That you may believe…

Sermon on St Thomas and having faith

These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (Reading: John 20:19-31)

Some years ago my wife and I went on an Aegean cruise visiting biblical sites. One of the places were stopped at was Ephesus, the –traditional place where the Apostle John is said to have settled, preached and lived with Mary the mother of Jesus. This also the place where it is said that John in his old age published the gospel written in his name. (Although some scholars think  others wrote it for him).  

The end relates to the beginning 

In our story today we see the disciples experiencing the joy of seeing Jesus alive after His horrific death. We read of Thomas missing out on first appearance and not believing what he is told by the others. But when he does see Jesus Thomas declares my Lord and my God” 

This is something new and a new revelationPreviously St Peter had declared You are the Messiah (Christ)”

Now –The disciples had finally come to see that Jesus was more than Israel’s promised Messiah and all of their experiences had led them to that understanding what John puts at the start of his gospel:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 

We also read in the gospel story  Jesus recognised by the marks that even His newly risen body bares. He will carry those marks forever as sign of who He is- The Crucified Son of God whose suffering has been for the world

There is a verse from a well know hymn

Crown Him the Lord of Love:  Behold His hands and side;
Rich wounds yet visible above   In beauty glorified:
  No angel in the sky  Can fully bear that sight,
But downward bends his burning eye   At mysteries so bright.

The doubts of Thomas

Back to Thomas, who is often remembered from this story as “doubting Thomas”, but that is unfair. All the disciples apart from John seem to doubted Jesus resurrection until He appeared in the room with them. 

It may be that many people today have doubts about various parts of Christian creeds. I was confirmed at about 14 yrs old but had some serious doubts about a variety things in my late teens and early 20’s. 

I remain involved with the church choir  and so remained in the church and tried to sort them out by reading about the things that concerned me. 

My reading took me on a long intellectual journey that covered things like the reliability of the bible as source of revelation, the person of Jesus and the things written about Him. It is strangely the fruits of all that investigation that led me to be trained as a Reader when I was 28 and was licensed three years later in Sep 1988

What I can affirm

Despite many apparent discrepancies in the gospel accounts they paint a real picture of Jesus and His uniqueness and the presence of God in His nature, more important than any other person in history. 

The resurrection stories tell of something that really happened and experienced by the disciples that changed their lives and their whole outlook on the world. 

There really was an empty tomb and the body of Jesus was not just brought back to life it was radically transformed. 

This transformation that happened to Jesus points to God’s intention to transform and change everything in the universe and compensate for all the suffering and evil that takes place. 

The Resurrection is not just some symbol of some heavenly existence after our death, 

it can be a symbol of how our lives can be transformed by His love for us and the world even in the present, 

It is about a great future completing of all God’s intention and purpose that was started with universe 13.7 billion years ago. 

Post-script story

Some years ago Usha and I had a visit to Kerala (South India).  It is one of the most Christian states in India.

Among the many churches are the Mar-Thomist Orthodox Christians – dating back to the first churches long before European missionaries arrived. 

These churches trace their origins to the preaching of St Thomas coming to Indian AD 52. According to some accounts he was martyred, killed by spear in AD72.  the Feast of Saint Thomas on July 3 is celebrated as Indian Christians’ Day.

The name Thomas remains quite popular among the Saint Thomas Christians of the Indian subcontinent.

So Thomas is not Thomas the Doubter, but Thomas the brave and Apostle to India.