Yr A ~ 2nd of Easter ~ John 20:19-31
This isn’t the morning after, it’s the Sunday after. The second Sunday of the Easter season. Easter Sunday is thought of as the highest point in the Christian Calendar. Without Easter there likely would not be a Christian Religion. In contrast this Sunday, is often called Low Sunday. Historically the church was full on Easter Sunday, folks came who were called Twicers by my father. They came to church twice a year Christmas and Easter. The attendance dropped on this second Sunday of Easter and some think that is the reason it is called Low Sunday. But it is most often named that because of the let down after all the spiritually deep and moving worship times associated with Easter and the celebration of the Easter morning when we joyously proclaim—Christ is Risen.
Be all that as it may, our scripture this morning was about someone who 2000 years ago was feeling about as low as one can get. Thomas.
Thomas comes from an Aramaic word whose root means twin. But this guy had another name, Didymus and that also means twin. We have no record of this twin, and no way of knowing if Thomas or Didymus was a nickname or the real name of the man in the story. Let’s just take that position and assume he was named Thomas. Often referred to as doubting Thomas, and we will look at that later.
Thomas the disciple is the patron saint of Portugal and tradition says that he was martyred in Indian, pure speculation but interesting. All we know for certain about him is what we read in the Christian scriptures. He is mentioned in the three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke in a list of the disciples, and that is all they say about him.
John gives him a voice and he speaks three times, all near the end of Jesus life on earth.
The first is the story of the raising from the dead of Lazarus, brother of Mary and Martha. The disciples and Jesus were in Perea, east of Jordan. They were avoiding the establishment who were ganging up on Jesus. The news of Lazarus death comes and Jesus is ready to go to Bethany to his friends. You can almost hear the disciples muttering, ‘This is trouble. We came here to get away and now he’s going back? How can we stop him?’
Into this conversation Thomas speaks and says, “Let us go there too, so that we may die with him.” Sounds as gloomy as Eyore, but it isn’t. He is saying that if Jesus is going to die, and that is a very real possibility of which all 12 would be aware, he is saying, then I don’t want to go on living. Rather than a statement of gloom or despair, it is a statement of his deep love of and loyalty to Jesus. Loyal Thomas.
The second time Thomas speaks is at the Last Supper. Jesus has just told his friends, that he is going to the Father’s house and will prepare rooms for them and will come and take them there. He says, “Don’t worry you know the way I am going.” The disciples may be sitting around the table, looking at Jesus and trying to look wise and full of understanding. One wonders if they were. But Thomas speaks, “No I don’t. I haven’t the foggiest idea where you are going, so how can I know the way?” Thomas is not being disagreeable, or obtuse, he really doesn’t know, he doesn’t understand. At this moment he is Honest Thomas.
Last Sunday, resurrection Sunday in our church, the disciples were gathered and Jesus appeared to them. But Thomas wasn’t there. Where was he?
We are not told, but perhaps we can suggest an answer. I would suggest that he was simply too overcome with grief to be with other people. We heard him infer that if Jesus was dead then he had no desire to go on living. As far as Thomas knows, Jesus is dead. He doesn’t see any point in going on, and he just needs to be alone to grieve, for a time. He needs time as we would say, to process all that has happened, and try to understand and to speculate on his future. Now we can call him Grieving Thomas.
He is looking at a future completely turned upside down in a very short time. Like the others, he was looking to Jesus to establish his Kingdom. The disciples hadn’t grasped that Jesus was not talking about an overthrow of Rome. He wasn’t talking about that kind of revolutionary change. They had heard him say the kingdom is here and now, the kingdom is within you, and among you. But they had a lifetime of looking for another King David. They remembered when they were a powerful, successful nation and that was the vision for the most part. They had not been able to wrap their minds around the kind of realm Jesus was talking about. And now Thomas stood alone in his grief. His teacher, rabbi and friend is dead. His super hero. He has just had an overdose of reality and he didn’t like it or grasp it. He couldn’t see anything hopeful or new ahead of him. All hope had died on that cross. This is the Thomas of Reality read on