John 20:19-31

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “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. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told 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 in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “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!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Something happened to the disciples as a result of all of these resurrection experiences. Whether it was Jesus appearing to them in the upper room in today’s lesson, or his presence with them on the road to Emmaus or sharing roasted fish and fresh bread with his friends beside the Sea of Tiberias, the disciples were fundamentally different after their encounters with the risen Christ. What was it that changed? Of course, the very act of witnessing a dead man come back to life, never to die again, was in and of itself life changing. But what happened to the disciples in that experience, what changed inside of them? What changed inside of them that enabled them to so boldly and recklessly proclaim the good news of the risen Christ at the expense of their own lives? Most of them died for their faith, many of them died horribly. From an existential point of view, what was it that happened to them that made such a sacrifice possible?

I think the answer is freedom. The events of Easter Sunday and their experiences following set them free. Jesus alluded to this in the Last Supper when he took the bread and the wine and said that his body and his blood would become the new Passover setting them free, not from slavery in Egypt, as the Passover celebrated, but setting them free from the power of sin and death. After Easter his friends experienced this freedom. No longer were their lives bracketed by the twin realities of sin and death. As we know from scripture, they were no safer from the truth that life is full of pain and suffering, the resurrection was not some sort of protective shield. But they were free from the power of sin and death to define their lives.

It is this deep understanding of the freedom that Easter brings that has enabled every profound act of Christian self-sacrifice and service since. It is what makes us different, it is what makes our faith unique. Because to know, to really know that you are loved in spite of your worst self, to know, to really know that there is life beyond life, is to be set free to love in ways many people think unimaginable. In this Easter season, as you stand on the other side of the cross, on the other side of the empty tomb, what do you know and what difference does this knowledge make in your life?


Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(Book of Common Prayer)