“Reach your finger here and your hand here, and put it into My side.” Quasimodo Geneti 2024

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07. April 2024

Easter 2

John 20:19-29

Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

Poor Thomas gets a bad rap. Doubting Thomas. Imagine having your whole memory of a person wrapped up in one event. Forgetful Lucy. Angry Harry. Disgusting Pete. Lost Sam. Doubting Thomas doesn’t quite describe the Thomas we meet in the Scriptures. Sts. Matthew, Mark, and Luke only list him among the twelve. But St. John is careful to give us a bigger view of this disciple, a view that is not defined by doubt.

In John 11, Thomas showed devotion to Jesus and courage. Jesus wanted to go to Bethany of Judea because his friend, Lazarus, had died. The rest of the disciples try to deter him, saying, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?” But Jesus insists. “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.” Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” Unlike the rest of the disciples, Thomas makes a bold confession in faith! Faithful Thomas.

At Merlin’s funeral, we reflected on John 14. When Jesus spoke of preparing a place in heaven, Thomas, in a moment of honest curiosity, asked, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” Jesus’s response, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” was not a rebuke but an invitation to explore and understand. Maybe he should be known as Catechumen (or Student) Thomas? And on Easter Monday, from John 21, we heard how Thomas is among the disciples fishing, with whom Jesus gave the miraculous catch of 153 fish. In that account, Thomas isn’t singled out but shares in the wonder and fear. 

There’s more to this Thomas than his doubt. No doubt, poor Thomas is rebuked for unbelief. When Jesus appears on the octave of the Resurrection, he says to Thomas, “Peace to you! 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.” But realize what Jesus is doing. He’s giving Thomas what he asked for! Thomas insists that he see and touch the wounds of Jesus. This is exactly what Jesus wants to give him. Thomas has already confessed he would die with Jesus. He’s already come to learn what Jesus will do about that death, namely give resurrection, life, and heaven. But Thomas needs to know for certain that Jesus has defeated death and the grave, and that’s in Jesus’ wounds.

And old tradition of the Christian church is to meditate on the seven wounds of Jesus, especially during Holy Week. For example, St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote a set of lengthy poems on these wounds that found a place in the devotional life of Lutherans. One of his meditations on the wounds of Jesus’ head was reworked into a hymn by Paul Gerhardt, “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.” We have in mind the crown of thorns and the blows to his face. There were the wounds on His back from the brutal cat-of-nine-tails whip. There are wounds on his feet from the nails of the crucifixion. But Thomas is most curious about the print of the nails in Jesus’ hands and the wound from the spear on Jesus’ side.

The nails in the hands fulfilled the Psalm of the Messiah, “For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet” (Psalm 22:16). And the prophet Zechariah had foretold, “One will say to him, ‘What are these wounds between your hands?’ Then he will answer, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends’” (Zech 13:6). But the Prophet foretold all the wounds, “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced” (Zech 12:10).

Thomas demands to know for certain that Jesus has risen from the dead just as He said, but also that He is Christ foretold by prophets of old. Of course, Jesus will oblige him and give him exactly what He wants. He said the Son of Man must rise from the dead. So He goes to great lengths to demonstrate to all the disciples, the women, and more that He is truly raised in the body. Because without a bodily resurrection, we’d be lost to the grave, too. And the account of demanding Thomas is for us, too, as Jesus takes great pains to prove He is the Messiah foretold. As we heard over and over just a week ago, “That the Scriptures be fulfilled!” See the wounds! Sin, death, and hell are defeated. Know that I am the Christ. The victory is won!

Thus, the Evangelist asserts after this Thomas incident: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” Thomas’s demand to see the wounds proves definitively for he and us that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah). Did he remember these words? “The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul” (Lev 17:11). Thomas knew the Suffering Servant song of Isaiah. He wanted to know for certain that Jesus fulfilled it. “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed” (Is 53:5).

Thus St. Paul declared, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Romans 5:8-9). All Thomas wanted was to know that his sins were forgiven by Jesus. He wanted to put those sins into the wounds and have them cleansed by Jesus’s blood. That’s all we want, too. We want Jesus’ shed blood to cover us with forgiveness, mercy, and grace. We want to be atoned for, too, like poor Thomas. And rather than run back to the upper room behind those locked doors, Jesus comes to us now and pours out that absolving blood on us in baptism. After confessing our sins, Jesus says, “Peace to you! Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side.” And the very blood that poured from His side at the cross, He puts into the chalice for you to drink for the everlasting forgiveness of your sins. He opens the closed doors of our hearts with His Word and Spirit and never stops showing us His victorious wounds, even inviting us to wash, touch, eat, and drink. “Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” You are forgiven!

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

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin