The disciples were in lockdown. Hiding behind a locked door. Where previously they were a band of followers united in Jesus, now, following his crucifixion, they found themselves united only in fear, bewilderment and a total lack of assurance at what had taken place.
Earlier that day Mary Magdalene and Peter and John had been to the tomb and found it empty. A bit later Mary had come face to face with the Risen Jesus and had rushed to the disciples to tell them her news. This seems only to have unsettled the disciples even more. They weren’t at all sure that they could accept the truth of what Mary was telling them – after all she was a woman and in those days a woman’s testimony didn’t count for much.
Mary was right
Suddenly Jesus himself was there standing in the middle of them. “Peace be with you” he says and as one their fears were eased, in fact, we are told they were overjoyed. Jesus is back, alive, risen, death overcome. Mary was right – all that she had told them was true. Jesus was with them again; Jesus was back in the land of the living and the disciples found their faith revived, hope renewed, joy reborn. They were again united with the Master!
But one of their number is missing – Thomas isn’t there with them; he has missed the great reunion. The other disciples can’t wait to tell him the news. When they do tell him he is not impressed. Fake news, fake news, he says. I want to see him for myself. And that’s just what happens a week later. The disciples including Thomas are in that same room, behind the same locked door, when Jesus again stands before them. This time he speaks directly to Thomas and dispels all his doubts, prompting Thomas to make that great declaration of faith – “My Lord and My God!”
Poor Thomas has had a negative press down the years – ‘Doubting Thomas’ is a phrase thrown at anyone who won’t believe what they are being told. Yet Thomas was only reacting as most, if not all, of us would have done on being told such incredible news. He just wanted to test the facts for himself.
These days we are surrounded by the possibility of fake news. Very often you really can’t believe your ears and eyes. Scam phone calls and e-mails that we’ve won something or that we are about to be arrested. You look at a photo and can’t be sure that it hasn’t been edited. It has made us all ‘Doubting Thomas’.
If we put ourselves into Thomas’ shoes what would our reaction have been? Could we have believed without actually seeing Jesus for ourselves? What happened in that locked room all those years ago, and especially Thomas’ insistence on testing the truth, has made it possible for us to believe in Jesus resurrection, to give us assurance, to accept the words which Jesus spoke there that night – “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe”.
Blessing for all
That blessing is for all of us who live in the absence of a physical Jesus yet believe in him as Lord of our lives; the one in whom we have identity and direction as his followers; the one who unites us with him and with each other. Yes, we will still have questions, still have things we don’t fully understand, but united in faith we can support each other and work through things together.
You will remember how Jesus prayed for us before his crucifixion “Father, sanctify them in your truth, that they may all be one, as you are in me and I in you.” We may not always see eye to eye; we may not all like the same things, same way of doing things; at times we may not even particularly like each other for some reason or other; but in Jesus we have a common bond, a unity. In him there is a solidarity; in him we are held together -and in him we will find truth and seek to live a life in his footsteps.
Colossians 3: 12-14
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony