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The Foundation

April 19, 2020
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation for this second weekend in Easter comes from our Gospel text, where John writes, “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!’”  Here ends our text; dear Christian friends…

Have you ever built a house of cards? Maybe you built one as a kid like I did; it was fun to see how high I could build it up. Truthfully, though, I wasn’t very good at it, because it is rather difficult to do. You need a strong, steady foundation on which you build the upper levels of the structure; if there is the slightest breeze from a person walking by or the slightest shaking of the table, the foundation buckles and the whole structure collapses like … well, like a house of cards!

They’re not permanent; eventually, the house will fall, and when it does, you might feel a bit disappointed, but it’s certainly not the end of the world. There’s no danger, no risk. It’s not like lives are depending on you as you carefully place each of the cards. It’s not a big deal, really … as long you’re only working with cards. But what if you’re working with more than that? What if more important things are at stake? Your job? Your finances? Your relationships? Life goals, your dreams? Your future? Would you be willing to risk it? Probably only if the foundation is solid, if it’s a sure thing. Otherwise, you wouldn’t do it. Neither would I. Neither would the disciples, and neither would Thomas.

Today, on this Quasimodo Geniti, the Sunday after Easter, we do focus heavily on Thomas … and he gets a bum rap for it, but it’s not entirely fair. I say that because, really, there’s no difference between Thomas and the other disciples. True, the way that John writes the gospel makes us think the emphasis is on the twin, but truthfully, all of those men, hiding in the upper room, were no better. They were unbelievers – not doubters with questions, needing verification; they didn’t believe. In the verse before our text, after Jesus has been seen by Mary Magdalene, she goes to the disciples exclaiming how she has “seen the Lord,” and everything He had told her … but in spite of this gospel, which was corroborated by the account of Peter and John themselves, having seen the empty tomb (though not the risen Christ), they didn’t believe it.

John tells us, “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews” … They didn’t believe Mary when she said she had seen the risen Jesus. It’s not until after the disciples themselves have seen Jesus that they believe. The same thing happens to Thomas, where the disciples also say, “We have seen the Lord!” and Thomas says the quiet part out loud: “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.” In other words, “Unless I see things for myself, I will not build my foundation, my future … on this extraordinary claim.”

It was a risk, my friends, make no mistake about it. There was a reason why they were hiding: enemies had killed their Lord and Master, and they would certainly come after the disciples, as well, if given the chance! They had left their homes, their families, their livelihoods, all to follow this Jesus of Nazareth … and they had seen Him DIE. It had all come crashing down on that Thursday and Friday, and if you want them to rebuild, as Mary’s message suggested they could, then it had better be a solid foundation. A foundation so strong, that it could replace their unbelief. It needed to be firm enough to overcome that kind of fear. It had to be a foundation that they could touch … and see … and grasp. It had to be as firm as hands with nail marks in them, a side pierced open by a spear, and feet with scars through them. That’s what they wanted … and that’s what Jesus delivered.

The question for our broken, bleeding, dying world is this: did Jesus of Nazareth actually do these miraculous signs or not? Did He turn water into wine at Cana? Heal the royal official’s son? Drive out demons? Heal those blind from birth? Revivify the four-days-old corpse of His good friend Lazarus? Did He or did He not die … to snatch away our sin and guilt, to liberate us to have life with Him, now and forevermore? Did He or did He not die … and rise again the following Sunday morning, rising to eternal life so we can know that one day, all sickness, fear, sin, and death will be undone and we will live with Him forever? Did He do the signs … or not? The world continues to ask these questions, just as the disciples did back then.

But notice that Jesus didn’t begrudge them that question. He gave them the foundation they wanted … the one that they needed. Should they have believed Mary’s report and acted accordingly? Of course; she had seen the Foundation! Should Thomas have believed the numerous reports from his brother-disciples? Again, of course; they had seen the Foundation! Should we believe the words of Mary, of the disciples, of Thomas? Should we believe the words of John, who had been there, who could have written so many more of these signs, but tells us that “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name?” Should we believe them?

There’s a lot at stake, a lot to risk, because this isn’t an inconsequential game of cards. There are futures, relationships, finances, dreams, uncertainties all at stake here. Did He do the signs or not? Did He die for you and me – and then rise, or not? Jesus wanted us to know the answer, so He appeared to Mary … He showed Himself to the disciples, and later, to blessed Thomas, inviting him to put his fingers into the places where our salvation was won, the only wounds in all of creation that made the Father … smile. Thomas believed – “My Lord and my God!” He knew, as we do, that Jesus of Nazareth, who is called “the Christ,” is THE Foundation.

How firm is this Foundation? It’s strong enough for your dreams and plans; strong enough for today and tomorrow and every day thereafter. This Foundation is stronger than the foundations of the earth, the Word of Christ crucified and resurrected! It is a Word that you may believe, a Foundation you may build upon: Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again!

+ In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.