April 15, 2007

“When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’ But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 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.’

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.’ 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.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ 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.’ Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 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.”
John 20:19-31

Growing up, and even after my conversion experience back in 1994, I loved the resurrection stories of the weeks that followed Easter Sunday. Not only was the message and the imagery so powerful, but the sheer mystery of it all – so unreal, so fantastic to picture in one’s imagination – left a mark that has never left me. This particular reading, from the Gospel of John, I have always found particularly powerful – not only for its mystery and imagery, but for the underlying message of love and hope it contains.

Consider the scene John paints: it is two days after Jesus’ crucifixion, and his disciples are gathered together in a house. The room is candlelit, the tight surroundings made all the more claustrophobic by the events of the past two days – events they themselves chose to witness from afar. The conversation is animated and passionate, the emotions amplified by the puzzling events reported to them from that morning with the discovery of the Empty Tomb. It’s easy for us – two thousand years hence and knowing how the story ‘ends’, so to speak – to imprint upon that gathering our own suppositions and critiques, but consider the facts: the leader of this group has recently been crucified, and it’s no stretch to think his disciples feel as if they themselves remain in danger, since those familar with Jesus’ movement would also be well aware of the identities of his followers. And it’s not just Jesus they have lost – their fellow disciple Judas has not only been revealed as a betrayer, but is also dead, by his own hands. Taken together, this group that had put all their hopes, dreams, and passions behind a charismatic leader is now, in every way, a ship without a rudder – or, more accurately, a ship without even a body of water to sail on.

And then Jesus appears before them, bearing the scars and wounds of his torture and death. To those seeing this, it must be all at once an amazing, marvelous (and somewhat gruesome) sight to behold, for his very wounds are evidence of an experience none of his disciples had the courage to witness. After all, at the first sign of trouble, upon Jesus’ arrest, they all pretty much fled and hid, fearing for their own safety. One could, I suppose, hardly blame Jesus if the first words he expressed to them were not, “Peace be with you”, but, “Where the hell were you guys – the first sign of trial and tribulation, and you scatter like rabbits?”

But he did not – not to them, not to us. For the words Jesus utters, “Peace be with you”, are words not just for his disciples, but for all of us who have ever rejected, forgotten, or abandoned the Lord at the first sign of trouble and travail in each of our own lives. And when we ourselves isolate ourselves from humanity, or turn inward, or away, from God, there is Jesus – ready, willing, and able to appear before each of us, offering the same message of reassurance, peace, and hope. To his disciples (especially Thomas), who probably carried more emotional baggage than the cargo hold of a full-loaded Boeing 757, Jesus’ message was not some guarantee that everything was going to be flowers and candy from here on out – far from it, as each of the disciples would take their own turn when it came to persecution, suffering, and even death in the years to come – but a message of reassurance and peace of spirit. The same way He comes to each of us who are willing to open our hearts and minds and take His message to heart. Whatever is past, is past. Peace be with you.

For each of us, our own personal Easter resurrection awaits – not only in the life to come, but in the precious days, weeks, months, and years each of us has left in this life. But such a resurrection is only possible if we are are humble and willing of heart to allow the Risen Lord into our own houses, into our own hearts. He cares not the past rejections, disobediences, and failures; He only wants us to believe in Him and experience for ourselves the joy, peace and grace that a life in Christ has to offer. We need not see and feel his wounds to do so – we have plenty of our own to deal with, thank you. But we can have faith and believe, and through that belief, as the Gospel passage above states, have newness of life in His name.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:32 | Comment (1)
1 Comment
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    Trackback by Discount propecia. — September 22, 2007 @ 1:27 am

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