Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
In the season of Easter, we go from wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles – the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead – to cold, hard, fact-based science … in a week! We go from the bewildered women at the tomb and soldiers so shocked they resemble dead men, to doubting disciples who want the proof. Well, one disciple anyways. Poor ol’ “doubting Thomas” as he’s been known now for some 2000 years. The sticking power of nicknames is nearly miraculous in and of itself! Alas, this is what Thomas is most known for. But he wants the proof. He wants the facts. He wants the science! Is it too much to ask!?
Here’s the background to the science laboratory. The disciples were gathered together and they were in hiding. Everything was hitting the fan since Jesus rose from the dead. The Jews were none too pleased that their guards they left at Jesus’ tomb didn’t do their duty. They didn’t stop the tomb from being opened. So that anger was then projected onto the disciples who were now witnesses to the resurrection. The heat was on and so the 10 were doing their best to stay out of sight. In the midst of all this clamour and turmoil, the risen Lord Jesus appears to them, standing with them in the locked room. “Peace be with you” He says. This is always the greeting the Lord gives to His people. “Peace” in the midst of troubled times. It’s a message we too can cling to when the going gets tough. But poor Thomas, he missed this. He wasn’t around when Jesus miraculously appeared to the others.
So when Thomas gets back the disciples start in on him. “We’ve seen the Lord!” they say. But good ol’ doubting Thomas will have none of it. “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” He’s a doubter alright. But he’s also a scientifically minded guy. Like a crime scene detective, he wants the proof. He wants the evidence. And many, many more people are exactly like Thomas. Even more so in our day and age. Doubt abounds while faith is scarce. More and more you hear stories of people abandoning their faith. They quit coming to church. They quit giving. They might even turn to science to answer their burning questions. Faith becomes something from the dark ages! Uneducated peasants, explaining life with blind belief not based on anything concrete. And then along comes Darwin with a theory that people come descended from the monkeys, and viola! The church with its backward ways takes yet another hit. Using a centuries old book like the Bible to base life on?! Gimme a break they say and dismiss it altogether.
This is the trend of our society right now. Go to any high school science class and this is what you’ll find. No room for miracles. No room for mystery. No room for anything that does not compute. No room for God. And this is indeed a sad state of affairs. So many of our young people run into this conflict. The Bible stories of faith they’ve been taught since they were knee high to a grasshopper are dismissed as nothing more than fables. Because science is cool, not only in school! Life becomes a cold, hard, sterile experience, animalistic, a battle where only the strongest survive. Void of compassion. Void of the miraculous. Void of love. Void of mercy and grace. And we see this more and more all the time. School kids involved with shootings or stabbings. Blood and gore on the nightly news. Ruthless attacks. We are truly becoming exactly what Darwin said we would!
But here’s the deal. Did the Lord Jesus shy away from scientific Thomas? Did He simply say “Well aw shucks, the jig is up, time to move on”! No. No He did not. He met His unbelief with both the miraculous and the proof. “Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe!” (John 20:26-27).
This is our Lord’s response to all of our questions too. I think we get worked up about this kind of thing way too much. If we have questions about God or the church or our faith, that’s a good thing! The Lord doesn’t strike His people down with lighting bolts from the sky if they have questions. I think it’s totally the opposite. It’s good when people have questions because it means they have faith! It means they care. It means they want to know more. It’s dangerous if people don’t because it means they don’t care! God is bigger than our questions about faith and life and events that happen to us. He can handle them! And in His grace, He answers them, just like He did for Thomas. Jesus meets Thomas where he is at and answers him. And the product of the encounter is a faith-filled response! Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
The bigger picture lesson from this second Sunday in Easter is we too ought not to be afraid of other people questioning us or our beliefs. It helps us learn more about our faith as we study and seek to find the answers to the questions. As Proverbs 27:7 says “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” When people ask you questions, it’s a good thing. Don’t just clam up. Give answers. Or better yet, study the Scriptures so that you can be prepared to give a good answer. It’s like that Bible study we ran a couple years ago from Lee Strobel. It was called the “Case for a Creator.” In that study he outlines all the amazing things about the universe that all prove God is the intelligent designer. All of our laws of physics and science are perfectly balanced for life to exist. If gravity in the universe and on earth wasn’t exactly the way it is, all life as we know it would simply cease to exist. In fact there are at least 20 such things that have to be exactly right for a planet like earth to exist. The precise proximity to the sun for example. It’s also the exact right size too. Any bigger it would fizzle out too soon, any smaller and we’d all be fried by radiation! How about the moon that so perfectly stabilizes earth’s climate? What about the magnetic field which perfectly protects the planet from solar flares and cosmic rays. Nuclear forces that hold atoms together and make chemistry possible. Even the rate at which the universe is expanding is precision tuned for life to exist. The odds of this kind of thing randomly occuring are truly astronomical!
So the real takeaway here is to not fear the questions and theories of the world. Jesus didn’t fear Thomas’. Instead, He answered Him. And through his miraculous presence and mercy, faith was produced – a faith that has lasted some 2000+ years despite the efforts to destroy it by transient governments, half-baked theories and the darkness of sin and doubt. “28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”“ (John 20:28:-29). The light of the scriptures and the empty tomb shines forth into the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. The risen Lord makes Himself known and quiets the doubters. We may not have all the answers at our disposal, but we know the One who does. He was crucified and risen for you. His hands and feet and side still bear the marks of truth and grace for a people who have questions and faith alike. God is bigger than our doubts and our questions. He can handle them. And He does so with grace and love. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed! Amen!
Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!