"It was all over! The Lord was dead! It he had been sick, they would have cared for him. If he had been imprisoned, they could have waited for his release and started over. It they had been persecuted, they could have gone underground and kept the course alive. But he was dead--finally, unchangeably dead." From Living Witnesses, musical of the 1970s.
Easter Day...for many of us that is the entirety of Easter. One day to celebrate, to hide and hunt eggs, to have a big dinner and sit and visit and talk and then go home wishing we had more time to unwind before going back to work on Monday. On the Christian calendar, though, Easter is not just one day. It is actually an entire season and it lasts seven weeks until the day we call Pentecost is celebrated.
On Easter Day we read the traditional resurrection story of Jesus from one of the Gospels and we proclaim:"He is risen! He is risen, indeed!" The story does not end there, though. For the next six weeks we will hear more stories of Jesus' resurrection appearances to his disciples. We will see Jesus walk through walls to rooms with locked doors. We will hear Jesus teaching disciples as they walk sadly toward Emmaus. We will witness Jesus appearing in the fog on the beach as the disciples have gone back to a life of fishing and preparing breakfast for them as they gather on the shore. We will give Jesus a proper send-off as he gathers his followers together once more and tells them that they are in charge of his mission to the world and they see him go upward into the heavens. Jesus returns to be with God the Father and leaves the mission of making the world a better place in the hands of those who he taught and all who would follow them on the Christian journey.
This second Sunday of Easter we have to get out of the locked room where the disciples are hiding for fear of their lives so we can begin to spread the good news. Jesus had been murdered and they had been witnesses to his violent death and they figured they would be next. After all, if the Jewish authorities hated Jesus so much that they would insist on his death to silence his message, then perhaps they would push the Roman authorities to also kill Jesus' followers just to be sure that none of them would continue to teach what they could not agree with.
So, they found a hiding place and decided to lay low. They waited quietly and tried to console one another as they recounted again and again the terrible events that surrounded Jesus' trial and execution. For some reason, Thomas left the group and went out into society. Perhaps he went to find food for everyone or he started getting cabin fever and had to get some fresh air. Whatever the reason for his absence, it was during the time he was gone that the resurrection Christ appeared to the others locked away and revealed his wounds to them so they would believe that he was indeed alive.
Many of us need to see and experience things for ourselves. We may hear of the experiences of others but do not truly understand what they are until they happen to us. I have heard of many people who have been struck by lightning and survived. A cousin and a friend of ours both have had this experience. I have never been struck by lightning, thank God, and cannot truly relate to what they must be like but these two men I know who say they have been struck by lightning can truly testify to what it feels like to have that experience.
When Thomas returned to the disciples in the locked room, they immediately shouted to him, "We have seen the Lord!" As they told him of the visit of the resurrected Jesus, he could only say that he would not believe until he had the same experience they had had. Thomas was not being so much of a doubter, as he is often called, as a realist. He could not believe in resurrection because he had never seen a resurrected person (except Lazarus, and that must not have made a huge impression on him) but he needed the same experience the others disciples had if he was to believe that his friend Jesus was truly alive.
So, a week later, as the disciples continued to be in their secret hideout, Jesus again walked among them without opening the door and showed his hand and side to Thomas to which Thomas exclaimed his confession of faith--"My Lord and my God!" Not only did Thomas believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead but he also believed that Jesus was truly the Son of God, who could not be truly killed.
Jesus' reaction to Thomas' confession of faith was not to belittle him or scold him for not believing what the other disciples had told him about their experience. It was simply to say that those who can believe in things without having to have rock solid evidence are often happier than those who demand proof. Such people are often happier because they are not tormented with having to have explanations for everything in life. They often just benefit or enjoy what life provides without having to know how everything works.
I am always amazing at air travel. I know if I board a plane and it successfully takes off and then lands without incident that I will be in a new place when I step off the plane. I have had people describe aerodynamics to me and why such a heavy thing as a multi-ton piece of metal can be lifted into the air but I still cannot truly understand it. It just does not make sense to me. I benefit from air travel and plan to continue to do so as long as I can but I do not have to understand how it works in order to enjoy it.
Resurrection is a bit like air travel. I do not have to understand how it works to believe in it. I just believe that Jesus died and came back to life three days later. It is just something I choose to believe. If others must have proof in order to understand, then I congratulate them on their curiosity and inquiring mind. It is enough to me that just believe that Jesus rose from the dead and has granted me and all eternal life because of the miracle of his resurrection. I choose to proclaim--"He is risen! He is risen, indeed!"