a sermon for the 2nd Sunday of Easter
Beliefs of the heart and soul are different from beliefs of the head and mind. When Jesus appeared to Thomas, he was confronted by both.
They don’t call Peter, “Denying Peter,” do they? And Peter denied Him 3 times… when He needed him the most.
They don’t call Paul, “Hold Your Coat While You Stone Him Paul,” do they? Even though that’s exactly what he did when they stoned Stephen.
They don’t call Mark, “Ran Away Naked Mark,” do they? That’s what he did when they arrested Jesus; someone grabbed Mark by his robe and he ran away naked. (And believe me, that’s an image you won’t soon forget.)
So why do they call me Doubting?
When Lazarus died and Jesus decided to go to Bethany to raise him, all of the other disciples told him it was too dangerous. I was the only one who said, “I’ll go with you, Lord. I’m willing to die with you, if need be.” Was that doubting?
And when Jesus told us that in his Father’s house there were many rooms and that he was going to go prepare a place for us, and that we already knew the place where he was going – when Jesus told us that, all the other guys all just smiled and nodded. Give me some credit: I was the one who blurted out what everyone was really thinking. “Lord, we don’t have a clue where you are going! How can we know the way?”
So maybe you can call me Blurting Out Thomas. Maybe you can call me Calls-Them-As-He-Sees-Them Thomas.
But Doubting Thomas? Uh-uh… no way.
The problem wasn’t that I doubted who Jesus was. I believed that he was my Lord, my master, my teacher. I had been following him every day for three years all over Galilee, feeding people, healing people, reaching out to help people. I believed all that.
But did I believe-in him?
They say that there’s a big difference between beliefs-in and beliefs-that. A belief-that is something that we can prove, something based on empirical facts. Belief-that is head knowledge, like knowing that the area of a circle is its diameter times 3.1415. Or that it takes a beam of light 8 minutes to travel from the sun to us here on earth. We know these things because somebody figured them out. They are factually true and have been proven and demonstrated to be true, over and over again. And if we don’t like the answers, well that’s just too bad. Because they are facts and facts don’t care if we like them or not.
But belief-in is different. To believe-in something is holding an idea that cannot be proven one way or another. It’s something that we know in our hearts, in our souls, in our bones. Like the way a child looks at her mother and simply knows that she is loved. Or the way we know that it is better to live in freedom than to live in prison.
Beliefs-that are simple facts. But beliefs-in are part of who we are. They determine how we live our lives.
I believed that Jesus was the Messiah, but did I really believe-in Jesus as my savior, as the Son of God?
Because, here’s the thing. If anyone took seriously the whole Incarnation thing – the whole “God came down in human flesh and walked among us” thing, it was me. God in human flesh. In the flesh!
But then, I also saw what they did to him, how he died. But I saw them nail him; I saw the sword in his side. Maybe some of the others, the ones didn’t actually see him die on the cross, found it easier to believe. Maybe they were just fine with his say-so. Well, good for them.
But I just needed to see him. In the flesh. One. Last. Time.
And when I did, when he looked down and me, and smiled at me, and said, “do not be unbelieving, Thomas, but believe.” That’s all it took. That’s when I understood.
My Lord was my God…in the flesh. And he really was going away to prepare us a room in his Father’s house.
And soon, he would be sending us the Holy Spirit. Because he wouldn’t be standing among us, anymore.
Jesus said, “blessed are those who have not seen and have come to believe.” That includes each and every you of here today. YOU are the ones Jesus was talking about, the ones who believe-in, even if you have no reason to belief-that. You and all who came last Sunday, and those who will come next week, and next Christmas, and Easter next year again. How blessed are you who believe-in him without ever seeing him.
And how blessed are you who have seen him, who believe-that Christ has been raised and is alive within us, because you see evidence of him in the world around us, each and every day.