In the RCL, this passage appears on Easter II (April 23, 2017)
This is a rich enough story to preach on every year. There are so many
directions! I am struck by a strange wrinkle in John's Greek that
leaves Jesus with a new title: "Jesus of locked doors." The literal
Greek offers one this translation possibility; the narrative certainly
pushes us in this direction. But this text is a gold mine of words and
images to preach on!
λεγει ("speak", 20.19) The verb here for "speak" is the present tense, which suggests repeated action: He continually was saying to them, "Peace be with you."
("you all" in the dative, 20:19). The Greek leaves out the word "is"
in the sentence, simply declaring "Peace to you." Hence, the Greek is a
bit more ambiguous here as to whether Jesus is offering a blessing or
making a statement: "Peace is with you" could work. All that the Greek
has is "Peace to/for/with/by/in you."
20.19) The word for "door" or "gate" here is θυρα; this word is used
in other Gospels to talk about the entrance to Jesus tomb. It can be
hard to make cross-Gospel connections, so a bit simpler: Jesus calls
himself the θυρα, or the Gate in John's Gospel
(10:1-9). See also:
κεκλεισμενων ("locked", 20.26) The text
literally reads: "The Jesus of
locked doors/gates came stood into the middle of them." This is a very
placement/case of the expression "locked doors/gates." It may modify
the circumstances under which Jesus came (ie, Jesus came in after the gates were locked), but it might also modify
Jesus. This is the more exciting possibility: It could read "Jesus came while the doors were locked"
or "Jesus of locked gates came." The former is the more likely
translation, but John seems to suggest the latter through his narrative.
vs πιμπω ("send", 20.21) Jesus here will use different verbs for the
father's sending and his sending of the disciples, αποστελλω vs πιμπω .
Don't read into this. John just likes to use variety. See 8.29 and
17.18 for examples of Jesus using these verbs interchangeably.
(aorist form of "breath-in", 20.22) The verb "breath-in" is a rather
rare verb in biblical Greek, appearing once in the NT and nine times in
the OT Greek. Significantly, in the OT it shows up in Genesis 2:7, when
God breathes into the humans; in 1 Kings when Elijah revives a boy and
also in Ezekiel 37, when God's Spirit breathes into the bones. The
disciples are coming alive!
κεκρατηνται (perfect forms of αφηιμι & κρατω, meaning "forgive"
and "hold", 20.23) The verb tenses of "forgiven" (αφεωνται) and "bound"
(κεκρατηνται) are in the present for the disciple's actions, but in the
perfect tense for the result -- the effect is lasting. Actually, the
tense for forgive is in the aorist and the tense for bound is present.
This suggests that binding/retaining a sin takes energy -- we have to
keep it up...I think this is true on an individual level, where
retaining a sin takes energy as we hold a grudge. I think this also is
true on a societal level, where calling something a sin and continuing
to claim it as such takes energy too.
ου μη ("no-no", 20.25) The ου μη that Thomas uses is a strong future denial meaning "ou meh," as in "will never."
("eight", 20.26) The number eight here is a reminder that Christians
gather on the 8th day, the day after the (Jewish) Sabbath, the day of
resurrection. Baptismal fonts have eight sides...
("unfaithful", 20.27) Thomas never "doubts" as a verb. The word
doubt is not used, but rather, unfaithful! Jesus says literally, "Do
not be unfaithful but faithful." Side note: I've often wondered if
Thomas struggled to believe the resurrection more emotionally than
intellectually because he knew exactly what it meant if Jesus had been
raised -- they would all have their lives totally changed...exactly what
happened to Thomas, even traveling to India to proclaim Jesus is Risen!