determine the Body of Christ in the bread, the Blood of Christ in the wine, the Spiritual rebirthing and renewing in the water, the justifying of the sinner before God. We cannot know these by our reason, strength, or observation. God must speak His words and breath His breath. And so He has and does and continues.
Thomas missed that first Easter Sunday, but God is gracious and good. He got Quasimodogeniti Sunday. You’re hear, and that’s good for you, because here you find the wounds and words and breath of Jesus for you.
Peace be with you.
In the name of Jesus,