Thursday, April 5, 2018
FOR THIS week we read from the Gospel According to Saint John. For your perusal here, I offer these previous thoughts written on the subject. In this text, we encounter a wondrous event wherein Jesus appeared to the disciples.
To set the historical stage, know that the disciples had already been informed by women about the empty tomb. One of those women, named Mary, had even encountered the Risen Jesus amid that garden. Here then, we join the account that was stressed to first century readers concerning the Resurrected Christ Jesus. It boldly stated that he was physically raised from the dead, and was not an apparition simply conjured up by grief-stricken minds…
“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." And 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."
Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, 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 in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe."
Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, "Peace be with you."
Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing."
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 believe."
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.”
Know the Truth!
The disciples were gathered in the upper room on an evening after the Resurrection. It was a secret place to hide; somewhat a tomb of their own selection. After the Lord’s grave was found to be empty, Christians throughout the city were being hunted down by those in power. The empty tomb and its possible repercussions, fostered a very turbulent time for the disciples after the Passover festival. The upper room thus hid the shocked group, secured from the Jewish temple leaders.
Historically, Passover celebrations had marked the prophetic sacrifice of lambs which were historically killed. They had been slaughtered to save those whom God chose to spare from death and lead through Sinai’s desert wilderness. With that celebration completed after Jesus' crucifixion, crowds of people had begun to leave the city. Subsequently, the disciples remained fearfully hidden, cowering in like nature to those of the Hebrews of the past… those historic Jews who were once imprisoned in Egypt.
Moses had called to the children of Israel... those Jews that marched out of Egypt in times of old were afraid. You see, the disciples knew the story... that Moses did not die in Egypt. He had been with the Jews. Still the men who had been called by Christ during his ministry were very afraid. Jesus our Lord had died and was buried. He was was not standing in their midst telling them to go with him across the sea.
Then Jesus suddenly appeared. The Word of God spoke to those in hiding. He spoke with calming words. A traditional “Peace be with you” (“eirene umin” in the Greek) was given. The greeting must have echoed in some respect like the words the messenger at the tomb had told Mary… “Do not be afraid”. The words came out as asking for a peace that existed beyond all understanding. However, the words fell on fearful ears.
It may seem now to us that Resurrection faith was insufficiently held within them. But, lest we sinfully and too lightly consider the words spoken in that upper room, let us not judge our predecessors. Can we intellectually imagine the impact of hearing the voice of one believed to be dead? They suddenly heard Jesus’ voice!
I think that we certainly cannot enough imagine the shock that came upon the men. Bedlam resulted! I venture that fear, crying, yelling and even more... began to shake the men who hid in that room even though they had been told by the women that he had risen.
After the din quieted somewhat, a first daring soul moved beyond initial shock and doubt. Then, one by one, all were amazed by bodily proof about the Lord’s identity.
John revealed to his churches that as the tumult lessened, Jesus’ aim was to empower them. Jesus reminded them that what had happened had been prophetically promised. Let us take due note that here at this point in the telling... is where John quickly changed our focus. John revealed to his hearers that not all were there. John told that Thomas was not present.
As readers and hearers today who arrive untimely, we are also brought now into the scene. Those who hear the news of an empty tomb join with them across the centuries to understand the report.
John told his readers that the message of the empty tomb was difficult for Thomas. I think that many who receive this gospel report today can surely identify with this. Many persons I know struggle today with intellectually gripping the Resurrection report. It is a hard thing indeed. We seek evidence!
Thus today, as over centuries of witness, the Truth of the miracle comes to us as a gift. It is a gift wrapped in faith provided by the power of the Holy Spirit. Certainly, so rewarded we are called to accept what John’s churches came to understand.
Know this! Faith to believe in this miracle only came from God’s Word as provided through the Holy Spirit. For this reason we too must search the Word, comprehending that scripture surely declares scripture! Faith comes by the receiving of this spiritual knowledge. As Saint Paul echoed..,
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not because of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
The stage was therefore described as set wonderfully by John’s writing. The writer brought Thomas face-to-face with the Risen Lord, and we as readers now also become witnesses to the scene as well. The Truth is revealed to all! Immediately, the normative declaration was made by that disciple, "My Lord and my God!" Thus with exclamatory zeal... kingdom building was furthered.
Tell This Truth!
Examine the words of John as we look for lessons in our own day. We need only see the history of the Christian church during the latter years of the first century. John’s gospel was likely written c.85-95, as a highly symbolic telling. It included rather sophisticated symbols of double entendre. In this gospel then, many forms of storytelling found in classical Greek texts are used. Therefore, we collectively may assume that John wrote primarily to Greek and dispersed and highly educated Hebrews who gathered within the heart of the Roman Empire. His symbolic writing style points out a witness subtly meant to attract those upper, educated classes, as well as those lesser learned.
Were educated and moneyed persons confronted by the gospel witness? If the answer is affirmative, we modern persons may also then liken ourselves to those of the world who had then arrived in finance and education. Consequently, are we then not challenged also by this gospel reading?
Some biblical authorities say that the original gospel text ended here. It is taught that the following chapter was applied by a later editor. Therefore, if these scholars are correct, the initial telling ends with a rather appropriate phrase. The text tells us why this gospel writing even exists. Blessed John stated that he wrote this enchanting storytelling, so… “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.”
Therefore, if holding to this scriptural appraisal, we in modern society are now invited to highly recommend the Gospel of John. I especially contend that it be placed on the “must read” list for those who like a good book. When they ask us after reading, “How is this thing... this Resurrection possible…?”, surely we are invited to witness about the faith now given to us. We may say with certainty that the Spirit answers… “With God all things are possible!”
Therefore, we see that it is for us who are made wealthy in the knowledge of our redemption.., those who have been granted faith without our seeing the tomb… to be empowered by the Holy Spirit. In the modern world we are called to tell the great story concerning the saving grace of Almighty God.
Please enjoy our Easter turn around, and drive video...
Please enjoy our Easter turn around, and drive video...
With God.... All Things Are Possible!