For a majority of the summer and the entire fall semester, I went through the book of John. The words and miracles of Jesus came alive, I made 11 friends (obviously I’m not counting Judas, little stinker), and fell more deeply in love with Jesus than ever before. If you’ve never read through John yourself, you should. It’s life-changing, hope-giving, correcting, challenging, and convicting. After I finished, I didn’t know what to study and what was next. It also didn’t help that I can’t seem to get John 20 out of my head.
Before we keep moving, take a moment to read the chapter for yourself. Get out your Bibles, break out a pen and paper. This chapter is full. But in case you aren’t near your Bible, here’s the passage:
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the facecloth, which had
been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.
Jesus Appears to the Disciples
19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
Jesus and Thomas
24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”28 Thomas
answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
The Purpose of This Book
30 Now Jesus did many other signs vin the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John 20 ESV
Before we dig to all 31 precious verses, I want to take a moment to say that some of the things you are going to read are what I imagine happened or rather, what the people involved were thinking and feeling. Other than the passage quoted directly above and verses quoted below, nothing I am writing is the inherent Word of God. I am not claiming to know anything but only what I imagine they were feeling/thinking/experiencing.
If you grew up in church, you’ve probably heard this story a million and one times. We know it like the back of our hands. But when I read this chapter with fresh eyes and within the context of the rest of the Gospel there are new things that really stood out to me.
Let’s start first at the END of the chapter with the disciples. Jesus had just been brutally murdered for doing absolutely nothing wrong. He was mocked, tortured, and it was very clear that his close friends were in no position to be walking around freely with their head held high. They were in danger as well. They didn’t know what was going to happen. I can only imagine that the first couple days after the crucifixion, they spent it alone in their own homes and tried to forget what had happened. The man they had spent so much time with, sacrificed it all for, was dead. I imagine that as time went on, they realized they needed each other. No one else in the entire world could relate to what they had experienced and the emotions they were facing other than each other. So what did they do? They congregated together. They needed each other now more than ever. They were all gathered together when the man that spent so much time with and sacrificed it all for appeared to all of them, alive. Well, almost all of them. The disciples that were present go to see him, touch him, talk to him, eat with him, and for just a moment, things almost felt like they were before. But wait, where’s Thomas? Shouldn’t he be here? I don’t know where Thomas was but I can imagine that not long after Jesus left their midst the disciples ran to tell him what had happened.
Thomas’s face fell and eyes welled up with tears as they excitedly told him what happened. I think he might’ve felt like we do when something super awesome happens at a party or gathering we weren’t invited to (or maybe we were invited but we didn’t go because we didn’t want to – talk about major FOMO). I can hear his voice crack and a silent tear roll down his cheek as he says, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” People like to call him Doubting Thomas but I think he might’ve been Hurt Thomas or I’ve-Been-Burned-Again Thomas.
Eight days. It was eight days until Jesus appeared to the disciples again. The natural question that comes to mind is, “Why did Jesus wait so long to visit again the men he shared each and every day, moment, tear, and prayer with?” I think, like with the death of Lazarus and going to be with Mary and Martha, he wanted it to be, “for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4). Jesus knew where Thomas’s head was and he was getting ready to do something mighty. But, y’all, eight days. What was Thomas thinking during those eight days? Was he hurt? Was he angry? Did he try to forget Jesus and the other disciples? I can only imagine he was probably angry and hurt. “Why didn’t he appear to me? I thought he loved me! I sacrificed everything for him! Was that not enough for him?!”
Someone talked Thomas into coming to be with them one evening and Jesus appears before them once again. Jesus has come to show Thomas that he is everything he said he is, as wonderful a Savior as we hope him to be, and this whole Jesus thing isn’t too good to be true. I can picture Thomas wide-eyed at first and when Jesus locks eyes with him, Thomas drops his head in embarrassment and shame for ever doubting and being hurt and angry. I can imagine Jesus walking across the floor and whispering for only Thomas to hear, “Thomas, look at me.” Swallowing hard and choking back tears, Thomas slowly lifts his eyes to meet with Jesus’s. He expects to see disappointment but sees only love. A tear falls. “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
Now he can’t stop the tears, he searches for the words to truly express how sorry and ashamed he is but all he can say is, “My Lord and my God!”
If anyone was going to be first to the tomb, it was going to be her. People were angry, others were hiding but she wasn’t so sure what she should feel. He had changed her life, he had rescued her. That was worth something. She made the journey, the whole way holding back tears but once she got there, she couldn’t hold them back anymore. The stone was moved and the tomb was empty. He was gone. Her heart rate quickened, blood drained from face, and she looked around for someone, anyone who could help but because it was so early, there was no one there. She knew the place where John was, and probably some of the others, so she ran.
