1. Not Much about Thomas in the Gospels; Nothing in the first three Gospels:
If I were to mention the names of certain disciples to you and ask you to write down the first word that comes into your mind, it is unlikely you would come up with the same words. If I were to mention the name of Judas many of you would write down the word "betray" but not all of you. If I were to mention Simon Peter, some of you would write down the word "faith," but not all of you. If I were to mention the names of James and John, some of you would write down the phrase "Sons of Thunder," but not all of you. But when I mention the word Thomas, there is little question about the word most everyone would write down. It would be the word doubt. Indeed, so closely have we associated Thomas with this word, that we have coined a phrase to describe him: "Doubting Thomas."
You may be interested to know that in the first three gospels we are told absolutely nothing at all about Thomas. It is in John's Gospel that he emerges as a distinct personality, but even then there are only 155 words about him. There is not a lot about this disciple in the Bible but there is more than one description.
When Jesus turned his face toward Jerusalem the disciples thought that it would be certain death for all of them. Surprisingly, it was Thomas who said: Then let us go so that we may die with him. It was a courageous statement, yet we don't remember him for that. We also fail to point out that in this story of Thomas' doubt we have the one place in the all the Gospels where the Divinity of Christ is bluntly and unequivocally stated. It is interesting, is it not, that the story that gives Thomas his infamous nickname, is the same story that has Thomas making an earth shattering confession of faith? Look at his confession, "My Lord, and my God." Not teacher. Not Lord. Not Messiah. But God! It is the only place where Jesus is called God without qualification of any kind. It is uttered with conviction as if Thomas was simply recognizing a fact, just as 2 + 2 = 4, and the sun is in the sky. You are my Lord and my God! These are certainly not the words of a doubter.
Unfortunately history has remembered him for this scene where the resurrected Christ made an appearance to the disciples in a home in Jerusalem...
-------------------------2. OUR Security:
One of the fastest growing, most profitable investment ventures in today's economy is . . . . anything having anything to do with security. You couldn't have lost money in the last twenty years if you invested in storage or security: national security, personal security, home security, financial security, Internet security. The dangers of this world seem to be breathing hotter and closer down our necks. Any offering that promises to cool that threat down is welcomed with open arms and wallets.
We gladly invest in "LifeLock" and "Life Alert" and "Alert Life"- hoping to safeguard both our fiscal and physical lives. Instead of scripted shows by the Blue Angels at air-shows, we are sending long-range spontaneous shows of strength in the form of stealth bombers over South Korean airspace, which offends North Korea. We have "apps" on our smartphones that enable us to watch our front doors at home and our backdoors at work, to turn on our lights and turn off our heat, to be on-guard and on-point, even when we are off-site. We are desperately trying to contain the chaos of the cosmos.
In John's gospel, Jesus' first appearance to his disciples is when he comes to them behind closed, locked doors. Despite the vision of the empty tomb, despite the version of the resurrected Jesus Mary Magdalene had reported to them, the disciples were still shuttered and shuddering - clamped down and closed off from a threatening world. Then Jesus blasts through their ADT security system, blows out their "Life-Lock," and suddenly stands in their midst..._________________________________
3. We Know Where We Are Going
The story is told about Albert Einstein, the brilliant physicist of Princeton University in the early 20th century. Einstein was traveling from Princeton on a train, and when the conductor came down the aisle to punch the passengers' tickets, Einstein couldn't find his. He looked in his vest pocket, he looked in his pants pocket, he looked in his briefcase, but there was no ticket. The conductor was gracious; "Not to worry, Dr. Einstein, I know who you are, we all know who you are, and I'm sure you bought a ticket."
As the conductor moved down the aisle, he looked back and noticed Einstein on his hands and knees, searching under the seat for his ticket. The conductor returned to Einstein; "Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein, don't worry. I know who you are. You don't need a ticket, I'm sure you bought one." Einstein arose and said "Young man, I too know who I am; what I don't know is where I am going."
And that is the good news of Easter; that we know where we are going. We have been told by the Savior that his life and death has promised us life eternal. And Low Sundays don't change that promise. And unemployment doesn't change that promise. Neither does divorce, or bankruptcy, or cancer, or depression, or felony, or failure. Through elation and deflation and every emotion in between, this truth remains; we know whose we are and we know where we are going, because the Son of God has promised. And this, my friends, is faith.
