John 20: 19 – 29 Jesus appears to his disciples
Although Jesus had been crucified and buried; although Peter and John had seen the empty tomb; although Mary Magdalene had told the disciples that she had seen Jesus; despite being terrified of the Jewish leaders; the disciples were still there, still together in Jerusalem. Somewhere, deep inside each of them, was a hope that things would somehow come right.
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On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Jesus showed the disciples his hands and his side without being asked. When they were convinced of the reality of his presence, they were overjoyed. It’s hard to imagine the scene. Someone you love, and have seen die, is suddenly there with you again. There must surely have been fear, at least at first. But once the disciples accepted the reality of their experience, they must have been aware of being in the presence of someone with supreme power.
Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’
But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’
Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’
Why does St John include this story of Thomas? I think it’s because he’s a good story-teller. The details of Jesus showing his hands and side are described in verse 20. They are a graphic way of emphasising that the Jesus who appeared was real, and could be touched as well as seen and heard. But St John, natural story-teller that he was, thinks that if he tells us about Thomas’s doubts the details will be even more convincing. The other disciples might be mistaken, or hoodwinked, but not hard-headed Thomas.
Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’
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We all fit into that second category, don’t we? We have not seen and yet have believed; and, yes, we are truly blessed.
So why do we believe?
- The witness of the apostles as recorded in the bible.
- The testimony of people about what they have experienced of Jesus in their lives.
- The experience of the actions of Jesus in our lives.
Thank God for all those who have witnessed to Jesus over the millennia so that we can know him!
Thank you, Father, for all who have witnessed to your name over the centuries. Thank you that we can know Jesus by his Holy Spirit living in us. Thank you for the strength and warmth of your love.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.