Sunday 19 April 2020 – “My Lord and My God”

 

Thomas stained glass

The Salvation Army, Prestonpans Corps
Sunday, 19 April 2020
by Majors Elizabeth & Steven Turner

Sing: O Lord my God

(Tune: How great thou art)

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds thy hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy pow’r throughout the universe displayed:

Chorus
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to thee;
How great thou art, how great thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to thee:
How great thou art, how great thou art!

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:

And when I think that God, his Son not sparing,
Sent him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin:

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim, my God, how great thou art!

Carl Gustav Boberg
trs. Stuart K. Hine

(© 1949, 1953, The Stuart Hine Trust. Print Rights (in the U.S., North, Central and South America) admin. by Hope Publishing Company. All rights in the USA, its territories and possessions, except print rights, admin. by Capital CMG Publishing. All other non-US/Americans rights admin. by The Stuart Hine Trust. Rest of the world rights admin. by Integrity Music UK.)

Pray the Lord’s Prayer

Bible Reading:      John 20: 19-31

27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”

28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.

29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”

John 20:27-29 New Living Translation (NLT)

 

Reflection

Most of us rely heavily upon our eyes, perhaps more than we realise. Aside from admiring the beauty of creation, we get most of our information from written material such as books and magazines, or from the television or internet. For blind or visually impaired people, these sources are much harder to access. Even simple, everyday tasks are harder without sight. Imagine the number of visual clues you need to make a cup of tea, the most important being to pour just the right amount of water into the cup or pot. Some people can judge the level by sound but this is much harder and requires training.

We don’t realise how important is our sight until we lose it. Some years ago, I (Steven) attended a leadership training course. For one of our exercises, we wore blackout goggles. The instructor distributed some plastic shapes and told us to negotiate with other teams to obtain a full set. I tried to describe what one of my shapes felt like, but nobody could understand. Later, when the goggles were removed, I realised I had got my description completely wrong!

Because our other senses can be fooled, some people say, “seeing is believing.” If that’s true, we are a bit hard on Thomas if we call him “doubting”. He knew that the Roman soldiers had done a good job of killing Jesus, and John tells us that the disciples had not understood what Jesus told them about his resurrection (v9). It’s quite reasonable that he would ask for proof of this outlandish claim.

Jesus took time with Thomas

God understands our human frailties, and often shows great patience with those who are genuinely seeking. Look at Moses, called from self-imposed exile to lead the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 3), or Gideon, who reminded God, “My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” (Judges 6:15). He turned Moses’ staff into a snake, and soaked Gideon’s fleece for him, while leaving the ground dry.

In the same way, Jesus recognised Thomas’ desire to avoid being hoodwinked. Perhaps he and his twin brother (v 24) had played jokes on his mother, swapping identities to avoid punishments or chores. So, on his second appearance in the upper room, Jesus took time with Thomas, to reassure him of the truth of the resurrection, that he was indeed alive. But at times even our eyes can deceive us.

Jesus invited Thomas to touch him

When we visited Walt Disney World, some years ago, we sat in a theatre where they reproduced special effects from Raiders of the Lost Ark. In one scene, Indiana Jones is running for his life, as a huge boulder rolls towards him. At the last minute, he ducks down and the boulder passes overhead.

Whilst the stuntman moves on to demonstrate the next trick, a stagehand casually rolls the boulder back up the slope. Although it was painted to convince the viewer it was a rock, in reality it was made of polystyrene!

A little bit of paint could easily trick the eye into seeing scars on Jesus’ hands and feet. Thomas had seen Jesus killed; he knew the nails and spear would have left holes in the flesh. So, Jesus held out his hands and invited Thomas to touch him, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side” (v 27). This would surely convince him.

Thomas was stirred to tell the truth

I’ve always been amazed that Thomas did not actually touch Jesus, before making his amazing declaration, “My Lord and my God” (v28). After all his caution, you would expect him to go all the way. He must have seen something in the face or heard something in the voice that convinced him it was Jesus. Perhaps he had been peeved that Jesus showed himself to the group when he was not present. Or perhaps he just needed a little nudge to believe what he hoped was true. Whatever the reason, Thomas made one of the first and most heartfelt statements of faith recorded in the Bible.

Of course, we shall not see Jesus as Thomas did, until we encounter him in heaven. But Jesus had words of comfort for us too:

“You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” (v29)

It is understandable that, 2000 years after the event, many people struggle to believe in Jesus’ resurrection. Such things are even further from our experience than they were for Thomas, who witnessed the raising of Lazarus (John 11). But Jesus comes to each person in a way that gives them the opportunity to encounter him for themselves. He met Saul on the road to Damascus, the Ethiopian Eunuch in his chariot, Peter on the rooftop of a friend’s house and John in the quarries of Patmos. He comes to believers and sceptics alike in his own particular way, seeking a relationship with them.

He allows us time to discover his presence with us. He invites us to touch him, not with our hands, but with our hearts. And he invites us to tell others of our experience, so that they may know him too. All that is required is a heart ready to believe, and the willingness to explore a relationship with Jesus.

Sing: How sweet the name of Jesus sounds

(Listen on YouTube)

How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
in a believer’s ear!
It soothes our sorrows, heals our wounds,
and drives away our fear.

It makes the wounded spirit whole
and calms the troubled breast;
’tis manna to the hungry soul,
and to the weary, rest.

Jesus, my shepherd, brother, friend,
my Prophet, Priest, and King,
my Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,
accept the praise I bring.

Weak is the effort of my heart,
and cold my warmest thought;
but when I see thee as thou art,
I’ll praise thee as I ought.

Till then I would thy love proclaim
with every fleeting breath;
and may the music of thy name
refresh my soul in death.

John Newton

Prayer

Lord Jesus, we thank you that you treat each of us as individuals, coming to us in the manner best suited to our personalities and our circumstances.

Thank you that you give us time to respond to you. Help us also take time, so that we may enjoy a full encounter with you.

Thank you that you invite us to touch you, that our spirit may meet yours in an almost tangible form, to soothe our doubts.

May our encounters with you be so real that we hurry to tell others about them, so that they too wish to encounter you.

And may we know the blessing you promised to all who encounter you in faith and love, and in your risen power. We pray in your most precious name. Amen.

Sing: Praise him, praise him, Jesus our blessed redeemer

(Tune on Youtube)

Praise him! Praise him! Jesus, our blessed redeemer!
Sing, O earth. his wonderful love proclaim!
Hail him! Hail him, highest archangels in glory;
Strength and honor give to his holy name!
Like a shepherd. Jesus will guard his children,
In his arms he carries them all day long.

Praise him! Praise him!
Tell of his excellent greatness;
Praise him! Praise him!
Ever in joyful song.

Praise him! Praise him! Jesus, our blessed redeemer!
For our sins he suffered and bled and died;
He our rock, our hope of eternal salvation.
Hail him! Hail him! Jesus. the crucified!
Sound his praises! Jesus who bore our sorrows,
Love unbounded, wonderful, deep and strong.

Praise him! Praise him! Jesus, our blessed redeemer!
Heavenly portals loud with hosannas ring!
Jesus, Saviour, reigneth for ever and ever;
Crown him! Crown him! Prophet and priest and King!
Christ is coming, over the world victorious;
Power and glory unto the Lord belong.

Fanny Crosby (1820-1915)

Benediction: May God’s blessing surround you each day

 

About prophetable

My wife Elizabeth and I were commissioned as Officers (ministers) in The Salvation Army in 1997, and have served in appointments in England and Scotland. Since July 2016 I have been working in The Salvation Army's Scotland Office as combined parliamentary and ecumenical representative.
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