I remember a film about Doubting Thomas that I saw in Sunday school as a girl. It was one of a series that our church showed us: the Bible story was read while a sequence of tableaux ran on the screen—it was not a motion picture, really, but more like a slide show. The actors were all attractive people with earnest expressions, and their faces stayed on the screen for a long time while the text was read. Sometimes the camera would zoom in, so that we could get a really good, long look at a particularly earnest expression.
I think I would find it all a bit too much if I were to view it today. But this was a long time ago.
You may recall that this
ending of the Gospel of Mark, the one that appears in the most ancient
manuscripts of the book, seemed too abrupt to later copyists. Before long, 11
more verses had found their way there, a busy digest of post-resurrection
experiences from a variety of sources: John's account of the scene at the tomb
with Mary Magdalene, John's story of Thomas the doubter, a version of the walk
to Emmaus, an account of Jesus' ascension, other material from Luke/Acts. These
are entered almost as bullet points.
But the tacked-on verses need
not concern us here--the Revised Common Lectionary walks away from them
politely. We are left with the bald confusion and fear at the end of the
ancient tale, from a time before it was canonized and liturgized.
This is a good week for preachers to share a little good-natured griping
about the seemingly endless stream of bread-centered (panecentric?)
gospel readings. Ask them to stop you if they’ve heard this one before.
Ask them if it’s just you, or if there's an echo in the room.
In last week’s gospel
reading and this one, a picture of a beleaguered Jesus emerges: he
can’t go anywhere without being mobbed. The crowds hunt him down; they
even demand to know when he got where he is, as if they have the right
to see his itinerary.
There is an odd reticence about the healings in the lessons for this Sunday—there’s an expectation of big-bang pyrotechnics, followed by a matter-of-factness in the healings that seems to disappoint. The haughty Naaman is downright offended by the simplicity of Elisha’s prescription for curing his leprosy. I thought he would surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place . . . But nothing that glamorous is planned.
Support the Christian Century
The Century's work relies primarily on subscriptions and donations. Thank you for supporting nonprofit journalism.