In our journey through Lent into Easter we meet in many places, the desert, the wilderness, by wells of water, in temples, on the cross, in the tomb. We explore a myriad of environments telling dramatic encounters between heaven and earth. We explore a tapestry of God moments: moments of heaven breaking loose into the world. Culminating in the ultimate event of the resurrection of Jesus Christ...
In exploring the gospel today, I want each of us to reflect on how we respond to the resurrected Christ:
Firstly, where do we meet the gospel today? Where do we meet the disciples? In their cave, their tomb!! They have locked themselves in a house out of fear, confusion, anxiety.
This reminds me of the Plato’s Allegory of the Cave where we hear of the restricted perception of reality from prisoners locked in a cave.
To paraphrase, the allegory tells of three prisoners chained in a cave. They are restricted in such a way that they can only see what is directly in front of them.
Behind them is a fire.
Between them and the fire is a pathway. This path is frequented by people carrying out their daily business. The prisoners unable to see behind themselves only experience the shadows and occasional sounds of those who cross the path. Their entire perception of reality is but shadows on a wall.
Now let us view Christ as one of these prisoners.
In a God moment Jesus enters the world, in his full humanity and experiences the world as human. Seeing and experiencing the world through these shadows of reality. Yet in a further God moment, the moment of Jesus baptism, Jesus (or at least his ministry) is freed from the chains.
In the allegory, the prisoner walks out of the cave and begins to see the full reality of the world around themselves. The prisoner can interact can see, can touch, can feel. The prisoner now views the world as a much more complex and yet connected environment.
Jesus’ interruption into the world by his ministry shows a reality much greater than what we daily realise. For the most part we’ve only seen the shadows, a small taste of heaven however through Jesus’ radical ministry of love something bigger is illustrated, bigger than what we have been perceiving.
In the allegory, the freed prisoner returns to the cave to tell the other prisoners of this new reality.
In the gospel, today, heaven and earth meet again as the risen Jesus returns to his disciples in a new reality. The defeater of death stands resurrected before the disciples.
How do the disciples respond to this reality?
Locked doors! They have locked themselves in a house out of fear, confusion, anxiety. They would not leave the shackles of their own cage.
Defying locked doors and physical boundaries the resurrected Jesus comes and stands among the disciples and saying:
v19 “Peace be with you.”
After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then 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.”
When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
Jesus’ ministry began with the receiving of the Holy Spirit at his baptism. From that moment began frequent encounters of heaven intersecting earth in miraculous signs.
But what did the disciples do with this ‘breath of spirit’?
We are unsure but seven days later they are STILL shut up in the house despite being called and sent by Jesus!
Now, I’ve focused on the disciples but often it is Thomas who gets the bad wrap, why?
Perhaps in part because he is not present at Jesus’ first appearance to the disciples, or perhaps it is his demanding of his own proof (not the disciples’ testimony) of the resurrection. Either way this does not necessitate that Thomas lacks faith. Instead, let’s play for a moment, maybe Thomas’ faith was such that he was out looking for the risen Jesus! We do not know, but what we get a picture in his demand for and response to proof;
v25 the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he [Thomas] said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
It’s only fair to want proof, what are the proofs you demand?
Continuing, when Jesus again enters the home he turns to Thomas and says
v27 “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”
Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
This is a remarkable image of heaven meeting earth where the resurrected body that had previously appeared within a locked room now wants Thomas to put his fingers here, touch. And Thomas gets it, My Lord and my God!
Now this is not to be critical of the disciples, more so I want to see this as a challenge to all. When we have God moments that make us overwhelming declare ‘My Lord and My God’. What is our next response?
Will we remain only a shadow of God’s kingdom happily locking our doors and engaging with the parts of the world we are comfortable with?
Or, do we declare that Christ is risen and is our Lord and our God?
If so how does the resurrected Jesus change you?
How does a resurrected Christ change the way we as a community interact with the wider world?
In Plato’s Allegory, the freed prisoner, the one who now sees reality in its complexity and fullness returns to the cave. But the sun, light, has changed his eyes, he can longer see the shadows.
The light of the resurrection casts no shadows but illuminates the kingdom of God.
He is risen! How has does this knowledge change us? Amen
by Peter Jeffrey, for Sunday 22 April 2017, Easter 2 Year A
Jo Inkpin, Penny Jones, Peter Jeffery, Ann Edwards, Elizabeth McConnell