(Based on John 20:19-31)
It’s been one week – one long, rancorous week. I was out getting food for our little cast of outcasts, and upon my return I was greeted with great excitement. The excitement wasn’t for the food and supplies I brought, or for the fact that I returned safely. No, the excitement, so the others said, was because they had seen Jesus! After they calmed down enough to tell me, all I could think was “This is a cruel joke to play on me!” They assured me it was no joke; Jesus had appeared to them, in the very room in which we were standing! And not only had he breathed on them, but he had given them the power to bind and release sin! This was blasphemy! Only God could forgive sins! And they claimed that Jesus had breathed on them, likening themselves to the creation of Adam and Eve, who received God’s breath! This arrogance was beyond understanding!
I refused to believe them. I had witnessed the brutal death of our friend and leader. I had watched him trek the streets, carrying his cross and the blood running freely from his wounds. I had stayed with Mary and the others as we watched through the tortuous hours until Jesus breathed his last. I saw the soldier pierce his side with a spear. I helped to remove Jesus from his crucifixion, and I watched Mary grieve over her lost son. I cried as we put Jesus in his tomb and cursed the soldiers placed about it as we left for Passover. I washed his blood from my hands and arms, where I had held his lifeless body. I cleansed Jesus’ blood from my face with my tears as we eleven tried to keep Mary sane after watching the inhuman suffering of her son. No, I knew Jesus was dead. I had felt his death in many ways, and tasted its bitterness. I clung to my conviction even in the face of the exuberance of the others. I knew Jesus was dead. Dead as rock. Dead as my happiness. Dead.
The last seven days have been nearly intolerable. The others have tried to convince me of their vision. I have accused them of sharing some kind of hallucination, the source of which I could not fathom. I have felt alone and an outsider; my frustration with them has been matched by their frustration with me. We have all been trapped in this room together, and with little privacy there is also little escape from each other. We have tried to remember what Jesus taught us in our too-brief time together, but it is difficult. There has been great rancor between us, and more than a few fights. There are whispers and accusations, and there I have withdrawn to be by myself, pondering my future. I cannot believe what they tell me, and they cannot believe I do not believe them. It is a vicious circle in which we find ourselves! I demand evidence of this vision before I will believe them, and they have no way of producing it!
I am tidying up a corner of the room, contemplating my choices. Should I leave the others and strike out on my own? What would I do? Were the Romans and the Sanhedrin still looking for us? Would the other followers help me if I left the eleven? Should I stay and try to work things out? Even if I thought my roommates were deceived, what of it? We had all been through a very traumatic event, after all. But I needed to decide – what was my destiny?
I was working with my back to the others, as I had recently grown accustomed to doing, when I sensed something different in the room. It was very quiet, with none of the usual background noise. I could hear the street noise – donkeys braying and shopkeepers hawking their wares – but the there was stillness in the room. I turned around slowly, carefully peeking over my shoulder, and I saw the others gazing toward the far wall. I followed their gaze and saw – oh Heavens! It was Jesus. He was different, radiant, but it was Jesus! How could it be? He was looking straight at me, and I felt his piercing gaze. I dropped the bundle in my hand and fell prostrate before him, bruising both knees and forehead. My bruises meant nothing, though, as I lifted my eyes and found his feet directly before me. I saw the wounds caused by the nail in his feet, though they did not bleed. The hem of his gown was only inches from my disbelieving eyes, and it was white, though whiter than any garment I had ever seen. I heard him greet the others, “Peace be with you.” I tried to bury my head in the floor, mortified that He should find me wanting. I could feel the roughness of the floor under my hands and my forehead, and I wished mightily that I could sink right through it and escape my shame in the streets outside!
Then I heard Jesus address me thus: “”Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
It seemed an eternity before I could answer. What does one say in situations like this? Silly thoughts, as there are NO situations like this, ever! I sensed every eye upon me, every breath being held as I struggled for a response. Part of me was leaping, like an antelope in springtime, that my Lord had come back to me! The rest of me felt lower than dirt that I had betrayed His trust and the trust of my fellow disciples in my unbelief. I simply responded as my heart commanded, never lifting my head: “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus’ response was fitting, brief, and direct. “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” This chastisement would remain with me forever. I felt as a young child, caught in some devilment by his parents and corrected in the public square. My heart had been laid open, my faith brought into question. But nevermore! Never more would my Lord find me wanting! I had learned my lesson.
Jesus then bent down and taking face in his hands, brought my eyes to his, and smiled. I was covered in a love and warmth that I knew would never leave me. He remained with us a while, doing signs and teaching us. And when he left, we were neither distraught nor at discord with one another, for I had learned that sight was not merely with the eyes, nor was evidence always tangible. Sometimes, the clearest sight comes from the heart, where trust lives. Sometimes the proof comes not with seeing, but with believing.