When Jesus was with them, the disciples displayed many of the marks of flawed humanity – pride, squabbling and greed come immediately to mind. Now, without him, we can add fear and doubt. Jesus himself is immensely hospitable to these flawed friends of his, sticking to his project to save them and us, sticking with them after his death just enough to prepare them for the coming of the Spirit, with a foretaste on this occasion.
Fear and uncertainty are marks of weakness rather than outright sin, and like all our emotions are appropriate and even wise in some circumstances. In this passage, however, the focus is on how the disciples stick together, and how Jesus meets their fear and doubt with the assurance that it really is the crucified man who is now with them.
The Spirit is given to let these flawed disciples become ministers of forgiveness, the ultimate sign of hospitality, offered already in the person and work of Christ: a gift his friends are authorised and enabled to pass on – and deny, lest we should imagine that the things of God are just simple and cosy.
Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer: Our Father in heaven, may your name be holy. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth, as in heaven. Give us the bread we need today. And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Do not bring us to hard examination, but rescue us from the time of trial.
19 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.’ 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ 22 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 retain the sins of any, they are retained.’
24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, 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 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.’
26 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.’ 27 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.’ 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 come to believe.’
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 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.