An ending and a new beginning

I commend to you the Gospel reading from this past Sunday. It is the finale to John’s beautiful, mystical, poetic Gospel. Over the centuries the Church has deemed this passage so extraordinary, so important, that it is read on the Second Sunday of Easter every year whether it is Year A, B or C. John packs these concluding paragraphs of his Gospel with a staggering amount of mind-blowing theology. 

The text begins on the evening of the first Easter Sunday. Jesus appears to the Disciples. He makes a point of showing them the wounds he suffered during the crucifixion. By doing so, Jesus demonstrates to the Disciples two things: 

  1. It really is him. 
  2. He really died on the cross. 

He then breathes on them, and they receive His Spirit. On this first day of this new week, a new Creation comes into being. Humankind infused with the Holy Spirit of God. This is the very same Spirit that descended on Jesus as a dove at Christ’s Baptism, the Spirit that was in the second member of the Trinitarian community, the Christ of God, enters the Disciples and enters all of us. The Spirit that lived in Jesus becomes part of the fiber of our being at our Baptism. The potential to love others as Christ loved us, lies within us all. 

You’ll recall in Genesis that God created man on the sixth day, Friday, the same day of the week that Jesus was crucified. God rested on the seventh day, Saturday, the day that Jesus was in the tomb. On Easter Sunday, just as God had begun his work of creation on the First Day of the Week in Genesis, God began his work of building a new Creation with Christ as the cornerstone. See 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If any person is in Christ, they are a new creation. Old things have passed away. Behold! All things are new.”

During the last supper (see John 16:7) Jesus tells his frightened disciples that it is better that he go away, for unless he does, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, cannot come to them to comfort, counsel, and empower them. In a mystical way, the opening of Jesus’ body by the wounds he received on the cross opened the door to His Spirit entering his Disciples and all of us. A new type of human came into being. God’s sharing in the tragedy that is human death through his Son enabled us to inwardly receive part of God’s self, part of God’s life force, the indwelling Spirit.  

This new human creation, through the internal Peace, Presence, Comfort, Instruction and Power of God’s Spirit, is called upon to spread the Truth of God’s Kingdom through both our words and actions…..just as Jesus did. And this Kingdom is based on forgiveness, grace, mercy, and love. Jesus showed his wounds to his friends demonstrating in no uncertain terms that, yes, he had been killed…to put it bluntly, been murdered. Yet, Jesus, the murdered Son of God, does not seek retribution against those who killed him. Rather, through Grace which is unmerited mercy and forgiveness, his killers will be offered the opportunity to be forgiven and join the  Kingdom of God, the Kin-dom of God, the family of God through the commission given to the Disciples to spread the Good News and make Disciples of all people.

And that brings us to Thomas, “Doubting Thomas.” For me, the important thing to note about the Thomas story is that the other Disciples did not shun Thomas. They did not cast him out of their little community. They did not chastise or berate Thomas for his unbelief. He was allowed to remain part of the family. They were beginning to follow the Way of Love. John verse 22 says, “Be merciful to those who doubt.” Certainty is not required to be part of the fellowship of God’s family. We are called to extend care and grace to people with questions, for who among us has never had a doubt or a question about our faith?

As Jesus continues to breathe His Spirit into all of us who constitute Christ’s body in this world, my prayer is that we become ever more committed to extending mercy, love, grace, and forgiveness to all those we encounter here in our own Galilee: Cabarrus County, North Carolina. May the Spirit lead us to follow Jesus into our Galilee to feed, heal, forgive, sustain, and restore all people to their rightful place in the family, the Kin-dom, of God. Amen.