The More Things Change . . . (Reflections on John 20:19-31)

From WOWMAN123 at

I had a really great Easter this year. The weather for the sunrise service was spectacular, as was the food at our Easter breakfast. We had a full house for worship and sang one Hallelujah after another. I ate lunch (that I didn’t have to cook) with family and delighted in watching my nephews and granddaughter hunt Easter eggs. . . . Then I woke up on Monday morning and realized that the coming week was basically going to be like the past weeks: worship to plan, sermon to write, meetings to attend. It was all pretty . . . anticlimactic.

If I feel this way just reading the Easter story, how must the disciples have felt living it? The disciples were having a weird day. They woke up to Mary shouting about Jesus being not in the tomb. There was some hubbub and then they went back to hiding out in fear. And then the dead/not dead Jesus shows up like a ghost with battle scars, says he’s sending them, breathes the Holy Spirit into them—this amazing Spirit he has been promising them—and then, I guess, he leaves. It doesn’t really say where Jesus goes. The scene just ends abruptly, and the next thing we read is, “After eight days.” Eight days.

Have you ever had an experience where something happened that you thought was something big? Something life-changing? Something that seemed to promise a dramatic change, a big event, and then . . . nothing really happened? Your life didn’t instantly transform.
• You pursue an exciting job opportunity that fizzles—or you get the job and it’s . . . a job.
• You find the perfect house, but the offer falls through—or you get the house but there are still dirty dishes to wash every night.
• You meet someone you think could be really special in your life, and then they just kind of fade away—or they stick around and you love them but they are annoying sometimes.
• You have a really meaningful experience that convinces you that you will make a change you need to make: exercise, eat better, deal with money stuff, work on a relationship—only you just don’t quite do it.

Jesus had showed up to the disciples eight days ago. Said he was sending them. Breathed the Holy Spirit into them. But it doesn’t seem like much has actually happened.

“After eight days” the disciples are “again in the house” behind closed doors. Have they been cowering in fear the whole time? Have they been going about their lives and are just having a little reunion? When Jesus was there before he said: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” But it doesn’t seem like they have gone anywhere. Jesus shows up again, shows Thomas his wounds, and disappears again.

The Resurrection, the breathing in of the Spirit—these events are, in a very real and deep sense, life-changing for the disciples. And yet, it’s difficult to tell in these final chapters of John’s Gospel, exactly how it changes their lives.

Maybe Easter works the same for us. Maybe it doesn’t change our lives in the ways or at the speed or to the extent that we hope or expect. The changes may take a while, the transformations may be subtle. And whatever change God works in us through the Holy Spirit, we will remain the people we are. Wherever the Divine sends us, it is us that God sends.

We are changed by the power of the Spirit, and we are, as Peter and Thomas show us in the final chapters of John, always still our own unique selves. We are sent by God, but sometimes we are not sent far—maybe just to the person next to us.

Easter changes everything. And so much stays the same. Jesus was resurrected, and he still had the nail marks in his hands, the wound on his side.

This reflection is excerpted from a sermon I preached last year.

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