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Proof of Life

The Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Easter in the three year series tells us all about our beloved doubter, Thomas.  Looking at the Resurrection from our future perspective, as we do, it’s easy to be critical of Thomas. Why didn’t he believe? Well, none of them did until Jesus showed up in their midst. We lose track of the fact that all of the disciples started in the same boat. Jesus found all of them (except Thomas) hiding in the upper room out of fear because they all thought Jesus was still dead.

While Jesus meant what He later said to Thomas, that those who need know physical proof are better off, it doesn’t change the fact that Jesus gave Thomas exactly that. Jesus gives Thomas the opportunity to touch His hands and side to see for himself that He was truly there and that all of His promises had come true.

I’d like to say we’re different, being able to read the Gospel accounts after the fact and already know how they’re all going to turn out, yet somehow we still manage to have doubts about it all. Of course, that’s part of the reason we come to church and why the Scripture readings for Sunday are so central to what we do. We hear God’s promises again. All of the same promises the disciples heard are given to us as well. You’d think we could do better, knowing how the story goes. But the same doubts continue to assail us. He said, “I forgive you,” but does He really? He said, “I love you,” but it doesn’t always feel like it. He said, “I am with you always, to the end of the age,” but how do I really know?

For as much as we like to think we’re spiritually more mature than the disciples, we aren’t actually all that different at all. We face the same doubts, the same temptations, the same struggles. Were we numbered among the Eleven, we too would be huddling in the upper room for fear of the Jews.

It strikes me how interesting the message the disciples share with Thomas when they see him. They don’t say, “Jesus has risen and death is undone,” or even “God’s promise has come true.” They say, very simply, “We have seen the Lord!” They don’t give doctrinal treatises on what the resurrection means or how eternal life is ours or any of those sorts of things. Instead, they declare what they have seen with their own eyes and how the presence of Christ confirms everything God has said.

God knows how our faith ebbs and flows. We should be able to stand on His promises and trust Him on that alone. But we are frail our flesh is weak. It would be nice to not need it, but we do. This becomes one of the very unique and special features of Communion. Jesus tells the disciples, “This is my body,” not as a metaphor, but actual fact. Jesus knows what we need and He gives it to us. Jesus is truly present, giving us the proof we too often need that He is not only risen, but continues to be with us until the end of the age and beyond.

When Luther talks about the value of the sacraments in caring for distressed consciences, we typically think in terms of forgiveness. But the problem is sometimes even worse than that. Early that Easter morning, the disciples weren’t worried about forgiveness. They thought Jesus was dead and they had been abandoned by God.

Communion reminds us that this is not the case. We are forgiven and loved by God and we are invited to share a personal and intimate meal with Him, just as we would with family. He wants you to see that He is here and, more specifically, that He is here for you.

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