Friday, January 23, 2009

My Lord and My God! (John 20:26-29)

26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Eight days after Jesus first appeared to the disciples, without Thomas present, he made another surprise appearance. The “eight days,” as was the custom in Jewish reckoning, included the first and last day; in other words, the first appearance was on a Sunday, and so was this one (In our counting system, we would say “seven days later”). St. John’s mention of it being eight days later is more than just a chronological detail, as Fr. Farley points out:

“It is liturgically significant that these first Resurrection appearances took place on a Sunday. Sunday, the first day of the week, became the Christian day, ‘the Lord’s day’(compare Rev. 1:10), the day when the defining act of Christian worship, the Eucharist, took place. Jews might continue to meet on the Sabbath, but Christians, as Christians, met on the first day of the week to commemorate the Resurrection.

“As can be seen from John’s designation of this as eight days later, the first day is also the eighth day—not just mathematically, but symbolically as well. For Sunday is the eighth day in the sense that it transcends the other seven days. In this age, the week has only seven days, and after counting seven days, one returns to the first day again. The eighth day, therefore, is the day outside of this age, the day of eternity, the day of the Kingdom. The Christian Sunday is the eighth day in that during this day we ascend to the Lord in our worship and enter the Kingdom, transcending the limitations of this age” (352-353, emphasis in original).

Jesus does not rebuke or condemn Thomas for his unbelief. Instead he invites him to look closely at his pierced hands and to place his hands in his side. By doing this, Jesus proves to Thomas that he was no ghost, but that he is truly the Lord Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. Immediately, Thomas’s doubt disappears. He does not even need to touch Jesus, but instead immediately cries out, “My Lord and my God!” In saying this, Thomas expressed more faith in Christ’s divinity than had anyone before him, for this is the first time in Scripture that anyone called Jesus “God.” Mere men do not rise from the dead in this way. From now on, Thomas and the other disciples will know that Jesus can only be properly addressed in the language of adoring worship. Fr. Farley has this to say about Thomas’ confession:

“Here is the high-water mark of faith in the Gospel. Others had confessed Jesus to be Lord and showed faith in His power (e.g. 9:38; 11:27). Here Thomas confesses Jesus not only to be his Lord, but his God as well. The confession with which John began his Gospel in 1:1 (saying “the Word was God” ) finds its fulfillment here in the Church’s confession of this truth, when Thomas confesses that Jesus is indeed God. This is the climax of John’s Gospel, the point to which all has been leading” (353).

Then Jesus pronounces a blessing on all who would believe after Jesus ascended into heaven. Not everyone who had seen the miraculous works of Jesus had believed in him. The disciples, including Thomas, believed because they saw. But as Jesus said, “blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed.” For this is what faith is, to receive things not seen. As St Paul wrote to the Hebrews, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (11:1). St. John Chrysostom, preaching 1600 years ago, spoke these words, which are as true today as they were then: “When therefore anyone in the present day [should] say, ‘I would that I had lived in those times, and had seen Christ working miracles,’ let them reflect that ‘Blessed are they who have not see, and have yet believe.’”

Great is the reward of the apostles and those who witnessed Jesus’ works and believed; greater still is the reward of those who have not seen and yet believe.


Paul said...

Fr. James,

Can you comment please on the verbage Lord versus God. King David uses the word Lord as well and we know it to mean Jesus as God at least when we try to evangelize others. How then does the word Lord here not mean God also? Thank you

Mike Fulton said...

Hey Paul:

I'm going to try to take a crack at this one.

I think in this case, St. Thomas might be utilizing Lord and God, hearkening back to what David said in the Psalms. Thomas not only is acknowledging Christ as God, but also as the Anointed One, the 'Lord' of Israel spoken about in Psalm 110.

The Greek word for Lord, Kyrios, in its very common usage refers not only to someone of noble or high birth, but it is also a term of respect used to refer to superiors similar to the English 'sir' or Spanish 'senor.' Translators of the Bible use the English 'sir' when referring to kyrios used in a common way (In fact, in the Resurrection account in the Gospel of John (20:15), Mary Magdelene mistakes Christ for the caretaker of the tombs. The word used to address him is kyrie - the vocative form of kyrios (i.e. Sir, if you have taken Him, tell me where you have laid Him, so I might take Him away). In a sense, this is ironic. She thinks this to be an unknown man before her, and out of respect she uses 'kyrie', not realizing she is speaking to the Kyrios of All!)

