Gospel of John 20:19-29
It is Easter Sunday. Peter and John have been to the tomb of Jesus. It was empty just as Mary Magdalen had reported. There were no soldiers about; the large stone that had once covered the entrance to the tomb had been rolled away. Inside the tomb where Jesus’ body had been laid were only the cloths which had once covered His body – He was gone.
Peter and John returned to the place they had been staying, their hearts broken that even in death their beloved Teacher and Lord had been reviled and hated enough that someone would disturb His final resting place. None of the men could eat – even the sight of food made them nauseous; their minds reeled in confusion at all that had happened over the last few days.
But John – young, impressionable, courageous John, who had stood by the Cross as Jesus suffered and died – still held out hope. The napkin which had been covering Jesus face had been rolled, as though Jesus had gotten up from the table for only a moment and would soon return. No argument could dissuade him. Jesus is alive, John argued.
Mary Magdalen had now joined the group with an incredulous story – she believed that she had seen Jesus alive, walking about, speaking with her. Grief can do such strange and awful things to the human mind. Surely, Mary’s imagination had taken hold of her after all the suffering that she had watched and endured. Well at least Mary had found some comfort in her grief with her imagination!
And so the day passes – filled with a grief which drains the body of every desire, a grief which turns close friends from love to hate and back again. No one could speak without accusing one another; no one could understand the motives of one another; it was difficult even being in each other’s presence.
But still the disciples stay together. What else are they to do? All, that is, except Thomas. No one knows where he has gone. It matters not – Thomas is as consumed with grief, at the loss of Jesus, as are they all.
Night has fallen and with the setting of the sun a cool breeze flows through the open windows. But with the darkness comes fear, that creeping coldness which turns the familiar sounds of the night into sounds of imminent danger. The doors to the house are locked, but will the locked doors protect them, will they hold back the authorities who would come with armed men as they did for Jesus? Will this be the disciples last moment of freedom? Will they soon follow Jesus into death?
A warm and brilliant light now fills the room and in the disciples presence stands their Lord – “Peace be with you” he says. Joy overflows their hearts at the sight of Jesus, alive and well. He stands among them – but how can this be? In wonderment and awe they reach out to touch Him – He is alive! His flesh is warm to the touch. His voice is calm and as clear as they once heard him speak. His eyes are alight with love. After a time Jesus leaves them alone again, promising to return. What a difference his visit has made! No longer are the men afraid and grieving – the Lord is alive – risen from the dead! There will be no sleep tonight – their voices are full of joy and excitement – they have seen the power of God just as their Lord had promised!
Fast forward a week, no doubt with much time spent at the Temple praising God. Now Thomas is with them. He cannot; he will not believe what he is being told. What madness has come over his friends? Somehow they must be brought back to reality. Thomas tells them all that he will not believe until he sees and touches Jesus for himself. Thomas argues with the others – yes, Jesus fed thousands, healed the sick, raised the dead and even walked on water. But this – this is different. No man can raise Himself from the dead!
Then Jesus again appears in their midst. He directs His gaze at Thomas, who is speechless now. Can this really be? Jesus says to Thomas, “Put your fingers in the nail marks, your hand in my side”. Thomas eyes tell him all he needs to know. Tears and sobs come from him, as he recognizes His Lord, and all the days of grieving and anguish are washed away. There is no fear, no confusion and no doubt. From now on, Thomas’ days are filled with joy.
Blessed are those who have not seen, but have believed. – That is me.
The Lord wants me to have peace – the peace that comes from knowing Him, from knowing that He has it all figured out, that He has it all planned – I need not worry. Just follow – lay my pain at the foot of the Cross and keep on walking in the path God has set before me. Thank you Lord for your goodness to me.
How can I, so broken and so unworthy, be so loved?