Steven Molin, Elated....Deflated________________________________
4. A New Shalom
When Jesus appeared to the disciples, his greeting was, "Peace be unto you." The Hebrew word shalom, for "peace," is a most comprehensive word, covering the full realm of relationships in daily life and expressing an ideal state of life. The word suggests the fullness of well-being and harmony untouched by ill fortune. The word as a blessing is a prayer for the best that God can give to enable a person to complete one's life with happiness and a natural death. If the concept of shalom became all too casual and light-hearted with no more significance than a passing greeting, Jesus came to give it new meaning. At Bethlehem God announced that peace would come through the gift of God's unique Son. The mission and ministry of our Lord made it quite clear that Jesus had come to introduce the rule of God and to order peace for the world.
Harry N. Huxhold, Which Way To Jesus?, CSS Publishing____________________________
5. The Greatest Scar Story
I can think of no better modern-day illustration of the sacrifice Jesus made for us than a recent scar story I heard from a tennis friend of mine. As we were waiting for another match to finish, she was relating how badly her knees hurt. This friend is the most fit 30-something-year-old I know. Yet she sat beside me with a brace on each knee. I pointed to the open hole of her knee brace and asked if her scar was from knee surgery. She told me, "No, it's from my son, and I actually have an identical scar on my other knee."
You see, several years ago she scooped up her toddler son from the swimming pool and began to walk towards a lounge chair. As she stepped onto the tiled patio, her foot slipped on the wet slick surface. She was also seven months pregnant, and it was one of those moments where you feel like you're moving in slow motion but there's nothing you can do to stop the fall. Within a split second, she knew her momentum was toppling her forward, and she could either face-plant and land on top of both her son and her unborn child, or she could fall on her knees.
Of course, as any loving parent would do, she chose to fall on her knees directly onto the unforgiving concrete. Her knees immediately burst open and blood went everywhere. She ended up needing stitches, which resulted in scars, but her son and unborn child were both unscathed. It is hard for me to tell this story without tearing up, because to me, it serves as a miniscule example of the immense sacrifice and love of Jesus Christ for us. You see, we are the beloved children of God for whom Jesus took the fall. Christ suffered on the cross and endured unimaginable pain for us. His is the greatest scar story ever told.
Christi O. Brown, Scars of Hope
6. Peace Be With You...It Already Is!
6. Peace Be With You...It Already Is!
Theologian Karl Barth once remarked that to say the old line from the creed, "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church" does not mean that we believe in the church. It means rather to believe that God is present and at work in the church, that "in this assembly, the work of the Holy Spirit takes place. ... We do not believe in the Church: but we do believe that in this congregation the work of the Holy Spirit becomes an event."
Barth's words rang true for me some years ago, when I was invited by a church in a nearby town to be the worship leader at a special evening communion service. The church staff had planned this service to be educational as well as worshipful. The idea was that, first, the congregation would gather in the sanctuary and I would give a brief talk about the meanings of the Lord's Supper. Then, we would go into the fellowship hall and be seated around tables for the service itself.
At each table there would be the flour and other ingredients to form the dough for the communion loaves. The plan called for each table to prepare a loaf and, while the loaves baked in the ovens of the church kitchen, the people at each table were to engage in various exercises designed to get them talking about their experiences in the faith.
It was a good idea, but like many well-planned events, things looked better on the drawing board than they turned out in reality. There were problems. Children at many tables began to play in the baking ingredients, and white clouds of flour floated around the room coating everybody and everything. There were delays in the kitchen, and the communion bread baked with agonizing slowness. Some of the tables ran out of things to say; children grew weary and fussy; the room was filled with commotion and restlessness. The planners had dreamed of an event of excitement, innovation, peak learning, and moving worship. What happened was noise, exhaustion, and people making the best of a difficult situation. In other words, despite the rosy plans, it was the real church worshipping down there in the church basement.
Finally, the service ended, and, with no little relief, I was able to pronounce the benediction. "The peace of Christ be with you all," I said, and just as I did, a child's voice from somewhere in the room called out strong and true, "It already is."
Just that -- "It already is" -- but with those words the service was transformed into an event of joy and holy mystery. That small voice captured what the Gospel of John is trying to say. In the midst of a church that can claim nothing for itself, a church of noise, confusion, weariness, and even fear, the risen Christ comes to give peace. The peace of Christ be with you? Because the risen Christ comes to inhabit our empty places, then, as the child said, "It already is," and the church with nothing becomes the church with everything.
