The Gospel text was John 20:19-31.
Here is the scene: Jesus is dead. The people who had been closest to Jesus, his best friends, if you will, are scared.
They had spent three years following this guy Jesus, who they thought was going to bring about a new kingdom. They had quit their jobs, left their families and for what? Jesus was dead. Their hopes were gone.
The government had killed him in the most brutal way they knew how. They beat him, they nailed him to a cross and they bled him out like a pig. Some savior.
So now, Jesus’ friends are hiding in a locked room, afraid of the authorities.
There were rumors. Some people were saying Jesus was not dead. Some said that he had overcome death, that the tomb they had put his cold dead body into was empty.
Some people were even saying Jesus was, in some way, God.
But all they knew for sure is that they were scared.
Later, Thomas shows up. We aren’t sure where he was – maybe he was out getting supplies, or trying to find out some news, or whatever. But he was gone, and when he comes back, the others tell him they had seen Jesus. Jesus was alive!
”We have seen the Lord!”
But Thomas is not buying it. He says ‘I gotta see it myself. I need to touch him before I can believe it.”
Traditionally, Thomas has gotten a bad rap for this. When I was a kid in church, we always talked about “Doubting Thomas”. As if Thomas was a bad guy for demanding some proof. But you know what?
I get it.
When I am most scared, when I am afraid, when I feel most alone, I don’t want fairy stories of invisible gods. I want something I can touch. It is at those moments that I must see; I must feel, before I can believe.
One of my favorite writers, Anne LaMotte, tells the story in one of her novels of a little boy who is afraid of the dark. He tells his mother she needs to come in his bedroom with him, because he does not want to be alone in the dark.
“You are not alone,” she says. “God is always with you”.
The little boys starts to cry, and says “I need somebody with skin on!”
That is where Thomas was –before he could believe, he needed a God with skin on.
One of the most scandalous things about the Christian story is not that the early Christians said that Jesus was God. No, the most scandalous thing was that they said God was like Jesus. Jesus was God with skin on.
But on Good Friday, Jesus died, and on Easter Sunday, the tomb was empty. Because God was doing a new thing.
Jesus was the body through which God worked. But now Jesus is gone. And God still needs a body through which to work.
Which is why I am excited about today, and it being our first meeting together. Because God is still looking for a body through which to work.
But now, instead of it being the body of one man, Jesus, it is a body of people, the church. The early Jesus followers called the church “The Body of Christ”.
When he was walking the earth, Jesus healed the sick, he fed the hungry, he prayed for the hurting. But now Jesus is gone back to heaven, and the hands God is using to feed the hungry and touch the sick now are mine and yours.
To a world that hurts, to a world that cries out in pain, to those who are hungry, to those who are homeless, to those who are jobless, to those who see no hope – we, you and me, we are the body of Christ. We are God with skin on.
And the world must see that before they can believe.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.