Easter 2: What Thomas saw

A sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter in 2020, preached from home


It wasn’t what Thomas didn’t see that gave him pause, but what he had seen, out there, while the others were safely sequestered. He wondered, if Jesus was raised, why he was not on the streets, laying on hands and healing as in days past; teaching truth and challenging vested and vaunted interests as he had until so recently, so suddenly.

While the other ten disciples sheltered in place, fearing contagion from their fellow men, Thomas was considered an essential worker. He worked nights in the ER, making life and death decisions, wrangling resources, frequently pushing to the back of his mind his own life and death. Or he worked there as a security guard, explaining why a mother could not hold her bleeding son, pretending to be a brick wall between them while his insides crumbled. He drove the dark roads, seeing the fear in the face of the woman as he changed her tyre; fear not of the strength of his body, but of the sickness he might carry within. He worked at the bank, mostly from home, slipping out at odd hours to finish bits and pieces of paperwork, ignoring taps on the window from the man with whom he used to exchange the sports stats daily, the currency of his mental and social health. He was a delivery guy: a brown-skinned young man now wearing a mask by order of his employer and common sense, and more afraid than ever of being misconstrued, misidentified, shot by some suburban homeowner. Thomas was a pharmacist, but he had run out of hydroxychloroquine when his favourite RA patient called for her regular refill. He stocked the shelves at the supermarket, trying not to see the anxious plea in the eyes of the people standing in front of an emptiness that he couldn’t fill. He remembered how Jesus would turn water into wine, bread and fish into a feast fit for thousands.

When Thomas heard that Jesus had visited with his disciples behind locked doors, he was incredulous. More than that, he was angry. Didn’t Christ know how much he was needed out there, in the city? Didn’t he know how much he, Thomas, needed him?

Of course, Jesus came back for Thomas. He always did, he always would. He had promised it, faithfully.

When Thomas saw him, he fell to his knees in the astonishment of recognition. “My Lord and my God,” he cried out, once more almost incredulous.

Because Thomas saw Jesus’s wounded hands and recognized the firefighter he had treated last week in the ER, who had hurt himself helping a family escape a house fire, who had put himself between them and the blaze. He saw the rough-rubbed hands of the harvester, the twisted and arthritic hands of the truck driver, working to feed the multitudes.

Thomas saw Jesus’s face, and for a moment he thought that his eyes were those of the bus driver, masked and gloved, who came faithfully to pick him up day by day.

He saw Jesus’s scarred feet, and he recognized the aching arches of the nurse whose Fitbit showed by the end of the day that she had walked the distance to Emmaus and back (and back again). He felt the ache in his own big toe, which he had stubbed yesterday on the cheerfully painted rocks left out by the neighbour children which spelled out, ironically, “Stay Safe.”

Thomas saw Jesus’s pierced and bleeding heart, and he recognized another neighbour who had slipped by the disciples’ place during the week, knowing their trouble, knowing their fear, who asked in a whisper through the locked door if there was anything she could do to help, who left matzo ball soup on the doorstep, who slid a card with a little cash under the door, that they knew was more than she could afford to give away. He saw the teacher who stayed up past midnight making sure she had a plan for each of her quarantined children. He saw Jesus’s pierced and bleeding heart and he recognized the grief of the widower, and his joy when his son, for the first time in months, facetimed him out of the blue.

Thomas realized, as he had known all along, that of course Christ could not be confined behind locked doors, hidden away with his disciples, any more than he could stay sealed in the tomb. Of course he had been active in the world, as he had since the beginning. Of course, his love would reach within, and without, whatever bounds Thomas’s imagination set for it.

And Thomas remembered that Jesus had, after all, given him, given them authority to heal the sick, to cast out demons, to return life to the dying, to feed the hungry, to love the people of God beyond all reason. Thomas and all of the disciples had received that authority, and the responsibility; a shared burden with God’s own Christ. It’s the burden and joy of all Christians: little Christs, anointed by God to share in the works of mercy and creation. It is our mission.

“My Lord and my God,” Thomas murmured, once more in awe of the complicated, comprehensive, simple love of this man, this Son of God, once more incredulous at his power to turn the world upside down and right way up, all at once; to make the world turn.

Amen.

About Rosalind C Hughes

Rosalind C Hughes is a priest and author living near the shores of Lake Erie. After growing up in England and Wales, and living briefly in Singapore, she is now settled in Ohio. She serves an Episcopal church just outside Cleveland. Rosalind is the author of A Family Like Mine: Biblical Stories of Love, Loss, and Longing (Upper Room Books, 2020). She loves the lake, misses the ocean, and is finally coming to terms with snow.
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