St Francis, Terriers - Easter 2 (03.04.2016)

Tony Dickinson

easter picAlleluia. Christ is risen!

It isn’t in the script.

No. There’s absolutely nothing about the vicar throwing Easter eggs into the congregation.

It isn’t in the script.

But then, there’s a whole lot about Easter that isn’t in the script.

The women finding the stone rolled away and the body of Jesus gone, as we heard last Sunday. That wasn’t in the script.

Jesus suddenly appearing in a locked room with his disciples, as we heard this morning. That wasn’t in the script, either.

Peter and John being broken out of prison by an angel and answering back to the high priest when they were re-arrested and brought before the council – that, too, wasn’t in the script. It certainly wasn’t in the high priest’s script. Outraged dignity bubbles up from every word he speaks. How dare they! How dare they teach the people about Jesus of Nazareth. And after the council had strictly told them not to!

And Thomas – well, Jesus being raised from the dead certainly wasn’t in his script, and he couldn’t make any sense of what the other disciples told him. And they didn’t just tell him once. The Greek word St John uses means “they kept on telling him”. Can’t you just imagine it? No wonder Thomas got a bit huffy with them and dug his heels in! He wanted solid evidence to back up what they were saying. ‘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.’ No way, José! Again the words St John uses are a lot stronger than they appear when they’re translated from Greek into English.

Thomas doesn’t do unpredictable. Thomas likes to know what is going to happen, and how, and when. Not just here, but in the other episodes where St John mentions him. And one thing Thomas knows is that dead men don’t come back. So he knows he’s safe saying that. ‘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.’ But then, the next Sunday, this dead man does come back. “A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’”

That definitely wasn’t in Thomas’s script. And it got worse. Jesus called Thomas out on what Thomas had said the week before: “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.’” What is happening here is something new and wonderful. What is happening here is a new beginning – not just for Thomas, but for everyone, for us.

Jesus has taken the script written by the powerful, the Roman governor and his soldiers, the authorities in Jerusalem and their rent-a-mob – he has taken their script and torn it into tiny pieces. Instead, he has written his own script. Parts of it are made up of lines taken from the old prophets of Israel, but at the heart of it is something entirely new – a message of hope and life for everyone, about God’s freely given love and forgiveness. God is with us. God is for us. Ordinary Joes and Joannas have the gift of God’s Spirit (that isn’t in the script, either). However far we fall, however often we fail him, God is there to catch us, to haul us to our feet, to dust us off and set us, once more, on the right path. That is the message of Peter and John to the high priest, a message that has all the more power because it is rooted in their own lived experience. They got it wrong – sometimes badly wrong – time and time again, but time and time again they experienced God’s forgiveness. They knew that they were accepted by God. They knew that life and hope will, in the end, win over death and despair. Knowing that enables us to break free from every script that threatens doom and destruction. Alleluia. Christ is risen!