A few year ago there was a movie called Judas that sought to explore the meaning of Jesus from the perspective of Judas
In the scene after Jesus clears the temple, it shows a very human face to Jesus as he questions himself afterwards, wondering if he really should have acted in the way that he did, having his cool as it were.
What was perhaps most memorable about that movie was the ending. Most movies about Jesus end with some kind of resurrection scene. This movie had no reference to any classical resurrection scene. No empty tomb or angels dressed in white, no resuscitated body.
The movie ends instead with a very moving scene where Judas has hanged himself out of shame and regret for how he had betrayed Jesus. In that scene two of Jesus' disciples are portrayed taking down the body of Judas from where it was hanging, in order to give him a proper burial.
Despite the actions of Judas, the two of the disciples of Jesus take the time to care for the earthly remains of Judas.
As they are removing the body of Judas from the place where he has been hanging, one of the disciples says to the other. Do you think we should really be doing this? The other disciples turns to him and says: “Jesus would have wanted us to do it.”
The two disciples in that simple action of treating the betrayer of Jesus with dignity and respect, embody in a profound way something of the spirit of Jesus, who had once taught them to love their enemies and to pray for those who persecuted them.
In some ways, that scene is a another kind of resurrection scene. In that moment, the spirit of Jesus lives on in his disciples. Jesus is till alive. Death, brutality and betrayal have not won. The love of Christ lives on in the simple actions of those two disciples.
I think that the ending of that movie speaks of an important dimension of resurrection that can often be missed in the normal ways we speak of resurrection. Christian history has shown us time and time again how Christians who have professed to believe in the resurrection of Jesus, have committed the most atrocious acts and deeds sometimes even in his name.
John Calvin, one of the great names of the reformation and a prolific writer of theology had a fellow reformer Michael Servetus, burnt at the stake in Geneva. We must pause and reflect on just how atrocious and appalling that is. John Calvin had a fellow reformer burnt to death. Next to crucifixion, that must be one of the most painful and excruciating ways to die.
What was the crime of the offender? He had a different interpretation of theology to Calvin. He did not hold to the doctrine of the Trinity like Calvin and therefore as a heretic he was put to death by being burned at the stake.
John Calvin a n important reformation leader and yet in that instance he seems to be so far away from the spirit of Jesus. If asked, Calvin would have said that he believed in the resurrection of Christ, and yet as he watched Michael Servetus burning to death for what he considered heresy, he clearly had not yet understood the way of Jesus.
What use is it, we may ask, to say that we believe in the resurrection of Jesus unless we earnestly seek to be his followers.
In our passage today, we have an interesting verse. Our passage begins with the words: “The disciples said to Thomas “We have seen the Lord”.
The Greek word for seen 'Horao” means to discern clearly (physically or mentally); to attend to; to experience; to perceive, to take heed.” – It is not just normal casual physical looking wit one's physical eyes. It suggests that seeing the Risen Christ is something more than just seeing with your eyes. If that was the case ta different Greek word would have been used.
Therefore to truly see the Resurrected Lord, is not just to see a physical body. To truly see the risen Lord is to discern the true spirit in which Jesus lived, to take heed of Jesus and his teachings.
It makes a big difference for example if we translate the word see differently: The disciples said to Thomas ' We have discerned the Lord' / 'We have experienced the Lord' / We have perceived the Lord / We have taken heed of the Lord”. It suggests that the penny had dropped for them. They had finally come to a new understanding of the meaning and the significance of his life” They had finally comprehended the way of Jesus. .
In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus says: “Blessed are the pure in heart. They will see God.”
Something similar perhaps applies to the risen Christ. When we truly put the teachings of Jesus into practice in our lives, then we will 'see' and experience the life of the Risen Lord. We will discern the spirit of Jesus that could not be held by death.
In Matthew's Gospel we also read “not all who call me Lord Lord will enter into the Kingdom of God, but those who do the will of my Father in heaven”. The same could be said of the resurrection. Not all who say I believe in the resurrection have necessarily entered the kingdom of Christ, but those who put his teachings into practice. Those who allow the spirit of Christ to continue to live on through them.
To truly believe in the resurrection is not simply to believe in an empty tomb, it is to allow the spirit in which Jesus lived his life to live on in us. What use is it to believe in the resurrection of Christ with out heads, if the spirit and teachings of Jesus do not live on in our actions.
As a colleague has put it: When Jesus called his first disciples with the words: “Come, follow me!” He was not looking for admirers, he was looking for disciples who would sincerely seek to take heed of his teachings and to discern his way, that they might experience in their own lives what it is like to live as children of God and to experience for themselves, first hand what it means to become part of the Kingdom of God, even while living in this world.
The passages closes with Jesus inviting Thomas to touch his wounds...
What could it mean to put our fingers in the nail marks and our hand in his side?
To touch the wounds of Jesus is to understand the love of Christ, a love that is even willing to suffer for the sake of others. A love that is willing to suffer for doing what is good and noble and right. To touch the wounds of Christ is also to be in touch with the wounded-ness of the world and to be willing to respond to that wounded-ness with love and care. To allow ourselves to become the hands and feet of the Risen Christ. It is to discern the way of Jesus love in the brokenness of our world.
I believe that like Thomas, we too can 'see', discern and take heed, and so experience in our hearts and lives, the Risen Lord as we become sincere followers of the way of Jesus, and as we hear the invitation of Christ to touch his wounds, and so to respond to the wounds of the world with love and healing.