Updated: Mar 7, 2022
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.
This is the Gospel reading from the Episcopal lectionary for the Second Sunday of Easter, Year B 2018. It will next be read aloud in church by a priest on Sunday, April 8, 2018. It is important as it sets forth the premise that personal contact with the physical body of a living Jesus cannot and will not be the measure from which true belief comes.
The statement of timing that begins this reading has to be understood in Jewish terminology, not the terminology of Gentiles. As such, when John wrote, “When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week,” that says it was after three or four p.m. but before six o’clock [when day became night and Sunday became Monday]. Because John clarified “evening” while confirming it was indeed “the first day of the week,” meaning to Westerners “Sunday,” it had not yet passed from Sunday to Monday. The following day would technically begin after six o’clock p.m.
Confirmation of this is found in Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, where “opsias” is defined as: “evening: i. e. from our three to six o’clock p. m.” This was different from the Evening Watch, which began at six o’clock p.m. and lasted until nine at night. By understanding this timing factor, one can see that Thomas was not present with the other disciples because it was “evening” of day, and not the Evening Watch of night.
Since the upstairs room was like a rental room [an inn-like place], thus not a full home, there would have been no disciple-owned supplies that would be permanently kept there, such as food or cooking materials. Probably, there would have been no means by which a fire could be controlled for cooking, as in a fireplace. As dinner would be normally consumed at “evening” in a home, the upstairs room presented a need for food to be secured elsewhere. Sending one or two out to obtain food for dinner would have been preferred, rather than everyone going out into the public seeking something like a restaurant.
This can be assumed because the disciples feared risking being seen and identified as associates of the “criminal” recently executed – Jesus. It would be best if one of them went out and secured food for the rest, so the majority could stay safely behind a locked door. By seeing this background scenario, one can then safely assume that Thomas was the one selected to get food for the group, which was why he was absent when Jesus first appeared there. Thomas might have gone with a companion who was not “one of the twelve.”
[Please … feel free to comment if this seems unbelievable to you.]
Another thing to grasp is Luke wrote that Cleopas and Mary had invited the stranger that was Jesus into their home in Emmaus, saying, “Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.” (Luke 24:29) There, Luke wrote the Greek word “hesperan,” which means basically the same as John’s use of “opsias.” This, when seen as the same timing of the first day (as Luke said it was still the first day of the week that was not yet over), Jesus was appearing as a stranger, blessing and breaking bread in Emmaus at about the same time he appeared to his disciples (sans Thomas) in the upstairs room. The two groups saw Jesus at two different places at the same time.
[Please … feel free to comment if this seems unbelievable to you.]
This timing link continues, as Luke wrote, “They [Cleopas and Mary] got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them.” (Luke 24:33) With Emmaus seven miles from Jerusalem (sixty furlongs), and assuming the aunt and uncle of Jesus were easily in their fifties, it would have taken them about 30 minutes to enter the one of the gates of Jerusalem (which would have restricted access once night time came). Once in Jerusalem, it might have taken them another five or ten minutes to reach the upstairs room. Realizing a total of about 40 minutes had passed since “they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem,” one can see the time they traveled was the same time Thomas was not in the upstairs room, when Jesus first appeared there.. Cleopas and Mary entered that room after or at about the same time that Thomas had returned with broiled fish for dinner. They came to tell their news, only to be told the news of their having seen Jesus alive too. The disciples excitedly said for all the returning disciples, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon(-Peter).” (Luke 24:34)
This means that at or about the same time that Jesus “took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to [Cleopas and Mary in Emmaus]” (Luke 24:30), right before “he vanished from their sight” (Luke 24:31), Jesus just as suddenly “came and stood among [the disciples and their companions] and said, “Peace be with you.”’(John 20:19) Both events took place around 4:00 PM, with Jesus appearing in the upstairs room before Cleopas and Marry arrived, while Tomas was out.
We know that because Luke tells of Jesus appearing and asking for food (Luke 24:42-43), which was after Cleopas, Mary, and Thomas were all present. By John telling of Thomas being out at “evening of the first day of the week,” Jesus first appeared in the upstairs room well before Cleopas and Mary could have gotten back to Jerusalem, and as Thomas was out procuring food for dinner. This means the risen Jesus appeared in his mortally wounded body and appeared as a stranger, suddenly disappeared and then appeared without having a door opened for him (twice), and instantaneously travelling seven miles, all in one evening … within an hour’s time.
Where John is said to write, “A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them,” this again needs to be read from a Jewish perspective. What the Greek actually shows is “Kai meth’ hēmeras oktō palin ēsan esō hoi mathētai autou , kai Thōmas met’ autōn.” That literally translates to say, “And after days eight again were inside the disciples of him, and Thomas was with them.” This is not a statement of eight days further into the future, where one can translate “days eight” as meaning “a week later.” That translation is quite misleading.
