Today’s gospel relates the story of “Doubting Thomas.” The picture is familiar. The apostles have locked themselves in the Upper Room, cowering in the very place where they recently shared a Last Supper with their beloved Yeshua.
Even in that hallowed space, FEAR is the watchword of their days and nights. The apostles are afraid of the Temple authorities. They’re afraid of the Romans. In the light of Judas’ betrayal, they might even be afraid of one another.
Then suddenly, Yeshua materializes in their midst. His message: “Why all this fear? Be at peace instead.”
Thomas, of course, is absent. When he hears the tale of the risen Master, he refuses to believe.
So Yeshua materializes once again – this time for Thomas’ benefit. As in his first appearance, the risen one identifies himself by his wounds. (The point is crucial.) He makes the doubter probe the gashes with his hand and finger. It’s Yeshua’s reminder that his peace is based on vulnerability, not on the security of locked doors.
“My God, it is you after all!” Thomas realizes.
“Yes, it is,” Yeshua affirms.
Then he turns his attention to us. “Blessed are you,” he says across the centuries, “who believe without the proof I’ve just offered Thomas.”
The blessing might just as well be an indictment. For the evidence shows we don’t really believe in the resurrection. (And I’m not talking about resuscitation of a corpse.) We don’t really believe in the peace Yeshua brings – new life without fear – new life based on vulnerability.
Instead, we cover ourselves in armor afraid of being hurt. In this “home of the brave” where 70.6% claim to be followers of Jesus, EVERYTHING is governed by fear. It’s as if following Jesus were not about willingness to be wounded, but about self-protection at all costs. It’s as though Jesus’ greeting to his friends were, “BE AFRAID; BE VERY AFRAID!”
That’s the gospel our politicians preach every day. And the church says “Amen.”
So to protect our pitiful way of life, we lock and bar our borders against the refugees our wars and trade policies create. From the safety of air-conditioned theaters our heroic servicemen drone wedding goers or funeral mourners 10,000 kilometers away. They do so on suspicion that the revelers and mourners might one day, possibly intend us harm. Alternatively, our naïve representatives level entire cities from a safe distance of 35,000 feet – never seeing the heads their bombs severe more gruesomely than by knife.
We’re afraid of Muslims. To protect ourselves from them and from each other, we insist on carrying guns everywhere – in our homes, schools, churches and public meetings. We pass “Stand Your Ground Laws.” We imprison one another at the highest rate on the planet. We punish and execute rather than rehabilitate and forgive. Each day we spend nearly $1 billion on “defense,” all the while claiming we have no money for health care or to relieve student debt. Whites fear African-Americans. We empower our police to kill them with impunity — excused every time by recitation of the cowardly mantra: “I feared for my life.”
Of course, none of that has anything to do with Yeshua the Christ. In fact, it patently contradicts the Holy Spirit conferred by the Prophet in today’s narrative.
To repeat: that Spirit is premised on willingness to be wounded. Accordingly, it would open borders, radically disarm, reduce military budgets by 60%, demilitarize the police, and eliminate capital punishment. It would embrace non-violence and prison reform.
There is only one thing that makes all of that “unrealistic:” FEAR – unwillingness to face the implications of recognizing Jesus’ wounded body.
So do we believe in resurrection or not? Are Jesus’ words a blessing or an indictment?
If the latter, what will we do this week – what will we do at the ballot box next November – to make it the former?