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April 18 -- John 20:19-31

“Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” –John 20:29 (NIV)

It was the evening of the first Easter. Mary had told Peter and John that she saw Jesus outside the tomb. The other women who were with her at the tomb had also encountered Jesus (after Mary had gone to tell Peter and John), and these women had told the rest of the disciples (see Matthew 28:8-10). Peter and John had been to the tomb and found it empty, but at that point on Easter Sunday, none of the disciples had yet seen Jesus. They were still hiding from the Jewish leaders—afraid for their own lives. They were having a hard time believing the women (see Luke 24:9-11; 22-24). (Note: Women were not considered reliable sources at this time. They could not testify in court, which is one of many reasons this story could not have been made up. If it had been, the author never would have chosen women as the first witnesses to the Resurrection.)

While the door was still locked, Jesus came and stood among His disciples. John does not tell us how Jesus entered the room. We know He was not a ghost or spirit. He wanted to show them this, so He asked for food and ate it in their presence (see Luke 24:37-43). He also showed them His hands, feet, and side. The Bible speaks of resurrected bodies being the result of a transformation. They will still be bodies, but there will be differences from our earthly bodies (see Philippians 3:20-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:35-55). This could explain why Mary Magdalene and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24 did not immediately recognize Jesus and why Jesus was able to enter when the room was locked.

In any case, the disciples were able to see and touch the wounds of the Crucifixion, and they were “overjoyed.” Jesus then breathed on them with the promise of Holy Spirit, who would enable them to go out and spread the Gospel. (Some commentators believe that “breathed on them” could be an Aramaic idiom that meant He “encouraged them” with the promise of the Holy Spirit, who would descend on them at Pentecost.)

In this passage, Jesus says, “Peace be with you!” three times. He knew that His Resurrection was shaking His disciples’ world. It would be a turning point for all of them. They would then go out to spread the Good News, and they would be persecuted for it. But He sent them out with a supernatural peace and strength.

Only Thomas was not present at this first meeting of the Resurrected Christ and His disciples. When he heard about it, he said that unless he saw and touched Jesus’ wounds himself, he would not believe. God was gracious to Thomas, though. Jesus appeared again to the disciples when the doors were locked, and He told Thomas, “Put your fingers here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe” (v. 27). Thomas did believe, proclaiming, “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28). There could be no doubt any longer. Jesus was alive!

Jesus ends this passage by saying, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (v. 29). That’s us. We haven’t seen in the way the disciples saw. We are asked to believe by faith, and as His disciples, we also have the Holy Spirit so that we may continue the work of spreading the Good News of Christ.

Consider: When am I most likely to struggle with doubt? Why?

Thomas had seen Jesus perform wondrous miracles. He had the testimony of his friends that Jesus had risen. Why did he need further proof? We will never really know. But we can know when it comes to our own hearts. Spend some time praying about your answers to the questions above. Ask God to help you in your personal struggles with doubt or cynicism. If you are struggling with doubt today, begin thanking God for all the times He has shown up in your life. (Sometimes we just need to be reminded.)

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My name is Melissa Anderson. I'm a spiritual director and ordained pastor who loves God, people, and words. You can read more about me by clicking the button below.

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