Instead, the “days” are a reference to the numbered “days” in the Counting of the Omer. The Sabbath (when Jesus actually rose from death – at 3:00 p.m.) represented “day seven” or “seven days,” which made “the first day of the week” be the eighth day in the countdown to fifty days (Pentecost means “Fiftieth day”). The Passover festival in Jerusalem always lasted eight days, with that particular year being the eight days from Shabbat to Shabbat. The Counting of the Omer officially begins on the second day of the festival, which that year was Sunday. Therefore, Sunday was “day eight” or “eight days” in a greater count to fifty.
This means the statement by John actually means, “Later that same day the disciples were again in the house [with the upstairs room], and Thomas was with them.” The use of “again” infers more information about that day, when time was dwindling away towards the next day, but was still “day eight.” This means Jesus appeared between three or four o’clock p.m. in two places, and then came back again to a bigger crowd, when his “disciples [were] together again.” That use of “together again” means those who were not there during his prior visit – Cleopas, Mary, and Thomas – remembering how Luke referred to Cleopas and Mary as “disciples” of Jesus. At the second appearance, Jesus knew that food had arrived, via Thomas, so he asks if they have any. He is then given a piece of broiled fish, which he ate in front of them.
“Jesus, I bought this at the market around the corner.” “Thank you Thomas.”
With that timing established (as the same two to three hour period on Easter Sunday), look at what Jesus said to the disciples. Both times that he suddenly appeared inside the upstairs room, Jesus said, “Peace be with you.” Certainly, this has since become a phrase of greeting in the Episcopal Church, with the auto-response trained to be, “And also with you.” The Big Brain of hindsight can almost wonder why those fool disciples did not greet Jesus in return, the way an Episcopalian would. That, of course, misses the point of what Jesus said.
The Greek words that John wrote down twice, saying what Jesus told the disciples, was “Eirēnē hymin.” While that can be read as a greeting (demanding a response of greeting), it is instead a command. The literal translation that makes this clearer is, “Calm yourselves,” where “Peace” is meant to demand an “Undisturbed mind.”
The reason Jesus would make this command was the disciples and companions were already afraid the Temple police would arrest them and turn them over to the Romans for crucifixion. As such, they were on edge; and this was denoted by the information of how the door to the room being locked. THEN, Jesus suddenly appeared with them, without a knock on the door or anyone opening it for him. Thus, the natural response to that sudden appearance would have been the terror of seeing a ghost appear. So Jesus’ command had the divine effect of calming those fearful minds.
This was no different that when the angel of the LORD appeared to the shepherds on the evening Jesus was born. Luke said they were “terribly afraid,” but the angel said to them a command: “Fear not.” The same fear came upon Zacharias when Gabriel appeared before him, and again a command was given to not be afraid. In all Biblical cases where fear of angels comes, commands have the divine effect of instantly calming that fear. This is the power of the divine, where words have the ability to affect others mentally and physically, where understanding the words commanding “no fear” then acts to cause the brain to affect the body, placing it automatically in a relaxed state.
Jesus often displayed this power of “immediate suggestion” whenever he commanded one to “Go. Your faith has made you well.” Thus, when Jesus said “Peace be with you,” that was in no way meaningless words of greeting being spoken. It says the minds of the disciples were instantly made “undisturbed.”
Once everyone was placed into a state of calm being, Jesus then gave them an instruction for the disciples to follow, saying, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” In this instruction, “Peace of the LORD” is a required state of Christianity. It is not a recommendation that one be “at ease,” like a military order, but a demand that their human brains (the root of the self-ego and the seat of all doubts and fears) step aside. The “control rooms” of their bodies [their minds] would no longer be allowed to sway with the winds of human emotion. To serve God, through Christ, one cannot hold onto human fears.
This was the way of life that Jesus had known since birth (“As the Father has sent me”), and this would be the new way for each of the disciples (“so I send you”). That condition had nothing to do with the brain being allowed to ponder, “Do I want to serve the Father in this way?” Their brains had all previously led them to follow Jesus (self-will), such that their new commitment had brought them to the point of an ultimate sacrifice – each would die of self and be replaced by the Christ Mind. Just as they did not have to worry about how not to fear, they would not have to worry about how to suddenly begin acting righteous.
When one next reads, “[Jesus] breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” this was like God giving the breath of life to newborn babies. The breath of life is the entrance of a soul into a human form. When Jesus “breathed on them,” God sent eternal salvation onto their God-given souls, through His Son. Just as Jesus gave a command to be calm, he then gave a command to be reborn in soul.
