2nd of Easter – Thomas and Safe Environments (3)
The way Jesus treated the disciples, including Thomas tells us something about how he treats us (in the midst of fears) and what “whose sins you retain are retained” means.
Popular interpretation of this passage carries the image of the priest-confessor deciding the adequacy of a) confession of sins in kind and number and b) the person’s firm resolution to never sin. Should he deem it insufficient, he can withhold absolution.
Let’s look at Jesus’ practice in John 20:
- Jesus gave them the peace that we will enjoy only on the Last Day. Did he ‘retain’ their sins?
- Jesus engaged Thomas, after granting them all again “Peace.” He welcomed his exploration of his wounds. Did he ‘retain’ his sins?
And let’s look at various translations of the verb, krateo, to determine their adequacy:
Isaiah 41:12–14 You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all. For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Do not fear, I will help you.” Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you insect Israel! I will help you, says the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
Isaiah 42:6f I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.
Baruch 4:1f She [Wisdom/Torah] is the book of the commandments of God, the law that endures forever. All who hold her fast will live, and those who forsake her will die. Turn, O Jacob, and take her; walk toward the shining of her light.
These all speak of holding, embracing, welcoming rather than withholding mercy.
And, the one that tells me how Jesus work was to restore and rebuild the disciples rather than ‘retain’ their sins…
Nehemiah 3:8–11 Next to them Uzziel son of Harhaiah, one of the goldsmiths, made repairs. Next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, made repairs; and they restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. Next to them Rephaiah son of Hur, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs. Next to them Jedaiah son of Harumaph made repairs opposite his house; and next to him Hattush son of Hashabneiah made repairs. Malchijah son of Harim and Hasshub son of Pahath-moab repaired another section and the Tower of the Ovens.