Come & See. Go & Tell. — Jesus Appears

This week, we continue our celebration of Easter and find Jesus appearing to the disciples following his crucifixion.  In reading through today’s text and selecting photos to share with you, more than usual, I found myself asking lots of questions and trying to read between the lines of the story…

Jesus was alive for around 30 years.  And, from his one to three years of ministry (depending on the gospel you are reading), we likely have no firsthand account of his life as most modern scholarship notes that even the four gospels are not firsthand tellings Jesus’ ministry.  While there are other texts—such as the Gospel of Thomas, which was not included in the Bible but does provide more information on Jesus and his ministry—with the information we have and the time that has passed, it’s hard to get a full picture of the full events of Jesus’ life as we weren’t there ourselves and our every question may not be answered in the texts we have.  (Luckily, I am married to a seminary graduate who has more knowledge than me…but, my questions usually turn into long discussions that raise more questions than come up with answers!)

After reading through today’s scripture and debating what many of the words (and lack of words in some places) say or don’t say, what stuck with me the most from the lectionary was the need to see to believe.  And, the fact that we today don’t really have that opportunity…just as those in John’s community (late 1st century) didn’t have.  (Today’s text is from the Gospel of John.)

Today, we don’t have anyone to give us a firsthand account of Jesus’ time on earth.  We don’t have the opportunity to feel the wounds on his side and his hands as Thomas did in the days following the crucifixion.  We may feel called by God, experience God, or even encounter him, but (for me, at least), I find these to be a bit different than the encounters that the women and disciples had in the days following Jesus’ death.  For us, if we want to believe, we must be among those who Jesus says: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Some days, the life and ministry of Jesus seem so far from our time.  It can be hard to place his words and actions in our world.  However, I do find it comforting when I realize that perhaps those in John’s community who were living just about 100 years after Jesus’ death may feel that same way that we do today.  They were not alive during the life and ministry of Jesus.  Like us, they had not seen him and did not have firsthand accounts of his life.  They had to believe without seeing.  And, just as members of the early church did around 2,000 years ago, we must rely on faith and just believe.

John 20:19-31 (NRSV)

“When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’

Overlooking Jerusalem’s Old City from the Tower of David. After Jesus’ crucifixion, the disciples were afraid and went into hiding in a house in Jerusalem.


Alleys and doorways throughout the Old City in Jerusalem


After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.


Sculpture of the stations in the cross inside a chapel in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher that depicts Jesus being nailed to the cross.


Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’  When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’  


Fresco of a Pentecost scene (with the Holy Spirit represented by the dove) in Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church just outside of the Old City in Jerusalem.


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.’

More alleys and doorways in the Old City of Jerusalem


Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your 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.’ 


Mosaic of Jesus being nailed to a cross in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem


Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.  But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”


Jesus performs a miracle and raises Lazarus from the dead in Bethany, which is located in Palestine just outside of Jerusalem today. This fresco is in the Russian Orthodox Church of Ascension on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.


Located inside an Armenian chapel at the third station of the cross along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, a painting shows people taking up their own cross and following in the footsteps of Jesus. While those depicted likely did not see the bodily resurrection of Christ, it is clear that they believe.


This is the Word of God, for the people of God.  Thanks be to God.

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