“Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt, but believe.'” John 20:27 NRSV
In 1855 Judge John Bragg built his two story Greek revival style mansion on three acres with stately live oaks trees in Mobile, Alabama. Today the Bragg Mitchell Mansion is open for tours, weddings and other catered receptions.
When my family and I lived in Mobile, my wife, Priscilla, worked as a docent for the mansion. I had to pick her up late at night around 11:00 p.m. after she closed up and locked the doors. Whenever I went there, I got an eerie feeling. There were even rumors of ghosts appearing in this mansion.
Is this mansion really haunted with ghosts? Some visitors say they have seen the phantom cat. Others believe they have seen the ghost of Judge Bragg himself. And on Halloween night some say they have seen a ghostly figure of a young woman appearing from a second story window. She comes and looks for her long lost love who died in the Civil War.
Well, I’ve never seen a ghost there, but when picking up my wife in the darkness and stillness of the night, I always had a touch of fear in my heart.
Was Jesus a ghost? Was He a mere apparition when He appeared to His disciples in that locked room after His resurrection?
The story of the resurrected Jesus appearing to the disciple, Thomas, assures us that Jesus was not a ghost nor a mere image of Himself. Jesus appeared to His disciples a week earlier, but Thomas was not there. All he wanted was to see was what the other disciples had seen – a resurrected Jesus in the flesh.
Then it happened – a second appearance of the resurrected Jesus to His disciples. This time Thomas was there. Thomas saw Jesus in all of his humanity with scars in the wounds in his hands and the scar of His pierced side. That was enough for Thomas to throw off his skepticism and doubt and he shouted to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” (vs. 28) That was Thomas’ shout of faith. That was his shout from his heart to believe in the Christ who would never leave or forsake him and all others who have not seen and yet believe in Him. (See 20:29)
Do you have doubts? Do you doubt God’s presence while you struggle with this pandemic with the Covid 19 virus? Thousands have died. Many more are ill from the virus. Our once strong economy has been shut down to great extents. Jobs are lost. Businesses have been closed down until further notice. We wonder with anxiety when the country will be opened again and when there will be a vaccine development for our safety. Doubts play havoc with our minds and we feel insecure.
But Jesus’ presence is indeed with us. We see it in many ways.
We see His divine presence through doctors, nurses, and medical technicians who risk their lives to save the sick.
We see His divine presence through medical researchers using their knowledge in labs to develop a vaccine for immunization.
We see His divine presence through grocery store, transportation and pharmacy workers who do their best to supply us with food and prescription drugs.
We see His divine presence through churches and synagogues who livestream bible studies and worship services.
We see His diving presence through media professionals who provide news and commentary about the global fight against this virus.
We see His divine presence through the government which provides loans and other means of cash to keep families going while there is so much self isolation and shuttered businesses.
And see His divine presence through corporations who have joined together to manufacture medical supplies.
The presence of God works through them all. The resurrected Jesus is present with those who suffer to give them hope, peace and healing. The promised Holy Spirit is the one who provides strength to all who do good works to care and feed the hungry, the poor, the lonely and the grieving. We are not left to ourselves during this pandemic. This Jesus who defeated the power of sin, death and the devil is strong enough to appear to us through all who work together for the common good in our distress.
Twice in today’s gospel the living Jesus said to His disciples, “Peace be with you.” The peace Jesus gives to us calms our restless hearts. And during this time when anxiety heightens and insecurities rise, we rely and trust in the peace which only the Resurrected Christ can give.
Jesus lives for you and for me.
Jesus is risen from the dead and into the lives of all believers.
Thanks be to God!
(See M.A. Kleen – writer, traveler, photographer and Wikipedia for information on the Bragg Mitchell Mansion; photo of Bragg Mitchell Mansion from Wikipedia.)