Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we are cut off. We are in a dark valley, a valley darkened by the shadow of death. It is very dry. Our tongues cry out for moisture. Our lips are chapped and flaking. Can these bones live? Yes, beloved. These bones can live, and they shall, world without end.
But Thomas had his doubts, and so do we. He wasn’t there when Jesus passed through those locked doors. He didn’t hear Jesus’ resurrected words to the ten, “Peace be with you!” He had to wait. He wasn’t there that night, and he had to go on the word of his brother apostles.
The apostles shout, “We have seen the Lord!” He appeared to them, or so they say. Thomas knows very well that He was flogged, crucified, and buried. He died, and dead people stay that way. He attested Himself with miracles while he was alive, but he’s supposed to take their word on it now that he’s died? Thomas may have seen Jesus raise the dead, but who is going to raise Him? In Thomas’s mind we need to face facts. We’re on our own. Our bones are dry. Our hope is lost. We are cut off.
The church today experiences the same fear that Thomas faced when the apostolic word was delivered to him. He had to go on the word of someone else. They saw Jesus, but not Thomas. They heard Him speak. Thomas didn’t. It’s easy for an eyewitness to believe, but it’s not so easy for us. All we have is what Thomas had. The apostolic word. And like him, it’s easy for us to discount it. It is easy for us to respond only with unbelief. It’s easy for us to wonder what the big deal is. We say to ourselves, “But we haven’t seen the Lord.”
True enough. We look around, it seems like we see the same sort of world we’ve always seen. I haven’t seen Jesus walking down old route 66. He doesn’t buy coffee at the Shell station. All the people buried in St. Paul’s cemetery are still dead.
But beloved, our eyes, our hearts, and most of all our fears are deceiving us. Jesus comes to you today with resurrected lips and He says, “Peace be with you.” His lips are not dry with the thirst of Good Friday. They do not cry out with the anguish of a back torn by the lashes of the centurion. Jesus’ wounds are now of glory, not of grief. He walks through doors, yet he can eat. The Lord of life lives no more to die, yet He breaths the same air we do. He speaks to His disciples in a locked upper room, yet Christ is with us always in all places to the very end of the age.
When Jesus says, “Peace be with you” it is rather like saying hello. When Jesus walks into the room, Peace is standing there. It is no accident that after Pr. Meinzen consecrates the bread and wine, he will then turn to you and say, “The peace of the Lord be with you always.”
The one who makes the promise keeps the promise. Jesus, God and Man, is with you always, and in a way that on this day Thomas didn’t know. Your bones are not dry. Your hope is not lost. You are not cut off. Your bones are living and wet, covered in the flesh and skin that Jesus Himself has knitted together in your mother’s womb. Your hope is incarnate in Jesus, the Word made flesh. You are not cut off, but grafted into the vine, Jesus who sustains and nourishes his whole body, the church.
And how is this accomplished? By words. Simple, plain, ordinary words. The words that are given the church to hear and confess. The words that our Lord gave his apostles to preach and write.
It is plain simple words that God raises the hosts of Israel in our first reading today. It is by plain simple words that Jesus comforts his disciples who are hidden behind locked doors for fear of the Jews.
But to Thomas, He gives more. “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
We might be tempted to be jealous. We might think to ourselves, “Why can’t we have that same assurance of the resurrection that Thomas had? Why can’t we touch the Lord’s wounds?”
But Jesus next words put that thought to flight, or at least they should. “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” This is not a rebuke of Thomas. Thomas’ faith is commended. He has seen the Lord, just like the ten, and believed.
The other disciples also languished in the fear of unbelief before Jesus appeared to them. The other disciples also saw their Lord face to face. They saw and believed.
But blessed are you, blessed are you who have not seen and yet have believed! Jesus has died to forgive your sins. He has destroyed death and the grave. He has risen from the dead and so shall you! You will live eternally with him in paradise, and why? Because you have heard the apostolic word and believed it.
It is that same word that has begotten you of the Father in Holy Baptism. It is that same word that has absolved you of your sin at the beginning of this Devine Service. It is that same word that will be spoken over the bread and wine whereby they will be the body and blood of Christ.
You have in its fullness what Ezekiel never knew. You receive Jesus every Sunday in a way that not even John the Baptist ever did.
Jesus is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity, and you, receiving your life from Him shall never die. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!