Sermon preached by Rob Barber (Reader)
on Sunday 28th April 2019 (Second Sunday of Easter)
Acts 5.27–32; Psalm 150; Revelation 1.4–8; John 20.19–end
I always feel sorry for Thomas. He was one of Jesus’ most loyal followers. Earlier in John’s gospel, he said to the others, “Let us also go that we may die with him.” You don’t get much more loyal than that, yet the event for which most people remember him is in the gospel passage we’ve just heard.
The other disciples told him excitedly that they had seen Jesus and he refused to believe them. Well, be honest with yourselves here, but who of us here this morning would also have found that hard to believe? There could be any number of reasons why he didn’t believe – maybe he thought they were trying to cheer him up. Perhaps he thought they were playing a prank on him and was expecting them to start laughing and say “Ha! We had you going there!” But for whatever reason, he refused to believe until he had seen with his own eyes the mark of the nails in Jesus’ hands.
And even when he did see this for himself, and put his finger in the holes made by the nails and his hand in Jesus’ side, he seemed to get a bit of a telling off from Jesus – “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Although those words may seem like a rebuke, perhaps it’s not really the case. Those now famous words weren’t aimed just at Thomas, but rather to all those Christians for whom St John was writing, those who would never see the risen Christ in the same way that those first apostles did – and that includes you and me.
We haven’t seen Jesus face to face, we haven’t been fortunate enough to put our fingers in the mark of the nails in his hands or to place our hands in his side. We don’t even know what he looked like. We trust our faith, and because of that faith, we know Jesus in a very real sense.
Faith is the most powerful force in the world and has transformed the lives of millions of people. Without faith, the seemingly impossible will remain impossible. If we say “that can’t be done” then it won’t get done. If we say “that must be done” invariably it will. Some of the greatest achievements in the world, including scientific achievements, have been achieved through faith.
This is the faith into which Diane and Nyah are to be baptised this morning. The faith that can move mountains!
When Thomas cried out “My Lord and my God”, he was the first person recorded to publicly acknowledge Jesus as God.
Diane and Nyah, this morning you follow in a noble tradition. When you come to the font in a few minutes, like Thomas you acknowledge Jesus as your saviour and Lord. This is just the start of your journey, and your baptism will strengthen you through good times and bad.
It’s a sad fact that with faith sometimes there is doubt. The danger of doubt is that it can lead us to believe that we are spiritual failures, but don’t worry, because that’s not true. Remember that Jesus had said to His disciples “You of little faith!” but still found a place for them in his church and in his kingdom.
So, although the only time we seem to think of Thomas is when he doubted the resurrection, it’s an important story, possibly one of the most important accounts of the resurrection, as it shows us that despite our own human frailties that we share with Thomas, like Thomas we can come to the risen Christ and cry out “My Lord and my God!”
When Jesus first appeared to the disciples in the locked room, he breathed on them and said “Receive the Holy Spirit”. This morning, as Diane and Nyah are baptised, Christ breathes new life into them and like those first disciples, they also are filled with the Holy Spirit.
This morning, as we pray for and with Diane and Nyah in their new lives, we also pray for ourselves that we too may be filled with the spirit as we remember our own baptismal promises.
And as we reflect on those promises, we reflect also on the words Jesus spoke not just to Thomas, but to us as well – Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.