1 Jn 5:1-6
“Seeing” the Risen Christ
Two weeks ago we read the gospel story of Jesus entering Jerusalem amidst palms being waved as he was greeted with loud acclamations of “Hosanna.” During that week he was arrested, crucified and put to death. Last Sunday we heard the glorious news that Jesus had risen from the dead.
Imagine the closest followers of Jesus. They experienced emotions of pride because they believed Jesus to be the messiah who was greeted as such while entering Jerusalem, fear for their own safety because of what the crowds did to Jesus, grief because of his death, and finally, elation because they now “see” Jesus again. Locked away in a room out of fear for their safety, ten of the apostles are shocked when the risen Christ appears in their midst the night of his resurrection. Imagine their change from fear to peace. (Out of the original apostles ten are present – Thomas was absent from the group and Judas had taken his own life.)
John Shea in The Spiritual Wisdom of the Gospels for Christian Preachers and Teachers describes this moment in a way that differs from the image most Christians have of the Risen Christ.
The post-Easter Jesus does not enter through doors, as people with physical bodies must do. The doors are locked, yet he was in their midst. This strongly suggests that the disciples have a spiritual realization of the presence of Jesus. He does not appear as an outer form as he previously did, but he manifests himself as a presence emerging from within and allaying their inner panic. His presence is known by the fact he brings peace in the midst of fear.
This is an abiding presence that transcends all the materiality and chaos of the physical world. Regardless of your preference for a physical presence or a spiritual one, the Risen Christ was truly “seen” by the disciples.
We next learn that Thomas returns to the group. Once again, they are in a locked room and Jesus comes into their presence. Thomas is a perfect example of someone who favors materiality because he can’t believe that Jesus is alive and had been present to the others. He says he won’t believe unless he can “… 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.” Jesus encourages Thomas to enter into his wounds and accept the dynamic spiritual life that is present to and within him. Thomas is open to the invitation and cries out, “My Lord and my God.” Thomas was open to “seeing” and receiving the divine life and acknowledging that Jesus is alive and present to him and the community he is with.
When have you been open to “seeing” the Risen Christ in your personal life and/or community?
Do you prefer a physical presence in this resurrection story or a spiritual one? Why?