Believing without Seeing
8 April 2018 – Second Sunday of Easter
Chapter 20 is concerned to declare the truth of Jesus' resurrection and to picture the vibrant life experienced by the community of Jesus now that Jesus is physically absent. The stories of Mary Magdalene and Thomas work together to lead the reader to hear Jesus' words of blessing for those who have not seen and yet have believed. . .
While Jesus' contemporaries were able to be physically near Jesus, to see and touch him, it is precisely this opportunity, especially touching, that is dismissed as relatively unimportant. Jesus told Mary Magdalene not to touch him. Thomas had indicated a need to put his finger in Jesus' wounded palms, but then in spite of Jesus' command to do so, he confessed Jesus to be Lord and God without touching him.
The insignificance of physical proximity to Jesus is directly related to Jesus' gift of the Spirit. The Spirit blows where (and when) it wishes, among every generation of believers in every location. The gift of the Spirit is intimately connected to Jesus' declaration of peace, the commissioning of the disciples by Jesus to represent him as he had represented the Father, and the instruction to announce forgiveness (or to withhold forgiveness). . . It is forgiveness that makes it possible for disciples to be at peace with God. –– Aaron J. Couch
After Peter's Pentecost speech, Luke indicates that three thousand people responded in faith and were baptized. He goes on to picture the manner of life within the early community of Jesus-followers as a further response to the good news that God had raised Jesus from the dead. Verse 42 may be construed specifically as offering a glimpse of the elements of early Christian worship (teaching, fellowship, communion, prayers), or more generally as naming primary elements of communal life by which believers were nurtured and sustained in faith.
The early church's life is sometimes referred to as a sort of “communism,” with all things being held “in common.” It is, instead, a profound lived expression of the belief that all things belong to God and a manifestation of the conviction that the victory of God has arrived. With gratitude for all of God's gifts, the people of God shared the gifts of God “with glad and generous hearts.” The beauty of this way of living, without greed or selfishness, was recognized and appreciated by the larger community. . . so that new believers continued to be added to the faith. –– Aaron J. Couch
1 John 1:1––2:2
With exalted language, the author praises God for God's great work of salvation in Jesus and calls on believers to rejoice, even through times of trial, because of the power and goodness of God's gift. There is an already-but-not-yet tension within the passage. The inheritance God gives to believers is being kept for them in heaven, ready to be revealed in the last time. Yet it is also true that by faith, believers are receiving salvation in the present time. –– Aaron J. Couch
Aaron Couch is a co-pastor of First Immanuel Lutheran Church in Portland, Oregon.
Homily Service 41, no. 2 (2007): 113-121