♦ ♦ ♦ John 20 : 19 – 31 ♦ ♦ ♦
Jesus Appears to His Disciples / Jesus Appears to Thomas –
If this account reveals the experience of the earliest disciples, it also reflects the struggles of the evangelist’s audience: a community of believers in Jesus whose relationships with their local synagogue are proving painful (see John 16.1-4; cf 9.22; 12.42). Here truth is being contested. Some – maybe most – in the synagogue consider any claim that Jesus reveals God’s truth as disqualified by his shameful crucifixion. A story that starts with the evidence of a woman is, to them, hardly robust enough to rescind their conclusions.
The truth told by Jesus’ followers is tested by such hostility. How does it prove its integrity? Thomas’ experience suggests that believers aren’t so gullible as to accept it without question. He is often nicknamed ‘doubting Thomas’ as if he were in two minds. But the story suggests that he wants to test what he is told. What starts with Mary Magdalene’s startling announcement (v.18) is amplified by the others in their report to the absentee Thomas (v.25). To his credit, he is not so naive as to go with the majority. He wants to know for himself that he really can trust what the rest now believe.
Thomas comes to that moment through a process of testing that holds together the experiences of his friends, his own honest uncertainties, the chance to discuss these with them, and his willingness to reconsider his initial conclusions in the light of fresh experience. Thomas is convinced; in the end he has no need to touch. But the story as a whole suggests that testing the truth of Jesus involves something more. In the fierce heat of hostility, it has to prove its power to reconcile and renew (vv.21-23). Here inner convictions are matched by relationships that ring true to the ‘greater love’ of Jesus (John 15.12-13), which is never more obviously displayed than in the wounds he continues to carry.
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