FROM THE GOSPEL OF ST. John 20:19-31


Following the Easter story of Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene, two

parallel stories in John explore the responses of disciples to the

message of his resurrection. Although Thomas is often singled out as

deficient in belief, his story shares much in common with the response

of the disciples as a whole. The twin accounts present the disciples as

both believing and disbelieving. The gift of the Holy Spirit enlivens

the disciples to continue Jesus’ ministry without rendering them perfect



Thomas is missing when the other disciples encounter Jesus. Yet he hears

from them the same proclamation they heard from Mary Magdalene: “We have

seen the Lord!” (20:25; cf. 20:18). Like Thomas, the disciples were not

immediately transformed by Mary’s proclamation of the good news. They

remain behind locked doors, where they are gathered out of fear (20:19).

Like Thomas, the disciples only respond with joy to Jesus’ presence

after he shows them his hands and his side (20:20, 27). Although

doubting Thomas” gets his reputation from this story, his response of

unbelief is not unique, but instead is typical of disciples of Jesus.


Had the disciples achieved a perfect or complete belief following Jesus’

Resurrection?  Much of the language of the Farewell Discourse

has led readers to expect that it will. Jesus has spoken of a

future time when the disciples would “know” (14:20), “testify” (15:27)

and “do greater works” than Jesus has done (14:12). Although they

manifest doubt during Jesus’ earthly life, the language of the Farewell

Discourse suggests a future time when the disciples overcome these



The disciples are not presented simply as believers, even after

Jesus’ resurrection. Even after his first appearance and the gift of the

Holy Spirit (also foreseen in the Farewell Discourse (14:16-17), the

disciples remain behind locked doors the second week as well (20:26).

They proclaim the Easter message, “We have seen the Lord!” but their

actions do not fully match their understanding. Although the narrator

proclaims “blessed” the one who has not seen and yet has believed

(20:29), this is true of none of Jesus’ disciples. Instead, John

portrays the disciples as still reaching toward belief in Jesus.


The Apostles were gathered in prayer and the prayer they prayed is

“We believe, Lord: help our unbelief.”