Reflections on John 20:19-31

The Gospel readings for the past week have been about the discovery of the empty tomb on Easter Day morning.  We have read how each of the four Gospel writers recorded this incredible event.  We have, therefore, witnessed multiple times to the fact that Jesus was not dead, along with the women who were the first visitors to the tomb, and then with the some of the Disciples, the truth has continued to dawn for us that Jesus is risen.

Apart from the reading from John’s Gospel set for Friday just past, all these passages record one single day’s event.  In our Gospel reading for today we have, indeed, moved on a week.  Jesus had appeared to the Disciples but for an unstated reason Thomas was not present, he missed seeing the risen Lord.  He refuses to believe what they tell him, nothing but visible, tangible proof is going to convince him.

It is easy to deduce that Thomas doubted in Jesus, this is the traditional interpretation of this passage and so the title ‘Doubting’ was added to his name.   However, it is more accurate to say he doubted the Disciples rather than Jesus, it was their testimony that failed to convince him.   This could have been a real problem.  Assuming that Jesus Ascension was a set part of our salvation plan then in order for His mission to continue the Disciples would have to be able to plausibly explain Jesus death and resurrection.  They could not rely on Jesus reappearing now and then corroborating their story.   Personal testimony of the still living but invisible Christ was essential.

When Jesus appeared to the Disciples again, specifically for the benefit of Thomas, the blessing of faith was made clear,

‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe’ John 20:29

Faith is to be found in the searching for God through Jesus.  When we do this we receive Christ’s peace and the Holy Spirit, the fulness of life Jesus longs to impart to us.

This whole episode makes it clear that the Christian life has two crucial parts.  One is our spiritual nourishment, developing and sustaining a life of prayer and Bible reading, individually and together.   This is how we meet the living Lord Jesus, this is our ‘upper room’ moment when Jesus becomes real to us rather than historical or theoretical.  This is when we join with Thomas and can say ‘My Lord, my God!’.   In these days of restricted movement and contact it is this aspect of our Christian life we can especially attend to.

The second part of our Christian witness is to testify to affect that Jesus has had on our lives.  When people ask what you are doing to cope with the current crisis, what an amazing act of faith it is to say ‘I pray’ and to then say what affect that has on your life, how the peace of God enters your heart, calms your mind, directs your words and actions.  It is these stories that we need to tell the world now to give hope to the fearful and anxious.  These are the stories we will need to tell when we are allowed to gather again in church and the wider community.  These are the stories that make clear Jesus is risen from the dead and new life through Him awaits all who believe in Him.

God bless you and keep you safe this week.

Canon Janice