Clinging, receiving, believing and life
Mary stuck around to check out the empty tomb further. Having seen two angels, she encounters the risen Lord. As soon as she hears Him say, “Mary,” she recognises it is Jesus. The good shepherd calls his own sheep by name and they follow Him because they know his voice (see John 10:3-4). At that point all the anguish and despair are swallowed up in astonishment and delight… and clinging! Jesus tells Mary to stop clinging, but Thomas can touch his wounds. There are some rather strange theories as why this is so. I think Jesus is telling this dear lady you don’t have to cling to me like I am about to disappear permanently. I am risen, this is a time for joy and sharing the good news, not clinging to me as if it’s some jealously guarded private dream come true. Go and tell the others I have risen and will soon ascend to the Father. Peter, James and John did a similar thing at the transfiguration, wanting to build some tents so they could stay up the mountain. The encounter is to be enjoyed in the moment and then carried to others.
I love this picture from last weekend’s Royal wedding. Only one person in the crowd is in the moment, experiencing the “encounter” ready to take away the memory. Everyone else is filming the moment, rather than being in the moment!
Receive the Spirit
John recounts Jesus breathing the Spirit on the disciples, which is followed by them still meeting behind closed doors in fear, v.26 and fear of the authorities, v.19. It hardly feels like they have received power to be witnesses! Again, there are lots of theories why the disciples receive the Spirit hereand then again more publicly in Acts 2.
Three options jump out:
i) John is passionate about the theological unity of the cross, the resurrection, the ascension, the exaltation and the bestowal of the Spirit. So for theological reasons he puts it here. But Thomas misses out and when he does believe, doesn’t get the Spirit. I would rule that out
ii) It could be a pointing forward to the real event in Acts 2 – a type and shadow of what was to come. He doesn’t write about Pentecost, but it was well known and he is pointing in anticipation in the narrative to it.
iii) Could be that because the Spirit is here linked to forgiveness of sins in the next verses, this then is about them receiving the Spirit for regeneration – where their spirits that were dead because of sin are made alive in Christ. We are after born of Spirit when we are born again. I favour this option!
Blessed are those
Poor Thomas is forever known as “Doubting Thomas” because he didn’t see the risen Jesus with the others. When he sees the evidence with his eyes, he believes. Jesus says “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.” That would be us! We don’t get to see the physically resurrected Jesus and yet there is enough rational evidence and argument to suppose that Jesus death and resurrection happened (have a read of Case for Christ or watch the movie). So believe it and be blessed!
The purpose of John’s gospel is that you may believe Jesus is the Christ. The one the world has been waiting for – the Son of God come in the flesh. Believe in him and have life, abundant life to the full for ever more.