An unexpected appearance.
Christ Appears to the Apostles Behind Closed Doors, by Duccio di Buoninsegna ca. 1255 – 1319
For a week now they had been keeping a low profile. Whilst not in hiding, they were taking care to do nothing that might draw attention to themselves. As a precaution, none of them went out alone and when they did go out it was only for necessities, coming straight back after finishing whatever errand they went on. Didymus and Mary were out at the market, buying food for the evening meal.
The remaining men in the upper room were talking quietly amongst themselves, as they had been doing for most of the week, inside the locked room. It was not locked to keep them in but to keep others out, because they were afraid, and they only unlocked it to re-admit one of their own. From time-to-time a voice would become raised as discussion turned to argument, the speaker quickly told to hush by the others, fearful that too much noise might draw unwanted attention to themselves.
Outside, the shadows were lengthening and light failing. as the sun dipped towards the horizon; Soon they would have to light the lamps. The last rays of the sun shone through the windows and where it fell was lit brightly by the warm, evening light. Away from the windows, where those last shafts of light did not reach, the shadows deepened until they seemed even darker than the night that would soon come. Yet as dark as those shadows were, in the darkest corner of the room it seemed to darken even more, thickening into an impenetrable, obsidian blackness.
Bartholomew saw it first then the others, who after noticing he had fallen silent, turned to follow his eyes to where he was staring. Most of then stayed stock still, frozen to the spot they occupied with some holding their breath. Philip and Thaddeus moved closer to the locked door, ready to make their escape. Finally James, the Son of Alphaeus, reached for a lamp and after a couple of unsuccessful attempts at lighting it a small flame spluttered into life. Picking up the lamp and holding it out in front of himself, he moved slowly closer to the darkened corner.
As he approached and the flickering light from the guttering flame reached out, they began to make out the shape of a man, a moment later the man moved. With an unhurried but sure footstep he came forward, stepping past James and into the last shaft of sunlight in the room. Those closest took an involuntary step back and James dropped the lamp, spilling the oil, and at the same time his jaw dropped at the sight of who it was that stood before them. When the lamp hit the floor and shattered, everyone who had not already moved also jumped, startled. Fortunately, when the lamp dropped it went out, so it did not ignite the spilled oil, just left a slippery mess on the floor, seeping away through the rough floor, and greasy splashes around the bottom of the robes of those standing closest.
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were the first to speak, saying, almost together, “Teacher”. Everyone in that room had witnessed miracles but still found this one beyond their wildest imagination. Even those who had believed Mary Magdelene, when she had first returned from the open tomb a week earlier and said their teacher was alive, were taken aback. A second later there was a joyous uproar in the room at the ten men there saw their Lord alive and well, if still bearing scars, and they all rushed forward to greet him.
As the uproar began to subside so that he might be heard, Jesus said “Peace be with you.” He had to repeat it to get their full attention. He continued “As the Father has sent me I am sending you.” and as he breathed the Holy Spirit over them he went on “Receive the Holy Spirit”.
Diddymus and Mary had not returned from the market in time to see Jesus’ appearance. When they were told about how he had appeared to them, Didymus would not believe them. He wanted to see it for himself.
Another week went by and when all eleven of his remaining disciples were again gathered together in the locked upper room, Jesus appeared a second time to them. After the greetings had been exchanged, he addressed himself directly to Didymus. He knew that, that disciple had doubts and needed reassurance and so Jesus showed him his wounds, where the nails had pierced his hands and feet and the spear had stabbed into his side.
Didymus reached out tentatively, twice withdrawing his hand, wanting to touch the Master but fearing to do so. He did not know if he was more afraid that this was Jesus come back to them, or that it was not the man he had known. Eventually, needing proof one way or the other, he resolved to touch the wounds.
Meeting Jesus eyes fully for the first time, he pointed to the wound in Jesus’ hand and was given an almost imperceptible nod of permission. Closing the distance from pointing to touching Didymus gently felt the uneven swelling around the wound in his master’s hand and the deep depression where the nail had penetrated. As he touched his friend and teacher, he could not help a sharp in take of breath just as Jesus had done when the first nail was driven through into the rough cross.
Didymus eyes flicked back and forth between Jesus face and his side, while he reached to where Jesus had parted his robe, exposing the angry scar where the spear had gone in. He ran his finger tips gently along the scar, carefully so as not to cause any more pain by his touch. A moment later Didymus, usually know as Thomas, fell to his knees grazing them on the rough wood floor and, clutching at Jesus robe, he cried out “My Lord, my God”.
Based on John 20: 19-31