The Beginning of Wisdom
Second Sunday of Easter
April 16, 2023
Jane Shelton, CRE
Someone told me once, that confusion is on the way to understanding. My initial response was, “What?” What does that even mean? Eventually, I came to understand that when something is new or different, and while it may be confusing because it is new and different, it doesn’t mean that I can’t figure it out. It doesn’t have to be so confusing that I give up on the thought process of figuring it out.
Before we delve into the familiar story of Thomas this morning, let’s take a moment to imagine the scene of confusion that would be happening after the resurrection.
We know what happens with Mary Magdelene and the other Mary. We know what happens with the disciples, but what is happening in the aftermath after the guards wake up and find Jesus missing from the tomb? I can’t even imagine the chaos and confusion that must have been going on at that scene. The guards running to the rulers and chief priests, trying to explain what had happened, and what about the people who had yelled for Jesus to be crucified. Where were they? Were they just going about their business not concerned as to whether Jesus was risen. Did they even consider he might be brought forth from the tomb? Surely, there was concern that the disciples would come for the body of Christ, and the reason why the guards were placed there, but how would the angel be explained? The bright light that caused the guards to drop into a deep sleep.
The disciples were hiding and trying to avoid any minute of being identified as being one of the followers of Jesus, and what about the people that came in through the gates with Jesus on Palm Sunday? Where were they? Had they left Jerusalem and made there way back to their homes, stricken with grief at the crucifixon of their Lord, or were they too waiting and wondering what was going on in the confusion of the morning?
The confusion and chaos must have been at an all-time high, so how does one make sense of it all in their fear?
Thomas, too often called Doubting Thomas, in my opinion, has been given a bad rap over the years of Christianity. Many have taken the attitude, “How could Thomas doubt that Jesus had risen from the tomb?” and “How could Thomas not have faith to believe Jesus had risen from the tomb?”
When we go back and consider the facts of last week’s sermon, the Mary Magdalene and the other Mary both entered the tomb to be sure that Jesus was not there. In fact, the angel invited them into the tomb to see where Jesus had been laid and was now gone.
The disciples waited at the house in Galilee to see Jesus and confirm that Jesus was indeed coming to meet them there, and that he was risen. So, the idea that Thomas is the only one who doubted is not fair to Thomas.
As humans, we are geared to think in logical terms. We look for proof of something to confirm something as truth. When we can’t make sense of something, then it becomes hard to believe it as a fact. We need proof. We need evidence. It is what our justice system is based on, the burden of proof.
Our Psalmist rewords what was shared with me as confusion is on the way to understanding as ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and all who practice it have a good understanding.’
Upon the resurrection of Jesus, everyone shows fear, the Marys and the disciples. Even the guards who fell as if they were asleep. Fear is paralyzing and yet it is also a driving force. When we are in fear, we seek a way to find security, and to recover from it.
The angel and Jesus repeatedly say, “Peace be with you.” They are reassuring everyone that there is no need to fear the resurrection. They want everyone who is a witness to testify to the resurrection and the message that their sins are forgiven. It is God’s desire that they be witnesses to the risen Christ to show the power of God for the good of those he loves. God is the one that gives us life and power over death.
It is important to note that Jesus does not scold Thomas for wanting to touch his hands and side, rather he encourages him to do so, as he says to Thomas, “Do not doubt, but believe.” Jesus encourages Thomas to not only see him, but to feel his presence also. In this action of reaching out to Jesus, Thomas begins to receive understanding.
Thomas then gives a strong declaration of his faith, “My Lord and My God.” Thomas, in his doubt and fear, comes to realize that indeed Jesus has risen, that he is Lord of all, and one with God.” Fear has brought him to wisdom. And Thomas becomes one of the farthest reaching disciples of Jesus as witness to the new gospel.
Ironically, twice in this reading of scripture are the words, “have come to believe.” It is the methodical way the brain works, the way God makes us, and now God brings us to the point that we can believe so that we can be witnesses of the life God wants his people to live in the world.
