5th Wednesday in Lent
Scripture Reading: John 20:19-29
Jesus Appears to the Disciples
19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Jesus and Thomas
24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin[a]), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “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.”
26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 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 come to believe.”
It’s flattering, in a way, that your pastor asked me to speak to you.
What isn’t so flattering is the topic of his sermon series, “Failure Isn’t
I don’t consider myself a “failure.” The whole “Doubting Thomas”
nickname? It’s bogus. Nothing in Scripture paints me as a doubter because,
in fact, I was not. That nasty smear campaign gathered so much steam over
so many centuries, though, that I’ve given up trying to fight it.
Here’s the thing—faith never came easily for me. When I heard Peter
and Andrew and James and John talk about walking away from the family
business and following Jesus down the shores of Galilee, it boggled my
Not that I didn’t follow Jesus, too. I did, of course. For me, though, it
was a much-considered decision that came after a good deal of thought
There is no one kind of faith, you see, nor is there any one path we all
must take to finally arrive there. Jesus meets us where Jesus needs to meet Page 2 of 7
us. That spiritual place is different for each person. Your Scripture lesson
for tonight proves that.
Those last hours with Jesus will forever stay burned into my mind.
The final meal we shared, his washing our feet, the trial, the shouts of
hatred, the humiliation of him carrying his cross through the streets of
Jerusalem, the terrible suffering of the scourging, the thorns, and the cross
—I can’t forget it. Nor should I.
Now I realize that, without it, what came next wouldn’t have been
possible, hard as that is for me to understand. Let’s face it, I will never
understand, nor will you. All we can do is marvel at the depth of love we
see in Jesus’ suffering, and in the gracious promise of what happened next.
That’s the story you want to hear, isn’t it? Well, let’s start at the
beginning. The first report we disciples had of anything unusual going on
at Jesus’ tomb came from Mary Magdalene.
She went there early in the morning of the third day only to find the
stone sealing Jesus’ tomb rolled aside and his body gone.
She ran to Simon and John and told them that grave robbers had
stolen Jesus’ body, and she had no clue where they’d taken it.Page 3 of 7
Of course, they then went running to the tomb and found everything
just as Mary had said. Not knowing what else to do, they came back and
told the rest of us.
It wasn’t long before Mary Magdalene was back, knocking at the
locked door of the room where we’d gathered. We let her in, and she said
that not only had she seen Jesus—she’d talked with him, too. “Poor Mary,”
we all thought. Of course, we didn’t believe her.
Write part of it off to what you call sexism. Men in my day gave
women nowhere near the respect and dignity they deserved. That meant
none of us in the room, none of the men, at any rate, took what Mary said
seriously. Honestly, who would?
Things got especially strange later the same day. I stepped out, hoping
a walk would clear my head and calm my heart. Lo and behold, when I got
back, there they were, all of them, babbling on with the same wild story
that Mary had told.
I thought they’d lost it, quite frankly. Grief had pushed them over the
edge, I said to myself. I understood. I wasn’t going to judge them for it. On
the other hand, I wasn’t going to believe them. I had to come up with some
way of shocking them back into the real world.Page 4 of 7
I said, “Okay, if Jesus really is alive, let’s see him walk in this room.
Then he can show me the holes those spikes cut through his hands and that
awful, gaping hole a Roman spear left in his side. Unless you can show me
all that, I won’t believe you. No right-thinking person would.”
Of course, you know what happened. It took another week, though.
The whole time I argued with them that everything they’d been through
had warped their collective brain.
They’d only seen what they wanted to see, I said. It was a figment, not
of their imagination, but of their love and their loss. I got it. Still, we
seemed destined to argue about it forever.
Then Jesus showed up again. I know, I know, I know. It sounds as
strange to your ears and to your experience as it did to mine. All I can tell
you is what happened. One minute Jesus wasn’t there, and the next minute
First, he blessed us with his peace, a gift I don’t mind telling you I
sorely needed right about then.
After that, Jesus turned to me and he said, “Put your finger here and
see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Don’t be
unbelieving, but believing.”Page 5 of 7
Oh, boy. “That’s what you get,” I chided myself, “for shooting off
your big mouth.”
Don’t make the mistake of reading more into Jesus’ words than was
there, though. He didn’t condemn me. He didn’t call me on the spiritual
carpet. There was love in Jesus’ voice.
What he did in that instant what he’d always done. He gave me what
I needed. It wasn’t a question of whether I believed. It was a question of
And at that moment, I knew. “My Lord and my God!” I said. As
Jesus stood there in that room, I saw God fully revealed in him.
Jesus smiled, shook his head, and said, “Have you believed because
you’ve seen me? Blessed are those who haven’t seen, and yet have come to
Again, I can’t stress enough Jesus said those words with love and
compassion. He didn’t try to shame me. It was the last thing he wanted to
do. You surely know that we can shame no one into the faith. If we try, all
we do instead is push them further away.Page 6 of 7
What Jesus gave me and the others gathered there with me was the
promise that faith needn’t be built only on seeing him, talking with him,
and walking with him as we had.
I don’t mean to say that our faith wasn’t important. Of course it was.
Our witness and our words helped many more believe in Jesus and
experience his presence with them.
There was more to it than that, though. Jesus told me, just as he still
tells you, that his love for us didn’t stop with his death. That love, in fact,
shapes our relationship with him wherever and whenever we find
How we come to the faith is different for each of us. That we come to
the faith and, in that faith, experience Christ’s presence and love for
ourselves, that’s what really matters.
Those verses your pastor read from what you call your gospel of John
are a story of hope and promise, not of judgment, rebuke, or shame.
They’re a pledge and a promise, not just for me, but for all those who
followed me in the faith. All of you will know the grace of God in Jesus
Christ for just as I did, through his love and through his care.Page 7 of 7
Remember how I told you that Jesus used the words and actions of
those of us who spoke with him, walked with him, and talked with him as
the foundation for others’ faith? He still does, my sisters and my brothers.
Your words and your actions can become the foundation of a new or
renewed faith for others, too, in ways you can’t imagine or indeed may
Remember that when you struggle. Remember to keep your eyes,
ears, and most especially your hearts open for Christ’s presence. Take it
from one who knows—he pops up when and where you least expect it, in
the most surprising of ways.