The proselyte is dearer to G-d than all the Israelites who stood by Mount Sinai.
An examination of Yochanan/John 20:19-31
20:19-20 So when it was evening on that day, Yom Rishon—the first day of the week, and when the doors were locked where the Talmidim—disciples—were, for fear of the Judean leaders, Yeshua came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Shalom Aleichem—Peace be (is) unto (with) you.” 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His wrists and His side. The Talmidim then rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
The disciples’ day had started with an hysterical woman telling them Yeshua had been taken away, now as they continued to sit shiva—seven days of grieving—gathered in a locked room—for fear of the ruling authorities, they are suddenly faced with Yeshua Himself.
Yochanan—John—and Kefa—Peter—had probably passed on the message of the angels concerning Yeshua’s resurrection to the others—who may well have consisted of the wider group of followers rather than the eleven only, including the likes of Joseph of Arimathea as well as family members. As first century Jews they gathered together in support of one another through the grieving process, meals would be brought and cooked, prayers of mourning—praise to HaShem—chanted. This would go on into the evening for seven days.
For some reason T’oma—Thomas—wasn’t present. Why wasn’t T’oma there? Perhaps, like many of us, he needed some personal space to grieve? Maybe he had gone out briefly to get food for the group or maybe he was keeping watch outside in case the authorities came? We simply can’t know for sure why he was absent. What we do know is that Yeshua knew T’oma would be absent and purposed to reveal Himself to T’oma on a later occasion for the purpose of further proof testimony regarding the resurrection and Messiah’s identity as G-d with us.
“Shalom Aleichem.” This familiar Hebrew greeting is said three times by Yeshua over the next few verses. So, what does it mean? This greeting is still used by Jews today, it carries its ancient meaning into our present lives, “I wish you Peace, wholeness, completion, security, structural soundness,” Literally, “Peace is with you,” or “Peace be unto you.” If we keep in mind that the speaker is Peace Himself--Sar Shalom, the Prince of Peace—and that He will soon symbolically breathe that already present comfort into the room, then this simple phrase takes on an almost unfathomable relevance. Peace--Yeshua—breathes--Ruach ha-Kodesh, the comforter into the presence of those who are willing to receive Him.
We might read, “The Prince of Peace is with you,” or “I give you Myself,” or “Let My presence calm you.” Shalom Aleichem then becomes the pretext to all relational contact with the risen Messiah. If He is Peace Himself to those who receive Him, then it follows that when He enters the locked rooms of our core being, that peace will ensue. It’s then that He shows us His scars. Notice that it is after seeing His scars that the Talmidim rejoiced. Without the shedding of blood there can be no covering for sin, He has suffered for us, He has risen for us. In our own suffering we are able to turn to our advocate and recognize the scars of His suffering, He suffers with us and in us, because He lives forevermore. He is no longer dead but alive and it is in the knowledge of this eternal security that we rejoice and find hope.
The Talmidim know this is the same Yeshua they saw crucified. There is no disputing the empirical metaphysical evidence standing before them.
So how did He walk through the wall? It seems as if John—the writer of this gospel—went to lengths to set the scene, he describes the locked doors, the fear, the night, why? Because men don’t walk through locked doors, they knock on them or unlock them. On the other hand gods don’t suffer wounds, or carry the scares of old injuries. Yeshua has a physical body, it’s just not the same as the physical bodies of His disciples, He is the first born from the dead. Why first born and not first risen? Because risen is the same body as before but born is the wheat from the seed, the child from the egg, new life, without decay, the second Adam. If the first Adam was filled with life through the Ruach ha-Kodesh—Holy Spirit—then the Second Adam—G-d with us—will surely breathe life into the new creation—His Church. Yeshua then is G-d with us breathing life into the new creation.
20:21 So Yeshua said to them again, “Shalom Aleichem—Peace be (is) unto (with) you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
“Remember, I am Peace and I am with you. Just as The Father has sent you Peace, I am sending you to reveal Peace to others.” We have been called “Sent Ones” for this reason. The very fact that we are sent affirms that our peace is not of ourselves but of G-d, our peace is the Prince of Peace. We are now sent by Messiah to fill the world, a light to the nations. Shalom means that in Him--Shalom—we are complete, structurally sound, whole, safe and peace-filled. We fool ourselves if we believe otherwise.
20:22 And when He had said this, He breathed in and out, and said to them, “Receive the Ruach ha-Kodesh—Holy Spirit.
This breath is a proclamation of what Yeshua now already observes outside of time, that within time’s future you will all receive the Ruach ha-Kodesh—Shavuot/Pentecost. It is also a present revelation to the Talmidim, Peace--Yeshua—and comfort--Ruach ha-Kodesh—are now here. So what is the result of this?
20:23 If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”
As a result of the revelation of Peace that the resurrected Messiah has given His disciples, He reveals a practical lesson on what peace looks like in action, within time: anyone you choose to forgive will be forgiven from your perspective, this forgiveness will empty you of turmoil and hatred, you will no longer suffer the destructive effects of un-forgiveness and the resulting malice and sickness that follow it. On the other hand, if you choose not to forgive someone, the resulting resentment and festering hatred within you will steel your peace and affect your emotional, spiritual and physical health. Therefore from our perspective those we forgive have been released into the hands of G-d for judgment, we are free from the dark weight of the crime committed against us, those who’s sin against us we refuse to forgive will be retained within us and cause us to lose sight of Messiah’s Peace.
