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Bible Study Guide for Sunday, April 24, 2022

April 24, 2022
  • Acts 5:27-32
  • Psalm 118:14-29    
  • Revelation 1:4-8
  • John 20:19-31



            The question of belief in resurrection flows through our readings this week. The disciple Thomas exemplifies this most clearly - he's almost the dictionary definition of "seeing is believing". For me, I imagine a gentle and unsure Thomas making his way to the upper room, already partly believing Jesus's claims to resurrected life, but still not all the way there. Why else would Thomas make the risky choice to return to the apostles after Jesus's gruesome death? We may think Jesus's moral and ethical teaching was brand new - but in that era, there were swarms of wandering sectarians saying similar things about social justice, hypocrisy, and politics. If Thomas's belief was solely in Jesus's moral teachings, he could've found another sect. No, Jesus's promise is not just wisdom, but life itself. Thomas came hoping for life against all common sense.     

            In contrast, there are many modern Christians who see Thomas as a no-nonsense, "scientific" query of Jesus's resurrection. I've heard plenty of sermons framing Thomas as a fierce logician, demanding facts, statistics, and reasoned proofs to strange claims. It's an appealing contrast to the the other apostles, who often seem dull and slow on the uptake. We don't want to be the ragtag, uneducated, faith-fueled criminals in the upper room - we want to be modern Thomas with a notebook and pencil, taking down notes and formulas.

            Regardless of which version of Thomas you like, the problem remains that understanding and believing in the resurrection has never been easy, even for the apostles who knew Jesus personally. The intervening millennia have further conditioned us Westerners to reject any information without concrete proof. When we step inside the church, we struggle to shed this black-and-white proof-bound thinking. But whether you are an Enlightenment fact-finder or an uncertain, half-believing spiritual seeker, Jesus answers both of us in the same way. Thomas's belief is answered with true resurrection, human flesh brought to full human life. The life of the Church hangs on this belief in the physical reality of Christ's resurrection.

            Belief doesn't get easier with time, either. Thomas's newly firm belief exemplifies this for us in Acts, where he was probably in the temple with Peter alongside the apostles. Living into the promise of resurrection has only caused further problems, with Jesus's most faithful followers arrested and threatened with a violent death. Despite his protests and apparent power, I think the high priest is coming close to the truth of resurrection, too, and he's horrified - if Peter is speaking the truth of resurrection and Jesus's blood is upon them, the consequences are dire. The priest is doing his best to not believe and continue with the status quo.

            Resurrection challenges us because Jesus's resurrected life is opposed to our world's ways of cruelty and death and we must begin our entire relationship with the world from scratch, rejecting death's power in favor of life. The apostles must have been terrified of speaking the truth to this earthly power. Yet with Jesus's very first resurrected appearance, He also gives His apostles the gift of the Holy Spirit as companion, strength, and guide. Jesus knows resurrection isn't easy, and in His great love, He provides for human weakness and fear before we even ask. As with the apostles in the temple, the Spirit stays alongside us and gives us strength to speak our truth, to claim the resurrected life for ourselves, while we are still blinking in the fresh air of that Easter day.

Betsy Noecker


What part of Thomas's seeking resonates with you? Is your faith filled with black-and-white or shades of gray?

Do you ask Jesus for signs for the sake of your faith? How do you see the Holy Spirit showing up in your life?

Are you offered comfort, humility, courage, faith, contrition, love, or something else?


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