It was Sunday evening and the disciples were gathered in the upper room. The doors were locked for fear of reprisals and then suddenly Jesus came and stood before them saying, ‘Peace be with you’. The disciples, however, were fearful of Jesus and doubted that He was human, fearing that in fact He was ghost. Even after touching Jesus they felt a strange mixture of joy and doubt. Perhaps after all their grief Jesus being alive again seemed too good to be true. Jesus tries to assuage their doubts by eating something in front of them but it is when their minds are opened to the Scriptures that Jesus is confident to call them His witnesses.
For Thomas, having an open mind seemed impossible. He wasn’t there when Jesus appeared! I don’t know whether Thomas feels hurt or even jealousy that he missed Jesus’ first visit but, whatever the reason, he refuses to believe his friends’ claims that Jesus is alive and flatly declares that unless he is able to put his finger into the mark made by the nails and his hand into His side, he will not believe. I’m sure there are many people who relate to Thomas. Many in our world find it hard to acknowledge that Jesus is alive today. For Thomas seeing was believing. One week later when Jesus appears again, this time Thomas is invited by Jesus to place his finger and his hand into the wounds of Christ. He declares, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus answers: “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet come to believe.”
What did Jesus mean by those words? I can only think that He was referring to people like you and me who have come to believe not necessarily because we have seen Jesus physically but because we have been blessed by His presence in our lives through His Holy Spirit. The wonderful thing about this is that with His presence in our lives other people might have the opportunity of seeing and believing too. There are many like Thomas who will only believe when they see.
This Holy Week at All Saints’ we have spent much time and effort converting our church into First Century Jerusalem and I have had the privilege of sharing the Easter Story with many of the pupils from All Saints’ School. It has been wonderful sharing the story of the Last Supper in a real-life upper room, of sharing the story of Jesus’ final prayers in Gethsemane, in a real-life garden, and relating the agony of His suffering by three life-sized crosses. It has been wonderful to see the wide-eyed wonder as the children went inside a ‘real’ tomb. For many of the students and adults who came to church the story of Easter became alive because they could, in their own way, see and touch the last days of Jesus’ life.
My hope and prayer for all who encounter the Easter story this year is that it will not just be a case of seeing and believing but will also be about encountering the risen Jesus and His transforming power for themselves.
May I take this opportunity as the newly installed vicar of All Saints’ Parish to wish you every blessing in Christ this Easter.