This is then what John the Baptizer meant when he said, “I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:8) John dunked bodies underwater to symbolically clean the sins from their physical lives, as repentance. The guilty came to John for outer cleaning, seeking to be washed clean of their sins. Jesus “breathed on them” the cleansing of sins from their souls, as his saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit” meant to have their souls repent and be forever dunked into eternal righteousness, when sin cannot exist. The disciples had likewise come to Jesus for that purpose, knowing what John the Baptist had said, but without understanding what that meant.
This is why Jesus next told the disciples and their companions, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” This weak translation gives the impression that any human being can possess the power of forgiveness. However, that is not the best translation of “aphēte” and “apheōntai” in this statement.
The root word, “aphiémi,” means “I send away, I release, I let go, and I permit to depart.” For it to mean “I forgive,” one has to see that use meaning, “I give over,” as a statement that the ONLY ONE a human being can “forgive” – is self. The word “any” does not mean “others,” as one has no control over anyone but “self.” One can only release (“forgive”) a desire for “any sins” or “retain” a desire for “any sins.” Thus, that command by Jesus does not mean sins have been approved as allowable, but cleaned away from repentance; but rather it means oneself has given away further association with sin. Therefore, Jesus said, “If you send away the temptation of any sins, [then] those sins are forever gone away. [However], if you retain desires for any sins, [then] those sins will remain on you.”
To “Receive the Holy Spirit,” one must choose to repent the sins of one’s soul.
To clean his uniform, Superman would fly into earth’s sun. Since the soul is eternal, it is symbolized by Superman. As the cleaner of souls, Jesus is represented by the Sun.
The elements of John’s Gospel that deal with the absence and presence of Thomas (which is not noted in Luke’s Gospel) can be seen as a less than public display between Jesus and Thomas. John was witness because of his relationship to Jesus and his fondness of Thomas. While Thomas might have made a public display of sadness and anger over having been sent out to provide for the group, missing the first appearance of Jesus in the upstairs room, it was probably more discreet when Jesus spoke directly to Thomas. Matthew and Mark wrote vaguely of “some who doubted,” which would confirm Thomas having loudly said, “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.” Luke mentioned how Jesus “showed them His hands and His feet,” but did not mention anyone touching them, nor did he write of Jesus showing his spear wound. However, when John remembered Jesus saying 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,” that would have been a private conversation, to which John was witness.
Seeing that exchange in that way makes the removal of doubts be less about public displays of emotion and more about the personal relationship each disciple of Christ must develop. For the others, having seen Jesus twice was proof enough to believe; but for Thomas, Jesus wanted his words to come true, so he offered his wounds for physical touch. Keep in mind how Jesus told Mary (while appearing as “the gardener”), “Do not touch me, as I have not yet ascended to the Father,” where hugs and kisses was deemed emotional clinging to the material; but Thomas was allowed an emotionally detached inspection, which later led to an emotional reaction – “My Lord and my God!”
Still, when Jesus said, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe,” he was not speaking solely to Thomas. That message was to everyone present. Therefore, it is a message directed towards every Christian at all times, as a personal question of one’s true belief.
Your faith cannot be dependent on physical senses. Seeing spiritually is believing.
This returns one to the statement Jesus made during his first appearance in the upstairs room, before Cleopas, Mary, and Thomas were there. When Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you,” that was not a statement that implied, “Just as the Father has sent me for you to see, so I send you to tell others what you have seen.” All who would become Apostles were also “sent by the Father,” just as Jesus of Nazareth, born of a woman in Bethlehem had been sent – with a soul breathed into a human form. However, just as that Jesus had “received the Holy Spirit” from birth – as the Messiah – so too would “receive that same Spirit of Holiness” –becoming the Messiah reborn.
This is how the word written by John that is translated as “seen” means more than that. The Greek word “heōrakas” is a form of the root word “horaó , which also means, “experience, perceive, discern, and beware.” What Jesus asked his disciples, and thus all Christians, goes beyond the function of one’s eyesight and physical vision. It goes to faith that is based on “experience, perception, discernment and caution” against misreading what the physical senses are limited to “see.” It was a statement that goes to what the higher mind of God knows, where faith climbs to that level, allowing belief to come from personal enlightenment.
This means the power of the lesson from the Second Sunday of Easter (the 14th day in the Counting of the Fifty days) is to realize a personal need to sacrifice a human ego for the Christ Mind. Like Jesus died and was reborn as the Christ, seen as the Holy Ghost among his believers, so too do the disciples need to kill off their desires of sin so that the Christ Spirit can be reborn in true Christians. One cannot be led astray by fears and doubts, as all non-believers say, “I will not believe unless I see.”
Belief cannot come by the will power of a human brain. Belief cannot be deduced by human reason. One can only believe by personal experience of Jesus Christ being alive within one’s soul, instantaneously bringing one “Inner Peace.” The acts of the Apostles require that level of faith first, through the repentance of all sins and baptism of the Holy Spirit of Christ.