Thomas’ Doubt Part two

124 Thomas walked without seeing. He did not stop until he was beyond the walls of Jerusalem. The road climbed under his feet and a sickly smell of decay made him lift his head.

Why had he come here to this horrible place? The upright sections of three crosses speared up into the darkening sky. The setting sun lit them with a fiery glow painting dark stains on the wood. Thomas forced himself forward to the foot of the middle upright as he had not had the courage to do when Jesus had hung there. Although three days had passed, the smell of blood and death lingered.

“Lord, You said you were going to leave us. You said we would know the way. But, Lord, I don’t know the way. Must I allow myself to be killed as you were?” Thomas reached out a trembling hand and touched the blood soaked wood. He realized he had been hoping for some lingering sense of the Lord. Something to give him direction and hope. But there was nothing. Nothing except an empty piece of wood. Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in Me.

“How am I to trust, Lord? You are no longer here, You would not even allow us to fight to protect You. You said you had come to save the world, but I do not feel saved, Lord. I feel lost.” Thomas let his fingers fall away from the splintered wood. Jesus was not here, there was no reason to stay. He turned away and headed toward the nearby garden. His steps slowed to a stop still many paces from the tomb. The last rays of the sun had faded into darkness and the rising moon, just past full, had yet to reach this shadowed place.

Thomas found himself shivering although the night was not yet cold. The mouth of the tomb gaped wide like a giant’s hungry mouth. Thomas paused. The only sound was that of his own harsh breathing. Something rustled in the brush behind him. Thomas whirled, but nothing was there.

“Lord, are you there?”

Only when the words were spoken did Thomas realize that he had been hoping that Mary and John were right. Hoping that Jesus was alive. There was no answer in the darkness. He pulled his outer cloak tight around his shoulders against the chill night air. He watched in silence as the moon cast silver shadows through the quiet garden. He was watching still when dawn showed pink and gold in the East.

“Lord, are you here?”

There was no sound but that of birds singing their joyful greeting to the sun. Thomas rose stiffly from his seat. With weary steps he returned to the upper room. His Lord, his friend was gone.

Thomas raised dazed eyes, heavy from lack of sleep, to the occupants within the room. Gone were the sober expressions and tears of sorrow. In their place were songs and laughter, dancing and joy. Thomas stepped into the room, the crash of the door silencing the laughter.

“Have you all gone mad? Are you possessed that you can sing and laugh when your hearts should be grieving?”

“But we haven’t lost anything.” John rushed up and clasped Thomas in a close embrace. “My brother, Jesus is alive and I have seen him. Right in this very room.”

Thomas pulled away from the hug. His eyes scanned the room. Each face he saw stared back at him, glowing with happiness. “How can this be?”

“It is true. After you left last night, Jesus appeared in this room, even though the door was locked.” Peter came to Thomas and laid a strong hand on his shoulder. “If you had stayed with us, you would have seen him, too.”

Guilt and sorrow flooded Thomas’ heart. He had gone out and followed the path of Jesus’ last journey from cross to grave only to find emptiness. He shook his head. “No.” His voice rose in denial of the false hope. “No, I don’t believe it. Jesus is dead. Until I see the nail marks in his hand and place my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it!”

Thomas stormed to a dark corner of the room and pulled his cloak over his head. He did his best to block out the sounds of joy. Finally, tears wetting his beard, he fell asleep.

For the next week, Thomas kept himself apart from the others. He spoke to no one, turning away when one of the others tried to speak to him. When the Sabbath came again, Thomas had sunk deep into despair, made darker by the joy around him.

If only I was crazy, too. How I, too, long for words of comfort. The other disciples and followers of Jesus had gathered in the room and preparing to break bread together. They repeated the words that Jesus had spoken during their last supper together. Thomas unfolded himself from his corner. Do this in remembrance of Me. Thomas would remember with the others. Perhaps within memory, he could gain some measure of peace.

Suddenly the air was filled with strange perfume. Thomas looked up to see the other disciples faces light up with expectation. Thomas turned and looked toward the locked door. It remained closed. With a flicker of color, Jesus stood before him.

Bread fell from nerveless fingers. Thomas felt his jaw go slack as his knees gave way from under him. Jesus stood before him. Jesus was Alive.

“Peace be with you.” The words flowed over Thomas’s broken heart like a soothing balm. Jesus looked into his eyes and showed the scars in his hands. “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.”

