the doors were still locked

Thomas gets beat up by history.

He is known by everyone as “doubting Thomas.” No one remembers that he was the disciple who said, “we’ll probably all die, but let’s follow Jesus anyway.” Ho one remembers that the rest of the disciples didn’t believe the women on Easter Sunday.

I’ve never noticed, until now, that though the rest of the disciples  had seen Jesus, their behavior wasn’t much different than Thomas a week after the resurrection. In fact, on the night that Jesus showed Thomas his hands and side, Thomas expressed more faith than the rest.

John is telling us about the appearances of Jesus. He writes,

“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” [John 20:19]

Why were the doors locked? Because they were afraid. And well they should be. This was the church in its infancy. And that is a risky time for new beings.

Jesus appears. Jesus talks with them. Jesus disappears. They talk to Thomas. Thomas expresses his infamous doubt.

And, John says,

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” [John 20:26]

The doors were still locked. Thomas could be excused. He wasn’t sure that Jesus was alive. But the rest of them had seen Jesus. They knew that everything he had said was true. They had seen that he could die and then live.

But they were still afraid. Because he still had to say, “Peace.” And the doors were still locked.

And we still lock our doors in fear.

5 thoughts on “the doors were still locked

  1. John

    Thanks. I can identify with Thomas, so I find this post comforting. It’s good to be reminded that Jesus’ first words to the group were “Peace be with you!” and not “Shame on you for doubting and fearing!”.

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    1. Jon Swanson

      John, I identify big-time with Thomas. In fact, I line up well with many of the people who got it ‘wrong’: Thomas, Martha, John Mark…even Barnabas. And I like how you pointed to Jesus’s style of response. It is consistent with james 1, where we are told to ask for wisdom and then told that it will be given without finding fault. I get the sense of “I’d love to help you out” rather than “It’s about time, dummy.”

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  2. Paul Sheneman

    Fear and doubting was and is a legitimate response to seeing a resurrected Messiah appear from no where. I just don’t think anyone can get comfortable or used to that even though they might see him numerous times. Even though one might have the concept of resurrection in their mind, it seems that to observe a resurrection is a whole different category. I think that it is good advice to read these accounts with humility and recognize that they represent all of our reactions to the risen Lord.

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    1. Jon Swanson

      Paul, I guess my criticism is more about how we’ve elevated some disciples beyond being human, and beaten up others, like Thomas. As I have been reading the Holy Week narratives this year, I have been taken by how human all of those followers were and how gracious and understanding and compassionate Jesus was. Over and over they…and we…don’t put the pieces together. Over and over Jesus reminds, teaches, guides, helps.

      And, what is perhaps most frustrating, is how I don’t remember, how I keep doors locked, how I don’t believe.

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