Summary: Three barriers to faith - grief, fear and doubt were each dealt with by a special touch from the Risen Lord
A Touch from the Risen Lord
The bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a central pillar of the Christian faith.
St. Paul summed up the Christian faith like this:
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance:
i) that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
ii) that he was buried,
iii) that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and
iv) that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.
After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Cor. 15:3-8).
Paul records 513 (five hundred and thirteen) men as having seen the risen Lord.
Have you ever therefore wondered why
John mentions only four post Resurrection appearances of the Risen Jesus.
In this Chapter, John 20 we read of three of these.
i) to Mary Magdalene
ii) to all the disciples except Thomas and finally
iii) to Thomas
And in the following Chapter , John 21 we read of Jesus appearing to seven disciples including Peter, James and John, Thomas, Nathanael and two unnamed disciples and his having breakfast with them.
Surely if the resurrection is such a big deal,why didn’t John add many more of the stories of these encounters?
At the very least – why didn’t he simply catalogue when, where and who had seen the risen Christ. Surely that would make interesting reading.
1. Have you ever wondered what the reaction of James -Jesus’ brother - was when Jesus appeared to him.
2. I wonder if Jesus appeared to Nicodemus - the Jewish rabbi who had sought him out at night in Jn 3 and who had helped Joseph of Arimathea bury Jesus
The reason John doesn’t record more post Resurrection encounters with the Risen Lord can be found inn the last verse of our Gospel reading today: John wrote:
"Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.
But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in his name."
In other words, these three stories of John 20 have been recorded to awake faith in us.
So what is so special about these three stories?
I would like to suggest that each story shows a barrier to faith – which can be overcome by the presence of Jesus.
And they are all barriers that we as Christians will experience at some time in our lives.
1. The first of these barriers to faith was GRIEF and this was overcome by hearing the voice of Jesus
Mary Magdalene, in last week’s Gospel reading, couldn’t see Jesus for her grief.
It was only when she heard him call her name that she realises that He was risen.
Jesus spoke to her – and by speaking released her from her grief.
There are going to be times when we suffer from grief.
We may grieve for the loss of loved ones. And it is at times like this that we need to listen for Jesus’ voice calling us.
2. The second barrier to faith was FEAR – and this was overcome by experiencing the presence of Jesus
The disciples in today’s Gospel reading were gathered behind closed doors in fear . Jesus had been crucified – and were they next on the list?
And so Jesus comes to them and speaks words of peace. He showed them his crucified hands and St. John records:
“The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord” (Jn 20:20)
Fear can cripple us at times. It can make us irrational. And at those times, we need to seek Jesus’ presence in our lives– and it is His Presence that will bring us peace.
When I get stressed out with worry and fear – I find wonderful comfort in the words of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel
"Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn form me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls For my yoke is easy and my burden light." Mt 11:28-30)
3. The third barrier to faith was DOUBT and this was overcome by the touch of Jesus.
Thomas seems rather unfairly to have had a bad press for the last 2000 years. His name has even entered into the English language. (You might call someone who doesn’t believe something a “Doubting Thomas”)