Texts: 1 Peter and John
I think one of the first phrases of many younger siblings is “I wanna see!” It certainly was one of Julianna’s first phrases. We’d be looking at something on the computer on the counter, and we’d laugh about it, and Wesley would jump out of his chair, “I wanna see!” Julianna would come parroting him “I wan see!”
It’s that standing up on your tiptoes that goes along with that prhase, isn’t it. I wanna see, I wanna see. It communicates a real zest for life, doesn’t it. There’s an engagement with the world. After all, someone who’s just bored with it all doesn’t stand up and say “I wanna see!” Someone who thinks they’ve seen it all doesn’t stand up and say “I wanna see.”
I think you could say that the phrase “I wanna see” is childlike faith in a nutshell, isn’t it? It takes some humility to say, which children have no problem with. It takes some interest and some earnestness to say, once again not a problem with children. And it takes some faith and hope to say. After all, to say it with any conviction, it takes the hope that there’s actually something worth seeing.
I can really picture Thomas saying “I wanna see!” He’s gone from the first (actually the second), considering Christ’s appearance to Mary was the first) encounter with the disciples. They’re all there together in the Upper room, says John, and here comes Jesus walking through walls but substantial in flesh and blood. Kinda mysterious. Kinda out there!
And then John informs us that actually Thomas was missing from the “all of them,” and that when told the story about a risen Christ walking through walls and breathing on them, he says “I wanna see!”
He’s kind of the younger sibling in this regard, isn’t he. He was left out (as younger siblings often are) of the first time, so he pines for his own encounter.
He’s got a little bit of a chip on his shoulder about it too, doesn’t it sound like that? He says, unless this and that and the other, then I’m just not going to believe your little “walking through walls” story.
And you know what—Jesus responds! Everyone seems to harp on the fact that Jesus comes and seemingly “sets Thomas straight” by saying “you believe now since you have seen, well—blessed are those who believe without seeing. I don’t read it that way.
Remember, Thomas isn’t alone in this regard. According to the story we heard last week, it was only the beloved disciple who believes without seeing. All the rest of the disciples have a chance to see the Risen Christ a week before in the first part of our reading today. Thomas isn’t alone in that.
Remember, Jesus comes to Thomas and not only shows him his wounds, but tells him to place his fingers in them. It’s as if Jesus is saying—what you ask for I will give you and more. Don’t just look—touch too! Remember, Jesus says he comes to bring life and bring it abundantly. He wants Thomas to have enough of a “dose” of this resurrection to carry him through the rest of his life, because that’s what he’s going to need.
It’s not like Jesus comes in a disembodied voice and says “shame on you for not believing your brothers, Thomas.” Jesus comes into his presence. I like the icon that we have on the front of our bulletin today because it has Jesus embracing Thomas.
Jesus embraces our needs. He embraces us even and perhaps even because we have doubts. I’ve always told people that I counsel who express doubts to me that I’m always overjoyed when someone tells me they have doubts, because that means they have been thinking hard about what is contained in our faith. It has been occupying more of their mindset than just a casual glance.
Perhaps it’s not an accident that we almost always hear this text on the Sunday AFTER Easter, when it is usually the foundational people of the church who are in attendance.
You may get excited when we have 150 people in church, as we did last week—but you know what—numbers don’t translate into in-depth faith. You know how much was placed in the offering plate last week? $900!
I would guess that every person in here has had their doubts about some aspect of our faith. And you know what—that’s a good thing! Having doubts means your faith occupies more than just some emotional corner of your heart—it occupies your mind too! It occupies your stomach when you see the hypocrisy too often found in the church. I ran across a quote the other day that has been occupying my mind for the past week. “Truth isn’t always beauty; but the hunger for it is.”
The truth of the resurrection is also the truth of the ugly crucifixion. It is not necessarily beautiful. It is hard and heartbreaking. The truth is that some of our Easter friends who were here last week have no interest in a life of faith. But—the hunger for truth is what you see in the eyes of Thomas. It’s what you see in the eyes of these young men who professed their faith today. It’s what you see in a less than average crowd of people here to worship on “Low Sunday” which is what the week after Easter is known as. And that is beauty.