Mary, Peter, and John were running back to the place where Jesus was laid. When they got there she cried, voice cracking as held back tears burst through, “See! He’s not there!” Peter went in. She didn’t need to see it again, it would hurt too much but she couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. First they killed him and now they’ve taken him away. This couldn’t possibly get any worse. Peter and John were getting ready to leave and they asked if she wanted to walk with them. “No, I think I’ll stay back.” As they walked away, she dried her eyes and peeked in the tomb. The composure she thought she had gained, she lost again, overwhelmed with heartbreak and hearing the hammer hitting the nails in her mind. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a man. To avoid annoying the stranger, she moved in the opposite direction but the man asked, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
Hiding her face and composing herself long enough to answer, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” She looked at him, eyes blurred with tears, she hoped he would know where they had laid him. She needed answers. She needed closure. She needed to say goodbye.
“Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”
Jesus! She was seeking Jesus, her Lord! Just the thought of his name on her lips made her eyes flood again. She couldn’t say his name out loud, it hurt too much. Her voice cracked as she answered, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him and I will take him away.”
Jesus smiled at her. He was getting ready to do something mighty. This time, he wouldn’t make her wait for his presence. He said her name the way he had since the day he met her, “Mary.”
Immediately, she recognized his tone. No one else said her name the way the Lord did. How could it be? How is this possible?! It doesn’t matter! Her Lord is alive and he is here!
Y’all life is hard. Things happen and we lose hope. Our heart breaks. We’ve been let down. Again. We go the only place we can think to turn. We go to church, we read our Bibles, why doesn’t anything get any better?
So many times during hard times, I feel like God has left me high and dry. I’ve given it all up for him and I question whether or not he really loves me. I question whether or not my effort was enough. I know what God’s Word says but unless I see him come through for me, I won’t be a happy camper.
“Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” (verse 25).
We wait not-so-patiently and our eight-day wait is torture. We question everything we’ve ever done from him and whether or not he really loves us. We throw a temper tantrum. The thoughts in our mind and our hearts are ugly. I mean, really ugly. We’re angry. We’re hurt. Why could he do that for so-and-so and not do this one thing for me? In those eight days, our heart is so far from the foot of the cross, it’s going to take a miracle to bring us back. Every step away from the cross, we bring the hammer down and drive the nail further into his hand and we don’t even care. He hurt us.
Then He shows up. We lock eyes. I wasn’t expecting him to do anything. I thought he had left me to die. At first I’m wide eyed and stunned by his presence. Then my face flushes, I’m suddenly interested in the floor, and I’m ashamed. He looks at me, moves closer, and whispers so low, I’m the only one who can hear him, “Allison. Look at me.”
He says my name the way I’ve heard him say it a million times before. It’s the sweetest sound I’ve ever heard but it’s not always fun to hear. Sometimes it’s to offer encouragement, sometimes it’s to correct me, sometimes it’s to ask me to do something I don’t want to do at all. But it’s never filled with disappointment, anger, frustration, hatred, and hurt. Only love.
My voice is the only one filled with disappointment, anger, frustration, hatred, and hurt. Then he says my name and it all melts away.
Something profound happens when Jesus calls us by name. Whether it’s the first time or the millionth, it never gets any less remarkable. He knows us through and through. He knows every thought, every word, and every moment of the eight days (how scary is that?). He knows us deeply and intimately. Right now, we may not feel like we know him as deeply and intimately we would like but we know his voice. Even the first time he said our name, we knew it was him. Because when he called our names, all our anger, frustration, disappointment, hurt, anxiety, shame, and sins are clearly known and are open before him but melt away. He knows our pasts. He knows our ugliness and still desires us to be closer to him because he’s going to do something mighty. During the eight days, he didn’t take back his death on the cross. He doesn’t take back the scars. He holds out his hand and invites us to, “put our finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve but believe.”
And dear one, know you are so dearly and thoroughly loved.
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (verse 29). You may have your moments and your eight days but you are so blessed. So loved. So adored. And, dear one, never alone. He wants to do something mighty in your life. If you feel like you’re alone and not loved by him, please know that you are. The cross still stands. The tomb is still empty.
When he calls your name, worship him.
My Lord, and my God! How unworthy I am of you!
I am currently a teacher and life-long student of Scripture learning more about life and Jesus's marvelous love and boundless grace.