Second Sunday in Easter, April 19

Reader: “Blessed are those who believe ”

Response: “without seeing me. ”

Scripture: John 20:19-31

That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”

Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”

“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.

Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”

The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.

Reader: “The powerful word of the Lord.”

Response: “Thanks be to God.”

Some thoughts:
I would like us to again, step back in time into that locked room and weigh some of the dynamics at play. We are sitting invisible in the corner of the room. The disciples were fearful of being discovered by the authorities and receiving the same fate as Jesus. While they were willing to walk with Jesus in the moments of glory, now it was different. It’s Sunday night. Peter and John had earlier that morning been to the empty tomb and left. Mary had told them that she saw a living resurrected Jesus. Women’s opinions were not given great credibility in the culture of the day, so they were not sure what to think. Fear of worldly forces can often consume Christians when they lose focus on God’s power and sovereignty. Such was the case of the cowering disciples. Into this situation, the dead Jesus they saw on the cross three days previous, suddenly appears in their midst very much alive coming through the locked door. Rather than speculate how this was possible, we would simply say, a resurrection body has very different properties. Neither Paul nor any of the gospel writers shy away from mystery. They simply state what is. Though there is much more to say, I want to skip ahead to “doubting” Thomas. Sometimes, I fear, he gets a bad rap. Thomas was very much a realist. It was he who said, when Jesus informed the disciples that he was going back to Jerusalem to wake Lazarus from his sleep, “let’s all go and die with you,” knowing the full danger of Jesus returning at that time (Jn.11:16). It was Thomas who wanted clarity on “the way” where Jesus was going (Jn. 14:5). We don’t know why Thomas was not with the other disciples that first Sunday, but he had heard from them regarding Jesus’ appearance that remarkable night and he wasn’t buying it. The following Sunday night was different! Can you imagine his reaction when Jesus appears again? I can almost hear the conversation . . . “So Thomas, good to see you. Missed you last Sunday. I heard you say something about touching my hands and my side? I’m here. Go ahead. What’s holding you back?” Can you imagine the turmoil going on in the psyche of that disciple? Thomas, overwhelmed, makes the great declaration, “My Lord and my God!” This was not only a personal testimony of belief, it was an echoing  proclamation of the beginning of John’s gospel. “The Word was with God and the Word was God.” Jesus concludes this encounter with the prophetic words that includes us, “Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” Thomas’ realism has done the skeptics and all of us a great favor. 

Music: “Worthy Is the Lamb” from Messiah   Robert Shaw (The conclusion of Messiah)    Glorious AMEN!!


 “I Have Seen the Lord”        Vigil 

Show us, O God, most holy, according to the measure of our mortal sight, the glory of the risen Christ, for as the rising sun breaks upon the night shadows and day leaps into joy, so has Christ overcome the powers of darkness and of death, and has disclosed to us the wonders of your power and love. Truly, you have risen, O Lord! Let the gospel trumpets speak, and the news as of holy fire, burning and flaming and inextinguishable, run to the ends of the earth. You have risen, O Lord! Let all creation greet the good tidings, with jubilant shout; for its time of release has come, the long night is past, the Savior lives and rides and reigns in triumph now and throughout all ages. Amen.

      ―from Prayers for Sunday Services, p.97