The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.
Happy “Pick On Thomas Day!” That’s how it’s often treated, isn’t it? “Doubting Thomas.” And why not? After all, in his own words, Thomas would “NEVER” believe until he saw proof that Jesus was indeed alive. He would have to put his fingers into the wounds of the living Christ (like the other disciples got to do) BEFORE he would ever believe. Trusting in what you see isn’t faith; it’s proof. But…this is where Christians with the best intentions tend to go off track. Just like we don’t pick on the women at the tomb that first Easter morning who forgot (and doubted) Christ’s own Word regarding His resurrection on the third day, we also don’t like to pick on Thomas for his unbelief/doubt. We can relate to Thomas. We understand. We get it. So… instead, we make excuses for Thomas. “The other guys got to see the resurrected Jesus, and Thomas wasn’t there when that happened. Thomas only wanted the same experience as them.” Okay…so now it’s okay to covet and not believe, so long as we have good reason? Unbelief is never okay with Jesus. There is never a situation/circumstance in which unbelief/failure to trust in God above all things is permissible/condoned. Your Lord never blesses unbelief, no matter the circumstance.
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” With these words of our Lord, all excuses for “situational unbelief” are shot down. With these words, our Lord makes crystal clear that seeing-before-believing is not okay—EVER. In a loving but firm way, your Lord calls Thomas and his unbelief out. He doesn’t let it slide. The Gospel immediately goes on to tell us that Jesus had done many other miraculous things in the presence of the disciples that weren’t recorded, “but these are recorded so that you may believe…and by believing you may have life in His name.” This is the whole point of today’s lessons, and to make excuses for Thomas’ unbelief misses this point! Faith comes through hearing; hearing the Word of Christ. I know we don’t want to pick on Thomas’ refusal to believe, but that’s precisely why this account is recorded—for us and our faith; a great lesson in “what not to do.”
Turn your attention to the Old Testament lesson; Ezekiel’s account of the valley of dry bones. (This account is also read at Pentecost, when thousands of people heard and repented and believed.) Ezekiel tells us that God showed him in a vision a valley full of bleached out, dried out bones. There was no life in them whatsoever. God commands Ezekiel to prophesy; that is, to preach His Word to those lifeless bones. Ezekiel hears and obeys. He preaches, and as soon as the Word comes forth from his lips, the lifeless bones come to life. God is the Giver and Author of life. Life is not our choice. No one ever chooses to be conceived/born, do they? That’s utterly foolish! And even after birth, we’re not God. We have no authority to decide which lives are worth living and which lives deserve to be snuffed out. All life—from conception to grave—is a gift from God, and we are but mere stewards and caretakers. But…I digress.
God isn’t finished yet with Ezekiel and those newly resurrected bodies. He again commands Ezekiel to prophesy. You see, all the bones were made physically alive by God (representative of all men descended from Adam), but they weren’t truly alive; not in the spiritual, eternal sense. They were essentially “walking corpses” (again, representative of all men descended from Adam). “Prophesy to the breath!” Your Lord is commanding Ezekiel to call upon God, specifically the Holy Spirit, who works in and through God’s means of grace, to come to these lifeless bodies and give to them true life—life eternal. Once again, Ezekiel hears and obeys…and the living breath of God comes into these bodies and they’re raised to the fullness of life; to the fullness of life in God. Mere preaching accomplishes this miracle! More specifically, the mere and unassuming Word of God accomplishes this life-giving miracle!
It is this same Word of God who became flesh and died and rose again; the same Word of God in the flesh, who bids Thomas to touch and see and believe. It is this same Word of God in the flesh who enlivens Thomas to true and everlasting life. “Whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” It is this same Word of God in the flesh who comes to us today in, with, and under the mere and unassuming means of Word, water, bread and wine. It is strange to think about. It even seems a little contradictory. Jesus Himself declares, “Blessed are those who believe and yet have not seen,” and yet He still comes to us in very real and tangible forms; things we can see, touch, taste, and feel. He still bids us to come and taste and see that He is our Lord, and that He is still keeping His promise to be with us always.
And that’s where we want to direct our attention in these last couple of minutes. We really don’t need to go on and on and on. The Word of God works His miracle of life—true life, to the fullest! It’s that simple. The Holy Spirit—the very breath of Almighty God—gives true and eternal life to all those who are dead in their sin. Behold! [Word and Sacraments] The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! Here is that almighty Word and Breath at work in your very midst! Here is that life-giving Word and Breath at work, right where He promises to be, doing exactly what He has always done—giving His gift of life to dried up bones and walking corpses of sin; giving His hope and comfort and assurance to all those struggling in the blindness and despair of doubt and unbelief (and that does include each and every one of us, for we all have our “Thomas moments”).
Look no further than this baptismal font. I know it doesn’t look like much, but this is where/how God breathes His gift of eternal life into the walking corpses of us children of Adam. It’s “divine CPR.” Look to this altar…and listen to His Word and Promise. “As often as you do this, remember what I have said. This is My Body/Blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of all your sin.” Where there is forgiveness, there is life; true and eternal life. Divine CPR. Here is where/how God breathes His gracious gifts of grace, mercy, and peace (Christ’s cruciform peace) into your wearied bones; into your Old Adam flesh, which still tends to doubt and despair when our eyes (and our hearts) lead us astray and cause us to doubt/forget His rich and unconditional promise of forgiveness and reconciliation with Him, in Christ, through Christ, and because of Christ.
May this almighty Word of God breathe life and joy into you. Pick on Thomas? That’s not really the point. Praise Christ! Praise Him who died and rose again for us and our salvation! “Blessed are those who haven’t seen and yet believe.” May your eyes and ears of faith be opened to recognize and rejoice the resurrected and victorious Christ in your midst and with you always. May this truly life-giving Word and Breath of God also go forth from you as you navigate the valley of the shadow of death we dare to call “life.” May you, like Ezekiel, humble yourself to be the mouthpiece from which God breathes His life-giving breath to all those who remain dead in their sin. May you ever and always be blessed with the faith that is able to see and hear and recognize and hold fast to your Lord Christ who is with you and for you, now and into all eternity.
In His life-giving name.
Feel free to use any or all of this sermon for the edification of God's people. It is NOT necessary to ask my permission for any of it! In fact, you don't have to mention me at all. (I think it's highly problematic when pastors seek credit/glory for sermons inspired by the Holy Spirit!) Give praise to God for the fact that He continues to provide for His people.
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