by Corrie Cabes
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.”
(An excerpt from the Sunday gospel for the second week of Easter)
I feel a true kinship with the disciples and especially Thomas these days. We are living in a time where hope appears less hazy and far off, days seem brighter. Flowers are proudly, persistently proclaiming their petals with color as if parading in a glitzy New York fashion show. We are slowly beginning to gather again in small and different ways, and I see more people out and about walking in the neighborhoods, waving their hellos. Alleluias resound in our liturgy, and worship is joyful; hymns are triumphant. In many ways, resurrection is beginning to feel like it could be part of our present, not just a very distant future event. We are truly living in the season of Easter. And yet, this time feels like a case of “already and not yet.” There’s a part of me that is huddled with the disciples, waiting for something to happen. Waiting for Jesus.
Interestingly, if we immerse ourselves in the Gospel text for the second Sunday from John, this is also the case for the disciples (John 20:19-31). But let’s back up again and look at where we find ourselves on Easter day.
There are two Gospel texts to choose from on Easter Sunday. The Gospel of John (John 20:1-18) features Mary Magdalene announcing the resurrection to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.” The alternate text is from Mark 16:1-8, in which three women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome enter the empty tomb of Jesus, and encounter a young man robed in white, who instructs the women to tell the disciples and Peter that Jesus is going ahead to Galilee; “there you will see him, just as he told you.” This gospel ends with the women fleeing in terror and amazement, saying nothing to anyone out of fear.
So, whether the disciples hear about Jesus’ resurrection from the women or not, they have not had a personal experience of the resurrection of Jesus. We know this because as we return to the Gospel from the second Sunday of Easter, the disciples have fretfully gathered in a house, after locking the door, thinking they will be the next to follow in Jesus’ final tragic footsteps on earth. Their last memories as disciples are ones filled with terror, of being scattered, with the knowledge that their leader, their Jesus, has been arrested, brutally whipped, and beaten, and crucified.
When the wounded and yet resurrected Jesus appears amid the disciples, they rejoice. But where is Thomas? Thomas missed the experience of resurrection with the disciples. He did not feel the breath of the Spirit upon his skin. He did not breathe it in, like the wafting of incense that permeates down to the soul. He did not receive the latest teaching from Jesus.
Here’s the good news for Thomas, and for us this Easter. Jesus will appear repeatedly to the disciples in the Gospels, even asking the bewildered disciples for a bite of broiled fish at a gathering. Jesus will show up again and again, equipping them with the Spirit before he ascends to the Father. The Spirit will continue to guide and lead the disciples, and my hope is that through the Spirit, you will live into a season of many resurrections as well.
During Easter, we may take the small steps of resurrection in our lives, in our prayers, in our worship, and the thoughtful ways we are slowly coming together again as a community in Christ. Just as God found a way to destroy death, God will show us a way to start again. To live into the new life promised through the resurrection of Jesus.
There’s something rather beautiful that God allows for us to participate in many experiences of new life in Christ. Mary Magdalene, Mary, and Salome experienced the news first, so terrifying, yet exhilarating. Jesus not only appeared to the disciples but equipped them with the Spirit to continue another day when they did not feel safe, even in a locked house. Jesus understands that people need to experience resurrection in a communal and personal way.
Jesus meets Thomas, so that he might know resurrection, in the flesh, invited into the wounds of our Lord. This is the God we worship this Easter season and beyond. A God who will continue to invite us into resurrection of our own lives and others.
What will resurrection look like for you this Easter season?