(Inspired by John 20:19-29)
What a day! The sorrow and grief all of the followers of Jesus felt at His death was compounded when Mary of Magdala came running into the upper room early Sunday morning, yelling that someone had taken Jesus’s body from the tomb.
The Magdalene loved the Lord. Nobody would question that. She had been absolutely devoted to the Teacher since He had cast seven demons out of her. Maybe it was living with demons for so long, or maybe it was just Mary, but there had always been something a little strange about her that caused most of the disciples to question her perspective on things. When she came running in announcing that Jesus’s body was missing, Rock and young John immediately went to check out her story. After they returned, the two of them confirmed to the others that the Lord’s corpse was not in the tomb and that the guards were gone.
What’s more, the mother of the Lord also came in later saying that she had seen angels at the grave telling her that her Son was risen from the dead! But the disciples were reluctant to put any faith in what she said. It wasn’t that they didn’t love and respect Mary, but as distraught as the poor woman had been at watching her Son tortured and murdered in front of her eyes, they each knew that the crucifixion had deeply affected her.
Everyone hoped that all the craziness would calm down, but then Mary of Magdala, who had returned to the tomb, rushed into the upper room a second time claiming that she had actually seen Jesus alive! Unfortunately for Mary, it was hard for the disciples to take her seriously. They were all more worried about the high priests and the Romans than the irrational claims of disturbed women.
With the tomb open and the body of Jesus missing, those hiding in the upper room were afraid that everybody was going to think that the Nazarene’s followers had stolen the body. Caiaphas said as much when he had the Romans seal and guard the tomb. The terrified disciples spent the rest of the day trying to figure out what was going on and how they could slip out of Jerusalem without getting arrested.
Remembering that the soldiers had come for Jesus by night, the door to the upper room was bolted shut that evening. They were in the process of deciding who would act as guards when Jesus Himself stepped through the closed door and stood before them, smiling.
Immediately terror gripped all of them, so Jesus said, “Peace…I bring peace to you.”
Looking around at His wide-eyed disciples, Jesus spoke again. “My friends, you are confused, distressed, and afraid, but you shouldn’t be. Look! It’s really Me!” As He said this, Jesus held out His hands and showed them the nail holes in His wrists. He also pulled back His robe and revealed the large gash in His side where the spear pierced Him.
Jesus walked around the room and let each of them touch Him and examine the wounds. The response was the same for all of them. As soon as they saw the marks of His death, felt the warmth of His skin, and saw the radiant smile on His very alive face, they each fell to their knees and exclaimed, “LORD!”
“You see?” Jesus said with a smile. “I really have come to bring you peace.”
“What is happening, Lord?” an amazed young John asked what they all wanted to know.
“Just like the Father in heaven sent Me to you,” Jesus explained, “so now, I’m sending you to others, but you’re going to need help. I’m giving you a gift to assist you in this work. Receive My Spirit in you.” After saying this, the Lord blew His breath over all of them. Immediately they each felt a sense of power, courage, and awareness that was new to them. There was also this feeling of peace; a peace that none of them could accurately describe.
“The Holy Spirit in you is going to show you the Father’s will,” Jesus explained. “My Spirit will help you understand the work that the Father is doing around you at those times when He wants you to join Him in His work. He will even show you the work that He is doing in people’s hearts. When the Father has forgiven someone of their sins, He will show you, and when someone is still living in their sin, He will reveal that to you as well. Because you have seen that I was dead but now I am alive again, the Father and I are sending you out in My name to do eternally significant things. From now on, each of you will be serving the Father and doing His will. I won’t need to tell you what to do. The Father will be telling you Himself through His Spirit in you.”
Almost an hour after Jesus had left the disciples, they heard a faint knock at the door. Simon, the former assassin, pressed his eye against a crack to look out and whispered, “Who’s there?”
“It’s me, Thomas,” the voice returned.
The missing disciple was quickly allowed in with the loaves of bread he had gone to purchase. He was immediately surrounded by everyone in the room and was bombarded with excited testimonies of the appearance of the Lord to all of them.
“HOLD IT!” the Twin snapped. “THIS IS NOT FUNNY! With the Master’s body gone, this whole city is in confusion! Some in the market are saying that the guards at the tomb are telling people that WE took Jesus’s corpse!
“Listen,” Thomas continued, “I know I’m gullible. You guys have been pulling jokes on me for three years, but I’m not buying it this time. So just stop!”
“It’s the truth, Twin,” Andrew returned seriously. “Jesus came to us just about an hour ago.”
“He’s alive, Thomas!” big James added. “He even showed us the prints of the nails in His wrists and the lance wound in His side.”
“He can’t be alive!” Thomas shot back. “I was there! I SAW HIM DIE!”
“We all did,” Matthew returned confidently. “We all also saw Him alive just a few minutes ago.”
“JUST STOP IT, ALL OF YOU!” Thomas barked angrily. “I don’t believe any of what you’re saying! If He’s alive, He’ll have to show me! Before I believe anything like that, I will have to see Him MYSELF, put MY fingers in the nail holes, and I’ll have to stick MY hand into the wound in His side…MY OWN HAND IN THAT HORRIBLE WOUND! DO YOU HEAR ME? Until that happens, just stop all this talk! It’s not helping us figure out how to stay alive!”
Eight days later, when all of the disciples, including Thomas, were together in the upper room, Jesus appeared in their midst. As before, He passed effortlessly through the bolted door.
“TEACHER!” they all cheered excitedly…well, all but Thomas. He was standing in the back of the group with his eyes wide and his mouth even wider.
“Peace be with you all!” Jesus said cheerfully as he greeted His dearest friends once again. Looking over all of their excited faces, the eyes of the Lord rested on Thomas. The risen Lord moved toward His disciple who had refused to believe. The others stepped aside to allow the Lord to reach their friend that they had been so concerned for.
“Thomas,” Jesus said looking into the Twin’s eyes, “You’ve doubted long enough. It’s really Me! I was dead, but now I’m alive. Here, put your fingers in the nail holes in My wrists and place your hand in the wound in My side. Don’t be an unbeliever, Thomas. I want you to not only believe what I’m saying to you and what you’re seeing—I want you to believe in Who I Am!”
As he touched the wounds of the risen Lord, Thomas’s resistance melted away, and he began to cry tears of joy. He dropped to his knees at the feet of his Eternal King and cried out, “YOU ARE MY LORD! YOU ARE MY GOD!”
“I came for you, Thomas,” Jesus said with a smile. “Your fears and your doubts put a barrier in the way of faith in Me. I wanted you to see with your own eyes so that you would believe in Me and know that I Am the Son of God Who has come to take away the sins of the world.”
“I do believe, Lord!” the Twin said through his tears. “I believe!”
“I am glad of that,” Jesus returned, “and you will be blessed in believing. But the greatest blessing will be reserved for those who did not see Me and still believed.”
By Alan W. Harris