St. Thomas the Apostle insisted that he would believe in the Risen Lord only if he would see Jesus and touch the wound-marks on his hands and side. That became another proof for Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus is the focus of the story because he, who washed the feet of his apostles, humbled to appear before Thomas and obliged to all his demands to make him come back to his faith. Thomas in turn expressed his firm belief in the Risen Lord and committed himself for the spreading of the gospel and even became a martyr for Christ in 72 A.D. Today being the feast of the Divine Mercy, let us express our trust in the Lord, seek his mercy for our sins and the sins of the world, and show mercy to all whom we encounter.
Appearance to the Disciples
(John 20:19) On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors were locked where the disciples were together, because of their fear of the Jews, but Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, “Peace be with you.” (20) When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples kept looking at the Lord and were full of joy. (21) Again Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” (22) And with that he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. (23) If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain people’s sins, they are retained.”
(24) Thomas, the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. (25) The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he replied, “Until I have seen in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (26) Eight days later, the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. Despite the locked doors Jesus came in. He stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” (27) Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands; stretch out your hand and put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.” (28) Thomas then said, “My Lord and my God.” (29) Jesus replied, “You believe because you see me. Blessed are those who believe although they have not seen.”
(Jn 20:30) There were many other miraculous signs that Jesus did in the presence of his disciples, but they are not recorded in this book. (31) These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Appearance to the Disciples
(John 20:19) On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors were locked where the disciples were together, because of their fear of the Jews, but Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, “Peace be with you.”
The first day of the week
Since God created the universe and everything in it within six days and sanctified the seventh day as Sabbath, the next day was another week’s beginning. Jesus’ resurrection on the Sunday early morning was the beginning a new era. Jesus continued to appear on Sundays to his disciples until he ascended to heaven. Hence for Christians, Sunday replaced the Sabbath day to celebrate the holiness and joy of resurrection.
The doors were locked
The body of the Risen Lord was his same body when he was alive, but was an enhanced one free from the limitations of the physical body. So, he could come inside the locked room through the wall without opening the doors like light passing through the glass window. This shows the nature of our risen body at the second coming of Christ.
Because of their fear of the Jews
The Jewish leaders were observing Jesus’ disciples. Their concern was that the disciples might steal Jesus’ body and claim that he had resurrected from the dead (Matthew 27:62-66). Peter had cut off the ear of the High Priest’s slave with a sword (John 18:10) and John was at the foot of the cross. Jewish authorities kept watching their every movement for concern of any aggressive reaction from them.
“Peace be with you.”
This was a usual form of salutation among the Jews. Israel had peace and prosperity when they were faithful to God.
Jesus appeared to his disciples after the successful offering of himself as the Lamb of God. He returned like the High Priest’s arrival from the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:34). Every year, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies and sprinkle the mercy seat with the blood of a bull for the priests’ purification and the blood of a goat for the forgiveness of sins of all the Israelites. Jesus, the Lamb of God, sprinkled his blood to redeem all humanity and has returned after completing his mission. Thus, Jesus established peace, and he communicated that to the apostles.
(20) When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples kept looking at the Lord and were full of joy.
He showed them his hands and his side.
Even without the disciples asking for any proof, Jesus showed them the wound marks on his hands and chest. They are the permanent marks of his great love. The apostles were more convinced of the Lord’s resurrection than before. Some had only heard the reports of the Risen Lord’s vision. They were fortunate to see the Risen Lord face to face.
The disciples kept looking at the Lord and were full of joy.
The appearance of the Risen Lord convinced the apostles with evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. Their immense grief at the heartbreaking crucifixion of Jesus has turned to immense joy of his victory.
(21) Again Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”
Peace be with you.
Unlike the same greeting in John 20:19, this repeated greeting of Jesus was an assurance he offered to his apostles as he was sending them out with a mission to the world. In John 14:27, Jesus had assured his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Not as the world gives peace, do I give it to you. Do not be troubled; do not be afraid.” Even during the severe persecution of the early church, they would experience peace of mind as he himself had during his passion and crucifixion.
As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.
As part of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples he said, “for I have sent them into the world as you sent me into the world.” (John 17:18). He was using the same to address his apostles. Like the Father sent the son with a purpose into the world, the son sent his trained and ordained disciples to continue his mission. Just as the Father needed the service of the Son to communicate his message of love and redemption in words and actions, Jesus needed the church to continue the same. As members of the church, we are the evangelists of Jesus to proclaim his gospel in our day-today lives.
(22) And with that he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
He breathed on them.
