John 20: 24-31 – The World of the Text

After our Holy Week together, through the next 50 days, leading up to Pentecost, we are going to take a deeper look each week at different encounters that individuals have with Jesus after the Resurrection.  This week we are going to take a deeper look at a story that I’m sure many of us are familiar with, or at least familiar with the nickname that emerged from it – Doubting Thomas.  Today we’ll look at the world of the text of John 20:24-31:

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” 26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.  31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

rootedchristThis is a powerful text, one of my favorite post-resurrection encounters with Jesus.  We start with Thomas, who, for whatever reason, was not with the others when Jesus appears. Because of this, he does not believe that Jesus is alive again.  Ok, a couple of things about Thomas.  First, he (nor anyone) should not be defined by his worst failure.  In Jon 11:16, Thomas tells the disciples that they should go with Jesus that should die with Him if need be.  But no one calls him “Brave Thomas.”  No, he is only defined by this moment.  We’ll talk more about this tomorrow, though.

Second, let’s examine what he was doubting.  He knew Jesus was dead and buried.  And these friends are saying that He is alive. So, what is he going to believe?  The words of these friends or what he knew to be true, that Jesus was dead. The reason why this is a miracle is that it wasn’t something that happened every day.  It’s like the old saying, “who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”

So, let’s be gentle with Thomas when we consider what is happening here.  He has seen his entire world be turned upside down in just a couple of days.  He must be spinning.  I’m sure he wants to believe that Jesus is alive. But he needed proof.  It was too much for him.

And yes, perhaps he should have just believed. But, the others had seen.  He had not.  He needed proof.  I have been there myself at times.  I’m sure you have as well. When we consider Thomas let’s remember that gentleness.  And later this week we’ll see what  Thomas did that should commend him to us.

Tomorrow we’ll look at Thomas’ actual encounter with Jesus.

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