Jesus Appears to His Disciples
19On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."
Jesus Appears to Thomas
24Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!"
But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."
26A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 27Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."
28Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"
29Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
30Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
A Wounded Healer
A Graffiti that can be found in a New York Subway says,
"God is alive - He just doesn't want to get involved." Sometimes, in the midst of difficult experiences
we wonder if God is at all interested in our pain
and our despair.
Sometimes it seems that God
really does not want to get involved
when we suffer.
Last Sunday we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus
and his victory over death and sin.
Today we want to contemplate
a story of Jesus’ appearance to his disciples.
From this story we learn that the risen Christ
still bears nailprints in his hands and feet.
His scars are a sign that the Christ
who is risen from the dead
is the same person who suffered
and was crucified.
This God, who bears the marks of suffering
in his own body
is the God who is infinitely interested
in our condition.
It is because he has scars,
that he can also understand and heal our pain.
A few years ago the mass-suicide
of the Heavens Gate Cult members hit the news.
The topic of false prophets came up for discussion
in our home.
Our daughter Karis made
a profound theological observation when she said:
"If someone comes to me and says,
‘I am Jesus Christ!’
I would say to that person
‘Show me your nailprints.’”
We are reminded of Thomas,
who considered the story of Christ's resurrection
as nothing other than hearsay,
until he saw the marks of his suffering.
The God who saves is also the God who suffers.
In the Gospel story Jesus appears to the disciples and says,
“Peace be with you,”
... and he shows them his hands and his side.
The risen Christ slips through the closed doors
and appears before his disheartened disciples.
He speaks to them, as he had spoken so often before,
But, only when He showed them his hands and his side
they knew Him…, and they rejoiced.
Thomas showed up a little later.
He wasn't with the other disciples
for the Easter appearance.
The other disciples told him of the risen Christ,
but he would not believe,
"Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands,
and put my finger in the mark of the nails
and my hand in his side,
I will not believe".
A week later, the risen Christ again surprises the disciples.
This time Thomas is there
and Jesus grants him his wish,
"Put your finger here,
Do not doubt but believe."
It seems to me that we are often a bit hard
on "doubting" Thomas,
as if we had any reason
to question the strength of his faith.
However, when Jesus entered the room that evening
he did not rebuke Thomas for his doubts.
Rather, he ministered to him,
offering his wounds as proof to heal his doubts.
Jesus addresses the doubts of the frightened disciples,
showing them his scars
so that they might believe
that the mysterious one in their midst
is the one whom they had followed and loved.
The three days that Christ spent in the realm of the dead
did not change His character.
When he entered the room where they were gathered,
He showed them the same compassion
that they had come to expect
of the Jesus they knew from before.
The risen Christ has scars;
nailprints in his hands and feet.
The gospel accounts are different in some of the details
about the exact appearance of the risen Christ.
Yet, they all connect the risen Christ
with the Jesus who suffered.
In this passage we see a clear connection
between the glorified risen Christ
and the Christ who suffered.
The risen Christ has scars.
Being raised from the dead
did not erase his scars.
The Christ of Easter
bears the scars of Good Friday.
Thomas recognized him as risen
only by touching his scars.
Easter, the stunning triumph of God,
the great victory over death and defeat,
does not erase the scars.
The risen Christ has just moved from death to life,
he has come forth from the tomb triumphant.
In his exalted form,
the disciples mistook him for a ghost
according to Luke 24:37.
It was only when he showed them his scars
that they knew him.
When Thomas says,
"I won't believe that its Jesus
unless I can poke my fingers
into the nailprints in his hands",
he isn’t simply expressing some stubborn cynicism.
Thomas is saying,
"I won't believe that it's Jesus,
unless I touch his scars…
because Jesus has wounds."
The disciples knew their Master,
because the Jesus whom they loved
did not hover above the heartache
of the world;
he embraced the pain,
he touched the agony and the sorrow,
he lived where we live,
he died as we must die.
In the time of the Early Church
there was a heresy named Docetism
(Greek: doceo: to appear like, to seem like).
This heresy maintained that Christ,
the Son of God, did not really suffer on the cross,
that he did not really live
as we must live on this earth.
He only appeared to suffer,
only appeared to be human.
No! the early Church said.
Jesus was God, but he was also fully human.
The divinely risen Christ has human scars.
Only a wounded God can save.
First Peter goes so far as to say,
"by his wounds you have been healed" (2:24).
The risen Christ,
the Christ after Easter,
still has scars.
