The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. John. (20:19-31)
Within the Orthodox Church all over the world we have been enjoying a wonderful celebration. This is not the celebration of a neat idea or a famous story or a cleverly devised fable or myth. In a hundred years people will still speak of Harry Potter as a great story but they will not hold festivals and great celebrations in his name. Our celebration within the Church is of a different nature. For us it is the celebration of a life changing reality.
The resurrection of Christ which we celebrate is in a powerful way, a celebration of truth over falsehood, life over death and light over darkness. It is through the crucifixion and subsequent resurrection that the Apostles fully understand the truth of the identity of Jesus Christ.
This week I read a news article about a group of university students who wrote a letter to the president of the school in order to protest the upcoming speaking engagement of a man who did not agree with their particular worldview. What was shocking was just how far these students were willing to go with their disagreement. Here are their exact words “The idea that there is a single truth–‘the Truth’–is a construct of the Euro-West that is deeply rooted in the Enlightenment…” They went on to claim that objective truth is simply a construct of racists that is used to silence oppressed peoples.
Our society is losing a grip on reality and essentially that grip has to do with morality and that morality has to find a reference point with a moral law-giver and that moral law-giver must have an identity. And that identity must actually be rooted in something deeper than myths and inspiring stories. Star Wars is a myth and an inspiring story but it has no real power in our lives.
What we Christian peoples have been celebrating this week and for the last 2000 years is the truth that has been revealed to us through the experience of the Apostles. For us there are some matters that are life or death and the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is certainly among the most important of these.
In today’s gospel reading we hear these words from our Lord to Thomas, who doubted the resurrection until he had seen physical proof. The Lord said “Put your finger here, and see My hands; and put out your hand, and place it in My side; do not be faithless, but believing.” Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” We cannot ignore the power of this story because it demonstrates that what the disciples saw was not some ghost or vision. It was a real flesh and blood human being. And this human being still had the wounds which He had received 3 days earlier. He still had nail holes and a huge spear wound in His side. His presence shook Thomas and the others to their very core. In all of this we see that Thomas cries out “My Lord and my God!” It is one of the direct instances where Jesus is clearly called God and we notice that the Lord does not rebuke or silence Thomas. He doesn’t say to Thomas “Please don’t say that, it is blasphemy.” The Lord Jesus accepts the words of Thomas because they are full of truth.
Jesus continues saying “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” The sight and the presence of the Lord shook the disciples and completely changed their worldviews and utterly changed the fabric of the society around them. Those men who were cowardly became bold and courageous like lions. They went from place to place preaching the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Nearly every one of them was murdered for preaching, teaching and proclaiming that Jesus was risen from the dead.
At no time did any one of the disciples waver or change their course of action. At no time did any of the disciples say “It was all a story that we made up, it never happened.” They were thrown out of their synagogues and forcefully removed from the Temple. They were ostracized and laughed at. They were beaten and imprisoned. Through all of this, the message never changed and their joy also never changed. Their joy never changed and never failed because Christ had forever changed their understanding of the things that mattered.
He changed their understanding of suffering. He changed their understanding of death. He changed their understanding of God. He changed their understanding of the truth because He demonstrated that He is the Truth. Ultimately, He changed their very understanding of life. They were ready to leave everything behind in order to boldly proclaim this objective truth, that God exists, that God love us so much that He sent His Son into the world for us, that His Son suffered and died for us and that this same Son rose from the dead in order to give us renewed life and purpose through communion and fellowship with Him.
Far from being a tool of racists used to silence oppressed peoples, objective truth in the person of Christ is meant to liberate and free oppressed and enslaved humanity from the delusion of idols and the prison of false teachings that can never offer us healing, hope or salvation because they never actually bring us to the one true God!
But why am I saying all of this to you today? Because we are the people of the resurrection! I don’t want you to be enslaved and entangled in the world, in its materialism, in its lusts. We are reminded that life has no meaning unless it is married to truth. The resurrection of the crucified Lord, who is the only Son of God, should be the central truth of our life. It should shake us to the core as it shook the first disciples. It must change our lives.
Don’t fill your days with plans of what to buy next, what to eat next, what to do next. Fill your hearts with the joy of Christ’s resurrection and with the thought that while everything in this life is passing away, our life with God is still just beginning and it will continue forever through Christ’s glorious resurrection from the dead. This is the truth proclaimed by the Apostles and it is the truth and the reality of the people of God. Christ is risen!