“For fear of the Jews” (John 20:19), the Eleven were hiding behind closed doors.
Remember—He is not here, He is risen. He’s going before them, and they’ll go and see Him.
But now, they’re hiding. Afraid.
How quickly do we forget the Word and promise of God when we perceive a threat to our life.
“On the evening of the resurrection, the first day of the week…Jesus came and stood among them…Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord” (cf. John 20:19-20).
They were glad—but only after they had seen.
The eye is the organ of reason. They understand and believe only what they see—only what the first century equivalent of bad network news television shows them.
Only after they see Him are they glad, but Thomas, who wasn’t there, said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” (John 20:25).
What Thomas says is both good and bad.
It’s good—in that Thomas requires the crucified, dead, buried, and risen body of Jesus as proof of the resurrection, because “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthian 15:14).
But what he says is also bad—in that he, too, must see. Not a single Christian today sees and believes. Every single Christian today hears and believes.
The eleven are afraid because they believe they’ve been defeated. The death of Jesus felt that way. The threat of death feels that way. If they forget that He is going before them and they are going to Him, all they have is the eventuality of death and the fear that comes with it.
Into this, our world of sadness, Jesus says:
“Peace be with you” (John 20:19).
Perhaps they thought they were glad when they saw, but make no mistake—they heard and were glad.
“Peace be with you” (John 20:21), Jesus says. “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” (cf. John 20:21-23).
He who created all things by a word, speaks peace into existence by a word and sends His disciples to spread that peace by the same word: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
The Church, the congregation of saints in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered (AC VII.1), exists that you may have and know peace—the forgiveness of your sins, eternal life, and salvation.
“Peace be with you,” Jesus says again, now to the eleven—including Thomas. “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe” (John 20:26-27).
We can’t say that Thomas didn’t, but John doesn’t record that he did put his hand in Jesus’ side.
He saw, yes. But he heard, as well: “Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
And Thomas makes a great and perfect confession of who Jesus is: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).
The ear is the organ of faith. Thomas and the rest hear the Word of God and believe. “In many and various ways God spoke to the people of old by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son” (cf. Hebrews 1:1).
Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). He doesn’t mean the eleven, the first century disciples. He means you and me and everyone who didn’t see the Body of Christ but nevertheless has it.
Blessed are you who have not seen.
Blessed are you who have heard.
But we must also ask this—Heard what?
“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (cf. John 20:30-31).
Blessed are you who hear the Gospel—the love of our Lord and God who lived and died and lives again, who speaks peace into our lives, that we who hear and believe in Him will never die.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Quasimodo Geniti (Easter 2), 2020
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt