April 3, 2005 - Year A - Easter 2 

John 20:19-31

 19 On the evening of that day, the first day after the Sabbath, the doors were locked where the disciples were, because of their fear of the Jews, but Jesus came and stood in their midst. He said to them, “Peace be with you”; 20 then he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples kept looking at the Lord and were full of joy.

21 Again Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 After saying this he breathed on them and said to them, “Re­ceive the Holy Spirit; 23 for those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.”

24 Thomas, the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he replied, “Until I have seen in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

26 Eight days later, the disciples were inside again and Thomas was with them. Despite the locked doors Jesus came and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands; stretch out your hand and put it into my side. Resist no longer and be a believer.”

28 Thomas then said, “You are my Lord and my God.” 29 Jesus replied, “You believe because you see me, don’t you? Happy are those who have not seen and believe.”

30 There were many other signs that Jesus gave in the presence of his disciples, but they are not recorded in this book. 31 These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; believe and you will have life through his Name.

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Notes from
[The Community Christian Bible]

• 19. Just as in the first creation God infused life into Adam, so, too, Jesus’ breath communicates life to the new spiritual creation. Christ, who died to take away the sin of the world, now leaves to his own the power to forgive.

Thus the hope of the Biblical people has been realized. God led them in such a way that they felt the universal presence of sin, and so they offered animals in the Temple uninterruptedly to appease God. That river of blood failed to destroy sin, and the priests themselves offered sacrifices for their own sins before praying to God for the others. Ceremonies and rites had no power to purify the heart or to give the Holy Spirit.

Now, in the person of Jesus risen from the dead, a new world has begun. Although humanity may continue to sin, already the first of its sons and daughters, the “eldest brother of them all” is sharing fully the holy life of God.

Those who strive for the spiritual life, suffer above all from a keen awareness of the universal presence of sin. They grieve deeply at not yet having attained total liberation from sin. Hence they recognize the forgiveness of sin as the greatest gift given to the Church.

The capacity to forgive is the only power able to release the great tensions within humankind. Although it does not easily conquer hearts, it is an invaluable secret and the Church should consider it as its own particular treasure.

One who does not know how to forgive does not know how to love. On making us aware of sin and purifying us from it, the Church helps us demonstrate a more authentic love for the neighbor.

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Comments by Wesley

1. One translation of Matthew 28:17, about the 11 in Galilee, is "When they saw him, they worshipped him, but they doubted." Here they are able to give witness to what has become solidified in their experience. It is interesting to play off the different stories about the disciples and how they came to their surety of faith. Was it the first night in Jerusalem, was it later in Galilee? Was it in a first moment or after several encounters?

2. We hear a pattern with the disciples that moves from "locked" and "fear" to Jesus bringing the antidote of "peace" and "joy." 

Thomas is likewise locked and fearful as he wrestles with a current disappointment regarding Jesus' crucifixion and isn't ready to open himself to another about a false resurrection. Jesus comes not just to the group, but the individual, and continues to bring the antidote of "peace" that echoes down the ages to the "happiness" of all. 

3. Yes, even we are locked and fearful. We find this particularly around issues of resources and control. We seemingly can never have too much of them and it gets harder and harder to hang on to them. We, too, need the antidote of "peace" in out time and lives.

This antidote of "peace" reestablishes "happiness" through the mechanism of "forgiveness." Forgiveness of one another and others and strangers and enemies all adds up to "happiness." In terms of its pursuit, there is no better way to arrive at the antidote for our fear and our locking parts of our lives away than participating in forgiveness from both sides.

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