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Today’s reading, from the Gospel of John, is proclaimed on the second Sunday of Easter in each of the three Sunday Lectionary cycles. This should alert us to the significance of the encounters with the resurrected Jesus described in this reading. This Gospel combines two scenes: Jesus’ appearance to his disciples after his Resurrection and Jesus’ dialogue with Thomas, the disciple who doubted.
How astonished they must have been! Jesus was alive and standing in their midst, Jesus must have sensed their bewilderment. The first words he spoke to his friends were “Peace be with you,” reassuring them that his presence in their midst was not an illusion. He really was alive.  

They must have wondered what exactly this would mean for them. What will the continuation, this resurrection, require of them? Jesus, again, responds to their innermost concerns by repeating, “Peace be with you,” and then continuing, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Jesus tells the disciples that they cannot remain in the comfort and safety of the home in which they had gathered.   This was always the plan, and the next step would require them to go out into the world and share the good news of the Resurrection with everyone.

While disbelief had to have been at least one of the expected outcomes of the people, they probably didn’t expect it to be the response of one of their own. Yet the next line in our passage reveals that Thomas, one of the twelve disciples, had not been present with the others when Jesus came and stood in their midst. While the other disciples had witnessed and come to believe in the resurrected Jesus, Thomas could not bring himself to believe without also seeing Jesus for himself. 

 Thomas said, “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.” Thomas would not be satisfied until he had seen him with his own eyes. He would take no one’s word for it.

A week later, the disciples were gathered together again in the same house. Only this time, Thomas was with them. Once again, Jesus came and stood in the midst of his disciples. He greeted them again, saying, “Peace be with you,” before turning and addressing Thomas directly. He said, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Jesus was touching on Thomas’ belief or lack of belief in the God who had sent Jesus into the world and who was capable of resurrecting not only Jesus, but the entire creation. Jesus’ words, “Do not doubt but believe,” are aimed not only at Thomas, but also at all those who encounter this passage, and are struggling to believe that God is able to do the thing which God has promised—call our world into new and unending, resurrected life.

Thomas responds, saying, “My Lord and my God!”  Jesus responds with all future generations, including us, in mind, saying, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

We believe not because we have seen his wounds or placed our hands within his side, but because we have seen Christ in the face of another, who has also not seen or touched Christ, but lives their life in such a way that Christ has been made present in our midst.

We, just like the first disciples, seek safety and too often let fear paralyse us, but it is in gathering together that Christ is made known. Jesus continues to stand among his disciples, beckoning us to believe not only in his resurrection but also in our own and in the resurrection of the whole world.
 It is no coincidence that the words conversion and conversation both have the same root. The conversion that Thomas experienced he experienced in community: in conversation. On his own, he had only his doubts for company; in community, he encountered the Living Christ, the same Lord who calls to us today.


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