A BLOG By Pastor Ken Rickett
John 20: 24-29
Now Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with the Disciples when Jesus came. So the other Disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
A week later the Disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop being faithless and be full of faith.”
Have you been asked, “may I see identification, please?” Whether purchasing an item, or signing a legal document, or to show proof of age at any venue, we all show our driver’s license which has a photo or we show an identification document, usually with a photo. Most of the time, being asked for identification is expected and normal.
It came as quite a shock to me just a few short years ago when I was asked for identification for the sole purpose of determining that I was indeed over 18 years of age. “Why in the world….,” I thought to myself, “. . .would anyone ask a white-headed old man with wrinkled skin around his eyes, a hearing aid in each ear, sporting larger than normal ear lobes and wearing outdated 1990s clothing to ‘prove’ that he is over 18 years old?” I dug my driver’s license out from among all the other important cards in my wallet, showed it to the clerk, and I couldn’t resist asking in return, “Do I look under the age of 18?” To my great disappointment, the clerk just smiled and said, “Sorry…store
policy….thank you.” Evidently, my photo on my driver’s license didn’t look like I was a young 18 year old. . . . !
In today’s age identification is a serious matter, no matter what age you may be. Online passwords for computers, cell phone apps, debit and credit cards, bank accounts and other personal data can be at risk if the identification says “This is me!” begins saying that some other person is ME. From the evening news to letters in the mail, warnings are given for urgent updates of passwords, or alerts for a major hacking scheme or scam. Protecting our identification is a major issue these days. “Identification, please” is more than a harmless request, it is a necessity.
Thomas, one of the remaining eleven disciples, was not with the other disciples when the Resurrected Jesus first appeared to them on that first Easter Sunday night. When told about the appearance of Jesus to them, Thomas declared “unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails, and my hands in his side, I will not assume that this is Jesus.” To Thomas, “identification, please!” was a necessity!
Lord, deliver us from those who portray Thomas as a “Doubting Disciple.” Not So! Just as Pastor Rick makes us aware of the Greek words in the New Testament, I must do the same. “Stop doubting and believe” was NOT what Jesus said to Thomas. No. A thousand times, no! The word translated “doubting” was apistos (no faith) and the word “believe” was the verb form of pistis. Pistis in Greek is translated “faith” and “faith” means to live as if every fiber of your being is staked on a given fact, and in this instance, faith (pistos) is to live as if Jesus IS both the Crucified One and the Resurrected One, who IS also our Lord and our God! Even the well known verse, John 3:16 says that God sent his only Son, that whosoever has faith in him (pistos) shall not perish! That is, whosoever shall live as if that fact (Jesus is the Son of God in whom there is everlasting life) shall not perish. When Jerome translated the Greek into Latin in the 3rd century, Lation did not have a word that conveys the meaning of the Greek word pistis (Faith) so the best word Jerome could use was the Latin word meaning “to grasp with the mind, to believe with the mind.” Thomas was declaring, “I need positive identification that Jesus the Resurrected One is also Jesus the Crucified One.” Perhaps Thomas is a bit skeptical, but skepticism is not doubting. Skepticism is born, not of doubt, but of pragmatism, the need for validity rather than proof. Proof says nothing more than “yes” or “no”–whereas validity says, “ok, now that I know this fact, it has consequences for how I act and live from now on.”
Thomas was no doubter. He wanted validity. In effect, he was saying, “Does Jesus the Resurrected One look like Jesus who was crucified?” He was asking for identification.
“Was the Resurrected Jesus also the Suffering Servant whose life was laid down for the sake of salvation? I need to know that this Resurrected Jesus bears signs of his suffering!”
Identification, please! Who, besides Thomas, wants to know who Jesus is?
The entire Christian faith is built upon the proper identification of Jesus! Is Jesus the Resurrected One also Jesus the Crucified? AND vice versa, is the Crucified One also the Resurrected One? Either the Crucified One IS the Resurrected One, AND the Resurrected One is also the Crucified One, or there is no Gospel, or Good News, for Thomas nor anyone else.
Unfortunately, the Church has over-emphasized Jesus as the Crucified One at the expense of Jesus the Resurrected One. The Gospels say that Jesus came preaching, “Repent! The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” Rick Vale, in his Palm Sunday sermon properly described the Greek word “metanoia”, which is translated in many versions of the Bible as “repent” but metanoia has a simple image behind it, namely, to turn and go in another direction, following Christ. The Gospel writers did not assume that a person who follows Christ will live without sin, but rather, a follower of Christ is constantly bathed in grace so that the journey can continue. In and through grace, forgiveness and renewal of the mission of Christ comes to us.
Being reared in the South, annual week-long (sometimes 2 week) revivals were common in almost all congregations. Growing up I attended quite a few revivals, and as a Disciples of Christ minister, I have also been a guest speaker for a couple of Disciples congregations during their revival. The emphasis is upon Christ the Crucified One who calls each and every person to accept the salvation offered by the One who Suffered on the Cross. Frankly, there is always a time and place for this message, not only during revivals but in sermons. BUT….
BUT. . .Jesus came preaching, “Metanoia, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” The Kingdom of Heaven is both on earth and in eternity. The Kingdom of Heaven is the Reign of the Resurrected One. . .over the Church Universal on earth as well as in eternity. Does the Bible teach that Christ died for your sins so that you can go to heaven? No! A Thousand times, NO! The Bible teaches that Christ died, taking our
sins upon Himself, so that those who follow Him will be raised in a resurrection like his resurrection. I repeat: The eternal kingdom is composed of those who are raised in a resurrection like his!
To be raised in a resurrection like his! There’s the joy! There’s the hope! There’s the promise to every follower! None of us will enter the Eternal Community of God’s people unless we are first raised in a resurrection like his!
No wonder Jesus came preaching, “…., the KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND! George Bullard, my dear friend and a classmate of mine at Mars Hill College created and led a church consultation endeavor for years, and he led several Disciples of Christ programs prior to a couple of General Assemblies. George has always taught that the modern Church has fallen short in preaching the Kingdom of God. He declares, tongue in cheek, that instead of the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth, the. . . . Church came! His point is precisely this: the power of the Resurrection in the lives of Christ’s followers to bring new life and energy has not been accessed and utilized by the today’s
Church . . .
Identification please! To both the Crucified One and the Resurrected One, there is one and only one response, and that response is the same as Thomas’ response when Jesus appeared….”MY LORD AND MY GOD!” AMEN!