2nd Sunday of Easter, Year A | John 10:19-31
Giving Thomas a Little Grace—He is Us
When I wake up on Easter Sunday, I always feel a huge sense of relief. Either I can start whatever I gave up for Lent again, or I can stop feeling guilty that I didn’t follow through on my Lenten discipline for the forty days. The forty days are over! Jesus is here! The alleluia is back!!
But that very first Easter morning did not brim with relief and joy for the disciples, but rather it dawned in disappointment, shock, and fear. Their friend and Lord, the man in whom they’d, pointlessly it seemed now, bet their lives on, was gone—murdered in the most inhumane way. Not only had they lost a friend, but they’d lost their true north. They were floundering.
They floundered the whole of that first Easter. It wasn’t until “the evening of the first day” (v.19), that Jesus came to the Upper Room and gave them the gift of the Holy Spirit.
But Thomas missed it. Thomas wasn’t there, and so, because he didn’t believe until he had actually seen Jesus himself, Thomas has gone down in the annals of history as “doubting Thomas.” Which isn’t exactly fair. None of the other disciples was living what Jesus had told them over and over either. None of them seemed to remember that He would have to die and would return on the third day. Until they had seen Jesus in the flesh, it didn’t make sense.
Thomas was no different. He needed to see Jesus to believe.
And we aren’t any different from Thomas. Except maybe in that we aren’t as honest and don’t admit our need. Until we have experienced Him personally, until we have felt the ridges of His wounds deep inside, we don’t believe, not truly, not fully. We might go to church, we might check all the boxes, but until we have that personal encounter, we don’t, we can’t, believe.
That’s why Jesus came as He did, as a relational God, not one from on high. We are wired for relationship. Relationship is why Jesus “sent” (v.21) the disciples out, so that others could have a personal experience that would enable them to experience Jesus’s love. We need to experience the flesh, and so God sent a needy infant to a teenager and her fiancé in the manger. A hungry infant is as real as it gets.
That Infant grew up and formed relationships with real people, people who mourned his death deeply. People who couldn’t believe He had died, nor the way He had died. People who, just like us, floundered upon the death of their loved one. But because of that love, that grief, that floundering, they were able to connect with others. They were able to build the church.
The church is relational. We’re all Thomases. We can’t believe until we have experienced Jesus for ourselves. We can’t believe because the news Jesus brings is unbelievable—it’s too good to be true! It’s only through relationships that we can begin to be open to Jesus’s presence. So let’s give Thomas a little grace in this story. Let’s recognize the Thomas in each of us.