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Believing




Believing Luke 24:1-12 John 20:19-29 I think we often judge Thomas too harshly, don’t you? We call him “Doubting Thomas” - which, to me, seems over the top! After all, Thomas believed far more than he ever doubted. So it seems unfair to call him “Doubting Thomas.” And besides that... who doesn’t doubt at times? We all doubt all kinds of things... Sometimes we doubt the sincerity of others. We doubt the government tells us the truth, most of the time. We doubt our on abilities... our motives and the motives of other people. We doubt Publishers Clearing House will ever show up at our front door with a million dollar check! Life is often filled with reasons to doubt... Of course, Thomas, of all people, certainly had a reason to doubt - if anyone ever had a reason! He had lived through that first “holy week” - he was an eyewitness; having experienced that week firsthand - where Jesus was proclaimed Messiah with shouts of “Hosanna”... that quickly turned to shouts of “crucify him.” Thomas had watched - if from a distance - as Jesus was tried by a “Kangaroo Court”... he was convicted without reason... even though he was declared innocent by the Roman governor. He was tortured... crucified... his side pierced by soldier’s spear... and placed in a borrowed tomb. So Thomas certainly had reason to doubt his fellow disciples’ testimony of having seen Jesus alive! Again... everyone remembers him as "Doubting Thomas" - but his doubt was brief... it was momentary. He lived as faithfully and dutifully as any other disciple (according to God’s Word)... yet he gets branded a doubter. I personally think we SHOULD call Thomas... the believer! When he saw Jesus, and realized it was Jesus, alive, standing before him, wounds and all... Thomas proclaimed, without hesitation, “My Lord and My God!” He PROFESSED belief! Which is exactly what God’s Word tells us we must do in order to be saved. Romans 10:9, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” In fact... the story of Thomas and his confession of belief, reminds me, of the story from Mark’s Gospel, the 9th Chapter... where a father came to Jesus seeking healing for his son, who’d been afflicted by seizures since childhood. The father said to Jesus, “if you can... help us!” To which Jesus replied, “If I can? Anything is possible for those who believe!” Leading the father to say, “I believe, help thou my unbelief!” We can all relate to that, can’t we? “I believe, help thou my unbelief!” We all struggle with some doubt EVEN when we’re standing in the very presence of our Hope, and Salvation, and Healing. So why don’t we call him “Believing Thomas?” I mean, the emphasis of the story is the fact that Thomas believed... in spite his questions & doubts... And why was Thomas the only disciple accused of doubting? After all they all doubted. When the women came from the empty tomb with news of seeing the resurrected Jesus... the men though it sounded like a “idle tale” - just pointless, merit-less chatter... or nonsense, in other words. Apparently it took seeing Jesus, wounds and all, for any of the disciples to be convinced that he was alive! The women, too! They may have been the first to believe... but even so... they had to either see Jesus with their on eyes... our hear Jesus’ voice with their own ears... or experience the miraculous proclamation of an angel before they would believe. Of course, we always seem to assume that doubt is automatically negative. That we should avoid doubt - that doubt is an expression of weak faith. After all, Jesus did say to Thomas... “Stop doubting and believe.” But honest doubt, can be useful. If we didn’t have the capacity to doubt, we’d believe anything! And I can’t speak for you... but the older I get... the more I doubt everything I hear: especially stuff on the internet or the evening news. Our world suffers from information overload and pontificating opinion. Which mean rational people have to skim off top layer (most of the time) and look beyond what others WANT or EXPECT you to believe, in order to get to the truth. So doubt is useful. In fact it’s necessary. It helps to protect us from falling for anything! But... doubt also has a dark side. While it can keep us from believing things that are false, it can also keep us from believing that which is true. Doubt can keep us from believing in the power of God’s love, mercy and grace. Doubt can keep us from trusting in God’s goodness. Doubt initially kept Thomas from believing in the resurrection. And it still keeps people today from believing. Of course, Jesus’ disciples had an advantage when it came to belief in the Resurrection. They had the physical, tangible, breathing Jesus... right there in front of them! They had the opportunity to examine the physical evidence and to verify that indeed Jesus did have a pulse! But we don't have that advantage. That’s why Jesus himself said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (John 20:29) Of course, we’re not without evidence! We have God’s Word... and the testimony of the Church that’s been handed down from generation to generation. We also know, and understand... and have experienced the living presence of Christ within us... something that God himself reveals to the Elect... Like the old hymn says, “You ask me how I know he lives; He lives with in my heart.” We can't see, hear or touch the risen Christ... but we can experience his life in our lives. We can feel his living presence. Wherever two or more are gathered in his name he is there. Just as Jesus was with the disciples in the upper room on that first Easter Sunday so long ago... He is with us now... in this Sanctuary... or in our living rooms, or kitchen’s... or wherever we’re gathered in his name... by the presence of His Holy Spirit! We may have never seen Jesus with our eyes. But we have undoubtedly seen Him with our hearts. We have seen the Risen Christ... and we know he lives.

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