By Reverend Amanda
The story of Thomas and the appearance of Christ post burial to the disciples in the upper room has always been particularly meaningful to me. The appearance of Christ at this point is pivotal for all of the disciples present in the upper room because without it we would not have the Christian faith that we have today. We often look at this scene and think to ourselves that the disciples were being silly, cowardly, or disingenuous to the message they claimed to believe in. However, we really should be looking at this situation from a perspective of how we would behave if we were in their shoes.
It is crucially important that we view this encounter with the risen Christ as they would have; without the knowledge of resurrection and from the world view they likely viewed the events through. The first thing to understand is that resurrection of the dead had been spoken about yet never seen or experienced. Resurrection from the grave 3 days post death had never been done before. As in our world experience, death was and remains a pretty permanent state. Jesus did not just die, but had been betrayed by one of his closest confidants, a man very close to each one of the disciple, and then Jesus was executed. What was to stop the same thing from happening to one of them? And could they even trust each other anymore? Their worlds had been shaken to the core.
The new world order that Christ preached, the new interpretation of the scriptures that Christ taught, had brought about his death and the anger of the elite. The new understanding of God and God’s covenant with the people was no longer being preached in those days, as Christ seemed to be gone. They lived their days in fear of everyone and perhaps a bit suspicious of one another. They experienced the very definition of turmoil in their innermost beings. They needed to experience the Resurrected Christ in order to regain the confidence to continue on with their work in Christ’s name and to dispel the chaos that was blocking their ability to function in the world. The disciples needed to internalize the peace of Christ in such a way that nothing could shake their resolve. We too go through those times of great turmoil where we seem to internalize the chaos of the world. This is what makes these passages so wonderful, they reflect our human reality and how fear and anxieties can take control of our lives. These passages show that no one is immune to the all-encompassing fear and disorder that sometimes becomes so prevalent in our lives. Everyone has fears that cripple their ability to function. When I was a preschool teacher, one of my coworkers had a phobia of frogs. I remember one day as we were out on the playground together with two classrooms full of children running around and playing. A cheerful looking frog hopped out in front of her. The next thing I knew, she was screaming at the top of her lungs and running faster than I had ever seen her move in the 7 years that I knew her to the other side of the playground. All the while she was saying, “Oh God, a frog, a frog, a frog. Get it Ms. Amanda!” For the rest of that day she wouldn’t even think about stepping outside for fear that that little tiny tree frog would somehow find her. I quietly and calmly walked over to the frog scooped him up before the children could get a hold of him. I invited to kids over to come look at the frog whose heart was beating a mile a minute. Then I released him to the other side of the fence all the while saying “this is not a safe place for a frog to be”. I like frogs so helping with this issue was easy for me. I grew up in a wet land area filled with frogs every spring. Though this was just a little phobia, we all have deep seeded fears, fears of death, illness, loss, etc. Fears can stifle our ability to live our everyday lives as God has called us to do. Christ reaches out to us through the passages of these scriptures speaking to us as individuals, as disciples, just as he did to those in the upper room. He said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you”.1 This applies to us. Christ is offering us his peace. This is not just a greeting but a gift. With such a gift, once we have accepted it, allows us to trust God with our fears both the irrational ones and those very real ones. Dutch writer, Corrie ten Boom wrote, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God”.2 So, trust in the peace Christ has offered us and, in the process, allow for that peace to empower you to do his work in our world. Peace is a very powerful thing because it frees us up from our fears to do something more productive with our lives. So let us live into that peace sharing it with a world that is need of calm in the midst of the chaos all around.
1 John 20: 21, RSV.
2 Corrie ten Boom, Dutch Writer, 20th century.