In John 20, when the risen Jesus finally comes to his disciples, they’re huddled together in some secret location behind a locked door. They’re afraid that the Jewish authorities that manufactured the death of Jesus will come for his followers now and finish the job. Even so, Jesus walks right through the locked door, as if to say that in the new creation wrought by his resurrection, there is no barrier erected by fear that can keep Jesus out. New creation will not be denied. Jesus says to them, “Peace be with you.” Actually, he says it twice. The first word from the risen Jesus to the group of his disciples is peace. Peace in the Bible is wholeness and harmony, nothing out of joint. There is nothing left to be afraid of because nothing is out of joint in the new creation. Jesus also breathes on the disciples, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” just as God breathed new life into the first human in Genesis 2.
Unfortunately, the apostle Thomas is absent for all this. He shows up later in the day and the others excitedly declare to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But Thomas isn’t having it. Unless he can see and touch Jesus for himself, he “will not believe.” For this, tradition has dubbed him “Doubting Thomas.” It’s not quite a fair title, for in Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts doubt is experienced by all the disciples at the sight of the risen Jesus. Plus, Thomas’ doubt has nothing to do with laziness or foolishness, but with grief. His grief is too fresh, too painful to open himself back up to hope and joy just yet. He will believe with his eyeballs and the nerves at the end of his fingertips, but he will not believe with anything deeper than that.
A whole week passes by, eight days to be exact. Again the disciples are gathered, Thomas present this time. Again they’ve locked the door to their secret location. And again Jesus appears by walking right through that locked door. He immediately fixes on Thomas. “Put your finger here and see my hands,” Jesus says. “My Lord and my God!” Thomas cries out. Now Thomas believes, though not without a gentle rebuke from Jesus. “Do you believe because you’ve seen me? Blessed are those who believe without seeing.”
Since the end of John 19, we’ve been knee deep in the language of Genesis. Jesus is buried and raised in a garden. He’s taken by Mary Magdalene as the one who cultivates the garden. Jesus breathes new life into his followers. Even the mere mention of the passing of eight days has us reading the book of Genesis without realizing it. Seven is the number of creation. The number seven tells us that creation is complete and completely good. Now the number eight tells us that Jesus is in the act of re-creating, beginning something new, something bursting forth with life.
Jesus is breathing into us his new reality of peace in which fear and doubt have no power over us. Wherever there are barriers keeping us locked in by fear and doubt, the risen Jesus will walk right through into our lives with a word of peace, not simply offering new life, but breathing it directly into our bodies. We live in the eighth day. New creation will not be denied.