19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
26A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” 30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
Reflection: But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.”
Poor Thomas! He gets treated unfairly for his insistence on seeing Jesus with his own eyes and touching his scars with his own hands. How many of us would act differently if we were in the same situation? After all, we read in this passage that the rest of the disciples got the chance to see the scars of Jesus. Jesus showed them his hands and side and then they rejoiced. It wasn’t the other way around. They needed to see the proof as well. Also, we read here that Thomas was known as “The Twin.” If anyone knew what it was like to get misidentified it was Thomas. How many times do you think he got confused for his twin brother? Thomas knew the importance of accurate identification.
As I mentioned in Sunday’s sermon, there is no replacement for a personal encounter with Jesus. We can hear the testimony of others, but Jesus (and faith in Jesus) will not take root within us until we experience Jesus for ourselves. Jesus was not admonishing Thomas as much as he was extolling the importance of faith for future believers who would need to experience Jesus in ways beyond their physical eyes. What a blessing it would have been to be Thomas or another person who got to see Jesus with their eyes, hear Jesus with their ears, and touch Jesus with their hands!
Are you relying on the witness or faith of others or are you actively seeking out personal experiences of Jesus? How might you say for yourself, “I have seen the Lord”? In many ways we stand upon the faith of others – think of the teachers, friends, and family members who have influenced your faith. And yet at some point we are called to claim that faith for ourselves. Currently, we are in the middle of confirmation classes for our fifth-graders and they are in the process of claiming their faith for their own. But this is something that we do little by little every day, even into our adult years. Every time we have a personal experience of Jesus, through opening ourselves up to his life and presence, we claim our faith for ourselves a little bit more.
Journaling Focus: If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.
This is one of those challenging passages of Scripture, in which the deeper meaning seems obscured by the surface reading. On the surface, it would seem that Jesus is saying that we can withhold forgiveness from others based on our own prerogatives. Is that what is really being said here? Take some time this week to meditate on this Scripture and explore its true meaning through reflective writing. What role do we play in forgiveness? How do we reflect the forgiving nature of God? What is Jesus really saying here?
This practice allows you to listen to the Scripture for the week (sometimes in larger context) and to open yourself up to God’s voice in that Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above and listen to the Scripture. As you listen this first time, ask God to point out to you a word or phrase from the Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a second time. As you listen this second time, ask God to reveal to you the holy intentions for this word or phrase that is being spoken into your life.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a third time. As you listen this third time, ask God how you might respond to this word or phrase being spoken into your life today.
These questions are designed to help make sense of the message of Scripture. They are not designed to overwhelm, but to enlighten. Do not feel as if you need to answer all – or even most – of these questions every week. Perhaps pick one or two that will help you explore the Scripture and its message more deeply.
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said? (Observation)
- Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
- What does it mean? (Understanding)
- What does it mean for us? (Application)
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture reveal God?
- How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
- What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?
Scripture Reads Me:
- This passage makes me feel…
- This passage makes me think about…
- This passage reminds me of…
- This passage teaches me that God is…
- This passage teaches me that I am…
- This passage challenges me to…
Listen to the Taize song, Veni Sancte Spiritus. The title means “Come, Holy Spirit.” This song is a mix of a chant and a beautiful melodic prayer to the Spirit. What is God communicating to you through this song? What might you communicate to God through this song?
Prayer Focus: Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
Praying for peace is not a shallow or naive prayer. It is perhaps the most powerful prayer we can pray. Peace begins with the individual commitment toward peace by each person. You cannot force peace upon someone else; you can only cultivate peace through your own commitment to it. Pray that God will give you peace and use you to cultivate peace in the people and places around you. Trust that God is working in and through you to bring shalom – all things working together to do the will of God in the world.
Meditation Focus: When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
When I read this verse, I can’t help but picture the scene in Genesis 2 in which God breathes life into the dust-man he has created. Jesus is breathing life into what will become the new covenant Church. Sit with the image of Jesus breathing life onto you and into you. Carry it with you as you go. Set reminders for yourself on your phone or watch to take hourly meditation breaks and picture Jesus breathing the Spirit upon you in whatever setting you are in at the time – home, work, church, store, ballgame, etc. What difference does it make when you breathe the breath of God, as opposed to breathing in what the world offers?
Take some time to reflect upon your day or your week. Follow the process below and open yourself up to the presence and work of God in your life this week. Every week the structure is the same, but some specifics are changed to reflect the Scripture of the week.
- Find a place and posture that will prepare you for prayer.
- Begin by breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing deeply out of your mouth.
- Invite God to lead you through the previous day or week. For instance, if it is Tuesday night, reflect back on Tuesday morning, afternoon, and evening. If it is Saturday or Sunday, reflect back on Monday through Friday.
- Ask God to guide you through these questions:
- Where have you “seen” Jesus?
- What doubts have you experienced?
- How has your faith been strengthened?
- Thank God for this journey of reflection on your day or week. Ask God to continue to reveal Godself to you tomorrow.
Holy Action: Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Practice seeing the Lord in others. When you see people or talk with people this week, imagine Jesus standing next to them with his arm around their shoulders. Picture Jesus smiling in their presence. Try this with people you are naturally drawn to and with people you struggle relating with. How does it change the way you “see” others?
Breath Prayer: LORD God, open us to you.