Our scripture readings for Wednesday of Holy Week come from the Gospel of John, chapter 16, reading first of all verses 16 and 17.
"In a little while you won't see me anymore. Then in a little while you will see me again." Some of his disciples said to each other, "What does he mean? He tells us that in a little while we won't see him. Then he tells us that in a little while we will see him again and that he's going to the Father." So they were asking each other, "What does he mean when he says, 'In a little while'? We don't understand what he's talking about."
I wonder, can you imagine this conversation had continued? We don’t know who the disciples are, but I’d think Peter and Thomas were among them. Peter, the rock, and Thomas, the doubter. Imagine Thomas speaking up first: saying:
“Is it just me, or are the rest of you having the same trouble as I am trying to work out what Jesus is telling us? We won’t see him, we will see him? Now you see me, now you don’t? I mean, once he’s gone he’s gone, isn’t he? I don’t want him to go, I want him to stay, and to be honest I’m just as confused about where he’s going, and why he’s got to go there. He says he’s going to the Father, that means he’s going to be with God, doesn’t it? And if that’s right, it sounds like a one-way street to me. If he’s telling us he’s going to the Father, he’s telling us he’s going to leave us, he’s going to die. And you don’t come back from that, nobody sees you after that.”
“Don’t be so sure, Thomas,” says Peter, in my mind. “Remember Lazarus? Remember when Lazarus was dead, it wasn’t so long ago, and Jesus just said, ‘Come forth’ and he did? Remember the widow at Na’in’s son? ‘Young man, get up,’ Jesus said, and he did. Remember Jairus’s daughter? ‘Just believe’, he said. If he can do it for others, he can do it for himself. Don’t doubt it, Thomas.”
He’s still not sure, Thomas says: “That’s the trouble, I’m not sure – I do doubt it. I won’t believe until I’ve seen it for myself, I’m going to want hard evidence. You’ve always been the strong one of us, but sometimes I think you’re a little bit blinded too, a little bit too quick to take everything Jesus says as the gospel truth. Let me ask you a question, Peter – no, three questions. Do you believe he’s the son of God? Do you believe he can die but not die? And will you follow him come what may?”
Peter, says: “Three questions, and the answer is the same to each of them – yes, yes, and yes. Don’t doubt, Thomas, I’ll never change my mind. Today, tomorrow, never.” Peter, the man who would deny Jesus the day after.
Our scripture reading continues from verse 19:
Jesus knew they wanted to ask him something. So he said to them, "Are you trying to figure out among yourselves what I meant when I said, 'In a little while you won't see me, and in a little while you will see me again'? I can guarantee this truth: You will cry because you are sad, but the world will be happy. You will feel pain, but your pain will turn to happiness. A woman has pain when her time to give birth comes. But after the child is born, she doesn't remember the pain anymore because she's happy that a child has been brought into the world.
"Now you're in a painful situation. But I will see you again. Then you will be happy, and no one will take that happiness away from you. When that day comes, you won't ask me any more questions. I can guarantee this truth: If you ask the Father for anything in my name, he will give it to you. So far you haven't asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive so that you can be completely happy.
"I have used examples to illustrate these things. The time is coming when I won't use examples to speak to you. Rather, I will speak to you about the Father in plain words. When that day comes, you will ask for what you want in my name. I'm telling you that I won't have to ask the Father for you. The Father loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I left the Father and came into the world. Again, [as I've said,] I'm going to leave the world and go back to the Father."
Amen, and may God bless our reading of his Word this evening.
My imagined conversation between the disciples continues:
“So, Thomas, are you satisfied now?” Says Peter, “He says we’ll be sad, but the world will be happy. He says we’ll feel pain, but it won’t last. He is leaving us, but he will return. It doesn’t come plainer than that.”
The doubter starts to understand: “I‘m getting it now,” he says. “Remember a while back when he said ‘You know the way that leads to the place I’m going’ and I said we don’t know where’s he’s going, so how can we know how to get there? Well, that’s starting to make sense now too. He goes to the Father, but he came from the Father, he is the Father – we have known God, we know God. And for God, the Father, anything and everything is possible. I’ll still believe better once we’ve seen him go and seen him come back, but for now his word well, it’s good enough for me.”
The way I imagine Peter replying is a message for us all, especially in the world we’re living in right now: “His word is good enough for all of us,” says Peter, “this time is a painful time and I know there’s more pain to come. We have to lose to gain, but it’ll be worth it in the end. He’s given us the hope we need.”