The Reunion

What can a reunion look like? On the Internet I keep coming across small videos in which a reunion is staged. One of these videos showed the following:
Location is a school in the United States. A school class is in class. The principal unexpectedly walks into the classroom. He calls out a student, Brendon, and asks him to come to his senses. The person addressed, a lanky youth of about 16, looks around the room questioningly. „Can you imagine why I need to speak to you?“ The student shakes his head uncertainly. „Something very important happened.“ The director looks serious. He instructs the student to pack his things and come with him. The boy, who obviously doesn’t understand what’s happening to him, packs his notebooks and books into his backpack and follows the director with slumped shoulders. The two of them stop outside in the hallway. In the background a door opens and a soldier comes into the room with slow steps behind the student. The video reads: „Brendon doesn’t know what’s going to happen yet. His brother was stationed in Afghanistan for two years and came back.” “Look around,” says the director. Brendon, the insecure boy, hesitantly turns around, sees his brother and throws his arms around his neck, crying. In this moment there is apparently not only pure joy. On the contrary, his concern and fear for his brother dissolves. He survived the war unscathed.

We have no videos of Jesus‘ first encounters with his disciples. However, the evangelists describe these encounters in such a way that they take the reader into the events. How was it then? There’s a locked room. The disciples have isolated themselves. They’re afraid of the crowd, afraid of people’s ridicule. The group of disciples appears as a crowd of the failed. Sadness, fear and helplessness are gathered in the room. When Jesus enters, he comes through the closed doors. Suddenly he is there. The disciples are afraid. You don’t know how to interpret the apparition. Jesus speaks to them. He shows them his wounds and only slowly does the fear dissolve into joy and the helplessness into new hope. The events are repeated with Thomas, who was not present at the first meeting.

Ernst Barlach, the famous sculptor, found his very own visual language for this encounter between Thomas and Jesus. His Thomas is an old, broken man. He can barely stand on his own feet, is stooped and frail. Barlach gives him the appearance of a poor man of his time. His Thomas could be a war veteran. He could be a wounded man, or a beggar in the street. This Thomas now comes very close to Jesus. His large hands clasp Jesus‘ shoulders. This Jesus stands tall. But he also seems to be disabled. With his arms he embraces the bent body of Thomas and holds him upright.

Barlach called his group of figures „The reunion“. Two people meet here who have had a hard time with life. They meet again like two old friends after a long time of deprivation and suffering. Thomas looks at Jesus with wide eyes. This Thomas may be believed to first ask Jesus about his wounds. „Show me your wounds and I’ll show you mine“. In this encounter lies the hope of healing and the hope of peace.
The Easter scene of the reunion between Thomas and Jesus is here, in Barlach’s interpretation, an encounter of the quiet kind. It is about redemption. It doesn’t say „Triumph, death is overcome,“ but rather „By his wounds we are healed.“ In the Easter picture we can interpret the afflicted and weighed down of our time. We can also see ourselves in it. The encounter with Jesus is a healing encounter. Here the Risen One is the one who embraces me and lifts me up, who accepts my suffering and lets me stand up straight again. A firm hand holds me.

Perhaps it is quite good to look at this Easter picture, especially in times of war and distress. The evil is not simply wiped away. It is not drowned out by the Easter jubilation. Rather, it is accepted by one who is himself wounded. Suffering is included in an encounter that supports and strengthens, that uplifts and encourages. In the stillness of the room where the disciples are, there should be deliverance and hope. Easter is very quiet here, but in such a way that salvation speaks from this silence. He, Jesus, is there.





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