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An Inside Job

An Inside Job

Apr 19, 2020

Passage: John 20:19-31

Preacher: The Reverend Andrew Van Kirk


Of all the Easter stories, this one about Thomas is perfect for our times. For one thing, I don’t know if you noticed, but the disciples are quite literally sheltering-in-place. Now, to be fair, they face a different threat than we do; the gospel writer informs us that they are stuck inside behind locked doors “for fear of the Jews” — we are stuck inside for fear of the virus.

But we’re just as stuck. Just as fearful that the world outside our doors is a threat to us — not just an inconvenience, but potentially a threat to our very lives.

Thomas though; Thomas is not there. And since he wasn’t there, he must have been out in the world. He wasn’t sheltering in place with everyone else.

John tells us that this story took place on the evening of Easter Sunday. They disciples have heard the report of the women that Jesus has been resurrected. But they haven’t seen him. And, if we’re honest, they probably haven’t believed. They’re hunkered down, sheltered-in-place.

Thomas may have been pacing around that house with them almost the whole day. He may have played Uno! with Matthew and Nathaniel. He may have told stories about his senior year. Maybe he looked out the window and noticed the birds. I’m sure he paced. I’m sure all the disciples paced. Maybe he thought about his grandparents. Maybe he prayed a little more.

But soon enough, he was done with this. He put on his mask, stuck a pair of nitrile gloves in the back pocket of his tunic, and stepped out into that world. Going to buy milk. On a quest for the mythical toilet paper. Maybe stretching the bounds of what essential really means by venturing to the non-grocery side of Wal-Mart.

But whatever else he was doing, Thomas breathing the air of the world…because what sort of life was to be found in that house, cooped up? Trapped, by fear. What sort of life?

And then the Lord of Life shows up in that house.

”Peace be with you,” Jesus says to everyone. “Look, see, here are my hands, my side. You can see the holes, see the wounds — I died, and yet I live. And I’m here, with you, on the inside.” That’s what Jesus says to everyone.

Except for Thomas. Because Thomas is out; he’s not in.

If Jesus can’t come to you when you’re stuck inside a house, when the walls (or the privacy fence) bound your existence day after day, if you can’t meet Jesus where you are right now, then how do you expect to see Jesus out in the world when there is so much else to see? The walls and shut doors are not a problem for Jesus, and they radically limit the amount of places you have to look for him.

Jesus can get on the inside. He’s got an in. He’s an inside source. He can do an inside job.

Do you see what Jesus doesn’t do to find Thomas? He doesn’t say — "Oh, he’s at Kroger? I’ll stop by there after this." "He went to pick up curbside margaritas? Oh, I’ll just meet him there when we’re done here."

No, Thomas doesn’t meet him for a week, and he only meets him inside that house they’re hunkered down in. It doesn’t mean Thomas is stuck there forever, but for whatever is next, Thomas needs to meet Jesus in the house first.

Thomas is a first century Jew who is, after all this, going to head to India and preach the gospel there. You realize it’s no accident that Fr. Roy’s last name is Thomas, right? It’s Thomas because of this Thomas.

I looked it up on Google Maps. Walking directions from Jerusalem to the part of India where Christianity became indigenous: 1,344 hours. 56 straight days of walking, or 168 days of walking, assuming 8 hours a day. Also, Google tells me that route includes a ferry. And Baghdad, and Iran and Pakistan. So it’s not like Thomas never saw the outside world.

But first, he saw Jesus on the inside.

So here’s the thing I want to tell you today. The resurrected Jesus, the Easter Jesus, he’s happy — more than happy — to meet you while you’re sheltered in place. In fact, this may be one of the best opportunities you two have to get together. The world, the “normal” world as we like to call it these days, is loud and noisy and full of distractions and things to do and people to see and…whew! Do you remember how tired you were like six weeks ago?

And sure, this world is fearful — in the fear filled sense. And yes, it’s a little boring sometimes. But you know who’s really good with fear, and not at all boring? Jesus Christ the Son of God! And there are a lot fewer distractions.

I want you to look around right now. At the walls, the windows, the couch, the TV — most of us, for better or worse, are going to spend the vast majority of the next week within this space. Our existence is, for the moment, suspended here. So…meet Jesus here this week.

Ok. I’ll tell you what. The moment I met Jesus recently; the moment I had a deep and profound encounter with the presence of God…I was on a walk. But a lonely walk, in a big field, actively trying to stay away from anyone else. It was definitely a COVID-19 walk; you know what I mean. So maybe on a walk too.

We don’t get to see the risen Jesus the way Thomas did. That’s how this story ends, with Jesus telling Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet come to believe.”

But that doesn’t mean we can’t encounter him. When we’re stuck inside, we have a man on the inside. A man who tells us “Peace be with you.” Who longs to bring us joy, and peace, and the power of the Holy Spirit. We can do more than get through this; we can encounter Jesus in a way that will forever what happens when we finally get to open those doors and go back out into the world. Let Jesus pull an inside job on you.