Gospel: John 20.19-31 tells of Jesus appearing to His disciples (with the exception of Thomas–where was he?) on the evening of Easter Sunday. His resurrection body is like theirs but it could pass through the locked door. It still bore the imprint of the nails. Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit…” This is reminiscent of God breathing life into Adam (Gen 2.7). Later, Thomas said he would not believe what the disciples told him unless he saw Him with his own eyes and touched Him. A week later the Lord again came through a locked door and appeared to Thomas as well. He acknowledged Jesus as his Lord and God. Jesus said those who believed in Him without seeing Him were more blessed than Thomas who required visual proof. There were a number of other post-resurrection appearances of the Lord, to five hundred people on one occasion (1 Cor 15.6). Christ commissioned His disciples, “As the Father sent Me, so I send you” (v. 21) and He commissions all His followers to live lives that bear His image to the world to bring glory to the Father.

Jesus, the Messiah and Son of God, suffered intensely in order to redeem His fallen people. I would like to reflect briefly on suffering because if there is one thing human beings can count on in this life, it is suffering; and this applies to everyone, not just His followers. It seems to me that God gives us all suffering and perhaps it is a test, among other things, to see how we respond. We are given a choice: we can respond by playing the role of victim, asking ‘why me,’ and letting everyone know how miserable we are and how unfair life is, or we can accept our lot with faith and trust in God and even with joy, There are three Scriptures that speak of suffering: James 1.2-4; Rm 5.1-5; 2 Pet 1-10. It is James, the Lord’s brother,  who says we should ‘count it all joy when you fall into various trials’ (v. 2). Joy is the response to knowing our God as omnipotent and all-loving so that in every trial we can be sure that He will provide the best possible for us regardless of circumstances. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” This applies to believers and defines our faith. Joy is not the same as happiness or pleasure, but it enabled Paul and Silas to sing hymns and pray in the Philippian Jail after being beaten and incarcerated without cause (Acts 16.19ff.). James says ‘trials’ produce patience (a fruit of the Spirit), leading to becoming perfect [mature], lacking in nothing. Suffering makes us grow up. Faith gives us access to God’s grace (His unmerited favor) and enables us to ‘glory’ in tribulation which produces perseverance, character, and hope. And ‘hope’ in Scripture, is the assurance that God’s promises can’t fail, ‘hope does not disappoint, because of the love of God [our love for Him and His love for us] which has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit’ (Rm 5.5). In other words, tribulation can bring great blessings including faith, hope, and love. Finally Peter is writing to the Diaspora who are experiencing ‘various trials’ (1 Pet 1.6) and says that believers have received faith, grace, peace, and godliness–God’s divine nature–and have ‘escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.’ He then calls Jesus’ people to give all diligence to add virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love to our persons. Then we can meet the tests that life brings by showing the trust in God that Jesus showed as He faced the cross and was exalted because of His faith.

Memory Verse: Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus…who humbled Himself…to death on a cross…therefore God highly exalted him and gave Him the name that is above every name …(Phil 2.5-9).