This week mirrored the Easter week for me. I went to a funeral of a good family friend and within 24 hours I was at a birth and welcomed Grace into the world – her name seemed rather fitting
The rapid turn around from sorrow to joy was a little jarring. Lent and Easter have a similar breakneck u-turn. 3 o’clock on Friday there is no joy left in the world and by Saturday night we are ringing bells and get the alleluias back. I am not convinced that humans are capable of such a swift emotional change. As was mentioned in a previous post, Easter is longer than Lent to help us get our minds around it. However, in the moment there is little time to process.
I try to imagine what it was like for the disciples. To go from having their hopes crushed, then getting a truly unbelievable story of Jesus being alive, and then finally having him appear to them as they are huddled in room blocking out the outside world. You feel for them. Jesus encourages his friends to stop building walls against the world to go out. To leave the locked doors behind and to start interacting with people. Thomas initially gets left out. Who can blame him for not believing the others. He gets stuck in good Friday for a full week longer than the rest. Intellectually and emotionally he isn’t ready to make the jump.
I have a soft spot for Thomas. He is genuine. A little bit before Jesus’ crucifixion Jesus is planning on going back to Judea. A place where “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”. His friends know that it would be a foolhardy idea to return. It certainly doesn’t help that Jesus is talking vaguely and in riddles. But go ol’ Thomas realizes that Jesus’ mind won’t be changed and says “Let us also go, that we may die with him”. It is pessimistic for sure but he is a true friend – willing to to give his all for a friend on a suicide mission to see someone who is already dead. No questions, no hesitation, just a faithful friend. You can see why he can’t believe that Jesus is alive even though everyone else is telling him the same story for a week solid. It’s too fast and the emotions too raw. The man he would die for is gone and his future is directionless.
Jesus has a special challenge for Thomas (please note that the doors are once again locked so maybe the other disciples are still unsure about the reactions of the Jewish leaders and even though they have been “sent” they are still all together). Thomas is asked to do a 180. His bold statement of “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” has been put to the test. Here Jesus asks him to reach out. Literally reach out and touch him. Much like the disciples were sent out to the world, Jesus also asks that we reach out, to get outside of our personal bubble. Thomas’ grief was keeping him from having a relationship with his community and with his God. The little Christian community’s fear was keeping them locked away and in both cases they needed to be set free. They needed someone to stand in front of them and help them make it to a point where they could be whole.
Thomas and the others still need time to work out what has happened. After Jesus appears to them in the room for the second time they go out into the world fully understanding what has happened, that Jesus is alive, and start planting churches everywhere … not even close. They go back and do what many of them grew up doing, they went fishing. Jesus shows up again, although initially unrecognizable, and preforms a miracle and has breakfast with them on the beach. He helps them process. He takes the baby steps that they need to go from Good Friday to Easter Sunday. The pillars of the Christian church, who got to see Jesus, can’t do it in 3 days. So if you are like me and find the change is hard and that sometimes you get stuck in one liturgical season while the calender moves on I would encourage you to take time to process. You might even have to take a few steps back before moving forward is even an option but that is ok. People around you understand because I think that we’ve all been stuck at some point in the church year and more importantly our God understands and is willing to go at the pace we need. I find that very comforting.