A Cycle – 2nd Sunday of Easter 23
It had to be the worst week of their lives. They watched Jesus be arrested, tried, brutally beaten, and flogged and crucified. They watched one of their own betray Jesus and another deny him not once but three times. They fled to protect themselves from the same fate and were hiding and terrified for they did not know if they were safe or not. They had heard the witness of the women who had gone to the tomb and Peter and John saw the empty tomb with the burial cloths neatly folded on the slab which should have also had a body.
Not just that but the women told them to go to Galilee where they would see him. See him not dead but risen, could this be true? Had he returned and he would resume his ministry with even more miracles and finally set them free from the rule of the Romans. Did they dare leave the room? Were the authorities aware his body was not in the tomb and were they looking for his “disciples” whom they claim took it. We can only imagine and speculate about the emotions they were experiencing that day. What we do know about their state of mind is in this gospel by John. They were afraid and in a locked room because they feared the authorities would arrest them when Jesus suddenly appears in their midst.
He offers them peace in place of their confusion and fear. He does not chastise them for abandoning Him and running for their lives. Instead, He offers them the Holy Spirit whom scripture tells us will pour the love of God into their and our hearts. He is still doing the Father’s work and is fulfilling the Father’s promise to send the Holy Spirit to change our hearts (Ez.36:26). His glorified body is the same and yet it is different for they can see His wounds and see His glory. This breath of the Spirit equipped them for the mission they were given to go out and bring that same mercy and forgiveness to the world.
You can imagine the conversation they had with Thomas when he returned from whatever he was doing outside that room. They would have been excited, but still somewhat confused. The Spirit they had received would have been at work accomplishing all the things Jesus said it would accomplish in everyone who receives it. The Spirit would teach us and bring to our minds everything Jesus did and said while they were with Him (Jn.14:26). It is possible that this week was a week of meditation guided by the Spirit and helping them formulate in words what God intended by the death of Jesus.
But whatever they were doing did not impact Thomas who insisted he would not believe until he had not only seen the wounds but touched them. Faith in Thomas’s mind was not enough, he needed proof. One week later they are still in that upper room and this time Thomas is with them when Jesus again appears in their midst although the doors were locked. What Jesus says to Thomas should not be quickly read and them we move on to Thomas’s response.
Instead, the conversation with Thomas should be one we use in our own time of meditation and conversation with God this week. I say that because we have recorded in scripture called the disciples “men of little faith.’ Speaking to them about God’s provident care Jesus tells them they have “little faith” (Mt.6:30). When they are frightened during the storm, He calls them “men of little faith” (Mt.8:26). When Peter begins to walk on water and then falters Jesus tells him he has “little faith and asks him why he doubts” (Mt.14:31).
But now we have the most dramatic declaration of unbelief and doubt from Thomas and what does Jesus do. He does not chastise him for his lack of faith, instead Jesus is gentle with Thomas and invites him to come closer. Invites him to touch His wounds and by that intimate touch become a believer. Thomas does not try to explain to Jesus why he was so adamant about needing proof. Because an encounter with Christ will do that for each one of us if we one day say to Him, I need to feel you, to see you and to hear your voice.
Jesus knows our hearts long for His presence even if it is to satisfy our doubt or our need to go beyond the witness of others. The citizens of that Samarian town heard the woman witness about her encounter with Jesus and went to see for themselves. They wanted to believe but needed proof like Thomas and all came to believe because of their own encounter. Note one thing about this gospel story it is individual centered. Jesus breathed on the disciples one by one and His encounter with Thomas was personal.
What is it we need and what is it we need to hear. I invite you this week to go into an upper room and have your own encounter with Jesus. Expect Him to show up and breathe the Holy Spirit into your heart and expect him to invite you to touch those wounds He received for your sin and mine.