Jesus breathing on his disciples was like Yahweh breathed into the nostril of Adam when He made him from the clay (Genesis 2:7). Unlike the case of other living beings, Yahweh breathed into Adam’s body that He crafted from clay. This breathing gave Adam an everlasting soul. Similar breathing of Jesus on the apostles was to give them an eternal spiritual life. This breathing came to its fullness when the Holy Spirit came on them on the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit recreated us when we received the baptism of Jesus. That was the fulfillment of Jesus instructing Nicodemus, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, one cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” (John 3:5).
Receive the Holy Spirit.
At the Last Supper, Jesus gave the consecrated bread and wine and told the apostles to receive his body and blood. At his appearance after the resurrection, Jesus gave them his Spirit as the continuation and fulfillment of the Holy Eucharist.
(23) If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain people’s sins, they are retained.”
If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven.
God the Father had commissioned Jesus to save people from their sins. Jesus assigned his disciples to continue that mission. So, their goal is not to judge but to save people through their preaching, baptism, and absolution of sins. They received the authority to do so when they received the Holy Spirit.
If you retain people’s sins, they are retained.
Repentance is a requirement for the forgiveness of sins. In the prodigal son’s story, the Father had been waiting for his younger son’s return with true repentance. Jesus absolved the sins of all who approached him with contrite hearts, including a criminal crucified with him. The sins retained are the iniquities of those who do not reconcile with God.
(24) Thomas, the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.
Thomas, called Didymus
Thomas is a Hebrew name, and Didymus is the equivalent Greek name. Both names signify twin because Thomas was a twin in his family. The Jews used to have a Jewish name and a Gentile name. In Judea, the public knew them by their Hebrew names, and in Galilee and other non-Jewish areas people used their Gentile names. For example, Saul was the Hebrew name and Paul was the Greek name of the Apostle Paul.
One of the Twelve
Jesus kept many Jewish traditions, and one was the importance he gave to number 12 in selecting his apostles. They stood for the 12 sons or tribes of Israel. After the death of Judas, the college of the apostles was very particular to keep the same number by selecting Mathias to substitute Judas Iscariot.
Number 12 has importance in the Bible. It is one of the perfect numbers like 3, 7, and 10 derived from the 12 sons of Jacob whose descendants became the 12 tribes of Israel. Moses sent 12 spies to Canaan representing the 12 tribes of Israel. Jesus considered his church as the new Israel and selected 12 men as the pillars of his church. He said of his apostles, “Listen to my words: at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his throne in glory, you who have followed me will yourselves sit on twelve thrones to rule the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:28).
Thomas was not with them when Jesus came.
It was not Judas or Peter alone who failed in their promises at Christ’s passion. Thomas, who had told his colleagues “Let us also go to die with him” (John 11:16), had failed when Jesus’ trail and crucifixion took place. However, he worked hard for the early church and accepted martyrdom in 72 A.D. Thomas might have been suffering from guilt feeling that he, like Peter, did not keep his promise. Thomas might have opted to grieve in private, like those who would prefer to spend in solitude during the time of severe grief than in the companionship of others. He might not have remembered the words of Jesus, “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there with them.” (Matthew 18:20).
(25) The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he replied, “Until I have seen in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
The unbelief of Thomas was not just his refusal to believe in the testimony of his ten colleagues, but in Jesus’ resurrection. Even seeing the Risen Lord was not enough for Thomas. He wanted to touch and feel the wound marks on Jesus’ body.
Crucifixion of criminals could be by nailing or fastening to the cross with cords. Thomas’s statement is a proof that the soldiers nailed Jesus to the cross. That was also the fulfillment of Psalm 22:16, “They have pierced my hands and feet.”
Put my hand into his side
Thomas knew that Longinus, a blind centurion, had pierced Jesus’ heart, though Thomas did not see it. He came to know that from the eyewitness account of John. So, Thomas wanted to touch that wound mark.
(26) Eight days later, the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. Despite the locked doors Jesus came in. He stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
Jesus’ second appearance to Thomas and other apostles was on the Sunday after Easter. Though the apostles might have been gathering often, this Sunday gathering might have been for special prayer to remember the Lord’s resurrection. This time also, as in the past week, the disciples locked the doors for fear of Jews. They might have been in the same room. The same greeting of Jesus as before, “Peace be unto you,” was a normal greeting with a new meaning of peace of resurrection added to it.
Thomas was with them.
Thomas might have realized that he should be with the company of other apostles to receive the privilege to meet the Risen Lord. So, he continued staying with them in prayer. The other 10 apostles were witnesses to the privilege Jesus gave to Thomas to touch his wound marks of crucifixion.
(27) Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands; stretch out your hand and put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.”
During the previous Sunday, Thomas missed Jesus’ visit and all that Jesus did for the other apostles. However, on the second Sunday, Thomas got exclusive attention from Jesus by calling him by name and allowing him to touch his wound marks from crucifixion.
