The empty chair.

Pilatos Salamanca

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Imagine yourself in the biggest event or meeting of your life. Imagine that meeting being the most important thing you could ever attend. Then, imagine yourself sulking and simply making the decision to stay home during this meeting that would literally shake the foundation of history……

After Jesus death, there was a meeting of his closest friends, the disciples, who we know as the apostles or the twelve minus Judas who betrayed Jesus and hanged himself. Imagine a boardroom meeting without one of the lead chairmen. Jesus best friends were meeting over something very important, but one chair was empty. We know that the chair did not belong to Judas. Maybe it belonged to Pontius Pilate, after all Pilate did have private chats with Jesus, and had the chance to know him as his personal savior….no, Pilate thought his place in Caesar’s kingdom was more important that his place in Heaven‘s kingdom. Maybe the chair belonged to Caiaphas, no that would not make sense, he was the lead priest who persecuted Jesus. There was an important member of the group of best friends, this congregation who failed to come that day.

It’s always sad for a congregation when its own members begin to choose not to attend. Sad indeed. The people make up the church, not the building. So when members begin to lose respect for the church, the people they essentially lose respect for themselves. No community loses respect for a congregation until that congregation loses respect for itself. No, that empty chair belonged to Thomas. Scripture tells us that “Thomas was not with them when Jesus came”. The day that Jesus returned to his best friends, Thomas decided to stay home. Thomas probably assumed that the meeting would just be all the guys sitting around being sad about Jesus dying and it would be dull. This meeting was anything but dull! Not sad at all. Christ came to this meeting!

I wonder why exactly Thomas stayed home. Obviously the neediest and saddest of the disciples could have benefitted greatly from being there. There are three words that explain why Thomas was missing that night. Thomas “lost all hope”.  Thomas believed Jesus was dead and life as he knew it was over with. Let’s take a look at two key things that Thomas missed out on that night.

1-Thomas missed the privilege of seeing Jesus.

His mentor, his leader, his God had risen from the dead. Imagine the feeling of being part of that meeting, Thomas never knew that feeling but he had a front row seat that was left empty.

2-It was during this meeting that Jesus projected the Holy Spirit on the disciples. Thomas again, simply stayed home.

Maybe you were once active in the church, maybe you were an enthusiastic Christian. But little by little you slipped back and away. Maybe you are just no longer one of the regulars in God’s house when it is time to worship him with your brothers and sister. Maybe you simply stay home. Writing this, many times in my life where I “stayed home” come to mind. Tons of times I know and feel that I missed something very special. Missed seeing Jesus, and every single time I do, things go wrong, and everything tends to disappoint me. I remember the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. King Darius was in the palace at this time, and in that palace there was restlessness and wretchedness, however in the lion’s den with Daniel was peace and joy. What made such a difference in two drastically different places???? The presence of God is what.

Most of us know about Thomas, giving us the title “doubting Thomas” eventually he did see Jesus alive and well and tested his doubts. Church history tells us that Thomas was even a martyr, he gave his life for Jesus name. We constantly read books, see T.V. specials, learn things about science and math, things that raise doubts in our hearts about our faith. Thomas was wiser in the end. “Thomas, we have seen the Lord” is what Peter said to Thomas about this service he had missed. Still though, he doubted until he was proved wrong, and he was very happy that he was proved wrong. When Thomas did again, meet Jesus, we get his famous words “My Lord and my God”.

There is someone reading this right now, that is a little shaken. You feel like a “Thomas”. You are wondering how many times you have voluntarily “stayed home”. How many times you have missed the opportunity of seeing God in action. Without trying to bash anyone, I know that we all know people who find reasons to stay home, and not just from church, from many things that are essential to a faith life. Fellowship, family, friends etc. There are so many things that could enrich a life, and strengthen a faith.

I want to close today by asking you all to consider not the past, but the future. We all have an opportunity to avoid staying home. I would only like to end this message with asking that you, the reader, the person who a friend sent you a link to this, the friend of family member, whoever you might be…don’t miss out on the most important things by staying home, not all of us are going to be as fortunate as Thomas in getting a second chance to see and be a part of these things that truly matter.

God bless you, and thank you for taking the time to read this message.

Chris

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