Sunday of Thomas

John 20:19-31


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19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut 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 send 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; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."


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 print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe."


26 Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but 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 be faithless, but believing."


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 believe."


30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;


31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.

19 Οὔσης οὖν ὀψίας τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ τῇ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων, καὶ τῶν θυρῶν κεκλεισμένων ὅπου ἦσαν οἱ μαθηταὶ συνηγμένοι διὰ τὸν φόβον τῶν Ἰουδαίων, ἦλθεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ ἔστη εἰς τὸ μέσον, καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς· εἰρήνη ὑμῖν.


20 καὶ τοῦτο εἰπὼν ἔδειξεν αὐτοῖς τὰς χεῖρας καὶ τὴν πλευρὰν αὐτοῦ. ἐχάρησαν οὖν οἱ μαθηταὶ ἰδόντες τὸν Κύριον.


21 εἶπεν οὖν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς πάλιν· εἰρήνη ὑμῖν. καθὼς ἀπέσταλκέ με ὁ πατήρ, κἀγὼ πέμπω ὑμᾶς.


22 καὶ τοῦτο εἰπὼν ἐνεφύσησε καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς· λάβετε Πνεῦμα Ἅγιον·



23 ἄν τινων ἀφῆτε τὰς ἁμαρτίας, ἀφίενται αὐτοῖς, ἄν τινων κρατῆτε, κεκράτηνται.



24 Θωμᾶς δὲ εἷς ἐκ τῶν δώδεκα, ὁ λεγόμενος Δίδυμος, οὐκ ἦν μετ᾿ αὐτῶν ὅτε ἦλθεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς.



25 ἔλεγον οὖν αὐτῷ οἱ ἄλλοι μαθηταί· ἑωράκαμεν τὸν Κύριον. ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· ἐὰν μὴ ἴδω ἐν ταῖς χερσὶν αὐτοῦ τὸν τύπον τῶν ἥλων, καὶ βάλω τὸν δάκτυλόν μου εἰς τὸν τύπον τῶν ἥλων, καὶ βάλω τὴν χεῖρά μου εἰς τὴν πλευρὰν αὐτοῦ, οὐ μὴ πιστεύσω.


26 Καὶ μεθ᾿ ἡμέρας ὀκτὼ πάλιν ἦσαν ἔσω οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ Θωμᾶς μετ᾿ αὐτῶν. ἔρχεται ὁ Ἰησοῦς τῶν θυρῶν κεκλεισμένων, καὶ ἔστη εἰς τὸ μέσον καὶ εἶπεν· εἰρήνη ὑμῖν.


27 εἶτα λέγει τῷ Θωμᾷ· φέρε τὸν δάκτυλόν σου ὧδε καὶ ἴδε τὰς χεῖράς μου, καὶ φέρε τὴν χεῖρά σου καὶ βάλε εἰς τὴν πλευράν μου, καὶ μὴ γίνου ἄπιστος, ἀλλὰ πιστός.


28 καὶ ἀπεκρίθη Θωμᾶς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ὁ Κύριός μου καὶ ὁ Θεός μου.


29 λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ὅτι ἑώρακάς με, πεπίστευκας· μακάριοι οἱ μὴ ἰδόντες καὶ πιστεύσαντες.


30 Πολλὰ μὲν οὖν καὶ ἄλλα σημεῖα ἐποίησεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐνώπιον τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ, ἃ οὐκ ἔστι γεγραμμένα ἐν τῷ βιβλίῳ τούτῳ·


31 ταῦτα δὲ γέγραπται ἵνα πιστεύσητε ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἐστιν ὁ Χριστὸς ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ, καὶ ἵνα πιστεύοντες ζωὴν ἔχητε ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι αὐτοῦ.



Larger Thought Unit

Chapters 20 and 21 form the last thought unit of John’s gospel and are comprised of the resurrectional traditions of the Johannine community.  Notice how the unit begins with Peter and the beloved disciple in chapter 20 and ends with the same two disciples. There is no doubt that these two chapters represent a written transition into the post-apostolic age where the faithful would be dependent on the written accounts of the resurrection and called to put their faith and trust in those written accounts. The apostles committed to writing once and for all and for all generations what “The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, [he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you]” had taught them.



At his resurrection, Jesus brings the peace of the heavenly Jerusalem to his disciples. He shows them that his actual locale is not inside and behind the doors where they locked themselves.  To the contrary, they are to go out themselves and proclaim him as the one who cannot be contained within the walls of the earthly Jerusalem and its temple. As he himself was “sent out” by his father, in turn, he “sends” them “out” to proclaim the message of forgiveness of sins to the entire world—Gentiles as well as Jews.


Furthermore, this proclamation is to be done through the ‘word’ of the gospel, and not through a slide show of what the resurrection—let alone what God or his resurrected messiah—‘looks’ like.  In other words, the message of the resurrection is not one of the ‘vision of God or his messiah,’ but rather an ‘audible’ message, the ‘story’ of Jesus’ resurrection. That is why the ‘doubting’ Thomas [the Hebrew te’om means “twin,” i.e., someone who has two faces/stands] is criticized for not having understood the primacy of the ‘ears’ over the ‘eyes’: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (Jn 20:29) In other words, “If you, Thomas require that you see what your colleagues were shown and ‘reported’ to you, how could you become an apostle, requiring from those to whom you preach to take, at face value, your ‘report’”?


The periscope ends by making out of the primacy of the ‘word’ over the ‘vision’ the ultimate rule: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.” (vv.30-31) For the gospel message to be the authoritative access into eternal life, it has to be ‘scripture’ in the same way as the prophetic word became ‘scripture’ (Jer 36:4-32) Furthermore, anything outside or beyond what the beloved disciple decided to commit into writing is relegated to oblivion and thus immaterial formally as well as materially. Indeed, “This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (21:24-25) This is clearly not an invitation for us to write such books, but rather to continually ‘listen’ to the beloved disciple’s written testimony ‘read’ unto us: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants what must soon take place; and he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is he [notice the singular] who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those [notice the plural] who hear, and who keep what is written therein; for the time is near.” (Rev 1:1-3)  This is precisely what is kept in our gatherings where exclusively the Old Testament and New Testament ‘scriptures’ are authoritatively ‘read’ from the ambo.


This gospel reading, taken from the end of John, confirms the reading of the previous Sunday that was taken from the beginning of John. It is as though these readings bracket the period of Bright Week, inviting us to realize that the message of Jesus’ resurrection has been committed once and for all within the written testimony of the beloved disciple. It is a classic example of how the New Testament scripture in John canonizes itself in the same way as the Old Testament scripture did in Jeremiah.


Further resource

Charles H. Talbert, Reading John, Crossroads Publishing Company, NY, NY, 1992; pp 248ff.

Paul Nadim Tarazi, New Testament Introduction, Vol.3: Johannine Writings, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY, 2004; pp.256-8.

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