Easter did not overcome all of that.
Thomas reminds us that the God who can heal our scars
is Himself the Wounded Healer.
The event of the cross
did not become undone with Easter.
The sin of the world was not fixed.
The injustice was not erased.
We believe that Easter is God's decisive defeat of death.
The final battle has been won.
Yet, for those of us who still live in a world
where pain and death is a reality,
the risen Christ comes to us,
shows us his scars,
has compassion on us,
and even shows us a way
to turn our scars into opportunities
to minister to others who are hurting.
To be able to do this,
we must look at our attitudes
toward those who are suffering.
Sometimes we have strange expectations
of our fellow Christians.
In our attitudes toward others we seem to imply that,
"If you are a Christian,
a real Christian,
you will always feel Joy and Peace in your heart."
But the fact is that many people feel great sadness,
Anxiety, worry, and depression,
even if they are Christians.
We don’t understand what is wrong with them.
Is their faith not yet firm?
Why can’t they just simply get over it
and go on with their life and faith?
But, before we judge others
we must take an honest look at ourselves.
The reality is that we all carry our scars with us.
Some of us are really good at hiding them.
But we all have them.
Someone may have had a traumatic experience as a child,
that shook the foundations of his or her faith in God.
Another person may have carried the weight of sin
and a shameful family secret all their life.
We all bear the scars of human sin and suffering.
To be human is to have scar tissue inside and out.
You and I have scars, human as we are.
I have a scar that I earned in my teen years when,
going on a Sunday afternoon drive with my family,
we were broadsided by a reckless driver.
For three weeks I was flat in bed
to nurse my broken bones back to health.
I can still feel the bumps of scar tissue in my back,
just centimeters away from the spinal cord,
as a tangible reminder of the day
when I could have become a paraplegic
or even died.
You and I bear the scars of our painful experiences.
They may not all be scars
that we can touch with our hands
and see with our eyes…
but we have scars that shape our lives,
and which God intends to use
to set us apart for his good purposes.
These scars are signs that God has a plan for us.
It’s interesting how we seem to have a need
to tell others about our scars.
For example, I know very few men
who don’t like to invoke the sympathy of others
by “sharing” about their battle scars…
“My pointing finger?… You probably won’t believe it, but I lost that one at Moloy… in a mortal battle against a cross between a Shark and a Piranha.” Well, fishing season is about to open, and garanteed there will be more stories
Why do we tell these stories?
Is it just to wallow again in self-pity
for some bad thing that has afflicted us?
Is it to say,
“Noone else has ever suffered as much as I have…”
For some people that may be the case…
But, for the most part…
I think we tell our stories
so that we will be known
for who we are.
"You will know me by experiences… by my scars ",
we seem to say,
even as Thomas knew the risen Christ
by the nailprints on his hands and feet.
We are known by our scars.
And I believe there is also a deeper meaning
behind our stories.
We seem to suggest that our common human experience
entitles us to offer compassion
and understanding to others.
How often we say,
“I understand what you’re going through…
I had a similar experience.”
As we look up to Christ, our Wounded Healer,
our own wounds can be transformed
into agents of healing for others.
Like Christ, we can minister
with understanding and compassion
because we know what pain feels like,
and we have the scars to prove it.
We know what the weight of sin and guilt feels like.
We know what it feels like to be alone…
We know the heartbreak
that comes with a broken relationship…
The helplessness in the face of death…
We can relate…
And through our scars
we can offer healing to those who despair.
We all have our scars,
some invisible and well hidden,
some more visible.
The One who has called us here this day,
our Savior, the Wounded Healer,
also has scars to prove his love to us.
If you don't know him…
if you aren't sure that you believe…
…he'll graciously show you his scars
like he showed them to Thomas
"that you might believe
that Jesus is alive.”
When the Wounded Healer touvhes our wounds
he enables us to touch the lives
of those who say in despair,
“God is alive! –
He just doesn’t want to get involved.”
As those who have seen and experienced
the healing scars of the risen Christ,
we are invited to get involved
and to bring God’s healing and hope
into the world.
Prayer: Lord, comfort those who experience the weight of this world in their lives; the sick, the hungry, the lonely and those who hurt. Through your healing scars set us free from our doubts; and help us to minister to others in a practical way. Show us how, and give us strength and compassion. Teach us to love and give us courage to suffer with our brothers and sisters in distress. For in so doing, we share with you in the suffering of the world, for we are your body on earth and you work through us. AMEN