A Sermon from from Lin Weber for the Second Sunday of Easter 2024

It was Sunday evening on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Lamps had been lit in the walled enclosure of a comfortable home’s central courtyard. The lamps left pools of light on the paving stones, while the rest of the area was bathed in the gathering darkness. The disciples were conversing together in small groups, most of them still sipping wine from earthenware cups. What was left of a simple meal of bread, cheese, olives and hummus was on a sturdy table, along with two amphoras of recent vintage. The table was up against the front wall, next to a thick wooden door that led to the street. The door was shut and barred, and James Zebedee was peering out through its spy hole.

“Open the door,” he said to his brother John, who was standing close by. They worked together to lift the iron bar that served as an added defense. A man in a tan cloak slipped in, carrying a large sack that was secured with a leather thong. The brothers quickly closed and bolted the door behind him.

“Thomas!” said John, looking very pleased. “You returned! I was afraid you wouldn’t come back.”

“Of course I came back,” Thomas said. “You are my friends.” He embraced them both. Then he surveyed the mood of the dozen or so other men and women there. The group seemed subdued— far from the joy they had shared two weeks ago, on the day of the palms. He saw Peter turn his back on him and start whispering earnestly to Andrew. Thomas maneuvered the bag off his shoulder and set it on the table with a thud.

“I brought this for us. I know we can use it, especially if things get… worse.”

James untied the thong and admired the contents. “Rice and spices!” he said. He dipped his hand in it. “Basmati, beautiful long grains. All the way from India. The caravan must have arrived.”

“It’s a peace offering, from me to the group,” Thomas said. “Let’s just agree to disagree. You believe what you believe; I’ll believe what I believe.”

“Jesus truly is alive, Thomas. Just different.” John said. “He really was here, like we told you last week.”

“And like I told you last week,” Thomas said, “I saw them take his dead body down from the cross. No one could have survived that spear wound. No one whose feet had been pierced with that huge nail could walk into this room, let alone pass through bolted doors, like you described.”

James chimed in. “And he gave us his Holy Spirit,” he said. “We can forgive sins now.”

“And we can retain them if we so choose,” said Peter, turning to eye Thomas. He was scowling and seemed ready to say something far from polite.

Thomas took a few steps across the paving stones to face him but thought better of it and addressed Andrew instead. “You are fishermen,” he said. “You cast your net into the abyss, where you sense there are fish, but you can’t see them or touch them to be sure about it. Me, I work with people. I must inspect everything I buy before I agree to the sale. That Basmati there, I searched through each sack to be sure it was all of the highest quality and truly what the camel driver said it was.”

“You doubter,” said Peter. “If you had but the faith of a mustard seed…”

Thomas cut him off. “Must we continue to argue about this, Peter? 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 simply cannot believe these stories of ghosts and resurrection.”

An intense brightness suddenly illuminated the entire courtyard, flooding even the farthest corner with light. Peter’s eyes grew wide. Thomas wheeled around and found himself face-to-face with Jesus the Christ. The door was still bolted behind him.

“Peace be with you,” Jesus said to the group.

“It’s you my Lord!” said Thomas.

“Thomas,” Jesus said, reaching out to him, “Put your finger here and see my hands.” Thomas did. He rubbed his fingers over the holes that ran all the way through each of Jesus’s hands. Tears welled up in Thomas’s eyes.

“Reach out your hand and put it in my side,” Jesus said. Thomas placed his hand inside the wound, where water and blood had once poured out from this man whom he and the others had loved with all their hearts, and souls, and minds.

“Do not doubt, Thomas, but believe,” said Jesus.

Thomas fell to his knees. “My Lord and my God!” he wept.

“Have you believed because you have seen me?” Jesus asked. Thomas looked up into Jesus’s face. “Yes, Lord,” he confessed.

“The world is full of deception. There is so much trickery. Even our own eyes can deceive us. ”

“I understand,” said Jesus. “Life has made you skeptical. You defend yourself with iron bars to keep out the bad, but you also deprive yourself of the good. Those who have not seen and yet have come to believe are blessed. It is much easier for them to have faith than it is for you, Thomas.”

“Help me, Jesus. Pass through my iron bars. Help me to see without looking and feel without touching.”

“Regardless of how you come to know that I am your Savior and the Son of God,” said Jesus, “ you will have eternal life in me.” Open the door, Thomas thought.

Open the door. Thomas imagined, in that moment, opening his being and letting in the everlasting love of the risen Son of God. And as he imagined it, he felt the warm glow of Jesus’s accepting presence rush through him. He felt awash in light.

Open the door. Resolve your doubt. Jesus lives.

In the precious name of Jesus. Amen.