19th April 2020, St Anne’s Lewes
Today's Gospel reading speaks so directly to our situation that a sermon scarcely seems necessary. The disciples are in lockdown. They are bewildered and afraid. But the risen Jesus walks straight through their locked doors and says, 'Peace be with you'. The disciples must have been in emotional turmoil. Before his death, Jesus told them to stay in Jerusalem and wait. But they don't know what they are waiting for, and outside the door is a very real threat. The men who put Jesus to death are looking for them, too. And now, when they are still reeling from shock and grief, they are beginning to hear astonishing stories. Peter and John have told them that Jesus's tomb is empty, and Mary Magdalene claims to have seen him alive. Can it be true? And if it is, what will Jesus have to say to them? They had promised to follow him to the end, but instead they deserted him and ran away, and Peter denied him three times. But when Jesus comes and stands among them, there is no recrimination. 'Peace be with you' he says. Nothing, not the locks and bolts, not their failures and betrayals, not death itself, can stand in the way of his love. And he goes on to invest them with a new power and authority, to carry his forgiveness and love and peace out into the world. But one of them isn't there. We don't know why Thomas wasn't with the others that evening, but I like to think that he was the one who was brave enough to go out and get essential supplies for them all. When he returned and found that Jesus had visited the disciples in his absence, he must have been deeply hurt. Why had he been left out? Was there no peace and love for him? And in his pain, he vows that he will not believe, not unless he not only sees but touches the wounded body of Jesus. He has to wait another week –and we can imagine what a tense and difficult week it was for everyone in that crowded house - and then Jesus is with them once more. This time Thomas hears those words 'Peace be with you' for himself. Jesus holds out his hands and Thomas touches the marks of the nails and the wound in his side. And over Thomas's shoulder, as it were, Jesus speaks across the centuries to us. 'Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe'. 'These things are written', John tells us at the end of our reading, 'so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.' All we have to do is to bring him our fear and our uncertainty, our grief and our pain, and to wait for him to walk through our locked doors and to say to us 'Peace be with you'. May that peace, and the joy that the disciples experienced when they saw the risen Lord, be yours today, in the week to come, and always. Amen.