This verse can also be interpreted to refer to the benefit that the spreading of Messiah’s peace filled gospel message will have upon those who hear it. Meaning that those who receive the gospel willingly, are forgiven and free but for those who refuse the gospel, the benefit of forgiveness is retained by the Disciples or preachers of the gospel.
20:24-25 But T’oma--Thomas, one of the twelve, called “the twin,” was not with them when Yeshua came. 25 So the other Talmidim were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His wrists the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
I like T’oma, he’s the guy who said, “Let’s go too so that we can die with Him!”—concerning Lazarus’s resurrection. Let’s face it, the other Talmidim had the evidence right in front of them, why wouldn’t they believe? T’oma on the other hand had nothing but the word of a bunch of guys who, only days ago, had fled like unbelieving scaredy-cats. Hardly the most reliable witnesses. So, “enough of this hearsay says T’oma, show me da money!” Some say there is no room for doubt or skepticism in the Messianic journey, I say without doubt faith can’t exist. T’oma wants to see the risen Messiah for himself. I’m not sure I’d be as keen as he is to put my finger into the open wounds but whatever floats his boat I guess?
20:26- Eight days later His Talmidim were again inside, and T’oma with them. Yeshua came, the doors having been locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Shalom Aleichem—Peace be (is) unto/with you.”
Eight days is important to Jews, eight is a number of new beginnings, and Biblically speaking eight is a number symbolic of completion and renewal. This fits perfectly into this account, both literally and metaphorically.
The doors were locked again when Yeshua came to stand amongst them—spirits don’t stand, they float.
Again He speaks peace to them. T’oma of course is hearing this for the first time since Yeshua’s resurrection.
20:27 Then He said to T’oma, “Reach here with your finger, and see My wrists; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; stop doubting and believe.”
So Yeshua says, “Stick your finger in the hole in my wrist, poke it into the cut in my side, you’ve got the evidence now, so stop your skepticism and accept the reality of this situation.” Yeshua is not necessarily rebuking T’oma for his doubt/skepticism, He’s simply saying, “Now that you have the evidence it’s time to move on.”
20:28 T’oma answered and said to Him, “Adoni v’lohay—My Lord and my God!”
T’oma clearly believes the evidence but more than that, he believes that Yeshua is G-d with us. If Yeshua is not G-d with us then T’oma just participated in the ultimate blasphemy.
20:29 Yeshua said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
Yeshua doesn’t rebuke T’oma for blasphemy, rather He affirms his belief and adds a blessing for those who will believe because of the testimony of the likes of T’oma. G-d does not take kindly to men who claim deity. In Acts 12:20-23 we read of the gruesome death of Herod when he fails to give glory to G-d after being called a god by the people. Why then does Yeshua go unpunished? It is because He is G-d. Therefore T’oma’s statement is a statement of fact, Yeshua is L-rd and G-d—with us.
Then Yeshua blesses you and me. He says we are blessed because we have believed even though we have not seen the evidence T’oma has seen. We believe his testimony, we believe the testimony of the gospel writer and so according to Yeshua, we are blessed.
It is interesting to note that this same sentiment is recorded in rabbinical literature as follows:
“The proselyte is dearer to G-d than all the Israelites who stood by Mount Sinai. For if all the Israelites had not seen the thunder and the flames and the lightenings and the quaking mountain and the sound of the shofar they would not have accepted the Torah—Instruction—and taken upon themselves the kingdom of G-d. Yet this man has seen none of all these thing yet comes and gives himself to G-d and takes on himself the yoke of the kingdom of G-d. Is there any who is dearer than this man?
—Rabbi Simeon ben Laqish, Tanchuma 6:32a (AD 250)
20:30-31 Therefore many other signs Yeshua also performed in the presence of the Talmidim, which are not written in this book;31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
Note the word signs in the text. In a first century Jewish context miracles are not simply understood as heaven invading earth, miracles are directly related to Israel’s prophetic history, her present and future, her prophets are identified by specific miracles, her hopes are triggered by them. Every action born of Messiah is a sign to Israel that the Kingdom of G-d has come. It is this kind of sign to which John is referring. This is why he has chosen specific examples of Yeshua’s miraculous signs to appear in an order that will best reveal to his readers the very real testimonial evidence for Yeshua’s deity and Kingship as Messiah of Israel and ruler of the nations. John is passing on the reality of G-d with us, ha-D’var—the Word become flesh.
All this so that we might “believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of G-d; and that believing you may have life in His name.” Life born in the soil of His scares and watered with the rain of His blood and spread in the wind of His Spirit in order to seed the nations with light and peace. The Light of the Prince of Peace. From our inception Israel has been called to be a light to the nations. Our name Y’isra—overcome—El—G-d—means to overcome in G-d. In Messiah we are able to overcome sin and self-delusion, thus we begin to fulfill our calling—in Messiah, outside of time, our calling is seen, complete.
It is for freedom He has set us free!
© 2014 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.