April 12, 2015 (Year B, Easter 2) Celtic Meditation

John 20:19-31

On the evening of his resurrection, Jesus went to his disciples and showed them the proof that he was the same person they had always known by showing them his pierced hands and side. The disciples rejoiced that Jesus was, miraculously, alive![1] Jesus commissioned them with a message of peace and reconciliation and empowered them with the Holy Spirit. How do we, as church, demonstrate that we have been commissioned and empowered to participate in God’s mission of peace and reconciliation?

Thomas wasn’t there with the other disciples on that first Easter. John doesn’t tell us why Thomas wasn’t there with the other disciples. When Thomas returns, the other disciples describe what they have seen and experienced. Thomas doesn’t trust them. By his request to touch Jesus, he expressed his grief and frustration. He wanted to know that the same Jesus that he ate with, that he bumped up against on the road and in boats for the last three years was the same Jesus that they are talking about. Dead men don’t suddenly appear in locked rooms, show their death wounds, and bless those who abandoned them in their hour of need. Resurrection is hard to understand, especially when grief is so fresh. Thomas needed to see Jesus for himself. He needed to not only see, he instinctively knew that he needed to use all of his senses in order to get his head wrapped around the reality of Jesus’ bodily resurrection. This is understandable; we who live in the “Show Me” state recognize that until we are convinced with our senses, some of us can be as stubborn as Missouri mules. Either the truth of the resurrection was just too much or somehow the other disciples had lost Thomas’s trust. What attitudes and dispositions do we, as church, have toward each other, and especially towards those who are suffering, that makes trusting us difficult?

Maybe what Thomas was asked to believe was beyond what even the most trusting person can believe in the midst of that much sorrow. Either way, the week between that first Easter and the next Sunday must have been miserable for Thomas. When Jesus appeared the next time, Thomas is present. Jesus offered Thomas exactly what he said that he needed to believe, but just being in Jesus’ presence was enough. In Thomas’s joy, belief, and relief, Jesus didn’t rebuke him for not trusting the other disciples. Instead, Jesus used whatever had caused Thomas to suffer through a lonely week to bless us. We who can’t see Jesus the way that the disciples did (because we live after Jesus’ ascension) are called to trust the very people that Thomas had trouble believing. Trusting in the testimony of these disciples is a life or death proposition: by believing that Jesus died and was raised from the dead and living accordingly, we have real life. How can we, as church, more fully live into our baptismal vows to embody the trustworthy teaching of these apostles so that others can come to know Jesus as Messiah, the Son of God, the life-giver?

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[1] Jesus also appears within a locked room, apparently without going through the doors, so while he is still the same Jesus, something is now very different about his body.

© 2015 Donna R. Hawk-Reinhard, All Rights Reserved

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