You can see all the lectionary readings for the Second Sunday of Easter, Year A by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss only the Gospel reading.
The Gospel story this week starts in a locked room where the disciples are hiding away after Jesus’ death. They were terrified the authorities might come after them next. They didn’t know what was going to happen next, and they’d heard from the women who’d been to and seen Jesus’ empty tomb. We can only imagine how scared they must have been. Did they believe the women? Did they believe Jesus was alive? They certainly didn’t act like it (contrast it to how they act later in the gospels after they’ve seen the risen Christ). So this is the situation we start with. Then Jesus appears among them (it seems he just appears in the locked room) and as is typical of his loving attitude, he doesn’t condemn them for hiding nervously in a locked room, he says, “Peace be with you.” I’m sure peace is probably what they wanted most at that moment and it’s what he gave them. I love that this is also what we say to one another every Sunday as we pass the peace on.
Now this part I’m going to quote verbatim because I wouldn’t know how to paraphrase it: “When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Woah. So here is when he gives them the Holy Spirit to be with them. And he breathes the Spirit on them. That’s kind of cool, I think. I read while studying up on this passage that in their language one word meant breath, wind, and spirit. Interesting, right? I also read this online and I like it: “In this short passage Jesus gives the disciples (and us) two Easter gifts (the Holy Spirit and peace) and one Easter task (forgiving others as God has forgiven us).” (Found here on the Worshiping With Children blog).
Most of us probably know the story of doubting Thomas (poor guy is forever known by that name just because of the one incident). He’s not there when Jesus visits and he says he won’t believe Jesus is alive until he touches him (and his wounds–bit gory, that). Then again they are in a locked room and Jesus appears among them, and this time Thomas is with him. Jesus again grants them peace, then allows Thomas to touch him and proves that he is no ghost, but flesh and blood. He tells Thomas to believe and “Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.'”
Another bit I love from the link I included above is this:
In describing Thomas, remember that he was the disciple who cared enough to interrupt Jesus when he did not understand what Jesus was saying (John 14:5). He really wanted to understand Jesus. Thomas was also the one who after telling Jesus he was nuts to go to Jerusalem where his enemies were out to get him, replied to Jesus’ insistence that he was going anyway, “Let us go and die with him” (John 11:7-16). He was that loyal. Finally, upon seeing Jesus’ wounds after the resurrection, Thomas replies, “My Lord and my God!” That was his statement of faith.
Thomas wasn’t the only confused, questioning disciple after Easter. List the responses of Mary, Peter, John, and the others as they encounter the risen Christ. Everyone was so confused that they were frightened.
I love this. Thomas gets sort of a bad rap for being a doubter, but we can see him instead as someone who just really wanted to know the truth and wanted to understand. It’s o.k. to ask questions of God. And I really identify with Thomas. I am a big believer in rock solid truth and I like evidence before I believe a story (I’m notorious for being the kind of person who fact checks other people’s Facebook posts–I can hardly help myself).
So I’ve rambled on a lot about this passage. There’s so much to it–forgiveness, peace, doubt, truth, faith, the gift of the Holy Spirit. I’d just like to emphasize again the lovely idea I found on the Worshiping With Children blog (an invaluable resource when I am teaching church school): “Jesus gives the disciples (and us) two Easter gifts (the Holy Spirit and peace) and one Easter task (forgiving others as God has forgiven us).” Let us go forth and share the peace and forgiveness of Christ.