On the Sunday of Thomas


Sermon preached by Dn. Jeff Smith on Sunday, May 1, 2022

John 20:19-31

On the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the disciples were a little band of threatened and badly frightened men. The doors were shut for fear of the Jews. You can almost hear them shouting, “shut the door, keep it shut!” Calvary had just happened a few days before, and Jesus’ crucifixion was absolutely dreadful for all who witnessed it. Let’s try to get into their heads for a second. The disciples believed they had failed, and that Jesus had failed them with his confident promises. All they could see was his death. They had risked everything for him, but they had been deceived. The wonderful dream of their life with Christ was over. Now that life was only a mocking memory.

But then Jesus broke in upon them in the midst of their despair, with the message that God’s love is big enough to cover everything and God’s power is strong enough to lift us above anything. Jesus called them to come and walk in the sunshine of God’s forgiving grace. Let us not let our past get us down but let us rise up and accept God’s unthinkable grace. 

Christ startled the disciples out of their self-belittling sense of failure, and He reminded them, “I have chosen you.” Knowing how they had just failed him, he stood with them with utmost confidence. The dream did not fade away, and Jesus still dares to trust us with his life. 

When Christ appeared among his disciples so obviously and undeniably, they were convinced once and for all, that this impossible thing – the resurrection – was true. The holes in Jesus’ hands and side were proof of his identity. When Christ showed them his hands and his side, they knew it was him standing before them. And he said, “Peace be with you!” and He breathed on them, and He said, “Receive the Holy Spirit”, his very breath. He gave them peace in their hearts and peace in their minds. What a wonderful gift! 

By themselves, their acts of faith, the Acts of the Apostles, could not be done. On our own, we can do nothing good. Even Jesus asks, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.”  On our own, we will fail and fall, but with Christ, we can confront anything. The disciples had fallen hard, but once the Holy Spirit touched them, they lived and served their God as never before. With the breath of God, the Holy Spirit, everything came within their reach. How daring and unbreakable they became. And when the apostles inherited the Spirit of discernment, Jesus said, “If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven and if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” This is the power of the Holy Spirit.

Christ calls, “Receive the Holy Spirit my dear ones.” And so, they received the power and energy of God. This divine energy operates through our response to God’s love. This is our way of life.

As for Thomas, since he was not there, he was wondering, was this all some kind of hallucination? He was sincere enough to face the fact that dead men do not rise. Until Christ appeared again and called him, “do not be faithless but believe. You believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen me and yet believe.” Thomas may have been slow to start, but at one bound, he leaped ahead of all the rest to reach the truth, proclaiming, “My Lord and my God!” New possibilities leaped into view. The old way of things would no longer do. And so, the Evangelist finishes by saying, “this is what I have written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and that believing, you may have life in his name.” So, Pascha has come among us. We have beheld the glory of Christ’s resurrection, my brothers, and sisters. Let us rejoice in Him. Amen.