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Gospel of John 20: 19-28 (NIV)
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Twice in this passage from John’s Gospel, when the disciples were gathered at a place with doors locked, “Jesus came and stood among them” (verses 19, 26). Locked doors and, presumably, walls were no hindrance to the resurrected Jesus. Three days after his beatings at the hands of the Jews and the Roman soldiers, his new body seemed to be “healed” yet he still bore the scars in his hands and his side. Why?
Did Jesus choose to retain scars in order to convince some who doubted that it was indeed he? If this were so, why did he did not need to demonstrate scars to the two he encountered on the road to Emmaus? Initially “they were kept from recognising him” (Luke 24: 16) but later, “when he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him” (Luke 24: 30, 31).
When Jesus appeared to the Apostle John on the island of Patmos, his appearance was “‘like a son of man’, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash round his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like a blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters” (Revelation 1: 13-15).
Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance seems to have been different according to whom he chose to meet. Perhaps he does this deliberately, knowing the situation of each person whom he chooses to greet and using a presence suited to the needs of that person at that specific time. Ford* wrote, “We cannot see the risen Christ, although he be walking with us, unless he wills to disclose himself.” When Jesus chooses to disclose himself, it is for a purpose: to meet people in their immediate needs, needs known perhaps only to him, and to encourage them to put full faith in him.
*DW Cleverley Ford, A reading of Saint Luke’s Gospel, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1967.