Prayer of the Day: Almighty and eternal God, the strength of those who believe and the hope of those who doubt, may we, who have not seen, have faith in you and receive the fullness of Christ’s blessing, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
20:19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believed that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
St. John 20:19-31, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
Thomas: Unbeliever? or Believer?
So who is Thomas? In popular Biblical folklore (if there is such a thing) he is considered a doubter. The one who, when all the other disciples believed, could not. The one who declares, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” The one who (like Benedict Arnold) has had his entire life boiled down to one brief phrase: “Doubting Thomas.”
The Scriptures tell a different story of his life. He is the one called “The Twin,” but we never learn who his twin is. (John 21:2) He is one of the first to leave everything behind and live as a follower of Jesus (Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15). He is the one, when Jesus decides to head back to Jerusalem, knowing that many there are trying to kill him, who says, “Let us go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:16) He is the one, when Jesus spoke of “going to prepare a place for you,” who longed to go with Jesus, and asked him if that was possible. (John 14:5) He is the one who happened to be elsewhere when the disciples gathered together on the evening of that first Easter day. (John 20:24) And he is the first one to declare, after the resurrection, exactly who Jesus is: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)
Other than Peter — maybe James and John — there really aren’t any individuals in the New Testament who are featured as often as Thomas. And most of what is said about Thomas is very positive.
But he misses one meeting. The meeting during which the disciples, who were afraid for their lives, have locked themselves into a house where they imagine they might be safe. The meeting during which Jesus miraculously stands among them, even though the doors are locked. The meeting during which Jesus shares with them the gift of peace (twice!). The meeting during which Jesus breathes on them the Holy Spirit. The meeting during which they are commissioned by Jesus to work on forgiveness for the rest of their lives. The meeting during which they are transformed from frightened, confused children, to faithful, bold believers.
Thomas misses one meeting. All he asks in this weekend’s Gospel is that he be given the same chance to meet Jesus face-to-face as the others have. Which he does. After which he too is described as a believer. And we label him, unfairly, a doubter… Not!
But you have to give the disciples credit for one thing: they don’t give up on Thomas. They don’t brand him an unbeliever or a heretic and cast him out. They continue to hold him close. And when Jesus returns, Thomas is still there. He too meets Jesus face-to-face. He doesn’t, like he imagined, need to stick his finger in Jesus’ wounds. Seeing Jesus is more than enough for Thomas. The miracle of faith touches him. He believes.
As do we. Not because we were at that first meeting. Not because we probed Jesus’ wounds with our fingers. But because someone shared the good news with us, and it stuck. And we, in Jesus’ words, are blessed to have received this gift!
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- What do Thomas and the other disciples have in common?
- How is his coming-to-faith story similar to theirs?
- Why has he been branded by so many as a “doubter?”
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- When has God helped us with our struggles to believe?
- Who has been significant in sharing this great story with us?
- Who do we need to hold close, so they too might get a chance to know Jesus?