Second Sunday of Easter
April 15, 2007
Touch and Feel, Taste and See
There’s an old story about the four-year-old son of an undertaker who was perplexed after hearing the story of the resurrection in Sunday School. “Do you mean Jesus really rose from the dead?” he asked.
“Yes, Jesus really rose from the dead,” the Sunday School teacher said.
Shaking his head in wonder the boy said, “Well, I know my daddy didn’t take care of Him then, cause his people never get up again!” 1
Maybe that boy was related to Thomas. He needed more proof. He knew what he believed and what the others were telling him was contrary to all he’d ever seen or believed could ever happen. Thomas needed to touch and feel before he could believe. He needed to see it with his own eyes.
Doubt and Faith
I wonder about the motivation behind Thomas’ doubt. The God he believed in and the God made present to the world in the flesh of Jesus weren’t the same. Maybe it was that phrase at the last supper which confused him, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”
Whatever the case, Jesus didn’t condemn Thomas for his doubt. He used that moment of doubt as a teaching moment about faith. Doubt isn’t bad or wrong or a sin. Doubt is actually quite useful in the faith. Otherwise we might fall for the Gospel of every Tom, Dick and Harry or believe works of fiction like The Da Vinci Code. Doubt can act as a filter.
Somebody wrote: “I spent twenty years trying to come to terms with my doubts. Then one day it dawned on me that I had better come to terms with my faith. Now I’ve passed from the agony of questions I can’t answer into the agony of answers I can’t escape. And it’s a great relief.”2
I think that’s what Thomas felt. Jesus took his doubt seriously. He didn’t dismiss it. Instead Jesus offered the proof Thomas needed.
Touch Deepens Faith
Thomas wanted desperately to believe but he was a realist. He saw the spear pierce Jesus’ side. He saw the Romans take Jesus off the cross. He saw the burial cloths. He saw the tomb sealed. And it had been three days. He wanted desperately to believe but there were so many things, so many unanswered questions getting in the way.
Jesus knew all this. He understood completely. We don’t all come to God or come to believe the same way. So Jesus meets us where we are.
For Thomas, Jesus was standing right there, alive. Death had been conquered. Just seeing Jesus’ scars gave Thomas hope. Hope about the meaning of his life. Hope that life really does matter. Hope that Jesus’ words and teachings were true.
Taste and See
Thomas was able to Touch and Feel, all you and I can do is Taste and See, like Psalm 34:8 says: “O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.”
Celebrating the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, is as close as we get to being Thomas. It’s as close as we get to the scars and the wounds. And yet Christ invites us to extend our hands, just as he did Thomas, not to touch his side or the wounds in his hands, but to reach out and receive the bread and cup as we participate in the Sacrament that symbolizes and embodies His sacrifice on the cross.
Just as Jesus gave Thomas hope and a future and sealed his faith with that touch, simple bread and wine gives us hope and seals our faith.
All we’re asked to do is believe, stretch out our hands and receive. (Billy Strayhorn)