A piece I read elsewhere reminded me of this post I wrote two years ago on my old blog.
We’ve labelled him “the doubter.” Written him off, in a way. Less “spiritual.” But how is he less spiritual than the other disciples? They didn’t get it, either…saw the empty tomb, heard reports, recalled Jesus’ own words. But they didn’t really believe it until they saw Him.
Where was Thomas? Was his grief so great that he’d withdrawn? He’d been willing to go to Jerusalem and die with Jesus. But he didn’t. Seems as if he and Peter could have commiserated, but Thomas was absent. Maybe it was his turn to gather food for the group in hiding. Or was he attending to the needs of family somewhere? Whatever he was doing, wherever he’d gone, he missed Jesus’ visit. So how did he feel when he heard about that? Talk about being left out! The inner circle only has 11 men in it to begin with…and he’s the odd man out.
I’d be bitter, personally. Even if it was Jesus alive again, obviously I wasn’t important enough to wait for. He didn’t care enough to see me. Well, fine. Maybe it hurts so much to have been excluded that Thomas decides it’s easier to pretend that they were all hallucinating. It would be better to consign Jesus to the grave again, than to think He’d avoided seeing me on purpose.
Now it’s been eight days. The others want to talk about the Master, compare notes, speculate, report other “sightings.” But they can’t help seeing that Thomas grits his teeth and stares at the tabletop whenever the Lord is mentioned. So they clam up again.
Around dinnertime that day, with locked doors and everyone busy about his own task, there is Jesus. He’s just–there. And He heads straight for Thomas…slack-jawed, silent, barely-breathing Thomas. “So–do you still want to see the scars? Touch the nail holes?” I think He’s smiling as He holds out His hands. “Put your fingers where the spear went?” He makes a gesture as if He’ll disrobe upon request, awkward as it would be.
None of it is necessary now. Thomas is on his knees, weeping, gasping for air to fill his lungs and calm his pounding heart. He just wanted to know that Jesus hadn’t forgotten him, disowned him…wherever He’d gone. And the words that tumble out of his mouth show us that Thomas believes–no doubt about it!
“My Lord! My God!” Words of worship; active, believing identification.
“Do you believe because You’ve seen Me now?” (Just like the others needed to see me? I hoped for more faith from you, Thomas…but it’s all right. I’m here now.) Then, as if time had wrinkled and Jesus could look right into my room here in 2007, He mentions me, mentions us: “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe.” And suddenly I see a profound purpose in Thomas’ exclusion, and in his confession.
For 2,000 years people have read the good news with pounding hearts and gasped out, “My Lord and my God!” And aren’t our confessions possible in part because of the role the disciples played? These gritty, struggling, confused men are real people. They really knew Jesus. They questioned and doubted, and believed. I think it’s their struggle to believe–especially Thomas’ struggle–that convinces me. They didn’t hear a vague rumor and let wishful thinking fill in the blanks. They saw the risen Lord–talked with Him, ate with Him, embraced Him. He was real, and He is real to us today, thanks to Thomas and his companions. Thomas with his bad rap as a doubter…sitting at Jesus’ feet, I’ll bet Thomas doesn’t even mind.