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“Thomas’s Secret” on John 20.24-31 by Joe Ellis — April 7, 2024 (Simple Sunday)

Have you ever had someone not recognize you? Did you ever dress up in a costume and have someone, who knows you really well, totally not recognize you? For me, my favourite time that happened was when I was in Egypt. I bought some crazy pajamas , and I came down to the breakfast restaurant wearing my new PJ’s. My dad glanced at me and thought to himself — “Oh boy, here come the Aristocrats” — which is a fancy word for rich people. Dressing up differently than someone expects and wondering if they’ll recognize you can feel like an adventure.

In the Bible four different guys, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, wrote four different books telling us about the time that God had this sort of adventure of dressing up where many people didn’t recognize him. These four books were written to show us how to have faith, or trust, that God really did have this adventure — they are written to help us have faith that God had this adventure in Jesus so that we might find life in God.

John began writing his story about God’s adventure by letting all his readers, and you and me, in on a little secret that the people in his story didn’t know. At the beginning of John’s story about Jesus — John tells us who Jesus actually is, but the people in John’s story don’t know what we know! John starts his story by talking about God. He says, “In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things came into being, not one thing came into being except through Him.” (John 1:1-3)

John starts his book by telling us a story about God. God is the one who made every single thing through His Word. Now, people who know about God might not be very surprised at what John has to say. They might think, “Everybody knows that God made everything through words… that’s Sunday School stuff, John.” But now that John has our attention, he lets us in on a secret. John tells us a secret that the people in John’s story don’t know yet. John tells us that one day God decided to come into the very world that He made!

Now, when I think of how God might like to come into the world my imagination starts really going — I imagine maybe God would come into this world like a really big Lion made of fire so that everyone looking at Him would say, “Oh, wow, there’s God!” But that’s not how God wanted to come into this world. The secret John tells us is that God became a human. God came as a baby, and then he grew up. He became a toddler, a young kid, and then was a teenager. And eventually God became a grownup! John even tells us His name. Do you know what His name is? Jesus!

Now here’s the secret that we know that the people in John’s story don’t know. We know that God is Jesus — everyone else in John’s story is trying to figure out what it is about Jesus that’s so different. John tells us that God came to his own people, and his own people didn’t even recognize him! God showed up with an amazing disguise!

As you keep listening to John’s story about Jesus, you might get a bit nervous, because you realize that people aren’t figuring out who Jesus really is — and some of them even want to kill Jesus! Eventually it gets scary, and you want to say, “Jesus! This doesn’t look so good for you. Do something to show who you really are — turn into that great big fiery lion or something!” But Jesus doesn’t do that! Jesus keeps His secret. That is God’s plan.

So things go from bad to worse. They eventually arrest Jesus. Can you imagine putting God under arrest? Putting God in handcuffs? Can you imagine hurting God? But that’s what they do! And then they put him to death! We think, “Oh, no!” This has gone totally wrong! That shouldn’t be the way it goes!

That’s what Jesus closest friends were thinking — even though Jesus told them that he would need to die and be buried so he could save the world— they forgot all that Jesus had told them, and just thought this story was going so terribly wrong!

When you hear the story of Jesus for the first time it makes you sad. Jesus died, and not one person realized who He really was! Well, some people were starting to guess, but when Jesus died, that made them think they had been totally wrong. Because they thought, God would never let His chosen one die. But we know that’s not how the story ends. You can’t kill God. Just like you can’t keep God in handcuffs, just like you can’t keep God out of a room by keeping the door locked.

On Easter morning, Jesus came back from the grave — John tells us all sorts of happy stories about Jesus saying hello to His friends and people being so glad to see him. John says that some of them even believed. But what did they believe? Do they know the real secret yet? Do they know what we know? John doesn’t tell us in his book yet what the big secret is.

And that’s where we learn more about our friend Thomas in John 20:24-29. Thomas hadn’t been there when Jesus showed up on Easter evening in the locked room where his 10 disciples were gathered. People sometimes shake their head at Thomas because he didn’t believe that Jesus came back to life when this friends told him about when Jesus had been there with them in that room. Thomas told the others that he would need to touch the nail scars in his hands and put his hands in the hole where the spear had stabbed Jesus, and then he would believe.

But Thomas has done us all a really big favour. He is the first one who blurted out the secret for all to hear! He is the one who first said out loud that Jesus is God Himself!

This is how it happened: A week after Easter, the disciples were in that same room again with Thomas this time. Jesus walked through the locked door again. Jesus wants to find Thomas because Thomas didn’t believe that Jesus had come back to life. And then Jesus does something that you might think is a little gross. Jesus takes Thomas’ hand and puts it into his side, into the great big hole where he had been hurt with a spear. Jesus takes Thomas’ hands and puts them on his hand where the nails had been.

Thomas has the greatest ‘A-ha’ moment that the world had ever known. Thomas not only says, “I believe that you have risen from the dead.”  No, Thomas has an even greater A-ha moment than that! Thomas blurts out the secret for everyone to hear: “My Lord and My God!” Thomas knows who Jesus is, that Jesus is God.

When people put on a costume, it’s often to keep people from knowing who they are, to keep people distant. But that’s not what God was doing when He became a human being. He wasn’t putting on a disguise to fool us, and then take it off again. God became human forever, so he could always be closer to us. God became human so we could always be closer to Him. Look how close Thomas gets to God. Jesus asks Thomas to touch Him where He was hurt.

Who do you let touch you where you are hurt? — Mostly your mom, or your dad? And that’s probably after they promise to be really gentle and promise to make your hurt feel better. Jesus invites Thomas to touch Him where He hurts. God invites Thomas close enough to know His hurt. And here is a great big mystery — when we know how much Jesus’s hurt, God makes where we hurt all better. Jesus’s hurt makes the whole world better. When Thomas felt God’s hurt, he cried out, “My Lord and My God!”

That’s why John wrote his book — that in drawing close to God we can know Him. Then our hurts will become healed, and we will have life with Jesus forever.


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