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.
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!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (New International Version)
When Jesus shows up, there is peace. Wherever Jesus goes, the Spirit of God is there. When Jesus appears, people believe.
After the crucifixion of Christ, the disciples were huddled together, mostly in fear of being found out and put out by the religious authorities. Out of nowhere, Jesus showed up, smack in the middle of the anxious group of men.
Christ in the center makes all the difference. From this central place, Jesus bestowed to the disciples his peace. The very first word the risen Christ spoke to his disciples was neither a command to stop being afraid, nor a rebuke for sitting around and doing nothing, or disappointment that they all ran away in the final hour of need at the crucifixion; instead, the first word of Christ was a gift of peace.
The presence and peace of Christ melted the disciples’ fear. Christ-centered peace is graciously given; so let us gratefully receive it.
Jesus showed up, then showed off his hands and his side. He was not fabricated out of the disciples’ imagination; he was not some ghostly apparition. Rather, Christ was standing in the middle of them, very real, very physical, and very alive.
Christ gave his disciples real truth: actual wounded hands and side on a real body. Christ is risen and alive – not just spiritually, but physically. Since the resurrection of Jesus really happened, then nothing else matters; our joy is complete. We have what we need.
As Jesus was sent by the Father, so Jesus sent his disciples; and is still sending us out into the world. And as Jesus came not to condemn the world but to save it, so we go out with words of grace and peace. The church exists for the life of the world – to bless it with the presence and peace of Christ.
“Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” (John 12:44-46, NIV)
Our spiritual DNA makes us little Christ’s walking around, doing the will of God, for the benefit of a world in darkness. We bear the name of Christ: Christians, proclaiming a message of life, delighting in God and creation; and not destroying the earth and its inhabitants.
Right now, we are not alone. The Holy Spirit has been graciously given to us by Jesus. Although our mission is a big one, our resource for accomplishing it is even bigger. Jesus gives the Spirit in the same way he gives himself – as a sheer gift with no strings attached. Just as God breathed life into the very first people on earth, so Jesus breathes on the disciples and gives them new life and a new heart.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws… and you will be my people, and I will be your God. (Ezekiel 36:26-28, NIV)
Christ has redeemed us, forgave us of our guilt and shame. Now, we have the privilege of passing the forgiveness to others. The special mission of the Church is giving Jesus to others with grace and peace, so that they may believe he is truly the risen Lord; and so, receive Jesus, the Spirit, forgiveness, and purpose in life, with Christ at the center of all things.
For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” (John 3:34-36, NIV)
When Jesus appears, its good if we also show up to see him. It seems Thomas was late for church and missed the beginning of the service. He wasn’t with the other gathered disciples. Nobody knows where he was or what he was doing. But the important thing is that he did eventually show up, because showing up is the beginning of a changed life.
After Jesus showed up, the disciples bore witness to what they saw and heard to Thomas. Yet Thomas, bless his doubting heart, wasn’t having it. He’s a realist. He wants proof, some actual physical evidence. Thomas was clearly a tactile learner because he needs some touch to believe any of this crazy talk of his disciple brothers.
Sometimes Thomas gets a bad rap, but he is really our Everyman. Doubt and skepticism are an important part of a full-orbed and honest faith. Jesus gave Thomas some space, time, and respect to begin wrapping his head and heart around this new reality of resurrection. I wonder if we all can do the same with others.
A second time, Jesus shows up in the middle of the disciples. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us – and didn’t become a ghost and hang out in secret places. Once again, peace is given by Jesus to his followers.
Both appearances happen on a Sunday (which is why Christians have always worshiped on Sundays); and both meetings are literally Christ-centered (which every Christian meeting is supposed to be). Every Sunday. Christ always in the middle. Keep those two, and keep them together, and you can’t go wrong.
There’s no beating around the bush with Jesus. He immediately engaged Thomas and invited him to touch the wounds on his very real body. Christ knew Thomas’ hang-up, and went right to it. Thomas wanted evidence; Jesus offered it. If we get anything out of this encounter, it is that risen Christ honors honest doubt.
The evidence is here. Now believe it, and stop disbelieving. We have documentary evidence of the Old and New Testaments; the Church’s witness in Creeds, Confessions, and contemporary narratives of changed lives; and the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, look into them carefully and draw a sound conclusion.
“My Lord and my God!” That’s the confession and the conclusion Thomas drew from the evidence – not only that Jesus is real, alive, existed, a good teacher; or other people’s Lord and God – but that he is my Lord and my God.
Jesus cared enough for Thomas to specifically meet him personally at his point of need. The grace of God keeps coming and never runs out. Jesus is filled up to the full in both grace and truth.
Thomas had the physical evidence. But it doesn’t take that to truly believe. God blesses those who’ve never seen nor touched, but still believe. Jesus was thinking of you and me, and not only the people in front of him at the time. The Lord Jesus blesses us with the gift of peace, grace, and faith.
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9, NIV)
All this is for our benefit, so that we, too, may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Since Jesus is alive, he continues to bless us with his presence, power, and peace.
Jesus is with us:
- through the Word of God, giving us his peace, showing up and meeting needs people.
- at the Table in the sacrament of communion, bringing grace and forgiveness
- in the person of the Holy Spirit, enabling and energizing us for mission and ministry to the world
It’s a life worth living, a Christ-centered life, full of God’s blessing.
O God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom we receive the legacy of a living hope, born again not only from his death but also from his resurrection. May we who have received forgiveness of sins, set others free, until we enter the inheritance that is imperishable and unfading, where Christ lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.