As Jesus always shows, he meets people where they are, and he gives them what they need to sustain them in relationship for an abundant life of love and joy. It doesn’t mean we don’t have difficulties and disappointments in life, but it is reassurance that we have a place to turn when we do endure difficult times. We can overcome our fears knowing that Jesus defeated all evil, and stands with us so that we can have peace.
Every day since Easter is a day after Easter in our lives. God programmed us to be doubters to question what is before us as truth or falsehood, and he sends the Holy Spirit to breath on us so that we have wisdom to believe in the day after Easter, and to witness to the Messiah, our risen Lord, so that we can have life and live it abundantly in the light of Jesus.
Jesus teaches us that we cannot approach all people in the same way. Some are met on the path to where they are going. Some are met privately in their home. Some are met in their doubt and disbelief. We are all different and Jesus understands that we have different approaches to life. Our experiences are different, and yet he blesses all who come to believe.
Just as God breathed life into man in the very beginning of creation, Jesus breaths on us the Holy Spirit to renew us and to empower us as witnesses for God’s glory.
It is by the witness of the disciples that we have come to believe. It is the sharing of their stories and their lives and how Jesus lived that has helped us find our way through the confusion to find understanding and wisdom. We came to believe, not because we were able to see or touch Jesus, but because we heard something that someone told us, or because of something we read.
We never know what is going to touch someone, whether a passage, a story or a prayer. Maybe we never say a word to someone, but they are watching how we live from a distance. By sharing with others, it allows the Holy Spirit to be breathed upon them so they can come to believe. Sharing the gospel prepares the way for Jesus to enter into someone’s life. It’s the fruit of the Spirit growing and spreading with leaps and bounds.
We often get discouraged with what we see on the news, in our communities, in things that are going on in the world, and maybe as close as in our families. We should ask ourselves the question, are these things any worse than they were at the time Jesus was crucified? I dare say they are not.
When we believe today by faith because we have not seen Jesus, we believe in our hearts. We believe with faith and understanding in hindsight of all that has occurred, are we not greater disciples with greater courage to the resurrection of the Son of Man?
The human mind wants evidence to break through the confusion, but the heart needs deeper assurance than what the world can provide. By the breath of Jesus, through the Holy Spirit we have understanding and the gift of grace.
We come together still seeking wisdom and understanding even today, and Jesus still meets us here and provides all that we need to continue his work in the world. Jesus reminds us and tells us that we are to forgive others, we are given the power to forgive. In forgiveness, we find a healing that brings us to a greater understanding of all that God wants for us so that we can live in harmony together to further Christ’s work in the world.
Jesus came into the world to bring peace. He was born in a stable in peace, he lived a life healing in all manner of sickness so that the world would know peace, and he arose with peace on his lips. Peace be with you so that you may have life, and have it more abundantly. What greater love is this?
The peace that is not offered by the world is the peace that comes from the knowledge that in spite of all the hurt and harm the world can and does inflict, God’s compassion and care embodied in Jesus stands again in the midst of our lives bringing the promise of peace.
Amazingly, God continues to show goodness in a world that has drifted far from the created intention of a loving God. If you want to find goodness in the world where you live, just take a moment to see all the God sightings around you. The gift of meals delivered weekly, the hand that reaches out to help someone up the stairs, the gift of love shown in a phone call to someone in a nursing home. There are gifts of God all around.
Let us live this life after Easter, and over these next weeks towards Pentecost, let us not fear what is around us that we cannot control, let us not doubt that the one who said he would rise has risen, but let us be filled with the Holy Spirit empowered to witness about the peace that Jesus brings to those we meet on our journey and to all who come to believe.
Let’s take a moment to consider these things as we continue living the day after Easter:
- Is it simply a story or is it the story?
- What difference does it make in our day-to-day lives that Jesus was raised?
- How has this truth changed us?
- Would our lives be any different if Jesus had not been raised?
When we have a better understanding of how we live our own lives after the resurrection, we see that the story about Jesus does have a purpose, and this purpose is life altering and uncompromising. Jesus is the only true way to live the life that God created us to live.
Peace be with you.
*Cover Photo supplied by Unsplash, free for use.