Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was without form and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him and without him was not anything made that was made.
Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.
And Jesus said…again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you…” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
And the man became a living being.
Thomas answered him “My Lord and My God!” Jesus said to him. “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
The creation of faith is no less spectacular than the creation of life itself. Indeed, we could even say that until we cry with Thomas, “My Lord and my God, My Lord and my God,” we are not truly alive. Could we live without forgiveness? Could we live without peace? Can we live without the breath of God?
While the crucifixion was scandalous to those in ancient Palestine who sought to know God, in these times it is the resurrection that dogs our hearts like a hound caught in the scent of a chase. Try as we will to shake it, there is no easy escape. The world asks the question of resurrection that Thomas asked. Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe. Come on, prove it to me God—are you really there? Are you really here?
You would never know it from the disciples’ behavior. Locked in the house for fear of the Jews, John tells us, but I think they were locked the house for fear of one Jew in particular—the one whom they had betrayed, denied, and abandoned. They had good reason to fear, for if he really were God, what would happen to them? Well, he is, and he came breathing forgiveness into their mortal bodies. Now it’s a week later and they are still behind closed doors. Maybe if they had stepped out of their self-made tomb, maybe if they had trusted that he who is the door for the sheep was open to them, maybe if they lived without fear, Thomas would have believed.
So now, again, love flows like water from his riven side. Put your finger here……reach out your hand and listen………..Peace……….Peace………Peace he breathes. It’s a new life that I am calling you to. It’s what God has promised to you from the beginning of time. Jesus comes to him, not as a corpse which we might sorrow over, and not as a ghostly apparition of which we would be afraid, but as he comes as body, a real body, the body of God with spike torn hands and bleeding side. He comes, for not even death can stop him from coming. Peace be with, he speaks, his voice coming from his scarred yet perfect body. Peace be with you. Chaos and fear be gone: put your finger here and touch forgiveness; reach out your hand that you may feel mercy beyond all human knowing. He who is the door for the sheep is holding it wide open. He who is the way, the truth and the life is leading us into his resurrected life. He who indeed is the resurrection and the life, is bringing eternity into ours, so that even when all we see around us is marked by death, his promise will sound, breaking down death’s door.
None of us can see from one life to the next. Like an infant yet in the womb, such vision into a new world only comes to us as promise. We hear but we cannot see. So, when Jesus asks, “Have you believed because you have seen me,” he is teaching us the pattern by which faith takes hold of us. It comes as a breath, this faith, a breath from God’s life into ours, and who can see a breath? We only see what it can do in giving life. Reaching down into the dust, into the material of this earth and breathing life, that’s what God has been doing. Breathing into our nostrils as he did for the first man, so now in the cry of Thomas we discover why he has done so, “My Lord and my God. My Lord and my God.”
It is for faith that he has made us. It is for trust. It is to give glory to him in all that we are and all that we do. It is to worship him, for in giving thanks and praise to the One who makes all things new our lives become what he intended for them to be from the beginning—the worshiping human (homo adorans), and Thomas gets it right. Spectacularly right. Peace be with you, Jesus says to his first disciples, that they might say it to us, we who were not yet born, we who cannot see, so that we might believe. For in faith, not seeing and not believing become seeing and believing. In faith, hatred becomes forgiveness. In faith, chaos becomes peace. For at last, in faith, death becomes life, resurrected life.
When Thomas cries, “My Lord and my God,” it is the cry of faith of one who last believes what Jesus had spoken, “The Father and I are one.” “I am who I am,” said the God of Israel, when Moses wanted to know who was calling him into the future. “I am the light of the world,” said Jesus of Nazareth to those who sat in darkness. “The Father and I are one,” says our Lord and God, and in taking us to himself* — Put your finger here…reach out your hand…do not doubt—he is taking us, by faith, through faith, to the Father, where in the fullness of time faith and sight will at last become one.
And so Jesus, our Lord and our God, he who is one with the Father says to us, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe,” and as in every other beatitude we’ve learned that good news is coming, so now the fulfillment of his blessing is made known as we hear that in the gift of faith we will have eternal life. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe…that through believing you may have life in his name.”
That life is formed in the confession of Thomas. That life is formed in the font of forgiveness. That life is formed on that glorious day of the week in which the bread is broken and the wine is poured, when what is written in The Book is now spoken in the breath and power of Christ’s resurrection. For here, that life is formed in the faith of the One who was crucified for our sake and is risen from the dead to live and rule eternally. My Lord and my God. Amen.
The Rev. Dr. Amy C. Schifrin serves as pastor of Mission in Christ and Faith Lutheran Churches in the Iowa Mission District of the North American Lutheran Church.
*Augustine writes, “There was need, therefore, for His saying, “I am the way,” in order to show those who knew Him that they knew the way, which they thought themselves ignorant of; but what need was there for His saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” when, after knowing the way by which He went, they had still to learn whither He was going, but just because it was to the truth and to the life He was going? By Himself, therefore, He was going to Himself. And whither go we, but to Him, and by what way go we, but by Him? He, therefore, went to Himself by Himself, and we by Him to Him; yea, likewise both He and we go thus to the Father…and here on our account He says, “No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” And in this way, He goeth by Himself both to Himself and to the Father, and we by Him both to Him and to the Father.” (Tractate LXIX, Chapter 14.4-6)