We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Three Kinds of Doubt – Salt’s Lectionary Commentary for Easter 2

Big Picture:


1) This is the second week of Eastertide (there are seven such weeks, poetically one more than the six weeks of Lent). Our primary guide for this season will be the Gospel of John: this week and next are stories of the risen Jesus appearing to his followers, and the following four weeks will explore Jesus’ teachings about faith and intimacy with God.

2) A recurring theme in the resurrection appearance stories is how early Christian communities struggled to perceive and believe. For starters, the risen Jesus isn’t recognized at first. Mary Magdalene thinks he’s the local gardener, and as we’ll see next week, the disciples don’t recognize him on the beach (John 20:15; 21:4). Likewise, in Luke, two of Jesus’ followers have an extended conversation with him (and about him!) without realizing who he is (Luke 24:13-27). In this way, both John and Luke go out of their way to suggest that resurrection means something more mysterious than simple resuscitation: Jesus has risen, and at the same time he is somehow different. Part of what’s going on here is early Christian communities wrestling with the fact that great crowds didn’t notice Jesus’ return (as they did, for example, in the case of Lazarus’ resurrection (see John 12:9)). Jesus is back, but only a few have eyes to see that it’s really him; even his closest followers need help.

3) John organizes his Gospel around seven astounding wonders that reveal Jesus’ identity and mission. John’s name for these events – “signs” – is a clue to their purpose: they’re supposed to catch our attention (even catch our breath!), drawing us toward what for John is the whole point: life with and in God. But amazement doesn’t always work that way. It’s only too easy to get caught up in the miraculous “signs” and miss the larger mission – pulling the car over, so to speak, to ooh and ahh at a road sign pointing us toward our destination… instead of moving on to the destination itself!

4) And as it turns out, this tension is a running theme throughout John’s Gospel. Jesus repeatedly scolds the crowds (and his disciples) for focusing too much on signs, urging them to move on to higher, more important matters. In the scene featuring the second sign, Jesus is exasperated: “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe” (John 4:48). A little later, he calls on those around him to take another step: Don’t fixate on how I fed five thousand with a few loaves; shift your understanding into a higher gear, and see how I’m offering you the bread of life itself – indeed, see how I am that bread! (John 6:26-35). This tension between dazzling signs and genuine faith runs through the whole Gospel, culminating in this week’s passage, the risen Jesus’ encounter with Thomas: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (John 20:29). Read more from SALT