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Jesus has risen from the dead. Now what? The gospel of John ends with this chapter which contains four stories around the resurrection. The first two: the empty tomb and Mary and the gardener, we read last week. They close the story told by John, which began with the majestic prologue of the first chapter retelling and reframing the story of creation (Genesis 1-2). Here, at the conclusion, we return to the garden where Mary (and we by extension as the readers) experience the living resurrected Christ, it’s a re-entry into the Garden of Eden, a re-creation, all things becoming new.
Today in verses 19-32 we encounter the second scene of the last act. New creation shifts to the image of God breathing the breath of life (the spirit) into humankind to give life. It happens first in Genesis 2:7 in the garden of Eden. Here in the locked room, it’s echoed like a baptism story. Jesus makes all things new. It’s not just their story, but our story of faith, journey, recreation and being sent as apostles in his name as the last verse makes clear.
Thomas struggles to believe. He hasn’t seen or heard for himself. He wants proof. He can’t believe just on the testimony and words of others. I’ve always thought that he believes once he touches the wounds of Jesus with his own hands. And yet, the text doesn’t say he touched him. Thomas sees with new eyes. His faith is recreated. He doesn’t need to touch the wounds in order to believe. He encounters the living presence of Jesus – and falls on his knees proclaiming a profession of faith. He comes to faith when he experiences the truth of the testimony that he’d received.
“Peace be with you!” Jesus repeats it three times. Is his insistence a proclamation that peace is now here? It’s what he promised to give the disciples earlier at the dinner in John 14:25-29. He wouldn’t give it like the world gives. The disciples receive it with the breathing of the breath, or spirit of God. It’s so close, within them so that they know it intimately, actively, personally. It’s a gift that puts them in motion, sending them into the world to testify to the life that we can know, the peace we can have, the bringing-of-that-peace-into-being in the world. That’s what apostles – those who are sent (for the Greek word used here apostollein means “to send”) – to continue the work of inviting others to live life in his name, near and far, day and night, in extraordinary circumstances and in the daily grind.
Questions for the practice of Examen & Contemplation