By the Rev. Darren Miner
Today’s Gospel story begins on a Sunday evening, the evening of the Resurrection. Earlier that same day, you may recall, Mary Magdalene had encountered the resurrected Jesus and had reported what she had seen to the disciples.
Now, just a few hours later, we find the disheartened disciples in hiding, with the doors locked tight. The predominant emotion is not wonder and joy at their Lord’s Resurrection, but fear of the Judean authorities. And they are crippled by that fear.
(I must say that I have more sympathy for the disciples these days than I used to. In this time of pandemic, I have a better understanding of how hiding in fear can cripple a person, how it can drain away one’s energy and one’s joy.)
Fortunately, there is Good News for the disciples, and for us: Christ is risen! In today’s account, Jesus appears in the midst of the disciples, unhindered by such physical barriers as locked doors. His appearance serves as a sign to the original disciples, and to us today, that death does not have the final say. For God’s love for us is more powerful than death. And if we hold on to that saving truth, then we can still experience joy, even as we wait in our homes for the end of the pandemic.
But Jesus comes to his disciples to do more than alleviate their fear. He comes to empower them with new hope, new life, and a new mission. Just as God breathed the breath of life into Adam’s nostrils in the story of Creation, so Jesus breathes new life into his fearful disciples, saying: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you. 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.” This is John’s version of the miracle of Pentecost. The disciples, and the Church that follows in their footsteps, have been empowered for mission by the gift of the Holy Spirit, and that mission is the reconciliation of the world.
But not all of the disciples received this gift on that Easter evening. Saint Thomas, it seems, missed church that Sunday and so misses out on seeing the Risen Lord and receiving the Spirit. And when told about the event, he stubbornly refuses to believe.
But true to form, Jesus gives this disciple a second chance. A week later, the disciples again are holed up in the house, with the doors locked. But this Sunday, Thomas manages to make it to church. Again, Jesus appears to the assembled disciples and greets them. He openly invites Thomas to follow through with his grotesque demand to probe Christ’s wounds. And then he urges Thomas to stop doubting.
Thomas responds by proclaiming Jesus as his Lord and his God. Thomas has what can only be called a conversion experience, and he enters into an even deeper level of faith.
John’s Gospel tells us about this incident, so that we too may have such faith. And the very core of our Easter faith is trust: trust that this world is basically good, trust that God loves us, and trust that God’s love is more powerful than death and disease. Brothers and sisters, hold tight to that faith, even in the midst of disease, even in the face of death. For Christ is risen! Alleluia!
© 2020 by Darren Miner. All rights reserved. Used by permission.