This is Day Thirty-Seven of Christ Church Manchester’s lent devotionals, where we are breaking down the book of John. Written by Anna Kell.
John 20: 19 – 30:
Today we read some of the most iconic bible verses in John’s Gospel. Yesterday saw Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene and now, in John 20:16-30, we delve into Jesus’ iconic appearance to 10 disciples after His glorious resurrection. At this point, Judas has killed himself and we are unsure where Thomas is, but it turns out that he missed a rather important meeting for several reasons:
1) Jesus appears in a locked room. The disciples were feeling scared and confused, hidden away in a locked room from the Jewish authorities. It’s here, when the disciples feel scared and alone, that Jesus comes. There is no place that Jesus cannot reach and our security is found in Him.
2) Jesus says 3 times “Peace be with you.” This gift of peace that Jesus brings surpasses all understanding and is unlike any earthly equivalent. It nourishes us and gives us a heavenly perspective.
3) Jesus gave physical proof that He was alive by showing his hands and his side. He sees the disciples struggling to believe that He had really come back to life and graciously provides them with proof that He is back, and this fills the disciples with joy (verse 20)
4) Jesus reveals His great plan to the disciples: verse 21 “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” We are all called to be disciples, commissioned as Jesus’ representatives on Earth. We have the authority to perform miracles in God’s name, following the example of Jesus.
5) Jesus equipped the disciples with the Holy Spirit by breathing on them (verse 22) and empowering them to go out and spread the gospel. We have also been anointed with gifts and talents from the Spirit to use to declare God’s glory.
6) Jesus calls his disciples to be messengers of forgiveness. Whilst it is only God who has the authority to forgive sins, we have the privilege of telling believers that their sins are forgiven.
Thomas refused to believe Jesus had come back from the dead, despite his 10 closest friends trying to convince him otherwise. He desired physical proof before he would believe. How many times have we asked something of God to prove his existence to us? I used to think that if God answered a certain prayer or showed up in my dreams then that would be me sold on his existence for life. But Deuteronomy 6:16 says: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” It is not in God’s revelation of Himself to us that our faith will grow. But it is when we believe that God will reveal himself and nourish our faith.
Jesus came to Thomas when he was struggling to believe, reached out to him and proved that he was real. Thomas in joy cries “My Lord and my God!”, finally recognising Jesus for who He was. And Jesus responds in verse 29 “How happy are those who believe without seeing me!” Even in our disbelief and struggling, God communicates with us on an individual level. He meets us in our doubt and patiently helps open our eyes to who He really is. He uses the Holy Spirit to allow us to have an intimate relationship with God, despite not being able to see Him for ourselves.
Although Hebrews 11:6 says “It is impossible to please God without faith”, Jesus wasn’t hard on Thomas for his doubt. And, in the same way, Jesus isn’t hard on us on the days where we doubt. He understands that doubt is a part of being human and that the idea of the resurrection is certainly a big thing to grasp. But it is important to use our doubt, as Thomas did, to press into Jesus more: to seek answers, seek his presence and ultimately recognise Jesus as our Lord and our God!
1 Peter 1:8 – “You love him, although you have not seen him, and you believe in him, although you do not now see him. So you rejoice with a great and glorious joy which words cannot express, because you are receiving the salvation of your souls, which is the purpose of your faith in him.”
Written by:Andy Dowdeswell