Dear Redeemer Family:
“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.” The he said to Thomas, “Put you 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.”” John 20:24-29
They sat in the crowded pews and wondered whether they belonged there last Sunday. They heard the story of Christ’s resurrection – for the first time or the seventieth – and wondered what to make of it. Perhaps “they” even climbed into the pulpit last Sunday and led the congregation in the shout of “Christ is risen!” They are all Thomases, part of the community of the faithful but still not entirely satisfied with simply believing the witness of someone else.
Thomas is like us, and like him, we may be a little irritated that we, unlike so many other “true believers” that clog our airways and Bible bookstores, haven’t had a firsthand experience of Christ’s presence. Not everyone has the courage of Thomas to voice his doubts so clearly, but odds are good that everyone has had a moment of similar frustration.
Some Christians try to overcome the frustration with facts – experiments about the power of prayer or archaeological evidence for every event in Scripture – but the vast majority of believers through the ages have had little more than what Thomas had in the verses at the top of the page (the Gospel lesson for the Second Sunday of Easter): the witness of the community. It is the community, in all of its diversity and various experiences of Jesus’ presence, that ultimately gives witness and endures when this Gospel of John reaches its final chapter.
The gifts Jesus gives in person to the gathered community in John are really no different from those given to the Church in every age: the offering of Peace, the charge to forgive and be forgiven, and a physical reminder of his suffering that we can see and feel for ourselves. The body we see and touch – bread broken and a fragment of that living body of Christ – is no less real.
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!