Thomas winced, his own words piercing his soul like knives. He closed his eyes, attempting to shut out his humiliation. For a long time, no one spoke. When he opened his eyes once more, Jesus was staring at him. There was no anger or condemnation there. only love. Tears began to fall from Thomas’ eyes.

“Stop doubting and believe.” Jesus’ beloved voice echoed through the room. The power of it shivered through the air.

My Lord, and my God.” Peace rose up in Thomas’ heart. All the doubts and fears that had plagued him for days fell away.

“Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.” Thomas bowed his head, accepting the gentle rebuke. All his life he had believed only what he could see with his eyes, touch with his hands and hear with his ears. Now, when he had not been able to believe, he was shown. but if his Lord, his God, could conquer the hold of Death itself, how could he not believe that anything is possible.

Now we know that Thomas did indeed stop doubting. After he received his portion of the Holy Spirit, he traveled far, preaching and teaching. Tradition tells us that he established Christ’s Church in India where he is still revered for his faith. From doubt, Thomas’ belief grew into a solid foundation, never to be shaken again.

 

 

 

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Thomas’ Doubt

cloudscape1Bitterness coated Thomas’ tongue. He stood in the room where just days ago he and his friends had celebrated the Passover with Jesus. Although his Lord had seemed melancholy and spoke of betrayal and denial, Thomas would never have predicted later events. No one could have. Unable to be still, he paced from door to window and back again.

Andrew approached him, but Thomas turned away. He did not have the patience to hear the man’s gentle consolation again. For three years they had followed the man he had come to believe was the Messiah. Thomas had left a good carpentry business to follow Jesus’ calling. He had left his family and friends to wander homeless with a man who had challenged authority and flirted with death. Now the authorities and death had caught him and Thomas was an outlaw. He should never have left home.

Guilt seeped through the bitterness. No, he was glad to have left. No matter how badly things had turned out, he had seen things and done things that were beyond belief. He paused in his pacing and from the shelter of the shadows looked out the latticed window. A squad of Roman soldiers marched by in close formation, their spears and shield held ready.

Three days after laying Jesus’ body in the ground, the city still huddled in fear. People cleaning up the rubble left from the earthquake still stole glances at the sky which had gone dark for hours not so long ago. Pharisees and Sadducees refused to leave the temple or perform their normal duties. There were whispers of the Great Veil tearing from top to bottom and the Holy of Holies open to everyone’s view.  God was surely angry at the death of Jesus.

Cheerful humming broke into Thomas’ dark thoughts. He watched as Mary the Magdalene walked, practically danced, over to John and offered him a cup of wine. Thomas narrowed his eyes as the two shared a secret smile. It wasn’t right for John to humor her that way. The poor woman’s mind had snapped that morning .

The women hadn’t been able to do a thorough anointing of Jesus’ body before the Sabbath began. This morning, a group had gone to finish the job as soon as the sun rose. They had all come back shortly afterwards hysterical and raving about angels and His missing body. Peter and John had gone to the tomb and verified that the body was gone but were quiet when they returned.

Mary had come back much later, singing and dancing. She spoke of seeing Jesus himself, not dead, but alive. She claimed he had spoken to her and called her by name. Peter didn’t say much, still berating himself for denying Jesus during the trial. John sided with Mary, claiming that the Lord has risen. At least John didn’t claim to have spoken with a dead man. Thomas thought that the soldiers had taken the body and desecrated it further just to show they could.

Thomas stalked over to the two of them.  “You should not carry on so, it is not right to make light of others sorrow.”

“Thomas, what do you mean?” John looked puzzled. “Why should there be sorrow among us when our Lord has conquered Death itself?”

“He has not conquered death, He is dead. Let us mourn Him properly.” A muscle in Thomas’ jaw clenched. They were unreasonable.

“Jesus did conquer death. Were you not standing with us when he raised Jarius’ daughter, or the son of the widow in Nain? Did you not see our friend Lazarus when he emerged from his tomb?”

Thomas shrugged. “I saw those things , but it is one thing to be filled with God’s holy power and raise someone else from the dead. Elijah and Elisha also raised people from the dead. But no one can raise themselves.”

“But I saw Him, Jesus appeared to me in the garden and spoke to me.” The light in Mary’s face dimmed. “Why don’t you believe me?” she placed her hand on Thomas’s arm and her eyes pleaded with him to understand.

“You are deluded by your grief. You want Jesus back so badly, you imagined him speaking.” Thomas pulled away from her touch and unlocking the door, descended into the street. Wrapping his headscarf across his face he stalked away.

