Easter Egg (1) Thomas

. 5 min read

Easter Egg (1): Thomas 
Apr 2019, Christ Mountain Top, Easter 2
the Psalm, Psalm 118.14-29 (19-29 at 6:00 and 10:45)
Acts 5.17-42, with Easter eggs
John 20.19-31
Moment, EarthKeeper pastor saves turtles
a carnival event in our front lawn, a guest, mother of a young child enjoying
the bounce house, remarked, “I’m not really into religion. What kind of a
church are you?” There are a lot of potential answers to that question, but I
did not know anything about this person except the lead – not into religion.
How would you respond?
·       “We’re
United Methodist.” But, she’s not religious.
·       “We
do a lot with kids and families.” But that’s obvious from the nature of the
event and does nothing to address her reservations.
·       “I’m
not religious either.” Of course, once people know you are a pastor, they will
struggle to believe that. Unless they’ve played soccer with you. Then it’s
like, “You’re a pastor?! Do you throw elbows when you preach?”
you appeal to the mom in her? Do you appeal to the skeptic? Or do you just put
it all out there? Over the years, I’ve tried on a number of different answers.
On this day, I didn’t have time to reflect. I just reacted: “We’re just all
about Jesus.”

is the truth underlying each dimension of the story before us today:
·       Jesus
shows up “in the middle” of them. He is at the center of the life of the
church, at the center of the faith community. And, if Thomas wants to meet
Jesus, he’d better show up when the faith community gathers each week. There is
no way for us to have a private relationship with Jesus without being part of a
community that is “all about Jesus.” Only there is Jesus guaranteed to show up.
·       Jesus
shows up, risen and exalted. At the same time, he offers his body, broken for
us. And, with it, the assurance of pardon: “they are forgiven,” the gift of
peace, “peace be with you,” and the promised Spirit, “welcome the Spirit” (as
Bruner translates). We’re all about Jesus, in the celebration of the
Sacraments, in the exchange of God’s peace, in receiving the Spirit.
·       Jesus
shows up for someone who refuses to believe, and who was absent when the
community was gathered. Jesus shows incredible grace to Thomas, the “twin”, the
man of two minds, the conflicted self. I am grateful – because that’s me! Jesus
offers what Thomas demanded, not because Thomas is in charge but because Jesus
loves Thomas, just as Jesus loves the skeptic in each of us. Jesus the Lord can
be remarkably accommodating, as well as remarkably demanding. We’re all about
Jesus, his grace that welcomes each of us, his truth that calls us to bend the
while we charge Thomas with doubt, let us not forget that none of the disciples
were ready to believe in resurrection. It was, as we discussed last week,
“nonsense” to them. In today’s story, Thomas is every modern person. He wants
to believe, but he’s not quite there. He loves Jesus and the idea of Jesus. But
to think of Jesus as more than Rabbi, more than Friend, more than “a wonderful
human being” – to think of him as God and Lord, Lamb of God who takes away the
sins of the world and Resurrected Lord, is a HUGE step (Bruner, 1188).
let’s take a look at this process for Thomas. He refuses to believe and digs in
his heels for emphasis: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and
put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not
believe” (20.25). Have you ever refused to believe something, and been dead
·       Robin
and Santigue. He was her friend, but I knew everything.
whilst attributing defect in judgment to others, often itself cherishes and betrays
hardness [in itself], and in [this hardness a certain mental] slowness” (J.A. Bengel
cited in Bruner 1190).
shows up and offers him the evidence he demanded. It is as if Jesus heard
Thomas’ statement of doubt, and Jesus did, either as God who hears and sees
all, or as the God who heard the prayers of his friends in the disciple band.
Notice, however, that Thomas does not take Jesus up on the offer. He did not
need to touch Jesus’ wounds. He simply exclaims, “My Lord and My God.” It is
his confession of faith, a conversion of sorts. As Alan Culpepper remarks, “Typically,
it is not the persuasive power of the empty tomb but a personal encounter with
the risen Lord that leads to faith” (473). The surprise for Thomas, the Easter
egg discovery, is not the evidence, it is Jesus himself.
·       Note
that his confession is theological in nature. He names Jesus as Lord and God.
·       His
confession is also personal in nature. Jesus is “my” Lord and “my” God. (The
Greek text uses the possessive pronoun twice.)
is the difference between “knowledge” and “faith.” We may know a lot about God.
We may have gone to Sunday School or Vacation Bible School or confirmation or
first communion. But knowledge alone is not faith. It must become personal.
(See Adolf Schlatter, cited in Bruner 1183.) That is, we ourselves individually
and as a church, must be “all about Jesus.”
the story of one person who had the knowledge, but not the faith. That is, she
would name Jesus as God and Lord, but it didn’t make one bit of personal
difference in her life. My mom grew up going to church and praying at the
family table, but like many folks, she went her own way. When as a child I
began asking questions about God, my dad challenged her as “the Christian in
the family” for us to go to church, and both dad and mom began a journey that
would take them to their own personal encounter with the risen Jesus.
does Mom confess Jesus as “my Lord and my God”? She says, “You’re the boss.”
      That’s a huge statement personally. It is
also a huge statement in our world. It means “I’m not the boss.” It also means
that the empire is not the boss.
      Caesar Domitian, who ruled Rome about the
time that John’s gospel was written, required that he be addressed as “Our Lord
and God” (Bruner, 1192). It is almost the same wording, in Greek, as Thomas’
confession of faith: “My Lord and My God.”
      This reminds us that every confession of
faith is a political statement. No claim for loyalty, no commanded obedience, no
imperial call to faith – nothing and no one else is Lord and God. Only Jesus.
And, here, we’re all about Jesus.
      It is not particularly dangerous (in our
nation) to make such a confession today. Though in John’s Rome, it was treason.
But it is dangerous in other ways. Mom was tired of the government running her life
(that is, Dad’s government job). She was tired of her husband trying to run her
life. She was tired of her kids making their own demands. And she gave up the
futile attempt to be her own Lord. What then? Now that Jesus is Lord, that
doesn’t mean that husbands and children are satisfied. It doesn’t mean that we
ourselves are always pleased with what God asks of us. That danger of that path
is transformation. Jesus takes us at our “Yes” and you never know what he’s
going to do next.
back next week for Peter’s conversion of sorts as he recognizes Jesus as Lord,
and for my dad’s story.
Dale Bruner, The Gospel of John: A
Alan Culpepper, Luke, New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol IX