Eucharist – 1st Sunday after Easter – 11th April
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “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.”
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.” Then 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.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
Last week it was my Goddaughter’s birthday so I sent her a card saying ‘I can’t wait to see you in 3D again and give you a big birthday hug!’ I’m very close to my Goddaughter and the first thing we normally do (or, rather, used to do pre-Covid) is to give each other a great big bear hug. In fact, giving her, my mum, dad and others whom I love a great big bear hug is the one thing I’ve really missed during these Covid times. I’m sure many reading this will say they just can’t wait to get back to normal and give people a big bear hug again once all this is over!
Human touch is one of the most important aspects of being human. Human touch brings healing. A baby who has been denied touch from his or her mum in the early days of life outside the womb cannot actually survive despite being fed and watered: without the mother’s touch the child simply loses the will to live! It is through knowing the love of the mother that the child knows he or she is loved, cared for and cherished. Human touch brings life and healing, which is why violence and abuse are such evil things, as they take human touch and turn it into something that destroys life rather than something that gives and sustains life.
The whole reason Jesus came to the earth was to touch people’s lives with God’s love. So, during Jesus’ life, he went around touching people – touching broken bodies – and it’s through that touch that people were healed and set free. And this also explains why, when Jesus is raised from the dead, he isn’t raised as an invisible ‘spirit body’. He’s not like a ghost, floating around in the upper room above the disciples heads saying ‘look up here everyone – I’m flying!’ But rather, he’s there in the flesh! Jesus is raised, well – a human being! In Luke’s account Jesus eats a piece of fish (Luke 24:41-43) and in John’s Gospel he has breakfast with his disciples (John 21: 9-14). In fact, I’ve heard it said that the Risen Jesus is even more human than Jesus was before the crucifixion – the Risen Christ is humanity fully alive; humanity alive with the life of God! And the Risen Christ longs to reach out and touch his people.
Thomas is often criticised as the doubter! But I think Thomas is onto something here. He realises that the good news of God is that God has become flesh – and that it’s through touching the flesh of Jesus that his own life would be restored. So he touches Jesus and life, joy and happiness return to him. The marks of wounds that were meant to kill and take life, become the very parts of Jesus’ body that bring life and hope and joy back into Thomas’ life.
In these Covid days, human touch is still denied many of us! But God is still reaching out to touch us in a whole host of ‘covid secure’ ways. When we’re out in the sunlight and we feel the touch of the sun on our skin, what if it’s actually God reaching out and touching us with the warmth of His love? Or when we take a walk outside and see the birds, the rivers, the forests, trees and wildlife, what if God is actually reaching out to us to touch and bless us through his beautiful world? One of the most healing things for me during lockdown has been my walks in the open spaces where the touch of God’s good creation can restore me to life, hope and sanity. And for those who feel able to get to church at the moment, God still touches us through the Eucharist, symbols of his death and resurrection; when we touch and partake of the Eucharist, God’s love and life flow into us just as they flowed into Thomas when he touched the wounded side of Jesus.
So, human touch is the conduit through which God’s love passes. And God’s healing touch is passed through you and me. We may not be able to hug our relatives and friends at the moment, but when we touch people with a phone call, or a word of encouragement, then God is actually using us to touch their lives. And hopefully very soon, when we are allowed close physical contact, when we can hug and embrace, may we know more fully what it means to be touched by God, and what it means to be a channel of His love and blessing to others.