my miscellany

Easter 2, 2023 — 16 Apr 23

Easter 2, 2023

Signorelli, Luca, 1441?-1523. Resurrected Christ Appearing to His Disciples, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=58647 [retrieved April 17, 2023]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Luca_Signorelli_-_The_Resurrected_Christ_Appearing_to_His_Disciples_-_29.42_-_Detroit_Institute_of_Arts.jpg.

RCL Year A, Easter 2
Acts 2:14a and 22-23, Psalm 16, I Peter 1:3-9, Saint John 20:19-31

“Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him,”[1] words from today’s Epistle.

Last Sunday, I promised that seeing and believing are important steps in the Christian life and that they would be on full display in today’s Gospel.

When I said that, I was keeping score. Last Sunday, beside the Risen Lord, there were three major participants in the Gospel: John, who had not seen the Risen Lord though he believed in his resurrection; Mary Magdalene who had seen the Risen Lord and had believed in him; and, lastly, Peter who had not seen him nor had he believed in his resurrection.

The Gospel today picks up exactly where last Sunday’s Gospel ended except it is evening on the Day of the Resurrection. All the disciples are gathered together though none is singled out by name. Jesus appears among them, and shares with them the Holy Spirit. So at this point, they all have seen the Risen Lord.

They all have seen him now except one. One is absent from the gathering of the disciples on the evening of the Day of the Resurrection. And Mary Magdalene’s “I have seen the Lord” becomes “We have seen the Lord,” from all of them to Thomas, the absent one.

Thomas hears, “We have seen the Lord,” and knows he cannot say that. And so he says, “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.”[2] For Thomas, seeing is believing. He is like most of us living in the world after the scientific revolution. Unless we see it, unless it is demonstrated to us, we will not believe either.

But Jesus gives him what he needs when he appears to them again a second time on the second Sunday of the resurrection. The Lord of all creation proffers his hands and his side, and Thomas believes. Jesus gives him what he needs.

The witness of the church is that Jesus was raised from the dead and that the Lord of all creation gives us what we need. As an example of being given what we need, I put forward Nicholas Thomas Wright, a bishop of The Church of England[3] and a New Testament scholar. He is the author of more that seventy books about Christianity and its origins. I am reading his Jesus and the Victory of God (1997) at the moment.

He was born at Morpeth, Northumbria, a market town, in 1948. And in an interview in 2003, he said he remembers “sitting by myself at Morpeth and being completely overcome, coming to tears, by the fact that God loved me so much he died for me. Everything that has happened to me since has produced wave upon wave of the same.”[4]

Many tell a similar tale. The Epistle to the Hebrews tells us that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”[5] The experience of God can be overwhelming. In addition to giving us what we need, God usually does not give us more than we can take. Most of us could not take putting our hand in the side of the Risen Lord or witnessing the repentance of a hardened sinner, but most of us can take the renewal and rebirth of creation in spring, itself a demonstration of the Lord of creation. If we have not seen such things, let us remember John who, on the Day of the Resurrection, believed before he saw.

[1] I Peter 1:8.

[2] Saint John 20:25.

[3] The Bishop of Durham, 2003-2010.

[4] Michael Amos, “Our Friend from the North,” in Northern Echo, 12 February 2003.

[5] Hebrews 10:31.

%d bloggers like this: