By Pastor Jerry Donovan
In John 20:27 Jesus tells Thomas not to continue in your unbelief but to believe. I don’t think Jesus need have worried about Thomas being an unbeliever. Because if Thomas were an unbeliever, Thomas would be off living his life. He wouldn’t be sitting up there with the other disciples hoping Jesus might show up again. He is there because this is the place that Jesus was last seen. He is up there waiting, wanting to see evidence of this amazing thing that has taken place. These aren’t the actions of an unbeliever, but of someone who is still engaged with the push and pull of his faith. Who’s willing to struggle and watch and hope.
He doesn’t grandstand like Peter, “watch me walk on water. Jesus, you will never wash my feet.” Nor does he jockey for position like James and John who elbow each other out of the way to see who might sit at Jesus’ right hand. Consider the places we meet Thomas in the Gospel of John: we see him at the resurrection of Lazarus in chapter 11. The man who Jesus loved is ill and later died. Lazarus’ sisters have called Jesus who is gone, to go back to Judea, but the disciples say no, don’t go there the Jewish authorities want to stone you. That’s the last place we want to be. Notice that Thomas does not join the chorus of people eager to save Jesus’ skin and their own. He says let’s go! So that we may die, too.
We meet Thomas again a few chapters later in chapter 14. Jesus is talking about God’s house which has many rooms. “Do not let your heart be troubled,” he says, “I go to prepare a place for you. You know the way to the place where I am going.” And Thomas answers, “actually we don’t know the way.” Now we might ding Thomas for interrupting Jesus in what is perhaps one of his most eloquent discourses, except his question is vital, if you actually care about following the man. You don’t ask that question about “The Way” unless you intend to go in the direction Jesus intends you to go.
Where is Thomas the first-time Jesus appears after His resurrection? He’s is off somewhere. I’ve often thought of Thomas as the patron Saint of the day late and dollar short crowd. They all get to see Jesus while he’s off buying Cheetos and Mountain Dew at the 7-11, but that’s not right either. He’s not on a beer run. He’s looking for Jesus! Mary Magdalene says Jesus is risen so Thomas is going to find him. He’s certainly not going to cower behind a locked door quivering with the other disciples for fear of the religious authorities. Thomas is the only one brave enough to be on the outside. So, let’s call him Courageous Thomas, not doubting Thomas. In the years to come, when Jesus is no longer with them, the disciples will go on to spread the good news and start new churches. And Thomas has a special distinctness, he is the only one of the disciples to venture beyond the Roman Empire to spread Christianity. He established churches in southern India for Heaven’s sake.
Notice that Thomas does not say unless I see Jesus walking around in a perfect body with a halo. No, he says unless I see the puncture wounds in his hands, unless I see the split in his side, unless I see that Jesus is a Jesus who suffered the depths of human pain and lived, what’s the point! Unless I see that Jesus is the one who goes right to the heart of human suffering, taking it on, then I have no use for him.
That is the Jesus that is worthy of Thomas’ faith and the Jesus that is worthy of our faith.
Thanks be to God. Amen