Good Evening friends. My name is Thomas.
I really don’t know if I should be talking with you right now. I’m taking a big risk being out in public. By now you must know that having witnessed this topsy-turvy week. But for those of you that have been away, or have not been paying attention, someone I admired and someone I was very close to was crucified last night – killed by a conspiracy of powerful interests.
Interests from both inside the empire and the temple, made possible when one of my closest friends betrayed our leader, and all of his followers, for money of all things. The name of the man that was executed was Jesus, and we are all stunned by this because we walked into Jerusalem just a few days ago to a big parade. We couldn’t have felt more welcomed, especially for country folk like me and my friends.
Jesus said he was going to Jerusalem to die. But I don’t think any of us thought it would end like this. Our fellowship which had been formed and strengthened by such promise, has been suddenly shattered and scattered into dark corners of the city, hiding from those that might want us dead too.
So I dare not linger here too long with you, lest I be found and brought to the same kind of so-called justice. Actually, I feel rather guilty about the whole affair, and my failure to stand up for Jesus, who wasn’t guilty of any of the trumped-up charges brought against him. But things happened so quickly and unexpectedly, we all reacted in fear – even though it was one of the things Jesus consistently told us “Have no fear”.
Just a few weeks ago as we prepared this journey to Jerusalem, and Jesus predicted his own death, I shouted to my stunned friends “Let us also go, that we may die with him!” What a hypocrite, I am. One moment I’m willing to join him in his mission unto death, and then when things get tough, I run away and hide like a little boy. At least my friend Peter stood up to the soldiers at first, willing to fight to save Jesus from capture.
But the odds were too much against us, and Jesus himself told Peter to stop, since he did not want any of us to be captured or killed. What kindness, what bravery, what love this man had for his followers. He died, so that we might be saved. But now that he is gone, what will our future be? We’ve lost our master, our rabbi, our messiah, and with Judas’ betrayal, we’re not sure we can even trust each other anymore. Which one will be the next to backstab over a few coins?
But I just remembered something that Jesus said, that didn’t make sense to me at first, but just now is starting to become clearer. Jesus once told us not to let our hearts be troubled, to believe in God and believe in him. Then he talked about leaving and going to prepare a place for us. As a fool, I asked him “Lord we do not know the way you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life!” I thought Jesus was telling us to stay close to him all the way through.
Thomas, you idiot! Jesus didn’t mean that literally, as if you could actually walk alongside him all the way to his destiny. He kept saying he was going to die, but none of us really believed it could happen. We’d seen so many unbelievable things in our time with him. Things that were really hard to explain – including bringing to life some people thought to be dead. With that power, surely Jesus would never die, and he was so close to God, we expected that Jesus could be rescued from any kind of danger.
We never really considered his death as an option, even though he kept predicting it. But Jesus is dead, and some of our friends inside the temple have told us that he has now been buried inside a sealed tomb. How can a dead man, be the way, the truth and the life?
So now that I think of it, as often as Jesus predicted his own death, he also claimed that he could rise again. Once, he even connected his own death and resurrection to the story of Jonah, who was swallowed by a fish, and after three days, emerged to carry out the mission of God to the gentiles.
So I wonder, if his prediction of death has now come true, could it be that his prediction of resurrection will also come true? Is this what he meant about the way, the truth and the life – that the way to the father is to have faith in the power of the resurrection – that God would claim power even over death, and death in the worst possible way?
I was there in Bethany, when Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb, and he emerged even after being entombed for four days. It was an amazing moment in ministry, but I can’t say for sure that I really believed Lazarus was fully dead. No one comes back from death, no one. How then can it happen with Jesus? After all, if Jesus were that powerful, he could have spared himself the torture of crucifixion, and frankly have spared us all the grief we are now feeling.
No, I’m afraid, that dead means what it always has meant – dead! And there is no coming back from death. But maybe there is a reason that Jesus died, and the twelve, er eleven of us remained. Maybe after all this confusion is over, something good can come out of it. Well I don’t know what my friends think, they were too scared to even show their faces, but I won’t let it get to me. I plan to live my own life and remember Jesus in my own way.
And now I hear the rumors are starting. by one of the women who went to Jesus’ tomb this morning. I thought they were crazy to go there with the Roman guards in place. They would be chased away, or worse, arrested and imprisoned. This one claims that when they went to the tomb, it was opened and empty – and an angel appeared to them announcing that Jesus had been raised from the dead, and something about going off to Galilee where we will meet him.
Just preposterous, don’t you think. The ravings of some grieving, overly emotional women. Even my crazy impetuous friend Peter will likely believe these tall tales! How can I believe such a thing? No – I don’t expect to see Jesus’ alive again, and I won’t believe it unless I put my hands inside and touch the wounds made by the nails on the cross, and the spear that was jabbed in his side as he was lowered. I don’t suggest you believe it either, at least if you want to keep your life, and your families safe.
But then again…
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Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church (GA) in New York City has been chosen as one of eight internship congregations to participate this year in a church-wide initiative designed to increase our understanding of Holy Scripture and most importantly, to cultivate our engagement with it. In partnership with The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Vicar John Heidgerd will be working to develop innovative ways to deepen our faith formation and sense of discipleship for the sake of ourselves and our communities.