Thomas G. Long, Whispering The Lyrics, CSS Publishing_________________________
7. We Want Proof
There is a reason why many Christians around the world have latched so quickly and tenaciously onto the discovery of what may be the ossuary or burial box for James, the brother of Jesus. There's a reason why every time archaeologists discover some inscription referring to King David, Pontius Pilate, or some other biblical figure that this news immediately makes a splash in the pages of Christianity Today. Here, we are told, is further "proof" that the stuff in the Bible really did happen! There's a reason why there is now a huge enterprise that is literally scouring the universe for evidence that the formation of the cosmos required the hand of a Creator God. It's not just that we want to meet evolutionary and atheist scientists on their own turf--most folks also quietly hanker for something tangible that can bolster the confidence they have in their faith.
Over and again we find ourselves wanting more.
Jesus himself knows that faith is both a blessing and a miracle. That's why he says in verse 29 that while it was one thing for Thomas to believe with Jesus standing right in front of him, it would one day be quite another thing to believe without such undeniable physical proof standing in the same room.
Scott Hoezee, "Wanting More"
8. Honey...It's Me
Perhaps you've heard the story of the Yugoslavian judge who was electrocuted when he reached up to turn on the light while standing in the bathtub. No, I'm not cruel or weird, let me tell you the rest of the story. This guy's poor wife found his body sprawled on the bathroom floor. He was pronounced dead and was placed in a preparation room under a crypt in the town cemetery for twenty-four hours before burial.
Well, and this is the part I love, in the middle of the night, the judge came to. The judge looked around at his surroundings and suddenly realized where he was. He got pretty excited and rushed over to alert the guard. But instead of being any help, the guard was terrified and promptly ran off.
Fortunately, though, the guard returned with a friend, and they released the newly-revived judge. The judge's first thought was to phone his wife and reassure her that he really wasn't dead. Unfortunately, he got no farther than, "Honey... it's me," when his wife screamed and fainted.
So, he decided that the best course of action was to enlist some friends. He went to the houses of several friends; but because they all had heard the news from his distraught wife, they all doubted that he was really alive. They were all convinced he was a ghost.
Finally, in a last desperate effort, he contacted a friend in another city who hadn't heard about his death. And that person was able to convince his family and friends that the judge really was alive.
That story almost sounds like one of the Gospel writers could have written it, doesn't it? It sure sounds like the passage from John this morning.
9. Watch and You'll See
9. Watch and You'll See
This story is about three accountants who doubted their three engineer friends. They were traveling by train to a conference. The accountants bought three tickets, but the engineers only bought one. "How are three people going to travel on only one ticket?" an accountant asked.
"Watch and you'll see," said an engineer.
They all boarded the train. The accountants took their seats, but the three engineers crammed into a restroom and closed the door behind them. The train departed the station and soon the conductor came through the car asking for tickets. He knocked on the restroom door and said, "Ticket, please." The door opened a crack and a single arm emerges with a ticket in hand. The conductor took it and moved on.
The accountants agree that this is a rather clever idea so after the conference, they decide to duplicate the engineers' feat. They buy only one ticket, but are astonished when the engineers buy no ticket at all! "How are you going to travel without a ticket?" the accountants ask. Watch and you'll see, reply the engineers.
When they boarded the train, the accountants crammed into a restroom with their ticket while the three engineers did the same in a nearby restroom. After the train departed the station, one of the engineers left the restroom and walked over to the restroom where the accountants were hiding. He knocked on the door and said, "Ticket, please."
10. God's Back
It was Saturday, the day before Easter, and Joanne Hinch of Woodland Hills, California was sitting at the kitchen table coloring eggs with her three-year-old son Dan and her two-year-old daughter Debbie. She told her kids about the meaning of Easter and taught them the traditional Easter morning greeting and response, "He is risen...He is risen indeed!" The children planned to surprise their Dad, a Presbyterian minister, with that greeting as soon as he awoke the next morning. Easter arrived, little Dan heard his father stirring about in his bedroom, so the boy got up quickly, dashed down the hall and shouted the good news: "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, God's back!"
David E. Leininger, "Laugh, Thomas, Laugh!"
11. Ants in The Pants of Faith
Whether your faith is that there is a God or that there is not a God, if you don't have any doubts you are either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.
12. Just Because We Can't See It
A junior high school teacher was telling her class about evolution and how the way everything in the world was formed proved that God doesn't exist. She said, "Look out the window. You can't see God, can you?" The kids shook their heads. "Look around you in this room. You can't see God, can you?" The kids shook their heads. "Then our logical conclusion is that God doesn't exist, does He?" she asked at last, certain that she had won her audience over.
But one girl from the back of the classroom said, "Miss Smith, just because we can't see it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. We could do brain surgery and investigate the parts of your brain and we could do a CAT scan and see the brain patterns in your head. But we couldn't prove that you've had a single thought today...