Eight days after Pascha, the Church continues with the story of Christ’s resurrection that it began to tell us during AGAPE Vespers of Pascha. The story in the Gospel tells how Thomas had missed the first report of Christ’s resurrection, and would not believe the news until he saw Christ for himself. For St Thomas, seeing was believing, but Christ says, “Because you have seen Me you believe? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” We have not seen Christ’s resurrected body, but still we believe. God will always give us what we need in order to believe.
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Thank you for tuning in to another episode of Be Transfigured, where we invite you to live a new life in Christ. We pray that this episode is a blessing to you and will inspire you to rededicate your life to Jesus Christ. We invite you to join us for worship or study at the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs, Florida, where visitors are always welcome. We'll be back in a few moments to share some more information about our ministry.
Today's Gospel is for you. Well, every Gospel's for you, but today especially because Christ always knows what he's doing. Sometimes we wonder by reading the Gospel, especially on days like today, why didn't Christ just wait? He must have known that Thomas wasn't there. If it was so important for Thomas to see him, why didn't Jesus just wait for the moment that Thomas was going to be there? Have you ever considered that question? Because God is all knowing, God knew Thomas wasn't there and still our Lord and Savior went in to greet the disciples.
They were locked behind closed doors, the Gospel says for fear of the Jews. Because after the crucifixion event and after the burial, everyone was terrified. Everyone was being lumped in together. Remember, even Peter, we heard him so many times denying Christ when we were here during Holy Week. So the disciples were terrified, so after the crucifixion, after the burial, they go and they hide.
Now this Gospel reading, my brothers and sisters, we started hearing this on Sunday last week at what's called the Agape Vespers. Now, I'm going to go out on a limb here, but I'm going to suggest that probably most of you were not in church for Agape, because at 10:00 in the morning on Sunday morning of Pascha, after getting home at 3:00 and 4:00, it's a little difficult to wake up. So, go ahead, feel free, it's confession time, and total absolution, raise your hand if you missed the Agape Vespers on Sunday last week. It's okay, raise your hand, because you are all either asleep, or you are tending to the Lamb, I get it. I understand.
That's why this Gospel is for you, because just like Thomas wasn't there to hear the news, last week, you weren't here to hear the news that we all heard. And we heard it in ten different languages. We heard the first portion of this Gospel last Sunday, how Jesus Christ came and he appeared to his disciples and he gave them his peace and he gave them the authority to forgive sins.
Last week it ended with hearing Thomas say, "If I don't see it with my own eyes, I'm not going to be believe it." Poor Thomas. He gets a bad rap, Doubting Thomas. But we have to realize, Christ knew he wasn't going to be there. So we have to recognize that God had a reason for coming when he did. And that is in the words he spoke to Thomas and he says, "Thomas, because you have seen me you have believed? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
We have not had the pleasure to see the risen Lord with our own eyes, except in the church. Because you and I, in our baptism and in our Chrismation, we are the body of Christ. The church is the living body of Jesus Christ. This is why when we sing the Christos Anesti, we say Christ is risen, still today. We don't simply say Christ rose once and then he died again. We do say that about Lazarus. Remember two weeks ago, we came to hear the amazing news that Lazarus, after four days, had been risen from the dead? Lazarus died again. Jesus has never died again.
And we, my brothers and sisters, have this Gospel as a blessing for us because Christ knows what we need. Just as Christ knew what Thomas needed, just as Christ knew what Peter needed to do, God knows what we have to do. And God knows what we need in order to believe. And so the Gospel finishes today, "Many other things have been done which are not written in this book. But these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in his name."
Because there were witnesses, we can trust them. As I wrote in the bulletin, Saint Paul reminds us, he appeared to hundreds, not just the eleven disciples, hundreds of disciples, hundreds of followers saw him for the forty days before his ascension. There was no mystery that Jesus Christ is alive. Take that and put it against the number of times we heard the word death during Holy Week. On Holy Thursday Night and on Holy Friday, Pilot didn't know that he was already dead. He sent a soldier, "See if he's already dead." The soldier not realizing he was already dead, saw that he was already dead, told Pilot he was already dead. Dead, dead, dead, dead, dead.
There's a reason for this. Interestingly, people who are not even Christian believe that Jesus Christ died, but they were not there to see it with their own eyes. They believed that Jesus Christ died because of the witnesses that saw him die. And when the scriptures talk about the fullness of time, God was crucified on the most public holiday, in the most public city, in the most public fashion, so that when he died, there'd be no doubt he was dead. We didn't see it, but do you believe it? Of course, you do!
And then on the third day, he arose from the dead and he began appearing to people. First to the myrrhbearing women. The strong, courageous women, who we're going to hear about next week, and their strength because they went out before sunrise. They were the first ones to see the risen Lord. And then he appeared to the disciples. And then to more than 500 after. People, hundreds after hundreds after hundreds saw Jesus Christ raised from the dead so that we can be rest assured, God is alive. So that we can believe in him.
And if we believe in him, we have life. That's what's been given to us today. That beautiful opportunity to be the ones who believe without seeing. Because that takes faith. It's easy to believe that Jesus died, because we see death all the time. But it takes faith to believe in his resurrection. Witnessed by hundreds and hundreds of people, touched by Thomas, confessed by Peter, and as we heard in the epistle, the apostles who even their shadow was healing people. Great powerful times.
Sometimes we forget we still have those blessings today. We still get healed by God. We still get the opportunity to touch him when we receive holy communion and to bring him into our bodies. Because Jesus Christ is alive, because Christ is risen, and death has been abolished forever. And thank God that Thomas wasn't there that first day, because then maybe we would not have received this additional blessing of hearing even his eye witness story.
And he took his faith and went as far as India and established a church in India, which still stands to this day. That's courage and faith, there's no doubt in that man.
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