An Easter Reflection by Bonnie Chester, Ursuline Associate
If you believe in the old adage “Seeing is Believing,” well, in the Bible, immediately after the Resurrection, there are inspiring stories of exactly this saying. The gospel writer, John, devotes two entire chapters to the events following Jesus’ rising from the tomb. In total there are four episodes in chapter 20 where sight was needed to result in belief.
The first involves Peter and John. After hearing from Mary Magdalene that the tomb is empty and only burial cloths remain, they run to the tomb. Upon seeing the burial cloths, they believe. The second story is about Mary Magdalene. She remains at the tomb. Maybe she really hasn’t seen enough to fully believe. When Jesus appears to her, she does not recognize His risen appearance, but thinks He is the gardener. Only when He calls her name, “Mary,” does she see and believe in His Resurrection!
The third episode describes the unbelieving apostles. They did not believe Mary Magdalene either, but John writes in his gospel, “On the first day of the week….where the disciples were…Jesus came and stood in their midst…He showed them His hands and His side.” Not only did they see Him, but they saw the markings from the nails in His hands and feet.
Probably the most notable and remembered story is the fourth one about Thomas, often called the “doubting” Thomas, as you well know. As the story goes, Thomas was not present at the previous appearance, and for him, if he didn’t see it, well, “hearsay” was not going to make a believer out of him! “Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later, Jesus again appears, and Thomas sees and believes. The final verse in that chapter rates right up there with one of my favorites, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen but believed.” When Jesus speaks that word “those,” He is referring to us. Lord, thank you for the gift of what I think of as my “Easter” faith. that I believe in You without actually seeing You.
One of my devotionals for the Easter season, The Little White Book, stated it so well in an Easter meditation: “The Easter Faith is so important because it gives color and meaning to life and to death, even to suffering.” Faith in Christ, who I now know through the gospel stories, rose from the dead, gives me hope that when I live and practice my faith, I will be with Him in eternity. The trials and setbacks in life have less of a serious threat to me. Even when day-to-day occurrences make no sense to me, my faith brings life to those senseless things and gives them some purpose. Even if I can’t see the Lord and His hand in mine, I believe. The meditation for the day said in closing, “We should think about that. It could change how we look at the world…and our place in it.” If your faith is strong, you will believe with an “Easter” faith.
On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But he said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples
that are not written in this book.
But these are written that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that through this belief you may have life in his name.