Photo: Emily Morter (Unsplash.com)
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.
John 20:19-31 (NRSVA)
The disciples don’t seem to know what to do with Mary Magdalene’s mind-blowing testimony: ‘I have seen the Lord’. They spend the first Easter Sunday locked away ‘for fear of the Jews’.
With his body apparently stolen there is good reason to think that the instigators of Jesus’ brutal execution are still not satisfied. Perhaps they intend further revenge? Does the empty tomb point to further trouble?
Of course, these locked doors and hiding hearts also keep the disciples from the risen Christ. While they continue to cower they can’t possibly investigate Mary’s claim. They hide from a perceived persecution and miss out on very event that initiates God’s coming kingdom.
Fear has a lot to answer for.
These locks and bars, however, are not nearly enough to keep the resurrected Jesus out. His message: ‘Peace be with you’ is the polar opposite to fear!
Broken hands and side initiate this ‘peace’ and the disciples ‘rejoice’ as Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit over them. A commissioning of sorts. They will grow in this call as they learn to forgive and retain in this resurrection Spirit.
Thomas is missing, however. His response to the disciple’s claim is as closed as the doors behind which the others hid: ‘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.’ Evidence. Give me evidence!
But they can’t put their friend’s hand in Jesus’ side.
Instead they tell their story – perhaps over and over. I wonder if it was a frustrating week? Ten believe. One does not.
Yet somehow they are still together when Jesus appears once more. His greeting is the same but his offer to touch is a personal response to Thomas’ demand. It goes unaccepted. Upon seeing the resurrected Jesus he exclaims: ‘My Lord and my God!’ It reveals Thomas’ new conviction!
Even more blessed, however, according to John, are those who be believe without this ‘seeing’.
John’s purpose in writing is clearly to present his testimony, his story, about Jesus. This is not, however, the end. John writes for a response: ‘…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.’
John’s witness is quite a gift to any resurrection inquirer. It is our response, however, that counts. And in this, he believes, we have choice.
Will you believe?
What are the things you believe and trust in without having physically seen them? What are the things you refuse to do this for? In what ways do we all believe without seeing?
What do you make of Jesus repeated ‘Peace be with you”? Is this to do with the disciple’s fear? Is this to do with Jesus’ alleviating their guilt after abandoning him?
John’s testimony about Jesus seeks to nurture the reader’s faith. What are the things that foster – or help to grow – faith? What does John offer to encourage this?