"LET ME SEE: THOMAS' STORY"

Scripture:  John 20:19-31

Introduction

My name is Thomas.  The other 11 disciples always call me "Didymus," and I hear that you all call me "The Doubter," but I prefer just plain Thomas.  I was one of the ones who was with Jesus for the long haul - I can't even begin to count the miles I put on my sandals during those years...  We did lots of crazy things, met lots of interesting people, and had our share of struggles as we followed Jesus throughout the Galilee...  But nothing compares to the grief of seeing Jesus killed on that cross, or the pain of those first few days after his death. 
Such grief can make people do and say some strange things.  That's what we all said after Mary Magdalene came pounding on the door that afternoon, three days after Jesus died.   She was out of breath and her eyes were wide - she looked like she had just seen a ghost.  We'd already heard the horrifying news about the tomb being empty, and two of the others had confirmed that Jesus' body had been taken...  So when she returned later in the day, we all braced ourselves for more bad news.  But then Mary told us something that none of us could have expected - she said, "I have seen the Lord!"
We sat there in stunned silence for a long while as Mary tried to explain what it was that she actually saw.  At the time, we just assumed that she saw what she wanted to see...  She'd probably encountered a gardener around Jesus' age, and maybe some similar facial features.  Through the veil of her tears, they may have looked a lot alike.  But there's no way it could have actually been Jesus, we told her.  I mean, we all wanted him to be alive - but we knew it couldn't be true.  After all, we had all seen Jesus on that cross, and we all heard the news that spread like wildfire throughout Jerusalem on Saturday - people had seen his lifeless body taken off of the cross and put into the tomb.  It was over.  No amount of hoping or praying or pretending was going to bring Jesus back to us.
We all realized this, and we decided that we would support Mary as she processed Jesus' death and came to terms with it in her own way.

We Have Seen The Lord!
Not long after Mary came to us, she was on her way again...  I guess she had other people that she wanted to share her story with.
It was later that evening that it happened.  I'd only stepped out for a little while to get some fresh air - it couldn't have been more than an hour or two.  After three days locked in a small room with 10 other guys, I had to find some quiet space to breathe, pray, and figure out what came next in my life.
When I came back, I could immediately tell that the mood was somehow different from when I left.  They were a bit more upbeat.  They seemed less tense and less fearful...  I guess you could say they seemed more at peace.  I asked them what had happened while I was out, wondering if maybe they had been telling stories about Jesus again - that was all we had left to cling to...  Memories of better times.
I think Peter was the first first to say it...  Those same words that Mary had spoken just hours before - "We have seen the Lord!"  Then the others chimed in, too.
They had seen the Lord?!  Was it contagious?  I have to admit that I was more than a little bit skeptical.  To be completely honest, at first, I thought they were playing some sort of cruel joke on me.  How could they possibly think that was funny or appropriate?  But they kept insisting.  "Didymus!  It's true!  We have seen the Lord!"
I have no problem, after all this time, remembering all of the fear and frustration and hurt that I felt at that moment.  I felt alone and rejected, like somehow I didn't belong anymore.  Like there was some secret that I wasn't a part of, but they wanted me to go along with anyway.  With all of those emotions bubbling to the surface at once, I shouted at them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands with my own eyes, and put my own finger in the wounds in his hands, and put my own hand into his side, I will not believe."
You could hear a pin drop during the silence that followed.  As I looked around at their faces, I immediately regretted how strongly I reacted...  I had basically said to their face, "You are liars, and I don't trust you."  
But in my own defense, I wasn't demanding anything that that they hadn't already received.  They had heard Mary Magdalene's story but didn't believe it, but somehow they expected me to believe their crazy story?  No way.  That's not how I work.  I needed to have the same proof that they had...  Otherwise, I had no reason to believe that they hadn't seen  some sort of ghost or apparition or made the whole thing up.

Staying Together
Surprisingly, they didn't kick me out.  They welcomed me into their midst, skepticism and all.  They assured me that my disbelief was okay - that Jesus' resurrection was unprecedented and certainly a difficult thing to believe.  I told them - It wasn't that I didn't want to believe.  I wanted desperately to believe that what they were telling me was true.  I wanted to believe it when Mary told us, and I wanted even more to believe it after hearing it from the disciples.  
We all sat around the table, and they told me the story again and again.  At first, the story was too good to be true.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized...  Everything that Jesus said and did was too good to be true, wasn't it?  Healing the blind?  Providing for the hungry?  Turning a few fish and loaves into enough food to feed 5000 people?  Even the simple things that he had done seemed too good to be true...  Like proclaiming a message of hope to a bleak world, or inviting the poor and the outcast to join him for a hot meal.  
Jesus talked about living in the Kingdom of God - so of course it sounded too good to be true!  Wasn't that sort of the point?  God is doing something new, something amazing, and something unimaginable.  Nothing is too good to be true for God...
I had demanded evidence that Jesus was risen...  And over that following week, I started to realize that the evidence was all around me:
I saw it in the compassion that the other disciples showed me by making sure that I remained a part of the community, even though I had rejected them by my own initial reaction.  They didn't make me feel like I didn't belong, even though I had tried to separate myself from them.  That compassion and hospitality was something that Jesus taught us.
I felt the love that Jesus taught in the comforting arms of my friends as they hugged me and held me when the pain and grief was too much.
Each time we gathered for a meal around the table, breaking bread and sharing wine together, it felt like Jesus was right there with us.  It felt so much like that last meal that we shared before his death, when he asked us to remember him each time we joined together at the table.

In my darkest moments, the others made sure that I could still see the light of Christ - the light that they knew was still burning bright.
You see - The resurrection of Christ and his continued presence with us isn't always something that you can see with your eyes or feel with your hands.  The evidence that Christ has risen is much bigger and much more mysterious than that.  It is in the face of every person that you meet.  It is in the love that you offer.  It is in the stories that you tell.  
Jesus once told us that every time we fed the hungry, clothed the naked, welcomed a stranger, or visited the sick or imprisoned, he would be present.  That never made sense to me before, but now I get it.  Jesus is there in community.  Jesus is there when we love and when we serve one another.  Jesus is there when we continue to follow him, even when we struggle to see him.

My Lord And My God
By the time that Jesus made his appearance at the end of that week, I already knew the truth.  Seeing him standing in front of me just confirmed that truth.  As soon as he entered the room, I broke down in tears of joy.  Jesus offered to show me his hands and his side...  But I didn't need to.  I fell to my knees and the only words I could muster were precisely what I knew to be true - "My Lord and my God!"
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