I hope that explains it a bit.

Fr. James Early said...

I would agree with what Michael said and add just one thing.

As I mentioned (or at least implied) in the post, many had called Jesus "Kyrios." Most had simply meant "sir." Some, including the disciples used "kyrios" in the sense of "master." But none before Thomas had called Jesus "theos," (God) which is yet another step up.

So, in summary, "Kyrios" can mean many things when a Jew uses the word, but "Theos" only means one thing (or better, one Person). It is one thing to call someone "kyrios," even if you do mean "master;" it is quite another thing to call him "theos" (especially for a Jew).

Did these comments help? If not, feel free to ask for clarification.

charlene said...

Father James,
Thank you for explaining the 8th day bit. I cannot count the number of times that I have wondered about what I was missing when "on the 3rd day He arose from the dead", if Christ died on Friday and was resurrected on Sunday, two calendar days later.
Could we perhapsimply here that when Jesus talk about blessing those who have NOT seen and yet believed, that Jesus was hinting at the ministry of the apostles? Their job, after all, was to convince those of us who would follow later that Jesus was indeed resurrected from the dead.

Paul said...

Yes, thank you both for the explanation. If I may press a little further, not that anyone reads "dated" posts, but what did King David mean when he said Psalm 110:1 "The LORD said to my Lord,“Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”

I think this is what you are referring to Reader Michael. Did he not mean "God said to my God?"

I feel so handicapped not knowing Greek!!!

Mike Fulton said...

Hmm. Well I am at a loss now because I don't know Hebrew! :-(

I'm not sure what word David is using in his Psalm for Lord. Perhaps 'Adonai'? It is used often when mentioning God in the Old Testament, but I looked the up the word in a dictionary. Apparently, the root a-d-n appears in many Semitic languages. In fact, it has even crept into some cultures, including Greek. The character Adonis gets his name from this as Adonis is simply the Semite root with a Greek ending.

But in the English text, LORD is all capitalized, signifying mention of God the Father while the other Lord is in regular text.

While Christ's divinity is definitely in type and prophecy within the Old Testament (Immanuel in Isaiah, etc), I would say that in a basic sense, David is referring to the Christ as being someone higher than himself. David, after all, being king at this time, is bold to say that there will come a man after him who will be greater.

This isn't a very common thing for an ancient king to admit to (especially a king like the Prophet David, who is practically the poster boy for the divine right of a king).

Sumerian and Greek epics are littered with kings who have this "You must die! I alone am best!" mentality.

If we read further as well, Psalm 110 also affirms the Messianic offices of priest and king in its imagery.

Fr. James Early said...

Again, I agree with what Michael has written. I'll add a little bit, since I did study Hebrew for one year (albeit MANY years ago!).

As Michael writes, English versions of Psalm 110 that are direct translations from the Hebrew (this would be nearly all modern versions, excepting the new OSB) capitalize the first LORD, so that we read "The LORD said to my Lord..."

Whenever you see LORD in all caps, that indicates that they are translating the Hebrew "Yahweh," which is the proper name of God--the name God used when He "introduced" Himself (if you will) to Moses. The second "Lord" is indeed "Adonai", which, like the Greek "kyrios," can mean simply "sir," or it can also mean "Lord" in the sense of "Master."

So, another way to translate the verse is "Yahweh said to my master" or even, "God said to my master." David was implying that God was speaking to someone who was greater than he. But he never identified exactly who he meant. He may not have known.

Both Jesus and the apostles understood that David was speaking prophetically of the Messiah when he used the term "adonai." So, they interpreted the verse to be a foreshadowing of God the Son. In other words, they took the verse to mean "Yahweh (or God the Father) said to God the Son"....

I hope that helps. Paul (and anyone else), keep the questions coming -- don't be shy. Michael, thanks for your help.

Fr. James Early said...


I think that Jesus was definitely hinting at the ministry of the apostles, who would indeed have to persuade people to believe without seeing.