Gospel reading for Easter 2 and a Reflection

John 20:19-end
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ 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.’

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ 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.’
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.




The second Sunday of Easter is often referred to as Low Sunday. There may be many reasons it has become known as that, but to my mind the first part of verse 19 exemplifies its meaning. Ten of the apostles are gathered together on the first Easter evening. Their mood must have been really low. They had lost their leader and despite rumours, they themselves had not witnessed the resurrected Jesus.
That they were locked away behind closed doors for fear of the Jews is given amplified poignancy in our present situation. So many of you like my wife and I are confined at home, not necessarily behind locked doors, only allowed when we do leave our homes to communicate with our neighbours at a distance. But think what it would have been like a few short years ago without the technology that gives us virtual communion. What a joy it was to take part in our Easter zoom service and to be able to speak with so many of you.
The rest of the passage is about the doubts of Thomas and Jesus’ appearances to the apostles. I have often wondered on hearing or reading the passage, why was Thomas not there at that first meeting? Was he out getting supplies for the others risking himself for his friends, as so many are doing now? This is something we shall never know. But after initial doubts and his witnessing of the resurrected Christ, he did all he could to take the good news of the Gospel wherever he could. He travelled to India and it was there that he was martyred.
In order to believe, Thomas needed factual evidence not as he may have regarded the hearsay of his friends. Jesus admonishes him with the words “blessed are they who have not seen but have come to believe”.
Do we need factual evidence of God’s goodness to Humankind? If so, we do not have to look far to see a reflection of God’s love for his creation through the work of those who are giving themselves selflessly to help others. Those who work on the frontline in the NHS and the many who have volunteered to help others restricted in what they can do.
When we open ourselves up to God it will allow him in the words of Augustine “to touch us and inflame us with the love of his peace”, in the same way as Jesus brought new hope to the Apostles in their locked room. 
I pray that all of you will experience the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Love of God over the coming weeks.
Norman Johnson, Benefice Reader

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