2nd Sunday of Easter Reflection by Lisa Friedlander
Have you ever been afraid to “face” God or felt unworthy of his love? Perhaps because you think your sin is unforgivable or maybe because you don’t think you’ve done enough to share Him with others? You aren’t alone.
In today’s Gospel, John tells us that the disciples had locked themselves away after Jesus died because of the Jews, and that certainly seems like a legitimate fear after the crucifixion. However, while reading about today’s Gospel, I found a commentary suggesting that maybe, just maybe, the disciples locked themselves in a room after Jesus died because they were not only afraid of the Jews but also afraid of Jesus. After all, they had failed him miserably. Peter denied him three times, and the rest had deserted him (except for “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” who had been at the cross and had taken Jesus’ mother into his home). Perhaps the last person the disciples wanted to meet on that evening was Jesus, risen from the dead to confront them with their failures. But, Jesus is not stopped by locked doors. He comes right through those locked doors and appears in the midst of his frightened disciples. He comes not to confront his disciples with their failures, but to grant them peace. The very first thing He said to them is “Peace be with you.” No recriminations for their failures, no “Why are you hiding in here?!?!” but “Peace be with you.” His very first thought was for His disciples. The same peace granted to those first disciples is given to us whether we feel we deserve it or not. A locked heart or mind, like the locked door in today’s Gospel, will not stop Jesus. Jesus comes to us as He came to the first disciples, right in the midst of our fear, pain, doubt, and confusion. He comes breathing peace into our anxious lives.
And then there is Thomas. Poor Thomas. Because of today’s Gospel, he is forever labeled “Doubting Thomas.” For some reason (we are not told why), Thomas was absent and missed out on this first Sunday evening encounter with the risen Jesus. Although he has gotten a bad rap as “doubting Thomas,” he asks for nothing more than the others already received: to see Jesus, wounds and all. My favorite part of this story is that Jesus shows up again one week later to provide exactly what Thomas needs. Jesus’ response to Thomas is not a rebuke, but rather a blessing for all those who will come to believe without having the benefit of a flesh-and-blood encounter with Jesus; it’s a blessing for us! Indeed, John goes on to declare that this is the very purpose of this book, addressing all of us who have not seen: “But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”
What is more, He keeps showing up. As He came back a week later for Thomas, Jesus keeps coming back week after week among His gathered disciples—in the word, the water, the bread, and the wine—not wanting any to miss out on the life and peace He gives. He keeps sending us out of our safe, locked rooms, into a world that, like us, so desperately needs His gifts of life and peace.