The account from the author of John’s Gospel of the time following the Resurrection is a story of sensing and responding.
A week ago, we heard, and again we hear today, a story of faith lived out in varying ways. First, we were reminded of the discovery made by Mary Magdalene in the middle of the night, as the first day of the week was nearing dawn. Her faith required that she run to tell her community, the people that she loved, of what she saw. Simon Peter needed to see for himself and went out to the tomb. He ran to the tomb, joined by the beloved disciple, and saw the burial linens rolled up. That beloved disciple was more hesitant. Even though he ran faster than Simon Peter, he wasn’t so sure about all of it. He waited outside the tomb, but his faith had brought him there, and eventually, his faith compelled him to move deeper inside.
Second Sunday of Easter
Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19
The disciples who gathered later that evening sensed fear, and the locked door reminds us that their fear was real. They were alone, but together, a community grieving. They sensed the presence of Jesus and saw with their own eyes the brutal scars of his execution. And then they heard his voice say, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” They then felt the breath of Jesus, sensing not only their friend and teacher’s real presence in their midst, but also the Holy Spirit.
Thomas wasn’t there. And when the others told him what had happened, he doubted their accounts. His doubt earned him a moniker, one many continue to employ today. And yet we know that Mary Magdalene doubted too, until she heard the voice of her Lord. Simon Peter doubted, needing to see the empty tomb for himself. All the disciples doubted — wouldn’t you have too?
When we think about those first few hours, and even the first few days and weeks following the death and resurrection of Jesus, it may be easy for us to forget the immense human experience of those who were there. Yes, time and again, Jesus tried to prepare his disciples for what was to come, much like a parent or loved one might do who is on the journey at the end of life. Yet nothing could have completely prepared the disciples for what happened — a triumphant entry, the scene in the Temple, the gathering around the table, the betrayal, the trial, the walk to Golgotha. And then, just as the reality of death began to hit, the disciples were, in varying ways, faced with trying to wrap their heads around an empty tomb, burial cloths laying without a body, and the appearance of the one they loved in the midst of a locked room.
Of course, they doubted. In their grief, they responded as best they could. In the story of Thomas and his fellow doubting disciples, those of us who have experienced the loss of dear ones find a story we can relate to. And for those of us who have lived long lives of faith, walking with Jesus as disciples on the long and winding journey of life, we find a story full of hope.
After all, there was no one in that room, at least we don’t know of anyone, who was sure enough in their faith to have handled the situation perfectly. And yet each of them received from Jesus reassurance, and from each other, comfort. Indeed, it wasn’t the sure of faith who were called, it wasn’t the ones without doubt who received the breath of the Holy Spirit. It was those afraid, grieving, doubting disciples.
And in the end, the Gospel writer includes all of us in the community of doubters. “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book.” And yet, we don’t need any more evidence to join Thomas in seeing Jesus in our midst. We, too, find ourselves shouting, “My Lord and my God!”
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