Have you ever heard a story that was so far-fetched, so crazy that you just could not believe it? We all remember where we were on the exact moment of significant events that happened to us or to others. It is within the memory of most people in this room to know where they were when John Kennedy was shot in Dallas. Or when we heard news of the Space Shuttle explosion. Or when we stopped dead in our tracks when we heard the news of the terrorist attacks on September 11th. But they don’t have to be tragic, maybe it was a special birthday or the report of a friend or family member having a child all of these events have left an impact on us in our memory.
It has become all too easy these days to share stories that may or may not be valid. We are bombarded by 24-hour news and in a rush to be the first to break the story they may not always get it right. I recently re-watched the movie “All the President’s Men.” If you are not familiar with the film, it follows the investigative reporting of the Watergate break-in and the cover-up that followed. The investigation by the reporters took months and just when they thought they had the story, the editors wanted more verification and more verification. They sat on the story for weeks just to ensure they had it right. Today, for good or bad, stories get leaked before all the facts are in place, and if they are wrong, they just apologize later, or not.
But it is also hard to believe the worst about someone we know or someone we trust and if we do not want to believe the story we just simply brand it “Fake News” and go on with our day. We demonize those who disagree with us and those who report on things that we disagree with. We try and distract away from what the truth is by discrediting the source of the information and we really don’t care whether it is true or not. Once branded as “Fake News” we just simply believe that everything that is said cannot be accurate.
Then we come to today’s story from the Gospel of John. It’s Easter night, and everyone is gathered together in the Upper Room. Perhaps they have gathered to watch the 10 Commandments or the Sound of Music but, whatever the reasons, they were all together, and the doors were locked. They were afraid. Remember, their friend had just been killed, and they thought they were next.
I can only imagine what was going through their minds. Jesus was dead or was he. They saw him crucified only a few days before. They watched taken from the cross, placed in the tomb, and the stone rolled in front of it. They Mary comes along and tells them he is not there and tells a story, so hard to believe that today we might call it “Fake News” that Jesus has risen. They run to the place of his burial, and he is, in fact, not there. Mary tells them again that he has risen just like he told them he was going to do. But they just cannot wrap their heads around it.
All day they have been discussing this. While the kids were out in the yard for the annual Easter egg hunt, the parents were inside debating what they had just heard and still they cannot believe it. For three years they walked and talked with Jesus. They witnessed Jesus giving sight to the blind. Healing those who cannot walk. They saw him walking on water and feeding 5,000 with only a few scraps of bread and fish. They saw Lazarus come out of tomb yet they are having a hard time with this news that Jesus has risen.
But there they were, all together, except for Thomas. We do not know why he was not there, and there is speculation that he was not there just so we could have this story about faith and doubt. But never the less, they were gathered in that particular place, the door was locked, and suddenly he was there with them.
Just to take a little turn here for a moment and stray away from my main point, Jesus just simply appears before them and says to them, “Peace.” Now I have to laugh every time I hear this read. They were all there, the door was locked, and Jesus just appears. No flash of fire, no smoke, no trumpet sound, he just appears. I can imagine he said “Peace” to them because they were like “holy ….” He had to calm them down. But I digress…
So he appears to them, and as proof, he shows them his hands and his side. They rejoice because they know it is him, they cannot believe it but they know, somehow, it is him. He breathes on them and tells them to “receive the Holy Spirit.” This harkens back to the beginning of Genesis when after God creates humanity he breaths is humanities nostrils to give them life. Now Jesus has come, breaths on them, and gives them spiritual life. And just as he came, he left.
Then Thomas comes, and they tell him that Jesus popped in for a visit, breathed on us and then left. Thomas is like “ya right” “Fake News” I want proof. Thomas wants to see what they saw, Thomas wants to believe, but he needs some reassurance that it is Jesus they are talking about.
Thomas has to wait a week before Jesus comes to them again. Once again they are gathered together in the Upper Room. The door is locked, and Jesus comes among them and bids them peace. He looks to Thomas and tells him to touch his hands and to place his hand in the side of Jesus so that he will know it is really him. Thomas falls to his knees and proclaims, “My Lord and my God.” Jesus asks him if he believes because he sees and then Jesus says, “blessed are those who believe and have not seen.”
There is a belief in the Christian world that we cannot question faith, we just have to believe that what we read in the bible or hear the preacher say has to be true. Many of us were taught that if we question an item of faith, we somehow lack confidence or that we are not strong in our faith. I believe just the opposite, it is our questions, our disbelief, our doubts that make our belief stronger, I few are seeking answers to those questions. As Christians, we are asked to believe a lot that is just beyond the possible and sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between what is true and what is not true. We have to discern right from wrong on so many issues and what we thought we understood maybe we no longer understand.
Having doubts about your faith is just fine, not seeking understanding of those doubts or clarity of thought is not okay. Doubting the resurrection or any other article of faith does not make us any less a Christian than one who simply believes the struggle to come to an understanding of our faith is real, and many of us wrestle with this daily. Maybe I have said something that has made you question something you believe. Perhaps one of the TV preachers has said something that has caused you to doubt. That is fine, come and seek the answers to your questions but when you do you need to leave all of your preconceptions about things behind and approach with an open mind and an open heart. Just because you were taught something in Sunday School all those years ago does not make it true or false. God gave us intellect and reason so we can search for the answers.
When Jesus appeared to them for the second time, he did not scold Thomas. Jesus did not put him down and call him a backslider for not believing the story he had been told he simply provided the proof that, in Thomas own words, Thomas needed so he could understand. I am not sure what scripture passage this quote comes from, but it is from Peter. Peter says, Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” It is okay to have doubts, it is okay not to believe it is all part of the journey.