Doubt no longer but believe.
The doubt here means the unbelief of Thomas in Jesus’ resurrection and his tendency to move backward in his spiritual relation with Jesus. A firm believer trusts the Lord without seeking evidences.
28) Thomas then said, “My Lord and my God.”
Jesus knowing the demands of Thomas, without him asking, surprised Thomas. Besides, the Lord was humbling himself to appear before him and yielded to his demands. Without waiting to touch for belief, Thomas responded his profession of faith.
“My Lord and my God!”
There are different shades of meaning for the words “Lord” and “God.” The term God comes from Hebrew “Elohim” and Greek “Theos.” God stands for the all-powerful one who created the world and sustains it. The word “Lord” comes from Hebrew “Adonai” and Greek “Kurios.” Its translation is Yahweh (Jehovah), who interacts with people like making Adam out of clay, breathing into his nostrils, creating Eve out of Adam’s rib, conversing with the first parents, and making a covenant with the people. Elohim came from Priestly tradition, and Yahweh came from Yahwistic tradition in the Bible. Thus, Old Testament used both Lord and God when referring to God the Almighty. Psalm 35:23 uses, “my God and my Lord.”
The disciples called Jesus, the Lord. That could mean someone in a higher rank or the “Son of God.” In Matthew 16:16, Simon Peter answered Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus had asserted he was God and for that reason the Jews accused him of blasphemy. However, Thomas got the inspiration to say to the Risen Lord, “My Lord and my God.” By that, Thomas declared that he had seen Jesus so far as his Lord. However, he acknowledged that the Lord is also the Mighty God. Hence, Thomas had advanced in his belief and conviction. He expressed his faith in the divinity of Jesus. Jesus had told in John 14:9, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Thomas while seeing the Risen Lord acknowledged that God the Father was visible in Jesus.
(29) Jesus replied, “You believe because you see me. Blessed are those who believe although they have not seen.”
We believe many things in practical and spiritual life without seeing or with no proof. We trust in the words or reports of others. Jesus compliments those who believe with spiritual sight than with physical sight. The doubt of Thomas, and Jesus yielding to the demand of Thomas became another proof for Jesus’ resurrection.
(Jn 20:30) There were many other miraculous signs that Jesus did in the presence of his disciples, but they are not recorded in this book.
There were many other miraculous signs that Jesus did
The evangelists recorded details of only a few miracles of Jesus. Others are summarized such as, “Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others. They placed them at his feet, and he cured them” (Mt 15:30). The intention of the evangelists was not to write a thorough biography of Jesus, but to write the gospel for the faith of their readers.
in the presence of his disciples
The disciples were witnesses to Jesus’ miracles, even from the first one he did at the wedding at Cana in Galilee. From then on, they realized his glory and believed in him. John the evangelist was a close companion of Jesus and witnessed most of the public ministry of Jesus. He was with Jesus even on rare occasions along with Peter and James. He was the only apostle who witnessed the crucifixion along with Mary, the mother of Jesus. John, after documenting the piercing Jesus’ heart, says, “An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may [come to] believe” (Jn 19:35).
but they are not recorded in this book.
During the public ministry of Jesus, the disciples did not know that they would later document the life and teachings of Jesus. When they had to record them for the later Christians and evangelists, they selected what they thought might be relevant to their readers from numerous actions and teachings of Jesus. It was difficult to record all the vigorous activities and teachings of Jesus for over three years.
(31) These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God
These verses conclude the gospel, expressing the intention of the evangelist. His purpose is the missionary goal of convincing non-believers that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God, or to upsurge the Christians in their faith in Jesus. While helping others who desperately needed the miraculous intervention, Jesus made use of them to reveal his glory to facilitate the faith of his disciples (Jn 2:11). “A large crowd followed Him because they saw the signs He was performing on the sick” (Jn 6:2).
Though the Messiah and Son of God apply to Jesus, they have different shades of meaning. The Hebrew word “Messiah” or in Greek “Christ” means the anointed one. The Jews were expecting an anointed King of Israel as a reminiscent of David, whom God would send to liberate them from bondage, and rule over them forever. The “Son of God” meant that Jesus is God, who came from God with the mission of saving humanity.
by believing you may have life in his name
The outcome of belief in Jesus is the inheritance of eternal life, free from the bondage of Satan and sin. Referring to Moses who lifted up the serpent in the desert, Jesus predicted he would also be lifted up “so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (Jn 3:14-16). That belief involves hearing the word of God and belief in God who sent Jesus. “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life” (Jn 5:24). Our goal as Christians should be the inheritance of eternal glory. That can be achieved only through Jesus, as Peter addressed to the Sanhedrin: “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved” (Acts 4:12).