In the Breaking of the Bread
Today we typically talk about Thomas and his faith, or need for more faith and we typically refer to this text as the Doubting Thomas text. I have talked a lot about this text in those terms and so I thought I would try a completely different take on the focus of this text.
Today is also the second Sunday of Easter and just 11 days ago we celebrated Maundy Thursday which is the night that Jesus celebrated Passover with the disciples in the upper room. We know it as the Last Supper and it is the night that Jesus told the disciples to break bread and share a cup with one another when they gathered.
That is what we have done ever since. Ever since Jesus shared that meal with the disciples we have been doing that every time we gather for worship. This is one of the two sacraments that we hold in the Lutheran church. We do that because the Bible tells us that Jesus told us to eat the bread and drink from the cup in remembrance of him. We have that account in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and we see in 1 Corinthians how Paul shares that same message that we should remember and share in this meal.
Our text tells us that it was evening on the first day of the week which tells us some important things. It is widely believed among scholars that the disciples continued to go to synagogue each week and then that night after the Sabbath was over they came together to talk and to share in the meal together as Jesus had taught them. So even though the disciples were locked up in a room together they did in fact continue to follow what Jesus had taught them. They continued to come together to share in the meal that he gave them and they also continued to gather to talk about everything that Jesus had done and taught to them.
Even though they were afraid of what might happen to them. Even though they perhaps were not doing everything that Jesus had asked them to do, they were continuing to meet with one another and share at least with each other the good news of Jesus. So in their gathering and breaking of the bread and the drinking of the cup Jesus appears to them.
We also see that Jesus’ promises are kept. In Matthew’s gospel we see Jesus promise that whenever his disciples gather then he will be there with them. What a beautiful way to fulfill that promise by appearing to them when they are fulfilling one of his commands. In the midst of the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the meal together Jesus comes to them as he promised he would. When he appears to them he offers them peace. He knows their fear of being alone and without him. He knows their anxiety and doubt. Yes I am sure that all the disciples had doubt. Why else would they be locked up in their house if they were completely confident in everything that was happening?
Jesus not only offers them peace but then he reminds them that they are his disciples. Jesus sent him into the world and now he is sending them out into the world. They have a mission to do. They have world full of people who have yet to hear the good news and the name of Jesus. Jesus doesn’t just send them out by themselves without anything. He has already equipped them for years for what they are about to do, but he also gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit and shares with them the great gift they have which is the ability to offer forgiveness of sins. This is huge because God alone was the one who offered forgiveness of sins. Jesus is now passing this gift from God to be shared by one another.
Now who knows why Thomas wasn’t there that week. Perhaps he got stuck in traffic or missed a turn. Perhaps he wrote the address of the house down wrong. Perhaps he was still in hiding and no one could find him. I’m not sure. But for some reason Thomas wasn’t able to get together with the disciples that Easter day and evening. So that entire week after Jesus appeared to the disciples, they kept trying to convince Thomas that they had seen Jesus. But Thomas is adamant that he has to see his Rabbi before he will believe that he was raised from the dead.
But we also have to understand that earlier in John’s gospel and in the others as well we see that none of the disciples understood or grasped the promise and the meaning of the resurrection. So to put all the blame and to shake a finger at Thomas isn’t exactly fair.
The last part of our text tells us that it was a week later when the disciples were gathered together in the same house and that they were able to have Thomas with them. A week later means that once again it was the Sabbath and it was in the evening so they were likely together celebrating the meal, communion together again and Jesus appeared again to them. We have a second example of Jesus being among the disciples when they have 1. come together as 2 or 3 in his name and 2. Jesus has been present with them as they celebrated communion.
There is no doubt that we can learn a lot about the encounter between Thomas and Jesus and the need for faith over facts. Or faith over eye-sight. But there is so much more that John teaches us in this text. We are Easter people. We are people that gather each week to celebrate what Jesus did both on the cross and after the cross. We celebrate each week as a mini-Easter. We learn about his word, we sing songs of praise and we come together at a table to remember his promises, to remember his sacrifice, and to remember his victory. A victory over death. And that victory isn’t for himself, that victory is for our sake. It is a victory that offers us peace, a peace from God and not from this world. It is a victory that gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit so that we may have God with us each and every day of our lives.