John 20:19-31 – Flying Up the Dots

bluebell woods

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.
(Jn 20:29)


Probably the best thing about art, for folk like me who are not too talented, is that it’s OK to be a bit naff. It’s the process, not the product, that matters. So get some paints or felt-tips (nick your kids’s if you need to) or whatever and make something – anything – whatever seems good to you. You can make something abstract, or copy a picture if you like, change bits, just see what happens. And if it ends up fit only for your eyes and God’s, that’s fine.

Flying Up the Concentration Gradient

It’s one of those things you never think about, unless you happen to be a moth. Which I’m not.

But today I thought about it. And it all happened because of some caterpillars, my daughter’s impending GCSEs, and a picture of bluebell woods. Allow me to elucidate.

We have some caterpillars which are just starting to pupate, and in a couple of weeks we should have some newly-hatched Painted Lady butterflies. Great! Then they will flutter off in to the wide blue (grey, this is Britain) yonder and find mates. That’s OK for butterflies – they are brightly coloured and fly in the day, so finding the way to true love is pretty simple.

Not so with moths. They fly at night and most are kinda tree-coloured. So how does a moth find the way to a hot date with his lady moth? They answer comes from my daughter’s GCSE Chemistry – the module on diffusion. Diffusion is when something spreads out from a place of high concentration to places of low concentration. It’s how the smell of bacon spreads from the frying pan to my nostrils. To find the bacon all I have to do is follow the smell to where it is strongest.

Moths have a similar strategy. Girls give out a scent which the dude moth smells, and he flies up the concentration gradient (to put it in exam-style terms) to meet the love of his (short) life.

Great. Thanks for the science lesson. What does this have to do with bluebell woods or Thomas seeing and believing?

I was reading the recent Look, See, Pray post on The Way Into Holy Week. The picture was of a misty, pathless bluebell wood, and the reflection was about how the way forward was not at all clear to Jesus’ disciples in the last week of his earthly life. It was as if they were in a foggy wood with night falling – the way unclear, the trees closing in.

Jesus knew the way – he is the way – but the disciples didn’t. Same with Thomas in the upper room. He was unsure, confused, bewildered.  Just a normal day, then.

It’s OK to be  confused. I don’t imagine that even after all the poking and stuff Thomas had everything sewn up. I know I don’t. I spend a lot of my time muddling through, hoping I’m going the right way, not really knowing what I’m doing.

Right now is no exception. “What will you do when you finish your course?” people ask me, and I feel a fool for having no answer. But you know what? That’s OK.

As part of my Easter devotions, I drew a copy of the bluebell woods using dots and squiggles. In the original, there was a distant patch of light – indistinct, but definitely there. I could not draw the light, so in my copy I put gold dots in the patch of light. They turned into a figure and I added more dots, spreading down where the path would have been, had there been one.

Then I realised.

Do you ever have that? You think you are doing one thing – filling in some spaces with gold dots – and then you realised you’re doing something else – drawing a concentration gradient?

There were loads of dots, closely bunched by the figure, and they spread and became more sparse nearer the front of the scene – like the perfume that guides a dude moth to a babe moth.

Once he has the scent, all he needs to do is keep going in the direction of the strongest scent. He does not need to know the destination, indeed he cannot know it – that information is simply not available. But it does not matter. As long as he keeps flying up the concentration gradient, he will get there.

And that’s all I need to do. Fly up the dots


John 20:19-31 New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Jesus Appears to Thomas

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The Purpose of John’s Gospel

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.


New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.





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