Let’s turn the Scripture like a jewel in our hands. And as we keep turning it and turning it, let us be prepared to receive all the fresh ways the Spirit of God desires to communicate with us.
Easter is recently in our rearview. Globally, followers of Jesus have been and will continue to celebrate with joy, for the One we thought was dead has been raised. Jesus is our resurrected King! In the 40 days that follow the resurrection of Jesus we can read multiple accounts of Jesus surprising His followers again and again.
This past Sunday, the lectionary passage was from John 20:19–31. In this passage Jesus shows up in a locked room, without unlocking the door (gasp!), on two separate occasions. The second occasion involved the disciple named Thomas. This encounter has given him the epithet of doubting for the last two thousand years. I am not writing today to refute that (another conversation for another day), instead let us hold up this passage like a jewel, turn it just enough, a little bit more… there! We are now viewing this passage through “the lens of the left out.”
As we begin to gaze at this passage through the lens of the left out, a few questions likely come to mind. For me, the first one is this:
Why didn’t any of the disciples express concern that Thomas was missing when Jesus showed up the first time? (Lots of potential answers!)
John 20:19 states, “the disciples” were behind the locked doors because they were afraid. However, that general term “disciples” does not, apparently, include our friend Thomas. Where was he? Not afraid? Looking after someone? He was not, like one might do during a pandemic, out for a quick trip to the store, because I assume Jesus would wait in that instance. Jesus never in a hurry.
In reflecting on the whereabouts of Thomas, it’s interesting that in John 21, Thomas was named as being present for the breakfast Jesus cooks on the beach. In this case, he’s not forgotten, because the very next time the Gospel of John communicated that the disciples are together (it lists 7 in total), all of them are named (not a generalization).
Hmmm. Where was Thomas?
Ironically enough the last time we heard from Thomas in the Gospel of John was in John 14. Jesus is in the midst of telling His disciples what is to come after washing their feet and Jesus urges them to not let their hearts be troubled, to trust Him. Jesus then says,
“I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.” Essentially, Jesus confirms that none of them will be left out.
But Thomas chimes in, interrupting Jesus, “No we don’t know, Lord. We have no idea where You are going so how can we know the way.”
Thomas asks good questions.
With this now in view, how wild is it that Jesus literally comes back and gets Thomas, just like He said?!
And now Thomas really knows the way.
I keep thinking when we look at this passage through “the lens of the left out,” it seems as if the disciples were neglecting their friend. Maybe it was fear related, but whatever the case, none of them plead with Jesus for the inclusion of their friend, Thomas.
Right now, if we are currently living in “locked rooms,” what does it have to say about those around us likely to be left out, forgotten, or overlooked?
The first thing it says is this: Jesus comes for them! Just like He said He would from the beginning of His ministry. The Holy Spirit, the very Spirit Jesus is breathing onto His disciples, had anointed Jesus to bring Good News to all those who are left out. In the case of John 20:24–29, turns out this time it was Thomas’ turn to receive the Good News.
In the midst of a pandemic, but also everyday, we are invited to be like Jesus…
This time let us ask ourselves: who is being left out?