SUNDAY SERMON: A ride-or-die friend

By Rev. Stephen Baldwin

OLD TESTAMENT: Psalm 133

NEW TESTAMENT:  John 20.19-31

When Jesus arrives, Thomas is gone. Where did he go? 

In the days and weeks after Jesus’ death, the disciples were hunkered down and locked up inside. Because they were afraid. The Romans killed Jesus, and the disciples didn’t want to be next. 

What happened to Jesus, happened all the time. The Roman government executed people to maintain order. They hung cross after cross after cross to keep their own power. People didn’t dare act on their feelings; they would’ve been hung on a cross too. 

Seven years earlier, a group of Jews protested Pilate’s decision to take money from the temple to use for public works projects–roads, bridges, water.  He had them all killed.

So when he had Jesus killed, there were no riots in the street. No protests or marches. Even Jesus’ closest followers didn’t say a word. They were locked up inside. 

When all of the sudden, there’s someone else in the room. Who hasn’t been there before. Who they don’t know. But still, they don’t say a mumblin’ word. I think that’s probably the most believable part of the story, because when we are afraid we lose our voice. 

So the man in the room makes the first move. He says, “Peace be with you.” It was such a benign greeting that it didn’t even register with them. 

Imagine what a moment it was. This was the moment Jesus had worked towards his whole life. He had lived, died, and risen for this moment. To come back and show his disciples that death could not deter him. 

Can you imagine how hard it must have been for Jesus to hold back when he’d come back for this moment? 

When I manage to make it home from the grocery store with everything on the list, I shout it out, “Honey, I’m home, and I did it! I got everything on the list!” 

My dog expects a parade after he comes inside from chasing the mailman. 

This is the moment where Jesus proves it was all worth it. But he doesn’t boast and doesn’t brag. He just says, “Peace yall.” 

And they have nooooooo idea. Not a clue. So he says it again, “Peace yall.” Then he shows them his hands and feet, and again says, “Peace yall.” 

Oh! They rejoice! It’s Jesus! It’s really him! He is risen indeed! This was the moment. What joy they all must have felt. How many tears were shed and bear hugs were handed out in that locked room that day.

Later on, once Jesus is gone, Thomas comes back. They tell him that Jesus stopped by. “C’mon guys. Are you serious? Unless I see the marks from the nails in his flesh, I won’t believe it.” 

Because while the disciples were locked up inside a room for days on end, too scared to even grocery shop, Thomas had gone out. 

Remember, he was gone when Jesus came. The doors were locked.

The disciples were in fear for their lives. Only Thomas had left the security and comfort of the upper room. 

Where do you think he went? We don’t know. The good book doesn’t tell us. But it does tell us other stories about Thomas. And while he’s come to be known as Doubting Thomas for not believing Jesus appeared resurrected, that does not portray who he was. One of the last things he says to Jesus occurs after Lazarus dies, another time of fear. Thomas says, “Let us go, so that we may die with him.” 

Thomas is not a doubter. Not a man subject to fear. Thomas is the kind of friend we’d all be blessed to have. He’s a ride-or-die kind of friend. 

So where do you think he was when Jesus came to visit? I think he was the only one who wasn’t afraid, and he was out and about doing what Jesus taught the disciples to do–helping others. Probably helping the disciples. Somebody had to bring them groceries in that locked room! I bet it was Thomas. 

He was the one who opened the door the disciples walked out so

they could change the world.  Thanks be to God for Thomas. You can call him a doubter if you want; I doubt any of us could find a better friend than him. 

This is a story about friendship. Something that seems to have gone by the wayside in today’s world. In the crunch for time, friendship too often gets short shrift. We just have too many other people and activities competing for our time. 

Kerry took Harrison to the pool this week. A little boy, whom we had never met, ran up to Harrison and said, “Would you like to be my friend?” 

Friendship is much more complicated than that, of course, but that kind of commitment to making friends is so refreshing, isn’t it? Would you, who I’ve never met before, like to be my friend? 

Friendship doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it’s much better when it’s not. It’s just two people willing to say, “Peace yall,” to each other. Yet that simple act of being a friend and of speaking peace makes a powerful impact that can change our lives forever. 

If we can have just one ride-or-die friend like Thomas who is willing to do whatever it takes to help a friend out, we will be blessed in this life. Take time this week to tell your friends how much they mean to you. Especially those like Thomas who are ride-or-die friends. 

Remember, Jesus appeared to his friends first. Thomas wasn’t there because I think he was out taking care of his friends. They all rejoiced when they were reunited. And together, they changed the world. Amen.

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