Quasi Modo Geniti
April 11, 2021 A+D Recycled from 2018
St. John 20: 19-31
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
At first, when the Lord appeared to the Ten in the Upper Room, they were not glad. They were afraid. They become glad only after He showed them His hands and His side and spoke peace upon them. Then they were glad. They were glad then because they knew that the Lord had been crucified for them and was alive to bring peace to them. He sought them in the Upper Room even as He had sought out Adam in the garden.
His hands and His side prove that He died by crucifixion. He did not escape death. He died for real and then overcame it. That is why and how He came in peace. Atonement had been made by His death. The sacrifice and ransom were complete. The cursed tree and emblem of hate became the tree of life and knowledge. The cross is love. Eden is restored. The Law is satisfied. Christ comes in peace. All this is eternally memorialized in the marks on His hands. He is the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, who was slain but who lives.
If you want to see Jesus, look to the cross. That is where He is glorified and how He wants to be known, that is where His heart is laid bare, that is how God loves the world and there He draws all of us unto Himself.
But Thomas doesn’t want to be drawn on that first day of the new creation. He is acting like a cat whose owners have returned home after a vacation. He felt that he had been mistreated by Jesus in the terror of Good Friday. He wants to strike back. He doesn’t want peace; He wants an apology. He is afraid. Lacking faith, he lacks peace. He is at odds with Jesus. His false beliefs, based in pride, that Jesus is dead or failed and that he has been cheated by God, puts him also at odds with his brothers. Their fellowship isn’t restored by agreeing to disagree or not talking about doctrine. Their fellowship is restored by the Word of Jesus forgiving Thomas and bringing him back through repentance and faith.
It is a bit surprising that Thomas rightly discerned what it was that would convert him back to faith in Christ. He said that he would not believe unless he saw the place of the nails in the Lord’s hands and side. I don’t think Thomas figured this out on his own. Rather, without even thinking about it directly, the other apostles had catechized him in their report. They told him what Jesus did: He showed them His hands and His side. He spoke peace upon them and bestowed the Holy Spirit. Thomas is either trying to save face out of pride or protect his heart out of fear with his brash demands, but the Apostolic witness is working on him. He is thinking about the implications of how and why Jesus died.
In his disbelief, Thomas didn’t want Jesus alive. He was broken-hearted and mourning. He didn’t want to go through the whole drama again. It was too terrible to consider. He wanted to move on. But then, at the Word of the apostles, he begins to see Jesus’s resurrection in a different light. It isn’t that Jesus escaped death only to die again or that Jesus is coming to shame them for their failure. He comes showing that He really did die and that He died for them, in their place, for their peace. He is alive as one who has passed through death and broken us out of death and paved the way to heaven.
Thomas’ demand reveals his secret hope. It is a prayer. Thomas says: “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” And he really means: “Lord, let me be an apostle. Give me another chance. Do unto me what you did to the other ten. Please, let it be real. Be alive, out of death. Show me your hands and side and give me the peace I so desperately need. Show me your hands and your side, show me how You died, and I will believe.”
The Lord is remarkably patient with Thomas. He puts up with imperfect prayers. He comes back on the eighth day, one week later, seeking Thomas and again He comes in peace, bringing peace. He meets Thomas’ demands. He answers the prayer. He invites Thomas to put His finger into the scar left by the nails in His hands and to put His hand into the place from whence came water and blood.
As John reports it, Thomas responds immediately: “My Lord and My God.” John does not describe for us whether or not Thomas actually made an investigation of the marks. Did he probe the marks with his finger and hand? He might have. But, in the end, it is the Word that converts Thomas. It is the bestowal of peace and the offer of intimacy. It is also the admonition and rebuke: “Do not disbelieve, but believe.” The Lord spoke and Thomas believed.
When Jesus responds to the confession of Thomas by saying“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” He is talking about us. What don’t we see? We don’t see the Lord’s risen Body with our eyes. We see bread and wine. We don’t see the marks. We see instead reminders, crosses, that celebrate and confess the kind of death that Jesus died. We see an altar upon which nothing was ever sacrificed and we make it a table from which the Lord feeds us His risen Body and Blood. What then do we believe? We believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of His Father from eternity, and also true Man, born of the virgin Mary is our Lord, that He was crucified for us and that He finished death on the cross and overcame death by His resurrection to be our Bridegroom. Therein He declares us to be blessed, righteous, and holy. We believe that He who lives loves us and has reconciled Himself to us, that He is patient with us and seeks us and speaks to us in His Word, that He hears and answers our prayers.
This is what it is to be blessed: to have faith in Jesus, to know Him according to His Word and the marks on His risen body. Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, is our God and our Lord.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.