I preached today. I preach probably about five or six times each year. In fact, for the past three years I’ve preached on the Second Sunday of Easter, and overall I have probably preached about six or seven times on our friend doubting Thomas. I used to work with a pastor who called the Second Sunday of Easter "International Intern Sunday," because it was the day that interns and substitute preachers were most likely to be called upon to preach, giving regular preachers a Sunday off after a busy Lent, Holy Week and Easter preaching schedule.
Over these years, I’ve found the tale of Doubting Thomas to be increasing complex. The Thomas story is like a Pandora’s Box, filled with so many angles, so many options, so much to wrestle with. At 10:15 Saturday evening I gave up on my first sermon draft, realizing that it was an overly complex and utterly clumsy attempt to draw together about three or four different themes, none of which I had completely fleshed out. That’s the challenge of Thomas – he gives us so much, including:
- Thomas is the first disciple to confess that Jesus is God. Wow. And this guy gets a bad rep for doubting? He seems to have more than made up for his doubt with his profession of Jesus’ divinity.
- It is only after seeing Jesus’ humanity (the wounds inflicted by the crucifixion) that Thomas is able to confess Jesus’ divinity. Isn’t that a great irony, a wonderful paradox? Of course, Martin Luther articulated the paradox of a hidden God, a Deus Absconditus, which is also akin to his Theology of the Cross. We can only see God where we least expect to see God – in suffering, on the cross, in a humble, lowly form. Want to see Jesus’ divinity? Meditate upon his humanity.
- Thomas does more than proclaim that Jesus is Lord, or that Jesus is God. Thomas proclaims that Jesus is "my Lord and my God." For Thomas, there is a personal claim that Jesus has on him. This is not just about a generic Lord or a generic God – this is my Lord and my God.
- The Gospel of John text for today closes by saying that "these things are written . . . so that you may have life in his name." Life in his name. Like Thomas’ my Lord and my God, this Gospel text is not written to simply tell a story of a great man or even to tell great stories of God. These stories were written down and proclaimed with a greater purpose – so that we might have life in his name, so that we might proclaim with Thomas that Jesus is my Lord and my God.
And this hardly scratches the surface.
Blessings to all who preach, all who doubt, all who seek to touch the living Lord.