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Archive for the 'Easter' Category

Defending Thomas

23rd March 2008

Rarely an Easter season comes and goes without a sermon on — or at least some sort of reference to — “Doubting Thomas.” I think, quite frankly, that Thomas has got a bum-wrap for his nickname as it suggests that there was something wrong about his doubts. But nicknames stick. I was surprised even to find an entry under “doubting Thomas” in Webster’s dictionary. There it reads: “Doubting Thomas, a person who refuses to believe without proof; skeptic.” And then it refers to John 20:14-31.

There are only three vignettes of Thomas in the Scriptures, including John 20. In contrast, there are numerous extra-biblical works attributed to him, including a Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, an Infancy Gospel of Thomas, an Apocalypse of Thomas, and an Acts of Thomas (these works are typically dated from the 2nd to 5th centuries CE/AD). These extra-biblical stories aside, the first place we meet Thomas in John’s gospel is in chapter 11. Jesus wants to go to Bethany because Lazarus has died, but his disciples try to dissuade him for fear that he’ll be killed if he goes near Jerusalem. Here Thomas encourages the other disciples that they should go and die with Jesus. The next time we meet Thomas is in chap. 14, where Jesus comforts his disciples that he is going away to prepare a place in his Father’s house and then come back for them. As many of Jesus’ teachings, this totally confuses the disciples, but it is Thomas who is honest enough to admit that he didn’t have the slightest idea what Jesus was talking about. He says: “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way” (14:5). (Imagine, a MAN who admits he needs directions!)

The picture that emerges of Thomas from these two passages is someone who was honest — he didn’t pretend to know more than he did. He also seemed to be a bit of a pessimist (or a realist) assuming the worst if Jesus was to go near Jerusalem, but he was willing to follow Jesus anywhere — even to his own death.

We get substantially the same picture of Thomas in John 20. He’s somewhat pessimistic, brash, but also up front and honest. He put his cards right on the table: “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!” (20:25). When it comes right down to it, I’m not sure how seriously we’re to take his request to “put his hands where the nails were” or to “put his hand into Jesus’ side.” The text later says that Thomas believed because he had seen Jesus, not that he believed after touching him. Also, the week before, when Jesus appeared to the others, it says that Jesus “showed them his hands and his side” (v. 20). So, one way of looking at it, he just wanted the same opportunity that the other disciples had. (Furthermore, while we don’t get this impression in John’s gospel, other accounts present many of the disciples as filled with doubt. E.g., in Luke 24:36-43 when Jesus appeared to the disciples, they didn’t believe that it was really him until he ate some broiled fish; see also Mark 16:11 and Matt 28:17.)

Faith didn’t come easy to Thomas, but nore did it come easy to any of the disciples. So let’s not be too hard on the poor fellow! At least the picture of Thomas we get in the gospel portrays him as honest and up front about his doubts. What is more, once Thomas believed, he uttered one of the greatest Christological confessions in the Bible: “My Lord and my God!” (20:28). This was both a profoundly theological confession as well as a profoundly personal one.

So perhaps we would do well to remember Thomas by his great confession, rather than his initial doubts. Just a thought. Happy Easter.


Posted in Easter, Gospel of John, New Testament | 1 Comment »

He is Risen!

8th April 2007

Happy Easter everyone.

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A Thought for Good Friday

6th April 2007

I am always struck by the reality that the one thing we are called to emulate as followers of Christ is Christ’s self-sacrifice. May God grant us the grace and courage to have the same mindset as our Lord and Saviour who “because he was in very nature God… humbled himself, becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross.”

2Have the same mindset
Have the same love
Be “soul-joined�
Have one mindset.

3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,
But in humility regard one another as more important than oneself.

4Do not merely look out for your own interests,
But also look out for the interests of others.

5Your mindset should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

6Who, because he was in very nature God,
Did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped,
7But emptied himself,
Taking the very nature of a slave,
Coming to be in the likeness of human beings.
8And, being found in appearance as a human being,
He humbled himself
Becoming obedient to death –
Even death on a cross!

9Therefore also,
God highly exalted him,
And granted him the name
That is above every name

10That
At the name belonging to Jesus
“Every knee should bow,�
of those who are in heaven
and on earth
and under the earth

11And that “every tongue should confess�
That Jesus Christ is Lord
To the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:2-11).

In verse 6, Paul is not saying that although Jesus was in nature God, he took the form of a slave; rather he is saying that it is precisely BECAUSE Jesus was in very nature God, that he did what he did. Jesus’ humble self-giving, self-sacrificing love towards humanity defines the very essence of God. As as followers of Christ, it should also define who we are.


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Easter, Grace, and U2

16th April 2006

I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep ship. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity. I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says, “Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions.” The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled. It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.

- Bono (Michka Assayas, Bono in Conversation with Michka Assayas [New York: Riverhead, 2005] 204).

Grace
She takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name

Grace
It’s a name for a girl
It’s also a thought that changed the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness in everything

Grace, she’s got the walk
Not on a ramp or on chalk
She’s got the time to talk
She travels outside of karma
She travels outside of karma
When she goes to work
You can hear her strings
Grace finds beauty in everything

Grace, she carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips
She carries a pearl in perfect condition

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

Grace makes beauty out of ugly things

All That You Can`t Leave Behind (2000)


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