Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe."
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you."Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe."Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (ESV)
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St. Thomas, Apostle
21 December 2015
Christ proclaims, "I am the light of the world" (Jn 9:5
). He comes to rescue the world from darkness and the shadow of death (Lk 1:79
). The rising sun does for the creation what Christ does for hearts and lives stuck in the darkness. When I was in the hospital some years ago, I found the hour just before sunrise to be the most difficult time to be sick and in pain. It seemed to me that the cold dark of that early hour magnified despair and multiplied my pain. I remember feeling my despair dissipating when the sun would spill its golden light on the picture framed by my hospital room window. The sun cracking the oriental horizon broke the hold of darkness on the landscape and my heart.
So it is for those who live in the Word of God. The Word of God rose upon the darkness of the sin-mad world. Now the darkness has been repealed and the shadow lifted. The Child who was born in the darkened stable of Bethlehem chased the shadow from the world. The morning star has pierced death's pall and shredded the blanketing gloom. He has chased the forces of darkness from the field by His rising among us. We will live in the darkness only if we turn our backs on His rising and chase the shadow to hide our evil deeds.
How we struggle to maintain the darkness! We are afraid of exposure because we think we can cover up our shameful deeds. We are terrified of the light because we do not understand that the rising Light of the world comes into the world not only to expose our sin but also to take it away by the cleansing Word of God. When I was a child, my mother still put laundry on a clothesline to dry. I remember watching her put sheets under the winter sun rising on a frozen azure sky above. I marveled that while freezing stiff, the sheets would still dry. That night when I dove under the sheets freshly removed from the clothesline, the sheet would radiate the sun-exposed cleansing. The Christian does not fear exposure to the cleansing Light, because the Light takes away the filthy stink of our sin.
This is a season of light. Just look down the street of your neighborhood. Many yards are adorned with thousands of lights in elaborate Christmas displays. Those displays are getting so outrageous as to raise howls of protest from the neighbors. Unfortunately, these displays are decreasingly about extolling the arrival into the world of the true Light that enlightens all people, and increasingly about how "pretty" the season can be. There is nothing pretty about what the true Light comes to enlighten: us and our sin. The light of our trees and displays must enlighten us about the coming of the morning star to our hearts through the birth of the Word of God among us. There is much about which to rejoice. The Rising Son is among us.
"We who believe the Word of God are the church. We have a most certain promise, into which we have been called and baptized, and by which we are nourished and sustained; we have the sacrament of the altar and the power of the keys....The church must be glorified and brought to those eternal joys which it awaits in the Word and in hope, then it is subjected to countless persecutions of tyrants and devils; it is harassed and torn by false brethren in many most pitiable ways. This is not what being led to eternal life means, is it? Indeed, it means being exposed to eternal misery. Yet hearts must be buoyed up and strengthened against this way of the cross. For we have the Word and the promise. Therefore the glory that has been promised is sure to follow. And meanwhile the church lives and is preserved by faith, which concludes firmly that GOD does not lie. And it learns this wonderful wisdom which is hidden from the flesh and reason, namely, that God is wonderful in His saints (Ps 68:35
) and that His counsels are wonderful. This is also why our Lord and leader Jesus Christ has His name and is called WONDERFUL in Isaiah 9 (Is 9:6
"Accordingly, this points out that we should be instructed, in order that if we want to live in a godly manner, we may establish a way of life that is different from the way to which the world and the flesh are accustomed. For we must depend simply on the invisible God and give thanks to God with joy that we have the Word of God, which makes the promise. Concerning this Word Peter says: 'And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts' (2Pt 1:19).
For the Word is the light of our life. Otherwise we have nothing of the glow. I know that I have been baptized; I know that I have eaten the body and blood of Christ, that I have been absolved, called, and taught by the Word of the gospel. I have nothing more of eternal life. I do not yet have a glorified body, which surpasses the splendor of the sun and the stars. No, I have a heart that is still weighed down by many great evils and terrors. I carry around a body that is exposed to many infirmities and to death. Nothing is less apparent in the body as well as in the soul than eternal life. But the promise will not deceive us. Therefore let us cling to and persist in faith and hope, and let us be content with the Word which promises. In addition, we have this external life and fellowship; we have parents, magistrates, the external ministry of the Word, and the external goods that are necessary for this life. All this is a preparation and an approach, as it were, to the life to come.
"This is the proper and chief doctrine of the church. It has been handed down by the Holy Spirit. The world and the flesh do not know it. It teaches us that we are lords and heirs of eternal life in no other way than the way in which Jacob was an heir of the blessing. When he had obtained it, he was sent into exile from the land and the house of his father. For this is the way the divine Majesty deals with His saints."
Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, 27.46
Almighty and ever-living God, You strengthened Your apostle Thomas with firm and certain faith in the resurrection of Your Son. Grant us such faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that we may never be found wanting in Your sight; through the same Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
For all those grieving their losses at the approach of the Christmas season, that they might be comforted by the Word of God
For Ward Menard, that he would recover from his surgery
For David Rakotonirina, that the Lord Jesus would grant health and healing
Art: VOUET, Simon Annunciation (1640s)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015