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My Lord and My God (St. John 20.19-31)

Quasimodo Geniti – Second Sunday of Easter

“My Lord and My God”
Seminarian Brendan Harris, Vicar  

St. John 20.19-31

11 April 2021


+ In the Name of Jesus +

After much reflecting, I have recently come to the opinion that St. Thomas is my favorite of the apostles. Sure, everyone loves Peter, he’s the leader, he’s bold and decisive, he speaks up on behalf of them all; and John is clearly the belovèd who leans on the Lord’s breast and writes this very Gospel; yet I find Thomas to be the most poignant, honest and relatable. We have often heard the phrase, “Doubting Thomas.” We have often heard this account and focused on the “Incredulity,” as it’s called; the hard-heartedness of the staunchly skeptical Thomas and how bold he was to demand proof from Jesus Himself. I mean, the nerve of the guy!

But at this point, all of the apostles had seen Him for themselves, Jesus had entered through the closed doors and said, “Peace be with you”—which was probably a welcome greeting considering the possible alternative of, “aha, now I’ve got you!” No, there is none of that, there is only peace. And further, “When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.” Jesus didn’t wait for the others to demand proof from Him, but in His greeting, upended his hands and revealed his stigmata, the wounds on his hands and his side. The peace of the Lord then is directly paired with the wounds of Christ because this is where peace is won. And in the flesh of the risen Christ, the atonement is complete, salvation is won, and by His word of peace it is shown forth to His brothers gathered here.

But Thomas was not there. Where was he? Well, who knows? Perhaps he had gotten cold feet and renounced Christ, perhaps he was simply otherwise indisposed—we don’t know. In any case, the others come to him saying “We have seen the Lord”—the same words, by the way, which Mary Magdalene said to them, which they didn’t believe until Jesus appeared to them—but Thomas takes it one further, and expresses what they themselves had all been thinking before: “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.” “Well, here’s the smoking gun,” you might be thinking, “he’s a stiff-necked naysayer who won’t hear out his friends.” However, this is not your ordinary type of skepticism. This is not a “grab your magnifying glass, Sherlock, we’ve got ourselves another case” kind of adventure. What Thomas demanded was intimate knowledge, personal proof.

And who can blame him? Think of it this way: imagine you are the wife of a husband who’s gone off to war overseas, but your husband is missing in action. He is said to have died in a conflict and been lost; it’s the “you need to get over it and move on dear, he’s not coming back” sort of situation. But then one day years later, someone official comes to you and tells you they found your husband, and he’s alive. While the tears are welling up in your eyes and your heart is overturned from this teasing of your deepest hopes—hopes which had burned so bright for so long, but had become only coals until this visit fanned the flames—the first thing you are probably going to shout is “where is he? Let me see him!” Your heart is so much on the line, that you cannot help but be bold and incredulous. You cannot just take this man’s word for it, you must see him and embrace him, he’s the love of your life. And after all, you are the one who knows him best, you know his every unique detail, every birth mark and scar and mole that others would overlook, you are the one who can verify. This, is Thomas.

And so like a widow who has just heard his belovèd has come back from the dead, Thomas duly gathers with his brethren the next Sunday for Divine Service—in the same church, with the doors closed in the same way. He waits with baited breath for the Lord to appear, and sure enough, Jesus comes, and He gives them the same greeting: “Peace be with you.” And then, just as before, Jesus follows up His Word by pairing it with the physical proof of His peace, turning to Thomas and saying, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side.” “Witness, Thomas, your brother who is crucified, beaten, mocked, crowned, and scourged; behold my hands, reach your hand into my side, see where I bleed for you, where I labor for your salvation. Look and touch, have your way; do not disbelieve but believe.”

And so Thomas falls to His knees—probably without ever having to touch Him, rejecting his previous oath—and through his welling tears, cries out, “My Lord and my God.” “My Lord, it really is you! My God, you are indeed the Christ, the risen Son of the Father! Alleluia!” And so the Sunday continues: they set the table, and Jesus offers them His Body and Blood in fellowship with His brothers.

And you, my brothers here, how much more blessèd are you than even Thomas? Thomas saw with his very eyes the risen body of Jesus Christ, but you do not see Him and yet believe. All you see, brothers, is bread and wine before your eyes. Yet the Lord Jesus has given you the gift of faith—the gift of Baptism and the Holy Spirit—He has given you the eyes of faith by which you perceive that to which your earthly eyes are blind. Although you do not see Him, you receive your risen Lord, His Body and Blood, under the bread and the wine. Though you cannot see, yet you see.

And you too know Him as Thomas knew Him. By receiving Him on your mouth, you confess: “My Lord and my God.” In fact, it has become part of my own communion piety to say these words in my heart every time I receive each kind in the Sacrament: “My Lord and my God.” How, I ask you, does one really put his hand into the Lord’s side? Well, what flowed from the Lord’s side but the blood and the water, the Sacraments of the Church, the gifts she has received unto eternal life? “The Spirit and the water and the blood,” here received as the bread of heaven and the cup of salvation. The joy of Thomas is thus your joy, the joy of every Christian. The proof he demands and receives is the same proffered forth to you: “behold my hands, behold my side, do not disbelieve but believe! My peace be with you.”

And so let the confession of Thomas be ever on our lips. Let us never cease to gather together on the Lord’s Day to behold Him, to see and touch and receive Him, that we may be reassured; that we may grow in faith and holiness, and not disbelieve, but believe. Behold your Lord! He is risen, and He is here! Repeat the words with me, “My Lord and my God.”

Let us pray: Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak the Word, and my soul shall be healed. Abide with me, O Lord, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. I will take the bread of heaven and the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of my Lord and my God. ✠ Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus; Amen

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