"On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side.a The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you!a As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” Now Thomas (also known as Didymusa ), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.'"
When I was in 4th grade my father drove a Honda Accord with a manual transmission. It also had a sunroof and (based upon the sheer number of times I heard "Facts are Facts" in that 94 Accord) what I'm assuming must have been a CD player with Steven Curtis Chapman's Heaven in the Real World perpetually trapped inside of it.
On one unforgettable morning that year, my father -- in the midst of taking me to school -- realized he had forgotten his coffee mug in the house and (with a huff and a muttered expletive) threw his Accord into park on the edge of the driveway to scamper back inside.
Leaving only me and Steven Curtis to idle quietly together in the pre-dawn fog. Which sounds incredibly idyllic and mundane, except that rather quickly, I discovered the car was slowly moving. As Dad had forgotten to set the parking break, and his Accord had slipped into reverse, slowly backing towards the hedge line and the neighbor's house down the hill.
Being in 4th grade, I didn't think to pull the emergency break and instead got out of the car and stood behind it in order to bring it to a stop. But it didn't, and right as things could've gotten ugly, Dad emerged from the house (coffee mug now in tow), only to shout:
"ERIC, GET AWAY FROM THE CAR!"
just moments before that CCM boom box with wheels careened down the hill and into the bedroom of the next door neighbors at 6:45 in the morning.
I tell these two stories (one about the days following the crucifixion of Jesus, and the other about my dad's house-leveling 94 Honda Accord) because life for many of us these days feels a bit like it's sliding dangerously close to the neighbor's house. Leaving those of us who notice (but aren't sure how to stop it) left to put our hands on the bumper and hope we don't find ourselves crushed under its weight.
We're weary, and tired, and we've got the doors locked for fear of the authorities and their rather vindictive penchant for late night Tweeting.
I've always been struck by the phrase "though the doors were locked," as it communicates so much about the state of things following the death of Jesus in the 1st century. It makes sense that the first time Jesus appears among his closest followers (sans Thomas), who're hiding out on the edge of town like bandits, that the door is locked. Jesus isn't the first (nor the last) religious revolutionary who amassed both a following as well as an untimely death at the hands of the Romans.
In the wake of a catastrophic loss of faith in God, the political system that God supposedly established and continues to undergird, and the loss of the person they believed to be bringing sweeping change to a corrupt and death-dealing society, it seems obvious that they'd be rather fearful of how things might turn out (especially considering these authorities just put their God to death).
In that kind of climate it's best to use pseudonyms and bar the entrance to your hideout.
What I've always found fascinating is that even after the disciples have this rather miraculous and transformative experience with the resurrected Jesus they still lock the door again. Leaving Jesus to perform his second post-resurrection break-in of the week in order to introduce the now present Thomas with his crucifixion scars.
And 2000 years later people still know the dude as "doubting Thomas," talk about a PR crisis.
However, if all we take away from this experience is that it concludes with Jesus chiding Thomas with the phrase that "blessed are those who believe without seeing," I would argue we fundamentally misunderstand the point of the resurrection.
The resurrection isn't about faith at all, it's about doubt.
Because the purpose of the resurrection then and the purpose of the resurrection now is that it greets us in the midst of death and confusion and door-locking-fear. The resurrection doesn't come for the brave, for the strong, for the faithful, for the righteous, for the powerful, for the wealthy, or for the confident. The resurrection comes for the weary, the weak, the mourning, the poor, the dead, and the doubting.
Even with the door locked, the crucified and resurrected God of the Christian faith invites us now (just like back then) to stick our fingers in his side and see the scars on his palms, in order to remind us that even at the nadir of our loss we aren't alone, we aren't finished, we aren't done, and neither is God. As a matter of fact, the death of their God, the death of their faith in the system, the death of their belief that life would typically go as it was designed, the death of their trust that following the way of Jesus would produce security and strength was actually the beginning of one of the most transformative movements the world has ever known.
A movement that would mobilize hundreds and thousands of women, men, prostitutes, slaves, criminals, immigrants, and the poor to willingly give up their lives and their families and their friends because they encountered the good news that the God of the Christian faith is willing to die for the right of the oppressors and the oppressed to exist as fully recognized members of humanity.
Counterintuitively, the death of God has always been the beginning of life, of Spirit, of salvation, and not the end of it, but only because there was a shaken and fearful group of people willing to finally unlock their doors and put flesh and blood on what they had seen and felt.
Maybe we could say: blessed are those who haven't seen the physical resurrection of Jesus, but who continue to resurrect themselves in his name again and again and again.
So may you, if you're shaken, if you're limping, and most especially if you've got nothing left in the tank, know that today, even if your door is locked, the scars of the crucified and resurrected God of the Christian faith are yours and mine to touch.
Because we aren't alone, we aren't finished, we aren't done, and neither is God.
*photo credit: Creative Commons