John tells us of a very special meeting between Jesus and ten of his disciples. Let's go back for a few days so we can better understand what John has to tell us.
Jesus and his twelve disciples had gathered for, what we think was the Passover meal, on Thursday (Maundy Thursday) in fellowship - a gathering where they would have recounted their Jewish heritage. They then go to a garden (Gethsemane), their teacher (rabbi) is arrested, tried, beaten, and nailed to a cross with the title of King of the Jews written on a placard placed above his head. This was on Friday (Good Friday). On Sunday they could not find his body although they knew that they had buried it in Joseph of Arimathaea's tomb. Since then one of their number, Judas, had killed himself and Thomas had gone off to be by himself. The other ten had returned to a room with a locked door (maybe the room used for the Last Supper) in fear of being arrested because of their connection with Jesus. They had come a long way in a short time and they were fearful of what the future might hold for them. It's into this gathering that Jesus appeared.
The first thing Jesus did was try to put them at ease by saying "Shalom - Peace be with you." He showed them his wounds, breathed on them and giving them the Holy Spirit so that they could go out into the world and minister in his name.
When Thomas returned he refused to believe any of the amazing story the others told him until he could see for himself. Thomas represents all of us, since we too struggle to believe. But Jesus would not let it stop there. He returned eight days later to show Thomas his wounds. True to his word, Thomas then saw and believed. Thomas had at least two virtues: 1) he refused to say he understood what he did not understand or believe, 2) when he was sure, he gave it all he had when he said, "My Lord and my God!"
We were not there to see or touch as the disciples were, so our belief comes from faith that is built up from reading the Bible, hearing the stories of God and his son, Jesus, attending worship services, and interacting with those who have faith.
Our lesson from Acts, written by Luke, tells us that the disciples overcame their fear that had them locked up in a room. They took the power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus had given them and went out and performed many signs and wonders among the people. But just as the religious leaders were jealous of Jesus, they were also filled with jealousy toward the disciples and had them arrested.
Once again the presence of the Lord was in the midst of the disciples while they were in jail. God's agent, the Angel, opened the jail door and set them free. So they were free to continue making the risen Christ known to all who would listen.
The Sadducees thought they had stopped the preaching about the risen rabbi, but not so. Our Lord was not about to let iron bars stand in the way of his disciples doing his work. They returned to the Temple and continued their teaching and from there they went out into the world with those they trained, and changed the course of history.
John, the Divine, some 70 years after the experience of the disciples and Jesus in the Upper Room, was out preaching and teaching the Good News of the risen Christ. For his troubles he was put into prison, but because of the Holy Spirit of God and God's angel, he was given a vision of the Heavenly Kingdom with God almighty, God's son, Jesus, and all those around them. Thus he wrote a powerful document used in the Bible since its adoption as the official book of Christianity in 381 A.D., "The Revelation to John." From this experience, John wrote letters to seven churches in Asia telling them things they needed to change or improve to do the work of are about the work our Lord. We also need to continue to examine our church life to make sure we are about the work of our Lord and not just doing church work.
When we do the work of our Lord special things happen. We are given insight and wisdom we did not know we possessed. We are given strength and commitment we could not otherwise muster.
Our job is not nearly as hard as that of the early Christians. We do not have to spend time in jail for our beliefs and we can go about safely telling others of the risen Christ. The question is: do we? We have just been through the discipline of Lent, the powerful focus of Holy Week, and the joy and celebration of Easter Sunday. What do we take away from all this into the world? How will we be stewards of the same Holy Spirit that guided and directed the disciples?
Our daily life is a sermon shared with the world around us. Remember, seeing is believing - just as Thomas needed to see the wounds to believe, so what do we have to show others about our faith and our walk with the risen Christ? Each of us has something special to share. Our gift might be as simple as: I know that faith is difficult, it was, and continues to be for me, but I have found that I am not alone in my walk because I have a lot of help from our Lord and my many brothers and sisters in the church.
People are not going to walk into the church, look around and say: Wow! Look what I have missed all these years. People come to church because they are invited, and it is our job, to not only invite, but to help make them feel welcome and guide them through the service, the building itself, and help them to meet the other members, then to bring them back and stay connected until they feel comfortable in these new surroundings.
That is the way we can perform signs and wonders for our Lord and his church. Faith is shared and spread one person at a time. With the guidance and patience of the Holy Spirit, we can be the one person it takes to make a difference!