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Easter John Podcast Reflections Sermon

Sermon for Easter 2

Listen to a sermon by Revd Stephen on the gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Easter, 11 April 2021

Do you remember the days when ‘seeing is believing’ was the maxim by which you felt you could live out your daily life?

In those days of naïve innocence you just ‘knew’ who and what was ‘good and trustworthy’, and who and what was not!

In those days very little existed in the realms of doubt and uncertainty.

And then you grew up!

Can you remember the first time your innocent certainty was overturned?

Can you remember when that ‘good person’ turned out to be not so ‘good’ after all?

Can you remember when the ‘facts’ that underpinned your certainty were revealed as the quicksand of fiction, mythology and superstition?

For some, the answers to these questions come to mind far too rapidly.

For those people there has often been a rude, and sometimes cruel, awakening.

And … for those people … there has often been much damage done.

But … that has not been the case for all.

Today, we hear the familiar story of Thomas, the disciple who is best remembered for his doubt.

But … is that a fair way of remembering Thomas … the disciple who neither betrayed nor denied … the disciple who simply wanted to be sure?

Following the crucifixion, and indeed following the resurrection, the disciples locked themselves away … confused, fearful … and doubtful.

Of course, we know of Thomas’ doubt but, when we read the gospel narrative carefully, we learn that Thomas was not alone in his uncertainty … in his doubt.

Following their hearing the news of the resurrection … which they considered to be an idle tale, and which they did not believe … the confused and fearful disciples suddenly encountered Jesus standing in their midst.

Did they cry out in relief and joy?

No!

As the risen Jesus greeted them with the words: Peace be with you, did they joyously proclaim his victory over death?

No!

It was only after Jesus had shown them the wounds of the crucifixion … and only then … that the disciples rejoiced at seeing the Lord.

Thomas was not the only doubter …

Thomas was not the only one to subscribe to our ‘not so modern’ scepticism … to our oft-quoted notion of ‘seeing is believing’.

All of the disciples needed proof in order that they might believe.

So … let us reflect on Thomas in more detail for a moment

Thomas knew what it meant to see Jesus risen from the dead.

Thomas knew that seeing the risen Jesus meant coming face-to-face with God.

Thomas does not want to just see Jesus … Thomas wanted to see Jesus in order that he might believe.

Thomas had been with Jesus throughout his ministry

Thomas had heard Jesus say: Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.

When viewed from this perspective, Thomas’ so-called ‘doubt’ is really an example do faithfulness to Jesus’ teaching …

Thomas was determined not to be led astray.

So … where do we stand in this scene?

Aren’t we all like Thomas?

Don’t we all have questions to ask?

Haven’t we all had times when our certainties have been knocked … when we have doubted?

Haven’t we all had times when we have been deceived by someone we thought we could trust?

In another life I used to be a teacher.

As well as teaching music, I taught Philosophy.

The study of Philosophy involves learning how to construct strong arguments, having gone through the process of asking ‘good’ questions.

That philosophical discipline seems very relevant as we respond to the account of Thomas’ meeting with the risen Jesus.

Jesus does not demand blind faith.

Jesus is ready for us to have a faith that is based on our ability to ask those ‘good’ questions.

But … there is more …

Jesus says: blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.

We need to remember that Thomas did not just believe what he saw … he also believed what he did not see.

Thomas does not only believe that Jesus is alive … he also believes that he is God.

Thomas was the only one to proclaim: My Lord and my God.

The Christian faith has always, and probably will always, face challenges from the sceptical and the unbelieving … those caught between ‘blind faith’ and ‘blind doubt’.

Perhaps this is the moment when we should allow Thomas to be our guide, rather than the butt of our criticism.

Let us follow Thomas in asking those questions and seeking that evidence …

BUT … let us also not be afraid to accept the amazing reality of the resurrection … to see with open-eyed faith that Jesus is indeed our Lord and our God.

Alleluia!
Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!
Alleluia!