by Bruce Gilberd
(Based on John 20:19-31)
Feature art work is The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio
Have you ever missed a meeting when a crucial decision was taken, or a surprising/astounding event happened?
So did Thomas – on Easter morning – when all the apostles were gathered, except for him! So he missed encountering the risen Jesus.
Pragmatic and, yes, doubting Thomas didn’t miss next week’s meeting, that’s for sure, and so we have John’s description of the Jesus-Thomas encounter and its astounding outcome: “My Lord and my God!”
The risen Jesus appeared several times to believers and apostles after the resurrection, for about six weeks. This is one of three main evidences that lie behind our belief that Jesus was raised, and that this is an historical fact.
So, we gather, as today, around a risen, wounded Lord of all humanity.
The second more pragmatic piece of evidence is the empty tomb and the head and body cloths lying undisturbed, but not enclosing a body – as seen by Peter and John, after Mary Magdalene had been greeted by Jesus.
How the politicians and religious leaders of Israel would have delighted in finding Jesus’s body …
… but they didn’t.
The risen Jesus came to those who believed, in a new bodily form – Bishop Tom Wright describes this as “incorruptible physicality”. Worth pondering …
It is wise to note here that Christians and the church, from its first days, rejected the Greek belief in ‘the immortality of souls’, but kept embracing the truth of the resurrection of the body, so sustaining true personhood – of body, mind and spirit.
So, evidence of resurrection:
- Encounters with the risen Jesus,
- the empty tomb,
- and, thirdly, the birth, life and expansion of the early church, empowered and guided by the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, given to the apostles by Jesus, and so to the personal and corporate life of believers ever since.
Since then the church has had a somewhat dodgy history, over the twenty centuries, to our own day. There have been
- splits and rows and conflicts over beliefs and practices;
- capitulation to wealth and secular powers;
- and avoidance of her prophetic role (which must be worrying Russian Orthodox church members right now …)
Nevertheless, God, down the centuries, has raised up men and women to be beacons of faith, and movements of renewal. And so the church, called and re-called by God’s Spirit, has housed and brought the Gospel to every land, and to us here and now in Tairua.
The church in many places today is a persecuted church – as the Barnabas Fund informs us, and asks us to pray for, and give to.
The flawed church, because there are people like us in it, is constantly called to be a wounded church, living out costly discipleship, in the power of our risen Lord. All our hurts, as real as they are, are resurrections unborn.
A comfortable church is a worry …
We are to be Easter people living in a Good Friday world. Yet a world in which critical triumph has been achieved – on Good Friday and Easter Day – but its effects await completion.
So, the evidences of the resurrection:
- The empty tomb
- The appearances to many
- The birth of the church
In the resurrection event history, science and faith all coalesce. So our heads and our hearts can joyously receive in the present the One who comes to us from the past and from the future!
Wounded, risen Lord Jesus … may our hurts, doubts and questions lead us all to you. Amen