To Thomas or not to Thomas

Image by Ajay kumar Singh from Pixabay

 

Acts 2:14a,22-32

1 Peter 1:3-9

John 20:19-31

Psalm 16

 

When we enter a word search for Thomas in the Bible 11 verses pop up. Four of them are simply listing the Twelve. All the 7 remaining verses are in John with 4 being in today’s reading. What it all means is that we know next to nothing about Thomas. He had a twin (possibly) and he wanted physical evidence of the resurrection. That’s it.

Yet, we like to hear about Doubting Thomas, probably because he is the patron saint of most of we struggling Followers. Thomas wanted proof. Who among us would reject the opportunity to see the Risen Messiah in the flesh?

While Thomas is an important part of this reading, we often fail to catch the more important words of Jesus. Verse 19 reads, 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!” NIV

We know that 10 of the Apostles were in the locked room with only Thomas away, possibly to buy food. Others may have been there with them, but the room would not likely have held many more, so let’s assume ten.

Back up to the first two verses of this chapter. But on the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala arrived at the tomb, very early in the morning, while it was still dark, and noticed that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. At this she ran, found Simon Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him.” Phillips

This verse tells us two things: it is Sunday and Peter and John—I think John in the one Jesus loved, though Jesus only said he loved Judas Iscariot—are out and about apart from the others. Why, then, do we find them locked up that evening?

The news of the missing body hit Jerusalem like nothing else ever had. Everyone at the upper levels blamed everyone else and the people on the streets kept their heads down. Naturally, the Romans believed the followers of Jesus stole the body. When Roman guards lost a prisoner, the guards were killed. The guards did not know what would happen to them when they lost a corpse, but they feared the worst. The Jewish leaders were beside themselves because they blamed the Roman guards but could not say that to the Romans. All they could do was go along with the lame notion that the followers somehow overcame the guards, rolled away the stone and carried a three-day old corpse into hiding. For what purpose?

The result was the followers went into hiding.

That brings us back to verse 20. Then he showed them his hands and his side, and when they saw the Lord the disciples were overjoyedPhillips Seventeen words in the Greek, yet so filled with emotion. Remember that Jesus came and stood among them. He did not walk through the wall, he was just there. And that very traditional greeting, “Peace be with you!”

Notice something else. Back in verses 16-17, we read, Jesus said to her, “Mary!” At this she turned right round and said to him, in Hebrew, “Master!” “No!” said Jesus, “do not hold me now. I have not yet gone up to the Father.”

Now, in verse 20, he showed them his hands and his side. Just a week later Jesus told Thomas to stick his fingers in the nail holes. Why the change? Was it because it was Mary?

We don’t know. What is important is Jesus sending Mary to gather the Followers so he could see them. But don’t lose track of God. If Jesus needs to meet the Apostles God will make it happen. And consider what it means that Thomas was not with them on that First Sunday. If Jesus wanted all eleven Apostles there, Thomas would have been there. Jesus had something special for him.

Now, verses 21-22. Jesus said to them again, “Yes, peace be with you! Just as the Father sent me, so I am now going to send you.” And then he breathed upon them and said, “Receive holy spiritPhillips

They received the Holy Spirit almost fifty days before Pentecost. This is the Gospel. We who follow Jesus are sent into the world to share the Good News. We can bravely do that because the Holy Spirit is with us.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

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