By His Wounds Are We Healed

By His Wounds Are We Healed

Homily for Second Sunday of Easter

April 7, 2024

By His Wounds Are We Healed

Homily for Sunday, April 7, 2024
The Second Sunday of Easter
John 20:19-31

“Jesus said to Thomas… ‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’”

Probably all of us have heard of “Doubting Thomas,” the main character in today’s Gospel lesson, but St. John in his Gospel tells us there is more to Thomas than doubting.  For example, in his Gospel John portrays Thomas as a disciple who understands the importance of Jesus’ teaching to remain or to“abide” with him.  In chapter 11, after Jesus announced that he was going to Bethany to raise Lazarus, thus coming dangerously close to Jerusalem (where they were just trying to stone him (11:8)),Thomas declared, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16).  Or again, at the Last Supper when Jesus told the disciples of his imminent departure – “I go to prepare a place for you… [and]You know the way to the place where I am going” (14:2, 4) – it was Thomas who said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going.  How can we know the way?” (14:5).  In both these passages Thomas shows that he understands the importance of Jesus’ teaching to remain, to “Abide with me as I abide with you” (15:4).  

Today’s lesson is the most extensive appearance of Thomas in St. John’s Gospel; and even though it is today’s passage that gives Thomas the moniker “doubting,” there is more to Thomas here,too, than doubting.  What in today’s passage Thomas does for St. John’s Gospel is to initiate a shift from belief in Jesus being dependent on sight, to belief in Jesus being possible also through what is felt or touched.  If before in John’s Gospel images of light and sight have been important – recall how in chapter 3 Nicodemus came to Jesus “by night” (3:1), but in chapter 4 Jesus met the woman at the well at “about noon” (4:6); or recall how in chapter 6 the crowds kept following Jesus because “they saw the signs that he was doing” (6:2), and how in chapters 8 and 9Jesus said, “I am the light of the word” (8:12; 9:5); or recall as well how in chapter 9, after Jesus opened the eyes of the man born blind, he believed in him:  “’Do you believe in the Son of Man?’… ‘Who is he, sir?  Tell me, so that I may believe in him…’ ‘You have seen him,’” Jesus said, “’and the one speaking with you is he.’  He said,‘Lord, I believe’” (9:35-38) – [if before in St. John’s Gospel images of light and sight have been important, including for belief in Jesus,] in this morning’s lesson at the end of the Gospel, Thomas shows that belief in Jesus is possible also through what can be felt or touched.  John writes:

He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”  Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

Further, note how, in a passage that echoes today’s Gospel story of Thomas touching Jesus, in this morning’s epistle from 1 John the author writes:  

We declare to you… what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands,concerning the word of life (1 John 1:1)

Thomas may have doubted, but more importantly Thomas in the Gospel’s final chapters shifts belief in Jesus from being something dependent on sight, to belief in Jesus being possible also through what we can touch or feel.  

For those of us “who haven’t seen and yet have come to believe,” my hunch is that we are followers of Jesus not because of something we have seen but because of something we have experienced;it is because of what we have “felt” or “touched” that we acknowledge Jesus to be “My Lord and my God.”  

Note, too, that Thomas did not ask to touch Jesus by, say, hugging him or touching his face.  Rather:

[Thomas] said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

Thomas wanted to touch Jesus’ wounds.  For those of us “who haven’t seen and yet have come to believe,” I suspect we count ourselves as Jesus’ disciples not so much because we have “hugged” Jesus or touched his face, but rather because we have touched his wounds; something wounded within us has connected with his wounds.  We know that, no matter how we hurt or how much we hurt, [we know that] Jesus shares in our full human experience,including in every kind of wound, and that he is present with us where we are wounded.  

Moreover, I suspect we are drawn not only to Jesus’ presence with us as we are wounded, but also because deep-down we know that, as the author of the letter to the Hebrews writes, that his wounds in some way help us:  “Because he himself was tested by what he suffered,” the author writes, “he is able to help those who are being tested” (Heb 2:18).  Further, I suspect we know, too, that as the author of 1 Peter writes, that Jesus’ wounds can heal us: “by his wounds [we] have been healed,” the author writes (1 Peter 2:24).  And we likely know, too, on a deep, perhaps subconscious, level that Jesus’ wounds not only heal us individually but also can lead us into a collective healing that reunites all people with God and each another in Christ.  As the author of Revelation wrote in his vision of heaven:  this “lamb” who was slain, because of his ordeal, is able to lead us to the “springs of the water of life and… will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev 7:17). We may not know exactly how, but on a deep level we intuit that Jesus’ wounds can heal our wounds and even restore our broken world.  

Which, by the way, isn’t to say we won’t bear scars. Even after his resurrection, note that Jesus bore scars.  We may achieve a degree of “moving past” our wounds, but it would be unreal if our scars completely disappeared.  Even Jesus bears scars.

There is much more to Thomas than doubting!  I pray that we may remember Thomas not so much for his doubting but more for his witness as to what it means to be Jesus’ disciple:  Thomas is an exemplar of remaining or“abiding” with Jesus; Thomas moves belief in Jesus from being dependent on sight to belief in Jesus also being possible through what we feel and touch; Thomas points to Jesus’ wounds and shows that they can be touched; and by touching Jesus’ wounds Thomas reminds us that Jesus’ wounds heal and reconcile.  Thomas is much more than a doubter – to paraphrase today’s epistle, Thomas makes known to us “what he has heard, what he has seen with his eyes, what he has looked at and touched with his hands,concerning the word of life… so that we may have fellowship with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ… so that our joy may be complete.”


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