‘My Lord and my God!’ Is this for real?

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April 5, 2023
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April 21, 2023

We believe we’re hard to deceive.  We tell ourselves we can see the usual cons and when it comes to fancy stories and fake news, we can spot it quickly.  So, the story about Thomas and his reaction to the disciples’ news, ‘Jesus has risen’, is understandable.   He will not accept secondhand news. (John 20:19-31)

You remember Thomas, don’t you?  Thomas is the steady disciple, ready to accompany Jesus to his death when they heard Jesus was going to Bethany to see the dying Lazarus, and heal him. Thomas understood the danger for Jesus, Lazarus and the disciples.  His pragmatism and steady determination to stay with Jesus is persuasive and courageous. 

Thomas had said on that occasion: ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’ (John 11:16)   Thomas is not someone with doubt, but someone willing to face and name the difficult facts.  I think we’ve given him the wrong nickname.

Thomas wants to see and touch Jesus’ wounds, to check, to be sure.  For Thomas, the only test of the resurrection are the wounds – not a vision of the wounds but an actual probing of real, torn flesh.   This is not about resurrection faith, but about the reality of resurrection, whether it matters or not, depending on the violence borne by Jesus.

Any claim or idea God removes and obliterates such horrors is an illusion. This is not a story about an undamaged Jesus, somehow miraculously healed or a convenient sliding out from under the truth of resurrection.  It’s not a nice, respectful ending to a dramatic story ending happily ever after.

For Thomas, the ‘Word-made-Flesh’, however different, must remain solid, real, bearing honest witness to mortal brutalities.    Easter jubilation is fake if it forgets the grotesque abominations inflicted by people on Jesus and so deny the reality of the power of death, now transformed because the risen Christ is still bearing them.

Our idea of perfection is not God’s idea.  We just need to remember the awesome diversity of the world around us and all the people, to know God’s perfection is not ours.  Whatever we imagine about heaven, perfection in our human bodies is not top of the list.  Life, events and relationships wound and scar us in our eyes, but not God’s.  We will not become someone new in the resurrection.  How we remember and what we forget in God, with God’s grace, enables us to let go, to accept forgiveness and love and to forgive our most powerful, hated and feared enemies, whatever they have done to us and we have done to them. 

Christ risen is Christ crucified, his body and his memories bear witness to what happened, yet are transformed; so we do struggle to recognise Jesus, in the locked house, on the beach, on the road to Emmaus, outside the tomb, and in those moments in our lives when we encounter the living God in our own woundings, pain and death.

God takes such evil as was done to Christ, bearing it to the depths of his humanity and divinity.  The redemption of the world is so real because the wounding is so deep.   Thomas’s refusal to believe his friends testimony is not skepticism or doubt, but absolute anguish.  We grieve with all God’s children in times of darkness, crying ‘My God, my God, why have you forgotten me?’ in the places where hope has left and there is only darkness.   The world’s evil is monstrous, and if the Christ who was killed by it is not scarred by it, wounded to death by it, and now bearing it in newness, then nothing matters and its not real. 

Our church has often been broken and cruel as it defends its position in the world, rather than God’s.  In our anguish, we too, demand to see the evidence of Christ crucified, the evidence we are truly connected to Jesus who was crucified and raised.  If it can’t be seen it isn’t real, and it will never be taken as real or authentic.  It will simply be another story of human power and corruption.

Jesus takes Thomas’s demand seriously.  Jesus appears once again to the disciples and offers them peace for the third time.  Then he responds directly to Thomas: go on, touch me, touch my wounds, feel them.  Know them as real.  Then with simple directness, Jesus tells him not to be disbelieving but to believe.  This is not a sermon about human doubt, but about hope in the face of God’s direct invitation to Thomas to believe.  This is about Jesus!

‘My Lord and my God!’  (John 20:28) I imagine Thomas fell to his knees with these words, transformed by the depths of God’s love with the clearest confession of faith we can make. 

I think even in the worst life we can imagine and beyond, God is capable of taking this into God’s own arms in such a way it is transformed, and we are healed and made whole, not only individually, but as a whole human family, indeed the whole of creation.  We can see the scars we have caused on others and which have been inflicted on us.  We can repent, forgive, be reconciled and our pain and scars forgotten by us in God.

In the wounded body of Jesus, we find God crucified and it is through this we see God resurrected. It is the crucified one who is raised.  We do not have one without the other.   If we do not see both the cross and the glory, we will not see him at all. 

Its worth remembering too, physical sight is not a guarantee of faith or understanding, as we are told repeatedly in the Gospels when Jesus carries out his signs.  Belief is not dependent on physical sight or presence; it is a gift of God.  Those of us who have not seen Jesus in the flesh are in a position to know the grace of belief and trust, which we cannot generate from our own resources but receive as a gift from God. 

The whole Gospel was written for this very reason, so we will believe in Jesus and ‘have life in his name’.  Thomas thought the final truth was death.  Jesus with his wounds, has made it clear to him, the final truth is life.   We say with Thomas, ‘My Lord and my God.’  May you be ‘Eastered’ with Jesus.

The Lord be with you.

Bibliography

Jarvis, C.E., Johnson, E.E. [Gen. Eds].  2013.  Feasting on the Gospels John, Vol. 2 Chapters 10-21.  Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.

Lucy Morris
Lucy Morris
Anglican Priest, International Speaker, Published Author, Social Justice Advocate and Activist.

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