Jesus appears to the Disciples
19When 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.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So 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.”
26A 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.” 27Then 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.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But 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
Every year, the Sunday after Easter brings the same gospel reading. It is a beautifully written and translated story where Jesus appears to his disciples on Easter Sunday evening as they are behind locked doors and then appears to them again a week later. The first time, Thomas is not there. The others try to tell him that they saw Jesus and Thomas insists that he needs to see for himself. When Jesus returns, he shows Thomas the physical signs of his death on the cross. After seeing this proof, Thomas declares, “My Lord and my God!” which is the clearest, boldest, and most emphatic statement of faith in all of John’s gospel. Jesus does not criticize Thomas. Instead, he offers words of encouragement for those of us who have “not seen, but yet have come to believe.”
Thomas’ story reassures us that as we follow Jesus, we are not required to set aside our critical thinking skills. Our minds, the ability to wonder and doubt, as well as to question and ponder are among the gifts from God that we use as we love and serve our neighbor and the world. Doubt and faith go hand in hand. Questions and uncertainty can lead us to a deeper understanding, a fuller knowledge.
Go ahead and wonder. Feel free to ask questions. Keep exploring what you don’t understand about God, other people, the world, and yourself. We will probably not find the kind of proof that Thomas gets, but that is no reason to stop thinking critically. Do not let your doubts frighten you or make you think they mean you don’t believe. It is no accident that Thomas’ story is used in worship the Sunday after Easter every year. People of faith have been raising questions and experiencing doubts for over 2000 years. You are in good company.
Deacon Alicia Anderson, Campus Minister with Lutheran Campus Ministry
The people of Grace share their favorite bible stories for the 2023 Lenten Devotional: I Love to Tell the Story. Each day's devotional will be automatically posted so come back daily after 7 am for a new reflection.