To Be Continued. . .

 

Spring Break

065 (6)Ah, those word invoke visions of young bodies on warm beaches drinking in the sunshine. School is out for a week and frazzled college students pack their bags and head south for a glorious week of stress-free playtime before having to come back to face the last push at the end of the semester.

At least I assume that is what it is like.

I have never had a Spring Break like that.

Nope. My spring breaks have mostly consisted of yard work, spring cleaning and maybe, if I am lucky, a picnic lunch in a newly green park near home. I have never felt the loss. Being an introvert, the thought of crowded beaches, mobbed theme parks and packed bars made me shudder. Add to that the stereotype that all the young bodies belong to  ‘beautiful people’ intimidates me beyond belief. True or not, that stereotype has kept me safely home for decades.022

This year is no different. Instead of sprawling my out-of-shape-middle-aged body on sun-warmed sand, I am raking debris out of the yard and gardens. I am listening to the joyful laughter of my teenage kids as they play together, the battles and frustration of winter melting like snow under the warming sun. All around us the world is returning to life, bulbs are beginning to bloom, new green grass is emerging from the brown of last year’s growth and the air is filled with the songs of birds returning to their summer homes.

020I am not so good at the spring cleaning inside. It often takes me until fall to get that done. But the windows are open and warm fragrant breezes flutter my curtains. The floors are swept to clean up the mud tracked in by happy kids and dogs (not to mention the copious amounts of hair from two shedding labs!) But then the warm breezes and sunshine lure me outside once more.

So while warm sand and crashing surf are nice, I would not trade my Spring Break at home for any beach in the world.

 

 

Let It Go!

I am sure that most of you have seen or heard of the movie Frozen one of Disney’s top producing movies of all time. I know my kids (including my sons) have been walking around and singing the incredibly popular song Let it Go for weeks. I would laugh at them singing with all the drama and intensity of a born rock star, my sixteen yr old son was the biggest culprit. I hadn’t seen the movie yet and only had a vague idea of what it was about.

I saw people commenting on Facebook about the song, many of them saying it promoted selfishness and doing what you want regardless of how it hurts others. My first thought was, Huh, that doesn’t sound like Disney. Their kids movies are usually pretty uplifting and positive. When I really listened to the song, it did seem to be selfish.

I don’t care what they’re going to say, let the storm rage on.

The cold never bothered me anyway.

Yeah, that sounds a bit like a kid saying, I don’t care what anyone says, I’m going to do it anyway.

Until I saw the movie.

Then I saw why Elsa sang that song. She had been raised to be ashamed of her gift. To be afraid. Hide it, don’t let yourself feel anything. Don’t let anyone see who you really are. To protect one daughter, the parents tortured the other. Not intentionally, but it happened. They locked Elsa in her room to hide her, and her power, from the world, and even her own sister.

What would it have been like to live like that?

Don’t let them in, Don’t let them see, Be the good girl you always have to be.

Conceal, Don’t feel, Don’t let them know,

Well, now they know.

Is it any wonder that once the secret came out, she rejoiced in it? She no longer had to hide. She no longer had to be ashamed. She was free to be who she really was.

It’s time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through,

no right, no wrong, no rules for me,

I’m free.

She would rather live in isolation at the top of a cold mountain than return to a life imprisoned by fear. Can you blame her?

She did end up taking responsibility, and learned to control her power so that it became a blessing for her people. She learned the power of Love. And for once it was not romantic love, ‘true love’s first kiss’. This time the love was the unconditional love of Anna, Elsa’s sister, who gave her life to save Elsa from being killed. And this is after Elsa had struck the icy blow that was killing Anna.

Sound familiar?

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

And Jesus did just that, he gave his life for the ones who took it. He gave it up for all of us.

In giving that gift, he gives us the gift of freedom from a life of bondage, of fear, of isolation. All we need to do is accept it.

We can Let it Go. All the fears and insecurities that have imprisoned us. All the false rules and strictures that society has laid upon us. (That doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want either, just saying.) We all have talents and gifts, we have all been created for a purpose. Once Jesus has loosed our chains and relieved us of the burden of sin, we are free to become all that God intended us to be.

Well, I didn’t mean to preach in this one, but I think there is a reason that this movie became so popular, and I am not sure it is the reason that Disney intended. We all want to be loved and accepted for who and what we are, and there is One who does just that.

Thank God!