A Reflection on: Acts 4:23-37, 1 John 1:1-2:5, John 20: 19-31 by Sarah Rogers
‘My Lord and my God!’
It seems to me that there is a huge contrast between this week’s gospel reading and last week’s. Last week we heard about the discovery of the empty tomb by the women that followed Jesus, they believed immediately, the men took longer to catch up. This passage from John’s gospel is also preceded by Mary’s discovery of the empty tomb, where she in confusion runs away and fetches Simon Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved, on seeing the empty tomb and seeing the empty grave clothes the beloved disciple understands and believes. But, they don’t hang around, although they are full of questions, and they miss Jesus who appears to Mary in her grief. So, rather than Simon Peter and Jesus’ beloved disciple being the messengers, it is left to Mary to bear the message of the resurrection, Jesus sends her to tell the disciples announcing to everyone ‘I have seen the Lord’.
And yet, in this weeks passage from the gospel of John we find the disciples gathered together in the upper room, frightened to go out, they have not yet believed. Then Jesus appears to them and they too begin to repeat Mary’s message ‘we have seen the Lord’. Even then Thomas is absent and refuses to believe that Jesus has risen from the dead unless he sees and feels his wounds with his own hands. Jesus appears again to the disciples and finally Thomas believes. We don’t have the privilege of being able to see the resurrected Jesus face to face, we have to believe without seeing. Although, without the disciples we would not believe, they saw the resurrected Jesus and passed the message on to us. For some, even then, it was enough to hear the good news of the resurrection. For others, like Thomas, some evidence was needed. Perhaps, the doubt of Thomas added credence to the stories that were going around, he could not believe without some physical evidence, but would we believe today without his doubt?
When Jesus appears to the disciples he gives them his peace and charges his disciples with the continuation of his mission. ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you’ (John 20:21). They are not greater than the one who sent them, but they reveal the one who sent them, as Jesus said ‘whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me’ (John 13:20). There is something very inclusive about the mission that is entrusted to the disciples. All who believe in Jesus are sent to carry on the mission of Jesus, everyone, male and female are the ‘body of Christ’ here on earth. The story from Acts about the early church reiterates this equaltiy. The group is mentioned as a whole, there is no distinction between male and female, everything is held in common and shared. It can be implied that in the early church there is an equal place for all.
The resurrection stories in John’s gospel describe different journeys of faith. The beloved disciple believes when he sees the empty grave clothes, Mary believes when she hears Jesus calling her name, the disciples believe when Jesus stands among them, and finally Thomas finds faith when he touches the wounds of Jesus. All who have faith, however they have found it, have a mission to pass on the good news of the resurrection of Jesus and what it means for all of us.
The Lord is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia.